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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Richard Florida blogging for the Globe

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Noted urban thinker and expatriate American Richard Florida moved to Toronto earlier this year to take a position at the Rotman School at U of T and unofficially anoint Toronto as one of the top creative class cities in the world. He’s now blogging for the Globe and Mail. Should be a good addition to the local blog-o-scape.

A recent post looked at the relationship between Toronto, Buffalo and Rochester — or “TorBuffChester” — a relationship that could be exploited more if it wasn’t for the general unpleasant experience passing through U.S. customs has become.



  1. Shawn, you oughta learn how to make up your own asinine buzzwords, it’ll vault you into a much higher income bracket.

  2. I think you need a book or two first before ones own buzzwords are recognized. However, I am always looking at ways to be more Middle Class, so I will keep it in mind.

  3. I read Florida’s theory about “Tor-Buff-Chester” and thought it was one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. Florida thinks we are all one big zone despite a big lake in the way and very large cultural differences between two societies. I hate to say it but he sounded so American.

    As somebody who spends time in the upper Empire State I see that Buffalo and Rochester don’t even give a hoot about each other and most in the area know little about Canada let alone Toronto. Upper New York State was was also one of the only areas in the US that missed out on the last economic boom, losing population when everwhere else things were exploding. If we only had a Rochester ferry …sorry I couldnt resist.

    I was expecting some kind of visionary but seriously, I don’t see anything visionary here. At least he and his wife make a stylish couple apparently.

  4. Not sure I agree the cultural differences are that large. We’re all English-speaking North Americans and our culture these days basically reflects what comes out of NYC and LA with minor regional variations. The bigger differences between Toronto and upstate NY are political, economic and frankly climatological. They get piles of snow in the winter, we don’t. That’s a major problem for their economy and they haven’t figured out how to deal with it. On the political side, I’m surprised Florida’s mega-regions effort is so dismissive of borders and the differences between nation-states, since his last book was about how different nations’ policies affected their relative position in attracting creative-class workers.

  5. I totally disagree. Canada and the US have very different cultures on many levels plus minority cultures that are different. Business and politics are culture too. Steven Harper has not made us Americans yet and just because we watch many of the same TV shows and listen to much of the same music doesnt mean we are the same.(I might add that many Americans would find the LA/NY reference just as objectionable.)

    In Buffalo I attended the very big Puerto Rico Day Parade, You wont see that here and you won’t see large Chinese New Year events there. To be honest there are so many things different across the border that I dont know where to begin. Guns, health care, privitization of public interest, and that George Bush thing. There is a reason why the sub-prime mortgage fiasco did not happen here and it has to do with our culture.

    The best proof that we are different, that “its nice to be home feeling”.

  6. scott> This different-but-together dichotomy exists in Windsor/Detroit. Any Windsorite would tell you they are not American, and list all the ways they are different from Detroiters. Yet the two cities/regions are connected in so many ways that it sometimes seems like the border isn’t there. Industry, culture, cross-border-dating even — numourous ways. Still different cultures. Still connected.

    What does the Parkdale have in common with Forest Hill? Some things, not other things. And the US is not monolithic. Isn’t Buffalo a Democrat town? Lots of folks there probably don’t get “that Bush thing” either. Buffalo isn’t Houston or Colorado Springs.

    Perhaps he overstated the Buff-Tor thing, but there are historic connections between the two cities — like the US TV Torontonians watched from Buffalo (I hear so much about people here watching Buffalo burn on the evening news each night). Torontonians used to drive to Buffalo for nightlife, now they come here. The geography is not as close as Windsor/Detroit, but to dismiss Buffalo’s connections to Toronto because we are different people would be overlooking the ties that are there despite that difference.

  7. I’m sure he is enjoying mingling with Toronto’s “creative class” around his new house on Bin-Scarth…

  8. Shawn,

    Windsor/Detroit I agree. Rochester/Toronto ? I don’t agree.

    There once was a very strong Bufffalo/Toronto connection but as Toronto and the GTA has grown and loosened up and Buffalo has declined the connection is pretty slight. Sure patrons of the burbs and Allentowns Rust Belt Books know about and visit Toronto but thats about it (opps, baseball fans too). Probably the biggest connection bewteen the two is the large number of Canadians that keep the Bills and the Sabres afloat. I love Buffalo, a city of about 270,000 that continues to shrink, but feeling connected to it and Rochester as part of some new cultural social entity? Not a chance.

    What he is trying to dream up we already call the GTA or the Windsor Montreal corridor….it already is undeway so on a certain level I find this, and some of his other ideas, old news.

    And I also think that “creative class” is the new “world class city”.

  9. I too was dismayed by Florida’s virgin effort in the Globe recently as it smacked of someone who has nice theories, but doesn’t connect to the real world. His description of the discovery of neighbourhoods shows that he has been quite selective in what he visited, and he needs a much broader view of the city and GTA to really understand their social and political dynamics.

    The Floridas are an attractive couple who will fit right in with the so-well-meaning Grano lecture set, but I can’t help thinking this is a classic case of how we look to an American to tell us things many locals have been saying for years.

    All the same, I’m willing, in the mode of a gracious host with a visitor in town, to see how his opinion and understanding of the city evolves.

  10. scott> I do think the Rochester connection was a stretch — other than the ferry, I’ve not “felt” any connection to that city in and around Toronto. It might work the other way though, dunno.

    Steve> I’ve faith that the more he spends time here, Florida will discover all the local movements/blogs/groups/associations that have been working for years to make Toronto “better” or etc. It took me a few years to discover things too. He could go for a walk with us whenever he wants.

  11. I agree with what Steve Munro said above. I can’t help but really wonder what Florida is doing in Toronto. Perhaps he’s like those 18th and 18th century adventurers travelling around, trying to conquer meanwhile exploiting the “natives” of their local resources. Think of our local resources as “knowledge and ideas” and then reslling them to us as a brand new idea.

    I also wonder if we – the tax payer – is he on the payroll of the university of Toronto, and I thought that they had rules about external consulting. When I looked at Florida’s website, I saw events all over the place – a perhaps one in Toronto. So when is he actually in town. And – although he is claiming that he has moved to Toronto, or is he just raking it in here, and everywhere else, under the cover of being a university professor. And, by getting his name in the paper -it makes us think thathe is here. But is he?

    Can’t think of single idea in his book that I hadn’t read elsewhere long before now. And many what seems to be his are rather shallow.

    I think that Toronto is being had.

  12. That is an astonishly amagazing collection of contempt and spite, grace. Wow. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a jilted lover or something. This kind of rhetoric is usually reserved for that kind of thing.

  13. Neither contempt nor spite. Just my analysis of the big “rip off”

  14. I find it refreshing to read about Toronto through someone’s “fresh” eyes. Torontonians don’t realize what a great City they have. There is amazing potential here – and a lot of ‘tude!

  15. I have to agree with Grace. There is nothing original in his work particularly, except that he’s turned academics into a dumbed-down-to-the-masses money machine – a Dr. Phil of urban studies, if you will. In neolithic cultures, the ‘critical masses’ of persons with rural connections in one urban area sharing ideas led to revolutions in agricultural technology. This stuff doesn’t happen alone in the field – it is the result of human community. So the ‘creative class’ or yuppies as we used to call them, have always been there. He’s just packaged it up in neat little quotable mcnuggets that politicians of the middle (they vote for bike lanes but don’t ride bikes) love to cling to since it all seems so civil but also reinforces class biases.
    It is the creative act or impulse we should be celebrating, not those fortunate enough to be able to take credit for it. Because in most enterprises, there are many people involved with creating something and a few who abscond with the credit for it. Happens all the time.