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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Torontonians Mostly Content With City Hall, Poll Says

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If you’re hoping Mayor David Miller will lose the 2010 mayoral election, polling firm Environics has bad news for you. Torontonians are mostly satisfied with their municipal government.

According to a poll conducted for GTA municipalities and obtained by Spacing, 57 per cent of Toronto residents are “satisfied” with the work of their municipal government. The report, conducted by Environics, says that figure is consistent with a November 2008 poll, indicating that Toronto’s political landscape is stable as we head toward the next election.

For those on the right jockeying to be the mayoral candidate of Toronto conservatives there’s even worse news. Environics reports that crime — traditionally a weakness for left-of-centre politicians — is no longer far and away the most important issue for Torontonians. Back in November, 22 per cent of Torontonians said that crime (including guns, gangs, drugs, etc.) was their top issue. Six months later and that number has fallen to just 13 per cent, possibly reflecting the decreasing crime rate in the city over the past number of years.

While an easy assumption might be that residents’ concerns about crime simply shifted to the tanking world economy, that’s not the impression Environics’s numbers lend. The percentage of respondents who said that the economy was their top concern was only up three per cent, equal to the increase of those wanting municipal government to make the environment its top priority.

The final tally for issues leaves crime at the top (13), followed by transportation (11), economy and environment (10), and taxes (nine).

Of note on the issue of transportation, an overwhelming majority — 61 per cent versus 27 per cent — told Environics that they prefer transportation spending to go to public transit instead of roads (11 per cent of people did not respond to that question and it appears that active transportation spending was not provided as an option). Given recent rhetoric, those numbers have to be an encouraging sign to a city council moving forward on sustainable transportation issues.

But the bottom line is this: After implementing a set of controversial tax measures earlier in this term of council and while weathering a global recession, the number of Torontonians satisfied with their municipal government is identical to Mayor David Miller’s 2006 election totals.

If our mayor ever admitted to reading polls, he would probably be reasonably satisfied with that.

Photograph by 416style.



  1. On Goldhawk the other night, Councillor Stintz got a bit of a gleam in her eye when it occurred to her that pushing to open subway stations’ employee washrooms to the public could potentially be the wedge issue she’s looking for. Oh, Karen.

  2. Are the full results of the poll available online anywhere? I looked at the Environics website but couldn’t find anything. I assume the results were just given to the client, the GTA municipalities, but it would be interesting to look over the details nonetheless.

  3. Many Torononians are dumb! They probably polled people who live south of Eglinton and old people who vote for people based on how nice the person is versus results.

  4. So both Torontonians are dumb *and* Environics polling methodology is flawed? You heard it here first, from a guy on the internet.

  5. Matt C, to my knowledge, the results aren’t available online.

  6. Thanks, Adam. According to Peter, I am probably too dumb to understand the results anyway. šŸ™‚

  7. With regards to crime not being as large an issue, I’d like to guess why that is. In November, the date of the first poll, Torontonians had just endured another summer of headlines related to gun crime. I’m sure it’s proven that gun violence and other related crimes go up during the summer. The second poll, taken 6 months later, reflects a population who aren’t as worried about crime because they haven’t heard much about it lately.

    Another point: is there any room for a moderate candidate in the next election? It doesn’t always have to be left vs. right, and I bet if a solid candidate came forward *not* preaching the divisiveness that has plagued recent discussions, he or she could do quite well. I’m not convinced that most of Toronto is left-wing.

  8. Joel: I hate to come off a big Miller apologist, but I really don’t think he’s really run as a hugely left-wing candidate.

  9. It’s really hard to evaluate the claims made in the post without a lot more information about the poll.

    How does these results compare to results on the same question four years ago? What’s the satisfaction level elsewhere in the GTA? How well, historically, has satisfaction level correlated with voter intent? What was the exact wording of the question — did it even mention Miller? What questions were asked prior to this one?

    I also wonder how “Spacing” “obtained” these results. Did a staffer leave them behind in a folder marked “secret” after a councillor interview at Spacing’s offices? Or were they leaked by a senior source in Miller’s office (or the office of a Miller-friendly councillor) who figured they knew a blogger who’d give them a positive spin?

    It seems odd to pitch these results as a sign Miller will win an election campaign that has not yet started and in which he has no challengers. If I’d been polled, I’d have probably said I was satisfied, but my vote is most certainly not locked in for the mayor.

  10. I consider myself left of center, but even I feel it is time for Miller to walk towards the exit. Why? Because rather than implementing policies that are progressive and realistic, he seems focused on policies that are radical and idealistic.

    The Gardiner Expressway and his regime’s anti-car policies (without getting into the “war on cars” rhetoric) are not appropriate for a city with as much mixed densities through such a large area as Toronto proper. This is not factoring in the Greater Toronto Area’s high car use, and the need to get these people (and those in the outer boroughs) into and through the city quickly – whether it be by car or transit.

    If Miller is re-elected, I may consider moving out of the GTA to another metro area in Ontario. If I want to live in a metro area where the only reason to go into the city is if you have to, I’ll just move to Detroit.

  11. Matt, a poll 17 months before an election and seven months before the campaign period begins is hardly indicative of who will win (“the only poll that matters is the one on election” is a cliche for a reason). And Miller’s name was not specifically polled on so I couldn’t tell you where his popularity stands at this point. However, when a majority of people say they’re satisfied with the way things are and that Miller’s priorities are aligned with the concerns of Torontonians, that’s often an indicator that change is not imminent.

  12. Considering all the crap Torontonians put up with and the regularity with which we are held hostage from all sides you’d think there would be less of a “turn the other cheek” and a little more righteous indignation, not just with Miller but with the system as a whole. And yet we accept mediocre services in return for increasing taxes and other costs along with money grubbing council members, government consultants and city unions alike. Small wonder we take it like sheep and ask them “can we have some more?”

    We deserve the city services we get.

  13. I’ve been more than happy with Miller and his policies, give or take a few. I think he has put the city in the right direction. I may want him to take different approaches to things, but I generally support the same end goals.

    But I’m not nearly as satisfied with some city services. This is not a reflection on any councillor: we just need our civic employees who deal with the public to understand the importance of their jobs. I have no problems with how much they get paid, but as a “shareholder” of the city, I was better value. Work hard, be polite, and be honest. Those are much too demand.

    That being said, we have a totally dysfunctional political climate at the provincial and federal levels that often neglects the vital investment needed in cities. That was fine in the 50 and 60s and even the 70s, but we’re in a different economy now and the greatest value is cities.

    In the end, the blame goes to voters who do not pay attention to city hall and parliaments so we end up re-electing poorly performing politicians.

  14. ^Oh Denzil, don’t be afraid to use your real name.

  15. What was the line from one of the “Naked Gun” movies … “The city is being overrun by baboons” to which Leslie Nielsen’s character asks “Well, isn’t that the fault of the voters?”.

    The poll indicates that most people are generally satisfied with the way the city is run, and that obviously seems to be reflected in the voter turnout come election time – usually pretty dismal. If people were actually dissatisfied with the way the city is run, more of them would bother to actually go and vote. I don’t think the low turnout is because the voters are cynical about “crooked politicians”, it’s that things are actually running ok, and they have no reason to be truly dissatisfied.

  16. Your mayor stole a major artwork with just cause from a group of canadian artists, the Dreamwork of the Whales, now located at Little Norway Park at the foot of bathurst street. Designed by a major canadian and international artists and carved over a period of 6 months in the summer of 1980..under an invitation and with a legal contract with Harbourfront At Gallery, it was moved to its present site. years later as a c0-operative community grew up around it, they began to ask questions..who, how and why? it was only when they found Kalli Paakspuu who documented it it her film, Maypole Carving that facts became known, the original contract only leased it to Harbourfront, with ownership retained by the artist designer, georganna malloff and her carving team. on June 3 there was a rededication of the cospole and neither mayor nor councilmen nor their reps appeared ti thank anyone. the group funded this project eith local citizens, the city of vancouver, and many local and logging companies contributing. It is recognized internationally as an important artwork, one of 12 similar cosmic maypoles. the mayor claimed he had the right to confiscate it and under federal law, he should have made equitable compensation to these artists, who are all low-income and put even their college savings into it..they built an inspirationally committed community totem..around which a real community grew around it,,will the major step forth and right this wrong,,or is he not a suitable public representative?

  17. I think City Hall & Mayor Miller have a progressive, ecologically & environmentally sustainable vision for the city. More efficient use of our streets with more transit & bike lanes, Transit City priority LRT lines, more recycling & better waste management, and better urban design guidelines.

    The mind boggles at what a retrograde right leaning council & mayor would’ve done: more car lanes, TTC funding cuts, more sprawl development.

  18. It will be interesting to see if a follow-up poll this time next year yields the same results, especially if today’s ominous and attention-grabbing headline in the Globe proves accurate (“Is a Toronto garbage strike looming?“).

  19. I think that is is much to early to declare that this poll means that there is acceptance of recent events. The “war on the car” rhetoric is a very recent (as far as media) phenomenon.

    I also think that the results are skewed by a naivety about the the city’s fiscal health. I would wager that next to none of the respondents are aware that the city has been financing itself by drawing down it’s reserves, selling of assets and begging to the province. If unaware of this reality, why would Torontonians be unhappy? They have been buying services for 50 cents on the dollar. With the reserves empty and the province having its own fiscal pressures, Torontonians might once again be forced to pay for what they consume. If taxes go up by 25% to pay for the same level of spending as today’s, the responses might be different.

    Look for build Toronto to become councils latest tool to distort Toronto’s finances. Proceeds from land sales are going to fund the structural deficit and allow the deceit to continue.

  20. While I am mostly in agreement with Miller’s agenda on urban affairs (and lament the fact that he either dare not or just cannot to act more boldly in many fronts), I am very unhappy with the state of public sector unions. If some candidate emerges with greater ability to hold the greedy unions in check while continuing the more progressive urban policies, I’d be very happy to vote for him/her. But that seems rather unlikely, I guess I’d have to settle for Miller and hope that he can be tougher on unions.

  21. I see Miller as realistic, his idealism is tempered with what is possible at this time. He knows how far Torontonians can be pushed with progressive ideas like road tolls and car taxes and he won’t try to take down the full Gardiner.

  22. Re: Mike

    I don’t know if your comment was supposed to be an informal reply to my comment earlier, but I am going to assume so and use this opportunity to further explain why I don’t feel Miller is progressive.

    First, the bike lanes on Jarvis. While I won’t dwell on the issue, and actually support the idea in theory, my problem is there are few plans for those who commute via Mt. Pleasant and Jarvis to deal with the lack of a lane. Are there plans to improve public transit along this corridor, or plans to turn back trains at Eglinton or St. Clair so that trying to squeeze on to a train at Summerhill or Rosedale is not futile? I’ve suggested on my forum to designate one of the lanes as a carpool/bus lane during rush hour and to build a carpool/bike lot north of Bloor so commuters can carpool, take a bus, or bike the rest of the way downtown. Someone also suggested creating an interchange at Mt. Pleasant and Rosedale Valley Drive, so that car commuters can take Bayview or the DVP downtown instead (and this person is FAR more anti-car than I am generally).

    Then there is the Gardiner Expressway. Removing a piece of infrastructure that gets people from the east, north, and arguably northwest corners of the city and region into downtown, and moves more people into the city than any other mode besides the subway is not what I would call “progressive” by any means. Let’s not forget that cars release far more pollutants in stop and go traffic than on controlled throughfares. A “10 lane grand boulevard” would create far more of a barrier than what is already there. I’ve suggested both on my forum and at public consultations to build pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Boulevard, and to use one of the lanes on the Gardiner as a HOV lane for vehicles with a minimum of 4 occupants and for a proposed BRT relief route to get people from Etobicoke and Scarborough downtown faster.

    I could continue (removal of Metropass parking at TTC lots, Island Airport policies, etc.), but will finish with the Vehicle Registration Tax. So not only is he putting through anti-car proposals, but he is doing it by taking the money from drivers themselves! Not to mention Toronto is the only municipality in the province that taxes drivers specifically. I rent a basement one side street north of Steeles and save $60 bucks per year because of my location. When it came to budget shortfalls, Toronto should have bit the bullet and raised residential property taxes to where they should be, rather than implement municipal taxes that make the city far less competitive than anywhere else in the region.