Toronto class divide

By Kris Scheuer
(Column written Oct 16.08 for Town Crier.)


Toronto the Good is not perfect.

The Toronto Community Foundation’s Oct. 7 report Toronto’s Vital Signs paints a mixed picture of how our city is faring 10 years after amalgamation.

Sure we are producing less waste, consuming less water, our beaches are cleaner, transit usage is up, arts

are doing well, but some disturbing trends muddy this rosy picture.

For example food bank use is up and wait times for subsidized daycare and housing are on the rise. Our

city’s debt load is also increasing.

But two of the most disturbing aspects of the report are 40 percent of residents don’t feel a sense of

belonging in this city. And there’s an increasing gap between rich and poor, especially for new


So this begs the question — Just how livable is our city?

Toronto is pretty great but not for everyone, the foundation’s CEO and president Rahul Bhardwaj tells


“What we need to take away is good news,” he says. “More than half of residents feel a sense of

belonging, but Toronto is still last in Canada among major cities.”

The report cited the 2005 Canadian Community Heath Survey, which indicated nearly 60 percent of

Toronto residents feel a strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging in their local community. But that’s

still 10.6 percent lower than the Canadian national average.

To become more connected Bhardwaj suggests going out and finding out more about what is going on in

the city.

Even though I’m a born and bred Torontonian and a community newspaper reporter, there are still many

neighbourhoods I’m not familiar with.

One thing that helps me connect with this city is exploring and participating in it. I attend many of the

city’s free events such as Nuit Blanche and Irie Music Festival. I also enjoy going to communities events

such as the Taste of Little Italy. In fact my favourite aspect of the city is its diverse neighbourhoods,

which is a main attraction I tell visitors to explore.

But no matter how many neighbourhoods you visit, you will still feel shut out when you are struggling to

make ends meet.

Here are just a few disturbing stats from the report:

In 2005, one fifth of Toronto households lived below the poverty line cutoff of $38,610 for a family of


On average rents have doubled in the last decade.

The social housing wait list is now 15 years.

Food bank use increased by seven percent in the last year to almost 800,000 users.

Clearly when we don’t invest in the social needs of our most vulnerable, some will become desperate,

Bhardwaj says.

“With higher poverty levels, as long as that continues, you will see increasing frustration.”

And this can lead to isolation – the definitive opposite of belonging.

Bhardwaj is optimistic but cautions that people are being left behind in this great city.

Without question there is a role for all three levels of government to play in increasing funding for

education, jobs, environment, transit, housing in order to make Toronto a better place to live.

But as residents, if we want a better city we need to be better local citizens. The more we reach out to

other residents, care what happens to them and advocate for improved conditions for all – the more

reasons we will have to celebrate Toronto.

Toronto Tourism’s tag line for visitors is “you belong here”. Surely, we can hope for no less for those of

us who chose to make Toronto our home.




3 responses to “Toronto class divide

  1. Today June 21, when I was at St. Lawrence Market North’s Sunday antique market I saw a copy of the 1898-published book Of Toronto the Good by C.S. Clark. I paid $10 for an original and I am if that was a good price. I mention it because as I lead off with in my story Toronto Class Divide “Toronto the Good” is how the city was referred to. I hope this book will provide me with a perspective on how the city has changed in the past 111 years.

  2. As I mention in this article, one thing that helps me feel less isolated in this large city of 2.6 some million Torontonians is to go out and mingle. This story is mainly about poverty, the class divide and how we are leaving people behind. But in it, I also mention some festivals that I enjoy. One of those is Irie Music Festival and on June 21, I wrote and update in a post called Must See Free Music Fests for those who want to know more about this fest at Queen’s Park July 30-Aug 3/09.

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