Toronto Vital Signs good and bad

Toronto Community Foundation’s annual report on Toronto
(Column written for Town Crier Oct.7)

If we took the city’s pulse, what would it tell us?
Would we get a healthy, hopeful prognosis for Toronto’s future or would we hear a faint heartbeat indicating the city is a mere shadow of its former self.
In some ways, it depends on who you ask. Pricewaterhouse Cooper has chosen Toronto among its top international cities. However, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey ranked us 215th out of 272 as the least affordable city.
These are just two of the findings highlighted in Toronto Community Foundation’s Toronto Vital Signs report released just 20 days before Torontonians go to the polls to elect a new mayor and council.
The charity tells a good news, bad news story of this city.
Good news: Crime is down and has been declining for a decade and most of us feel safer in our neighbourhoods.
Bad news: This June, there were 160,000 people on social assistance representing a 12 percent rise compared to the same time last year.

Could be better: According to the report, 62 percent of us feel a strong or somewhat strong sense of belonging in our local community.
Bad news: About half of us live more than one kilometre from a grocery store. And if we don’t drive or have access to good transit we end up using fast food and convenience stores as our main source for meals. This may in part explain why 33 percent of kids aged two to 11 are obese or overweight.
In presenting this year’s Vital Signs report, Toronto Community Foundation acknowledged the importance of the upcoming election.
Foundation CEO Rahul Bhardwaj called on the next mayor to have a vision to bring this city up to its potential.
“We live in a great city. We have a lot to be proud of, but Toronto is facing challenges that have brought other cities to their knees,” he said. “We need a mayor who can think and act globally. The day of fixing pot holes alone are long, long behind us.”
Bhardwaj is calling on us to pick a mayor with a vision, something I also advocated for in this column a few months back.
Bhardwaj summed it up nicely in two great quotes.
“Running this city is more than just running a very big 7-11.”
And also, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
He pointed out government alone can’t fix this city, nor can the business community on its own.
One way we can improve things is working with charities like Toronto Community Foundation, which mobilizes volunteers and organizes grants by matching the needs of the city with those willing to help make things better.
The other way to improve our city is by voting in the municipal election this Oct. 25.
Choose a mayor, local rep and school trustees who will help make this city a better place for us now and a generation down the road.

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