Bridge The Gap

Sixteen years into amalgamation, Toronto is still struggling with a strong sense of unified place. siblingrivalrySix separate entities officially smushed into one but remaining defiantly, petulantly, antagonistically individual. That urban-suburban divide. The downtown gets everything. [Fill in your former municipality surrounding it here] gets nothing.

Don’t even think about introducing the 905 into that warring equation. An entirely different beast altogether. Their own local governments, transit systems, civic culture. Distant relatives in an already estranged family.

Yet you can take a 15 minute jaunt along Bloor Street West west west (although not a particularly pleasant one, what with the 4 lanes of speeding traffic shooting by you), siblingrivalry3from the Markland Wood shopping plaza in Etobicoke, past some apartment towers of mid-teen stories in height at most, past a park with a baseball diamond, more apartments, past the parking lot and clubhouse of the Markland Wood Golf Club, its fairways rolling westward to Etobicoke Creek, where you cross a bridge to find yourself in Mississauga. The blue sign on the roadside says as much. From the 416 to the 905 in a few hundred steps.

Not so distant after all.

In fact, continuing on a few blocks, this slight slice of Mississauga doesn’t feel that far flung at all. The strip of apartments continue, a little older, shabbier around the edges. By the time you reach Fieldgate Plaza, east of Dixie Road, there’s a diversity of residents going about their business that equals many places you’ll find throughout the city of Toronto. siblingrivalry2Certainly this ward 3 of Mississauga feels much more urban than the leafy neighbourhoods a few traffic lights back to the east in Etobicoke’s ward 3.

Funny thing, the Fieldgate Plaza and surrounding area has more than a passing resemblance to the downtown Toronto high rise, traffic filled, green space deficient existence of a certain Li’l Ginnie deplored by Doug Holyday earlier this year when he was at council, representing Etobicoke Centre.

In his own backyard, just beyond past the ol’ creek there, life was being conducted in a manner completely foreign to our former Deputy Mayor. Where folks didn’t need their leaves hoovered and windrows cleared. Within an easy evening stroll.

Having yet to move past our own myopic parochialism in Toronto, it seems a waste of time to call for a wider, more regional cohesion but we cannot continue battling one another, treating every other surrounding municipality as some competing interest and a threatening, mysterious entity, looking to steal our jobs and children. siblingrivalry1Our civic and political differences have been used by politicians at every level to undermine our best interests. Suburban voters pandered to by vilifying urbanites. Suburbanites viewed as an occupying force, laying siege to the core of the city with their cars and loud leaf blowers.

And the result? Every municipality within the GTHA is left to fend for itself, begging and scratching for the crumbs tossed our way by upper levels of government that seem only interested in the region when it comes to collecting votes. The feds shrug off cities as a provincial matter. Queen’s Park is forever looking over its shoulder not wanting to be seen as too Toronto-centric.

siblingrivalry4This calculated indifference can only happen when we stand around, pointing our fingers at one another and speaking out with separate voices. In a region as interconnected as this, no one city should hope to prosper at the expense of others. That would be counterproductive to the whole. As hoary a cliché as it may be, the GTHA’s commonalities are much more prevalent than the differences. One place is simply not just this while another is just that.

If you think that’s little more than hyperbolic boosterism, try taking a stroll sometime across what are nothing more than boundaries on a map.

brotherly submitted by Cityslikr