‘Observers’ Say What Now?

Weighing in before the mayoral by-election has even been called, ‘international investors’ are letting it be known that they ‘hope to see [a] business-savvy mayor’ elected in Toronto, ‘similar’ to the ex-mayor, John Tory. According to observers. According to the Toronto Star, and according to Global News, in eerily similar dispatches over the weekend. Oh, wait. Not similar. Exact, pretty much. Almost like a press release being passed off as news.

Cue the sound of potential candidates repositioning themselves to the right side of the political spectrum. It is the murmur and hubbub of buttoning down but rolling up of sleeves, the buffing and shining of Oxfords. The lowing of hymns to Prudent & Reasonable, Moderation & Efficiencies (The Finding Of), a common-sense anthem.

No Sudden Moves, in other words. Everything’s fine. No need to run around, trying to right the ship. In fact, No Rocking of the Boat Whatsoever! As one of the ‘observers’, Canadian expat, Patrick James, associate professor of international politics at the USC told the press releaser, ‘investors would typically want to keep the status quo’.

Looking around at Toronto on this wintery February day in 2023, a non-international investor such as myself is forced to ask in response to such a sentiment, What is it exactly about the ‘status quo’ that investors want to keep? The unaffordability factor? The housing shortage? The general state of disrepair in pretty much every aspect of the city’s infrastructure? Parttime public amenities shoddily maintained. Garbage-strewn streets. Unreliable transit delivered on a tattered shoestring. Encampments of the unhoused callously and, at times, violently, cleared by an overfed and undertrained police force. A stripped-back local democracy.

Or is it the basic ease with which the well-to-do go on about their lives here that international investors like so much about the status quo? A safe haven for their money investments, soothed by a lack of political urgency (other than well-manicured and nicely packaged words of concern) to address what for residents of Toronto are actual day-to-day problems and emergencies, playing out in the shadows cast by all the pleasant and agreeable comforts and conveniences that regularly place this city on countless Best Of lists that the former mayor and his council allies love to tout as proof positive of a job well done. Look at all those cranes in the sky! they behold, more than x, y, z combined! Shiny steel and glass towers going up to securely house investment capital. Oh, and people, people able to afford it.

It’s almost as if the best interests of international investors don’t necessarily align with those who live within the confines of the international investors’ investment portfolios.

“I wonder if we will see a strong mayor that continues playing out in a pro-business way”, wonders Prof. James.

I wonder when Prof. James last visited Toronto. I wonder if Canadian expat Prof. James has ever visited Toronto. Being a Canadian expat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re from Toronto or that you’ve ever been to the city, not even once. Canada’s a pretty big place.

I wonder why the Toronto Star and Global News saw fit to print such a press release. It certainly shouldn’t come as news to anyone. Investors hate taxes. Investors hate government regulation. Investors hate lefties and the Green Party. Investors love politicians who hate those very same things.

Stop the presses!

If the past eight years here have been good to international investors, probably even more so since 2018 with the real power in this city in the hands of a venal, Open For Business premier at Queen’s Park, is it unfair to conclude that the worse things get for Toronto residents, the better it is for international investment community? Because, to hear these ‘observers’ talk, it sure feels that way, although you have to ask, at what point of decline does the rate of return begin to dry up? What will make Toronto as unattractive to international investors as it’s becoming to residents who no longer can depend on (or, increasingly, afford) unreliable infrastructure and city services to live their lives, raise families, just generally go about their daily business, pleasantly, safely and productively?

What hasn’t been working for most Torontonians for over a decade now has been, apparently, a boon for international investors. With the upcoming mayoral by-election, the opportunity has come early for voters to decide just who this city is meant to be for, to help thrive and prosper. Those who have chosen to live here versus those who eye the place as nothing more than a profit-making commodity.


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