This is a blog about Toronto. But wait! Before you reflexively and derisively click away to another site, let me ask this. How do you know I meant that Toronto? How do you know this isn’t a blog about one of the other Torontos? Like say, Toronto, P.E.I.? Or Toronto, Australia? Or the Toronto located in the county of Durham — no, not in Ontario but in England? And don’t even get me started about all the American Torontos this could be about, seven or so largely located throughout the U.S. Midwest.
This might even be a blog about Toronto the highly under-rated and therefore not surprisingly long since forgotten band who rocked out from 1979-84.
It might be any of those but it’s not. Again, wait! While this may be a blog about that Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Hogtown, Home to the Maple Leafs and not Stanley Cup champions for over 40 years now, the Centre of the Universe™ to those who don’t live here but hate the place anyway, while it is a blog about that Toronto, it is, or at least will endeavour to be, much more inclusive than that.
This is a blog about living in a city. More specifically, it is a blog about the politics of living in a city. While the political particulars will vary, there is one constant that fuses urban dwellers together: where we live is where we make the most fundamentally important day-to-day decisions of our lives and yet in reality many of those decisions are out of our hands entirely.
No, you haven’t stumbled across yet another anti-politician screed although that will happen from time to time. In fact, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would like to think that this is about political empowerment, re-enfranchisement, up with people, yes you can fight city hall, girlfriend!
Actually, it’s not about fighting city hall at all. It’s about fighting for city hall, your city hall, wherever that may be.
You see, despite the fact that cities are where we live (or about 80% of us at last count), where we work, where we raise our children, where the proverbial rubber hits the road, we are little more than caretakers. Yes, we are given our very own mayors and councilors who have been granted limited powers of taxation to oversee some vital components of a city’s operations like policing, parks and recreation, pot holes, sewers. But when it comes to the big picture, to charting a vision of how we want our cities to be and grow, well, that’s just a little too much responsibility for us to handle.
If you live in a city anywhere here in North America, chances are much of what gets decided about the daily goings-on in your life gets decided by politicians you’d least expect to be deciding such things. The strings are pulled a good distance above those you actually voted for to take care of local matters. Municipalities are prey to carpetbaggers; outsiders operating at an arms-length degree of plausible deniability who put their political interests before those of the citizens. When shit goes bad, hey, they’ll claim, it wasn’t us. It was those clowns you installed at city hall.
We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke believe that this is where the democratic deficit really begins. City dwellers are under-represented at all levels of government. Even where our votes count the most, at the municipal level, those we elect have the least amount of power. Without real power, there can be no accountability. With no accountability comes a lack of responsibility. If elected officials possess no power, accountability or responsibility, well then, why should we citizens bother caring about the process?
We should care because if we don’t then the place we live becomes alien to us. An alienated populace doesn’t make for very good neighbours. And bad neighbours, well, they can make living in a city a living hell.
So yeah, this is a blog about that Toronto. But if you can get past your distaste or disinterest, you might just find that it’s about where you live too.