No City For Young Children

July 13, 2012

I have seen the urban-suburban divide, and it’s name is Doug Holyday. Councillor Doug Holyday. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday.

If not the political father to the Ford Brothers, he is their political godfather. A lean, mean libertarian and last mayor of pre-amalgamation Etobicoke, Councillor Holyday’s the antiest of anti-government types. There is no aspect of governing (except maybe policing) the man doesn’t believe can be done better and cheaper by the private sector. Government as a source for out-sourcing.

Despite the political and territorial affinity between the Deputy Mayor and the Fords, Councillor Holyday must bear a little ill-will toward their late father, Doug Sr. As a backbench MPP for the Mike Harris government, Ford-pere helped smash the 6 former municipalities of Metro Toronto into one unwieldy beast. This leashed the Deputy Mayor’s beloved ol’ Etobicoke home to the licentious, rapacious, elitist grab all downtown.

Arcadia was under threat. Progress’s shadow drew nearer, bringing darkness ever closer to the perpetual 1950s sunshine of Toronto’s gateway to Mississauga.

Since 1997 Doug Holyday’s picket fenced mind set has been besieged by the onset of the 21st-century. Urbanism. Multiculturalism. Diversity of views and lifestyles that include… wait for it, wait for it… children growing up in downtown highrises with no place to play other than the traffic.

Yesterday’s well-documented dust up between the deputy mayor and Councillor Adam Vaughan (if you want to see it for yourself here’s the link, scroll through to 149:46) over the requirement for 10% of condo units to be 3 bedroom in a King Street West development proposal revealed the deep hostility directed at the downtown core from the suburban leadership elected to represent the entire city. “I personally wouldn’t want to raise my kids on King Street or Yonge Street,” the deputy mayor said. “Some people might, and if they do, that’s fine. … I’m saying I personally wouldn’t want to be on the 47th floor of a condominium building at the corner of King and John with three kids.”

“I can just see it now,” ‘Where’s little Jenny? Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park’”.

When the city’s acting chief planner Gregg Lintern suggested that encouraging families to live in every part of the city including right downtown “…makes for a healthier city” the deputy mayor wasn’t buying it.  “It makes for a healthier city to have children out on King Street where there is bumper-to-bumper traffic, people galore all night and day? I just think of raising my own family there. That’s not the place I’d choose.”

Apparently, if you choose a lifestyle contrary to one Doug Holyday deems acceptable, well hey, god bless you, you’re on your own. Briefly stepping back from his Grandpa Simpson mode, the deputy mayor wrapped himself in his comfy libertarian cloak and railed that government shouldn’t be telling the private sector what they can and cannot be building. In putting forward a motion to delete the 10% 3 bedroom requirement for the development proposal, he suggested that it should be left up to the free market to sort out.

“I’m not going to dictate to a developer,” the Deputy Mayor said, “that they must provide 10% of their units in the three bedroom form when there may or may not be a market for it.”

If there’s such a clamour for family condo units downtown, developers will respond. That’s just Economics 101. No matter that bigger units/development mean fewer units/development and less money overall. Developers aren’t concerned about money in the long run. They just want to respond to market demand.

Turns out the Deputy Mayor isn’t as laissez-faire on the matter of planning when it gets closer to home. During the ensuing debate, Councillor Vaughan pointed out that a few years back, when a developer proposed building rowhouses — OMG not townhouses! — in Etobicoke’s single family enclave, Mr. Holyday wasn’t so invisibly handy as he was toward downtown development. So it’s free reign for the private sector when it comes to situations the Deputy Mayor doesn’t approve of but let’s get all state controlled if it imposes on his lifestyle.

I don’t  believe that a majority of those in the suburbs reflect Deputy Mayor Holyday’s cloistered views. People live outside the core for many reasons. Space, affordability, just a preference for that way of life. They don’t judge those who make their homes downtown as dimly as our deputy mayor does.

I agree with writer Shawn Micallef when he referred to Mr. Holyday’s opinions as ‘creaks from the grave of thought.’ They’re shocking because it’s difficult to believe anyone still thinks like that. It’s a dying breed kicking and screaming against modernity.

Unfortunately, Mr. Holyday isn’t just anyone. In theory, he’s the 2nd in command of the largest city in the country. A rapidly evolving metropolis of some 2.5 million residents that has long since outgrown the strictures of sleepy, small town governance. More worrisome is that the mayor, his actual right hand man, Councillor Ford, and a small cadre of similar anti-urban minds now have their hands on the levers of power.

All of them are unfit for the positions they are currently in. They don’t understand the needs of the city they’ve been elected to represent. The only thing they seem determined to accomplish is to roll back any and all evidence of the 21st-century.

The Deputy Mayor’s comments reflected that and underline the need to resist every antediluvian idea he and his cohorts try to inflict on the city.

corely submitted by Cityslikr