What If, You Know, Something Really REALLY Bad Happened To Toronto?

17May07

Consider:

  1. Shortly after New Year’s Day 1999, Toronto was hit — along with a large portion of northeastern North America — by a massive snowstorm, effectively shutting the city down. Then-Mayor (and International Joke for Life) Mel Lastman panicked and called in the army because, hey, the city’s own snow-removal budget (and personnel (and equipment)) had been severely reduced. The largest city in Canada was unprepared. For snow. In January.
  2. In early March of this year, a peculiar combination of ice, snow and wind caused huge sheets of ice to fly off local landmark, the CN Tower, to the street below. Front Street was closed off for days so that investigators could analyze and remedy the situation. Mayor David Miller’s response was to ask residents to “do their part” to clear drains outside their homes to prevent flooding. But downtown traffic was snarled and ground-level public transit was rerouted. For days. The largest city in Canada was unprepared for that rarest of March occurrences in Ontario — snow! and wind!! — and responded with… a days-long investigation.
  3. In late April of this year, a construction platform crashed into a subway car at 4:30AM, tragically killing a TTC worker. The subway system was crippled for the rest of the day, commuters stranded, while the Ministry of Labour investigated and crews repaired the short length of track and removed the single car affected. Mayor David Miller boldly asked City Council for a moment of silence. The largest city in Canada’s transit system was brought to its knees for an entire day by an accident and… an investigation.
  4. High winds and rain on Tuesday of this week caused a marble slab to fall from the tallest building in Canada, in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. King Street was closed for several days for repairs and — are you noticing a trend here? — investigation. On Wednesday morning, several blocks were closed, snarling traffic and causing general vehicular mayhem in the downtown core. Traffic on Bay Street was rerouted to Yonge Street by police yet no police officers were present on the detour to enforce traffic bylaws prohibiting stopping and parking on Yonge. Fucking nightmare. In fact, when you get right down to it, Toronto’s police never seem to enforce traffic laws prohibiting stopping and parking on major arteries downtown (see 5, below). For days, the largest city in Canada’s downtown core was — and is — a tangled mess of traffic jams preventing efficient egress of emergency vehicles. They’re still investigating.

    Bay Street Policing
    …the bus I was riding in when I took this photo waited 10 minutes for an illegally-parked car to move.

  5. You take your life in your hands if you dare to ride your bicycle in the bike/taxi/bus lane on Bay Street, with signage indicating the exclusivity of that lane appearing only every 75 feet or so. On a good day, you’ll see Toronto’s Finest chatting on the sidewalk while automobiles flout the law and endanger the lives of cyclists mere steps away. But the best example of this is on the Bay Street side of First Canadian Place (the aforementioned Tallest Building in Canada). You see, because FCP is such a landmark, and thus a “target”, elaborate security procedures are in place to scan delivery vehicles prior to arrival on the loading docks. These procedures must be a pain in the ass, because at every hour of the workday you’ll find large vans avoiding the wait at security by parking in the no parking/no stopping/bike-taxi-bus lane (of course) to deliver their… goods. Presumably. Hopefully. What if some evil fuck was to… if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
  6. Remember SARS? Toronto does. Some sectors of our economy are still suffering from the fallout of that disaster. Common sense dictates that victims (and contagion) would be isolated to one or two well-equipped facilities. But Toronto’s health authorities laugh in the face of common sense! Hahahaha! No, we do it Toronto-style here. And Toronto-style means that patients are shipped around from hospital to hospital, “sharing the burden”. And, whaddya know? The contagion was shared, too. How’d that turn out for us? New SARS cases in Toronto originated only in hospitals. Which is kinda good, except for the “new cases” part.

So… what’s going on here and what can be done to remedy the situation? There’s a fuckuva lot wrong with Toronto, and a lot of it is due to the complete absence of effective, charismatic leadership and political will. When the Mayor (or the head of the Toronto Transit Commission (or the Traffic Commissioner (or the Health Commissioner (or the Chief of Police)))) hears of all these “investigations” and days-long inquiries and hold-ups and fuck-ups, do any of them get on the phone and tell the people who can untangle these messes “get the fuck out of your desk right now and make sure this gets cleaned up before the sun goes down today!”? No, they apparently do not.

I’m not being naive to honestly believe that in a city that works, in a vital city that’s actually more than the worst accumulation of mediocrity in this country, things can get done, can get done quickly and can get done right. Because if snow or wind or a preventable disease or an accident or two can bring down the largest city in Canada, what if something really bad happens?



3 Responses to “What If, You Know, Something Really REALLY Bad Happened To Toronto?”

  1. 1 adam

    hmm, something tells me i don’t ever want to live in toronto.

  2. 2 Cora

    Well. Why put up with it? Why not move?

  3. 3 bstewart23

    Well, you know, good point. And not one I haven’t considered on a daily basis. Bottom line? As broken and frustrating and fucked-up as Toronto is, it’s still the best place in Canada to live and Canada is still the best place on Earth to live, all things (economics, politics, career, friendships, family, lifestyle, etc) considered.
    So, whaddya do? You make some noise, you suggest solutions and you work as hard as you can to make it better. Because it could be a great city.


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