What Makes Toronto a Good City, Revisited


Ten years ago, I wrote about what makes Toronto a good city. At the time, the city was in a lot worse shape than it is now, in my opinion. Toronto's transit ridership had only just started to recover from its disastrous mid-1990s fall, the city's council was dysfunctional, and Toronto was scrambling to make ends meet in the face of a hostile provincial government.


And yet, Toronto was a city of two-and-a-half-million souls, each with their own story. There was a lot of kindness to be found, a lot of energy, and no shortage of things to do. It was more than possible to pick a spot at random (in my case, a coffee shop at Dundas and McCaul which I think no longer exists) and just drink in the sights and sounds of the city.

Ten years later, I came into Toronto by a GO Train direct from Kitchener. I rode on new subway cars, stopped at a coffee shop to work before heading over to the ROM to check out its new Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit. I walked through Yorkville, picked up presents for my daughters and my father, and then headed up to North Toronto to try out Uncle Betty's diner and their famous ice cream sandwich. Our personal trainer intends to put us on a food journal in the new year, so there's a bit of a illicit rush in trying out one of these treats. And who'll know? Though I note that as I sit and eat, there's a film crew in the restaurant, filming a segment about the dessert I'm now trying.

And, heading back to Union Station, I stop and work some more in the Underground City, watching the day's workers stream out to their trains home.

Ten years on, the TTC has made remarkable improvements and seen ridership hit record levels, but there remain questions about its future. The provincial government is less hostile, but in a precarious position, and the province's financial situation is difficult. We have a far worse mayor than we had ten years ago but, strangely enough, we seem to have a much more effective council. And, most importantly, we still have the two-and-a-half million souls, and the same number of stories generating the energy that makes Toronto truly a world class town.

At the heart of things, this is why Toronto lives, and why it will always live, in spite of provincial mismanagement, lack of leadership, and all sorts of other challenges you can name. It really is a special place, and I'm glad to call it my old home town.

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