Toronto and the Antithesis of Regionalism

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had faculty from the Economics, Sociology, and Political Science departments at my University ask me what the hell was going on in Toronto. They know I’m a defacto Canadian. It sure has been entertaining, and at the same time, it hasn’t. There’s a greater structural problem to Rob Ford – one that allows people like him to exist in the political sphere – regionalism.

Now I actually am a fan of regionalism, because it allows everyone that has skin in the game to actually have skin in the game – from a Sociology/Political Economy standpoint.

Toronto is a regional government. That means that the outlying areas – the technically “suburbs” get to vote in Toronto elections. They also receive resources from the city, such as police, fire, etc. However, we have just seen bad regionalism, or bad consequences from it. Take a look at this scary map:



This is the election map for the Toronto Mayoral Race in 2010. That little blue area is JUST the city of Toronto and a couple of suburbs. The red areas are technically all “suburbs” of Toronto. In other words, no one in Toronto actually voted for Rob Ford.

Now for the tradeoff – most of the revenue coming into Toronto is actually going to Toronto; not the burbs. Here’s capital investment of the value of new building permits, both residential and commercial – click to enlarge (Source: StatsCan):


Those other “spikes” are Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. They’re not coming close to new building permit value as Toronto. And anyone who has been to Toronto recently can hear the sound of cash funneling into downtown. However, just the chart alone suggests that this much building simply cannot happen in the “burbs.”

So this is the anti-thesis of regionalism. With this much cash flowing into the city proper, it’s hard to make the argument that the suburban population has a lot of skin in the game. Yet they have skin in the game. And the result is Rob Ford.

Just to be clear, Rob Ford himself admitted that he doesn’t have a lit to do with the capital investments in the city, that this was largely the Provincial and National government. Good thing…

The non-entertaining part of the Toronto mess, is that Rob Ford is likely to be close to death. His wife looks like Hillary Clinton after Bill said: “I did not sleep with that woman…”, and looks like she’s heartbroken. The people have a city that cannot function.

And from some of the press highlights (below), it looks like it won’t get any easier before it gets better.

“Re-electing Rob Ford is the equivalent of a dog returning to his own vomit” – The Toronto Star

“Rob Ford is simply, in every way imaginable, a human tornado of chaos and sleeze” – Dan Amira

“How did this walking receptacle of pure, unholy debasement happen to Canada?” – Huffington Post

“Rob Ford is a Lewd, Racist, Abusive, Prostitute-Cavorting, Drunk-Driving, Pill-Popping, Cocaine-Snorting, Child-Endangering Mess of a Human Being” – New York Magazine



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