It's like the 20th century all over again: when limitless growth is all that matters

Post by Eric Mang in ,

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Single family homes are one of the most environmentally unsustainable forms of living on the planet

Recently, the Toronto Board of Trade (TBoT) released “Toronto as a Global City: Scorecard on Prosperity.” The report compares Toronto to 20 other cities around the world using social and economic measures.

Toronto earned a “C” grade because it is seen to be waning as a global competitor. GDP growth is low, disposable income growth is lousy, and it’s barely making it in terms of “annual productivity growth”. Do you see a theme emerging yet?

This should all be taken with a grain of salt. TBoT represents Toronto’s business interests and making pronouncements about labour attractiveness and economic conditions are core to its mandate. But the report stirred up a few annoyed murmurs when it suggested that Toronto was becoming a bedroom community to the surrounding ‘burbs.

That’s right. The cosmopolitan 416, centre of business and commerce, largest city in Canada, is becoming a business feeder town to the sprawling mess that is the 905.

Putting this report into context is the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume. Hume rightly asks why the report failed to note the full cost of suburbia: environmental mayhem, traffic gridlock, “low quality of life” (I assume Hume meant this is what happens when you add up all the minuses about 905 living) and unsustainable building.

The TBoT report sees only one value and that’s growth. That silly ideology regards Earth’s bounty as limitless, that growth, like greed, is good. Sprawl, neighbourhoods where you can’t get a pack of gum without getting in the car, is good. You get 3,500 square feet of McMansion and the car companies and Big Oil see you buying, nay, needing their products. The Middle Class wins!

To prove that TBoT worships the gods of growth, Calgary, seen by many urban critics as an example of how not to plan a city, is given a lofty “A” grade. It’s a land-devouring, sprawling mass of cul-de-sacs and suburban streets bearing bucolic names like Glen Forest that belie the reality of monster homes and asphalt that cover up, well, forest glens.

If your eyebrows aren’t already raised into your hairline (assuming you have a hairline) we find that TBoT uses old data to compile this report and then lacks judgment on how to use those data for 2009. Hume rails:

Though Wilding admits her data are several years out of date, one might have thought that in the midst of the Great Recession, even a business mouthpiece would know the world is starting to move beyond the growth-at-any-cost mentality. After all, that's what got us into this mess in the first place. Surely, we might have learned something. Apparently not.

If you’re going to give Toronto a stern warning, that it’s not keeping up with its greenspace-mauling, all-about-growth-and-damn-the-consequences neighbours, you might want to situate your 2009 report in 2009.

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