In early October, Toronto Community Foundation (TCF) released its yearly Vital Signs report. It provides a great snapshot of how our city is doing in a number of important measures of city livability.
How are we doing?
The answer from TCF’s President and CEO, Rahul K. Bhardwaj, is: not too bad. But, those living the most precariously among us are not faring well. There is still much to do to make our city a better place to live for all of us.
As TCF’s message states: “Knowing what we know, we must plan for what’s coming. We would be wise to reject simplistic solutions and short term fixes for our complex problems, and trade in short-term spending for long-term investment. We must move beyond old patterns and embrace new voices and new approaches for the challenges ahead. We have what it takes to be so much more than a city that is just ‘not too bad.’”
You can, of course, interpret the data for yourself. And you should.
View highlights of Rahul’s speech:
What is to be done?
Toronto’s low income neighbourhoods have increased, and we are experiencing a disappearing middle class and unbelievable inequality in the city. We’re looking at a city that has 43%, or 1 million people, living in low or very low income neighbourhoods. Two-thirds of them are visible minorities.
Rahul suggested that we need to change our idea of what success looks like.
Given that we’re not moving forward on issues of economic inequality, TCF is advocating we change our definitions of success. At the report release, Rahul suggested that we need to replace GDP as our only measure of success, and include livability and happiness indices. While economic progress is critical to alleviate poverty, he suggested that solely focusing on GDP is not helpful.
Using a predominantly economic lens hasn’t brought us happiness and equality. We need new models. We need a balance and need to move from a paradigm of “winner take all” to one that recognizes “we’re all in this together.”
While we have much work to do, we also have much to celebrate and share with others. According to Rahul: “We’re at a turning point in history when many cities of the world are turning to us to provide the example of how they can become more livable. Now that the world is taking notice, I believe we’ve got an obligation to show them not only what we stand for, but what we are prepared to stand up for.”
Building a happy Toronto means a city that moves, works and lives
- Focus on transit and infrastructure, commuting and moving goods and services.
- We are moving others by our example – visiting experts want to know how we do it (we’re a “petri dish” for diversity).
- Our productivity measures are positive, let’s also look an ingenuity.
- We need to work well and collaborate with each other. MaRS and Regent Park are emerging examples.
- We need to be committed to sustainability. The city has made environmental progress with green jobs, eco schools, etc. – we can’t let up.
- Having fun is important, with cultural events, parks, recreation, arts, etc.
We have to move quickly on our challenges, focused on the long-term. Too many are not sharing in Toronto’s prosperity. Too many of them are racialized and newcomers.
According to Rahul, we have the tools, talent and traits to be a top city. We need to adopt a new attitude towards each other and the city. And he left us with a to-do list. One that Maytree is already hard at work on:
- Celebrate our success and what we can learn from each other (DiverseCity onBoard, Cities of Migration).
- Inject long-term thinking into policy (our Policy Insights/Reports/Discussion Papers, Five Good Ideas, our support of the Caledon Institute, Tamarack Institute).
- Show we’re all in this together, changing our attitude, with happiness as a new measure of success (Building Blocks).
Rahul expanded on his ideas at the recent Yonge Talks panel: