If there’s one thing that unites all Canadians, even les citoyens of the Nation of Quebec, it’s our sea-to-shining-sea disdain for our largest city, Toronto.
I should make it clear this bad attitude is a defence against Toronto’s tendency to fancy itself as the centre of the known universe (CKU), its boundaries Cottage Country to the north, Mississauga to the west, Scarberia to the east and New York to the south.
Oh, and there’s an Ottawa bureau.
There was a time I thought Toronto was merely misunderstood, but that was until I lived and worked in the CKU for our “national” broadcaster, which had a bad case of Toronto-itis, no matter how it pretended to behave otherwise.
I soon learned all the important news came from Toronto, while the rest of the country was a vast and chilly hinterland, good for soft features about cute animals and farmers, out standing in their fields, suffering.
Of course, Toronto’s myopia infuriates the rest of us 30 million Canadians, so we make remorseless fun of its endless pretensions, especially its hockey team, which has been wilting on the tree since 1967, the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup and the last time there were six teams in the NHL.
This fact alone is usually enough to haunt the nightmares of Torontonians, but now they have a real nightmare to contend with. We’re talking trash, Toronto trash in particular, thanks to a civic workers’ strike that’s gone on for two weeks and continues with no end in sight.
Garbage is being temporarily dumped at various locations around town, including Christie Pits, which is Toronto’s idea of a park. Anyone from out of town might not be able to tell the difference, but believe me, Torontonians can and the trash is driving them nuts. Of course, that’s all they can talk about; forget the rest of us and our cute animals.
If you’ve ever spent a summer in Toronto, you’ll never forget that toxic soup of heat, humidity and the aroma of millions of bags of trash piled up on the curb on pickup day, seeping sludge. Now it’s like that 24/7. Only worse. You can smell it all the way to Vancouver, past the noses of the suffering farmers, as if they didn’t have enough to worry about.
Canada’s self-proclaimed “national” paper, the Globe and Mail, likes to call Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Canada’s Slum, based on some patronizing notion. We should return the favour and adopt Toronto and its trash for the duration of the strike so our greatest city does not feel abandoned in its hour of need.
Tonight on the National with Peter Mansbridge: Toronto: Canada’s Dump.