Assessing a year in the life of a city is a challenge because it’s often not clear how events will unfold over time.
Will Mayor David Miller’s decision not to run again lead to the election of the best — or worst — city leader in a generation? Will the economy roar back? Will the new Regent Park be a better place for low-income residents than the old Regent Park?
We will have to wait until 2010 to find out. In the meantime, if you draw up lists of winners and losers for 2009, it’s immediately apparent the list of losers is the longer of the two.
It includes laid-off workers who are running out of unemployment insurance and turning to welfare — bad news for them and for the city’s wilting finances. The list also includes the many people who are now priced out of the Toronto housing market; the mayor, whose handling of the municipal workers’ strike cost him his political career; TTC riders, whose loyalty is being punished by a fare hike; and cyclists, who are still waiting for long-promised bike lanes. Wasps invaded our backyards and fruit flies took over our kitchens during the 2009 summer that wasn’t.
The winners’ list includes people who sold their Toronto homes; current city workers who will be paid upon retirement for unused sick days; and Toronto voters. In recent months they have been treated to a growing roster of quality candidates for Miller’s job and election reforms that ban corporate and union contributions to municipal election campaigns. The failure of other GTA councils to introduce a similar ban means developers’ interests will continue to dominate their local election financing and that’s bad news for voters in those communities.
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But enough of bad news. This year-end review ends on a happy note. Remember how I fretted in my last column about the fate of a starving young cat I rescued earlier this year and then left at the Toronto Humane Society? A reader named Lizzie read the column and sent me a photo of the cat she adopted from the society in May. It was HIM. His new name is Arvo, and Lizzie says he’s still friendly and affectionate. “I just wanted to let you know how happy I am with Arvo and that he’s in a loving home.”
Arvo — add him to the winner’s list. Put Lizzie’s name on there, too.
April Lindgren teaches at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, where she specializes in local news and urban affairs reporting; firstname.lastname@example.org.