Whenever I visit Toronto, I’m always struck by how different it is from the city in which I grew up. Whether you like Toronto or not, you can’t deny that it’s a vibrant city with no lack of things to do for entertainment. What a change from the 1950s and ’60s when “Toronto the Good” was perhaps the most boring city on the planet.
However, another title Toronto had, and one it earned, was “The City That Works.” It may not have been overly exciting, but it did offer a tremendous transit system, roads in good repair, and effective police, fire, sanitation and water services. It even cleaned all the sidewalks of snow in the winter. And it did all that without having punitive civic taxes and a plethora of special levies and fees.
The fact that Toronto was well run made people start to pay attention to it. The smooth functioning of the city made it a good place to do business and an attractive place to live. There is something for Edmonton to learn from that.
Instead of trying to “put ourselves on the map” through artificial means such as an Expo and an Indy, we should just buckle down and devote our time, effort and resources to being the best city we can be — not for others, but for ourselves.
A good first step would be to stop expanding ever outwards and begin a densification of the neighbourhoods close to the city centre. We must stop creating new suburbs replete with infrastructure we cannot maintain.
We should also make a real commitment to affordable rapid transit.
Transit should be the one area that is not subject to fee hikes in a desperate effort to balance an ever expanding city budget. Affordable, easily accessible transit should be one of the perks of living here.
We should also make this a truly bike-friendly city. That would mean doing a whole lot more than putting in a few bike lanes.
If this city is going to realize its potential to be interesting, unique and eminently livable, we are going to have to work at it full time. Let’s set some specific short- and long-term goals and achieve them. Let’s stop spreading ourselves so thinly that nothing we do seems to make a difference.
Edmonton is a good place to live. We could make it a great place to live.