Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Growth can only be a good thing for Toronto

By: Metro Toronto Published on Mon Mar 11 2013

It’s official: the City of Toronto now considers itself more populous than Chicago, according to a press release issued last week. That makes us the fourth largest city in North America.

So take THAT, Chi-Town. You may have an internationally-renowned waterfront, more than double our number of subway stations and a mayor that doesn’t end up constantly embroiled in strange scandals, but we’ve got population.

And lots of it. Even when you consider the outlying areas of each city, Chicagoland — which includes their suburbs — has about the same population as our Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The news that Toronto now ranks behind only Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles seemed to surprise some people.

Toronto has always struggled with its big city status. Notions that we should strive to be a “world city” are routinely mocked — as if this sprawling, sleepy burg could ever live up to the cultural, architectural and economic heights of the great places of the world.

But our population growth is proof that something about Toronto is working. If you look at comparable urban areas, to places like Boston, Philadelphia and, yes, Chicago, the trend is mostly population decline. The Windy City has lost almost a million people since its peak in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, Toronto has grown consistently, decade after decade. Our peak is still ahead of us.

Some may like to point to things like low taxes and business-friendly policies as drivers of that success, but that’s too simplistic. There are always going to be places with lower taxes and bigger business subsidies.

Instead, if I had to point to why Toronto has avoided the declines that have hit similar cities, I’d point to things more ephemeral.

I’d point to diversity and urbanity. While our suburban-minded planners in the 1950s and 1960s made some serious mistakes, those mistakes were nothing compared to what happened to other cities.

Toronto never saw a massive hollowing out of its core population. We maintained the character and the diversity of our central neighbourhoods.

And it was those strong neighbourhoods that successfully fought off highway expansion and movements to remove transit.

Other cities are now struggling to reclaim the character of their urban neighbourhoods. But we never lost ours.

That’s not to say we’re perfect.

There’s a lot we can learn from Chicago, now our little brother city. Like how to leverage money from other levels of government to build a great transit system.

Or how to finally develop a great waterfront.

Call me naïve, but I’m confident that we can learn those things.

Because every good thing that has ever happened in this city has happened through the strength of its people. And now, at least, we have more of them.

This post was originally published at on 2013-03-11T00:00:00.000Z

About the author

Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
Website / Twitter / Email Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott


Follow Me on Twitter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments