Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

A small resolution for Toronto in 2015

By: Metro Published on Fri Dec 26 2014

As Toronto gets ready to enter a new year with a new mayor, I could come up with all sorts of ambitious resolutions for our city. So many issues are crying out for attention — transit, housing, even the way we vote.

But the thing about ambitious New Year’s resolutions is that they inevitably tend to, um, not come true.

So let’s keep things simple. This year, I’ll make only a small request to the people who govern our city: fix the fountain.

The fountain in question is on University Avenue, just north of Queen Street. It’s supposed to be a statement piece, serving as a gateway to our city. But aside from a few exciting weeks where the water flowed, it’s been busted since 2009.

Last we heard, staff at city hall were pretty sure the fountain might finally be fixed and ready to go for the time the city turns the water back on in the spring.

But I’m skeptical. Cynical, even.

And I have reason to be, both because we’ve heard that before and because the perpetually broken fountain on University Avenue is emblematic of one of the most frustrating things about Toronto. Too often this city seems ready to accept broken and boring things — to embrace mediocrity.

We see it all over. We see it in parks that open to fanfare and photo-ops but then fall victim to uncut grass and dead plants because city council won’t increase the landscaping budget.

We see it in the city’s not-so-inspiring new architecture. The planned St. Lawrence Market North building is a good example — it went from a bold and ambitious design to only a pretty good design after it became clear there wasn’t political support for the increased cost.

And we see it on transit, where the TTC’s status as the least-subsidized transit agency in North America translates into streetcars and buses that are packed to the gills — but, hey, you saved a few bucks on your property tax bill this year.

Making sure the water flows again on University Avenue won’t solve these problems, but a permanent fix would at least send a message that the city won’t put up with mediocrity — that we’re not going to let the first thing some visitors see is a fenced-up waterless fountain on our grand avenue.

It’s time Toronto started recognizing that we have a city worth investing in, and that some things have a value greater than just their budgetary costs. It’s okay to demand better. I hope 2015 is the year all of us — and our elected representatives — start to do just that.

Sounds pretty ambitious, I know. So let’s go back to the fountain. Fix that first — it’ll be a pretty good start.

This post was originally published at on 2014-12-26T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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