Thursday, November 1, 2007

Toronto: a city of diversity

Toronto: N: 43º 39.391' W: 079º 22.833'
Toronto is not what I expected. A huge urban centre with its own vibrancy. Again, I have enjoyed just walking around the city and observing. Here are a few observations I have made:
* As a city of 2.5 million the people (4.5 million as a megalopolis) seem to have a real identity with the place, with a smile on their face. Halloween seems a real hoot and brings out the crazy but village/community mentality in the people. Last night I travelled by ferry out to Toronto Island where kids were going around to houses for trick or treat (mainly treat). Was all rather nice really.
* This part of Canada has been experiencing its worst drought and highest October temperatures on record. All sounds rather familiar. Normally this time of year is much colder and sometimes even snows on Halloween but yesterday was a balmy 18 degrees.
* In the inner city there were more homeless than I have seen in other western cities. A surprising number of people asking for money as I walked around the city but with no angst when refused. One guy destitute sitting on the street tonight asked me for some money, when I said I had no change he said, “have a nice day”. I did not expect that response!
* The inner city is not pristine like the US cities with lots of litter and a great amount of building and road changes going on.
* Despite this the recycling facilities are impressive with the public bins having paper, plastic/metal and rubbish compartments.
* Toronto, I have been told is the most ethnically diverse city in the world. It certainly seems that way as you walk around and it seems to generally work well. This is a result of Canadians very open immigration policy over the years.
* The Toronto skyline is impressive with some very tall buildings in its centre, with many of them being residential. The CN tower is meant to be the tallest building in the world, according to the Canadians.
* The city sprawls over an enormous area as I saw as the plane circled the city on my way here.
* In Canada, remarkably up to 90% of the population lives within 100 miles of the US border. No wonder the US culture permeates Canadian culture so much (as evidenced by the TV full of US shows).
* In the staff room in the school was a poster “Support our troops in Iraq”. Would we see that in Australia? I am not sure. Also of interest is the large number of people in the city who have been wearing the red poppy for Remembrance Day all the time I have been here. Whether this is tied in with the losses in Iraq (75 fatalities apparently) or just normal remembrance of he wars I am not sure.
* The big fuss in the media is the announcement by the conservative Canadian government that they are going to cut $60 billion from the tax collection and lower the GST from 6% to 5%! The debate is about why cut taxes when educational and health infrastructure is great need for an infusion of funds. Instead of cutting taxes, this boom in the Canadian economy should be put towards the people and not the economy and the rich. An interesting debate which seems to be repeated in all booming western economies.
* By the way Australia does not exist in North America. Well that is not exactly true; the only thing I have read about Australia over the past three weeks is that Kevin Rudd eats his ear wax! In fact in the Toronto paper this was third page news with half a page of writing and photographs. This is a worry if that is the only thing about Australia which is newsworthy in North America.

Overall a good place to visit but not the real Canada of wilderness and cold I expected. Very much the urban Canada I have experienced. Must come back to see the vastness of the country one day.

1 comment:

Dougie said...

Hi Malcolm

Enjoying reading your trip blog. Mick Law put me onto it. I went to a workshop that Mark Lowry ran at the ESRI conference in June. I don’t know if you recall but Bournda purchased a range of GIS resources from you a couple of years ago – we have been muddling through some GIS projects since then and this year I got a scholarship that sent me to the ESRI conference in San Diego. Got to hang out with Mick Laws for a few days and generally had an eye-popping experience. I visited a whole range of environmental education centres to see how they were using GIS. Hope I get to meet up with you sometime in Oz, Cheers Doug Reckord (Bournda EEC)