Toronto 'Highly Desirable and Seriously Unaffordable'

By Ben Bull
Published October 07, 2009

Poverty isn't sexy. It doesn't make for good copy. It rarely gets much play in the newspaper or on our TV screens. And yet is costs us all.

The release yesterday of Toronto's 'Vital Signs' report provides a rare glimpse into the lives of those who are falling through the cracks, and the difficulties we are going to have in helping them climb back up.

"The (report) data confirms that Toronto is both highly desirable and seriously unaffordable," Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, told a downtown audience Monday evening as he highlighted key findings in the organization's Vital Signs Report 2009.

On the plus side, the report shows Toronto ranked in the top 20 of 215 cities around the world for a highly desirable quality of life. It was Canada's second wealthiest centre in 2007, behind Vancouver - average net household worth in Toronto was $562,173, compared to $592,851 for Vancouver.

But when you drill down on some of the numbers, the picture looks less rosy.

  • One-third of Toronto's young children live in poverty; 60 per cent of poor children in the GTA live in Toronto proper.

  • Recent immigrants are more than three times as likely to have lost jobs in the economic downturn than their Canadian-born colleagues.

  • The proportion of middle-income earners in the city - described as those making between 20 per cent above and 20 per cent below the average individual income - dropped from 66 per cent to 29 per cent between 1970 to 2005. The median employment income for Toronto families in 2006 was $51,200 - more than $10,000 below the provincial median of $62,200 and below the national level of $58,300.

The report also found that while the city's housing market continues to weather the recession, the lack of home affordability threatens to put more residents on the street.

The poor getting poorer, the rich getting richer, the middle class being squeezed out... the trend continues. Yet what are we doing about it?

While cities like Toronto look all nice and fine on the outside, the story underneath is a lot more complex. The poor are gradually becoming this nations' silent majority. The question is: who will speak for them?

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted October 07, 2009 at 15:23:23

Ben: Yes, Poverty issues barely make the news and more of the middle class are finding themselves struggling, they are losing ground.

There are many that do speak out, it is just that MSM tends not to report on these issues, as they should.

There is a group in Toronto, the Workers Action Center, which does a very good job of helping workers, expecially those who are immigrants. So this is one way that people can be empowered, to get involved and stand together for a very good cause. This group encourages individuals to be part of the process. Being a lone voice does nothing, yet when when many voices join together it is much harder to ignore.

The rise of precarious employment has also played a role, where workers do not have secure work and find themselves bouncing around, with no real protection, given all the labour laws we have.

Here in Hamilton, we have the Hydro company calling for the rates to rise because the steel company has been shut down, somehow, I can see many more people struggling, having to make more choices about whether to pay shelter costs, utility bills and food. On this thought, I worry about those who are on a fixed income, such as seniors. Are they to lose house and home because they can no longer afford things?

The system creates division within groups of people but the people need to be aware of this tactic and do everything they can to defeat these type of thinking.

I was watching CPAC last week and well it was interesting that there was discussion around NAFTA and chapter 11 and the consquences around this particular piece of legislation.

One thing that was discussed was pesticides and well Hamilton was adopted the policy of no pesticides, which to me is a good thing. But there is currently a court case going through the motions, as Quebec is being hauled into court for adopting the same policy that our community has addopted. If Quebec loses, then our own community could find themsleves in court over the same issue.

So the question to ask is whose rights should be upheld, the corporation, whose product is detrimental to our health or the people, the public good?

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