'New Urban' Greenfield Development Sparks Debate

By Ben Bull
Published August 29, 2007

The planned development of a 'new urban' neighbourhood near Whitby has sparked an interesting debate in the letter pages of the Toronto Star.

The Whitby new urban design is one of many, similar GTA developments already in the works. The recently completed Cornell Live-Work Units walked away with the Award of Merit at the 2006 Design Excellence Awards presentation in Markham.

The ongoing development of the new urban neighbourhood of Seaton in North Pickering is being widely touted as the way ahead.

Letter writer Bernadette Zubrisky, from the Sierra Club of Canada, responds to the Seaton development in a well thought out response:

"The ecological footprint of a city of 70,000 built on top of some of the last unfragmented green space will outweigh the 'environmental' benefits it would create," she states, adding:

Many of the jobs promised by Seaton are projected to be created only if the proposed Pickering airport is a go, and that won't be decided until 2009. If developed, it hardly holds up to the sustainable standards of Seaton - air travel now known to be extremely hazardous to the global ecosystem.

Letter writer Thomas Graff notes that because of such factors as an aging population and a declining birth rate, "young families can't afford to live in the city any more. And since virtually all new residential development in the city is in the form of condominiums, it is no wonder that many families prefer to live where they can have a backyard for the kids and a place to park the car."

His proposed solution, to "reduce immigration levels," is a little off-the-mark, however.

The 'problem' of urban sprawl is not simply a matter of growth - it's a matter of how we manage it. The 'new urban' designs which are now popping up certainly have much to commend them, but I too have my reservations. I recall Jane Jacobs remarking that the idea of working and living within a short walk of each other was wishful thinking.

While good planning can certainly increase the prospects of a short hop to work, there are many jobs for which this ideal is simply not practical. My job, for instance, is a head office-only function and my tendency to job hop every three to four years - a reality for many workers these days - does not bode well for my walk to work prospects.

Graff's premature dismissal of other urban planning approaches is unfortunate, too - as if reducing immigration is going to solve anything. Our old friend infill, for instance, remains a largely overlooked and hugely effective way to re-populate our urban centers.

The letter writer is right to bemoan the lack of housing choices and the current cost of Toronto's downtown lots, but with the right kind of planning there is no doubt that affordable centrally based housing can be created for families.

Recent RTH articles have highlighted the massive waste of space in Hamilton's core.

Although it may not be so obvious and quite so wasteful, the same is also true of Toronto. Take a walk along any downtown street outside of the Financial district and you will see single story units sitting on prime space.

As RTH editor Ryan McGreal has suggested in the past, one way to encourage infill development in our downtowns could be to levy a property tax based on the potential value of the land. In this way the landlord is likely to wake up to the developmental prospects of his piece of land and start building.

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 ACSial (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2008 at 18:34:57

I'm simply amazed at the hypocrisy of NDP, Liberal and Green party-types, who--claiming to be pro-environment--push for mass immigration. The staggering urban sprawl problem is caused by the intake of over a quarter million immigrants a year, period. No amount of fanciful New Urbanist planning will arrest the loss of farmland and greenspace caused by a bulging population, mostly fuelled by immigration. Aside from ethno lobbies (like Olivia Chow's constituents), the real push for mass immigration comes from Canada's powerful housing and development industry. All of this talk of addressing labour shortages and the pension system are bogus. Canada needs a hard cap on immigration and population, like proposed in the UK.

We can't be a safety valve for the developing world. Countries like India and Pakistan need to adopt responsible population-control policies and not offload their population surplus on North America. The environmental movement also needs to get a spine--not like the Sierra Club, who accepted over U.S.$100M (from David Gelbaum), to NOT discuss immigration. Aside from the sprawl problem, we have immigrants unable to function in either of our official languages, gangs (e.g., the aptly-named Fresh Off The Boat Killers), hitherto unknown social ills like honour killings, clitorectomies, and khat and doda addicts.

What we need IS an uncensored debate on immigration.

Adam C. Sieracki

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By ACSial (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2009 at 18:29:33

It seems to be the default position of so many otherwise intelligent people, to dismiss concerns about immigration as "xenophobia". Here are a few points:

*Population growth will always equal an increase in land (and potable water, food) consumption, NO MATTER WHAT. Large, dense urban areas tax adjacent waterways and the people in them still need to eat. (As farms around Calgary and the GTA get gobbled up by immigrant-inhabited housing developments, less food is produced.)

*Immigrants aren't necessarilly "industrious" and "productive". There are two examples illustrating this: Jane & Finch and the European ghettos (Banlieus, &c.). Most of the people in these suburban developments live on welfare, regardless of whether-or-not they immigrated as 'workers' (the hardworking, welfare-eschewing immigrant stereotype is as false as any other).

*Along with the loss of greenspace and farmland associated with mass-immigration, we do have several "innovations", mostly in the social realm. Khat and doda dealing is one; honour killings (e.g., Aqsa Parvez) is another. The boldness of new criminals (Fresh Off the Boat and FOK-Killers, United Nations Gang) exceeds the levels of criminality of the Hell's Angels and other 'homegrown' thugs. Now, MS-13 is settling in... The fact that (CSIS estimates) only about 10% of (legal) new arrivals get background checks is worrisome.

*The developing world needs to curb its absurdly-high birthrate. Poverty isn't the cause--CULTURE is. Thanks to the Total War Economy (WW I-II), European and North American women experienced social changes (acceptance of outside-the-home work) that lead to reduced birthrates. The biblethumpers' influence warped the Bush administration's policies and lead to cuts to 3rd world family planning programmes. We need to make developing countries adopt responsible immigration policies.

All this 'smart growth' crap is not going to stop the effects of OVER A QUARTER MILLION (probably, closer to 400k, factoring in 'temporary' and illegal immigration) people a year. No amount of PC weaseling about can make it go away.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2009 at 20:02:23

ACScial >> Population growth will always equal an increase in land

Canada's population density is 3 people per/km2. In the UK it is 246, Germany 232 and Japan 339. I think we have a little time before we run out of land.

>> The developing world needs to curb its absurdly-high birthrate.


>> Immigrants aren't necessarilly "industrious" and "productive"

Agreed, but most people willing to pack up and leave their relatives and come to a foreign culture, likely have something on the ball. If you want to impose limits on the amount of social benefits they get, that's fine, but why bar someone who simply wants to work. All humans deserve the opportunity to live a better life, so anybody who wants to come here to WORK, should be allowed. Whether that's 250k a year, or 2M a year.

>> All this 'smart growth' crap is not going to stop the effects of OVER A QUARTER MILLION (probably, closer to 400k, factoring in 'temporary' and illegal immigration) people a year.

Increasing population is a sign of life. That's what life does, it grows. Yes, there are challenges that come along with the influx of new cultures, but most people are not trouble makers and simply want to provide for themselves and their family. I enjoy the fact that new cultures bring new ways of doing things, it makes life more interesting. Furthermore, there is no evidence that human beings are running out of food. If anything, we have too much food, as witnessed by our large bodies.

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By ACSial (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2009 at 18:55:41

Why are immigrants settling in SOUTHERN Ontario, why NORTHERN Ontario loses population?

The Developing World needs to curb it's birthrate because PEOPLE THERE ARE STARVING AND KILLING THEMSELVES DUE TO OVERPOPULATION! the Darfur conflict is largely due to more people chasing fewer resources (water, arable and grazing land). Food riots are common in places like India. Do the math: having half as many children means twice as much food. 3rd World fecundity is not the developing world's problem, regardless of how politically-incorrect or cruel that sounds. We have to be more 'yetzer hara' about this and make these societies accept responsibility for their own misery. You can't expect to climb out of poverty if you have a dozen children per family.

Also, remember WW II? Germany, Italy and Japan embarked on a vicious shock-colonization of Eurasia, North Africa and Asia for 'lebensraum'. And the Axis countries weren't STARVING. I'm queasy at the thought that countries like Pakistan have NUKES (and at the same place, politically, that Germany was in the 1930s)... This is a national-security issue, as much as anything else.

Contrary to what the New Green Revolution crowd likes to bullshit about, food scarcity IS an issue. Imputs like ammonium nitrate get costlier, as gas prices rise. Remember the food price-spike last year? That's a preview of coming attractions. India is one country that depends on groundwater for much of its agriculture and that will be out of the picture in a generation. Fish stocks also seem to be heading permanently down the toilet; this has serious implications for countries in North Africa and South-East Asia, who will have to consume more cereals in the fishes' stead. People HERE have 'large bodies' precisely because we produce enough for our needs (and the Naomi Wolf-types have glamourized obesity). People in most places in the world are STARVING!

We can't just tolerate population growth as some sort of inevitability. The only people who benefit from bulging demographics are land speculators and developers.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2009 at 00:03:15

ACSial >> Why are immigrants settling in SOUTHERN Ontario, why NORTHERN Ontario loses population?

That's where the jobs are, the cultural ties, etc.


If the majority of people in Africa were actually starving, then population growth rates should be negative, not the highest in the world. Women need calories to be fertile, so the evidence suggests that the continent has enough food.

>> make these societies accept responsibility for their own misery.

I agree that simply giving money to Africa is not a good thing, but allowing people to come here to work is. We live in a country that is based on freedom and liberty for the individual, so anytime we can help people achieve this, the world and this country is a better place for it.

>> People in most places in the world are STARVING!

If that's the case, then overpopulation is not a problem. Like I said before, women need sufficient calories to make a baby, so if there aren't enough, then no more babies.

>> The only people who benefit from bulging demographics are land speculators and developers.

Every business in Canada benefits from a growing population, from retailers, to developers, to restaurants. More people equals more customers and more income for shareholders. If food becomes more expensive, then perhaps we will begin to eat less, until some genius figures out how to grow food vertically, which apparently is already in the planning stages.

Human population is not a problem, but merely a byproduct of our success. Stop believing the people who think that "life" is the problem, it isn't.

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By ACSial (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2009 at 17:57:12

[quote]Nope. Look at the data - birthrate is connected to economy, not culture, and birthrates are falling steadily in nearly every country on earth.[quote/]

When the Soviet government took control in Central Asia, they actually did some positive things: mass immigration, full literacy (even for women), water treatment and, arguably, general improvments in income. The population ROSE. After the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Baltic and Slavic former SSRs actually saw their populations drop, with increases in poverty, while Central Asia (& other Muslim countries, like Kosovo and Albania) INCREASED their populations.

To reiterate: culture and religion are responsible for how many children women have (often, against their will). Also, I wouldn't take P J O'Rourke very seriously. When he was a Regan Sycophant ("hug a Mujaheddin jihadist!"), he thought that the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia were no worse than Evangelical Christians. It took over 3,000 murdered on 9/11/2001 to change his mind, I guess. Also, Weimar Germany WAS a Liberal Democracy...until they VOTED the Nazis into office.

Countries like Sweden and Denmark also have massive, suburban developments (something all the Smart Growthers never like to notice), filled with North African, Arabic and other 'traditional' immigrants. These people have VERY high birthrates, compared to the natives. Most of them are on welfare. Like Jane & Finch, these brutalist monstrosities were created to line developers' pockets. Even the Labour government in the U.K has realised the stupidity of this policy and is now proposing a hard-cap on immigration and population.

Don't put YOUR head in the sand. Food scarcity is a very real issue. Although the idiotic 'biofuels' experiment is partly to blame for the food shortages last year, the problem of more people chasing less food will only worsen. Whatever is causing climate change (I'm one of those people who think fossil fuel consumption has at least something to do with it), it's certainly affecting things like drought. Areas like the Maldives will probably also be uninhabitable in a generation, leading to 'climate refugees'.

The Boris Worm study re. fishstocks is frightening. Pakistan has already experienced food riots. Even here in Canada, you can see the cost of food rise and quality worsen. Potable water is another issue, entirely.

Very dense cities (e.g., Manhattan burrough) depend on costly, inefficient infrastructure trickery to deliver people and resources. The staggering costs of Manhattan's subteranian water tunnel and subway systems causes no end of friction with upstate (and even outer-burrough) taxpayers, who subsidise this. Evacuating densly-populated, transit-dependant areas can also be a nightmare, as evidenced by New Orleans. Really, I dread to think what will happen when the Canary Island tsunami clobbers Manhattan...

I, for one, miss Calgary YEARS ago. Then, you could see the skyline and small farms around the town. Food/produce was cheaper and of vastly better quality. Gangland shootings were unheard of (even while you could buy handguns at Eddie Bauer's!). I never encountered doda-stoned busdrivers, or 'professionals' who couldn't function even minimally in English. I hate seeing whole neighborhoods (Brentwood, &c.) full of niqab-wearing Salafis and ads for the Calgary Muslim Stampede Breakfast ("dress modestly")

Preserving our standard of living, our environment, our culture and our LIVES is worth 'building barricades' over. Quit putting YOUR head in the sand over this issue.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2009 at 19:01:54

ACSial >> Food scarcity is a very real issue.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2009 at 19:20:20

ACSial >> Food scarcity is a very real issue.

Pakistan and many other countries have price controls on food. If you take a look at the history of price controls, you will realize that they cause shortages, much worse than the problem their trying to solve.

>> Even here in Canada, you can see the cost of food rise and quality worsen.

Yes, food prices did jump from 2006 to 2008, but they're on their way back down.

>> Evacuating densly-populated, transit-dependant areas can also be a nightmare, as evidenced by New Orleans.

And yet people still desire to live near the coasts.

>> I hate seeing whole neighborhoods (Brentwood, &c.) full of niqab-wearing Salafis and ads for the Calgary Muslim Stampede Breakfast ("dress modestly")

One way to solve the problem of having to deal with people you don't like would be to start your own city, or town. I would support your right to have a private community, even if it was based on ethnicity or race. What I don't support is you dictating your preferences to the country as a whole. Furthermore, what is wrong with a group of people who embrace the Calgary Stampede, even if they put their own spin on it. Over time, they become more like "us" and we will become more like "them", it just takes time.

One last important question, where would our food culture be if not for immigrants?

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By ACSial (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2009 at 20:08:15

" prices did jump from 2006 to 2008, but they're on their way back down."

Been at a supermarket, lately?

There have been serious food-supply issues. Other than Zimbabwe's engineered fallow-lands mess, shortages of cereals are what's driving food shortages in parts of the world. Things like colony-collapse disrder aren't helping, cutting yields in North America. The Prairies will get another dustbowl, sooner rather than later. That'll be fun. I can't fathom why you people are playing 'here-no-evil' on this very real issue.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community here in Calgary has actually planned such an exclusive community. Presumably, bylaw officers will ticket women who walk the streets without bags on their heads. Really, the Ahmadiyyas, Salafis and other Qur'an-thumpers should just move to Dubai. People who come here have to respect the local culture. Hérouxville was sensible about this. I once listened to an Imam (guest lecturer in a RELS class) rant and rave about how women here dress immodestly, domestic violence laws shouldn't exist and alcohol should be banned. Fuck that. We don't have to tolerate these sort of people.

One problem I've noticed is a growing, unofficial apartheit. I see fewer and fewer interracial and interreligious marriages and couples, even on the Univerity Campus. People in places like Holland noticed this LONG ago: guys won't marry local girls, but send away for brides from the 'homeland'. This endogamy isn't really helping diversity (either cultural, or genetic--all the cousin-fuckers in some South Asian communities in the UK have been having ALARMING rates of genetic illnesses). Far too many immigrants don't even bother to learn English or French, since services (government forms, ATMs, lawyers, doctors) are available in their 'own' languages. This is not 'diversity'--it's APARTHEID!

Canada's government treated old immigrants like dirt. They taxed Chinese people (& banned them from owning guns), didn't allow Jews to flee the Holocaust and interred Japanese, Italian, Ukrainian, German and Hungarian CITIZENS (& took their property), even though NOT A ONE did anything seditious. Now, we've gone to the other silly extreme, bringing in seditious scum like the Khadr family. (BTW, the Americans can kill Ronald Smith, for all I care. It's great when someone else wants to dispose of your garbage.)

As for food, that's why I like the 'melting-pot' idea, better than 'multiculturalism'. Intermarriage is also a positive outcome of 'diversity' (e.g., people who look like Wentworth Miller, or my cousin)...but this only happens if people ASSIMILATE. Culture and language are also non-negotiable. People should function in either of the official languages and tragedies like Aqsa Parvez should NEVER happen.

By all means, have immigration...but keep the numbers to 'below-replacement' (i.e., ~80,000 a year) and slam the brakes on ALL virgin land development.

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By ACSial (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2009 at 14:37:59

For all you overpopulation/starvation naysayers:

The David Suzuki Foundation gets funding from RBC and BMO Financial. The banks have lobbied for DOUBLING immigration levels. More warm bodies means more financial products (including mortgages). Between the banks and construction industry and their 'philanthropy', the environmental movement has largely sold its soul.

Hiding behind either Friedmanesque immigration libertarianism, or Trudeaupian xenophilia isn't going to make the immigration-driven food, water and population-carrying problem go away.

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