People like shiny things. Human beings seem to have an inherent dislike for well-worn normalcy. From a young age, we can’t wait: we can’t wait for Christmas, for the cookies to come out of the oven, for school to be over.
Most people learn, at some point, that shiny things are not necessarily real. Being a grown-up means appreciating the space between the shiny things in life, understanding the value of realness.
I am dismayed when I hear that the Ford Brothers want to turn my city into what is essentially a cruise ship filled with shopping malls. This is not a plan for a real city. This is a plan for a place where people who wish to feel rich arrive, drop some money in one single area, and never go anywhere else. This plan will not enrich our city. It will enrich a few developers, and a few American companies like “Bloomingdales and Macy’s.”
Building a good city, a real city, is like building a career. It takes time. You have to get to know your work, learn to understand your own strength, and be nice to people. You have to take time to understand who people are. You have to make your best, most sincere and concerted contribution to the world without worrying about it taking too long.
The Ford Brothers’ proposal does none of this. Instead, it whines that the currently-planned development is going to take years, that it is not going to be shiny enough. It wants to cover our city in plastic. It screams “please like us!” without providing the substance that would be a reason for anyone to do so. This plan wants the corner office before it has learned how to work the photocopier.
What dismays me even more is the timing. Jack Layton, rest his soul, taught us how to build real things. His determination and focus on Parliament Hill showed that he understood the time and effort required to build a substantive country. His work in Toronto showed that he knew how to meet people, listen to them, and understand who they are. He knew how to make a place for people to live, not just a place for them to shop.
By cynically trying to play politics with the provincial Liberal government ahead of the upcoming provincial election, the Fords will simply turn more people away with their insincerity and greed.
At Jack’s funeral on Saturday, our city shifted. The streets were filled with people who had admired his work towards building a country with substance. This momentum now needs to be directed squarely at Toronto City Hall. We know what a real politician feels like. What we have in office right now is just plastic.