Recommended Reading: Tumescent Toronto, or a City on the Wane?

Pardon the phallic poke of the title, but it seems appropriate given our city’s most recognizable symbol, as well as the figurative casting of at least a year’s worth of spirited debate over whether Toronto is, indeed, a rising international cosmopolis swollen by its own throbbing vibrancy or is, instead, a wilting force marred by consistent governmental missteps, growing economic disparities and perverse urban development. Encouraged by a consideration of last week’s fascinating article How Toronto Lost Its Groove” in The Walrus, I was drawn to revisit PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2011 nomination of Toronto as the 2nd best city in the world to live in, and figure out just what these diametrically opposed conclusions say about our fair city and its larger place in the world.

Needless to say, this past year has been a divisive, tumultuous and weird one for everyone in the city, marked by mini-disasters and mini-triumphs alike. Over the past few weeks, many articles have been written, posts blogged, and hands wrung about the present state of Toronto, and defenders and dissers of the city’s honour have, together, (re)ignited an important conversation we all should be having:

For The Grid, Edward Keenan mulls the frankly terrifying scenario that our current mayor has not yet hit his political “rock-bottom.” As a preemptive prescription, he offers a five-point plan for Rob Ford to get the city back on track.

From earlier this year, Carl Wilson considered “Torontopia in the Age of Ford” for the Toronto Standard.

Toronto Life, undeterred by the havoc wrought by the man holding municipal office, remains steadfastly evangelical about our collective awesomeness, giving us 50 Reasons to Love Toronto Now.

The Walrus also recently hosted an engaging debate between U of T professor Nick Mount, architect Jack Diamond, writer Stephen Marche and journalist John Barber, over whether or not Toronto will ever be thought of as a beautiful city.

Beautiful or not, Toronto still has the longest commute times in the country and continues to suffer from a dysfunctional transit system stymied by political issues. Yet from an economic growth standpoint, Toronto and Missisauga are nevertheless seen as “cities of the future” according to international surveys of investors.

From a perspective that does not measure a city’s health according to the pseudo-scientific criteria of innovation, competitiveness and marketability, we have the sober appraisal of last year’s widely circulated study, the“Three Cities Within Toronto” by U of T professor and Associate Director of the Cities Centre, J. David Hulchanski. In it, Hulchanski outlines how Toronto’s recent development has led to its dwindling middle class and yawning economic asymmetries—ones likely to continue unless serious change takes place.