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Real City Matters: Civil talks about Toronto civic politics

09/30/2014 01:39 EDT | Updated 11/30/2014 05:59 EST
Former urban affairs reporter Siri Agrell was keen to do something about all the doom and gloom that had come to surround Toronto's civic politics.

From wrangling over transit plans that seem forever stuck in neutral, to the crack scandal that enveloped the mayor's office last year, it's been a difficult time for anyone who loves Toronto.

"There's a feeling in Toronto that we're all a bit traumatized," Agrell said Tuesday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "The last couple of years have been hard on us. You watch the debates, you read the news about our politics and it feels like all is lost, that we're all starting to hate each other."

In an effort to inject some optimism into the discussion about Toronto's future, Agrell and Torontoist teamed up to organize a series of free public panel discussions ahead of the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Held on four Tuesdays starting tonight, the Real City Matters talks are aimed at sparking discussion about solutions to the problems Toronto faces. These aren't debates, as Agrell made a point of saying that candidates in the upcoming municipal election are not invited.

"I wanted to design a series of events that reminded people that Toronto is a great place and that we can talk about these things a little bit differently," she said. "When everything is a battle, someone always loses."

She points out that other cities have managed to solve problems of equal or greater significance to the ones Toronto faces and says by "talking better" about the city we're on a better path to improve it.

"There are big things being done by cities," Agrell said. "Toronto can do that too."

Tuesday's Real City Matters discussion will focus on what Toronto has done right in recent years. Panellists include Rita Davies, founder of the Toronto International Book Fair and Sabina Ali of the Thorncliffe Park Women's Committee.

Future discussions will focus on the city's growing pains and how Toronto residents can all get along as the city becomes more diverse and density rises.

Click here for details about future discussions and to reserve tickets. The venue is the Revival restaurant at 783 College St.

Agrell hopes participants will emerge from the free discussions feeling empowered and positive about Toronto's future.

"I haven't felt proud of Toronto for a long time and I want to feel proud of it again," she said.

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