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Chicago vs. Toronto: Why Everyone Got Wound Up Over Neil Steinberg's Column

Posted: 03/09/2013 8:33 am

Earlier this week Toronto inched above Chicago to become the fourth most-populous city in North America. Cue the celebratory articles, columns.

"Toronto is a desirable location for people to live and work. We are attracting people from across North America and other parts of the world," said Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Of course Chicago (or the Chicago media) wasn't going to take this lying down. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg poked fun at Canadian Business for its technical dismissal of Toronto's "win."

Steinberg goes on to mock Toronto for its "non-descript skyline" a rather forgetful "monument to multiculturalism" and our weed-like Tim Hortons doughnut shops. There's also this rather hilarious and inflammatory line "Why? I'd rather be the 500th most important person in Chicago than the King of Canada."

For the record Neil, being King of Canada is actually pretty awesome. You get a big house (it's probably drafty). Sadly, you also have to live in Ottawa (it's worse than Toronto, trust me) and probably take calls from the real ruler of Canada, who lives in London. But I digress.

Needless to say, Torontonians and Canadians did not take kindly to Steinberg's bluster. Twitter went a little nuts with responses and even dredged up the horrible tragedy of gun violence in Chicago, a human crisis that Chicagoans are well aware of. Frankly, it's a little crass and insensitive to bring up the death of children to score a rhetorical point against a newspaper columnist.

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To me, this little outburst of anger over a newspaper column points to something unattractive over the Toronto psyche. Toronto and Torontonians aren't unfamiliar with being mocked. Practically everyone in Canada has made a joke about the Centre of the Universe. Torontonians shrug it off when a Vancouver radio DJ mocks us for being overworked Bay street drones. We don't particularly care when Montrealers call us soulless Anglos who don't know how to have fun. Do I even need to talk about the bile spewed at Leafs fans?

But when that criticism comes from New York, or London, or Berlin, and yes, Chicago, we bristle, we get angry, we lash out. The truth of the matter is despite how far Toronto has come as a city, and it's a pretty amazing city, we're still horribly insecure. We still seek validation from tastemakers in places glitzier than us, from real "world-class cities."

It's an ugly habit and, you know what, no one likes a whiner. I grew up in Vancouver and you get used to being second, third fiddle to Toronto and Montreal, places that are bigger and look like more fun than little, quiet Vancouver. Then I remember that in Vancouver winter is a theory not a way of life, that I can go to a beach, a real honest to goodness beach and not a lakeshore hemmed in by a highway, or that I went to a university with an actual old-growth-forest next door.

Toronto, you can disagree with Steinberg if you want, but don't let Neil Steinberg get under your skin. Instead of skewering the poor fella for doing his job, really try to have a good time right here in Toronto. Forget deep dish pizza and revel in the fact that you can get cuisine from literally dozens of nationalities within our city limits. Our music scene might not have Chicago's iconic history and name recognition but enjoy the fact that this city is cranking out great bands and performers at an enviable rate. He may mock our skyline but on a clear night out on Toronto Island there aren't too many prettier sights.

As for me, I'm reaching out to Steinberg. Neil, you must've had a pretty lousy guide the last time you were in town. I'll show you around, see if I can get you to change your mind about Toronto. Also, if that column was any indication, you're probably a pretty funny guy and fun to have a drink with. First round's on me. Also, anyone that gets an endorsement from Dan Savage can't be all bad.

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