For a city that seemingly has so much going for it, things certainly seem not to be running smoothly right now in Toronto. We have an embattled mayor who has admitted smoking crack cocaine and being drunk while on the job. A skyline described by street artist Banksy as being as bland as they come, and a city that struggled to function after a summers flash flood.
How did it get this way? This is a city that was marketed as "The City That Works" and famously described by actor/writer Peter Ustinov as "New York run by the Swiss." Not the greatest endorsement maybe, but at least you could say that Toronto operated well. On the surface it may be that these most recent events, along with infrastructure problems, food bank use that is up by almost 20 per cent and a commute that is among the longest in the world indicate a city in decline.
Yet by most measures the reality is otherwise. Toronto is on the ascent. Literally. One of the fastest-growing cities in North America, the population increase is outpacing national growth, now counting over 5.5 million residents in the Greater Toronto Area. It ranks fourth in a global list of liveable cities and is considered a model for diversity.
A bit thin on fixed attractions, the city nevertheless hosts enviable arts, cultural and sports activities including; Nuit Blanche, the Toronto International Film Festival and the International Festival of Authors. Additionally, Toronto will host the Pan Am Games in 2015. All these events attract athletes, artists, authors, audiences and envy from around the world. Importantly, Toronto's crime rate remains relatively low, making it one of the safest cities on the continent.
Cities tend to undertake rebrands when trying to shake off perceived baggage such as major economic decline or high crime rates, or are aiming to host a global event. Consider Liverpool in the UK that rebranded in 2008 to coincide with its designation as European Capital of Culture, and Sochi, Russia that is struggling to reposition itself ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The reality is that despite the shenanigans at City Hall, Toronto is functioning just fine. Sure it is suffering growing pains, but like a grouchy teenager that argues too much, Toronto is moving into adulthood, with all the richness and complexities that make great cities the places we want to be. Business is being conducted, our streets will be cleared of snow when winter arrives and the city will continue to welcome the immigrants that enrich all of our lives.
So for those salivating for a Toronto reset, I suggest a more modest brand refresh -- one where an asterisk is added to our otherwise great city. Here we can note our city's mind-numbing congestion, condo lined waterfront, failed Olympic bids, overpriced housing and political mismanagement. All this without clouding the overwhelmingly positive attributes this city has to offer.
And to the mayoral train wreck that has us all engrossed, this too shall pass.
Then we can get back to building the great city we know Toronto can be.