11/15/2016 05:55 EST | Updated 11/15/2016 05:55 EST

The Rise Of Canada's Uncreative Class

Workers on the assembly line replace the back covers of 32-inch television sets at Element Electronics in Winnsboro, South Carolina, U.S. on May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo

How is "Canada's child poverty capital" as a nickname for Toronto? They were supposed to be the engines of economic growth and prosperity, yet Canada's large cities, like Toronto, are increasingly becoming divided cities with poverty-ridden enclaves.

President-elect Donald Trump's November 8 victory must force the urban and political elites to reevaluate their devotion to the urban-centric Creative Class economics that downplayed the growing income inequalities in cities and beyond.

For decades, urban leaders believed in the idea that pampering the Creative Class will lead them and others to prosperity. Not only that income inequalities have increasingly deepened over the years, but the divide between the urban and rural/small town communities has also worsened.

The prospect of a man who has mocked the disabled, being overtly misogynist, accused of being a racist and sexist becoming the 45th president of the United States is nothing but frightening and revolting. However, focusing on the outcome and not its determinants will be a gross mistake equal in magnitude of the misguided focus on the yuppies camped out in urban centres and ignoring the struggles and potential of the working classes in suburbs, small towns, and rural communities.

The American elections are increasingly relevant to Canada. The dominant urban discourse is self-centered and dismissive of others whose economic and demographic realities have pushed them out of the unaffordable urban housing markets. The elites have willingly become ignorant of what transpires in remote small towns like Thunder Bay whose survival is linked to the consumers and commuters in large towns.

The Toronto-centric newspapers generously dedicate columns of space to the mobility challenges of transit riders whose commutes have been worsened by the delayed delivery of the rolling stock Bombardier is supposed to assemble in Thunder Bay. The urbanites are itching to cancel Bombardier's contracts with complete disregard to what would happen to the fragile communities that rely on the town's largest employers.

Who cares if a small town might go bust, we should have our street cars, and we should have them now.

The Liberal governments in Ontario and Ottawa should realise that the political winds are blowing from the left and delivering the economically disenfranchised voters to the political right. It's not just the US Presidential elections, but the Brexit vote in Britain carries the same message: the rich urbanites and the rest no longer share the same dream as they have not shared in the prosperity.

Whereas the Creative Classes in London chose to stay with the EU, the struggling manufacturing towns voted to leave. While those in New York and San Francisco voted for Ms. Clinton, the rusted in America's rust belt chose Mr. Trump.

In the past eight years, the US economy generated 8.5 million jobs for the college graduates and just 80,000 for those without a college degree. Professor Joseph Stiglitz noted that even when the lowest income workers in the United States toiled for 22% longer than before, their inflation-adjusted wages increased by a mere 5%. The situation in Canada is no better where Toronto saw more new part-time jobs created in 2015 than full-time ones.

The Canadian political elite's policies and priorities do not merely sound urban, but at times seem exclusively urban. Even when the Liberal government in Ontario appears to be interested in suburban concerns, it is essentially a façade to sponsor a desirable electoral outcome, and not necessarily a sound investment in improving lives and livelihoods.

The urban solutions, like the Light Rail Transit (LRT), are being imposed on the suburbanites whose demographic and economic realities have little in common with that of the yuppyish child-free urbanites.

Our urban leaders claim in boastful tweets that the Greater Toronto Area accounts for 20% of the nation's economy adding a dismissive comparison with the productivity of oil sands. What feeds such misleading comparison is our misguided faith in the urban Creative Class that is supposedly generating more wealth and prosperity than those toiling in the traditional manufacturing, mining and natural resource sectors.


Such claims are devoid of evidence. The GTA with a population of six-plus million residents accounts for roughly 20% of the nation's population and, not so surprisingly, also accounts for 20% of the economic output driven partly by domestic consumption. To assume that somehow the urbanised Creative Class is having a bigger impact on the economy than those employed in traditional economic sectors is not true.

What is hiding beneath the Creative Class celebrations are the growing income inequalities in urban Canada resulting in divided cities making Toronto "Canada's Child Poverty Capital" where more than one in four children live in poverty. The struggling children in cities, small towns, and the First Nation communities should be the governments' priorities.


Source: The Toronto Star.

Canadian decision-makers must, therefore, reconsider their misguided funding priorities. They must, for instance, stop pampering the urbanites by throwing billions of dollars in good money on fundamentally bad public transit projects. The transit that would mitigate congestion and pass through or near the struggling neighbourhoods, like the Downtown Relief Line in Toronto, is not the transit Liberals in Ontario are funding.

Mr. Trump's elections should remind us that every vote counts. Moreover, that spending billions to buttress political fortunes instead of shoring up the real economy, and not just what the Creative Class is consumed with, has serious repercussions.

Ms Wynne will have her opportunity to hear from the electorate in 2018 when Ontario returns to the ballot box. Mr Trudeau's day of reckoning will follow soon unless the provincial and federal Liberals shift their focus to the real economy.

Jobs and a living wage should be a priority and not the romantic obsession with the gig economy.

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