JANUARY 10, 1974
The Mayor Reports
AN ADDRESS BY Mayor David Crombie,
CITY OF TORONTO
CHAIRMAN The President,
Robert L. Armstrong
Mr. Consul General, Mr. Commissioner, distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: "The most striking mark of man's genius as a species, as the most adaptable of animals, has been his ability to live in cities." So writes John Pfeiffer, author of The Emergence of Man.
"The city is man's greatest work of art, the epitome of his most humane achievements and the point of maximum concentration for the power and culture of a community." This is an amalgam of definitions by Pericles, the Athenian statesman, and present day author Lewis Mumford.
Our guest of honour today is Mayor of one of the great cities of the world. His abiding interest in people, his nostalgic feeling for the preservation of existing neighbourhoods and the support of "The Little Blue Machine" swept him into office with a tremendous majority over his nearest rival on December 4, 1972, his first time as a candidate for that office.
Mayor Crombie, who does not wish to be worshipped by anyone, was born under the zodiacal sign of Taurus the Bull, and his horoscope indicates he is completely dependable and reliable in his relationships and his warmth of nature and interest in others makes him popular wherever he goes. Exciting trends are forecast for him in the year ahead and if the past year is any criterion, it would appear that his horoscope is accurate.
The "Tiny Perfect Mayor" (as he has been described by one of Toronto's newspaper columnists) is relaxed, jolly and brimming with boyish charm. He is a small "c" conservative who describes himself as a Red Tory and believes in participatory democracy. He recognizes the need for change, which he feels should be accomplished in a reasonable way and his motto regarding reform is "make haste slowly". He would like to have the City retain its character and is anxious to preserve its historic landmarks.
Our speaker has concluded that as Mayor of Toronto he very much walks alone. It is not a simple matter for the Mayor to maintain the support of a Council divided into three groups, the old guard, the liberals, and the radicals, but even if the Mayor's office is a lonely place, David Crombie welcomes the challenge and is prepared to fight the next election on his record. He has no intention of moving out.
Our guest of honour was born in the village of Swansea. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, and took post-graduate work at the University of Toronto in Political Science. He lectured at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and at York University's Atkinson College. He was Director of Student Services at Ryerson from 1966 to 1971.
When not running the City he enjoys outings with his family, particularly camping. He is a student of Hassidic Judaism, is an old movies buff, and is given to quoting Eighteenth Century English statesmen.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present to this audience Mayor David Crombie of the City of Toronto who will speak to us about "People City".
Thank you very much, Mr. Armstrong and head table guests, honoured guests, and ladies and gentlemen. I apologise for being tardy, about half an hour, but I had to ask Mr. Armstrong not to hold the meeting beyond 45 feet in height so I have been waiting on the fourth floor for 35 minutes. That is actually where I have been! I do apologise for not being here when I should have been. There was something that had to be done at the time and I could not delay it.
A year ago the Club extended an invitation to me to come to lunch and speak at that time about cities and about the City of Toronto. I am pleased to be back a year later, mid-point in Council's term of office. I thought what I might do, if I could change the topic a little bit, is offer a kind of annual civic report, this being the first, just to tell you what kind of year we have had and how things look to us in the future.
I am sure you will not be suprised to hear that I personally think we have had a good year, and we had some significant landmark achievements.
I might point out I was advised some years ago that an essential art of politics is to draw targets around the arrows after they have landed, so I want to hasten to add that these programmes were outlined well in advance.
To start with, we might look at the news media's favourite topic these days, that is the issue of development. As you are aware, Toronto has a considerable amount of development under way.
Actually Buildings Department just this morning sent me the final figures for 1973. The City of Toronto issued building permits for the year 1973 with a total value of over $409 million, nearly $272 million for commercial and industrial development alone. That is, of course, an historical record for any Canadian city.
To put it in some kind of perspective for you, the much-vaunted Montreal boom of 1973 amounted to $235 million. Frankly I do not see those totals diminishing very much in the next few years but I think we will have an opportunity to apply some objective standards and controls to development.
We have announced our intention to do so and to apply for sound technical criteria to all future applications for permits until September of 1975 or until such time as we have received detailed development control legislation from the Government of the Province of Ontario. I have no wish to encroach on a field which probably belongs to experts in it, planners, architects and so on, but I can indicate to you what I think would be the instinct and feeling on the matter of City Council.
I think Council is not saying, "No building, no development." We are saying we want development which is compatible with the surrounding area and current use of that area. We are saying we want development that does not strain or overstrain our public services and our community services, such as parks and open spaces, and we are saying that we want to encourage development which takes transportation of people and goods into account and concerns itself with pedestrian environment as well.
What it comes down to is that the City of Toronto is engaged in, will be engaging in a staggering rate of growth, and the city must simply be able to cope with that and have a direct say in the rate and style of that change.
I think also we have made some progress in the field of transportation. In my inaugural speech a year ago I reminded the people of the line from Mayor Philip Givens, when he indicated that everyone has the right to come downtown but he doesn't have the unqualified right to bring two thousand pounds of steel with him or her.
We, I think, have been able to discourage the expressway syndrome and I am rather optimistic that the once-vaunted Scarborough expressway will join the Spadina expressway in the civic hall of memories. We have accepted the truth that the TTC is not a business to be guided by profit and loss statements only, that it is in fact a community resource which must grow to meet the needs of increasing numbers of people.
We have committed ourselves to a policy of exploring ways to alleviate traffic problems in inner-city neighbourhoods. I can tell by my mail that the experiment at Moore Park has aroused what can only be described as a rather lively interest in all parts of the community.
Now, I am sure what the final results of the trial will be of the Moore Park experiment (some people call it Fortress St. Clair), but I do suggest that we ought not to rush judgment on it. It is an experiment and if you do not try you do not achieve. If it is wrong or parts of it are wrong, we will change it. If it is good we will keep it.
It was also a year in which I and others predicted an increasing amount of citizen participation in municipal government. I can report to you that that came through in great abundance. Yes, it makes for long meetings. Yes, it makes for delay in action sometimes. And yes, it costs more in the short run than dictatorial talk-down decision-making. But if that is the price of making sure we do the right thing for people rather than things to people then I think it is a price we ought to be willing to pay.
In some fields we have made progress, perhaps not fast enough and not as much as a number of us would have liked. We are still faced with the problem in cities that the first line of government and the area where citizens bring their primary concerns is money problems. We are still in the position where we do not have the money or the power to deliver services that we logically can perform better than the central government.
We still labour along with a regressive property tax base as our main source of revenue to supply an ever-widening range of services, while the Federal Government has access to ever-increasing sources of revenue while at the same time they have diminished responsibility in the area of greatest concern to most Canadians, that is to say in urban problems.
This is an area, by the way, in which all the mayors of the major cities in this country agree and I predict in 1974 you will hear from the mayors of the major cities across the country on the problem of money and power as it relates both to the Provincial and Federal Governments.
In looking into the future I think it would be useful if we also came to grips with an understanding of the definition of progress. If progress is going to be our most important product then, I think we should understand and share a definition of it and hope we do not only mean simply growth equals progress.
For example, I do not think it is progress when we see large American cities cramming eight million people into an area that can comfortably handle two million people. In life, sometimes as in art, less can mean more.
If we are going to redefine progress we will also have to examine counter-weights to create an artificial scale of equality. Few people realize that this revolutionary sociological concept was really created by Guido Palacci.
Mr. Palacci is a grocer. He has a shop on West 47th Street in New York City and what he has done is declare all vegetables equal. All vegetables at Palacci's are equal. A pound of pomegranates is worth exactly the same price as a pound of parsley at Palacci's. He has a big sign over his scale and it reads, "One price for all". Some days it is 7 cents a pound or 77 cents a pound for anything in the store, depending on what the produce is that day. The system works because more is expected of some vegetables than others, and especially because of the great equalizer, Palacci's thumb. Somehow at Palacci's a pound of potatoes weighs considerably more than a pound of strawberries when Guido's thumb goes on the scale.
There are fewer plums in a pound than there are apples in a pound. There are no pints, no quarts, no bushels at Palacci's and there are no vegetables which are counted by head or an ear or a stalk because those factors are not susceptible to Palacci's thumb.
From time to time new customers object to the Palacci principle and he answers all their complaints the same way. Equality doesn't come cheap. You have to be willing to pay for your principles.
If there is a lesson for politicians in Palacci's thumb, I think it is this: that equality is indeed expensive and we must therefore accept the responsibility of establishing our own priorities.
At the municipal level with limited resources, not all projects can be top priority. I think it is our responsibility to tell the people clearly what the priorities of the City of Toronto Council are rather than try to create the illusion that we are going to implement all the great programmes all at one time; that time being now.
If we did that, we are facing larger tax increases and I, for one, am not prepared to recommend that.
I am prepared to accept that inflation and growth of existing programmes cause some inexorable increase in the cost of living we all face as individuals, but as tax payers I simply do not think we can afford a dramatic jump in the mill rate simply to point to a record of over-all achievement.
I can tell you very simply what my priorities are for the city in 1974. We must cope first of all with the housing crisis. People cannot afford to buy homes or pay inflationary rents in a large spectrum in our community. That is why we in the city are undertaking a massive housing programme with funding and support from the other two levels of Government to the extent of $74 million over a two year period.
The city can contribute expertise, involvement and seed money to these projects and that is priority number one for me.
Very shortly we will be releasing a report from the Mayor's task force on the disabled and the elderly. Clearly people who have been giving to this city all their lives should have the opportunity to get something back, and the aging are simply badly treated in my view, at all levels of Government.
You will notice it only comes to the attention of the media when somebody suggests they get $50 at Christmas or a $6 increase and the opposition parties think that is terrible no matter what the proposition is. It lasts for two days and it goes away.
It seems to me that the only crime committed by a significant number of people in Metropolitan Toronto (and indeed across the country) is that they got older a little earlier than the rest of us, and by categorizing them and labelling them, we have been able to fail to deliver to them.
In terms of the disabled, I will be supporting the brief fully. The contention in that brief is that thousands of people who are disabled know best the kind of programmes they require. I might point out for you who do not know that the Mayor's task force on the disabled is made up of 80 people, all of them disabled. I happen to be the Honorary Chairman. When the Task Force was set up, they looked at my first four months in office and it indicated that I was probably disabled as well, so I am a full-fledged member.
The third priority deals with the low income segment in this city. Without going through all the details and going over all the things you know about, I am sure I can say that by and large these people are having increasing difficulty, in an age of affluence, in being able to live and simply have a shelter in the city.
Other members of Council will have their priorities too. In the next few weeks 1, for one, will be defining my own in more detail but I do not intend to promise the people of Toronto a champagne party out of your budget. We cannot do it all at once and so we must choose where we are going to put the money in 1974. First things first.
I will welcome your reactions in the weeks and months ahead and I would like to thank you very, very much for both having some patience for me and listening to me today.
Mayor Crombie was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Gordon W. Swayze.