The Mail

The Mail

June 17 2002
The Mail

The Mail

June 17 2002

The Mail

Urbanology

I am always pleased to see attention given to our cities, but much of the recent media coverage of Canadas urban woes seems awfully misdirected (“Saving our cities,” Cover,

June 3). I would hardly characterize the resurgence of urban living in Canadian cities during the 1980s and ’90s as decline. A lot of the problems we are witnessing today—a lack of housing and congestion—are troubles that beset growing and thriving cities, not crumbling and neglected ones. You point to Philadelphia as a once-troubled city enjoying newfound vibrancy. Yet its decay stemmed from a massive exodus, not a large influx of people as in Toronto. Our governments must accord more influence and more funding to cities, but I fear the need for true urban vision will be lost amid the media’s shrill cries of impending doom. All in all, our cities are doing pretty well. We need sober thought, not quick-fix solutions, to make them even better.

Christopher DeWolf, Calgary

If we Canadians are to save our cities, then all politicians at all three levels of government have to accept most if not all the blame for what has been allowed to take place. That is, congested roads, a massive excess of cars and trucks and a totally un-

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acceptable lack of long-term infrastructure funding and ongoing revenue support for public transit. The federal government has put aside some totally pathetic and inadequate $2 billion in transit funding for the whole of Canada. Does it not realize that Vancouver alone will need all of that just to complete the third section of the SkyTrain development? We and our politicians have the last chance to decide whether to make our cities far more livable, like those in Europe where public transit has priority, or to be perpetual slaves to the oil and auto industries.

Robert Tarpiett, Birmingham, England

I have just moved back to Toronto after living abroad for seven years in Berlin and two years in San Diego, Calif. I find it amazing that in the time I’ve been gone, the only public-transit improvement in the city has been the construction of half a subway to a shopping mall. In the meantime, Berlin’s transit system has been radically revamped since German reunification. Subways, commuter trains and sleek regional express trains (made by Canada’s Bombardier) form a highly popular integrated network.

After much travel, we have come to accept the fact that in North America we don’t do cities well. No point trying to improve the situation by copying the historyladen cities of Europe. But the New World offers hope. Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth: all these Australian cities could serve as excellent models.

Robin and Barbara Dorrell, Ottawa

St. Michael’s Hospital sits in the heart of some of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods and I would argue that we are at significant risk of taking a path that will lead to the U.S. ghetto syndrome. It is telling that there is no reliable information about the numbers of homeless and underhoused Canadians. But we do know that Toronto’s shelters have experienced a 40

Urban paradise

I was born and raised in the Muskoka district of Ontario and I lived and worked for 20 years in downtown Toronto, but it wasn’t until I moved to a suburb of Quebec City four years ago that I really knew what paradise was (“Saving our cities,” Cover, June 3). We paid $5 a day for daycare. Summer camp last year cost us $45 a child for six weeks, and to top it all off I send my two children, aged 7 and 8, to the local French school and they are now perfectly bilingual. I don’t think a day has gone by since we moved here that, as I drive my wife into work and we pass by the Plains of Abraham and through the gates into the old city, I don’t say, “You know, we will never live in such a beautiful place as Quebec City again,” and she replies, “I know.”

Michael Lehman, Ste-Foy, Que.

per cent growth in use between 1988 and 1999. St. Michael’s Hospital has research that demonstrates that the cost of caring for individuals who reside within certain postal codes is 50 per cent more than those who live in wealthier neighbourhoods. We know that about 10,000 people who come to our emergency department each year are homeless or under-housed and rely upon us to provide their primary care. It would help enormously if governments at all levels would recognize the need for, and hind, more affordable housing. Many of our patients would then have a place to rest and recover, or perhaps entirely avoid some of their health problems because they have adequate shelter.

Jeffrey C. Lozon, President, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto

“Saving our cities” fails to mention cycling. City planners are learning that investments in proper bike routes yield greater returns than other transport modes. Cycling is the cheapest, healthiest and often fastest way to get around.

Bruce Warren, New Westminster, B.C.

Old jocks never die

Jonathon Gatehouse has captured the passion and camaraderie that drives rugby players back onto the field each spring to

subject our bodies to what appears to the average person as senseless punishment (“Where old jocks go to die,” The Back Page, June 3). Rugby players play because, despite the cuts, bruises and vast array of other injuries, engaging in such a physically demanding sport is one of the best ways to feel alive. For anyone missing the sheer joy of driving your opponent into the ground, take Gatehouses advice: lace up your cleats and get on the field ... for at least one more season.

Tara Wells, Aurora, Ont.

After reading The Back Page, I had this thought: “Jonathon Gatehouse’s wife does not want to have children, she has one already.”

W.H. Laing, Victoria

I was surprised to read Jonathon Gatehouses article on “old jocks”—and him a mere boy of 33 years. At the beginning of May, I participated in three rugby games where the minimum age was 60 years. Three teams from Japan visited British Columbia and each played three games against Canadian players of similar age. Cowan McKinney, West Vancouver

Slippery slope

“Condition critical” (Health, June 3), outlines fears expressed about the continuing decline of health care. However, a gullible public, deluded by an NDPinspired notion of “free” health care controlled entirely by government, has only itself to blame. The other parties expanded the “free” system beyond a point of affordability so as to garner votes from this same gullible public. The somethingfor-nothing crowd now wants to believe only reform is needed rather than reworking the entire system. To discuss any sort of user-pay or private insurance component is met with howls by the defenders of medicare. Innovative private/public collaborations are possible based on any number of eligibility criteria based on taxable income. But it will be necessary to scrap the unworkable Canada Health Act, something politicians are fearful of doing. Dr. Richard Gruneir, Leamington, Ont.

There are serious problems in the Canadian health-care system but it amazes me when I read statements like those attrib-

uted to Vicki Werner in “Condition critical.” She proposes that if she was allowed to pay extra money it “might free up a spot for someone else.” Ridiculous. IfWerner is allowed to pay extra because she can, what doctor is going to opt for staying in a public system and work for less money, potentially far less, with second-rate resources? Not many. Cutting out those who cant pay and sending them to the back of the line wont solve our medicare problems, but it will allow the wealthier segments of society to forget about them.

Devon Brooks, Kelowna, B.C.

Acts of desperation

Barbara Amiel laments that Europe and most of the world dwelled for weeks on the massacre by the Israelis in Jenin—“the massacre that never took place,” as Amiel chose to call it (“The new evil empire,” May 27). Whether it did or did not we may never know since Israel did not let the UN investigate. Amiel deplores that, in her words, the United Nations is a club for and run by the Third World, but she does not mention that Europe voted for many of the UN resolutions condemning Israel for its actions.

Diether Peschken, Regina

Even one lonely voice of reason helps to ease the frustration of recent months. Barbara Amiel deserves a big thank-you for stating the obvious: the Middle East crisis has provided an international platform for anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments.

Jo Balet, Mississauga, Ont.

Can we please have fewer columns by Barbara Amiel and more by people with opinions or information on more than one subject? The Israeli-Palestinian fiasco is

troubling and tragic, but there’s only so often any given person can speak on an issue without repeating themselves, a point Amiel crossed ages ago. In recent months, both sides have sunk to new depths. The vast majority of us don’t particularly like either side anymore and just want it to end for the sake of everyone involved. But until there’s something new to be said about it, let’s hear about something else.

David Brandow, Guelph, Ont.

Top this

Foth is being a shade hyperbolic in “A character test for cities” (June 3) when he says “the worst experience on earth is to be caught behind a London double-decker bus with its exhaust blast leaving a layer of soot on your innocent face.” He could have rolled up the car windows. No, Foth, the worst experience on earth is to be in a taxi immobilized on a hot, breezy summer day by a three-hour traffic jam on a bridge in Lagos, Nigeria, right behind a lorry which collects, to put it euphemistically, night-soil. And the taxi windows are broken. Pee-yew!

Arnold Beichman, Naramata, B.C.

Allan Fotheringham may be trying for humour with his piece on motorists and cities, but the fact is that rude motorists are everywhere and the reason is simple— anonymity. Put their names on their licence plates and watch their manners improve. Foth should also realize that the hate-Toronto game is juvenile and boring. Over the years, Toronto has changed from a prim, closed-on-Sundays town to a sparkling city of ethnic neighbourhoods to a major financial centre, but no matter how it transforms itself the haters are steadfast. They may be trying to prove the adage that says we need to create enemies so that we can see ourselves as heroes. Maureen Korman, White Rock, B.C.

General cynicism

The people who would authorize $ 1,000 a day for retired Gen. Maurice Baril to carry out an inquiry into the friendly-fire tragedy would be the same people who periodically give themselves hefty raises— our politicians, our vanguards of the people (“Over and under achievers,” Overture, June 3). It’s no wonder there’s so much cynicism in our country.

Creelman MacArthur, Windsor, N.S.