The period since at least July 22nd has been so consistently busy that I haven’t had time to pause and think any of it through.
The one big Toronto achievement is that now, for the first time since I came to the city in 2011, I am on the lease for a place to live. It’s expensive (adding to the urgency of the job hunt) but I have protected long-term legal status there. After having to move probably 40 or more times during the PhD, it will be a comfort to have a place I can more fully rely upon.
After defending my dissertation in December and collecting my diploma in March, I have been watching my U of T benefits gets deactivated one by one. They cut off my dental insurance between when I defended and when I graduated. My campus wifi access was withdrawn several months ago. As of July, my T-card no longer provided access to Robarts or Gerstein libraries.
I feel it would be a shame to live in a city with a library system like U of T’s and be unable to access it. Luckily, as an alumnus I can get a borrower card for $70 per year. It comes with the very annoying restrictions of no campus wifi use, and no off-campus access to electronic databases — but it does provide access to all U of T libraries, allows you to withdraw fifty (50!) books, and allows access to services like research consultations. I now officially have permission to use U of T’s vast library resources to research anything of personal interest or importance. It’s also a great place to hide from summer heat if you don’t have AC at home.
When people hear about my miserable 4-month search for an afforadle, available, and non-awful room to rent in Toronto, the glib answer is often that I should leave the city. After all, Toronto’s housing market is notoriously punishing.
I call the answer glib because it doesn’t reflect much awareness of what is also happening in potential alternative cities. Vancouver is about 10% more expensive, and cities with far fewer employment options like Guelph, Hamilton, and Barrie are only marginally cheaper. The crisis for renters is both multi-causal and global.
For instance: The UK housing crisis isn’t just about mortgages – private renters desperately need help too (“Three-fifths of private renters cannot afford a decent standard of living”)
Sometimes the student life of unstable and often-changing housing makes it hard to vote, but I was able to do so easily in today’s Toronto mayoral by-election using my student co-op short-term residency agreement and health card.
The results — left-leaning in the urban core, right-leaning in the suburbs — fit into a major and long-running electoral pattern. In the Toronto case particularly, I will confess to having little sympathy who are willing to let infrastructure and city services decay for the sake of low taxes. It is the dynamism of Toronto that attracts people to all those endless suburbs, and they are killing the golden goose by allowing the city to fall into decay for the sake of lower taxes. If you want ultra-low taxes and no services, go start a subsistence farm in a rural area. If you just want a giant rural-style house from which to drive your SUV to your job at the bank downtown, you need to pay taxes at a level that keeps the city going. You might feel like a capitalist superman who shouldn’t be weighed down by funding parasites, but all that money you’re making comes from the economic dynamism of a place where individual prosperity normally relies upon good underlying social conditions. Things have clearly been badly eroded by the psychological harm of the pandemic, and it will take investments in areas like social services to the unhoused and mental health supports to get Toronto back to where it was pre-2020.
It’s an open question how an ideological sandwich of municipal, provincial, and federal governments will work for Toronto, but at least we don’t have another low-tax ideologue as mayor.