Huricane Juan
Toronto Star
  • Toronto's income gap continues to widen, finds U of T expert

    Toronto is transforming from a mostly middle-income city into an island of wealth surrounded by increasingly poor pockets of suburb, 42 years of data reveals.

    University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski has recently updated his groundbreaking income-disparity research, showing that polarization proceeds as Toronto’s middle-income communities vanish.

    The long-term trend to 2012 shows average incomes rising dramatically in the city core and north up the centre, while plunging in the inner suburbs, particularly northwest Etobicoke and northeast Scarborough.

    “We have 28 per cent of the city going significantly up in income and a different part, comprising 40 per cent, where income drops, in a trend that produces what we call the divided city,” says Hulchanski, a professor of housing and community development in the faculty of social work.

    “If income inequality grows, this is what happens — our income buys choice of house or apartment or neighbourhood, and you see that reflected in the map ...

    “Instead of living together harmoniously, with mutual respect, we are setting up two extreme lifestyles — one where people struggle just to get by and another where every option in the world is open to them. No country is ever perfect in terms of equality, but we’re going in the opposite direction.”

    The data, presented here for the first time, updates Hulchanski’s “Three Cities” research showing that mostly middle-income 1980s Toronto has been transformed into three zones: a prosperous core, a shrinking middle-income belt, and swaths of increasingly poor suburbs.

    Between 1970 and 1990, average incomes jumped significantly in only about 13 per cent of Toronto’s 500-plus “census tract” neighbourhoods.

    Slightly more, 19 per cent, saw incomes drop significantly, while most Torontonians, in 67 per cent of the census tracts, saw earnings change only modestly.

    Expanding the time frame to 1970 to 2012 exposes a dramatic shift.

    Middle-income communities across the city began to evaporate. Neighbourhoods with relatively stable average income shrank by more than half, to 32 per cent of the census tracts.

    The percentage of neighbourhoods where residents’ average incomes skyrocketed more than doubled. At the same time, the percentage of neighbourhoods where people were getting much poorer also doubled.

    Yorkville, which transformed from downtown hippie haven to posh shopping district favoured by the jet set, saw the biggest surge in average incomes. Part of Thorncliffe Park, which became a landing pad for newly arrived immigrants, saw the biggest income drop.

    When the city snapshot is narrowed to only 2012, just under half of Toronto is considered low-income — well under the $46,666-per-year average — while 21 per cent is high-income and only 30 per cent is middle.

    “What I call City No. 2 — the middle-income city — is simply disappearing,” Hulchanski says.

    Gentrification is only one of the root causes, he says, listing provincial and federal policy changes since 1990 that he believes were intended to further enrich society’s top earners.

    They include de-industrialization via free trade; low wages in the increasingly deregulated labour market; tax cuts benefiting the rich; cuts in social spending and social program transfers; and the “offshoring” of corporation profits to avoid Canadian taxes.

  • Queen?s Park considering lower speed limits in cities and towns

    Queen’s Park is looking at ways to curb speed limits in Ontario cities and towns, including lowering the standard from 50 km/h.

    In a bid to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca will begin “comprehensive consultations” with municipalities across the province to discuss changes.

    That’s a policy U-turn from the Liberals’ position last September when the government said there were “no plans to change the default speed.”

    Sources say the province is acting upon the concerns from mayors, reeves, and civic councillors.

    “No decision will be made without carefully considering all options and views from all stakeholders from across the province,” a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday.

    “We have heard from a number of municipalities — for example, Ottawa —that as urban areas continue to intensify, lower speeds may be appropriate in high pedestrian areas and have requested a change to the default speed limit to enhance pedestrian safety,” the source said.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is looking at four options:

  • Maintaining the current 50 km/h default speed limit.
  • Changing the law to reduce that limit to 40 km/h.
  • Allowing municipalities to set a default speed limit either of 50 km/h or 40 km/h within their boundaries and requiring the posting of signs at each entry point of the municipality.
  • Permitting municipalities to set different default speed limits inside their boundaries or specific neighbourhoods and forcing them to the post signs at each entry point of the city or neighbourhood.
  • Del Duca’s consultations will include workshops, questionnaires and webinars for municipal officials this spring.

    “Each municipality that participates in these consultations will have the opportunity to comment and provide input into the impacts of the proposed options for default speed limits, area and boundaries of application and how these could be implemented into their communities,” said the insider, adding the Association of Municipalities of Ontario is also expected to take part.

    A coroner’s review into pedestrian deaths in 2010 urged the province to allow municipalities to lower the default speed limit to 40 km/h.

    Currently, the Highway Traffic Act says the “speed limit on roads within most municipalities and in built-up areas is set at 50 km/h” and for highways – other than through towns and cities – the default is 80 km/h.

    The World Health Organization has found that pedestrians hit by a car or truck travelling at around 45 km/h have a 50 per cent chance of being killed.

    But those struck by a vehicle going 30 km/h or slower have a 90 per cent survival rate.

    The WHO noted that a car going 50 km/h requires 13 metres to stop while one going 40 km/h can stop in less than 8.5 metres.

    “An increase in average speed of 1 km/h typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4–5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities,” the organization said.

  • Tim Hortons can?t cut more than 20 per cent of HQ staff: Ottawa

    Ottawa has restricted Burger King from axing more than 20 per cent of corporate staff at Tim Hortons’ longtime headquarters or regional offices, an Industry Canada spokesman confirms.

    The newly-merged company Restaurant Brands International is required to “maintain significant employment levels” of non-restaurant employees as part of the list of commitments the fast food behemoth made to get final approval in December from the federal government to seal the $12.5 billion deal.

    Although it wasn’t announced at the time, Industry Minister James Moore actually secured a more definitive commitment that Burger King maintain 80 per cent of Tim Hortons’ “entire corporate footprint” at both the Oakville head office and regional offices across Canada, said his press secretary Jake Enwright.

    Tim Hortons still refused Wednesday to publicly divulge the exact number of people who were laid off this week, although media speculation has run rampant that up to 40 per cent of middle managers were swept up in the round of layoffs that began Tuesday morning, just six weeks after the controversial takeover was completed.

    With an estimated 2,000 employees at both head office and seven regional offices from British Columbia to Nova Scotia and one in the U.S., the restrictions would translate into a maximum of 400 workers potentially impacted.

    “This is a private business decision and our thoughts are with those who received this difficult news,” said Enwright.

    He pointed out that Tim Hortons franchises, which employ 96,000 restaurant workers, cannot reduce staffing levels under the agreement with Burger King. The beloved 50-year-old doughnut and coffee giant is Canada’s largest restaurant chain.

    Industry Canada has the right to take legal action should Burger King break any of its commitments made in the takeover, and has done so in the past in other merger deals.

    Restaurant Brands International shares, which replaced Tim Hortons on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the merger December 15, fell 68 cents, or 1.4 per cent, Wednesday to close at $48.

    The merger created the world’s third-largest restaurant company, with 18,000 stores and $23 billion in sales. It was originally pitched by executives as the best way to expand Tim Hortons internationally and make the beloved Canadian brand truly global.

    When the blockbuster deal was announced last August, critics warned that Burger King’s owner 3G Capital, a Brazil-based investment firm, has a track record of paring staff and slashing costs, and would do the same in a Tims takeover.

    “This round of layoffs should serve as a warning to Tim Hortons’ franchisees who depend on support from the company to grow their businesses, taxpayers who expect corporations to pay their fair share, and consumers who expect Tim Hortons to be a community leader in Canada,” said a group of union leaders from Unifor, Teamsters and SEIU Healthcare in a statement Wednesday.

    The doughnut chain is not unionized.


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Arts & Letters
Sunday, 12 August 2007