Toronto Sprawls

Toronto Sprawls: A History

LAWRENCE SOLOMON
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442685062
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  • Book Info
    Toronto Sprawls
    Book Description:

    An illuminating read,Toronto Sprawlsmakes a convincing case that urban sprawl in Toronto was caused not by market forces, but rather by policies and programs designed to disperse Toronto's urban population.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8506-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    This book will provoke almost everyone. While those on the political left will welcome Solomon’s arguments that sprawl has neither an economic nor an environmental justification, they will be aghast that he puts the blame for sprawl on government rather than developers, the automobile lobby, or the other usual suspects.

    Likewise, Solomon will provoke those on the political right, who in some corners have come to conclude that sprawl is actually a good thing. Most conservatives rebuff critiques of suburban life, which they find culturally wholesome and congenial. They will bristle at Solomon’s claim that the tidy suburban dream, which...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction: Greater Toronto, circa 1900, before the Era of Sprawl
    (pp. 3-8)

    Greater Toronto, and how best to control its growth, was in the news one hundred years ago, when the City of Toronto’s northern reaches lay at Yorkville and Greater Toronto extended only four miles north of the waterfront, to Eglinton Avenue. The instinct of many of the political leaders of that era, as with many leaders in our own, was to put the growing area under the control of a streamlined government, and to expropriate privately owned utilities, in order to control the development of infrastructure. As argued in 1907 by W.F. ‘Billy’ Maclean, a Toronto member of the federal...

  7. 1 How Private Transit Hobbled Sprawl
    (pp. 9-16)

    Toronto Worldfounder and parliamentarian W.F. Maclean, like Toronto’s other influential reformers at the turn of the twentieth century, opposed the high population densities that were then the hallmark of all great cities in the world. To thwart the traditional patterns of development, and spread the population out among a much larger territory, he understood the paramountcy of nationalizing transportation systems, particularly the public transit (or traction) systems that were then run by private companies.

    Few developers built housing in outlying areas that weren’t served by public transit systems, and even when they did, people were reluctant to settle there...

  8. 2 Living at Close Quarters
    (pp. 17-22)

    At the turn of the nineteenth century, the population of Canada’s major cities was exploding, with Toronto especially emerging as a new metropolis. In 1876, its population was 68,000; a mere quarter century later, in 1901, it had tripled to 208,000, and had reached 522,000 by 1921.

    These astounding rates of growth, sustained over decades, had never before been seen in Canada. Because the population increase was unprecedented, the government initially had few rules in place to control the development that accompanied it. Toronto grew organically, with scant commercial and residential zoning regulations, and few restrictions on the uses to...

  9. 3 Toronto the Good
    (pp. 23-30)

    Toronto, the City of Homes, was more than a city of single-family houses. During the first few decades of the twentieth century, Toronto would also become a city of low-rise apartment buildings. Toronto’s first apartment building, the St George Mansions, completed in 1903, and its second, the Alexandria,¹ completed the following year, provided prestigious addresses for visiting professionals and businessmen as well as Toronto’s elite: doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, bank managers, and company directors were among their tenants.² More modest apartment buildings sprang up, too, to appeal to a growing market of residents attracted to a modern, metropolitan lifestyle, and...

  10. 4 Model People, Model Suburbs
    (pp. 31-40)

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, Toronto’s urban reformers were calling for curbs on unplanned housing developments. Invariably, they advocated slum clearances to eradicate the moral rot that they saw, and model housing to inculcate family values. As was the fashion in that period on both sides of the Atlantic, reformers urged the building of ‘garden suburbs.’¹

    The Garden City movement had begun in the United Kingdom, where a century earlier the Industrial Revolution had left much of the countryside a shambles. With people abandoning the rural areas for higher wages, shorter work days, and entertainment in the city,...

  11. 5 Canada’s War Effort against the Cities
    (pp. 41-49)

    Toronto’s social reformers had counterparts in Canada’s other major cities and all had a steadfast ally in the federal government, which also strove to reduce the urban population. From confederation in 1867 on, the chief activity of the federal government had been attracting immigrants and opening up the wilderness through gifts of crown land, homesteading grants, and building a trans-Canada railway, among other policies. But much of the public acted at cross purposes to the federal government: Although the federal government was encouraging rural settlement, farmers were increasingly leaving the land for cities. By the late nineteenth century, this exodus...

  12. 6 CMHC and Cheap Financing Open Up the Suburbs
    (pp. 50-55)

    In addition to creating theVeterans Land Act, the federal government created the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a permanent civilian agency, to provide housing after the war.¹ ‘We were going to call it the Central Mortgage Corporation with no reference to housing at all,’ recalled David B. Mansur, its first president. ‘But later, in a meeting with Finance Minister J.L. Ilsley, Dr. McIntosh proposed a change. “I think it should be called Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation,” he said, “because they’re going to be in the housing business and no fooling.” Of course, he was right.’²

    The large number...

  13. 7 Partial Amalgamation, Full Sprawl
    (pp. 56-64)
    SATISH DHAR

    The federal government’s efforts to encourage people to settle outside Toronto’s borders after the Second World War were in some ways hamhanded failures. Because theVeterans Land Actrequired returning servicemen to settle outside cities to qualify for the generous land grants on offer, only 10 percent bothered to apply. Despite CMHC’s incentives to private developers, and to private lenders, the private housing market remained reluctant to open up the suburbs.

    Yet the government, in the end, had all the success it needed. The 10 percent that theVeterans Land Actwould provide boosted the outskirts of Toronto by some...

  14. 8 The Suburbs beyond the Suburbs
    (pp. 65-71)
    SATISH DHAR

    The province’s creation of Metropolitan Toronto accomplished its goals. Through this partial amalgamation mechanism, the suburbs were financed and methodically filled in.

    But partial amalgamation was not the province’s only financing mechanism in the years following the Second World War. The province also spawned suburban expansion through infrastructure projects that would mesh Toronto with its immediate suburbs and beyond. These flowed from far-reaching plans begun by prewar planning bodies.

    As the end of the war neared, political leaders established planning agencies to provide for the betterment of the people. The City Planning Board, created as Toronto’s first official planning board...

  15. Conclusion: How Toronto Might Have Been
    (pp. 72-78)

    Through subsidies and prohibitions, governments succeeded in dispersing Toronto’s population. As a result, the Greater Toronto Area developed in concentric arcs around the centre city that was Toronto, uniformly and at gradually decreasing densities as the distance from Toronto increased. The sharp division between urban and rural societies was thus blurred, and by design. As explained by Darcy McKeough, the minster of municipal affairs who, as much as anyone, changed the postwar landscape of the Toronto region: ‘we could not accept the recommendations [that] called for a distinct separation of the area [west of Toronto] into two regions – one rural...

  16. Postscript: Toronto in 2020
    (pp. 79-84)

    In all likelihood, Toronto will continue to sprawl. This has been its history, a history that is already repeating itself. The Greater Toronto Area is gaining the status of a political jurisdiction, with region-wide bodies touted as the answer to the region’s disarray and inefficiency. A formal GTA authority, first to run transit, then to assume responsibility for water and sewerage, roads, garbage, and policing would surprise no one. And after the region was partially amalgamated in this way, a full amalgamation would be a logical next step.¹

    Yet there are also plausible prospects for a slowdown in sprawl and,...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 85-114)
  18. Index
    (pp. 115-120)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-121)