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Reaction Roundup: Toronto scribes—and readers—react to Toronto Life’s September issue cover story, “Exodus to the Burbs”

In September’s cover story, long-time Toronto Life contributor Philip Preville explores the idea that Toronto is a hostile place for young families—prompting some to move to the new belt of exurbs in places like Dundas, Cobourg, and Port Hope—and attempts to figure out why these small towns hold such appeal for people who were once diehard downtowners. The article has stirred up more than a little reaction, and we’ll be the first to admit that not all of it has been positive. But that’s what quality conversation is all about. A list of some of the strongest critiques of Preville’s piece, after the jump.

• One of the earliest reactions came from the National Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer, who writes that he had a hard time buying the claim that the urban refugees featured in the story “discovered a paradise of warm interpersonal mingling, a kind of Disney hometown where you ‘say your hellos and inquire about others and share news readily.’”

John Lorinc probably wins the prize for most acid reaction, writing in Spacing that the article didn’t break any news, while lamenting the “inexcusably coarse” choice of words in the display copy (“Screw Jane Jacobs. We’re outta here”). The rest—well, it should be read on its own (along with the comments).

• The husband-and-wife team of Ed Keenan and Rebecca Cuneo Keenan each penned a reaction to Preville’s piece—but both argued, contra Preville, that they never felt like Toronto was all that unfriendly or hostile. Cuneo Keenan hammers away at the point that perhaps security and freedom are in the eyes of the beholder.

• Even more interesting than Ed Keenan’s take was the debate he and Preville engaged in over Twitter last night. Keenan cited the work that Adam Vaughan had been doing to make sure that the new condos going up in his ward are family-friendly (in other words, that they have more than two bedrooms). We’ve captured most of that conversation here.

• Preville also appeared on CBC’s Metro Morning, where Matt Galloway took being called an “ossified propagandist” pretty well, all things considered.

• Regular Toronto Life contributor Denise Balkissoon asks: what about diversity? What about economics?

• And finally, Torontoist parodied the September issue cover, and all we can say is ouch!

Also, check out the Twitter hashtag #unfriendlytoronto for stories of Toronto being warmer than is often believed.

Get your own copy of the story on newsstands or in our digital edition, or read a sneak peek here and join the smackdown (er, conversation).

Peter Kuitenbrouwer: Peterborough Life, anyone? [National Post]
Toronto Life screws Jane Jacobs? [Spacing Toronto]
A suburb by any other name… [The Grid TO]
The City’s No Place To Raise Kids, says Toronto Life. I’m Not Buying It. [Playground Confidential]
The New Exurbanites: comments on this month’s Toronto Life [Digested]
Glad Hand: The Ossified Opinion is Always Greener [Torontoist]

  • BB

    This magazine has become much like NOW; only good for figuring out where to eat.

  • William Delgado

    I’m one of those funny types…lifelong downtowner, visible minority, voracious consumer of “downtown” culture/restaurants etc., while at same time being unconditional fan of Stephen Harper…I could go various ways on this article.

    However, my biggest complain and what I see as a continuing negative trend for Toronto Life (to which I must admit I subscribe)is the sheer bad writing that one now finds in the magazine. Forget the topic or the slant. The writing, the tone, the is atrocious…looks like it was written by a 17year old blogger…

  • Andrew

    Looking out from his airplane on his first foray outside the iron curtain, as a young apparatchik of the defunct Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was struck by the endless miles of suburbs stretching from San Francisco to San Jose to Sacramento. The next day he had his chauffeur drive for hours through curvy residential streets. A few days later he hired a helicopter to get a look at back yards, shopping malls, freeways, industrial parks. Twenty years later the Cold War was over.

    Unfortunately for Gorby, if you look at Google satellite, Moscow and St. Petersburg are still surrounded by hectares of cubic gray three-story no-elevator pre-1970 apartment blocks, now complemented by L-shaped and I-shaped eight-story ones. Sure, there are a few luxurious estates out-of-town for the well-connected, but no sprawling subdivisions of duplexes and single-family dwellings, i.e. no robust middle class.

    The relative size of suburbs says something about a society’s ability to generate and distribute wealth. India, the world’s largest democracy, is rapidly growing its own version of suburbs. China, despite all its wealth, is unable. It remains a country with just a few million rich people, a billion very poor ones, and no peaceful political means of rectifying that. Probably 65% of the world’s population would describe Toronto-area suburbs as heaven on Earth. Another 30% would describe them as a nice place to live. I find it hilariously and insular-ly Canadian that we would even debate the merits of suburbs.

    Get with it, dudes. Suburbs are f&%$g awesome!

  • ben burd

    Having watched the influx of refugees from flowing into Cobourg for more than30 years You should do a more deeper study in five years time and find out who stayed.

    The retirees are here for a good time and we only rent them, they return to the safety of the kid’s places as soon as they get sick.

    Unless you are a police person or firefighter where one only works a shift every other week the commute will kill you if you do it by road and bankrupt you if you do it by rail. So check in on them after a few years