The middle class isn’t disappearing, it’s moving
Christopher Hume – Toronto Star
The middle class isn’t disappearing, it’s moving.
The point was made with unexpected clarity at the recent Ontario Economic Summit. The occasion was a panel about “urban sustainability.” One of the speakers, former United Way president, Frances Lankin, worried out loud about Toronto’s disappearing middle class. Citing research done by the United Way, University of Toronto’s David Hulchanski and others, the commissioner of the provincial Social Assistance Review Commission sounded the alarm.
Just minutes before, however, another panelist, Laurent Auguste, president of Veolia Water, bravely predicted that global middle-class membership will hit 3 billion within 20 years.
When pressed about the sources of his optimism, Auguste pointed to Asia and India. That’s where growth will occur, not here.
It was a sobering realization, one reinforced at every turn. Unemployment figures released this month show jobless rates in Ontario are higher than the national average. As the province’s manufacturing sector spirals ever downward, well-paying industrial jobs are vanishing. The workforce in the Hamilton steel industry, for instance, has dropped from 15,000 to 4,000.
Little wonder we have grown blasé about our standing as an official have-not province.
If there are reasons for optimism, they are centred on cities now more than industries. Interestingly, when Toronto discovered this month it had a surprise surplus of $154 million, the reasons, given almost as an afterthought, were land transfer taxes and an increase in property tax assessment.
In other words, a lot of people are moving to the city or banking on the expectation that the desire to do so will continue to grow. Toronto real estate is seen internationally as a safe investment. Thanks to investors, the condo market is the rental market.
But that’s a symptom, not a cause. What makes Toronto so desirable to developers and investors is that it’s desirable to buyers and renters. People want to live here.
Around the world — the U.S. included — the appeal of the city is greater than at any time since the end of World War II. The call of sprawl can still be heard, but a sense of balance is returning to the urban/suburban divide.
But we shouldn’t forget that as the middle class goes so goes Toronto — and Canada for that matter. It is the middle class that keeps economic wheels turning and demand flowing. Despite its resilience, there are limits to how much abuse it can absorb. As decent jobs evaporate and governments cut the services that make life bearable for income-reduced middle-classers, their frustration, resentment and anger will grow.
The right, which has presided over much of this decline, has done so with the support of very populations that will bear the brunt of its policies. It is the suburban voters who support Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Mayor Rob Ford that have seen the biggest drop in quality of life.
Though many of the causes lie beyond the borders of Canada, more than a few are homegrown. Rather than invest in green technologies, for example, we remain committed to the dirtiest of dirty energy.
Meanwhile, clean oil or no, simply getting around has become a nightmare for residents of the inner suburbs.
Canada has never had an American Dream — it never needed one. We would rather rely on the community than the individual. But at a time when those communities are being dismantled, many Canadians can only dream.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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