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                     Kellie Leitch Is Right: It’s Hard To Borrow A Cup Of Sugar … 

                                         But The Problem Isn’t Toronto

  

By Terri Chu

Kellie Leitch is getting packets upon packets of sugar in the mail as a response to her comments that in Toronto, you can’t walk next door and borrow a cup of sugar. 

She’s right to an extent … just not in Toronto. 

In my extremely walkable neighbourhood of the Annex in Canada's largest city (with a walkability score of 97), I know all my immediate neighbours, know everyone within a dozen houses with kids, and know all the avid gardeners between my house and the subway station. 

Last weekend, when a friend came to teach me how to make borscht, I realized too late I was out of bay leaves.  A quick phone call later, a neighbour four houses to the south rang the doorbell with three fragrant bay leaves in hand.  In my defense, I would have picked it up myself had I not just discovered my child was in need of a diaper change. 

A very good friend of mine lives in Mississauga. He knows his immediate neighbours, but that’s about it.  When a family with a child roughly the same age as his son walked by, he asked if they would like to play.  The parents flatly said “no”. 

The key difference?  Mine is a walkable neighbourhood with few driveways and lots of destinations to walk to.  His is a get-in-the-car-and-drive-away neighbourhood. 

I’ve met, and received gardening advice from, every avid gardener on the street. My friend simply drives past, admiring gardeners planting in the sun. 

To Kellie Leitch and her supporters, “Toronto” is everything from Milton to Pickering and right up to Barrie.  Given the popularity of trashing Toronto, it isn’t surprising that she’ll accuse everyone in the GTA of being colder than mediocre beer.  

The people she’s really talking about are the suburbanites - those who dwell in drive through neighbourhoods and have a weakened sense of community. As Vox covered in 2015, “our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult”

How we live determines how strong our community bonds are.  And so for once, I actually agree with Leitch. 

The dream of a big yard and a white picket fence is all about having a personal piece of paradise, away from others.  In that case, who needs to borrow sugar? We have everything we need.  When we live in McMansions of four garage homes and individual swimming pools, who really meets friends at the community swim?  When we have a gigantic back yard with an individual swing set, who needs to head to the local park and meet other moms?  Losing the ability to have spontaneous interactions is the number one inhibitor of making new friends. 

What Kellie Leitch is really criticizing is the unsustainable lifestyle of “The American dream” - she just won’t admit it.  Ironically, that is also the demographic from which she likely draws her support. 

If we want to make sure we don’t have communities where we can’t borrow sugar, we need to break our addiction to big homes and SUVs.  In those “Toronto” neighbourhoods of the suburbs, it really is hard to borrow a cup of sugar!

Having communities built upon Canadian values doesn’t need a test.  What we need is good public policy that gives us tight walkable communities.  We don’t need a barbaric culture practices tip line when we run into neighbours day in and day out saying hello and bringing each other food when we are sick. 

What we need more of are incentives to build less energy-intensive communities (oh, like a carbon tax).  Dr. Leitch, (and the 22 letters after your name), what we need is a leader who understands the implicit value walkable neighbourhoods and the strength that brings to Canada. I’m afraid that leader isn’t you.

 

Terri Chu is an expert in energy systems, with a Masters in Engineering specializing in urban energy systems. Terri founded the grassroots organization "Why Should I Care", a not for profit dedicated to engaging people on issues of public policy.

 

 

 

 

 

About terri chu

Terri is a specialist in urban sustainability with a Bachelor of Science and a Master in Engineering. She has worked on district energy projects across Canada. In her off hours, Terri founded a not for profit called “Why Should I Care?” to engage everyday citizens into the political process.
Posted date : January 24, 2017

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