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In the late 19th century Ontario’s longest-serving premier, Oliver Mowat, gave a talk on “Christianity and Some of Its Evidences” to a church group in his North Oxford riding.
Playing to his audience, he slyly declared that he was “not aware of one organized society of either agnostics or infidels” in all of Canada, “except Toronto.”
Who can say what Premier Mowat would make of such present-day organizations such as Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance in Kingston, the Quinte Secular Humanist Association, the Society of Ontario Freethinkers in Waterloo, the Grey Bruce Humanists, the Humanist Association of Sudbury, or the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society? 
 
In any case, as Torontonians scatter to their various cottage countries this very politically interesting summer of 2015, they may want to devote a few thoughts to just what it means that, among many other things, they live in the capital city of Canada’s most populous province.  
This has been an unusual year for Ontario so far. Some in Toronto have even suggested that their city, or at least some version of the wider Greater Toronto Area (GTA), would be better off as a province in its own right.
There are those outside Toronto who would heartily second the motion, of course. And there have been times in the past when more than a few in many places might agree. Yet it seems unlikely in practice today, at best.   
On the other hand, Torontonians themselves might want to reflect this summer on how in 2015 the old “rural and small town Ontario” so plaintively evoked in Alice Munro’s 1971 novel Lives of Girls and Women is not what it used to be either.  
Several years ago, University of Waterloo environmentalist Gordon Nelson edited a book called Beyond the Global City: Understanding and Planning for the Diversity of Ontario. 
According to Nelson: “as far back as the 1970s ... the now well-known view of Toronto as the great economic engine of the province” began to dominate policy thinking at Queen’s Park. And this has resulted in what he called "a kind of flat-earth view of Ontario.”
But the majority of the province’s current 13.75 million people (the province is bigger than 63% of United Nations' member states) still live outside the GTA, let alone just the megacity of Toronto proper that was created by former PC Premier Mike Harris. 
Another interesting fact: according to the May 2015 regional numbers from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, all of the census metropolitan areas of Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula, London, Stratford-Bruce Peninsula, and Northwest Ontario have current unemployment rates lower than Toronto’s. 
As a matter of fact, the capital city also has a long history of getting by with a little help from friends in the larger Ontario territory. 
Even in the era just before confederation, for example, "George Brown’s old Globe (forerunner of today’s Globe and Mail) used then-new regional railways to sell newspapers to “the rural population, the reading population” (Globe 1861) in what Lord Elgin, Governor General from 1847 to 1854, called “this progressive well-farmed country.”  
Then there was the case of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when gold and silver mining in Northern Ontario helped the rising Toronto financial sector continue to grow.  
And even today, more and more Torontonians are counting on public transit vehicles made in Thunder Bay to get to work in the morning!
Ontario’s version of the traditional clash between town and country has also had strong political overtones. 
In an earlier era Toronto was Tory Conservative and rural Ontario was Grit Liberal. Yet in the last Ontario election the Liberals won almost every seat in the City of Toronto proper, and the New Democrats took the other two. 
A year later the new Ontario Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, is claiming that in Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government at Queen’s Park: “There seems to be no interest in what's happening in rural Ontario.”
Then we hear as well that Patrick Brown marched in the Toronto Pride parade. Mr. Brown explains: “We are building a new Ontario PC Party — one that celebrates diversity in all its forms and that includes Ontarians from every corner of the province, in every community and on every block.”
How successfully Patrick Brown will lead his new Ontario PC Party remains a question that will not even begin to be answered for a while yet. But other parties may find that they too will have to start reaching out to all parts of the province, more aggressively than in the past. 
More and more, what is interesting about Toronto, from the standpoint of the wider global village, is not just what’s inside the city itself. It’s what’s in the wider regions that so many Torontonians visit during various recreational seasons, along with all their trips abroad.
In the 21st century age of the Internet, this wider region effectively includes all of the geographically vast province of Ontario — a jurisdiction 32% larger than Texas. 
It could do Toronto some good to learn a little more this summer about the province of which it is the proud capital city. And vice-versa too, of course.
 
 
 In the late 19th century Ontario’s longest-serving premier, Oliver Mowat, gave a talk on “Christianity and Some of Its Evidences” to a church group in his North Oxford ridingPlaying to his audience, he slyly declared that he was “not aware of one organized society of either agnostics or infidels” in all of Canada, “except Toronto.”

              It's Time Toronto And All Of Ontario's Regions Got Reacquainted

                                    Things have changed, both in Toronto and Ontario's small towns.


By Randall White

In the late 19th century Ontario’s longest-serving premier, Oliver Mowat, gave a talk on “Christianity and Some of Its Evidences” to a church group in his North Oxford riding.

Playing to his audience, he slyly declared that he was “not aware of one organized society of either agnostics or infidels” in all of Canada, “except Toronto.”

Who can say what Premier Mowat would make of such present-day organizations such as Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance in Kingston, the Quinte Secular Humanist Association, the Society of Ontario Freethinkers in Waterloo, the Grey Bruce Humanists, the Humanist Association of Sudbury, or the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society? 

In any case, as Torontonians scatter to their various cottage countries this very politically interesting summer of 2015, they may want to devote a few thoughts to just what it means that, among many other things, they live in the capital city of Canada’s most populous province.  

This has been an unusual year for Ontario so far. Some in Toronto have even suggested that their city, or at least some version of the wider Greater Toronto Area (GTA), would be better off as a province in its own right.

There are those outside Toronto who would heartily second the motion, of course. And there have been times in the past when more than a few in many places might agree. Yet it seems unlikely in practice today, at best.   

On the other hand, Torontonians themselves might want to reflect this summer on how in 2015 the old “rural and small town Ontario” so plaintively evoked in Alice Munro’s 1971 novel Lives of Girls and Women is not what it used to be either.  

Several years ago, University of Waterloo environmentalist Gordon Nelson edited a book called Beyond the Global City: Understanding and Planning for the Diversity of Ontario

According to Nelson: “as far back as the 1970s ... the now well-known view of Toronto as the great economic engine of the province” began to dominate policy thinking at Queen’s Park. And this has resulted in what he called "a kind of flat-earth view of Ontario.”

But the majority of the province’s current 13.75 million people (the province is bigger than 63% of United Nations' member states) still live outside the GTA, let alone just the megacity of Toronto proper that was created by former PC Premier Mike Harris. 

Another interesting fact: according to the May 2015 regional numbers from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, all of the census metropolitan areas of Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula, London, Stratford-Bruce Peninsula, and Northwest Ontario have current unemployment rates lower than Toronto’s. 

As a matter of fact, the capital city also has a long history of getting by with a little help from friends in the larger Ontario territory. 

Even in the era just before confederation, for example, "George Brown’s old Globe (forerunner of today’s Globe and Mail) used then-new regional railways to sell newspapers to “the rural population, the reading population” (Globe 1861) in what Lord Elgin, Governor General from 1847 to 1854, called “this progressive well-farmed country.” 

Then there was the case of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when gold and silver mining in Northern Ontario helped the rising Toronto financial sector continue to grow.  

And even today, more and more Torontonians are counting on public transit vehicles made in Thunder Bay to get to work in the morning!

Ontario’s version of the traditional clash between town and country has also had strong political overtones. 

In an earlier era Toronto was Tory Conservative and rural Ontario was Grit Liberal. Yet in the last Ontario election the Liberals won almost every seat in the City of Toronto proper, and the New Democrats took the other two. 

A year later the new Ontario Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, is claiming that in Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government at Queen’s Park: “There seems to be no interest in what's happening in rural Ontario.”

Then we hear as well that Patrick Brown marched in the Toronto Pride parade. Mr. Brown explains: “We are building a new Ontario PC Party — one that celebrates diversity in all its forms and that includes Ontarians from every corner of the province, in every community and on every block.”

How successfully Patrick Brown will lead his new Ontario PC Party remains a question that will not even begin to be answered for a while yet. But other parties may find that they too will have to start reaching out to all parts of the province, more aggressively than in the past. 

More and more, what is interesting about Toronto, from the standpoint of the wider global village, is not just what’s inside the city itself. It’s what’s in the wider regions that so many Torontonians visit during various recreational seasons, along with all their trips abroad.

In the 21st century age of the Internet, this wider region effectively includes all of the geographically vast province of Ontario — a jurisdiction 32% larger than Texas.

It could do Toronto some good to learn a little more this summer about the province of which it is the proud capital city. And vice-versa too, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : June 30, 2015

View all of Randall White's columns
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