“It’s not reasonable to believe you can do greenfield development forever,” he says, referring to the proliferation of tract housing. “We have a lot of room to grow, and intensification has to be a part of it.”
North of Toronto, Vaughan has a plan to build a city core from scratch around an extension of the Spadina subway line and Markham has begun a similar project, erecting condominium towers in its south end. In a commitment to slowing sprawl, the town also has rules in place requiring 60 per cent of new development take place in existing neighbourhoods.
Bramalea is some 50 kilometres from Malvern, on the other side of the sprawl north of the city, but you wouldn't know it when walking the streets. Both neighbourhoods grew out of the same era of 1960s and '70s planning, when people still believed urban utopia consisted of wide roads, uniformity and an excess of open space. Inhabitants occupy single-family houses, arranged on identical crescents, or featureless apartment blocks rising from parking lots.
And in many ways, the concerns of Bramalea voters parallel those at the debate in Malvern: better health care, access to education and, of course, transit.
Harpreet Kaur, a 33-year-old civil servant who lives with her aging mother and two young children, talks not of tax cuts but of social programs when discussing the election.
“We want politicians that can make those policies that, in the sandwich generation, can help us support our seniors and our kids,” she says.
Local NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh, a 32-year-old lawyer and human=rights advocate who tools around on a fixed-gear bicycle, seems more like a Parkdale scenster than a Peel Region denizen. And he insists that the issues transcend the distance between the city and the 'burbs.
“The things people care about are the same: People want good jobs, people want health care, people want good services,” he says. “We have far more in common with downtown than we have differences.”