The schism between the downtown and suburban way of life was laid bare at Toronto city council when a debate on development suddenly strayed into the touchy territory of child rearing.
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday raised the ire of downtown councillors on Thursday with a suggestion that the busy streets of the city’s core are not the best place for kids to grow up.
“I personally wouldn’t want to raise my kids on King Street or Yonge Street,” the former mayor of Etobicoke said after a heated council exchange over requiring a new condominium to include three-bedroom units. “Some people might, and if they do, that’s fine. … I’m saying I personally wouldn’t want to be on the 47th floor of a condominium building at the corner of King and John with three kids.”
Asked why, Mr. Holyday, who raised two sons in the suburbs and has grandchildren living across the street from his Etobicoke home, said he felt “there are healthier places to raise children.”
“I can just see it now, ‘Where’s little Jenny? Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park,’ ” Mr. Holyday said during the debate.
That view upset several of his council colleagues, who accused him of being out of touch with urban life.
“As someone who was born and raised downtown, as someone who has got two kids being raised downtown … I think children who come out of the downtown are just wonderful,” said Adam Vaughan, who represents the area of the proposed development.
“I don’t know why the deputy mayor would want to ban children in the downtown core. … They’re just part of what makes the great city we live in,” Mr. Vaughan joked, adding later that Mr. Holyday might also want to ban sex from the downtown since that can lead to children.
Councillor Mike Layton said the downtown “has a ton of great stuff to offer youth.”
“So if I want to live downtown and not commute 45 minutes, an hour on the Gardiner, I shouldn’t have kids?” he asked.
Mr. Holyday stressed he is not trying to dictate where people raise their children, but believes it is not the city’s place to force developers to build large units to accommodate them. “How much social engineering are we going to put into this city and at what cost?” he asked.
The debate centred on a proposed 47-storey condominium on King Street in the city’s entertainment district that is the subject an Ontario Municipal Board appeal. Under a proposed settlement, the project would have 10 affordable housing rental units, and 10 per cent of all units would have three bedrooms.
Gregg Lintern, the city’s acting chief planner told Mr. Holyday the building is part of “an emerging neighbourhood.” The city’s official plan calls for a mix of housing in all parts of the city, he said. “It just makes for a healthier city.”
Mr. Holyday was not convinced. “It makes for a healthier city to have children out on King Street where there is bumper-to-bumper traffic, people galore all night and day? I just think of raising my own family there. That’s not the place I’d choose.”
Mr. Holyday wanted to have the three-bedroom provision removed, but his efforts were voted down 4-27 by city council.
With a report from Kelly Grant