Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

11 Mar 2018

A city’s vital signs

Posted by Michael Keating

We get a constant stream of reports in the news media about our health care, economy, housing, traffic jams, poverty and the environment. What do these signals add up to? How are we doing as a society? For years, Community Foundations of Canada, a network for Canada’s 191 community foundations has produced municipal, regional and provincial reports under the Vital Signs banner. Their goal: “…to measure the vitality of our communities and support action towards improving our collective quality of life.”

Toronto’s Vital Signs Report, Towards a more just city, pictures a booming, bustling and successful metropolis, of more than 2.7 million. “Toronto is one of the best places to live in the world,” says the report, especially if you have money. It says the quality of life in Toronto varies drastically depending on neighbourhood, income, race, immigration status, gender, sexual identity and age. “Toronto is becoming a city of islands,” according to Sharon Avery, President and CEO of the Toronto Foundation. The report says “One in five people in the city lives in poverty, the middle class has been consistently declining over the past 45 years, and income and wealth inequality is growing.” Toronto is the child poverty capital of Canada, with over one-in-four children living below the poverty line.

“Systemic issues such as the increase in precarious work, rising costs of real estate and high costs of living are increasingly making Toronto a city of haves and have-nots.”

Among the issues and discrepancies:

More than 70 per cent of high-income earners report good or excellent health compared to just under half among low-income earners. In Toronto, infant mortality in the lowest income group is 50 per cent higher than in the highest income group.

While one well-off part of the city is almost two-thirds treed, other neighbourhoods have only seven per cent tree cover.

Sixty per cent of downtowners have access to the arts compared to 37 per cent of Scarborough residents.

Just over half of Torontonians drive daily, leading to more traffic congestion and an increase in traffic deaths, especially for pedestrians.

Home ownership is becoming unaffordable for more and more people

There is less smog now, but still worrisome levels of air pollution and rapidly accelerating climate change, with a forecast of more heat waves and heavy rains.

It is becoming an older city, with more seniors than children for the first time, and more people living alone, bringing concerns of isolation with its risk of depression and other ailments.

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