& occasionally about other things, too...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some Great Idea

When I came to Toronto a little less than five years ago, I found it utterly charming. It didn't have the frenetic pace of my hometown Bombay and had a definite character that was unique.

Geographically and culturally it is a North American city and it doesn't have the feel of a city that has been transplanted from America into an alien environment – an unmistakable and discomfiting feature of cities such as Dubai and Singapore.

Toronto retains its quality of an overgrown provincial town that hasn't quite understood its own uniqueness.

It's emerging as the new global city and as Edward Keenan observes in his Some Great Idea Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto it's a city that has based its future on the strong and rooted traditions that are inherent to its past – the ideas of democracy, diversity and development.

Keenan’s book is a breezy introduction to the city and especially its recent history (last 15 years under three Mayors – Lastman, Miller and Ford).  

But it’s not just about the sordid politics of the city hall. The book also gives a glimpse of some of the great people who did their own bit to build the city - William Mackenzie, RC Harris and Jane Jacobs. They have - along with many others - made Toronto what is today – the city of the future, a city that the world is watching and waiting to emulate its success. If it is allowed to succeed.

As a newcomer who has made the city his home, I found the book a terrific mixture of history, facts, information and opinion. 
Edward Keenan

Unfortunately, it’s a bit too brief. I’d have loved to read some more of the ways the suburbs have developed similar to the insightful perspective that Keenan provides on the development of Woburn where he adroitly mixes policy and memoir.

Generally speaking, civic issues make for pretty dull reading but thanks Rob Ford Toronto, politics has become a source of entertainment that can easily rival any other form.

Keenan is an astute observer giving the readers of his weekly column in The Grid a ringside view on the impossibly lurid world of Rob Ford (our Mayor doesn't have a rival even in the usually colourful world of Indian politics).

The book is an extension of Keenan’s activism. He doesn't hide his politics but doesn't lose his objectivity either.  

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