Andy Barrie on Toronto

Andy Barrie (the CBC morning host, for the non-Torontonians in the crowd) gave a speech recently urging a more walkable Toronto, with better public spaces. A lot of it is familiar stuff for the pro-pedestrian crowd, but still encouraging to hear from a figure like Barrie. What I liked best, though, were his comparisons of Toronto and Montreal:

“After moving to Toronto in 1977, one of first things I noticed just walking around was that people didn’t meet your eye. Everybody I know comments on this. Nancy White, the singer/songwriter, calls Toronto the ‘city of the averted eye.’ People here just don’t look at you. In Montreal, when I first got there, I used to think that every single woman I saw in the street was coming on to me. Eye contact is a given there.

“Something I realized very soon after coming here,” elaborated Barrie, “was that Toronto was a city of strivers. The place is made up of people who wanted more than wherever they came from could offer so they went looking for a bigger arena, a better sandbox. They were very, very work oriented.

“After I had moved here a friend from Montreal asked me what it was like and I said that Toronto was like a woman you marry for her money. Montreal was like a woman everybody told you to get rid of because she’d eat you alive and yet you couldn’t pull yourself away.

Is it still accurate? Somewhat. True enough to be recognisable, and certainly matching some of my impressions when I landed back here one year ago.

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