Many Torontonians are worse off today than they were 10 years ago. Others are much, much better off. Toronto has its winners and losers in the day-to-day economic and political give and take.
How will hosting the Olympics change these dynamics?
The TO-Bid "winners' want us to believe that because of the Olympics they will suddenly become more socially minded citizens. They tell us that today's losers will somehow become 2008's winners. We will, in fact, all be winners. Trust us.
No natural disaster produced the severe destitution now common in Toronto. Yet, somehow, no one is to blame. And no one does anything, and we just get more of the same.
More of the same is not good enough.
How about that great $75-million domed stadium some of the TO-Bid Corporation guys gave us not so long ago? By the time the first baseball was thrown, the bill was more than $650 million.
How about our dynamic economy, busy creating unlimited housing for buyers and nothing at all for the 50 per cent of Torontonians who rent?
How about the 1,000 children and 4,000 adults who sleep on mats in shelters every night? Addressing homelessness is not an official Olympic event, the TO-Bid folks tell us. We can trust them on that one.
How about the ratepayer groups in the neighbourhoods where the winners live, who are trying to get the OMB to overturn council's decision to allow flats in houses? They want to keep renters out of their neighbourhoods. How socially responsible.
These folks are silent on the great moral and ethical issues of our day.
But they are loud in their support for gentrifying a part of the waterfront most people didn't even know existed. With taxpayers' money, of course.
Funny how we have no money for some things and lots and lots of money for other things - their things.
We have before us a rushed, ill-managed, deceitful bid. Yet these winners want, and Olympic rules require, a blank cheque from the taxpayer.
When difficulties arise, and they will, these folks can just walk away. They will poop and we will scoop.
They will get their Olympics at no expense to themselves. They will get their fat fees as consultants, designers, developers and gentrifiers. The benefits will be theirs. The social and financial costs will be ours.
The most offensive part of the bid is the hint that by supporting the winners we might just possibly get some social housing. Wow.
They've done nothing about this problem until now, but if we support their desires with our money, maybe they will lobby a little. Well, thanks, but no thanks.
Progress will be made only when our civic leadership, our business community and the grassroots act together on fundamental human priorities.
Until then, we are a divided city, and the hostility is growing.
The homeless and under-housed in Toronto are not a "special interest group.'
They seek nothing more than the minimum that human dignity demands.
Adequate, affordable housing, enough money to get by and necessary support services are not luxuries.
These basic human rights are being denied to many. Instead, the winners want a multi-billion-dollar waterfront gentrification project.
Housing and homelessness must be Toronto's key civic priority. The Olympics will divert scarce resources and civic attention away from this priority. The bid has already started to do so.
Writing this article is a waste of my time. Reading is it a waste of yours. But we do it anyway, because we cannot stand the spectacle of winners at the public trough again.
David Hulchanski is a professor of housing and community development at U of T and a founding member of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee