Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford allegedly said this week that Toronto is “full'”. With a population of 2.5 million already, Ford said that, “We’re the largest city in Canada and we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with more people. The city is congested as is. Where are we going to fit another million people?” he said.
Ford is denying that his comments had anything to do with immigrants, saying that he meant Toronto is too full to handle anyone moving in from anywhere, regardless of their country of origin. However, in the past Ford has also said that Toronto should be a “refugee-free zone”. He cited Toronto’s debt and infrastructure problems, but seems to fail to recognize the economic benefits from having more immigrants living and working in Toronto.
His opponents considered his comments considerably offensive, demanding an apology and even withdrawal from the mayoral race. His opponent Rocco Rossi said “this is hard economic common sense – without newcomers we simply have no growing future in the city of Toronto,” and went on to call Ford unfit to be mayor. While his other opponent, George Smitherman, said that if, “you don’t look like Rob Ford – you don’t talk like Rob Ford – then you don’t fit in his Toronto.” One of Ford’s other opponents, Joe Pantalone, is a newcomer himself, having moved to Canada from Italy at the age of 13.
Ford’s opponent Sarah Thomson allegedly said, “Rob Ford continues to play to people’s fears without providing viable solutions to the challenges facing our society. If any mayor in Toronto’s past had shown such disregard towards an immigrant group, the city would not have the strength in diversity we are so proud of today.”
Ford seems particularly out of touch, and previously mentioned the church should have a larger role in city hall, ignoring the important fundamental barrier that remains between the separation of religion and politics in order for government to function fairly for all – no matter what their beliefs are. There are many different religious communities in Toronto, and even Ford himself said it would be difficult to include them all.
The future mayor of the city, whoever it will be, will be the mayor of all of Toronto, which means eight per cent of Canada’s population and more than 25 per cent of Canada’s immigrants, more than half of which have lived in Canada for less than 15 years.
Given Canada’s aging demographics and Toronto’s in particular, Ford’s protectionist stance does not bode well for our economy. He may be the most “fiscally responsible” candidate but without immigration flow, our cities would grind to a halt. This fact is really not up for debate.
I am a fan of ‘old school economics” that makes the government accountable but not old school thinking which unfortunately many conservatives come with, namely, an anti-immigration bias. Let’s hope that whoever wins, understands that immigration is and has always been a win-win for everyone.
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