One Fine Holiday Season in 1887

Originally published as a “Historicist’ column on Torontoist on December 22, 2012.

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A Toronto-penned carol from 1887 you can play at home this season. The News, December 24, 1887.

In some ways, the holiday season that brought 1887 to a close was similar to today. People rushed around the city to pick up their Christmas gifts. Plenty of booze was downed. Discussions and editorial pages focused on the future of Toronto’s mayoralty. Digging beyond the surface, similarities via the city’s legion of newspapers shows a season that was equally celebratory and cringe-inducing.

Mail columnist H.H. Wiltshire (aka “The Flaneur”) provided the best-written observation of the state of Christmas:

Latterly the question has been often asked as to what is the meaning of the tendency everywhere during the last few years for a much more general observance of the Christmas festival. In some quarters it is attributed to increased reverence, in others to sentimentality, while we are also told that it is only seized upon as an excuse for idleness and gluttony, under the cover of hospitality. Without staying to consider how far any of these views are correct, may we not suppose that one very natural reason is the necessity we all feel for a little rest and enjoyment! Unquestionably there is more work done now in a shorter time than was ever the case before; this must cause a reaction in some form, and this season of the year has appeared most convenient because it is the nearest approach to a recognized universal holiday-time throughout the civilized world. A simple answer to the enquiry is given in the fact that that overworked humanity wants rest.

All of us with healthy minds in healthy bodies enjoy holidays and amusement, and custom, if nothing else, has made both seem especially appropriate to this time of the year. One of the best associations of Christmas undoubtedly is the increasing fondness for family and friendly re-union, when many feuds are healed and words and acts of temper are forgiven; also the inculcation and practice of the truth that there are none of us so poor in ability or in purse but that we can, by merely doing “the duty nearest hand,” make the load lighter and the day more bright for some among those whom sickness or sorrow, misfortune or folly, entitle not only to our kindness and sympathy, but also to be the unsoliciting recipients of practical and generous aid.

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The Globe, December 23, 1887.

The rest Wiltshire extolled wasn’t present on Christmas Eve 1887, as downtown streets filled with shoppers in a rush. Though shop windows were filled with joyful displays, those entering stores to purchase gifts were, according to the Globe, hardly in a celebratory mood. “Almost everybody one met seemed to have a parcel or to be in a hurry to get one,” the paper noted. “To judge by the expression of face and the words caught in passing, the getting of the parcels seemed rather to hinder than to help the feeling of joyousness.”

The papers were filled with holiday-inspired doggerel and Christmas stories which would not be published under any circumstances today. The worst offender was a lengthy illustrated tale published in the News on Christmas Eve whose anonymous author reminisced about the glorious celebrations enjoyed by plantation slaves in the southern United States prior to the Civil War. Every imaginable derogatory term was used in a story filled with pidgin English, stock stereotypes, dancing galore, and “the wild hilarity of a negro gathering.”

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Evening Telegram, December 20, 1887.

Because Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, good upstanding Torontonians were expected to observe the usual pieties that created Toronto’s reputation as a place not to have any fun on the Lord’s Day for decades to come. Not that the day was devoid of pleasure—when evening rolled around, carollers hit the streets, along with impromptu brass bands playing tunes on battered instruments.

There was a sad note Christmas morning when the body of Maria Green was found in a stable behind 40 Elizabeth Street. Rather than provide any sympathy for her death from exposure, the press went into full moralizing mode. The Globe depicted Green as “an elderly woman employed as cook in a house of ill-fame on Albert Street,” while the Mail described her as “a woman of about fifty years of age, and the greater part of her life had been spent in infamy. Christmas brought to her not peace but an excess of drunkenness and debauchery with her tragic death as a wind-up.”

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The News, December 24, 1887.

The delay of most public Christmas activities to December 26 appeared to create a pent-up thirst among Torontonians, as people went wild when the bars reopened that morning. “’Moral’ Toronto Spends a Very Liquid Christmas” screamed a headline above the World’s account of “the drunkenest day that Toronto has seen for years.” Sleighs overflowed with “more young men than is allowed by the law regarding cruelty to animals.” People who claimed to have never touched a drop of alcohol were among those found in packed saloons. Some establishments closed early to avoid a steady stream of barroom brawls and police visits. “The ordinary drinking public dropped into their usual haunts and were surprised and disgusted at what they saw,” the World reported. “By 6 o’clock there were so many places closed that a usual question was ‘well, where can we go to get a drink?’” Police handled the chaos by making arrests only when necessary. The Globe theorized that the drinking orgy was due to liquor vendors attempting to demonstrate that tougher temperance laws would increase the abusive effects of booze, especially a set of bylaws on the upcoming municipal election ballot.

Alcohol control played a key role in the mayoral campaign that holiday season. On November 3, 1887, Mayor William Holmes Howland announced he would not run for a third term. While Howland spoke to Christian and temperance groups in other cities to extol the effects of his campaigns to reduce the availability of alcohol, the question arose as to who would continue his moral crusade and efforts to curb corruption at City Hall. The favoured candidate among the reformer set was rookie alderman Elias Rogers, a Quaker pro-temperance activist who was one of Toronto’s largest coal merchants.

Two other candidates emerged. Edward Frederick Clarke was a rookie Conservative member at Queen’s Park who published the Orange Sentinel newspaper. Unlike many Orangemen of the era, Clarke was seen as a broadminded man due to actions like allowing Irish Catholic activists to speak at the organization’s hall. Because he wasn’t a fervent temperance advocate, he was depicted by opponents as a friend of the saloon. Daniel Defoe was a veteran alderman who touted his long council experience but was handicapped by his Catholic faith in a very Protestant city—the best he could hope for was a spoiler role. Whoever became mayor needed to be, according to a Globe editorial, “a level-headed, painstaking, conscientious man of marked business ability.”

The campaign was well underway when official nominations were made during a raucous meeting at City Hall (now incorporated into the south St. Lawrence Market) on December 26. The loudest members of the overflow crowd were Clarke supporters, who jeered the other candidates and their nominators. Rogers received most of the verbal abuse, some of it deserved. Female electors were still a new concept—Ontario had granted spinsters and widows the vote in municipal elections in 1884—so Rogers pointed out those in attendance and indicated they were on his side. When a heckler yelled “How do you know they are?,” the Telegram noted that Rogers “knew they were on his side because the ladies were always on the right side.”

More troubling for Rogers were reports that he was the head of a “coal ring.” A series of exposes in the News written by Clarke ally and York West MP Nathaniel Clarke Wallace portrayed Rogers as the leader of a cartel who artificially inflated the price of coal in Toronto, failed to pass savings onto consumers after the federal government removed tariffs on the heating fuel, and conspired to drive competitors out of business. Rogers painted himself as a victim via a complicated explanation involving American coal combines, merciless railway companies, and forming his own ring as a protective measure.

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Cartoon depicting Elias Rogers and Edward Clarke, The News, December 31, 1887.

Despite increasingly lengthy explanations about the coal ring which convinced few voters, city churches and most of the press endorsed Rogers. Endless ink was devoted to depicting him as the best man to uphold Howland’s policies and continue the moral crusade against corruption and liquor. Papers like the Telegram were smug in their certainty of a Rogers victory, declaring that the defeat “will simply be extraordinary.”

The extraordinary happened. As the votes were tallied on January 2, 1888, Howland waited for the results at Rogers’ HQ and kept the crowd pepped up. When the early results showed Clarke in the lead, Howland urged people not to leave. By 9 p.m. the race was over—Clarke defeated Rogers by nearly 1,000 votes. Clarke appeared at the window of the News’ newsroom and gave his victory speech, where he declared his win as “not a triumph of the saloon, but a triumph of the moderate over the intemperate party.”

Clarke captured two key groups that Rogers’ backers had looked upon with condescension: labour and women. He pointed out his participation in and arrest during the printer’s strike of 1872 and utilized female canvassers. There were also signs that Torontonians were tiring of heavy-handed, puritanical laws enacted by the Howland administration, such as preventing the hiring of horses on Sundays. In his recently launched paper Saturday Night, E.E. Sheppard observed that people were exasperated by the increasing self-righteousness of Howland’s allies and by “sumptuary laws more arbitrary and intolerant than those which already exist and have been found unworkable.”

Besides Rogers, voters rejected the temperance bylaws on the ballot. They also rejected a ballot proposal to fund construction of a trunk sewer to improve city sanitation, a vote which falls into the great Toronto tradition of balking at spending money on needed infrastructure projects.

Additional material from Mayor Howland The Citizens’ Candidate by Desmond Morton (Toronto: Hakkert, 1973), Mayors of Toronto Volume 1 1834-1899 by Victor Loring Russell (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1982), and the following newspapers: the December 23, 1887, December 26, 1887, and December 29, 1887 editions of the Globe; the December 24, 1887, December 26, 1887, and January 3, 1888 editions of the Mail; the December 24, 1887 edition of the News; the December 10, 1887 edition of Saturday Night; the December 27, 1887 and December 29, 1887 editions of the Telegram; and the December 27, 1887 edition of the World.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Editorial item, The Globe, December 21, 1887.

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The Evening Telegram also weighed in on what clergymen in Boston felt about Santa.

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A poetic attempt to use jolly old St. Nick to sell some merchandise, as found in the December 21, 1887 edition of the News.

Election Night Score Sheet, Get Yer Election Night Score Sheet

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Toronto Star, December 5, 1960.

I suspect there are devoted municipal election junkies who’d love a sheet like this at their fingertips this evening. Adjustments would be required for the present day: five minute increments on the chart would suit the rapid pace of the internet age (or two-and-a-half if your handwriting is as small as mine is). The suburban mayoral races of 1960 would be replaced with either key council battles or, for the truly dedicated, all 47…err…25 wards.

Voting rules had been adjusted so that most renters in the City of Toronto finally had the right to vote – the main qualifications were that you were 21 years old,  a “British subject,” and had resided in the city for a year. For some reason, 63,000 newly enfranchised tenant voters were unable to cast a ballot on the Sunday movie question (the results of which struck another blow to Toronto’s old Sunday blue laws).

In case you’re curious, here are the final results in the Toronto mayoral race from December 5, 1960:

Nathan Phillips: 81,699
Endorsed by the Telegram, the “Mayor of all the People” won his third straight term. His luck ran out in 1962.

Allan Lamport: 58,254
After half-a-decade as chair of the TTC, Lampy decided to reclaim the mayor’s office he held in the early 1950s. He was endorsed by the Star. He was defeated by Phil Givens in his final run for the top spot in 1964, but had a last hurrah as a reactionary councillor from 1966 to 1972.

Jean Newman: 31,999
The first woman to run for Toronto’s mayoralty, Newman was backed by the Globe and Mail. A councillor since 1954, she served as the city’s first female budget chief after topping the citywide vote for the Board of Control. Following an unsuccessful run for a provincial seat in 1962, she retired from politics.

Ross Dowson: 1,643
A perennial candidate and Trotskyist, Dowson ran for mayor nine times between 1948 and 1964.

Harry Bradley: 1,511
Bradley was another perennial candidate whose attempts to hold public office stretched back to a council run in 1928. In 1968, the Globe and Mail declared him “the city’s most unsuccessful civic candidate,” having lost all 35 elections he ran in (Unfortunately his final campaign in 1969 proved to be loss #36). Described as a “former lathe operator, civic employee and consultant on civic affairs,” Bradley’s vote totals ranged from 548 in 1928 to over 20,000 in 1950. He once told a reporter “I’ll continue to run until the undertaker gets me.”

Bradley’s 15-point platform for his 1960 mayoral run included a subway running from Hamilton to Oshawa (which one could argue was accomplished above ground with GO) to be funded by taxing breweries, and persuading one of the major oil companies to fund the construction of the new City Hall

“The last thing Harry Bradley could be called is politically apathetic,” observed Globe and Mail writer Harry Bruce. “For him no day of the year has ever held the excitement and promise of municipal election day. That is the day he has always risen in the council chamber and delivered the five-minute speech which is his right as a candidate. And this year, as a mayoralty candidate, the pleasure will be tripled because he will be allowed a 15 minute speech. No one who has heard him doubts his ability to speak publicly for a quarter of an hour.”

Bruce’s article also reprinted a verse Bradley wrote which was published by one of the city’s papers circa 1944, which Bruce felt was more appropriate in 1960:

I am old, I am bent, I am cheated
Of all that youth urged me to win;
But name me not with the defeated
For tomorrow again I begin.

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Toronto Star, December 5, 1960. Top row features the Star’s team of Lee Belland (also on CFRB), Ray Timson (also on CFRB), Pierre Berton (also on CJBC), Ron Haggart (also on CJBC) and Mark Harrison (also on CBLT). Bottom row: Charles Templeton (moderating a panel on CJBC), Gordon Sinclair (CFRB), Jack Dennett (CFRB), Byng Whitteker (CJBC), and Don Sims (CJBC).

The score sheet appears to be a handy promotional tool for the Star‘s election night coverage, in conjunction with CFRB, CJBC (then part of CBC’s Dominion network, soon to became the local Radio-Canada outlet) and CBLT-TV. Combined, all four media outlets provided the all-star team of analysts and reporters pictured above. CJBC boasted that it offered seven remote locations for suburban politicians to be interviewed, to spare them the hassle of driving downtown (though candidates in East York and Leaside had to venture out to Scarborough to share their feelings about the evening).

Additional material from the November 18, 1960 and the September 12, 1968 editions of the Globe and Mail. Portions of this post originally appeared on JB’s Warehouse and Curio Emporium on October 17, 2014. Some references have been updated to reflect the political reality of 2018.

Vote Brillinger (The Druggist)

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The Telegram, December 28, 1923.

Does being the first name atop a ballot help one’s political career? Likely not; otherwise Dobroslav Basaric would be among the critical contenders in the 2018 Toronto mayoral race. It didn’t aid Magnus Austin Brillinger (1882-1939) in the 1924 race for the two trustee positions up for grabs in Ward 6, which stretched from Parkdale up to his drugstore at St. Clair and Dufferin. When the votes were tallied on New Year’s Day, despite an endorsement from the Globe, he finished third behind future TTC chair W.C. McBrien and veteran board member Dr. John Hunter.

Better luck next year for the St. Clair Avenue West pharmacist, right?

Brillinger barely had time to mourn his loss. Hunter, who had intermittently sat on the board since 1894, intended to retire after the 1923 term, but friends convinced him he had another year in him. Hints were dropped that if he ran, he’d receive the chairmanship he long desired. The day after the election, rumours swirled that the job was no longer guaranteed, prompting an irritated Hunter to prepare a bombshell.

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Dr. John Hunter, Toronto Star, January 4, 1924.

When the board meeting began on January 3, 1924, trustee John McClelland proposed that an open vote for chairman be held instead of the usual secret ballot. McBrien seconded the motion. The board’s solicitor shot down the motion, advising the vote had to be confidential. No candidate won the first ballot, or the second. When the third showed Hunter in last place, he withdrew his name, left a letter on the table, wished everyone a happy New Year, and left the room. Another trustee lamely covered for Hunter’s sudden exit, claiming he had to attend to a patient.

After taking care of other communications, Hunter’s letter was read. He thanked Ward 6 voters for their support, then noted the circumstances which made him decide to run for one more term, including his belief that he had trustee support to become chairman. He noted the heavy responsibilities that came with running the board.

“However,” he wrote, “as neither the honor nor the heavy obligations have come to me, I desire to ask the electors of Ward No. 6, provided my successor can be appointed without putting the city to the expense of an election, to accept my resignation as your representative on the board of education, and for the latter, as soon as it can legally do so, to accept my resignation and to appoint another.”

After the letter was finished, there was a moment of silence before Hunter’s resignation was accepted. Two days later, the Globe concluded that Hunter’s fault “was that he did not see eye to eye with the controlling clique on the board.”

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Editorial, Toronto Star, January 5, 1924.

Who would replace Hunter? Several candidates were suggested, including the runner-up in Ward 8, a much smaller ward which included East Toronto and would have had three reps on the board compared to one from Ward 6. This didn’t sit well with community groups or the daily papers, who felt Brillinger deserved the honour. “What we want is British fair play for a good citizen. We want the position given to the man who was the runner-up in a hard-fought contest,” noted A. Greenhill, president of the Ward 6 Ratepayers ‘Association. “We want justice, not politics, to decide this matter.”

The Globe outlined Brillinger’s positives:

Among the considerations one hears urged in favour of Mr. Brillinger is the fact that he was the first president of the local ratepayers association, and the other fact that in his earlier manhood he served half-a-dozen years as a lay missionary in China—an experience that should mean much in the way of training for self-sacrificing public duty.

Aside: Brillinger first came to public notice in 1911, while he served as a Methodist missionary in China. When the Railway Protest Movement, a precursor to the Xinhai Revolution which toppled the Chinese monarchy, broke out in September, missionaries in outlying areas of Szechuan province were ordered to concentrate in Chengdu. Brillinger was among the 160 Canadians and their families on missionary work in the area—among the others were the family of future Ontario CCF leader Ted Joliffe. Brillinger was asked by Methodist officials to send cables from Chongqing updating the situation. Several of these were published on the front pages of Toronto’s newspapers, providing reassuring messages such as “everything decidedly more hopeful.”

On January 17, 1924 Brillinger was appointed to fill the Ward 6 vacancy. The Globe reported that he “remarked facetiously that in view of the publicity given the proceedings of the board recently he did not know whether his appointment was a matter of congratulation of for commiseration.”

Brillinger stayed on the board for the next 15 years, often winning the largest vote count among B of E candidates. He was regarded as a solid trustee, even if some were annoyed by his heavy use of board cars. He filled in as chairman for two months in 1930 following the death of Dr. W.R. Walters. Vowing to stay the course during his short tenure, Brillinger noted he was liberal enough to consider all suggestions, no matter from what source, and conservative enough to believe that all changes were not for the better.”

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Globe and Mail, July 15, 1939.

Though his health declined during the late 1930s, Brillinger found it difficult to settle into retirement. He sold his pharmacy at 1162 St. Clair West in 1938, got bored, and went into the insurance business. He was visiting his old store on July 14, 1939 when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Trustees, including future mayor William Dennsion, served as pallbearers at his funeral.

Additional material from the January 4, 1924, January 11, 1924, January 18, 1924, and October 22, 1930 editions of the Globe; the July 15, 1939 edition of the Globe and Mail; and the September 7, 1911, September 13, 1911, January 2, 1924. January 4, 1924, January 5, 1924, and January 10, 1924 editions of the Toronto Star. Portions of this piece were originally published on JB’s Warehouse and Curio Emporium on October 23, 2014.

Mayoral Candidates Debate Toronto Heritage Preservation

Originally published on Torontoist on August 25, 2014.

Just three candidates participated in last Thursday’s mayoral debate on heritage preservation issues, and in a refreshing change of pace, the participants managed to find some common ground.

Originally, five candidates were scheduled to attend the debate, hosted by Heritage Toronto. But Mayor Rob Ford went to a campaign fundraiser at his mother’s house instead, and Karen Stintz dropped out of the mayoral race altogether. That left John Tory, Olivia Chow, and David Soknacki, which made for a more reasoned—and less noisy—debate. And apart from a pair of snipes delivered by Tory and Chow, the candidates made no references to the absent mayor.

All candidates recognized emerging aspects of heritage preservation, such as marking the architectural and cultural significance of suburban landmarks and neighbourhoods, and sharing stories about our aboriginal past and immigrant communities. Regarding natural heritage, Chow and Tory proposed rebuilding the city’s tree canopy, while Soknacki suggested looking into creating parks that integrated nature and our industrial heritage.

The candidates felt more could be done proactively to beef up heritage protections. Setting up heritage impact assessments in the permit process was discussed—currently, they are used to evaluate sites listed on the City’s inventory of heritage properties when alterations are proposed. Tory felt such an assessment process required efficient handling to avoid years of delays for preservationists and property owners. Soknacki believed existing channels such as community councils—where residents and councillors would work to determine heritage sites before development battles erupted—could be effective. Chow proposed an increase in heritage conservation districts and developer incentives.

Opinions diverged most over the future of the Ontario Municipal Board. Chow said she’d like to scrap the OMB, but promised reforms—such as incorporating heritage impact assessments into developer applications—as long as the City remains stuck with it. She also proposed creating a local appeal body operated by the City to handle low-level disputes, which would lessen the OMB’s overall workload. Soknacki took issue with the question, noting that all three main provincial parties support the OMB’s continued existence—any talk of dismantling it, he argued, is a waste of time. He also said the establishment of a local appeal body would be a “perverse example” of downloading a provincial responsibility and passing on costs to taxpayers. Tory supported strengthening the development permit system, but feared that placing all appeals in the hands of politicians would create an equally unsatisfactory situation. He believed a local appeals body working with the committee for adjustment might convince Queen’s Park that the City is responsible enough to make sensible decisions.

Both Chow and Tory supported the concept of a Toronto museum. Chow believed it was important to teach visitors about the city’s diversity, and that such a project could be launched initially as an interactive virtual museum. She felt that stories should be gathered now before our elders pass away. Chow stated that such a project would need a “can-do” spirit—Tory indicated he had the will long lacking in past leaders to make a museum a reality: he wants to “get on with it.” He feels that residents have an inadequate grasp of the city’s past, and noted that past proposals have generated lots of talk but no action (here is a current proposal). He suggested that partnerships with the private sector were required, bringing up the construction of the TIFF Bell Lightbox as an example. Chow later elaborated on that point, noting that, depending on the site, a combination of Section 37 funds [PDF] and agreements with developers could be effective. Soknacki was unwilling to spend money on a museum unless it was deemed a priority—it was clear that in this regard, he supported the grand Toronto tradition of saving the museum for another day. Later on, he noted that resources such as bookmobile-style vehicles could be used in place of a physical museum.

Soknacki also questioned funding for an archaeological repository proposed under amendments to the City’s official plan. Currently, archaeological artifacts and records are held in trust by individual archaeologists—a repository would allow the City to take possession of the finds and provide safe storage for future exhibition and research. He suggested that the Royal Ontario Museum or local universities could hold onto items until a public space had been established. Tory wasn’t opposed to the proposal but didn’t view it as a priority, while Chow believed a repository would ensure a consistent approach to the collection of artifacts.

The Quest for More Pedestrian Space at Yonge and Eglinton in the Early 2010s

Squaring Off at Yonge and Eglinton

Originally published on Torontoist on March 30, 2010.

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On any given lunch hour, the plaza in front of the Yonge-Eglinton Centre is populated by office workers enjoying a sun-soaked lunch and smoke break, high school students heading toward the food court or other nearby fast food joints, and companies handing out the corporate sample of the day to pedestrians. The sculptures lining the plaza had slightly more company than usual yesterday thanks to a protest over whom the space should serve: its private owner or the surrounding community.

Depending on the media source, between fifty and 125 protestors showed up waving signs urging site owner RioCan and local politicians to “keep Yonge for the young” as they chanted “save our square.” Local media was there in full force, which must have pleased the organizers from the Yonge-Eglinton Square Coalition—at times it felt as if there were more cameras and microphones about than concerned citizens (a running commentary on Urban Toronto made fun of the size of the protest relative to the square). At issue is RioCan’s plan to redevelop the Yonge-Eglinton Centre by topping the two existing office towers with additions of five and seven storeys apiece and the encroaching three storeys of new retail space onto the square thanks to a four-thousand-square-metre addition that will include a rooftop garden.

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RioCan has set aside a gallery in the mall to show off its plans for the site. While the hours listed on the doors to the gallery indicated that it was open to the public yesterday, both of our attempts to take a look were met with unexplained locked entrances. It may be coincidental that the company’s official website for the redevelopment is under construction, though some sketches are still available for viewing.

According to its website, the Yonge-Eglinton Square Coalition represents four local residents’ associations that wish to preserve the lone accessible open space at the intersection. They hope that rather than build more retail onto it, the barren plaza be transformed into a people-friendly “welcoming oasis in the middle of the city.” Supporters were among the community members, city officials, and local developers who participated in a workshop last November [PDF] that examined ways to handle the redesign of the space and the intensification of the neighbourhood in general.

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As far as public space was concerned, the workshop concluded that:

The northwest quadrant is a commercial hub, a focal point, and a regional destination. However, this quadrant needs a refit in its mid-life, including added retail and redesign of the indoor plaza. As well, currently, the square is not a good quality and pedestrian supportive environment as it is: a windy space with bad grades; without appropriate programming; lacking in adequate street furniture; and is seasonally constrained with piles of snow and salt. Therefore, the square in this quadrant, which is one of the key open spaces in the area, should be redesigned and improved…There is a shortage of open space at or near the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton. It is recommended that all four quadrants abutting the intersection contribute to remedy this shortage. Issues related to quantity of open space should be balanced with consideration for high quality design, pedestrian vitality and interest.

As for whether an open public space is legally required at Yonge and Eglinton [PDF], disputes that there were any written guarantees in the land title or any references in contemporary planning reports and council minutes that “require the land to remain as open space in a quid pro quo arrangement for Starrett Avenue [which was closed off to build the complex].”

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Toronto District School Board trustee Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) listens to Lydia Levin of the Yonge Eglinton Square Coalition.

Organizers of the protest hope their efforts will encourage concerned residents to contact city councillors before a final vote is taken on the project on Wednesday or Thursday. So far, RioCan’s proposals have been approved by the North York Community Council. At least two of the neighbourhood’s councillors are divided in their opinion of the project. Strong support for the redevelopment plan from Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) has caused head-scratching among some local taxpayer groups, as she initially ran for municipal office on a wave of residential opposition to the construction of the Minto Quantum condo towers. A March 24 post on her website rebukes opponents of the plan by articling five points about the redevelopment, which include economic, aesthetic, and cultural benefits on land that is privately owned. As Stintz summarizes, “people are free to protest, but this application represents a fair balance for the community who wish to revitalize this corner and the property owners who wish to realize a benefit from their investment.”

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Neighbouring councillor Michael Walker (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) supports those hoping to prevent the encroachment on the space from going ahead. As he told CTV News, “We don’t want to lose it and we should say no. It’s easy to say and the politicians shouldn’t cave to another deal-making exercise. There’s a point where profit has to take second place to city building and it starts right here where we’re standing.” Toronto District School Board trustee Josh Matlow, who is running to fill the retiring Walker’s council seat, lent his support to the protestors. “The reality is that nobody wants the square to be the way it is,” Matlow told the National Post. “It needs some work. Our community wants this to be revitalized, not lost to a shopping mall. It’s not a lot to ask.”

A Pedestrian Square Grows in North Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on July 29, 2011. Images for this story no longer appear to exist.

North Toronto probably isn’t the first neighbourhood you’d name when listing off public space experiments in the city, especially when future development plans at its main intersection look likely to decrease street-level open-air stretching room. Yet walk a block north from Eglinton Avenue along Yonge Street and you’ll find a pilot project aiming to create pedestrian space on Orchard View Boulevard. At an intersection where pedestrians often had to deal with impatient drivers and delivery trucks, they now find planters blocking the road and umbrella-shaded tables providing a more comfortable spot to enjoy al fresco dining than the concrete ledges lining the side street.

Officially opened on July 14, the City created the pedestrian square by closing Orchard View Boulevard to traffic between Yonge Street and the driveway for the Canterbury House apartment building. Though concerns about the space have been expressed by the neighbouring RBC branch (impact on customers) and some local ratepayer groups (procedural issues), Councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) has received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the initiative she helped make a reality, along with ratepayer groups and RioCan. Besides providing a spot for residents and office workers to relax, Stintz joked that the project is “probably the cheapest park we’ll build in North Toronto,” which aligns it the Ford administration’s low-cost philosophy of government and may have contributed to the unanimous support the pilot project received at city council. Stintz also praised the support of RioCan, which operates the neighbouring Yonge-Eglinton Centre, through actions like maintaining the patio tables.

One of main beneficiaries of the pedestrian square is Apple Tree Markets, who moved their Thursday farmers’ market from a hidden space in Eglinton Park behind the North Toronto Memorial Community Recreation Centre to the pedestrian square. Higher visibility seems to be making market vendors happy: even with extreme heat last week and dreary conditions yesterday, they’ve seen increased customer traffic. The threat of rain hadn’t hindered activity when we dropped by around 4 p.m. yesterday—most of the tables were occupied and every market vendor saw several potential purchasers hovering over their fresh vegetables, coolers of meat, and other edible goodies. One vendor we talked to noted that customers indicated they preferred the market’s new home because they couldn’t be bothered to walk over to Eglinton Park, even if they lived mere blocks away.

After the tables are vacated for the last time on October 14, the pilot will be analyzed for its impact on the neighbourhood and for the possibility of making the closure a permanent seasonal attraction. (It’s not the first of its kind, exactly: the City has partnered with U of T and Ryerson on previous road-closure pilots.) There are also plans to test a second pedestrian square next year in the northern end of Stinz’s ward at Avenue Road and Dunblaine Avenue. Given that seating space is at a premium whenever we pass by, we hope that the new space will become a North Toronto fixture for years to come. Orchard View Square, anyone?

UPDATE

As of fall 2018, we can tell you this much: public space wise, Yonge and Eglinton is currently a disaster. Between construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LTR line and the erection of several condo towers, getting around the intersection by any means is complicated. What the future will bring in terms of increasing outdoor pedestrian space probably won’t be clear until the fate of portions of the TTC land on the southwest corner is decided.

The revamp of the Yonge-Eglinton Centre went ahead, shrinking the open-air space. Josh Matlow was elected to City Council in 2010 while Karen Stintz unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2014. The pedestrian pilot along Orchard View Boulevard did not endure, and a traffic light has been installed, creating a stronger traffic flow link to Roehampton Avenue. The farmer’s market spent this past summer near Davisville station.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Revisiting these stories has been a great example of how fleeting information is on the interwebs, as nearly all of the links that appeared in the original posts are kaput. I’m tempted to blockquote large sections of linked material in future blog posts to provide full context before those posts vanish. One of the worst offenders in the current Toronto media world are Postmedia’s Toronto properties (National Post, Sun), which have little online archival material thanks to website revamps.

Sun on the Run

Originally posted on Torontoist on September 15, 2009

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Front of Sue-Ann Levy’s campaign office on Mount Pleasant Road, 2009. 

When voters go to the ballot box in St. Paul’s on Thursday their choices will include the latest in a long line of Toronto Sun columnists who have attempted to parlay their print personas into elected office, usually for parties that have matched the paper’s right-wing tilt. City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy’s run is part of a tradition that stretches back to the early days of the paper and was inherited from a large number of staffers from the Telegram that sought to represent the public. Some came to the paper during/after their elected stints (True Davidson, Douglas Fisher, Paul Hellyer, Morton Shulman), while others found the exposure didn’t hurt when they ran (Garth Turner). Today we’ll look back at three prominent figures from the paper who, despite not achieving their ultimate goal, left behind tales of colourful, controversial campaigns.

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Logo for Paul Rimstead’s mayoral campaign. Toronto Sun, December 4, 1972.

From the paper’s first edition in 1971 until his death in 1987, Paul Rimstead provided readers with a daily dose of his colourful misadventures. His hard-drinking, populist persona earned him a loyal audience that played a part in his decision to run for mayor in 1972. Born out of a joke during a “welcome home” party at the Brunswick House after he had spent the winter in Mexico, Rimstead initially intended to run for office employing the same irreverent tone found in his column. Along with several other Sun staffers, Rimstead considered ideas such as running a donation-free campaign and a deal with a brewery to market a specially labelled beer around the city. But as Rimstead thought more about a run, his mood changed, as he revealed in his column on October 18:

I went home, enthused about another madcap adventure and started to think. Something told me it wasn’t right. Just a small signal somewhere up there in my usually-vacuous noggin. It would be a ball. Two months of parties. A chance to poke fun at City Hall. But, dammit, this is Toronto we’re fooling around with…This used to be the best city in North America, the best possible place to live. I was away for seven months. When I returned, it was bursting at the seams. More clubs, more music, more entertainment, relaxed laws…more hookers, more crime, more undesirables. We are growing too fast…I am far too worried about the future of Toronto to fool around with it, even though I love a good time. That’s why I can’t run a fun campaign.

At the end of that column, Rimstead asked readers if he should consider a serious run for office. The Sun’s switchboard was flooded with calls for the rest of the day—by the time Rimstead checked with the office before an evening jazz gig, more than thirteen hundred readers called in favour. He soon set up headquarters at the Brunswick House, where volunteers produced signs and buttons. Rimstead remained nervous about entering and waited until the last minute to file his nomination papers, by which time he had already participated in several candidate meetings. His platform consisted of issues he felt the three leading candidates (aldermen David Crombie, Tony O’Donohue, and David Rotenberg) were afraid to tackle—the deterioration of Yonge Street, a rise in handguns, racial tensions (he felt the city turned its back on the black community), the need to shut down Rochdale College, and the need to slow overdevelopment of office towers downtown. As he was allowed to continue writing his column, he arranged to have the three frontrunners write one column a week for the Sun. Rimstead ceased writing for one week after an opponent complained he had an unfair advantage, but returned when he discovered the other papers in town would cover him as just another fringe candidate. The last week of the campaign saw a desperate, bordering on whiny, tone creep into Rimstead’s columns, as he pitched his platform and complained about the lack of respect and coverage from elsewhere. As he noted on November 28, “I’m learning a lot in this election. In a way, it is going to hurt. I am as disappointed in politics now as I am with my own profession. I am afraid I am going to come out of this a cynic.” When the ballots were counted on December 4, Rimstead finished in fourth place with just less than eight thousand votes.

Perhaps Rimstead’s run was best summed up by Jean Sonmor in her history of the SunThe Little Paper That Grew:

He entered as a lark but found himself taking it seriously and the more he did, the more his patchy naivete stuck out all over the place…in the end, the snowy day and the overzealous use of his column to promote himself kept his vote low and his candidacy on the fringe. What the Sun had hoped would be a great whimsical romp turned into a vaguely embarrassing chapter for everyone concerned.

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Advertisement for Lubor Zink’s second election attempt in Parkdale. Toronto Sun, July 7, 1974.

Concurrent with Rimstead’s mayoral run was editorial page commentator Lubor Zink’s first attempt to woo voters as the federal Progressive Conservative candidate in Parkdale. Unlike Rimstead, any humour in Zink’s columns tended to be unintentional. Having fled his native Czechoslovakia after the Communists took over in 1948, Zink’s zealous criticism of anything with the slightest Commie tinge bordered on grotesque caricature, even when his accounts of horrible conditions behind the Iron Curtain were dead on. He displayed an obsessive hatred of Pierre Trudeau, whom he was convinced was destroying the country in a dictatorial manner. Though he would claim otherwise, it seemed clear that his hate-on for Trudeau was the guiding force behind his campaign, even if he told the Sun “he doesn’t bother me as a person—but he does as Prime Minister. I am accusing Trudeau of not only slowing down the economy and raising unemployment artificially, but of killing jobs by undermining the working morale—by destroying the work ethic that built this country.” He blamed the destruction of work ethic on government programs that allowed young people to “do their own thing” instead of good old-fashioned work. When the votes were counted on October 30, Liberal incumbent Stanley Haidasz remained in office, but Zink had improved the Tories’ usual lousy standing in the riding with a second-place finish. Zink waited until late in the evening to congratulate Haidasz on his victory, by which time the MP had left. On the way out, Zink was jeered by two young boys who echoed a refrain that had been heard throughout the campaign: “Zink stinks!”

Insults didn’t deter Zink, who tried again two years later. The 1974 campaign was a nasty affair, as swastikas were spray-painted on Zink’s headquarters on Queen Street and on campaign signs in the north end of the riding, while Haidasz’s windows were smashed. Zink blamed the graffiti on the Liberals’ “almost pathological appeal to chauvinism and racism.” He was bitter about his reception in the “Polish Fortress” he found around Roncesvalles Avenue, where voters were afraid to publicly associate themselves with the columnist. “I am being called a stinking Jew and a Nazi collaborator,” he told the Star. “I would be proud to be a Jew. It so happens I am not Jewish.” He claimed that posters were ripped up nightly and that the tires and radiator hose on his car had been slashed. Haidasz brushed aside these complaints as a case of Zink “running scared” as he tried to take advantage of the vandalism. A call from a local Polish paper that it was “obligatory” to vote for Haidasz because of his Polish background added to the tension. Zink lost again, blaming the defeat on goon tactics and voters who feared change. “They don’t realize that the economy now is like a firecracker in the sky that is burning itself out,” he told the Star. “Anyone who tries to tell them that the brightness can’t last is bound to be unpopular.”

A burning dislike of Trudeau also fuelled the political adventures of the Sun’s first editor-in-chief, Peter Worthington. That he considered running for public office surprised many, as Worthington often admitted that he didn’t care for politicians. But 1982 found Worthington looking for new challenges after he resigned as editor-in-chief of the Sun following its sale to Maclean Hunter. Following a mountaineering trip to the Himalayas, he joined a crowded field of candidates running for the Progressive Conservative nomination in a federal by-election in Broadview—Greenwood. The nomination meeting at the CNE Coliseum on September 9 proved a raucous night, as Greek-Canadian delegates were fuelled with rage stoked by candidate Bill Fatsis and an editorial that had appeared in the Greek Canadian News two days earlier that accused Worthington of “racist fanaticism.” The charge was based on an August 26 Sun column where Worthington denounced multicultural policy as a waste of money that divided Canadians. Boos drowned out Worthington’s supporters as their man lost to Fatsis by sixty-nine votes. Some party officials were relieved not to have to deal with Worthington’s maverick nature…or so they thought.

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Cover of Looking For Trouble, published the same year as Peter Worthington’s second run for office in Broadview—Greenwood.

Despite proclaiming “I don’t think I’ll try politics again. Once is more than enough,” a grassroots campaign impressed Worthington enough for him to re-enter the race as an independent two weeks later. He admitted that “on a personal level, I’ve felt unfulfilled. All the fight was not taken out of me and I wanted to go on. I’m in the same race, I’ve just changed horses.” He also believed that once elected, he would inevitably find his way into the Tory caucus, even if party leader Joe Clark wanted no part of him for violating traditions like supporting the winning party nominee. Nervousness in Tory ranks over the rise in support for Worthington saw Clark visit the riding five times in the final weeks of the campaign. Other newspapers, especially the Globe and Mail, delighted in skewering Worthington, emphasizing his millionaire status, right-wing opinions, lack of knowledge of the riding apart from its softball diamonds, and his tendency to draw attention to himself. He admitted that he “generally made a nuisance of myself” while campaigning, to the point of blaring the theme from Chariots of Fire while wandering along Danforth Avenue. When ballots were cast, he lost to the NDP’s Lynn McDonald by two thousand votes, which placed him far ahead of Fatsis. The wrap party felt like a victory celebration, as Worthington was pleased that Clark had had his “ass kicked.” When asked if he was through with politics, he said, “The last time I quit forever, it lasted three days,” then smiled when he suggested he wouldn’t rule out another run in the future. He later revealed that his secret plan was to run for the party’s leadership so that he could act as a kingmaker for any potential leader who hewed closer to his views than Clark.

By the winter of 1984, the ouster of Joe Clark in favour of Brian Mulroney made Worthington consider another run. Despite manipulations by remnants of the Fatsis camp, Worthington won the nomination. During the election campaign, his outspokenness resulted in opposition from a group calling itself the Committee to Defeat Peter Worthington (CDPW), whose brochures portrayed him as someone who represented hardship for the poor, the military for the unemployed, political confusion and discrimination,” which was backed up by quotes from years of columns. Worthington accused CDPW of being an NDP front and considered pressing hate literature charges. McDonald’s camp denied responsibility and was further outraged when they discovered some Worthington workers reprinted the brochure with a slight modification—the addition of an NDP phone number. Worthington was predicted to win, but finished four thousand votes behind McDonald on September 4. Joking that “it takes real talent to lose even an NDP riding in the middle of a Tory sweep,” he vowed never to run again. Over at McDonald headquarters, a black-draped coffin topped with candles representing Worthington was brought onto the stage once her victory was secure.

In the closing words of his book Looking For Trouble, written in the midst of the 1984 campaign, Worthington wrote:

The creed that the politician’s first duty is to get elected, his second duty to get re-elected, has to change if the country is to improve. The people recognize this, but do the politicians and bureaucrats who control the system? Only politicians can rescue themselves from the quagmire of their own making. It will be interesting to see if someone who feels this way, as I do, can be elected and, if elected, can do anything about it.

Time will tell if any future Sun columnists with designs on elected office will heed these words.

Additional material from Looking for Trouble by Peter Worthington (Toronto: Key Porter, 1984), The Little Paper That Grew by Jean Sonmor (Toronto: Toronto Sun, 1993), and the following newspapers: the September 22, 1982, October 7, 1982, August 14, 1984, and August 17, 1984 editions of the Globe and Mail; the October 31, 1972, June 20, 1974, July 4, 1974, and July 9, 1974 editions of the Toronto Star; and the October 16, 1972, October 18, 1972, October 19, 1972, November 28, 1972, September 9, 1982, September 14, 1982, September 22, 1982, October 13, 1982, and September 5, 1984 editions of the Toronto Sun.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

sun 72-12-04 last word from rimstead

Toronto Sun, December 4, 1972.

sun 72-12-06 rimstead

Toronto Sun, December 6, 1972.

gm 74-06-20 zink poster defacing

Globe and Mail, June 20, 1974.

tely 67-04-01 zink on april fools

A sample Lubor Zink column from his pre-Sun days, looking at April Fools Day for the Telegram in 1967.

ts 82-10-13 worthington election result 1

Toronto Star, October 13, 1982.

ts 82-10-13 worthington election result 2

Toronto Star, October 13, 1982.

gm 84-08-14 worthington mudslinging

Globe and Mail, August 14, 1984.

gm 84-08-17 worthington hate lit

Globe and Mail, August 17, 1984.

gm 84-08-29 worthington house photo

Globe and Mail, August 29, 1984.

As for the 2009 by-election that inspired this column, Sue-Ann Levy finished second behind Liberal Eric Hoskins by a margin of 5,341. She returned to spewing her special brand of vitriol in the Sun, where she remains as of summer 2018.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Tale of Two Prides

Originally published on Torontoist on June 25, 2015.

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Xtra, June 21, 1991.

An indication of how much Toronto’s Pride celebrations grew during the 1990s: crowd estimates for the 1991 parade ranged from 25,000 (police, mainstream media) to 60,000 (Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee). By 1999, that figure rose to over 750,000.

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Globe and Mail, June 28, 1991.

The 1991 parade was the first to be officially proclaimed by the city. Over the ongoing objections of Mayor Art Eggleton, city council voted the previous fall to recognize the growing event. Its approval aligned with a growing sense that the LGBT movement was going mainstream. In a pre-parade profile of activists across the country, the Globe and Mail noted a joke making the rounds that provided a new definition for S&M: “Scarborough and Mississauga.”

Shortly before the parade, the Metro Toronto Police Services Board announced that it would recognize gays and lesbians as a community entitled to policing that was sensitive to its needs, a turnaround from treating such people as sources of drug abuse, sex work, and perversion. “It’s an important step,” declared board chair Susan Eng. “We have come of age and are starting to do what we should have been doing for a long time.”

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Xtra, June 21, 1991.

Eng was among the civic officials and politicians on hand when the proclamation was read prior to the start of the parade on June 30, 1991. Since Eggleton refused to read the document, the duty was performed by councillor Jack Layton. The parade was nearly derailed when it was discovered the permit indicated a 1 p.m. launch instead of 3 p.m. as scheduled. Police reportedly insisted on moving the time to 2 p.m. as a compromise, or else the event would be shut down. While the procession was only supposed to shut down the northbound lanes of Yonge Street, the crowd spilled onto the southbound lanes, effectively closing the entire road. Elsewhere, gay-centric businesses offered entertainment and free meals, and Ryerson’s CKLN debuted live radio coverage of events.

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eye, June 3, 1999.

Flash forward to 1999. Having exploded in size, the parade was now front page news. The Star depicted Mayor Mel Lastman, who’d expressed reservations about attending the year before, gleefully joining councillor Pam McConnell in super-soaking council colleague Kyle Rae. Even the Sun covered the festivities with a limited degree of respect, calling no-show Fred Phelps (who had threatened to disrupt Pride) “a hate-filled nutbar.” As eye put it, the party atmosphere surrounding Pride led to attendees “tripping on a two-day, non-stop, feel-good sensory overload” regardless of their sexual orientation. “If you’re not doing drugs, your face hurts on Monday from the perma-grin.”

Eye also published a suburbanite’s guide to the celebrations, offering advice such as “Woody’s is not a Cheers-themed bar owned by Woody Harrelson.” Some of those coming in from outside the core may have been teenagers drawn by the debut of youth-centric events, such as Fruit Loopz held at Buddies in Bad Times. Seeing teens march along didn’t impress some standing along the sidelines—the Star reported a 50-year-old parent from Peterborough who, when she saw 16-year-old Tina Mollison wander by, told the paper “Just look at that innocent child. What does she know about love and sex, about lesbianism? The parade glamourizes it.” The paper caught up with Mollison. “Parents should give us respect,” she noted. “We know what we want and we know how to go out and get it.”

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eye, June 17, 1999.

Not everything was rosy. A few weeks before Pride, police twice raided the Bijou “porn bar” at Gerrard and Church, leading to charges against 12 patrons. The arrests, along with undercover checks of bar operations, were a reminder that the attitudes which had fostered the bathhouse raids of 1981 were not dead. There were also complaints by some veteran activists that Pride had gone too corporate, diluting its political messages in the name of vendors and corporate sponsorships that offered mainstream respectability.

Additional material from the June 17, 1999 and June 24, 1999 editions of eye; the June 29, 1991 and July 1, 1991 editions of the Globe and Mail; the June 29, 1991 and June 28, 1999 editions of the Toronto Star; the June 27, 1999 edition of the Toronto Sun; and the July 12, 1991 and June 25, 1999 editions of Xtra.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

eye 1999-06-24 suburbanite's guide to pride

eye, June 24, 1999. Click on image for larger version.

sun 1999-06-27 editorial

Toronto Sun, June 27, 1999. On one hand, it called Fred Phelps a nutbar. On the other, it defended Mike Harris’s decision not to attend the Pride Parade. I’d expect something even shriller if the incoming premier decides not to attend the 2018 edition.