#196 – The Greyer Toronto Area

Back on track.

Fuck the GTA.

In the preliminary research for this post, I asked a friend of mine for examples of particularly atrocious development in the Greyer Toronto Area. The places he tossed my way – Sherway Gardens, Upper Canada Mall, and Erin Mills Town Center, among others – looked like my interpretation of purgatory. As we were chatting in dawned on me that the places he cited were often malls. Why malls, I thought?

Then it hit me – the names of the malls are literally the only distinguishing features of these formless hellscapes. The areas around these places are horrifying. Here’s a fun activity – go to Street View and go see the sights. Oh, and by fun I meant deadening. There’s a reason Toronto has been described as “Vienna surrounded by Phoenix”. Having actually visited Phoenix before I can confirm the sentiment, only in the GTA (which is unworthy of being written out properly) you also get to deal with the shittiness of Canada. Hoo-fucking-ray.

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(S) Above: the sum of available activity within walking distance at a given point in the GTA

I want to showcase some of the worst architecture and design in the GTA to highlight what I mean about the place sucking harder than a shop-vac. I’ve taken to calling these things CAD-fapping because they look like they were designed by someone trying to compensate for their perceived sexual inadequacies. There are also some charming (read: terrifying) piles of housing dreck, thrilling lands of neglect and inaccessibility, and large roadways. So many large roadways. So without further ado, time to look at some horror!

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(S)  Absolute World, Mississauga

First up on the mockery block is this piece of shit. 60 Absolute is called “Marilyn Monroe”, because apparently looking at random skewers of glass and metal plopped in the middle of fucking nowhere reminded someone of an iconic sex figure. Sexy this is not – just check out this website. Scroll down to the review section at the bottom of the page and have a laugh as people alternatively lament their idiotic purchase and attempt to puff the place up because they bought the condo as an “investment”.

Whoever bought into this quackery clearly doesn’t want to walk anywhere. Look at this garbage urban form – these towers literally loom over an entire shitty suburb! It’s a fitting metaphor, the image of the old shitty land use planning being cast into darkness by a new, even worse urban form. These things are a fucking blight. They inspire a sense of pity, not one of awe.

Oh, and a quick search reveals that this bizarre and wildly inappropriately-placed development was designed by the architectural firm MAD Studio. MAD indeed.

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(S) Rain & Senses, Oakville

What’s with that name? And for that matter, why does this look like a glassblowing titan just took a massive dump on a boring office building from the 70s which was itself the apparent result of a giant squatting on a couple of suburban houses?  These two glitchy-looking shits start at a mere $400,000! And look at what you get to live near! At least one side of the building literally faces a parking lot, which is not what I see in this mock-up sketch.

Now that I think of it, none of the surroundings look like this. Which makes the call to experience the “neighborhood” of Oakville (Oakville is not a neighborhood, it’s a town.  A suburban shithole town, sure. But it’s what passes for a town in Cakerstan) even funnier. Here’s the text: “The Oakville lifestyle is one without comparison, and residents can attest that there’s no neighbourhood quite like it.”

I wonder if these developers understand how stupid the phrase “Oakville lifestyle” sounds, unless they mean driving while scowling.

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(S) New York Towers, North York

Oh, do I fucking hate these things. When I’m forced to experience the extreme displease that is driving through Toronto these fucking abominations are always there to greet me. The sadsack attempt at the Empire State building and the fact that this piece of shit isn’t exactly in Manhattan reminds me of something that one of those Chinese ghost cities would do so as to attract “investment”. Let’s be perfectly clear – surrounded by sprawl and highways, these pitiful attempts at mimicry offer a living experience that has nothing in common with the image of Manhattan that this clump is trying so hard and failing to evoke. Unless your idea of Manhattan is a bunch of curvilinear road networks beside a bevy of highways. Really, the big thing I hate about these shitty fuckbeasts is that they look derivative and stupid.

Oh, and the architects behind that Potemkin squatling also wanted to build this. I would call it a victory, but that implies that any of this nonsense is even worth saving.

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(S) Malton, ON. The Whole Fucking Thing

The first result for this place on a Google image search is this picture:

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In case you don’t believe me

According to this map, Malton (postal code L4T, for anyone using the map I’m about to link to) is making less than the provincial average in terms of income. And with such productive land uses as this, who could possibly expect otherwise? This is a classic example of a community that was simply left to its own devices. Which in 2008 included murder. But seriously, this wasteland of untenable urban form is right by Pearson International Airport and is practically lassoed by highways. For those children unfortunate enough to grow up in this soulless wasteland there is a one-in-five chance that theirs is a life of poverty. Yikes.

And while we’re in the “neighborhood” (a term that ought only be used loosely in this context), let’s talk about the GTA’s single worst “urbanity” – the decrepit, car-dependent shithole that is Brampton.

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(S) Brampton, Ontario.

 

You know how I recently bought the domain name for this website? I did it because I’m pretty passionate about exposing Shit About Canada. But that’s a whole country – here’s a guy who bought a domain just to shit on Brampton. My hat goes off to you, author of Brampton Sucks. Brampton sucks on an almost-unthinkable scale. Look at the sprawl I linked to you up there, and then take a gander at Brampton’s automobile insurance rates, which are the highest in the province. Brampton is also largely non-white, though for a majority non-white city there is only one non-white city councillor (though the author of the cited piece here laughably suggests that walking places is a possibility in Brampton). The whole place is less-educated than the rest of the Peel Region and rocks a 9.5% unemployment rate.

You know what happens when a racial underclass is consigned to live in one place with failing prospects, poor transit connectivity, massive costs associated with living, a government that does not meaningfully represent them, and a pile of non-stop temp work in a city where decent jobs are quickly becoming an endangered species? The word that comes to mind first is ghetto – not a good label for a place of 500,000 people. Is Toronto simply hiding its poor in and among its prior tries at atrociously-failed suburban experimentation? I think we know the answer to that.

 

#193: Bubbles in the Badlands – Alberta’s Nonsense Economics

Next up on the pan-Canada tour of shame is a province that the reactionary left loves to hate. Alberta, mockingly referred to as “Canada’s Texas” has little in common with the snarling nu-left jackoffs in Ottawa and Toronto. Indeed, outside of Quebec Alberta has perhaps the most reason of the caker provinces to consider itself aggrieved by senseless federal action and thus deserving of independence. Alberta is more tragic than stillborn provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba for one crucial reason: although it understands that the great eastern croupier stick isn’t to be trusted it has no meaningful prescription for its own salvation. Instead of looking to resolve its failures by considering the outsized role of extraction and speculation within itself, the reactionary core of the province calls for doubling-down on maintaining Alberta’s status as an extractive hellhole and what diversification exists is in the form of yet more speculation. Fucking Saudi Arabia has made a more sincere try of developing a post-extractive economy than Alberta has. But what really makes Alberta special is how its housing market serves as a portent for failures to come for the rest of Canada.

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(S) Here we see Steve and Martha looking at a room full of Canadian housing options.

Let’s start with the extractive present of Alberta, a province that is desperately hooked on oil and resource extraction. Nearly 20% of the province’s GDP is based on oil and mining (see page 10), with 15% more based on financial speculation and 11% built on something called “business and commercial services”, which is a bundle of bureaucratic mush that at best has a knock-on effect for the economy as a whole. Speculation, bureaucracy, and boom-bust cycles do not an economy make. And despite Alberta’s rocky history and weathering of bust after bust, as of 2015 it still hadn’t bothered to hedge its bets instead of “picking winners”. Why do that when you can diversity your economy by relying on two boom-bust cycles instead of one? Enter bubble number two: the housing market.

Speaking of Texas, that infamous left-sizzling state has actually gone ahead and looked at protecting itself from the kinds of fiscal shock caused by boom-bust cycles. Canada’s Texas is out-Texasing the real Texas in terms of half-assed planning and non-existent foresight.

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(S) The cow on this magazine cover has better plans for its future than Alberta does.

This is all so far pretty par for the course, albeit in the more tacky and egregious stylings of nu-monied morons than the traditional slapdash failure aesthetic associated with the rest of the country. But the uniquely malodorous cowpie that is Alberta has to offer us is its role as a canary in Canada’s real estate coal mine. As I mentioned, Alberta joined the rest of this fell country in overbuilding its housing market. What came after are data that should scare anyone looking to buy a home in Canada – after the one-note oil economy collapsed, housing sales in the province fell 8.8%…and prices in Alberta’s major cities haven’t fallen to reasonable levels yet. In Calgary, a city where 10% of the population is spending more than 30% of its income on housing, prices just aren’t coming down to a point where people can actually afford them. Just to add a special flavor of fuck you to the mix, Alberta has no rent control either. And those with the audacity to be poor in Alberta also get to enjoy being fucked around with and treated as subhumans.

So there’s your future, Canada. If you want to see where you’re living and how you’re pulling it off in the future, be sure to take a look at Alberta. The Icarian tale of a province that flew too close to a boom-bust cycle and decided to replace its easily-melted extractive economic wings with waxy new plumage founded in real estate speculation has a familiar end for Canadians now living in the worst of both worlds. Hooked by the long horns of low income prospects and high prices, Alberta’s bleak prospects reflect those of the country it loathes belonging to.

#191 – Saskatchewan, Canada’s ‘Special’ Child

Oh, fucking Saskatchewan. Even within cakerdom this miserable rectangle of reactionary fuckery is regarded as the rural asscrack of the country. What other province has a tradition of wearing fucking watermelons on their heads?

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(s) Captioning this with the word durr is an insult to the letters d, u, and r.

When they aren’t busy putting more intelligent melons on their own melons, what does Saskatchewan do? Among such other activities as waiting for porn to load and setting all five of their remaining neurons to pondering how they became the laughingstock of Canada, a country that for all intents and purposes is the laughingstock of civilization, Saskatchewan likes to give local Indigenous tours. Tours of the “fuck you, now freeze to death” variety. Saskatchewan’s “finest” (if you define “fine” by way of soldier-sniffing knuckle-dragging) are also fans of (theoretically) non-lethally racist policing and prison practices; if you’re Indigenous in the Rancid Rectangle you’re 33 times more likely to get thrown in the slammer. And the rest of Saskatchewan is a fan of racism too, to the point where Premier Brad Wall had to plead on national media for Saskatchewan to go back to using its limited bandwidth and brain cells to look for bad porn and watermelons, respectively.

But hey, you say. Canada’s rural bits are basically Wyoming with shit healthcare and a smug attitude. We demand Saskatchewan’s special brand of suck! But the thing is, Saskatchesuck is such a piece of shit that even its problems aren’t interesting or unique. Let’s go through Saskatchewan’s caker credentials. Shitty hospitals? Check! A fixation on mindless extraction regardless of economic merits? Ding! Hideously expensive produce in a province fabled for its agricultural output? You know it! A runaway housing market that in no way reflects the economic merits of the areas being overbuilt? Chronic gang-related violence coupled with police inaction? A lack of capacity for basic, modern waste disposal? It all checks out, folks. The Wretched Rectangle is a piece of a caker shit!

Saskatchewan’s problems are mostly related to its economic output. Saskatchewan is flat and grows a shit-ton of wheat. The problem with leaning an economy on extraction, as we’ve talked about before, is that shit like this happens and the whole thing goes belly-up. And then, when you try to hide your extractive failure in other festering economic buttcracks, like, say, mindless sprawl, your lack of planning for this new stupid idea comes to firmly bite you in the ass. Saskatchewan is also known for mining potash. It is not, however, known for having anything else to do that isn’t speculative or extractive, meaning that entire towns can get knocked flat off their asses by market forces far beyond their control or understanding. You may recognize this as being Canada’s modus operandi, but somehow even stupider than usual.

Speaking of stupid things beyond reasoned understanding, who the fuck thought a giant metal statue of wheat was going to do anything besides rust and be mocked by cruel people like me? In a province with reams of people claiming that there’s nothing to do, the best thought people had is to build random giant shit and hope that someone cares enough about it to get out of their fucking car for two seconds? Who does that?

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(s) Answer: Cakers.

Seriously – here’s Pravda’s list of things to do in the entire province on a holiday Monday. Please note that this exciting spread of activities is typically found in literally any community that isn’t a fucking hole in the ground. You know you suck when taking a train that’s somehow even slower than VIA Rail’s subpar service is considered an activity. Though this does help to explain the watermelon thing – maybe Saskatchewan’s bored population is so numbed by the mindless miles of absolutely nothing that wearing fruit on their empty skulls like a retarded version of the Chiquita Banana lady is the closest thing to feeling that they have left.

It’s also probably the only unique thing they have going for them, which I think says all that needs to be said about the Wretched Rectangle.

#45 – Canada’s House of Cards

…Where to even begin with Canada’s disgraceful relationship with housing? We kind of fail from the word go here – this country is home to some incredibly shit housing. Starting with a fundamental lack of the stuff, a consequence of mindless suburbanization (of which Canada was a pioneer) and horrendous social housing policy (where any even exists). Probably somehow even worse than no home within the confines of caker urbanism are the absymal shacks that far too many Indigenous peoples live in. This is of course in the same country that seems to have an incredible fascination with speculating on housing markets. There’s something particularly cruel about the way that Canada effectively permits gambling with housing costs while so many of its people suffer for want of tolerable housing, and this vein of critique into Canada is basically endless. I could make this entire blog about shitty housing policy and probably still make to 200.

The best way to use this post, I suppose, is to introduce the scope of the problem. Canada has (unbelievably) developed a national housing strategy, apparently. I say “apparently” because I can’t find the actual document to review. What I’ve seen looks like a lot of handouts to developers and buzzwords, but without the actual document there’s not a whole lot of judgement that I can actually throw down. So let’s instead briefly glance at the scope of the problem that our valiant new housing strategy (which is about 50 years late) is attempting to conquer.

Before we speak of the particularly-unfathomable housing problems of Canada’s perpetual racial underclass, let’s talk about the disgrace that is Canada’s urban housing policy. As in the United States, suburbanization was practically subsidized in Canada, by both provincial and municipal machinations. Indeed, Canada was among the first places to seriously embrace this disasterous idea – as early as 1953 Toronto was getting ready to be choked by shit tract-development which was so rigidly-engineered (in exactly the kind of way Jane Jacobs tells us is a shit idea) that there were no sidewalks. As for the dreadful urban renewal which led to heartache and urban failure in so many American cities, well…yeah, we’ve got that too. And yeah, it’s pretty fucking shit here too.

(S) Regent Park as initially constructed. Yup, sure looks like towers of bullshit!

Canada’s low-income housing programs are almost hilariously underfunded and are in fact total shit. Toronto’s affordable housing, run by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, is literally crumbling due to age and lack of attention. With an overfixation on building more as opposed to repairing current stock, this problem doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon. A fixation on maximizing profits leads to poor policy decisions which in fact encourage price speculation on housing markets. And that’s not to even mention the chronic mismatch between the building of rental units in Canadian cities and the need for said. And the scope of the problem is substantial – nearly 20% of Canadians pay more than 50% of their income towards rent costs, with small towns and suburbs playing a disproportionate role in that total.

And that, my friends, is where the good times end for Canada’s housing stock.

From here, we go to one of Canada’s most truly abhorrent sins. Indigenous housing stock, particularly on reserves is frankly third-world. In 2001 nearly half of the total reserve housing stock was in need of overhaul or replacement. More than half of Indigenous housing stock is reported to contain mold or mildew. Almost a third of reserve water supplies are unsafe; nearly 2000 housing units are without adequate sewage or water services. Shitty housing was the cause of a fire that killed four children and their father near London, Ontario in 2016; the home, which was effectively kindling was denied funding for housing improvements from Ottawa.

(S) “Oh, yeah. That looks about fine for dem Injins!” – Ottawa, probably

So that’s what we’re going to be picking at with this topic – how cakers entrenched an untenable housing system of boring, rolling suburbs, how urban centers have utterly failed their residents, how brutal the consequences of shitty policy are for Canada’s poorest, and of course the unbelieveable savagery that is Indigenous housing policy. It’s a whole seething ball of bullshit worth several posts, and you’d better believe that I intend to assail Canada’s shit housing from every angle.