(Source: The Star)

Recessions may not be fun, but they can be useful. In southern Ontario, the slowdown presents an ideal moment to stop and take a look at who controls growth, and to what end.

In his highly informative new book, The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl, former Toronto mayor John Sewell examines the local history of suburbia and includes facts and figures that in themselves tell a fascinating, if damning, tale.

His is a story of land-use policies so ineffective they have allowed developers to squander much of the most desirable real estate in the country.

This contrasts neatly with a report last week by the Toronto Board of Trade that compared job creation in the 905 and 416 area codes. In this light, these statistics become doubly interesting.

The 905 region, the board argued, is creating jobs faster than the latter, which prompted a warning that the city is in danger of becoming a bedroom community.

But what the board didn’t look at was the cost of suburban job creation. As Sewell documents, it is enormous. In addition to the loss of much of Canada’s finest farmland, the price in pollution and health is disturbing. According to Sewell, each year about 1,700 people in the Toronto area die prematurely because of “poor air quality.”

Read Christopher Hume’s full article “Ex-mayor documents high cost of suburbia” in The Toronto Star (April 14, 2009).

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