Sunday, August 21, 2011

It Can't Happen Here?

Richard Florida has written a great deal about what he calls the new "Creative Class." And his research has uncovered the fact that certain centres -- like Toronto and Vancouver -- are magnets which attract these new economic titans. Unfortunately, there is an underside to this phenomenon:

The world is not flat, but spiky, unequal and divided. Nowhere is that more apparent than within our cities. As I recently argued in the Financial Times, there is a real danger that riots like London's will become a feature, not a mere bug, of global cities.

The centres which attract top talent are also the places where the gulf between the rich and the poor is the greatest:

Canada's cities might not have the extreme class divides of London, New York or Los Angeles, but the gulf is getting wider. The streets of Yorkville and downtown Vancouver are filled with Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Mercedes and the occasional Ferrari and Lamborghini. The average price of a detached single-family home in Vancouver is more than $1-million. Toronto's housing prices continue to escalate too.

In such an environment, discontent is simmering -- and it won't take much to  liberate it.. Canada has just witnessed the Vancouver riot. And, of course, there was last year's G20 fiasco. .Anyone who smugly assumes that a repeat of the London riots could not happen here is a fool.

The Harper government, however -- dedicated to the principle that life is a Darwinian struggle -- sees nothing wrong with growing income inequality. And, in preparation for future unrest, it proposes to build more institutions -- "Are there no prisons, no workhouses?"

Florida is right: "Canadians prefer to believe that our cities are models of urban tranquillity and that riots of the sort that engulfed London last week could never happen here. Perhaps we should not be so sanguine."


Anonymous said...

I don't know about that "workhouses" thing... Sounds to me like this 'Scrooge' character is a dirty communist!! --A Conservative

Owen Gray said...

As time passes, the pronouncements from this government increasingly sound like something out of Dickens.

They really do wish to turn back the clock.