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City-states and superstar cities

During the recent election here in Toronto, mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat raised the idea of this city region, maybe, becoming its own province. It wasn’t the first time this idea has been floated, but it once again didn’t stick.

Earlier this week, Richard Florida spoke at the Urban Land Institute’s Toronto symposium and he brought up a similar issue: Toronto is a ‘city state’ and needs to start acting like it. Here is an excerpt from a recent Star article about his talk:

He also noted that in terms of total economic output, the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] — he included the Golden Horseshoe — is responsible for about “$700 billion” (U.S) in economic output.

“Which means our … region is equivalent to that of Sweden. So we are a city state, a mega region.”

He later added: “we are a powerful global city with lots of assets to build on,” he said.

But he went on to say that despite all of these successes there’s a “sense that something is amiss, something is wrong.”

I have long supported the notion that city regions need to see and think of themselves as one united and contiguous economic landscape. In our case, it is not about, for instance, Hamilton vs. Toronto. This is about our entire region vs. New York or Singapore (a city-state) or the Pearl River Delta megalopolis.

The headlines coming out of Amazon’s recent announcement are clear: In Superstar Cities, the Rich Get Richer, and They Get Amazon. This is winner-take-all urbanism where you need to be a “superstar” in order to compete. 

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