I don’t recall ever mouthing the words “I hate Toronto.” But I do recall an occasion when the thought might have struck me.
It was during the NHL playoffs. It was an early round, but few Canadian teams had made the cut and, as a result, Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts found the storied Montreal Canadiens alternating nights with the sorry Toronto Maple Leafs. On Leaf nights, Molson ran a brainwash-worthy series of ads featuring hockey highlights juxtaposed with the following declaration, emblazoned across the screen: “GO LEAFS GO!” So there I was watching my Habs struggle as only the post-1993 Habs can, when a Molson ad invaded my TV, complete with hockey highlights and, you guessed it, the declaration: “GO LEAFS GO!” Again, the Leafs were not playing that night; it was the turn of a more successful Canadian franchise. I was briefly dazed, left wondering whether my eyes had deceived me. But, soon enough, that confusion turned to rage. Did Molson, or CBC, or whomever, truly believe I was watching the Habs only because the Leafs had the night off? “Geez, no Leafs game tonight? Well, I guess I’ll watch this for now. Maybe a Leafs game will break out.”
There had already been a clumsy attempt, possibly that same year, to label the Toronto hockey squad as “Canada’s team.”
Friggin’ Toronto! Don’t you just hate that city?
That is the question. Yes, I’ve had my moment of not much caring for whomever pulls the strings in Southern Ontario. And yes, on Boxing Day, when the hourly weather report on my local CBC Radio One station was not for Ottawa but for Toronto, it rankled. And yes, those MuchMusic VJs’ exhortations to a national audience to be sure to check out tonight’s show at the Horseshoe annoyed me to no end. But do I hate Toronto itself? Of course not. Never have. I rather like the place, in fact: it may not have charm or style, but it offers much for the arts-lover to love. I will return there soon. And I’ll be glad I did.
To be honest, I had no idea that all Canadians hate Toronto until a few years back when a film was released, entitled Let’s All Hate Toronto. The film, unless I’m mistaken, was something less than a box-office smash; though, it almost goes without saying, it probably drew sizable crowds in Toronto. And that may have been enough for the filmmakers. Subsequent to its release, Toronto’s press appeared to adopt the film’s satiric title as a given. After all, the reasoning went, Canadians are naturally jealous of the massive city from whose grip we cannot escape.
The only problem with that reasoning is: We are not. Not jealous. Not of the Leafs. Not of Rob Ford. Not of Tom Cochrane. Especially not of Tom Cochrane.
And yet, “Canadians,” CBC Radio’s otherwise-savvy Piya Chattopadhyay casually stated on a recent edition of The Current, “love to hate Toronto.” It’s a fact.
Again, I don’t hate Toronto. To the best of my knowledge, I do not know anyone that does. Of course, I’m not sure I’ve asked anyone about it. (Surprisingly, Toronto rarely figures into daily conversation here.) So perhaps I should check. After all, Torontonians never tire of glibly telling us we hate them. It must be true. It’s been uttered enough times on national TV and on radio. Even in print. In print! Can 10 million (or whatever) Torontonians be wrong? I mean, it’s not like they’d just make an assumption, without first doing the proper research. Right?
Hence, this intrepid reporter asked Canadians from across the country a simple question: Do you hate Toronto? Thanks to the miracle (stock price notwithstanding) of Facebook, I was able to pose said query to fellow Canadians in each province, and north of 60. I didn’t get a response from PEI, so it’s possible Islanders positively loathe Toronto and I am unaware of it. Though, for the record, the city’s name has never come up during conversations I’ve had in our tiniest province. I made a point of asking no one currently residing within the Greater Toronto Area (that’s the GTA, to you national reporters), despite the fact that the majority of the Toronto-haters I’m aware of, call Toronto home.
The results of my informal survey were, for the most part, as I suspected. It turns out Canadians… do not hate Toronto. Or, if we do, there’s some serious denial going on. (Not to be ruled out, granted.)
Okay, so some Canadians do profess to hate Toronto. To be honest the number, while small, is higher than I had anticipated. Nearly five of the dozens of people polled expressed outright hatred for our most populous metropolis.I did make the mistake of asking two friends that tend to hate just about everything, so there’s that. One volunteered that she is “an equal opportunity hater” and that all big cities, including her hometown of Ottawa, are on notice. Still, hatred is hatred. Mind you, one friend (not from Ottawa) seemed to love Toronto a little too much. If this were a big-budget scientific study (and investors are welcome) I’d be inclined to discount extremes on either end of the spectrum, which would leave us with no Toronto-haters. Well, one.
Of course, those that do not openly hate Toronto (i.e., everyone else) displayed a tendency to air a few grievances about how Torontonians think they’re so big and how they’re so smug and superior and how they’re not New York City, you know. A Maritimer lamented that Toronto never notices her region. A Vancouverite said likewise. Ottawans say it all the time. We’ve heard those, and the above complaints numerous times. And the whole smug/superior/NYC accusations were in some cases clearly based on personal experience. But do Canadians truly hate Toronto? I mean, what’s to hate?
The Leafs? Point taken. But a sports team does not a city make. (With the likely exception of Green Bay.)
“I hate the Leafs and Toronto insurance defense lawyers,” one participant asserted. Sounds a bit personal, no? One lengthy response, the most vehement condemnation of the city, dismissed Toronto as “charmless” and decried its car culture, neighbourhoods and attitude. “Toronto,” the Ottawa-based respondent concluded, “does not draw you in. It repels.” Strong words. Yet, that same diatribe included the well-founded observation that “no city is hated Canada-wide as much as Ottawa.” We’d probably be more aware of that indisputable fact if our national press took the time to stop talking about Toronto for a moment.
I did in addition receive one “dislike” of Toronto, but I won’t call that hate. Most, understandably, declared themselves to be indifferent. Not living in Toronto, I accept that as the most reasonable response. A Montrealer (ironically?) denounced “the level of pretension” in Toronto but suggested the issue is “kind of like Led Zeppelin: it’s the fans you hate.”
One professed lover of Toronto did chastise the city’s powers that be for perpetuating a “full-fledged belief that the rest of the country withers in its radiant glow.”
“People hate Toronto because everyone looks sad there and no one wants to be sad.” That, from Ottawa-based musician Geoffrey Pye. One Ottawan, now in Alberta, suggested she loves Toronto “the way you’d love a more attractive, more confident, more popular cousin.” A Vancouverite, meanwhile, said she’s okay with Toronto, though it is “nothing special as far as cities go.” She resents the Toronto-centric media, she added, “but that should not be held against all Torontonians.” From another West Coast voice: “I hate people that hate Toronto.”
So there it is. Do Canadians hate Toronto? Of course not. Do they seem to have a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder about the place? Perhaps. In future, can the Toronto-centric press please phrase it that way instead? Only if they read and digest this post. Fortunately, I’ve put “Toronto” in the title, so it stands some chance of being noticed down there in the provincial capital.
Which brings us to what Torontonians can do to help soften their self-perceived image. Not telling us we hate them seems like a good place to start. Beyond that, there are ways to overcome that attitude problem. To, if you will, draw us in, rather than repel us. Or, some of us. Very few of us, but still some.
And so, to return to the whole thing about national coverage, I herewith present guidelines to assist Toronto’s national reporters with placing a story. Please take note. Please.
THE WIG’S GUIDE TO DETERMINING WHAT IS AND IS NOT WORTHY OF NATIONAL COVERAGE
Loudmouthed, angry white conservative runs for mayor of Toronto?
Loudmouthed, angry white conservative elected mayor of Toronto?
Toronto’s mayor gives a citizen the finger?
Toronto’s mayor caught reading while driving?
Toronto’s mayor caught talking on the phone while driving?
Toronto’s mayor in feud with CBC Television host?
A tricky one, that. Like most networks these days, CBC tends to view any newsworthy item related to its programs or personalities as national news. Therefore, for CBC, the answer is yes.
Relative of Toronto’s mayor posts inappropriate tweet?
Let’s not dignify that one with a response.
Toronto’s mayor shuns the nation’s largest Pride parade?
Yes, to a point.
Toronto’s mayor caught with 11 items in the 10-items-or-less line?
Toronto’s mayor removes “Do not remove under penalty of law” tag from his mattress?
Alas, not national news.
Toronto’s mayor told to step aside after being found guilty of conflict of interest?
Naturally. Big news, even.
Toronto’s mayor wins libel action filed by local man?
No. For the last time, no.