2008 May 21: Big Box vs common sense


On May 21 and 22 at 10 am, the Ontario Municipal Board will begin hearings into what may turn out to be a Wal-Mart on the Portlands.  The East Toronto Community Coalition is one of the key groups fighting the proposal.  To get involved, contact Kelly Carmichael.

The Toronto-Danforth Federal Green Party Association opposes the proposed SmartCentres development on Eastern Avenue at the former site of Toronto Film Studios.  We support the East Toronto Community Coalition in its efforts to promote an alternative that enhances the existing community and acts as a gateway, rather than a barrier, to the Portlands.

The SmartCentres proposal is shortsighted.  Buildings are built to last at least 50 years, so we need to consider how developments will fit into the future landscape when we build them.  To protect the world from dangerous climate change, we need to plan on using a fraction of the oil we’re using now.  And even if we ignore climate change completely, resource depletion will force us to dramatic reductions anyway.  So any structure built around a 2000-car parking lot will be a useless hunk of concrete blighting our view to the lake.

Big box stores are fundamentally unsustainable.  They rely on taking advantage of the lax labour and environmental standards in other countries to produce cheap products.  They contribute dramatically to global warming at every stage of their business – from the extraction of resources required for manufacturing their products to the coal-fired factories where the products are made to the oil-powered ships that bring the products to North America to the diesel-powered trucks that distribute the products to the stores to the commuter shoppers who drive large distances for the bargains.  The big box business model relies on all these steps.

This commuter shopping experience is also fundamentally hostile to community – the kind of self-reinforcing local scale shopping that is becoming established on Queen Street, where the artisanal breadmakers at St. John’s Bakery or the Brick Street Bakery can recommend a good cheese to go with  their bread from the Leslieville Cheese Shop, and where neighbours and local storeowners can sit down at the Purple Purl and knit together while their children draw on little tables or nurse.  Big box is all about zipping off with your bargains.

And Paul Young of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre has pointed to a study that shows that when Wal-Mart moves into a community, other businesses suffer and real wages are rapidly depressed.  The bargains may be hard to resist, but they come at a substantial price.

Elizabeth May says we need to build cities around the child instead of around the car.  We don’t need more traffic on Eastern.  We need some trees and speed bumps so kids can walk safely and pleasantly to a park in the Portlands.  We need to integrate any new development into the community so that people are looking out for each other on the street rather than huddling in air conditioned towers inside.  We need to learn to appreciate time with our families, friends and neighbours rather than focusing on buying more stuff.

The wisdom in the community has been harnessed by the ETCC.  The City has also spoken against the SmartCentres proposal.  In addition to all the other problems with the project, it doesn’t even fit with the City’s plan.  If the project will go forward it will be through the intransigence of an archaic appointed body of toadies to the development industry.  The OMB should be abolished.  We need to reclaim our communities.

11 responses to “Big Box vs common sense”

  1. PeterC writes:

    Following is a copy of my text of my deputation to City Council on January 15th/2008 which I think is of interest to your readers, especially since the City of Toronto is CASH strapped for revenue???.
    Thank you.

    Deputation Re: Agenda Item TE12.7 January 15/2008 Committee Room 1, City Hall
    Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendments – South of Eastern Planning-Study-bounded by Eastern Avenue, Don Valley, Lakeshore Boulevard East and the east side of Woodfield Road – Final Report.

    Toronto, is hanging on by the skin of its teeth to provide even the most basic services to it’s residents. And now Toronto is TURNING DOWN a vast source of revenue from Smart!Centres in Leslieville? Is the City suddenly overflowing with money???? I don’t think so !

    I am STUNNED that the City does not recognize the ECONOMIC BENEFITS a Smart!Centres Project brings to Leslieville and to Toronto as a whole. I can only shake my head……in disbelieve.!

    Here are some of the ECONOMIC BENEFITS:

    $ 220 Million Dollars investment in the community

    2100 Full and Part Time Jobs

    1800 construction jobs over 2 years

    $ 5 Million Dollars in development and permit charges/fees

    $ 3.8 Million Dollars in annual property Taxes


    Smart!Centres will not KILL the existing retailers on Queen Street.

    First of all, there are at least 60 if not more, 60 restaurants,bars, coffee shops, fast food outlets, deli’s etc. on Queen Street East from Connaught to the Don River alone. 60…. !

    Secondly, the ” retailers ” ; are very unique by in what they have to offer; Art Galleries – Antique Stores, One of a kind stores- Retro Furniture Stores – , followed by Animal Clinics, Dental and Medical Offices, a couple of Drug stores and Paint Stores, and a few Gas Stations etc…

    The FEAR that these ” retailers ” will be negatively impacted by the Smart!Centres Project on Eastern Avenue is a MYTH. Even some business have already indicated that yes…. MORE consumers will come to Queen Street because of Smart!Centres on Eastern Avenue.

    I urge Council to be SMART!….. and welcome the ECONOMIC BENEFITS Smart!Centres is bringing to Leslieville, welcome the revenue that is generated from this project, and above all….. welcome and help us in the revitalization of Eastern Avenue and Leslieville as a whole.

    Thank you

  2. ralph adams writes:

    thanks for taking the time to update people on the walmart big box proposal for south toronto.everyone in the gta should be concerned with these developements whose primary mission is profits for their shareholders and not the well being of the community .i was surprised in my ignorance of the fact that one of the big surporters of this project is the clintons from the usa.during their time in office more suvs and more walmarts in history were built.god help us if they get elected.bush is just as bad for the environment.

  3. Sara Gaudon writes:

    A question for Peter C.:

    Does the ECONOMIC BENEFIT of a Smart!Centre propel Toronto in the direction of more sustainable & healthier city?

    Yes, there are clear economic benefits, but for those who care to take more than just an economic perspective, as Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu nicely laid out, Smart Centers negatively impact the environment, existing community business structures, and are in no way a progressive move towards a carbon reduced future.

    Think smart – not Smart!Centre…

  4. Johnny Ergans writes:

    “Elizabeth May says we need to build cities around the child instead of around the car. ”

    That’s the quote to repeat.

    How many kids under university graduation age are being killed every year by cars in the City? What does THAT cost? What possibilities does it kill off forever?

  5. C. Able writes:

    It’s unfortuante that some people have nothing better to do than google smart cebtre and leave the same comments repeatedly. Peter C – I know you are retired and would like to have a cheaper place to shop…They already exist in Leslieville….just look at Chian town East….By the way – you live on Logan Street – Just outside of Leslieville – Officially!

    If the cash strapped city is turning down all the money as you say MAYBE the have a reason that in all your wisdom YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND – is everone stupid but you???? NONE of the money Walmart makes outside of the US stays here – it’s not even banked here.

    You have been taken in by short sightedness and personal greed i.e. money remaining in your pocket. Well I care what happend to the small shops in Leslieville – I LIVE HERE. You ask any of the merchants along the Queen street stip how much of their revenue comes from walk in traffic…If the walk in traffic is shopping at SC – they’ve lost money!

    Stop being so naive – of course when you meet with the developers they tell you what you want to hear – after all they have changed their plans before and they refuse to sign off on what they keep telling “the concerned” community…

    What may be good of your pocket is not necessarliy good for the community as a whole. Ypu misinformation is spreading like a virus -don’t just look for what you want to hear but look at ALL the facts!

  6. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Hi C. Able,

    I just let that last comment pass. But I’d appreciate it if you focused your comments on the issues not on the personalities involved. Peter C. is entitled to his opinion, even though I tend to agree with yours.

    Affordability for seniors is a very serious issue. Perhaps we can work on alternative solutions. For example, we could ask local shopkeepers to offer seniors discounts?

  7. G. LaMarsh writes:

    We have lived and worked in this neighbourhood off and on since the early ’80s. The improvements to the area in the past decade are most welcome and must continue. ETCC may benefit from learning about the North Beach/Little Italy area of San Francisco, the sole neighbourhood in that city to successfully resist Big Box intrusion. Granted, North Beach is a major tourist area, *but it also has a residential component as well. Might ETCC try to contact similar organizations from North Beach? They may have strategies and input to share, based on experience.

  8. Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu writes:

    Thanks Gregg,

    I’ll forward your suggestion to Kelly Carmichael of ETCC.


  9. Peter writes:

    Thank you Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, I agree this is not about personalities and/or personal opinions but for which I apparently was “lectured on” by C. Able.

    I too have chosen to let the comments pass but if I may, I like to correct C. Able on his/her knowledge of the Leslieville boundaries which is from Connaught in the East to Empire Avenue in the West and includes Logan Avenue.

    Like it or not C. Able, we are “Leslieville”, and it may also be be of interest to you to know that the decorative “Leslieville” Street Signs from Carlaw to Empire were the result of monies raised by the merchants and some residents, and unveiled by Councillor Fletcher in December 2005.

  10. David writes:

    IT amazes me that one spouts off like you without even knowing the facts. Lets review shall we?

    1.Walmart like any other big chain does contribute to charities. Smart!Centers also does ( in fact in 2005 that the owner of SC in 2005 gave sick kids hospital 3.5 millon DOLLARS)

    2. The residents, myself included started a “planters beuatification project in 2006 along Queen street, and also christmas branches/evergreens for the seasons. We asked the stores to continue the process i.e. plant all you want to in years to come. If you take the time to walk, look, and pay attention to your so-called caring shops you must have noticed the lack of care and watering of those planters on queen street in front of the shops that we, the residents took time to improve their outer appearance for the last 2 years . So much for the shops you care about eh?
    Plus it seems even keeping those planters clear of garbage was ignorned,and they open up their stores everyday with staff!

    3. Also as for the wonderful stores along queen street ask them if they want a BIA?
    Out of the many many stores only a few showed up for a BIA introduction meeting a few weeks ago ,I counted 6. Most I talked to for the past year do not want nor care or will even consider a BIA. Dont BIA’s (like on the Danforth do and make the area look great thus bring in shoppers? Again the stores seem to not want to contribute to this , but will take your money fast, so please keep spending and supporting as a consumer as you get so much back in a comunity way.

    4 When was the last time you sat down with a Smartcenters ? Actually talked to them to see all the facts? If you had you would have like my self…seen that the store space inside the Smartcenters project cannot be a big box Wal-Mart, if at all, there isnt enogh room sq ft wise.

    Next time please KNOW your facts!

  11. Terry writes:

    “The OMB should be abolished. We need to reclaim our communities.”

    Posted by Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu on 2008 January 24
    in Actions, Green paperclip

    This is the number one solution to Ontario’s problems

    “The OMB should be abolished.”

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