Toronto spending hundreds of millions on World Cup while city burns

Mayor would rather build stadiums than housing
Photo: Canada Soccer Flickr
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The year is 2026. Half of Toronto’s 1,500 parks are encampments for unhoused people. The other half are, too, but the Toronto Police Service’s tanks are mowing down the tents so frequently that they’re legally classified as parking lots. Weed dispensaries are now a record-breaking two steps from each other maximum. Doug Ford’s new Minister of Vermin Control, who draws a $600,000-a-year salary despite an ambiguous mandate, releases his annual statement that simply reads, “Work harder, rats.” Pay-per-poop bathrooms are available every 10 square kilometres. Five dollars for three minutes. It’s cheaper than using the closest Tim’s, where a large Iced Capp costs a frugal $13 since inflation went up to 35 per cent per year from 2022. Average rent for a two-bedroom is $5,000 a month, and the only pets you’re allowed to keep are cockroaches. Don’t bother naming them, you’ll be evicted long before they are.

But hey, at least the world’s most publicly corrupt sports entity is hosting games in the city. Finally, Toronto is taken seriously by the greater world.

Is this a little exaggerated? Honestly, who knows anymore. There appears to be no bottom for Toronto’s disastrous and malicious policies towards its population. The City thinks that FIFA’s arrival will be a boon to the economy. Despite costing residents nearly $300 million, city officials expect the handful of World Cup games played in Toronto will grow the city’s GDP to $307 million and create 3,300 jobs. The question here is, who, other than politicians, the rich, and weird economy sycophants actually gives a damn about GDP potential when we can’t even afford to live right now?

GDP means a lot of things, but what it has very little bearing on is quality of life. When people rebuild after natural disasters, the GDP increases; if people work less but produce the same, the GDP is unchanged; most crucially, it doesn’t account for whom the economy benefits. It’s a tool to make the rich look good, and sweep the inequalities and oppression of the working class under the rug.

"Despite costing residents nearly $300 million... who, other than politicians, the rich, and weird economy sycophants actually gives a damn about GDP potential when we can’t even afford to live right now?"

Lately, with literally every political development in Canada and the USA ranging from “unspeakably horrible” to “regular bad,” it’s a cruel joke that when hoping Toronto could be selected as a host city for FIFA in April of this year, Mayor John Tory said, “It will put Toronto on the map.”

The only response to this comment is a never-ending series of confused noises and perplexed hand movements.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and the home to three of the country’s biggest sports teams. Toronto FC is the sixth-most valuable Major League Soccer team in the entire roster. If you ask the average person in the world to name a city in Canada, their go-to would be Toronto. (Or perhaps Vancouver. Or Montreal. Or Schitt’s Creek.) What the hell is Tory talking about?!

What he’s talking about is the desperate approval to be a “real city” that seems to follow Toronto whenever these types of activities are mentioned, but even this papers over the economic profits that Toronto’s richest will score at the expense of the city’s working population.

I could not conceive of a better metaphor for this than Toronto politicians gleefully wringing their raccoon paws at the news of hosting FIFA’s World Cup. Outside of the quadrennial event, the organization’s biggest recent headline was a persistent corruption scandal after announcing in 2010 that the World Cup would be hosted in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. This resulted in 14 people charged with accepting more than $150 million in bribes. So… Toronto is desperate to seek approval from an organization stained with corruption, for an economic benefit most of its residents will never see. Oh, and those residents are going to be charged almost $300 million for the opportunity. This is the kind of map Toronto wants to be put on.

But really, that’s the cartography Toronto has been charting from long before this. If it costs Torontonians $1.5 million to beat up unhoused people, if rental prices jumped 16.5 per cent from 2021 in May this year, if Toronto’s miniscule 142 public washrooms don’t even open for summer, what’s another $289 million for some ridiculous ego trip? Some claim that not opening more public washrooms is about shame. But really, it’s more accurate to admit that it's just not profitable to create more public space that doesn’t make the business class more money. Why go to an easily accessible and free public washroom when they’re so far? Some businesses require purchases to use the bathroom, but even if they don’t, some may ask what’s the harm in grabbing a coffee or a meal and eating there after using the facilities? That’s precious revenue that would be stunted by public washrooms, which cost too much to build and maintain en masse. That’s what the material analysis would explain. But, no, I guess it's that nobody wants to acknowledge that everyone poops.

Oh wait, Tory wants to open these seasonal facilities earlier. Great. Thanks for fixing everything. Here’s $300 million.

The housing crisis in Toronto is worse than it’s ever been, and there are no solutions even being considered until 2023. If we knew the data, we could comfortably call it an eviction crisis. But in far too many instances, we don’t.

Citizens of Brazil took to the streets in 2013 and in 2014 to protest their government’s focus on FIFA at the expense of social services. The cops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at those protesting the conditions. Could we expect the Toronto Police to act any differently?

Who knows where Canada will be in 2026? But don’t worry, though the city burns, there’s going to be an absolutely thrilling game of soccer going on.

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