This downtown vs. suburbia dichotomy has been with Toronto almost since its beginnings but it really took root as way of viewing our political disfunction in the 1990s after the forced amalgamation by the province by then Premier Mike Harris. That view is summed up very succinctly by former Mayor of the (former, smaller) City of Toronto, John Sewell in the Star yesterday. He echoes my belief that our sense of public space has a lot to do with when a place was built / urbanized, using 1950 as a cut off point. The car based suburban model isolates people from each other as well as sense of common social objectives such good transit, social housing and free recreational facilities.
Toronto as it exists today has to balance this pre and post 1950 worldview under one system of governance and the strains are showing. The point I believe he does not make, and one that I intend to avidly espouse on this site, is that the solution is one of building infrastructure, specifically the social infrastructure of which he writes. We literally need to build our way back to a more cohesive city, using principles from the prewar period but also new ones that reflect the merits of better social infrastructure that are easily recognized and as applicable in one place as another. Until we acknowledge the crucial role of infrastructure we we'll be faced with these false dichotomies and zero sum games around subways vs. cars vs. LRT that just inhibit the bigger issue of building to reflect the surprising commonalities of priorities around the environment, social cohesion, and well-designed public buildings and space. Freed from squabbling, it seems clear that both downtowners and suburbanites want these things.