TEDxToronto – ‪David Miller – Redefining Citizenship

TEDxToronto – ‪David Miller – Redefining Citizenship

Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard Thank you. Thank you very much. I had the privilege to be elected
for 16 years and I have to say never ever in those 16 years
did I follow a sex therapist on the stage. (Laughter) Which makes coming here and saying
I want to talk about city building an entirely different thing. But it is what I want to talk about
and I want to talk about how we together commit to
making the kind of city we believe in and how we redefine government
to meet those needs. I want to talk about that
for two reasons. First of all, because TEDx invited me
to do that, but secondly because people in Toronto at the moment
are incredibly gracious to me. And they stop me everywhere in the city
and they say really, really lovely things. They say things like: “We miss you!”
and I always say: “I do too!” (Laughter) What I mean is I miss having
a progressive mayor in office. (Laughter) (Applause) Which I think is what they mean too. (Laughter) But when I think about it,
although it’s a compliment, it’s actually the wrong thought. Because although we need to elect
the right people, of course, if we want to build a city
that we are proud of, it actually isn’t just about waiting
for a saviour to come along. It’s not about a saviour,
it’s about us. And it’s about the commitment
we make to this city. And it’s particularly important in cities, we are in an urban age. Because cities aren’t something
you consume. You don’t buy it, you make it. And you make it together as residents
of that city and as citizens. And it’s very true in Toronto
because most of us in Toronto are not born here. Little bit more than half were born
outside Canada, like me, and another significant portion
comes from other parts of Canada. And we’re literally making Toronto
together, right now, today. And the people who’d come
from other parts of Canada or weren’t born here, have chosen Toronto. I chose to live in Toronto! In fact, I chose to live in Canada
and I chose to live in Canada twice. Although the first time I didn’t have
much of a say because I was 8 years old and it was my mother’s decision. But the second time, I had a real say. It was 1981, I was in University
in the United States, and I could have stayed. I had tremendous opportunities
opened to me and I didn’t want to stay in the US, because at the time,
a man named Ronald Regan had been elected the president. And I wanted to come back
to Canada. I wanted to come back to a country
of common values, I wanted to come back to a city
where, like most of us, I chose Toronto
because there was opportunity, because it’s a city where everyone
is welcome and has a real chance, it’s a city that’s green,
it’s a city that has subways, a city that has street cars, and I chose Canada
because of our shared values. And I think our shared value
is that we judge our society by how well we treat those
with the least, not by how many millionaires
we create. (Applause) And that’s what it was like
in the US in 1981. Ronald Regan got elected with this mantra
that all he had to do was cut taxes and everything would be fine. He got elected at a time when people
ignored scientific evidence and prominent politicians
said things like he did, that acid rain came from trees, not from all of the coal-fired
power plants in the Ohio Valley. A time a little bit like ours. And I wanted to be here. When I came here,
I wanted to help build the city and eventually ran for municipal office
because I wanted to commit to building this city. And that’s the first thing
I think we need to do. It’s commit. But there’s a second thing. And that’s about redefining. And I am going to speak about both
at little more length, but we need to redefine the language
that is used when we talk about our governements and
talk about ourselves. Because ever since Ronald Regan
and Margaret Thatcher, there’s a word used, and it’s used
everywhere to describe us. And it’s wrong, because it only describes
a little part of us and that’s tax payer. You read it everywhere in the newspapers,
tax payers said this. Ok, I pay taxes, you pay taxes
everybody pays taxes. But that’s not who we are. We are neighbours, according to the previous speaker
we are lovers, we are friends, we are residents,
and we are citizens. And that’s a very different relationship
with government than tax payer, which suggest that
government is all about a purchase of service-consumer
kind of society. Because citizens elect people
and citizens are engaged everyday to build their city. That’s what citizens do,
that’s what residents do, that’s what neighbours do
that’s what friends do. That’s what we do. Now I think it’s time,
to reclaim that language and I think it’s time
to reclaim our commitment to build a great city. And they’ll tell you
it can’t be done. They say it all the time! The first thing they’ll say
is there’s no money. Even if, in an hypothetical example somebody leaves government
with a massive surplus, (Laughter) his successor will say there’s a massive
deficit, nearly a billion dollars. So we can’t do it, we can’t do it. We’re always told we can’t. Well, it’s not true. And I am going to point at one example
when I was mayor but there are many. And not just when I was mayor. If we can’t do it, why do we have
the best public library system in the world right here in Toronto? We built that, generations
of commited Torontonians built that public library system. Why do we have childcare?
In schools, all over the city? Generations of Toronto
build that child care. Why do we have a transit system?
Generations of Torontonians built that. Torontonians who were residents
and citizens built that kind of city. And we did it when I was mayor too. And one of the priviledges you have
as an elected official is the people talk to you, they tell you
their hopes, dreams and their aspirations and sometimes, they tell you
you are wrong too. But that’s ok, that’s part of it. And I literally spoke
to tens of thousands of people as mayor of Toronto and in running
for mayor of this great city. And people shared a very similar vision. No matter what their politics,
they wanted to live in a city that was marked by social justice,
a city of equality, like the city I came to in 1981. They wanted to live in a city
of high environmental values, they wanted to live in city of prosperity
and opportunity and most of all, they wanted to live in a city
where no one was left behind. Those were the kind of values
that we tried to use in our decisions when I was mayor of the city of Toronto. And they all came together in one project.
And that project you all know, because I talked about it,
and that’s Transit City. All of those values came together
in this Public Transit Project. Why?
For a couple of reasons. First of all, Transit City only happened
because we committed collectively. Secondly, Transit City
just isn’t about transportation. Of course it’s important, it’s a network that goes
to every neighbourhood in this city, and any great world city
has a rapid transit network, not one or two rapid transit lines,
a network. Because that’s the only way people
will choose to get out of cars and on to transit: by having a network. And this network
goes to every neighbourhood and gives people that choice
and that opportunity. So it’s also about the environment
and transportation, but it’s about much more than that. It’s about jobs, it’s about jobs building
Transit City, the cars, the Thunder Bay the parts being supplied all over
Southwestern Ontario, and it’s also about the jobs
that were created, when we see the growth
that will happen inside Toronto on all of these lines. And unlike rail transit lines
you tend to get much smaller buildings, eight to ten stories,
but you do get growth and you get private sector investment and you get jobs and you also get
a city that grows inside itself and doesn’t sprawl,
helping the environment. But that’s not the most important thing
about Transit City. The most important thing
about Transit City is that it’s about social justice. It’s about including people,
in neighbourhoods in this city, who don’t really have a chance, who live in neighbourhoods
marked by poverty, the kind of neighbourhoods, I think,
that none of us expected when we moved to Toronto,
that we’ve begun to see. I rode the Sheppard East bus
just as we were starting construction on the Sheppard LRT,
to talk to people on that line. I met a woman,
and I think her name was Donna. And she told me what she did
everyday of her work life. She took two buses
to the Sheppard subway, then took the Yonge subway
to the Finch bus and she got to work. That takes probably an hour and a half. Then she took the Finch bus back to
the Yonge subway, but she didn’t go home. Because like many people
in this neighbourhoods, she had two part-time jobs. That’s what she needed
to put food on the table for her family. She went downtown, to a hotel,
for her second job. And then went back on the subway
and then on another subway then the Scarborough RT
and another bus. And I’ve lost count, but it’s something like
four buses and five subways in the RT just to get to work. Imagine the change to her life if
instead of being in a bus in mixed traffic in which the service by definition
is erratic and slow because it gets stuckin rush hour
like everyone else, she’d been able to get on
rapid light rail transit running on its own native way,
she would save literally hours out of her life every week,
and hundreds of hours a year. Hours that would allow her
to get a full time job, or perhaps, go back to school,
and upgrade her skills or perhaps, she would take
some time with her family. It’s that important
to the social integration of our city. And how did Transit City happen? It didn’t just happen because I ran
for mayor on a platform of Transit. It ran because Torontonians
were committed to meeting our environmental
and transportation challenges. We committed collectively, for years people spoke
about gridlock in cafés and on talk radio with their friends. They said:
“Why haven’t we built rapid transit?” I’ve heard it everywhere. Why haven’t we built it?
In two generations? All the major cities have rapid transit,
why haven’t we? And people kept up that conversation. And they talked to their politicians,
and they wrote letters, and the Board of Trade took it up,
the number one issue for business in city. And the Labour Council, and non-profits,
and we all committed. And we committed in a way that brought
the elected officials on site. Premier McGuinty,
He announced on June 15th 2007, full funding for Transit City,
entirely to be completed by 2020. And I remember that day because it was
my wedding anniversary and I am sure the previous speaker
would not have advised to phone your partner and say:
“Would you like to spend your wedding anniversary
in a bus garage in Mississauga?” (Laughter) No matter what you are wearing. (Laughter) That’s not in my notes! (Laughter) The Premier committed,
Prime Minister Paul Martin committed. Newspapers ran massive headlines: “Time for a new deal for the city!
We all committed!” Billions were committed
by the Federal Government the Provincial Government,
the City Government. We bought buses,
we started ridership growth and we started Transit City. Because we committed. All of us. And then, what happened? We took it for granted.
Collectively. We took it for granted.
2010 budget, crack began. Premier McGuinty announced
that the funding for the Finch line would be canceled. The Finch line!
That goes to Jane and Finch and racks toward the other neighbourhoods where people line in the streets everyday,
to take the Finch bus. People who desperately need rapid transit. It would be canceled. And what happened? The Board of Trade for example
that had been trumpeting the importance of Transit City,
sent up one press release: “We disagree.” Silence. We’d collectively taken it for granted
because we didn’t commit. We’d made the commitment for years, we thought we had victory and we didn’t. At the time we needed to speak up
together, we didn’t. Now, we’ve seen the people
are speaking up. We’ve seen what’s happened
at City Hall the past few weeks and people spoke up and said “No!” “We don’t want that kind of city!”
“We don’t want libraries closed!” We don’t want giant Ferris wheels! (Laughter) I think that’s what they said. (Laughter) And that’s great. But just like the Transit City,
we can’t take victory for granted. We have to commit. Because if you don’t buy a city,
you don’t consume it. You build it everyday.
And it’s an obligation. And if you want a great city,
and if we want a great city, we have to make that same commitment. It’s easy to know what we don’t want,
it’s hard to know what we want. And when we find it,
we have to speak up everyday. And if we really want our voices
to be heard, we have to go back to that issue I’ve mentioned
at the beginning. This issue is defining who we are. Since Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher,
the radical right have defined us as consumers of government. That makes goverment something
separate from us. We are tax payers,
we consume and we buy it! But that’s not what government is about! Government is about all of us
coming together because we are residents
and we are citizens coming together to create a common vision
and making it happen. It’s about everyday. And we’ve let that language
get away from us. It happens all the time, it’s in the CBC
it’s in the Star, it’s in the Globe of course it’s in the National Post! (Laughter) I’ll probably be the first person
today to mention the Toronto Sun. (Laughter) It’s everywhere. And it’s time we spoke up,
in the same way we need to commit to our city, to commit to those
fundamental values of Toronto: of social inclusion, of prosperity
of livability, environmental standards, great public transit, great public parks,
great public services. Not lousy ones, great ones. That’s what we want,
that’s what we deserve, that’s how we build a great city, and we also need to commit
to a common language. And I am asking you, after TED,
to do two things: to not just write an email
when there is an issue, at the city or any other government,
[but] to organize, to be with other people and to commit, to stay the course,
to put yourself into it, to be there with your friends
and colleagues and commit. That’s the first thing. The second thing is to change
our discourse, because that’s about us. When the CBC says
something about taxpayers, send them a note by email,
say that’s exclusionary language. I’ve heard people in public meetings
stand up, low income people, who’d say: ” I’m not a tax payer!”, but of course they are,
everybody pays taxes but they don’t see it,
it’s hidden in the rent. “I’m not a tax payer!”
it excludes them. And write to the CBC, write to the Star
write to the newspapers. Speak to your friends, talk about this. “I’m not just a tax payer,
I’m a citizen! I’m a part of the city! I’m a resident, this is my Toronto
this is my country!” And let’s change that discourse. And if one or two people say it,
people say: “That’s nice.” What if five people said it,
all at the same time to the Globe and Mail and the Star? What if 100 people said it? What if 500 people started saying
“This is my city! I’m going to take my city back, because I want to build it
for my children and grandchildren! And I know my neighbours do!
I know other residents do! I know other cititzens do!” Because as citizens, we have rights. We have duties,
we’d be called for jury duty, at a time of war,
we can call for that duty, we have other duties.
But we have rights. And we need to take that language back
because we have a right to a great city where everyone is welcome,
where everyone is included and that has great public services. We have that right!
(Applause) And we should take it back
and we should start today! (Applause) Thank you! Thank you very much!
Thank you TEDx! (Applause) Thank you! (Applause)


  1. Post
  2. Post
  3. Post
  4. Post
  5. Post

    I like living in the suburbs, I love driving my car and I visit the city for business and entertainment. I am a taxpayer because I have to pay taxes.  Redefining the word taxpayer will do nothing to reduce my taxes.   Knowing  that any dollar the govt takes from the taxpayer is one less dollar a person can spend on his family.  So I don't need philosophical phrase lines to induce me to socialism.  You cant guilt me an American about helping the poor because we do that all over the world without redefining any word. We know what it is like to  go to feed the poor in Somali and end up having our soldiers dead bodies dragged through the street because they tried to protect those who were the least of us.  The idea that I am to come on board with  this 'group' because of a lecture of some 'progressive' that trashes my former President is a non starter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *