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How We Changed Toronto

By the mid-1960s Toronto was well on its way to becoming Canada’s largest and most powerful city. One real estate firm aptly labelled it Boomtown. Expressways, subways, shopping centres, high-rise apartments, and skyscraping downtown office towers were transforming the city. City officials were cheerleaders for unrestricted growth.

All this "progress" had a price. Heritage buildings were disappearing. Whole neighbourhoods were being destroyed — by city hall itself — in the name of urban renewal and high-rise developers.

Many idealistic, young Torontonians didn’t like what they saw. At a time when political activism was in the air, they engaged in local politics. Recently graduated lawyer John Sewell was one of many. He joined his friends working for local residents in areas targeted for demolition by city hall. Others were fighting the Spadina expressway, planned to push its way through the city to the lakeshore. Still others were saving Toronto’s Old City Hall from demolition.

This was the modest start of a twelve-year transformation of Toronto, chronicled in John Sewell’s new book. Bringing together a fascinating cast of characters — from cigar-chomping developers to Jane Jacobs and David Crombie, from a host of ordinary citizens to some of the world’s most innovative architects and planners — Sewell describes the conflict-filled period when Toronto developed a whole new approach to city government, civic engagement, and planning policies.

Sewell went from activist organizer, to high-profile opposition politician, to leading light of a bare reform majority at city hall, to become Toronto’s mayor. Along the way he sparked the rethinking of an amazing array of old ideas — not just about how cities should grow, but about race relations, attitudes toward the LGBT community, and the role of police. His defeat in the city’s 1980 election marked the end of a decade of dramatic transformation, but the changes this reform era produced are now entrenched — in Toronto, but in other Canadian cities, too.

How We Changed Toronto is the inside story of activist idealists who set out to change the world — and did, right in their own backyard.

John Sewell

A lifelong Torontonian, JOHN SEWELL grew up in the Beach neighbourhood and graduated from the University of Toronto Law School. After his career in city politics, he chaired an Ontario Royal Commission on land use policies, taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, worked as a columnist for The Globe and Mail and NOW Magazine, and wrote books on city planning and police. He is a member of the Order of Canada.

Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price

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Short biographies about the people consistently mentioned throughout the book. 7 $0.70

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Sewell recounts what brought him to getting involved in city politics and brings us right to his election as junior alderman in 1967 25 $2.50

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Deals with his first years in office – 1969 – 1972 30 $3.00

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community reactions to development proposals in 1972 27 $2.70

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the 1972 election brought new blood to the city council and Sewell discusses how Larger decision-making bodies often hamper debate, but our council was of a manageable size. The openness and the … 26 $2.60

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1970s. One of the very significant actions of the new Council was to embark on an affordable housing program. This resulted in thousands of affordable units being built by Council’s housing … 33 $3.30

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1970s. Downtown development and the central area plan 25 $2.50

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1970s. Three lessons Sewell learned through mistakes and issues that occurred in his early political life 25 $2.50

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1970s. Further reform plans are outlined. Saving heritage buildings, transit etc 20 $2.00

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1970s. I saw my role as tackling controversial issues and providing leadership for change, even if common wisdom tended in a different direction, and that was probably most evident in the work I … 17 $1.70

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1978. At this time, Mayor Crombie was angling for the Conservative Party nomination in a downtown riding, and he made it clear he intended to leave city hall for Parliament Hill as soon as a … 23 $2.30

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1978-1980. As mayor, I was able to use my larger podium to speak up, bring attention to and encourage public discussion of important issues. This chapter recounts a number of such instances. … 23 $2.30

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1978-1981. I realized quite quickly that this was an opportunity, however difficult, to begin questioning deep-seated biases — particularly racism and homophobia — on the part of a … 26 $2.60

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1970s. Finding creative ways to assist communities and groups was a large part of the way I saw being a successful mayor. The challenge was to search for positive outcomes using the obvious … 26 $2.60

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1970s. The reform Council may have been inventive and proactive in undertaking such an ambitious affordable housing program enabled by the federal and provincial legislation, but that program … 16 $1.60

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1980. Sewell’s reelection campaign 28 $2.80

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- 2 $0.20