Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Regina, sunny-side up

I am in a Regina cafe near the Bus Terminal, waiting for the early-evening bus to Coronach. Statistically, this is the coldest week of the year, but the temperature here today is plus 7 and the sun is shining bright and clear. Saskatchewan seems to be welcoming me home.

I am glad to have had a chance today to become better acquainted with downtown Regina. There wasn't much to see from the air other than endless, empty white fields and frozen sloughs. But after lunch, I stumbled upon a pedestrian mall that runs south of the city centre mall to Victoria Park; and I like how early 20th Century buildings have been preserved in the downtown. Especially inviting is the Globe Theatre, which seems to inhabit what was once a municipal building, and which has a plaque that commemorates the "On-to-Ottawa-Trek" of unemployed radicals, which ended in a police riot in Regina in 1935.

There is also an excellent magazine store off the pedestrian mall where the "New York Review of Books" caught my eye. I bought it because the January issue has material that might feed my sermon for this coming Sunday on "speaking and teaching with authority" – especially a survey of the crazed theo-cons who infest today's Republican Party.

But although I like this tidy city of 200,000 people and appreciate the short and cheap cab ride from the airport to the bus station, I am more focused on how much I liked Toronto during my vacation. 

Toronto continues to look better and better to me. All the wounds of ground-level parking lots are being filled in by condos or office and retail buildings; the horrifying strip malls of Yonge Street north of Sheppard have now been mostly replaced by gleaming towers; and the old highlights of the waterfront (Sunnyside, High Park, Ontario Place, Harbourfront, the Distillery District, and the Beaches) are being stitched together in a frenzy of new developments. Finally, Rob Ford, the lamentable mayor, is being tamed by new alliances among city councilors after his disastrous first year in power.

The wrong-headedness of Rob Ford is well-exemplified by anti-immigration comments he made during the last mayoralty campaign. He claimed that because of the "chaos" Toronto suffered with its 2.5 million inhabitants, it should consider a halt to immigration for the time being. 

The opposite, of course, is the truth. It is population growth, cultural diversity, intensification of infrastructure and new immigrants that make Toronto shine bright. Toronto should be gearing up for 5 million or more people, in my opinion – and within the boundaries of old Metro and not in further suburban sprawl. 

Given the richness and excitement I experienced in Toronto, I may experience a bit of withdrawal when I am back on the Border tomorrow. But at least it will be sunny. The forecast includes virtually nothing but sunshine for the next two weeks, with no severe cold snaps either. And the days are getting longer too . . . 

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