Thursday, July 09, 2009

Canada’s Largest City Closed Come Back Later

That’s the message Toronto’s civic employees are sending out all over the world, regardless of whether they intended to or not.

Many countries around the world have issued travel advisories warning their citizens to avoid traveling to Toronto because of health concerns due to striking city employees refusing to collect and dispose of trash.

This past weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle listed Toronto, ON., Canada as the top place for tourists and other travelers to avoid, beating out the death, destruction and violence of places like Honduras, Northern Africa, and Mexico.

Toronto is on a garbage strike.Image by Aubrey Arenas via Flickr

Although the city is open for business, you’d never know it because of the 24,000 inside and outside civic employees, who have been off the job for three-weeks now. Striking workers include parks and recreation staff, paramedics, clerks, and garbage collectors – to name just a few of the essential services affected in some way by the strike.

The ferry service connecting Toronto’s mainland to its three islands hasn’t been operating since June 22 due to the strike. Tourist hotspots on the islands are open, but might be hanging “gone out of business” signs soon, because no one can get over to the islands to enjoy the summer fun.

The amusement park, named after the Toronto island on which it resides, Centerville, on Center Island, has had to shut down all of its rides. Local theatres and restaurants on the islands have cut back hours, and staff, because they are losing money by staying open.

Restaurants, bars, and hotels are all suffering, because city employees want their sick days and better job security.

Today, Toronto Mayor David Miller went on CNN, telling Americans Toronto is “buzzing” and a great place to visit, despite the strike.

The only thing buzzing in Toronto these days are the rats, seagulls, and the army of cockroaches which are invading the once clean and safe streets of one of the world’s most metropolitan cities, thanks to the thousands of metric tonnes of trash piling up in public parks, community center parking lots, and chil

Toronto Garbage Strike (2009)Image by Ian Levack via Flickr

dren’s playgrounds.

And there is more than just the summer’s sun heating up Toronto’s streets too. Tempers are flaring at many city-run temporary garbage sites, as striking city staffers delay and in some cases outright prevent people from entering these public spaces to dispose of their trash.

In one instance, a striking worker was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, after he claimed he was hit by a car driven by a fed-up resident at a local temporary trash site. The driver – who wasn’t charged by police – said the striking worker jumped in front of his car, trying to stop him from entering the public area.

Is it any wonder that countries around the world think Toronto isn’t a good place for their citizens to take their summer vacations?

Tourists in Toronto usually snap photos of the world’s first tallest free-standing structure – the CNTower, a major league baseball game with the Toronto Blue Jays at the “Dome,” or the view of our fair city from Lake Ontario, as they see it on one of its scenic islands.

Tourists brave enough to ignore any travel advisories can take pictures of something far more memorable – but for the wrong reasons – piles of trash in parking lots, public parks and playgrounds.

Yes Mayor Miller, Toronto is buzzing, but not the way it should be.

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