Toronto’s diversity is not reflected among its decision-makers.
I know this because I’ve been observing, for years, what has been going in and out of the minds of my Toronto Star colleague, columnist Michael Cooke. His most recent columns tell me how he’s been going over and over the same problem that keeps cropping up over and over in many places in our city: the gap between the ideal and the actual. And, by extension, the gap between what’s happening and what it should be happening.
The gap between ideal and actual has long been the source of some of Toronto’s great diversity. In the 1950s, it was the only thing that kept Toronto-born authors like Jack Behan and Jack Flemming, who are among my most favourite Toronto writers, publishing. It kept the University of Toronto Press, founded by the father of my father, publisher of the Globe and Mail, publishing serious Canadian authors like Charles Taylor and James Reaney. It kept Toronto poets like Arthur Kroker, who died last year of liver disease, publishing. It kept the University of Toronto medical centre building itself as a centre for international research.
It was also the source of Toronto’s great success as a hub for the arts. In fact, until about 20 years ago, the city lost some great writers to other parts of Canada. Tom Kerrigan – whose plays and letters are among my favourite pieces in Canadian literary history – wrote in his book The Darkening North (1968) that “it is perhaps not too soon to point out the contribution that Toronto artists have made to Canadian literature.” In the same book, Kerrigan argued that Canadian literature lost much of its vitality when it moved east, moving away from the “artistic” centre of Toronto.
All of which is part of what I’ve been observing at the Globe since the late 1990s. Michael Cooke was my colleague when the Globe was part of the Toronto Star’s national newsroom. He was also