Maps: How Ford’s support has more to do with urban form than anything else

Philip Preville made the case recently in Toronto Life that Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s support primarily tracked income differences:

Crackgate revealed that the city’s crippling political divide isn’t between downtowners and suburbanites—it’s between the rich and the poor, and it’s only getting worse

It’s complicated (these things always are) but some maps I’ve been working with recently show an eerily precise relationship between the age of a Toronto neighbourhood and its level of support for Ford in 2010, a pattern stronger than anything related to income.

Here’s a map using StatsCan data (percentage of single-family houses built before 1945, by census tract) which is a proxy for how the area that’s now the Toronto megacity was developed by the end of the war: the familiar inverted-T shape of the former City of Toronto is there, but also East York, York, Weston, shoreline Scarborough, the Kingsway area of Etobicoke, Weston and Long Branch. These areas were developed fairly densely along streetcar lines with shopping areas along arterial streets that most people could walk to. (The downtown core has few single-family houses to count, today at least, but belongs in this category as well.)

The map has a very close negative relationship to this poll-by-poll map of the mayor’s support in 2010 (interactive version here):

It also has to be said that the 416 suburbs are in broad economic decline, but it’s easy to find low-income downtown neighbourhoods that didn’t vote for Ford (Parkdale, the east downtown) and high-income suburban ones that did (the Bridle Path). It’s a lot harder to find a general pattern of postwar neighbourhoods opposing the mayor (York University is a rare exception) and prewar neighbourhoods supporting him.

The maps tend to support the idea that there is a fundamental difference in civic culture between the walkable neighbourhoods of the prewar period and the car-centred ones that came after, and that in electoral terms the difference can be more important than income. For contrast, here’s an income map (median family income from tax data, 2010):

2 thoughts on “Maps: How Ford’s support has more to do with urban form than anything else

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