Munk in the City is an initiative organized by the Urban Policy Lab that asks students to step out of the classroom and into the community to grapple with urban policy issues first-hand. In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Toronto municipal election, 25 teams of students from both the Master of Public Policy and Master of Global Affairs programs ventured out to all corners of the city to explore and report on key issues and concerns in each of the 25 new municipal wards. To see all student submissions, visit the project’s Tumblr page, or search the hashtag #MunkintheCity on your favourite social media platform. In this blog post, Graduate Fellow Matthew Plouffe picks out a few of his favourite submissions.
Now that the election has come and gone, and the controversy around shrinking Toronto city council has subsided, it’s time to reflect on the Munk in the City initiative.
I am genuinely grateful for all the work my fellow Public Policy and Global Affairs students put into exploring this city ward by ward and reporting on their findings. I was thoroughly impressed by the different approaches taken. With nothing more than an open call to wander, the groups found some interesting insights and captured a taste of many parts of the city I knew very little about.
I’ll start with Ward 20 (Scarborough Southwest), covered by Fiona Cashell (MGA), Jasper Peredes (MPP), and Arpit Kumar (MPP). They made a vlog post where they talked to local small business owners and listened to the challenges they faced around paying rent and community safety. Listening to the conversations, I began to appreciate how much of an impact these issues have on people’s voting choices, and why Mayor Tory’s promise of not increasing taxes beyond the rate of inflation is so popular.
Leaving Scarborough, the team for Ward 12 (Toronto-St. Pauls), made up of Isaac Crawford-Ritchie (MGA), Joshua Johnson (MPP), and Breanne Bateman (MPP, and UPL Graduate Fellow), documented a surprisingly green part of town, with all of its trails and parks, on their @viewsfromward12 Twitter feed. It was nice to see that they stopped at Councillor Joe Mihevc’s campaign office. With such a close race between him and Councillor Josh Matlow, I’m sure it was buzzing with activity (in the end, Matlow squeaked out a victory).
Finally, we have Ward 1 (Etobicoke), visited by Philippe Tremblay (MGA), Myra Wein (MPP), and Matthew Kupferschmidt (MPP), and the we_etobicoke_north Instagram feed. I didn’t know much about Ward 1, besides the fact that it is the ever-beating heart of Ford Nation. But I had a blast going through the pictures and reading their captions, especially learning about all the immigration services available in the community and that “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.”
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Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card 📚 This stunning facility officially opened in June 2017, the Albion Branch started off as the 1st @torontolibrary in Etobicoke located in a shopping mall in 1965. Serving as the only library in #Ward1, the Albion Branch offers more than books to its community. #torontomayor #etobicoke #TOPoli #ONPoli #MunkInTheCity #UrbanPolicyLab
To conclude, in the words of one of my favourite story teller, J.R R. Tolkien, “not all those who wander are lost.” On the contrary, they are actually one step closer to those around them and to discovering community.
Thanks again to all those who participated and the fun resources you have left us. I highly recommend that you explore some more of these exciting projects. Visit our Tumblr page, or search the hashtag #MunkintheCity on Twitter or Instagram. They are a real treat and a great chance to get to know our student community, and our city.
Matthew Plouffe is an Urban Policy Lab Graduate Fellow interested in social service delivery, housing, resilience, and environmental sustainability.