Toronto is Money: Part II, Starts and Stops



Forecasters could gain something from reading science fiction by learning to avoid its errors, for they are prone to the same pitfalls. Similarly, science fiction authors could be enriched by gaining some familiarity with those works of political analysis that attempt to devise a sophisticated array of alternative international systems.1

“Sooner than Someday” performed by Dane Vannatter and Dorian Woodruff; lyrics Bob Levy, original music Dennis Livingston

Livingston’s chosen collection of science fiction and what he accomplished in “Science Fiction Models” in 1971 is remarkable. In the same paper, there is a crash course in both sociological utopian/dystopian fiction and in forecasting, of the kind happening two decades after ENIAC was utilized in forward looking meteorology.2

Living in Toronto and interested in business forecasting, since hired to locate and curate research and analysis in support of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) for a telecommunications company’s strategy and corporate development team, I was thinking about where the city was going often. But then I started investigating and writing about Ontario’s public education curriculum history for over a decade.

Seeing the moonscape photographer hawc captured east of downtown, I was reconnected with a speculative interest. The photo’s barrenness was unusual compared to the Toronto we have come to observe since Y2K. There’s always one structure or another manifesting. But this scene featuring a tight cluster of the city’s density far off and separated from you by a long nothingness is more characteristic of the Toronto 25 years ago.

Back then there was not as much of a lower city, south of Union Station and the railway tracks. Not empty; some significant cultural venues were present, hotels and docks. A sparser collection of residential towers made living and staying on the water possible, not completely envious. Queens Quay Terminal was beautiful already as were other places.

The temporary end of the city’s 1980s expansion is described by those who were around and cognizant as a challenging period. I don’t want to give the impression that Toronto’s waterfront was sterile or sleeping in the 1990s. Said to be inspired by a pictorial element of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, Yo Yo Ma’s Music Garden opened to the public June, 1999. And that was the decade’s final year. Now pretty displays are everywhere north and south of Union.

And back then, commercial towers had stalled and housing ideas sunk everywhere, notably Hudson Bay Company and Trizec Equities’ Bay Adelaide Centre and City of Toronto’s Ataratiri housing development.4

Selection of Ataratiri housing image City of Toronto, orig. by Brown & Storey, Architects, ca. 1988. City of Toronto Archives: Series 1465, File 698, Item 23; (via Mark Osbaldeston’s No Little Plans)

Now, it’s not realistic to claim that even far off in the east. Still there isn’t one of the city’s magnificent LRT lines running east from Union, but the concept is optimistically labeled as “Waterfront Transit” on some future looking maps, filling gaps east and west. Construction is everywhere. Driving downtown southeast of the core now, municipal and private construction is apparent.

Navigating around the Portlands, it’s easier to locate the constructed mess you see in the above pano then the serenity hawc captured for Urban Toronto. Everything is going now. One day though Toronto will slow significantly. Starts and stops is how this city proceeds.

“The essential contribution of science fiction consists in its offerings of heuristic, speculative models of social systems that speak to the major issues raised in nonfiction” wrote Livingston. It’s not only forecasting software offering the interested more of an understanding about the complexity behind today and tomorrow’s social systems. Luckily for the interested, there is Toronto’s Lillian H. Smith library’s Merril Collection holding among the “world’s leading research collections of speculative fiction” accessible in one of many notable TPL buildings.


  1. Livingston, D. (Spring, 1971). Science Fiction Models of Future World Order Systems. International Organization, 25(2), 268.
  2. Platzman, G. (April, 1979)The ENIAC Computations of 1950—Gateway to Numerical Weather Prediction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, , 60(4), 302-312.
  3. Leland, J. 2020 The Man With The $13 Billion Checkbook. Leadership: The Principles That Matter, Teams That Win and Your Path to Success. (New York: Meredith Corporation and The New York Times), 36-41.
  4. Osbaldeston, M. 2016 No Little Plans — Housing. No Little Plans: Alternative Building and Transportation Visions for Toronto. (Toronto: City of Toronto).