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Toronto is segregated by race and income. And the numbers are ugly

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In Toronto, the colour of money is mainly white.

New demographic charts show a strikingly segregated city, with visible minorities concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods and white residents dominating affluent areas in numbers far higher than their share of the population.

U of T professor David Hulchanski has done a lot of work on the city’s demographics, especially relating to income.
U of T professor David Hulchanski has done a lot of work on the city’s demographics, especially relating to income.  (Colin McConnell / Toronto Star file photo)

The new charts come from University of Toronto Prof. David Hulchanski and his research team, known for using census data to illustrate growing income inequality in the city. Their latest effort flags the role of discrimination in that inequality, with lopsided racial breakdowns that surprised the researchers.

“It’s starker than we would expect,” Hulchanski said in an interview.

Hulchanski revealed the new charts last week in the Netherlands at a conference called “Urban poverty and segregation in a globalized world.”

Using the 2016 census, his team calculated that 48 per cent of Toronto’s census tracts are low-income neighbourhoods, where the average individual income is $32,000 before taxes.Fully 68 per cent of residents in these neighbourhoods are visible minorities while 31 per cent are white. (Whites make up 49 per cent of Toronto’s population.)

The main ethno-cultural communities in these low-income neighbourhoods are all overrepresented compared to their share of the city’s population. Black residents, for example, are 9 per cent of the population but make up 13 per cent of residents of low-income neighbourhoods.

High-income neighbourhoods are almost a reverse image. They make up 23 per cent of Toronto’s census tracts, with average individual incomes of $102,000 before tax. Fully 73 per cent of residents in these neighbourhoods are white, far higher than their share of the city’s population. The rest are visible minorities, of whom only 3 per cent are Black.

Whites are also overrepresented in middle-income neighbourhoods, where the average income is $49,000.

“Money buys choice. And people with the most choice are choosing to live in certain areas,” Hulchanski says, explaining the disproportionately high concentration of white residents in high- and middle-income communities.

Choice also partly explains the makeup of low-income neighbourhoods. Some members of ethnic groups prefer to live where their communities are most numerous, giving them easy access to the shops and cultural or religious services that facilitate integration or simply make life more enjoyable.

York University Prof. Carl James, who reviewed Hulchanski’s charts, questions how free the choice actually is for visible minorities.

“We have to think about how the system might have enabled and co-operated in making it possible for some people to access high income neighbourhoods and to stay in those neighbourhoods, or operated to keep others out of those neighbourhoods. It’s not just individual choice. Many other structural things work in relation to choice.”

Studies indicate that discriminatory barriers to good jobs and housing play a determining role.

“Discrimination is not at the same level as in the United States,” Hulchanski says, “but that doesn’t make it any better for those who face that problem here.”

The researchers split the city into high-. and low-income categories by comparing neighbourhoods that were 20 per cent above or below the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area average. Middle-income was within 20 per cent. The team then used census data to see the makeup of those communities.

Evidence of discrimination is reinforced by another chart produced by Hulchanski’s team, showing relatively high levels of education in low-income neighbourhoods. Half of all residents in those areas have a post-secondary degree: 25 per cent from a university and 25 per cent from a community college.

Hulchanski questioned why half the city has average gross incomes of only $32,000 when so many people in those low-income neighbourhoods have relatively high levels of education. “That doesn’t make sense, except for discrimination,” he said.

Another worrying sign for Hulchanski is that 57 per cent of residents in Toronto’s low-income neighbourhoods are immigrants, including established ones who arrived before 2006. Only 31 per cent of residents in high-income areas are immigrants, including 23 per cent who arrived prior to 2006.

The racial segregation of Toronto neighbourhoods is in the context of research, also from Hulchanski’s team, illustrating the growth of low- and high-income neighbourhoods in Toronto, while middle ones steadily disappear.

The polarized income trend dates back to the 1990s, caused by federal and provincial cuts in transfer payments and social assistance, along with tax cuts, rising housing costs and the disappearance of well-paid manufacturing jobs, Hulchanski says.

Government policies caused the income polarization, and only government policies can reverse it, he argues. Hulchanski warns that in Europe, where the trend is less severe, income polarization and ethnic segregation has contributed to the rise of far-right populist movements and outbreaks of violence.

“How long can this continue?” Hulchanski asks. “There is no sign of the trend reversing yet.

“Will there be riots in Toronto? Who knows?”

Sandro Contenta is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @scontenta

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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