Toronto: Nice but broke / Canada's aspiring city state
It is lauded for its cosmopolitan feel and quality of life. But it also suffers from budget problems and creaking infrastructure just when—for the first time in a century—its status as Canada's pre-eminent city is being challenged. The contender is Calgary, in Alberta, the western base of the country's booming energy industry. Though its population is only 1m, it is growing fast. Calgary is building new schools, hospitals and roads and luring corporate head offices.
In contrast, Toronto's economy is under pressure. Its manufacturing industry shed 100,000 jobs in the past five years, because of a strong currency and competition from China. Not all the news is grim. The Toronto area still attracts two of every five immigrants to Canada. Private wealth is pouring into new museums, theatres and art galleries. And Toronto is still Canada's financial centre. Yet few would now describe it as “New York run by the Swiss”, as did Peter Ustinov, a British actor and writer, in a double-edged quip in 1987.
Toronto's prospects turn in part on sorting out its finances. It faces a deficit of about C$575m ($550m) this year on current spending of C$7.8 billion. The problems date from the 1990s, when the federal government eliminated its own deficit partly by cutting funding to provinces. Ontario responded by passing responsibility for social housing, welfare and other social programmes to the cities, which struggled to pay for them out of property taxes.
San Francisco: City in a bottle / The strange half-recovery of California's prettiest city
The city's finance and insurance industry has moved or made redundant 15% of its workers, and now employs fewer people than during the recession of the early 1990s. Outside a few niches, manufacturing seems to be in terminal decline.
The face of San Francisco is changing, too. Like other big cities, it is being abandoned by blacks; more unusually, Hispanics are also leaving. Long a childless place, it is becoming ever older. During the boom years of the late 1990s, the city sucked in young people. Since the bust, some of them have aged and others have left, not to be replaced. The Association of Bay Area Governments reckons the population of twenty-somethings in San Francisco fell by 38% between 2000 and 2005.