My comments regarding the National Post opinion piece on Walmart vs. Kensington Market

8 Jul

Since the National Post decided to block my comment (I tried twice), and has now closed the comments section on their opinion piece from last week about how the proposed Walmart on Bathurst St. would be good for Kensington Market, I decided to post my full comment here.

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There are several incorrect statements made by the author that require a response. The entire piece is misguided, but I’ll focus on a few points in particular.

1. “Even though, they admit, the prospective site of the Walmart at Bathurst and Dundas streets is well outside Kensington’s borders.”

– No one who is working on the campaign to stop Walmart has ‘admitted’ this. The proposed mall is across the street from the western border of the KM BIA boundary and of the Kensington Market neighbourhood. This development will have far-reaching negative impacts on small businesses for many blocks in all directions.

2.”…(there was) concern for…St. Lawrence Market, for example, with the opening of a Metro grocery store across the street, but the two have learned to coexist by serving different needs.”

-The St. Lawrence Market is an entirely different scenario of businesses all housed within a Toronto Heritage property. No mention by the author of the impact that Metro had on other local independent businesses. Same issue applies to some of the small businesses in and around the new Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws.

3.”If you want to shop for vintage furniture, exotic spices, and loose-leaf teas, you go to the Market; if you want a pack of socks and a new plastic Brita filter, you go to Walmart.”

– Kensington Market is not just a collection of ‘specialty’ shops – you can buy a pack of socks at Zimmerman’s. Not sure about the filter, but you can buy meat, cheese, bread, fish, fruit, vegetables, coffee, spices, bulk foods, hardware stuff, homewares, linen, furniture, bikes, skateboards, shoes, new, second hand, and vintage clothes, safety gear, plants, cookwear, pretty much all the basics and some more specialized imported goods/foodstuffs from around the globe. The prices, as in neighbouring Chinatown, are pretty low overall, with the exception of a couple higher end stores that have opened more recently.

4. “Despite the ominous aura that seems to accompany every new Walmart opening, the launch of the store at Bathurst and Dundas may actually prove a boon to the community.”

– There’s an ‘ominous aura’ for a good reason. Walmart is known to suck the money out of the local economy and into the coffers of a wealthy US based corporation. They kill good local jobs and replace them with far fewer and less desirable ones.
As per Wikipedia: Wal-Mart has been subject to criticism by numerous groups and individuals. Among these are labor unions, community groups, grassroots organizations, religious organizations, environmental groups and Wal-Mart customers. They have protested against Wal-Mart, the company’s policies and business practices, including charges of racial and gender discrimination. Other areas of criticism include the corporation’s foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, environmental practices.

5. “Occupying a former retail outlet and adjacent seemingly-always-abandoned parking lot, the mall may give the aesthetic streetscape a lift…”

The development will not ‘occupy’ a former retail outlet – it will replace the existing built form from Nassau up to almost College St. with a hideous, suburban style car-centric mall that has no place in downtown Toronto – hardly an ‘aesthetic lift’. That parking lot is actually used pretty much all the time by visitors to the hospital. The loading dock proposed for this mall is as big as they come, and the truck traffic alone will have a tremendously negative impact on Bathurst St. Think about how hard it is now for emergency vehicles to access the hospital via Bathurst, or even for the streetcar to get through. Add all those trucks, and all the added traffic on Bathurst (and spill over onto residential streets) and that’s another important reason why this development proposal does not fit within this community.

6. “Walmart would offer affordable options to those who weren’t going to buy Kensington Market’s $20 organic homemade pies anyway.”
– See point 3 above.  While Kensington Market does now offer a few specialty goods at a higher price, the bulk of what is sold and sought in the market are inexpensive basics.  Walmart is not welcome or needed in this part of the city. It’s just not worth it.

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