Through a chance encounter with City of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean I gained access to ward-level statistics on where complaints to her office originate. I had the suspicion that, much like voter turnout and election campaign donations, the parts of the city where more immigrants and economically disadvantaged people live would be less likely to use the formal mechanisms through which residents can complain about how they have been treated by the City.
This map aggregates the total number of complaints in each ward for the years 2011 and 2012. Pink wards had more complaints than the average ward (43) and blue ones had less.
(Note that many complaints are anonymous or pertain to citywide issues. The complaints mapped here are the two-thirds of the total that originate from a ward.)
We see a familiar pattern: Wealthier areas, gentrified areas inhabited by well-educated professionals, and areas with fewer immigrants tend to initiate more complaints than others.
Is this because poorer areas, areas with fewer professionals, and fewer recent immigrants have less to complain about? Probably not.
I would wager that it has more to do with political efficacy — with some residents feeling like they have a stake in the system and having the resources to act on it, while others do not.
For comparison, let’s look at a map of the “Creative Class” created by Richard Florida at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. In his scheme, this refers to a particular subset of service-sector workers who work in knowledge-intensive and innovative professions that require a lot of education.
Whether or not you buy into Florida’s theory, the implication is clear: this is exactly the sort of group you’d expect to have high political efficacy, and the areas where they live are more or less those that feel entitled — and have the leisure time and resources — to complain when they feel ill-treated by government.