There is a nice stretch of Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto that I like to drive. It’s that stretch down by Ontario Place that skirts the lake – you know the stretch I mean. There’s about three city blocks without a traffic light, and if there’s not much traffic you can outpace the Gardiner beside it. Okay, now imagine that the city planners had the foresight and the know-how to engineer all the major thoroughfares in the city like that: minimal traffic lights, three lanes wide in both directions, lots of trees, pedestrian crossovers lined with flower boxes, so there is minimal stoppage in traffic. The whole city. What would that be like?

Well it would be like Singapore, without the pleasant climate and lush vegetation. This is the only city I know where you can drive on tree lined boulevards for hours with practically no stop to the traffic flow. Oh, I know the rap on Singapore, heard it lots of times by people who are either too far away to know, or too close not to be affected by envy. It’s draconian, it’s repressed, yada, yada. That’s a lot of hooey. People are not immigrating to Singapore from all over Asia because it’s repressed. Their moving there because it is a great place to live.

But it’s not really an Asian city, is it? The answer to that depends on how racist you are. No, it is not an Asian city if your ethnocentric bias insists that an Asian city must be poor, filty and backward in order to qualify. Singapore is none of the above. Instead it is intelligent, courteous, thoughtful, considerate, friendly, environmentally conscious and protective of its natural and human heritage. And yes, those are Asian values, and Singapore is a delightfully Asian city.

Lee Kwan Yew, who is the father of modern Singapore, started with a very simple idea. He decided to hire the best possible candidate for every position that needed to be filled, regardless of race, and pay them the highest possible wage so they would not be tempted by corruption. Singapore adopted a firm hand with criminals so that honest effort would be rewarded and criminals would move elsewhere. Forty years later and this city serves as a model of civic savvy.

I suppose I am a little envious myself of those who get to live there. But then, if we lived there, it wouldn’t be such a great place to get away to for a visit. Pam, the lucky thing, gets another week there without me, but I think she will be a little too busy for sightseeing. It is the week of the conference, starting today. We did actually manage to get a fair bit done in preparation while we were there this week, so I hoping it all goes well for her. For me, it is back to Macbeth and a stack of marking. I’ll try to get some pictures up over the course of the next few days.