We Are Scarborough


This series of discussion papers has been prepared as part of the 2014 Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign, initiated by the Rotary Clubs in Scarborough. The campaign is seeking to raise the profile of the need for social and economic renewal in Scarborough.  The series addresses 5 key areas of growth and development: 1) Economic Development; 2) Social Development; 3) Urban Planning; 4) Arts and Culture and 5) Health Care.

A series of questions are presented at the end of this discussion paper to gather responses on the direction of community renewal for social development.  As part of the overall 2014 Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign three questions are being asked of Scarborough residents:

  • What do you love about Scarborough?
  • What is your vision for a desirable future?
  • What needs to change to achieve this vision?

Feel free to share comments and additional  recommendations for building a better community in Scarborough.

1 Social Development in Scarborough

1.1 Background

Toronto is rated one of the most liveable cities in the world.[1] As Canada’s largest urban centre, Toronto generates 45% of Ontario’s GDP and 18% of Canada’s GDP.[2] Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America. The city is continuing to grow, and is a leading economic player in the global economy. As Canada’s largest city, Toronto is home to over 85,000 businesses and is the country’s financial and cultural capital.[3]

As a former amalgamated City, Scarborough has much to celebrate.  We are a wonderful multi-cultural community.  There is a wide variety of retail shops and settings where small business can grow.  Our, established communities are thriving.  We have strong community, arts and faith groups.  Stable organizations exist to ensure support is available to assist all members of society and build quality of life and community well-being.

As an example of recent social investment, the most recently constructed Pan Am and Parapan American Games Aquatic Centre is a state of the art facility, with opportunities for community building and recreation to enhance social spaces in Scarborough. The City of Toronto’s Cultural Hotspot program is another city-wide initiative, highlighting the diversity and community-based arts and culture opportunities in the area.

Over the next generation, Scarborough has an opportunity to re-imagine the community and grow in innovative ways. Developing social infrastructure involves more than social services; rather, this includes resources, relationships, spaces for gathering, learning opportunities, partnerships and networks.[4]

However, in spite of a strong economy and recent large-scale development programs, the benefits are not being seen by all members of our society.

Income polarization in former suburban areas, such as Scarborough, has become increasingly evident since the amalgamation of the former six cities into the City of Toronto. Research by Professor David Hulchanski out of the University of Toronto, describes three cities that have formed within Toronto, and increasing polarization since 1970.[5]  Map 1 below shows the three cities. The cities are characterized as:

  • City 1: Income increased 20% or more since 1970.
  • City 2: Income increased or decreased less than 20% since 1970
  • City 3: Income decreased 20% or more since 1970.[1]

Much of the industry in the inner suburbs has relocated or transitioned, largely due to the deindustrialization of the economy, which has been experienced globally, not just in Scarborough. Over a 10-year period from 2002-2012, Scarborough experienced a net loss of 1,758 jobs, with fluctuations in job growth and decline varying from year to year. The most significant decline in Scarborough occurred in 2005, with a loss of 3,637 jobs.[7] Over this same period, Toronto as a whole experienced a net growth in employment of 68,200 jobs.[8]

Wealth is centred in the core areas of the city. Incomes for the affluent have risen and property value increases have resulted in huge increases in net worth for many core area families. In contrast, there has been a decline in middle-income households in the suburbs and poverty has moved to the edges of the city.[9]

Map 1: Change in average individual income, City of Toronto, Relative to the Toronto CMA, 1970-2005.[10]

Map 1: Change in average individual income, City of Toronto, Relative to the Toronto CMA, 1970-2005.[10]

1.2 The Working Poor

A report published in 2012 by the Metcalf Foundation highlighted the trends where poverty is located in Toronto.[11] While employment is largely considered the solution to ending poverty, there are an increasing number of people who continue to live in conditions of poverty while also working.[12] The Metcalf Foundation in its report defines the “working poor as someone who:

  • has an after-tax income below the Low Income Measure (LIM),
  • has earnings of at least $3,000 a year,
  • is between the ages of 18 and 64,
  • is not a student, and
  • lives independently.”[13]

Maps 2 and 3 below highlight the shift in the geographic concentration of the working poor in Toronto. From 2000-2005, Scarborough experienced significant shifts.

Untitled 2

Map 2: Percentage of working-poor individuals among the working-age population, City of Toronto, 2000.[14]

City 3: Income decreased 20% or more since 1970.[6]

Map 3: Percentage of working-poor individuals among the working-age population, city of Toronto, 2005.[15]

1.3 Strong Neighbourhoods

While Toronto has seen an ‘eastification’ of poverty, John Stapleton at Open Policy Ontario, challenges the notion of Scarborough being a community in decline.[16] Specifically, identifying low-income communities as being in decline identifies poor people as the cause for decline, which is damaging and not reflective of the resident community.[17] Scarborough is a dynamic multi-cultural centre, consisting of vibrant neighbourhoods. What were formerly known as the City of Toronto’s Priority Neighbourhoods were newly named Neighbourhood Improvement Areas in 2014, taking into account the need to reframe community building discussions to reflect strong neighbourhoods vs. neighbourhoods in decline, and how to support that ongoing process.[18]  Thinking about improvement allows for the reframing of communities in decline and highlighting areas for continued growth.

2 Services and Programs

What are some of the programs currently supporting social and economic development for Scarborough residents?

2.1 Integrated Local Labour Market Planning (ILLMP)

The ILLMP is a joint initiative, bringing together the City of Toronto – specifically Economic Development and Culture, Toronto Employment and Social Services, and Social Development, Finance and Administration – and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) to develop a local framework to ensure access to employment supports and services. This joint initiative released an Integrated Employment Services Plan for the Kingston, Galloway, Orton Park, Mornelle Court (KGOM) area, outlining key strategies and recommended activities to assist in creating a comprehensive economic and employment strategy that focuses on the local economy’s supply and demand.[19]

The ILLMP is part of a larger Inclusive Local Economic Network (ILEN) initiative; however, the ILLMP for KGOM is the first analysis. This strategy will be replicated in other areas of Scarborough, as each specific neighbourhood faces different challenges, and requires a regional service plan.[20]

2.2 YWCAs and YMCA in Scarborough  

The YWCAs and YMCA in Scarborough offer numerous services for community members, including newcomer information services, language assessments and referrals, youth leadership programming, career counseling and entrepreneurship assistance. These community hubs ultimately seek to offer a range of programs developed to meet the needs of the community.[21]

2.3 Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA)

ACSA offers community engagement programming that is current and relevant to the needs of the community it serves.[22] Established in the 1970s, ACSA responded to the rapidly changing community of Agincourt, by involving the community in establishing programming. Today, ACSA offers services, such as a newcomers’ information centre, youth, child and senior services, homeless and outreach services. The Association is also involved in community action networks, involving neighbourhoods in building stronger communities by identifying areas for growth, and helping residents achieve that vision.

2.4 East Scarborough Storefront

The East Scarborough Storefront opened in 2001, and is a community resource for collaboration, support, and community building.[23] The Storefront is involved in identifying local economic opportunities, employment training, and acts as a community hub for meeting and community activity. While the Storefront was established as an effort to connect service providers with community members, the space has launched new entrepreneurial initiatives, identified gaps in community services, filled those gaps and has created greater connections within the community.[24]

2.5 Boys and Girls Clubs

The Boys and Girls Clubs in Scarborough offer a wide range of programming and community involvement for youth, from birth-24 years old, and for families. The facilities offer licensed childcare, early years programs, before & afterschool programs, camps, sports/recreation and leadership development. The Boys and Girls Clubs are active in building healthy communities, and providing safe environments for youth to learn and grow.

3 Community Social Planning Outside of Scarborough

How have other communities approached social development?  What lessons are there for Scarborough?

3.1 Hamilton Human Services Plan

Planning coordination is important to ensure that all those in need are receiving social and economic support. The City of Hamilton decided to establish a vision for social development supported by a coordinated plan.  The Hamilton Human Services Plan identifies 10 Human Service sectors that impact residents of any given community and that are needed in order to build a comprehensive plan: 1) Learning Opportunities; 2) Community Safety; 3) Economic Development; 4) Transportation; 5) Housing Opportunities; 6) Early Childhood Services; 7) Culture and Recreation; 8) Social & Community Services; 9) Employment & Income Supports; and 10) Healthcare and Public Health. By engaging various groups and collaborating to develop a ‘playbook’ for social planning, Hamilton was able to identify strengths, weaknesses, existing programming and gaps in order to integrate future planning. Additionally, this approach seeks to integrate groups operating in silos, and offers space for community involvement in social policy planning.[25]

3.2 Region of Peel – Official Plan

The Region of Peel approached developing its Official Plan from a new perspective by integrating urban development with social planning.  They began by questioning the assumptions underpinning the design of traditional suburban housing architecture and the design of subdivisions.  Traditional subdivision design assumes residents will:  be part of a nuclear family, be healthy, never have challenges with language or customs, never age, keep employed, and stay married.  These life circumstances do not depict how most people live their lives.  Peel Region planners observed that “complete communities” were needed and could be designed to serve all residents no matter how their circumstances changed.

In 2013, the Region of Peel released a report on community health and the impact of the built environment on fostering and developing healthy communities.[26] Specifically, Region of Peel planners and social development staff explored epidemics facing communities (e.g. obesity), and identified the need to address community health in urban development plans, including:

  • Rethinking the design of low-density, single family dwellings and large lot sizes;
  • Automobile dependency
  • Large distances from services
  • Street patters that are obstacles to walking and biking to nearby destinations, etc.[27]

The plan also calls for a specific approach to planning to address an aging population.[28] This approach to urban planning accurately captures the need to integrate urban and social planning with inputs from developers and builders, urban planners and social agencies so as to build complete communities.

Core recommendations

  • Develop a “Scarborough Specific” Human Services Plan, addressing barriers faced by youth, seniors and newcomers
  • Deliver high order transit to those who are most transit dependent
  • Design ‘complete communities’ as part of planning for new infill development
  • Integrate urban planning and social planning within Toronto’s Official Plan
  • Increase public consultation and engagement on a Social Development Vision for Scarborough
  • Accelerate economic development for job creation

5 Questions for Discussion

  1. What does an excellent quality of life mean for Scarborough residents? What is our ‘vision’?
  2. In your experience, what aspects of Scarborough’s neighbourhoods are thriving?
  3. How are seniors integrated into larger conversations of social planning in Scarborough?
  4. What youth initiatives exist in Scarborough to assist this rapidly growing demographic?
  5. Why are those neighbourhoods thriving and what are the lessons for Neighbourhood Improvement Areas?
  6. Are there gaps in social planning programs that need to be filled to service Scarborough residents?
  7. How could a Scarborough specific Human Services Plan best benefit the community? How would the Plan be structured to integrate with urban planning?


[1] The Economist. 2013. Global Liveability Ranking and Report August 2013. Accessed June 2, 2014 from http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=Liveability2013

[2] Toronto Region Board of Trade. 2014. Toward a Toronto Region Economic Strategy: Economic Vision and Strategy Report for the Toronto Region.

[3] City of Toronto. 2013. Collaborating for Competitiveness: A Strategic Plan for Accelerating Economic Growth and Job Creation in Toronto.

[4] Cowen, D. & Parlette, V. 2011. Toronto’s Inner Suburbs: Investing in Social Infrastructure in Scarborough.

[5] Hulchanski, D. 2010. The Three Cities Within Toronto.

[6] Ibid.

[7] City of Toronto. 2012. City Planning Establishment-based Employment Survey.

[8] City of Toronto. 2012. Toronto Employment Survey 2012, Revised December 2013.

[9] Ibid.

[10] City of Toronto. 2012. Toronto Employment Survey 2012, Revised December 2013.

[11] Stapleton, J. et al. 2012. The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Stapleton, J. et al. 2012. The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing. Pg. 9.

[14] Stapleton, J. et al. 2012. The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing.

[15] Stapleton, J. et al. 2012. The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing.

[16] Stapleton, J.  2007. Let’s Take Reframing Seriously.

[17] Ibid.

[18] City of Toronto. 2014. http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=cf8a42f18beb2410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

[19]  City of Toronto. 2013. Integrated Employment Service Plan 2013-2014.

[20] Ibid.

[21] YMCA of Greater Toronto. 2014. Accessed on June 9, 2014 from http://ymcagta.org/en/index.html

[22] Agincourt Community Services Association. 2014. Accessed on June 9, 2014 from http://www.agincourtcommunityservices.com/home/about-acsa.php

[23] East Scarborough Storefront. Accessed on June 2, 2014 from http://www.thestorefront.org/

[24] Cowen, D. & Parlette, V. 2011. Toronto’s Inner Suburbs: Investing in Social Infrastructure in Scarborough.

[25] Hamilton Community Services. 2010. The Playbook: A Framework for Human Services Planning in Hamilton.

[26] Region of Peel. 2013. Peel 2041 Official Plan Review. Accessed June 9, 2014 from http://www.peelregion.ca/planning/officialplan/2013offplan-review.htm

[27] Region of Peel. 2013. Peel 2041 Official Plan Review. Accessed June 9, 2014 from http://www.peelregion.ca/planning/officialplan/2013offplan-review.htm

[28] Region of Peel. 2014. Planning for an Aging Population: Regional Official Plan Review Discussion Paper. Accedd on June 9, 2014 from http://www.peelregion.ca/planning/officialplan/art/Age-FriendlyPlanningDiscussionPaper.pdf

About Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited

Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited (HSAL) is a multidisciplinary strategic planning and public affairs consultancy, focused on environmental and land use planning, stakeholder relations (including communications, facilitation, public consultation and engagement), socio-economic impact assessment, communications, engineering and related services. We have the expertise to predict and decipher technical and public policy issues, and significant experience mitigating them, building consensus and attaining even the most complex approvals. For more information, visit www.hardystevenson.com
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