Toronto: A Tale of Three Cities at Why Should I Care?

On April 18, 2016, Dave Hardy, Principal of Hardy Stevenson and Associates and John Stapleton, a fellow at the Metcalf Foundation did a talk on “Toronto: A Tale of Three Cities” organized by Why Should I Care, a non-profit group of concerned Canadians who care about the state of our democracy and political system. Dave and John talked about how we can mend the city and become one again. Here are the videos of their remarks from that night:

Video 1: Dave Hardy, Principal of Hardy Stevenson and Associates
Video 2: John Stapleton, fellow at the Metcalf Foundation

Click here for the article, “Toronto: A Tale of Three Cities” posted on July 17, 2016.

Posted in Uncategorized

Toronto: A Tale Of Three Cities

Dave Hardy, R.P.P. — July 2016

In 1998, the cities of Etobicoke, York, East York, North York, Scarborough, and Toronto, making up Metropolitan Toronto, were amalgamated into the City of Toronto. In 2014, the Rotary Clubs in Scarborough (coalition of 5 different Rotary Clubs in Scarborough) saw that one of the former municipalities, Scarborough, had close to half of the poverty areas in Toronto and they were concerned.

In contrast to US cities, poverty areas in Toronto are in the suburbs and the wealthy live in the core. David Hulchanski, Professor at the University of Toronto identifies three cities in Toronto in his report (1), “The Three Cities Within Toronto: Income Polarization Among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, 1970-2005”. He illustrated that in Toronto, in 1970, the low-income households were in the Downtown area near accessible transit. But by 2005, they had been pushed to the inner-suburbs where transit services are poor.

Today, City #1 is the high-income urban core where residents have seen incredible benefits from urban growth. For example, in Toronto’s tony Forest Hill community only a few houses sell for under $2 million – many are valued at over $4 million. House prices, home equity and family wealth continues to rise in this area.

City #2 is the middle-income area where residents are keeping up with the growth of the economy. This group is shrinking as a result of the growing gap between the high and low-income population.

City #3 is the low-income area that sits mostly outside of the subway lines. This includes inner-suburbs, such as Scarborough, where many people struggle to pay for housing, a basic need. Because of their poor access to quality public transit, many Scarborough residents, especially those at the low-income bracket are required to commute long distances of up to 20 kilometers on public transit to get to work in the core.

Rotarians saw community developers and social workers in City #3 doing a very good job at poverty alleviation, workforce training and implementing programs to help lift people out of poverty. The City of Toronto appropriately stepped up and assigned Neighbourhood Improvement Area status to these neighbourhoods and provided supportive programming.

But the Rotarians wanted to know, in one of North America’s wealthiest cities, what are the causes of poverty? Particularly, when Scarborough once was called the “City of the Future”, why does it have so much poverty today? So, they hired Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited (HSAL) to conduct research on Scarborough, focusing on five areas: urban planning, arts and culture, health care, economic development and social development. Effectively, they asked HSAL to peel back the onion.

In parallel, the Rotarians initiated a two-year-long Scarborough-wide economic and community development campaign. They paid HSAL to complete research on community renewal and talked to thousands of people through an extensive public consultation campaign – town halls, individual interviews and open houses.

This article summarizes some of the findings and recommendations and presents a distinct suburban view about what people in City #3 are seeing.

Let me begin with the context:

The former City of Scarborough has a large population. At about 625,000 residents in 2011 (2), it represents one quarter of the population of the City of Toronto and just under one third of the land mass. It has a larger population than Halifax, which is the largest city in eastern Canada. Indeed, it has a larger population than two Canadian provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

Scarborough residents have a strong vision of who they are. And, they are proud of where they live.

Scarborough is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse places on the face of the planet. HSAL calls it a “world within a city”.

Residents are polite, intelligent and they like each other. In spite of several higher profile crime incidents several years ago, it is one of the safest places in Toronto to live.

The sense of community and solidarity shared by Scarborough residents is reinforced by them constantly hearing condescending comments from other parts of the city. Over the course of our study, we even heard Canada’s National publically funded broadcaster, the CBC, joining the condescension by calling Scarborough a wasteland (3). Scarborough residents have become fed up with how they are viewed.

So, how are residents of City #3 experiencing the City of Toronto?

Let’s start with the economy.

When Scarborough residents look at the City of Toronto’s wealthy core they see a successful city with jobs centred on: finance, information technology, processed food, education and knowledge creation and life sciences. Toronto’s economy is doing famously well. Scarborough residents are pleased that the core is doing well and want nothing that detracts from that.

In contrast, when Scarborough residents think about their economy, they remember that they once had the strongest manufacturing sectors in Canada. Post-amalgamation and with free trade, Scarborough has shifted from a strong manufacturing economy to a retail economy.

It is hard to overlook the stark difference between the performance of City #1’s economy and that of City #3. Over a recent 4 year period (4) Toronto gained 1.6 million square meters of new office space while Scarborough only managed to attract 6,000 square meters of office space. From 2002 to 2012 Toronto gained 68,000 new well-paying jobs. In the same time period, Scarborough lost 1,700 jobs. At this time, Scarborough’s manufacturing sector lost over 14,000 jobs. For the poor in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, once people are trained the jobs they need aren’t there. It is, in part, the responsibility of the City to support economic development planning so that residents have jobs; but there’s no Scarborough specific economic development plan.

What about healthy communities?

Healthy communities are viewed by core area city planners as places where people are have good diets, ride their bikes to work and do recreational walking. To Scarborough residents, having a healthy community means equitable access to basic medical services.

There are three hospitals in Scarborough and all of them are in dire need of significant funding from the Province of Ontario – the level of government in Canada that is responsible for the majority of health care funding.

One of them is The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) Birchmount Campus (also known as Scarborough Grace). It has an emergency room designed to accommodate 20,000 visits per year but in 2014/15 they had 50,000 visits (5). Also, this hospital ranks in the bottom 10% of all hospitals in the Province of Ontario.

The Rouge Valley Hospital System is another hospital in Scarborough and is in dire need of investment. Similar to the TSH Birchmount Campus, the emergency department gets more visits than it was designed for – designed for 25,000 and had 65,000 visits in 2014/15 (6). Those are Scarborough’s good hospitals.

The TSH Scarborough General Campus’ operating rooms are about the oldest in Ontario (7). In a post-SARS world, the General Campus does not have the capability of keeping the clean areas separate from the dirty areas.

In April 2016, the Province announced a new investment of over $10 million in Scarborough hospitals as part of the 2016 Budget, which includes: 1) $4.5 million in increased operating funds for Rouge Valley Health System, and 2) $2.9 million in new operating funding for The Scarborough Hospital. Work is underway to provide capital funding for new hospitals although the funds may not materialize for 12 to 15 years. While Scarborough residents are happy to hear their hospitals are receiving funding, the announcement is a day late and a dollar short. By the time The Scarborough Hospital receive capital funds, the operating room will be over 75 years old.

How about arts and culture facilities?

What do Scarborough residents see when we look at core city
investment in arts and culture?

The core area of the City of Toronto is one of the best entertainment and cultural hot spots in North America. Scarborough residents are generally happy to see this success. But they see this success through a lens –

And here it is in the form of two jeopardy questions:

The category is performers.
Here’s the answer:

  • The Weeknd, Mike Myers, Lawrence Gowan, Monika Schnarre, Barenaked Ladies, Marilyn Denis, Jim Carrey, Doris McCarthy, Ben Heppner, Peter Appleyard, Gerry Dee, Carole Pope, and the list is long.

The question is: Who has Scarborough roots?

The next category is ‘support for the arts’.
Here’s the answer:

  • Galleries, museums, concert halls, exhibit spaces, performance spaces.

The question is: What cultural facilities does Scarborough lack?

Arts and cultural capital investment, part of the pre-amalgamation planning has never materialized.

What about transit?

Poor transit in Scarborough is evident when residents have to wait a long time for a bus that could connect them to another bus, Scarborough Rapid Transit (light rapid transit line), or the subway. It is also evident when those who rely on food banks have to commute for 40 minutes to get to a food bank in Scarborough.

And more interestingly, residents in City #1 who have reliable and accessible transit say they don’t go to Scarborough because it is not easy to get there by transit. This clearly minimizes opportunities for growth in Scarborough’s economy and support for arts and cultural activities (8).

Transit policy and planning is normally built upon Official Plans and Economic Development Plans. Good transit supports economic development, residential investment and job creation. The current Scarborough transit debate is being framed by City # 1 residents as building a subway to nowhere. Data is cherry-picked by Toronto’s core area chattering elites to show why transit isn’t needed in Scarborough. The necessary Official Plan and Economic Development supports are missing.

Complete City Needed

It is advantageous for city building to envision a ‘complete city’ rather than a city where some parts do very well and other parts suffer. If having Scarborough residents and other suburban residents equally participating in City life is important, let me share my ideas on how to build a complete city.

How does Toronto become as a complete city?

In Toronto, the suburbs are the key:

1. Completing the city means rethinking how we do city planning.

City planners are doing an excellent job in City #1. The core is booming. Planners have a steady stream of development and growth opportunities to manage. The focus of core area urban planning is great design and managing neighbourhood sensitivities.

But, the type of city planning that does so well for the core is not the same planning that is needed for the suburbs. It’s the difference between planning how to manage growth vs how to attract growth to the suburbs.

Suburban residents need, and are not getting, planning that delivers a positive context for community enhancement, place making and economic development. In part, suburban residents need the type of excellent planning that occurs in Peel Region, Vaughan, Markham and the rest of the 905 (905 is the telephone area code for Toronto’s outer suburbs).

In relation to the suburbs, Toronto’s Official Plan has not performed well and needs a lot of work. City-building through the Official Plan needs to link social, economic and environmental development. This involves suburban specific studies and actions to be implemented that arise from the studies.

The suburbs need a district vision, strategic plan, an integrated sustainability plan, transit plan, economic development plan and arts and culture plan. And, all of these plans need to be rolled into land-use policies. These studies and policies have not been developed.

2. Completing the city means looking carefully at how the city budget is being allocated.

What do Scarborough residents see in terms of where their tax dollars are being spent?

HSAL looked at a budget breakdown produced by company called Lonely Datum who created an interactive map using the City’s dataset on the City’s capital expenditures by ward between 2014 and 2023 (9).

What the data shows is several of Toronto’s wealthy wards get 10x more capital investment than all of Scarborough. Of the 13 lowest expenditure wards, 8 Scarborough wards are at the bottom of the City’s capital spending priorities over this period.

The core area wealthy in one Ward alone, Ward 20, who comprise almost 3 percent of Toronto’s population, are recipients of $58 million in City capital expenditures. Whereas Scarborough’s combined Wards 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 representing 24 percent of the City’s population is the recipient of $50 million. These numbers speak to the lack of City investment in Scarborough despite the needs of the population.

Investment is needed in the hospitals, agencies such as the Agincourt food bank, transit, arts and culture, transit and employment growth areas.

3. ‘New Suburbanism’ as an Integrating Idea.

Let me end by sharing an integrating idea; an idea that can help ‘mend’ the City.

A very good integrating idea for complete city building is called ‘new suburbanism’. It essentially involves planning for and building a complete region.

“New suburbanism” asks us to change our thinking on how we see the relationship between the city, suburbs and rural areas. Rather than being seen as dormant areas, suburbs need to be envisioned as vital, active areas contributing to the growth of the core, rural areas and the Region. The ‘Region’ in this instance is the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area.

It acknowledges that a strong city needs both strong suburbs and strong rural areas. It reasserts the role of suburbs as broker between urban and rural areas. Essentially, you can’t have a strong core without strong suburbs. Similarly, you can’t have strong rural areas without strong suburbs.

Adopting “new suburbanism” City planning principles means changing our thinking. It asks us to move away from a planning philosophy that has as the priority, the strength of the core; where planners assume that if the City core is strong there will be some sort of trickle-down benefits to the suburbs.

Instead, it asks us to see that:

Suburbs are not sub-urban; or lesser places than core urban places. They are simply different than urban. They are not places that people live in because they can`t afford to live in the better core areas. Instead, people live in the suburbs because they want to live in the suburbs. The suburbs provide green spaces, convenient shopping and spacious homes. The suburbs offer housing at a more affordable price than in the core. They were well planned as cohesive suburban neighbourhoods and continue to perform that role.

The core area of Toronto is undergoing considerable growth pressure, not dissimilar to London and New York. To address these outward growth pressures, growth following new suburban planning principles would mean that planners would combine greater suburban density with great suburban design. Future suburban areas will see high qualities of life, entertainment and arts facilities and neighbourhood preservation occurring in concert with growth. It involves community groups and developers working together to direct growth to best outcomes and to achieve community enhancements.

What’s required is a move from city-centred urban planning that overlooks suburban needs to region / district centred planning. Under new suburbanism, city planning begins with the city, suburbs and rural areas functioning as one.


Scarborough is a city that was amalgamated but never assimilated into the City of Toronto. It has the potential to be as vibrant as City #1 but it needs attention. It is lacking jobs, infrastructure dollars and new thinking of how suburbs should be planned and developed. Since the last municipal election Toronto has had an awakening of its suburban areas. I’m hoping it’s an awakening that has the ultimate result of the City coming together.
I submit that as the fourth largest city in North America, having the entire City working together towards achieving a complete city is much better for residents in every part of the City.


  4. City of Toronto. 2013. Profile Toronto.
  5. Report of the Scarborough/West Durham Panel (October 30, 2015) – Page 25
  6. Report of the Scarborough/West Durham Panel (October 30, 2015) – Page 26
  7. Report of the Scarborough/West Durham Panel (October 30, 2015) – Page 26
  9. Note: HSAL has not been able to independently verify the data.
Posted in Planning, Politics, Socio-Economic Impact Analysis, Sustainability, Transportation | 2 Comments

Is the decline of traditional media and substantive news reporting and the rise of news through social media harming our democracy?

Is the decline of traditional media and substantive news reporting and the rise of news through social media harming our democracy?

Dave Hardy’s abbreviated 17 February 2015 presentation to:  Why Should I Care?

The topic tonight is timely in light of the 6 month suspension of Brian Williams for exaggerating taking on fire in Iraq in 2003 and the demise of Sun Media.  Williams’ suspension showed me how important it was for NBC to maintain public trust through truth telling and factual reporting.

The demise of Sun Media prompted Liberal commentator Warren Kinsella[1] to state he was disgusted by the gleeful celebration by some people on Twitter and by the loss of 200 media jobs.  True to form, Kinsella’s comments prompted 47 pages of commentary from bloggers and tweeters.

My remarks focus on the premise that there is a substantial reduction in substantive news in relation to the health of our democracy.  I will comment as a non-journalist.  And, as a professional urban planner.

So, what are we to make of the flood of public opinion that now competes against traditional media news stories?

My good friend, and professional communicator, Brian Smith[2] observes that in society we believe that freedom of speech leads to truth.  So we don’t muzzel Jenny McCarthy when she shares the opinion that vaccination is a cause of autism in children.   For the health of our democracy we allow people to express their views.

Yet having 500 internet bloggers providing opinion with little or no research bumps into the historical views that we’ve developed in North America about what constitutes responsible journalism.

The underlying premise of responsible journalism is, substantive news is produced by professional journalists, (they are expected to do fact checking and print or tweet corrections if the facts are wrong) and that in turn supports the health of our democracy.  We expect journalists to disseminate quality information.  In contrast, Kinsella states, “…bloggers and tweeters don’t generate actual news – they just comment on it.  They offer opinions on someone else’s work.  Someone else’s journalism.”[3]

It’s not the job of bloggers and tweeters to correct falsehoods.  Although, there’s an uncomfortable amount of evidence showing professional journalists accepting facts and tweets without verification.  Perhaps with cuts to media budgets this will increase.

A second supporting premise is, responsible journalism separates the front page and the editorial page.  With the rise of social media, opinion gets through as front page journalism.  Whereas, in the past, opinion was filtered because it came through the funnel of traditional news organizations.

The third premise is, it’s the role of traditional media, according to Mark Little[4], Founder and Director of Innovation at Storyful, “to separate the news from the noise”.  Before the rise of social media, members of the public could check the integrity of news stories because they were following 5 journalists.

Little states the job of traditional journalists is to “filter the flood of competing narratives and to connect the most authentic voices to the widest possible audience.[5]  Society now has to scrutinize stories and facts produced by those 500 assorted bloggers, tweeters and journalists.  Author Nate Silver[6], states, “We face danger [in our democracy] whenever information growth outpaces our understanding of how to process it.”

Fourth, when matters are unclear, we expect traditional journalists to report that there are facts that need to be sorted out and to provide a nuanced tempered opinion when that is called for.

In contrast, bloggers don’t need to report that there are facts that need to be sorted out or that there is nuanced opinion about what characterizes the truth.  Nor do they need to consider the importance of reasoned debate toward identifying decisions that best represent the public interest.

We now have journalists, citizen journalists and activists communicating the news.  Hundreds of people have the same tools as traditional media but they are not bound by the tenets of journalistic responsibility.  They don’t need to buy into the principles of objectivity and fact checking.

On the other hand, perhaps there is some merit in saying that social media as a whole may also contribute to the health of our democracy.  What does social media do well?

In the past there was less transparency and decision makers didn’t necessarily have to take the broad public interest into account.  Why would they?  Who’s watching?

The point is, for some issues we need more voices not fewer to keep the political class accountable.  With Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler and Facebook, decision makers are conscious that someone is talking about their actions and decisions.  Using (or misusing) a Margaret Thatcher quote, social media provides the “oxygen of publicity”.

In terms of Kinsella’s comment that bloggers are simply commenting on someone else’s news reporting, bloggers and tweeters often get the story and photo’s first and share it with the public – raw.

What about Jenny McCarthy and the need for factual communication about science, the economy and complex public policy issues in a democracy?

In support of non-traditional media, the volume of scientific information has increased incredibly.  We have more access to science and health info than ever.  Yet, the public is not well equipped to sort out conflicting scientific information.

The problem faced by the public is, who do you trust?  The growth of info-tainment (news as entertainment) and traditional media broadcasters pandering for ratings has made dialogue on public policy issues and science increasingly difficult; in combination with decreasing social literacy about science, technology, engineering and math across society.

Yet, democratic decisions are made every day.  If we see the demise of substantive news as a threat to democracy, it raises the question of who are some of the other actors influencing these decisions.  Who’s holding decision makers to account?  In my experience, few politicians base their decisions on what the chattering classes say.  Pipelines, Official Plans, public transit expenditures and power plants are not approved based on the direction of internet gossip.

That brings me to my final point.  In terms of political and corporate communications, there are actors, such as Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, doing the scientific and public policy research, framing communications and influencing the democratic conversation about what is truth and what in the public interest.

When our work involves communications, we are unconventional.

We are as much subject specific experts (urban planners, economists, social scientists, engineers, geoscientists, physicists, epidemiologists, health physicists, medical doctors) doing ‘communications’ as much as we are ‘communicators with a second credential in the hard and soft sciences’.

Is there an emerging role for professionals to also enter the field as a type of journalist?

In a world where there is a substantial reduction in substantive news, would this role be to fill the gap that the decline of traditional news is leaving?  And, would technical professionals as journalists be a threat or would they contribute to the health of our democracy?

Dave Hardy, R.P.P.  28 April, 2015

[1] Warren Kinsella, Dear Sun News Network folks 13 02 2015


[3] Warren Kinsella, Dear Sun News Network folks 13 02 2015

[4] Mark Little, Founder and Director of Innovation and Storyful, “The Journalism of Terror: How Do We Bear Witness When Everybody is a Witness

[5] Mark Little, Founder and Director of Innovation and Storyful, “The Journalism of Terror: How Do We Bear Witness When Everybody is a Witness

[6] Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise a referred to in Little

Posted in Communications, New Media, Politics

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

[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.

[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

[22] Agincourt Community Services Association. 2014. Accessed on June 9, 2014 from

[23] East Scarborough Storefront. Accessed on June 2, 2014 from

[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

[27] Region of Peel. 2013. Peel 2041 Official Plan Review. Accessed June 9, 2014 from

[28] Region of Peel. 2014. Planning for an Aging Population: Regional Official Plan Review Discussion Paper. Accedd on June 9, 2014 from

Posted in Communities, Consultation | Tagged , , , ,

Economic Development in Scarborough


This Discussion Paper on Economic Development is the first in a series of discussion papers prepared as part of the 2014 Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign (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, given an overall increase in the concentrations poverty and low-income households, and the lack of resource investment in economic and social development.

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.

Each discussion paper reviews research and statistical trends for the above mentioned areas, and propose potential solutions for renewal. These solutions are intended to serve as a framework for discussion, and to stimulate additional consultation on the topic.

A series of questions are presented at the end of this discussion paper to gather responses on the direction of community renewal. Feel free to share comments and additional  recommendations for building a better community in Scarborough.

1 Economic Development in Scarborough

1.1 Background

As Canada’s largest urban centre, Toronto generates 45% of Ontario’s GDP and 18% of Canada’s GDP.[1] 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.[2]

The landscape of inner-suburbs in the GTA has changed significantly over the past 50 years. Toronto grew differently than many American cities, with the inner core housing a generally more affluent population and the inner suburbs housing working poor multi-cultural communities.

Much of the industry in the inner suburbs has relocated or transitioned, largely due to the deindustrialization of the economy. 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.[3] Over this same period, Toronto as a whole experienced a net growth in employment of 68,200 jobs.[4]

Scarborough has not only seen a loss in jobs, but also a shift in the type of employment, becoming more service-oriented. The manufacturing sector in Scarborough experienced the greatest loss over this same 10-year period, declining by 14,462 jobs.[5] As other sectors grow, the manufacturing sector overall has been in decline in Toronto; however, over this 10-year period, Scarborough accounted for approximately 28% of the total loss in this sector. Conversely, the retail and service sectors combined in Scarborough experienced a growth of over 3,000 jobs, representing approximately 20% of the total shift in Toronto.[6]

This shift in the employment sector is evident in the Scarborough landscape. Photo 1 shows a typical street view of Scarborough, with one for sale sign followed by another. In the Signature Sites Collection, profiling commercial and industrial development, redevelopment and available properties in Toronto, 7 out of the 16 currently vacant industrial buildings are located in Scarborough, which hold high potential for job creation in Scarborough neighbourhoods.[7] Photo 2 is one example of potential employment spaces being replaced by residential uses, schools, indoor recreational facilities and religious facilities. Other former industrial employment lands are being replaced by lower employment generators such as auto repairs or retails sales. Scarborough still has the majority of Toronto’s undeveloped industrial land. Photo 3 displays more recent industrial space development; however, many of these spaces continue to be unoccupied.

Photo 1: Industrial space for sale in Scarborough

Photo 1: Industrial space for sale in Scarborough

Photo 2: Former Publishing House in Scarborough, currently being used as a Church.

Photo 2: Former Publishing House in Scarborough, currently being used as a Church.

Photo 3: Newly built industrial space in the Birchmount and Eglinton area that remains vacant.

Photo 3: Newly built industrial space in the Birchmount and Eglinton area that remains vacant.

Toronto has a higher percentage of immigrants than New York, with a large percentage locating to Scarborough.  Inner suburban neighbourhoods are dramatically under-serviced and are characterized primarily by “residents with low incomes, many of whom face physical and mental health challenges, as well as greater members of newcomers.”[8] In addition, close to half of the city’s Neighbourhood Improvement Area’s (NIAs) are located in Scarborough.

Compared to the inner suburbs, downtown Toronto has seen impressive investment in development, both residential and non-residential.  It is notable that, over a 4 year period, 1,671,919 m2 of new non-residential gross floor area was developed in Toronto’s downtown core and central waterfront, compared to only 6,567 m2 in Scarborough.[9]

With a population of almost 600,000, Scarborough is larger than the city of Halifax, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, or the combined areas of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo.[10] Scarborough was amalgamated into Metro Toronto on January 1, 1998 and of all the amalgamated municipalities, Scarborough has fared most poorly. This includes loss of Economic Development staff and loss of political mayoral leadership.  For example, the Greater Halifax area has dedicated a 21-person team focusing on economic development.[11] Scarborough has a team of 3 individuals at Toronto Economic Development responsible largely for retaining existing businesses, jobs and the tax base with a focus on industrial and office employment.  They encourage and assist growth and the expansion of existing and new firms and increase jobs and City tax revenue.  The City has also assigned a team of 3 individuals at Enterprise Toronto focused on supporting entrepreneurs.

1.2 Programs and Incentives

Toronto also offers a number of tax incentive programs for new commercial or industrial developments. The Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) property tax incentive is available for new developments for employment uses in these specific sectors, and provides a grant equal to the property’s municipal taxes.[12]

At the Provincial-level, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) offers programs to drive economic development by supporting the creation of new jobs, products, services, technologies and businesses. Numerous programs exist through the OCE target entrepreneurs, industry and business. With incredible cultural diversity, international connectedness and a diverse business landscape, Scarborough has excellent potential to develop as a community of excellence with the presence of resources and leadership. Photo 4 displays an area of redevelopment at Kennedy and Highway 401.

Photo 4: Kennedy and 401 land use changes

Photo 4: Kennedy and 401 land use changes

1.3 Community Economic Development in Scarborough

The Rotary Clubs in Scarborough are promoting, a range of social and economic initiatives in Scarborough including community economic development. Community Economic Development (CED) is driven by a vision, followed by a strategic plan that is crafted by the communities themselves. It approaches economic development holistically, and finds solutions rooted in local knowledge while taking unique community dynamics into consideration. A Toronto Region Board of Trade strategy released in 2014, highlights that Toronto is a collection of individual municipalities, and establishing processes based on the diversity of industry and specialization in each area is central to the larger economic growth and prosperity of the city as a whole.[13] With this in mind, it is crucial to establish priorities and a Scarborough specific community economic development strategy that serves the interest of the resident population.

This begs the question of who is in a position to establish this strategy. Governments play a key role in supporting community economic development, and allocating available resources accordingly. However, discretionary money lies in the hands of local businesses and entrepreneurs who have the capacity to establish solutions addressing real needs of the Scarborough community. It is the community that needs to come together to identify, advance and implement economic renewal.

2 Potential Proposals for Renewal

2.1 Establish a Scarborough Economic Development Corporation

The Rotary Clubs in Scarborough have identified ‘proposals’ for discussion.  In order to facilitate economic investment in Scarborough, the first proposal is to establish a Scarborough Economic Development Corporation. The business community in Scarborough is comprised of diverse industries, and would benefit from greater interaction, cooperation and leadership among the business community. This organization could work in partnership with the Toronto Board of Trade and other business groups to strengthen and foster continued business growth in Scarborough. The Scarborough Economic Development Corporation would have an autonomous Board of Directors.

2.2 Increase Economic Development Staffing Resources

With limited City of Toronto staff resources allocated to Scarborough, support for community economic development can be improved. In coordination with the development of an Economic Development Corporation, a significantly enhanced dedicated staff could contribute to the growth of Scarborough business. This could involve a minimum of 12 additional staff dedicated to employment growth and significant municipal and provincial funding to support the establishment and on-going work of the department.

2.3 Implement Scarborough Tax-Free Enterprise Zones

Scarborough’s existing industrial areas have suffered from economic changes over the last 25 years. As a global economic player, there is incredible potential to leverage Scarborough’s multi-cultural community and presence of international entrepreneurs in a way that attracts international investment. Creating tax-free enterprise zones in select industrial areas would support a private sector investment climate and highlight the diversity of industry in Scarborough. Currently, incentives exist within the City of Toronto that assist new business development, such as the Tax Increment Equivalent Grant, a reduced tax rate for industrial and office space, and the Brownfield Remediation Tax Assistance program. A tax-free enterprise zone, however, could significantly stimulate international business opportunities for investment in Scarborough.

2.4 Head Office Attraction Initiative

People have a hard time finding a local job in Scarborough. Map 1 displays the location of employment industrial zones throughout the city. People are looking for work outside of Scarborough, but transit infrastructure is aged and much of the population is under-serviced in terms of higher order transit, making it difficult for people to access employment. By having the Scarborough Town Centre Area as the ‘head office’ location of several major, global private sector firms and/or Provincial agencies such as Metrolinx, this would create local business and institutional leadership, while also increasing City tax revenue.  Additional Scarborough locations could also be identified to serve as head office locations.

2.5 Renew Scarborough Town Centre

The Scarborough Town Centre has the potential to be a destination for not only Scarborough residents, but also for residents east of the GTA. The location makes it a convenient hub for community and cultural activities, entertainment, food and shopping. The redevelopment of the Scarborough Town Centre could create jobs in the service and retail sector, and attract additional investment in the area.

Map 1: Toronto Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones, 2013.[14]

Map 1: Toronto Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones, 2013.[14]

3 Questions for Discussion

  1. What Social and Economic Development initiatives are working well?
  2. What would need to change to allow Scarborough to attract a major head office?
  3. How can Scarborough attract additional employment space through development of new spaces and/or redevelopment of existing aged infrastructure?
  4. Would a Scarborough specific Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Corporation create change in the economic climate? Are there other mechanisms that need to be considered?
  5. In your experience, are there opportunities for the City to provide enhanced support to the development and growth of new and existing businesses?
  6. Are there other priority economic development opportunities that need to be considered?
  7. Should we be locating clusters of employment lands in other areas of Scarborough? What clusters? Which locations?


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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

[7] City of Toronto. 2014. Signature Sites Collection.

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

[9] City of Toronto. 2013. Profile Toronto.

[10] Statistics Canada. 2011.

[11] Greater Halifax Partnership. Accessed April 14, 2014.

[12] City of Toronto. 2014. Signature Sites Collection.

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

[14] City of Toronto. 2013. Citywide Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones.

Posted in Consultation, Planning | Tagged , , , ,

Mitigate Municipal Headaches with Timely Tweets

4 Million+ Canadians Use Twitter. 79% of Canadians Don't Leave Home Without Their Mobile Device.

Sources: *Crummy Media Solutions, Why Use Twitter for Marketing?, April 12, 2013.
**6S Marketing, Infographic: Canadian Internet Usage Statistics on Mobile, Search and Social, Chris Breikss, November 21, 2012.

Reliable infrastructure is the backbone of a thriving municipality. Reaching the end point can however be fraught with public complaints. Often issues arise because the community doesn’t know when construction is happening, where, why and how they can best work around it.

Traditional tactics, such as newspaper ads and Public Information Centres (PICs), can reach those who regularly scan their local paper or fit an extra appointment in their free time. But if you rely solely on these tactics, you may miss many people who spend their weeknights ferrying their kids between events, meeting with work colleagues or catching their breath at home. Most of these busy people likely share one habit: they almost always have a smartphone, tablet or computer nearby.

According to research from Canadian’s Internet Business, Canadians spent an average of 26 hours per week on a tablet, smartphone or computer in 2013. In fact, 6S Marketing found that 79% of us don’t leave home without our mobile device. And yes, 63% of Canadians are visiting or interacting with government websites, including their local municipality’s site.

Many municipalities have recognized this and are taking their message online, where their audience is, versus relying on them to make a special trip to learn what’s happening. Like traditional tactics, people can learn about your project’s status at one point in time and its long-range plans. But once you’re in the midst of an event or construction project, where accessible roads fluctuate by the day, hour or minute, how can you best keep your community informed?

One answer is a micro blogging site like Twitter, which more than four million Canadians use, according to Crummy Media Solutions. It’s a good way for your community to get up to the second updates through multiple devices and avoid traffic jams. It’s also a way to be accountable and transparent with your community.

Regina was one of the first Canadian cities to discover the benefit of using Twitter to deliver public works updates. Specifically, Regina began using Twitter in 2009 to address its citizens’ top service requests about snow removal. Namely, what roads were closed or closing, where the ploughs were going and when they’d reach their neighbourhood. Since then, many other municipalities, particularly large ones, have followed suit.

We find Twitter particularly useful for major events or infrastructure projects that impact a broad audience and are steadily implemented over a set time period.

The Municipality of Peel’s Hanlan Water Project is using Twitter to deliver timely online updates to its diverse stakeholders, via computers, tablets or mobile devices, before they start their daily commute. It also provides updates throughout the day to help transit, transport and other drivers avoid delays. To increase goodwill within its community, the project team has also used this tool to promote some businesses along the route and remind customers that they remain open during construction.

In Gauteng, South Africa, Twitter was the leading social media platform used to launch and promote “Gautrain,” its new rail system as the best way to get around the city during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The strategy was launched with an online gathering of twitter followers (called a ‘tweetup’) and the train itself started with a Gautrain Inaugural Breakfast Run promoted online with conversations using the hashtag #GIBR. Plus, Twitter helped drive support for a blanket collection to keep the city’s homeless warm. We suspect Twitter will play no small role in Toronto’s upcoming Pan Am Games.

Since Twitter supports conversations with a crowd, it can also reduce phone calls to your information line by publicly answering questions once or twice that many people might otherwise call about. As such, it can rapidly resolve issues and potentially cultivate advocates.

And should an emergency arise, Twitter is likely to more than prove its value, as it did in Calgary’s 2013 summer flood and in many other crises. Unfortunately not all municipal services have Twitter or other social media keyed up and ready, as we discovered in interviewing Park Property Management about how its tenants coped in Toronto’s holiday season ice storm.

Beyond having a social media policy outlining how each member of the Twitter team should act online, it is important to have a strategy designed to:

  1. Entice others to follow you
  2. Make your messages easy to find and understand
  3. Cultivate influencers and advocates to help multiply your message
  4. Resolve issues and mitigate detractors
  5. Foster offline impact

Watch for upcoming posts, where we will outline some best practices to build your Twitter following, communicate effectively and multiply your municipality’s messages that we integrate in strategies for our clients.

Developing strategies, tips and training to help municipalities communicate through Twitter and other social media channels, along with traditional ways, is a service we offer. Contact us, if you would like to learn how we can help you.

Colour Leslie 2012 Glasses 200dpiLeslie Hetherington is Communications Director at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited. She is an award-winning, Accredited PR Practitioner (APR) and a past president of the Toronto chapter of the  International Association of Business Communicators. Leslie’s  project experience includes integrated communications planning and implementation through traditional and online channels for diverse mandates, from managing reputations to stimulating economic development in Canada’s North. Skills include stakeholder and media relations, social media marketing, website development, event management and copy writing. 

Posted in Communications, Communities, Consultation, Management, New Media, Planning, Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Toronto’s Chattering Elites and Scarborough’s Transit Victims

Cleveland Rapid Transit subway car

Cleveland Rapid Transit subway car. Licensed under the GFDL; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

While visiting Case Western Reserve University in 1974, I learned about Cleveland’s proposed new high-speed public transit system. I asked a politically incorrect question: “Why aren’t there any Regional Transit Authority (RTA) transit stops being proposed in the poor black areas of East Cleveland, such as Hough?” In 1966 there had been terrible race riots in Hough. My hosts explained the challenge was to get commuters from affluent Shaker Heights and other suburban areas off the roads and into the city’s core. The system had to be functional, attract riders and be financially viable; so that’s how the location of routes and stations was decided. My host’s response was in part code for: ‘racial intolerance is also a factor.’ The Greater Cleveland RTA’s Bus Rapid Transit ‘Health Line’ has now made public transit access in East Cleveland better.

While there have been some changes in US cities’ demographics since then due to gentrification, much has stayed the same. Today, poor, mainly black Americans, live in American cities’ core urban areas, such as Hough and East Cleveland, while the middle class and wealthy live in suburbs, such as Shaker Heights.

Map showing share of persons living in poverty in Cleveland, 2000.

Map showing share of persons living in poverty in Cleveland, 2000.

Working Poor Among Toronto's Immigrant Population 2005

Working Poor Among Toronto’s Immigrant Population, 2005. (Sources: Statistics Canada, Special Tabulations, Cities Centre, University of Toronto, Metcalf Foundation, 2012)

While it’s important to make new high-speed public transit systems functional and financially viable, Cleveland’s political decision-makers’ public transit choices had negative socio-economic and sociocultural implications for the less fortunate living in Hough. Poor inner city residents had a narrow transit choice: bus or private auto. In the city, travel time is a cost for everyone. Like everyone, Hough and East Cleveland residents had to get to work, school, health care appointments or shopping on a regular basis. So, access to high-speed public transit is a social justice issue. In spite of this, it was something Hough and East Cleveland residents did not receive.

Let’s look at public transit decision-making in Toronto, where the socio-economics and demographics are the opposite of Cleveland and US cities. Here, multi-cultural communities and the working poor are located in Scarborough and the other suburbs, while affluent, articulate, well-educated and politically powerful people live in Toronto’s core area communities.

On October 8th, 2013, Toronto City Council voted to replace the Scarborough RT line by extending the Bloor-Danforth subway, rather than adding light rail.

So when a December 11, 2013 Toronto Star article reported that Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow proposed delaying the decision to provide subway service or essentially no new public transit service to Scarborough’s working poor and multicultural neighbourhoods, it got my attention. It’s not coincidental that Ward 22 includes: Forest Hill, one of Canada’s wealthiest communities; many homes worth more than $2 million dollars; and prestigious private schools, such as Upper Canada College and Bishop Strachan. The Ward’s 66,000 residents are also within walking distance of five TTC Subway stops and will soon to have six more underground stops through the new Eglinton Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Crosstown line.

Scarborough has 593,000 residents. It currently has three subway stops. Just reaching two of the subway stops from Scarborough’s outer limits involves a road trip of more than 25 kilometres (Steeles Ave East / Beare Road to Warden Subway station). If Scarborough were a city, it would have a larger population than Halifax, Saskatoon or Victoria. It would be larger than the Kitchener-Waterloo Cambridge Tri-City area, Newfoundland or Prince Edward Island.

What seemed to prompt Councillor Matlow’s comment was a report commissioned by the Neptis Foundation, a Toronto-based nonpartisan think tank on urban and rural planning policy matters. This report analyzed the Toronto transit plan proposed by Metrolinx, the Provincial Agency overseeing transit planning in Southern Ontario. The Neptis report stated that a subway transit extension to Scarborough would not be financially viable or efficient. That also got my attention.

This report was prepared by consultant Michael Schabas, who stated, “We have not considered social benefits (such as safety or equity) or environmental benefits (such as reduced air pollution or increased energy conservation), which often go unpriced in transportation forecasts. While these are important considerations, they are seldom the deciding factors in scheme selection.”

Our planners and socio-economic impact specialists at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited (HSAL) have worked on transit master plans. In evaluating transit options, we know that social equity is rarely assessed. And, social benefits and costs are typically not assessed by transit engineers and economists. But, whether or not they are the deciding factors, social benefits and costs analysis should be part of the decision-making process.

As consultants, we arrive at conclusions based on what we are asked to study. Tossing out social benefits analysis as deciding factors created a significant gap in the Neptis Foundation study and its subsequent analysis.

Socio-economic research produces data that can be an important consideration for transit, all urban and rural planning and policy decision-making. This analysis can illuminate the issues through facts, particularly when social justice issues are involved, in places like Hough, Cleveland and Toronto’s outer suburbs.

So our firm asks: If the Neptis Foundation had commissioned Michael Schabas to look at the social costs and benefits of transit modes (bus, bus rapid transit, LRT or subway) and routes in Scarborough, would it have reached different conclusions? Schabas knew about these issues but was not asked or decided not to study them.

In the Toronto Star article, Councillor Matlow says he wants to delay the Scarborough transit decision because: “We don’t have all the answers.”

When interviewed, he said: “If I’m asked whether I can support increasing the city’s debt by $1 billion and raising property taxes to pay for a project that was based on politics rather than evidence, I can’t in good conscience support that, and I have a responsibility to fight it to the end of the earth. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Councillor Matlow cites the Neptis report as “evidence.” I think the evidence is incomplete and tightly adheres to narrow terms of reference. I’d like to know, why didn’t the Neptis Foundation ask its consultant to look at social costs and benefits? Would a socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) study comparing LRT versus subway provide different evaluation results? Would Councillor Matlow look differently at providing: subway transit versus light rail, versus putting off discussing any new transit for Scarborough’s working poor, multicultural community until after the 2015 election, if he had evidence about social benefits and costs?

HSAL has not done a SEIA on Toronto’s current transit dilemma. If we had, our basic premise would be: having access to excellent transit provides socio-economic advantages to residents along the route. It significantly reduces their trip to work or school; gives them wider access to the city’s beneficial amenities, such as healthcare, cultural organizations and shopping options. A transit stop can also increase property values and attract new housing developments. This growth generates development charges and boosts discretionary funds, which local councillors can apply to local community improvement projects.

We would ask: Would excellent public transit via building a subway, enhance Scarborough residents’ socio-economic circumstances? Would a LRT or a subway best achieve excellence? How should Neptis have scoped its study to provide a complete analysis?

Looking at the social costs and benefits of a Scarborough transit decision would require a formal SEIA. At its core, such an analysis considers four questions:

    • Who wins?
    • Who loses?
    • Who pays?
    • Who benefits?

It involves social science research that should withstand a rigorous peer review. The methodology is based on values or an evidence-based, systematic methodology. I prefer the latter systematic methodology, which involves six steps:

1) Scoping
2) Profiling
3) Projecting
4) Assessing
5) Evaluating
6) Recommending

In “scoping” the SEIA, we can ask: What might the Neptis Foundation have asked its consultant to study? What if they expanded the study to look at the socio-economic impact of the choice of transit mode (subway, light rapid transit, bus), as well as its routes on Scarborough’s working poor and vulnerable children?

Scarborough’s Ward 44 is at the City’s eastern edge. It includes Danzig Street, where Toronto’s worst mass shooting occurred on July 15, 2012. Perhaps the socio-economic circumstances of Danzig Street families could indicate what can happen when higher order public transit is absent and how excellent public transit could provide social benefits.

We might consider that:

  • It takes working poor parents and students on Danzig Street up to 40 minutes just to reach the nearest subway stop by bus (also involving a transfer to another bus). In comparison, children in Ward 22 can walk or take a bus ride of less than five minutes to get to a subway stop.
  • To reach the city core, Ward 44’s Danzig Street residents travel 33 kilometres by road. The trip is well over an hour by bus. Ward 22 residents need only travel five kilometres by subway.
  • Ward 44’s working poor don’t ride bikes to work. A one-way bike trip to the core (or Councillor Matlow’s Office) would take the better part of a morning. In winter, it is almost impossible. And Scarborough’s working poor don’t telecommute.
  • Danzig Street students walk to Sir Robert L. Borden Business and Technical Institute, a priority school that provides an educational alternative for those who have an aptitude for hands-on learning or experience academic challenges, or take a short bus ride to West Hill Collegiate. Many expect to start full-time work after high school. Some will make it to college. Ward 22 children can walk to some of the best private schools in North America or North Toronto Collegiate, an excellent public high school. They can expect to go to university and most will.
  • Scarborough has no museums, concert halls or independent art galleries. For Scarborough residents and students, academic and cultural enrichment means travelling downtown to core area facilities, via a long trip by bus and then subway or private auto. Scarborough has two excellent symphony orchestras but there are no concert halls for them to play in. (The Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra plays at the Salvation Army Citadel and the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra plays at the Chinese Cultural Centre.) Ward 22’s children can easily access many cultural facilities, institutions and enrichment opportunities by walking to a transit stop or taking a short drive.

In summary, would it be politically incorrect to ask Toronto councillors making these choices and the core area’s chattering elites influencing them to become more informed about the socio-economic implications of transit and other decisions? Shouldn’t the social benefits and costs of various transit modes matter? I think they should and do.

Dave LowerRes Oct 2013David Hardy is a Principal of Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited (HSAL).  He is a Registered Professional Planner. Dave has participated in more than 125 socio-economic impact assessments.

Posted in Communities, Management, Planning, Politics, Socio-Economic Impact Analysis, Transportation | Tagged | 21 Comments