Everywhere you look, there are challenges to local democracy – and to Leaside.
A ‘Strong Mayor’ system of governance is imposed on the City of Toronto, which requires city policy to be in agreement with provincial policies. Local zoning is challenged by Ministers’ Zoning Orders. Rumours continue to spread about new development pressures. And now, most urgently, newly proposed federal electoral boundaries break North Leaside and the Laird Business Park away from South Leaside, dividing our community into two different ridings.
Are you feeling besieged yet?
The proposed changes to federal ridings by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario (FEBCO) also have major impacts on provincial ridings and municipal wards. Currently, all of Leaside is in Don Valley West. Our entire community is represented by a single MP, a single MPP, and (municipally) on the same community council. If the new Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario has its way, Leaside will be split between two ridings: Don Valley West, ending south at Eglinton Avenue and the eastern side of Laird Drive, down to the Leaside Bridge, and the new St. Clair-Mt. Pleasant riding extending all the way over to Oakwood Avenue and Davenport Road.
Every item of business will have to be with dealt with separately per riding, ward, and community council. As just one example, each half of Leaside may end up with differing traffic policies or priorities. If you think it’s hard now to design a traffic plan, imagine how much more complicated and time-consuming the process will become, unless the Commission can be convinced to alter their plan.
Under their present proposal, on all neighbourhood issues we could need to work – separately – with two representatives at each level.
In 2002/03, my son Will was Commission Secretary for the then FEBCO, administering the Commission’s hearings across the province. He recalls that Elections Canada strongly advised them to avoid dividing communities or communities of interest, when at all possible. Leaside is certainly an established and genuine community, created 110 years ago to be just that. There are fairer and more sensible ways to redraw the maps without dividing us. Correcting voter inequality (riding sizes) should not override communities’ identities and survival.
Interestingly, if you look at the proposed changes across all of Toronto, you will note that this Commission appears to have actually made a point of effectively eliminating the boundaries of Toronto’s original cities and boroughs: every ‘new’ riding contains bits and pieces of several, as if to erase our city’s history.
By the way, when the Fripps moved into Leaside, the south side of Southvale Drive, southward to the ravine, was in Rosedale riding, while all of Leaside north of the yellow line painted in the middle of Southvale was in the riding of York East. As a result, during elections, confusion and non-representation reigned, as each riding association assumed we were in the other’s riding, and ignored us. We don’t want to repeat errors of this kind in the future. And we don’t want to break Leaside into two disconnected entities.
By the time you are reading this column, the Commission will have begun public hearings. Their job is to listen to the comments of residents, consider their criticisms and suggestions, and decide whether and how to amend their proposals. Changes can be made, when they hear from the people. That means you and me.
It is not too late. I urge you to read Geoff Kettel’s article in this issue of Leaside Life. Then go to redistribution2022.ca for more information and to join the Leaside Residents Association (www.leasideresidents.ca) in supporting our presentation to the Commission in defence of Leaside.
Our next LRA monthly board meeting is on Wed., Oct. 5th, at 7:30 p.m., on Zoom. If you’d like to participate or watch, please let us know by that date and we’ll be glad to send you the Zoom access details. You can find us at www.leasideresidents.ca.