On December 31, 1966 the Town of Leaside was one of 13 incorporated municipalities that made up the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (now the City of Toronto). But when the new year dawned, the province of Ontario reduced those 13 municipalities to only six. The Town of Leaside ceased to exist. That day January 1st, 1967, the Province merged the former Town of Leaside with the former Township of East York to create a new municipality, the Borough of East York.
Six years after the merger I was elected to the borough council as one of two aldermen (now called councillors) representing what had been the former Town of Leaside (excluding Thorncliffe). Four years later I was elected as the mayor of the entire Borough of East York. Many residents of both the former town and the former township believed that the people on the other side of the bridge spanning the Don Valley were different from themselves, but the truth is quite the opposite.
Soon after my election to the borough council it became evident to me how similar the people of the former town and the former township really were. Together they demonstrated the characteristics that I have often described as one small town within a big city. No matter where they lived, all the people of the Borough of East York were proud of living in a clean, safe and friendly community in which residents cared about each other and cared for the well-being of their neighbours. As well, all were very watchful of the way their council spent their hard-earned tax dollars, demanding excellent local services but at the least possible cost.
As mayor I recognized that what this new municipality needed was a symbol that would bring us altogether as one community. At that time, the relatively new Canadian maple leaf flag was a symbol that had made all Canadians proud of our country. What about a flag for the Borough of East York? All of the six municipalities that made up Metro Toronto after 1967 had their own flag except for the Borough of East York. Here was the opportunity to create our own symbol.
So, I applied for and received authorization from the borough council to hold a design contest for a borough flag. Every contest needs a prize but knowing our taxpayers on both sides of the bridge, I knew enough not to burden them with the cost. So, I wrote to each of the industries and businesses in the borough asking for a modest cash donation of $200 towards the prize. Many companies responded positively. However, Seven Up Bottling Company sent me a cheque accompanied by a note saying this was a foolish idea. I promptly sent back their cheque reminding them that this was a matter of civic pride for a very special municipality with an incredible community spirit.
Design submissions came from a great many adults and especially from children some of whose teachers made it a class project. The winning design was submitted by a Scarborough resident, Raymond Taylor. The prize for Mr. Taylor was $1,000 and $100 for the winning student. The colours of the design were not the blue and gold of the former township nor the green and gold of the former town but rather red, white and blue, which symbolized our new municipality. In addition, the “Y” represented the two branches of the Don River flowing through the borough.
From then on, the flag has appeared throughout the borough including prominently on all our street signs. After total amalgamation in 1998, in its efforts to ensure we are first and foremost all Torontonians, the city started to replace our street signs with large Toronto blue and white signs. Recently, however, Toronto city council has agreed to allow the logo of each of the six former Metro municipalities on their street signs. We will continue to see the Borough of East York flag on our street signs as the symbol of the municipality in which Leasiders resided for the 30 years before amalgamation.
I am flying a Borough of East York flag at my home. You can obtain your own Borough of East York flag from the Borough of East York Historical Society by calling Margaret McRae at 416-429-7821.
Alan Redway served for six years as Mayor of the Borough of East York and as a member of Metropolitan Toronto Council and Executive Committee. Later he was elected to the parliament of Canada where he served for almost 10 years as a Progressive Conservative member of the House of Commons and as Minister of State (Housing).