Rising opposition to proposed reduction in Scarborough ridings

By Lincoln DePradine

Councillor Jamaal Myers (centre) with constituents and supporters at Lunar New Year celebration

Rookie politician Jamaal Myers, who is passionately opposed to a proposal under which Scarborough would lose one of its current federal ridings, says such a move would not serve the best “needs and wants’’ of Scarborough residents.

A pattern seems to exist where Scarborough “always gets the short end of the stick’’, Myers said in an interview. “I don’t think this is intentional; but intentional or not, the feeling is still there. Scarborough is always underinvested in; Scarborough is always the last one to get the investment and the first one to get the cut. It sorts of fits in with a disturbing pattern.’’

Myers, a corporate lawyer, is serving his first term as a councillor after being elected as representative for Ward 23 in Scarborough in last October’s municipal elections.

He spent part of last weekend meeting his constituents at a Chinese Lunar New Year event at Scarborough’s Woodside Square Mall.

Myers said he enjoyed participating in the Woodside Square “Lion & Dragon Dance’’ Lunar New Year celebration.

“It’s important for me to be the councillor for everyone. My ward has a strong Chinese community; I think about 40 percent of my community is Chinese and I really want to learn more about the culture and I want them to see I’m there with them celebrating their Lunar New Year,’’ said Myers.

“What was really great about the celebration was the presence of people of all different backgrounds and all different races. And, I think it really speaks to the strong cultural diversity in our community.’’

Myers, in his campaign for the council seat, said “it’s as if Scarborough can’t catch a break,’’ in commenting on the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario’s proposal, which recommends that Scarborough’s federal constituencies move from six ridings to five.

Every 10 years, Elections Canada conducts a population review that impacts riding representation based on population shifts.

The latest proposal, coming out of the 2021 census, could go into effect as early as next year. If the redrawing of the electoral map is adopted, parts of Scarborough will be annexed into two North York ridings.

However, the idea is not sitting well with many Scarborough residents, nor with Toronto Mayor John Tory.

 “Identifying as a resident of Scarborough means a lot more to people than you might know, sometimes even more so than identifying with the city of Toronto itself,” Tory said in a letter to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. “For years and years the residents of Scarborough have voiced that they feel unfairly treated and overlooked by governments, and this decision would just reaffirm the idea in many people’s minds.”

Julia D’Silva, a second-year law student at the University of Ottawa, also wrote the commission, saying “residents of North York do not understand, do not care about, and cannot be expected to vote in Scarborough’s best interest’’.

She added that reducing the representation of Scarborough, “which needs it the most, is a gross oversight and a perpetuation of long-standing governmental neglect of Canada’s racialized and working-class communities’’.

Jamaica-born Alvin Curling, who was a Member of Provincial Parliament for Scarborough from 1985 to 2005, said the proposed change, if implementad, will “bring a lot of folks anxiety and discomfort. The culture of Scarborough is what holds it together’’.

Myers, too, has argued that eliminating one riding, and incorporating the constituency into North York, will have an adverse effect on residents of Scarborough.

“I’m still strongly against the proposal to have parts of Scarborough moved into North York, electorally. I think it would disenfranchise a lot of people in the community. Speaking strictly from the numbers, these communities are going to be lost, in terms of their specific needs and wants,’’ he said.

“More likely than not, anyone that’s elected is going to come from the North York side. That’s where their focus is going to be on. The needs in Scarborough are just very unique because of the high level of diversity; because of a higher than average rates of poverty; because of higher than average rates of immigration,’’ Myers added. “So, we really need someone who can speak to the specific needs of this community; and that is why I have been against the electoral redistribution proposal.’’

LJI Reporter