Derek Pinder

March 2022

New Plan Promises Mediocrity for Scarborough

In the window of a business on Kingston Road in Cliffside is a message to passers-by.  Within that message is the claim that Scarborough is one of the most beautiful suburbs in the world.  If this resonates with you, then so will the new Toronto Official Plan which holds the promise of little change to the familiar Scarborough which is loved more by some than others.

The new Plan is based on the premise that Toronto’s population will grow by 700,000 people over the next 30 years.  The idea that the key to prosperity is population growth seems to be generally accepted although it has not been the subject of much debate. It has turned on its head the statement that appears in the opening page of the existing Plan: “Making Toronto better should always come before making Toronto bigger”.  Given the potential impact of this change in direction, it was a good move by the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization to arrange a public meeting with the City of Toronto planning staff who are preparing the new Plan, dubbed “Our Plan Toronto”.  There was considerable interest in the subject and 160 people attended.

The meeting opened with a presentation by City staff on the development of the Plan which is scheduled for completion by July 1, 2022.  It was confirmed that the Plan update is driven by population growth with the purpose of setting direction for this growth and directing where development should and should not be implemented.

Close to an hour of the meeting was set aside for questions and answers.  The topic that met with the most interest revolved around the wish for densification in developed areas rather than contributing to urban spread.  More citizens spoke in favour of densification than against but a number of warning fingers were raised.  One speaker said that packing large numbers of people into small areas leads to overcrowding and a loss of family and community values.  Another pointed out that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support a rapid growth in population.  The opinion was also expressed that densification leads to degradation of the tree canopy, a loss of open spaces and does not make for safe and friendly neighbourhoods.

An interesting question was: how can we attract employees with high paying jobs?   City staff opined that Amazon and Canada Post have created hundreds of jobs in Scarborough.  They then rather sheepishly acknowledged that they were not, perhaps, the type of jobs that the questioner was seeking.  Nevertheless, they said, the City is working directly with businesses and things will improve with better transit such as the subway line to Scarborough Centre, which optimists are forecasting will open in 2030.

After further questions on a variety of topics, City representatives said that policies have not yet been written, there will be further reviews and they still have time to listen.

So, it appears that to achieve prosperity, not much will change in Scarborough except that we must pave it over, live on top of each other and have less sunshine.  All the plans and discussions are centred around the mundane.  Where are the ground-breaking ideas, where is the vivacity, the leadership, the sparkle, the dream, the ambition?  To learn more and to get involved, go to toronto.ca/ourplan.