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Kristyn Wong-Tam’s Deputation to the Ontario Commission on the Proposed Federal Electoral Boundaries

November 15, 2012

Good afternoon Commissioners.

My name is Kristyn Wong-Tam and I am a City of Toronto Councillor representing Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale.

Toronto Centre-Rosedalehas 14 distinct residential neighbourhoods and 5 business improvement areas. It is not only the second most populous ward but also the most development heavy in Toronto.

I am here today to speak to you as an elected municipal official as well as a community advocate concerned about equity and human rights.

I would like to begin by applauding the Ontario Commission for undertaking the enormous task of holding the public hearings on the proposed federal electoral districts.

Secondly, I am aware that the Ontario Commission may be altering the proposed electoral districts by way of a final report submission to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada by February 21, 2013.  I am also aware that the City of Toronto’s ward boundaries do not need to coincide with provincial or federal electoral districts.

Thirdly, it is important to note that often times, the federal and provincial electoral boundaries will influence municipal ward boundaries.

In our case, Toronto City Council will consider its ward boundary review process when our City Manager reports to our Executive Committee in 2013. Therefore, your process to re-draw electoral boundaries will not affect us in the upcoming 2014 municipal election but rather it may have impact and cause in the following election cycle in 2018.

Allow me to share some observations about the new proposed federal electoral boundary changes.

The addition of 15 new ridings in Ontario will help correct the decades of under-representation for our province and it is a huge step towards voter equality.

Half of the proposed ridings in Ontario have deviations beyond 5%. The newly proposed districts, Brampton South and Mississauga Centre have deviations of 7.74 and 9.8, respectively (under representation). On the other hand, Toronto North and Mount Pleasant will have deviations of -10.3 and -6.14 respectively (over representation).

If these proposed boundaries are allowed to stand, many Canadians in ridings in southern and eastern Ontario and suburbs around Toronto will now be significantly under-represented in the House of Commons.

It is a cause of concern as many of the residents in the Toronto suburbs are from racialized newcomer communities. Working families who are already struggling because of historical socio-economic inequality and voter apathy.

The proposed changes to federal electoral districts will result in the division of Toronto Centre into two ridings. Amongst the two is a newly established Mount Pleasant riding that covers the northern half of the current Toronto Centre district. The second district occupies the southern portion and assumes the original name Toronto Centre.

Since 90% of Ward 27 is situated within the current Toronto Centre federal electoral districts, the division of Toronto Centre into two ridings will noticeably affect four communities working and living in Ward 27.  Namely, the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, the growing Upper Jarvis Neighbourhood Association and the evolving Bay Cloverhill Community Association located along the Wellesley division line will be impacted.

Toronto’s Church and Wellesley Village is home to Canada’s largest lesbian and gay community. It is a demographic bound by history and political struggle, cultural identity and social commonalities. The proposed division to this neighbourhood will indeed have adverse impact to our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered communities.

It is important to note that the current Toronto Centre boundaries encompass three municipal wards – Ward 20, 27 and 28. At least two wards, namely Ward 27 and Ward 28 will have its communities of interest divided by the proposed boundary changes in Toronto Centre. Communities of common interest are often bound by historical, natural, commercial and cultural landscapes.

This is an opinion shared by my local member of provincial parliament, Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray and Councillor Pam McConnell who I share a common eastern boundary of Sherbourne Street.

Using 2011 census data from Statistics Canada, it is estimated that 42,913 residents from Ward 27 for approximately 54% of the ward, will be located in the proposed Mount Pleasant riding while 34,939 residents from Ward 27, approximately 46% of the ward, will be situated in the proposed Toronto Centre riding.

Therefore, not only will the proposed federal boundary changes divide severalcommunities of common interest in Ward 27, it will also create a potential deviation of 9% whichwill grow as the population intensifies with new development.

Ongoing industry changes to land use planning and development should be major considerations for the new proposed Toronto Centre district.

As I mentioned, Toronto Centre has the distinction of being the most development heavy riding in Ontario. How our communities and the elected representatives come together to review and enhance new development applicationsand vis-à-vis our neighbourhoods will be affected by the current boundary changes if our riding and wards are divided across Wellesley.

It may interest the Ontario Commission to know that there are 137 new large-scale development applications alone in Ward 27 (more than most North American cities) and likely a similar number of applications in Ward 28.  Using 2006 census data to re-draw the proposed federal boundaries without factoring the population growth that will come along with the new condominium development may render your efforts outdated before the proposed boundary changes even take effect.

In conclusion, I would ask the Ontario Commission give Toronto Centreand our suburban neighbourhoods re-considerationon two points:

1) Improved voter equality must factor in demographic changes, both current and projected in the near future. Racialized and economically-challengedToronto suburban neighbourhoodsshould be given fair electoral representation in your final report.

2) Communities of interest in their current, and in some cases legal boundaries be respected and not divided by the proposed electoral northern boundary of Wellesley.  Theforementionedcommunities of interestwill be less impacted if the south, east and west boundaries were adjusted modestly to satisfy the population projections.  A new northern boundary worth further study and evaluation could be Charles Street, which will ensure that the Bloor Yorkville Business Important Area and the Greater Yorkville Residents’ Association not be divided with an imposed Bloor Street boundary.

I am aware that there is no perfect map but am confident that the Ontario Commission will do it’s best to ensure that all deputations will be seriously considered. A near perfect map might be the sum of the parts of the deputations.

I am happy to answer any questions you many have or to further clarify my remarks.

Thank you Commissioners foryour time and attention today.