You voted: Scarborough stereotypes tops community-powered story poll

Other popular topics were ‘solutions to address inaccessibility of transit’ and ‘spotlighting the overlooked arts and culture scene.’

I don’t know about you, but I’m still unpacking the fallout of Toronto’s municipal election — especially how Scarborough voted.

Here’s the thing: You never quite know which way it’s going to go with elections. I had some concerns about the final tallies, but despite my misgivings, I’d hoped Toronto city council would better reflect the diversity of our city. I was impressed by debates I’d attended in Scarborough, where city councillor candidates discussed the key local issues of transit, affordable housing and community safety. I thought perhaps my worries were misplaced — maybe Toronto was ready for change, for some fresh perspectives at City Hall. Then the results came in.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how the sudden reduction of wards may have impacted minority representation on Toronto city council, especially for Scarborough, where people of colour make up 73 per cent of the total population. Monday’s numbers painted a dreary picture for those looking for representation, especially in this era of #RepresentationMatters. Certainly this issue was raised several times by members of our community Facebook group Scarborough Discourse, and was top of mind for many Toronto residents leading up to the election.

The previous 44-member council elected in 2014 was predominantly white and male. This new 25-member council remains mostly white and male, with people of colour making up roughly 15 per cent of elected officials. I wondered what this means for the many diverse communities that make up the Greater Toronto Area, especially Scarborough, one of the largest and most diverse. So, I asked several people, including an expert in municipal elections, for their take on the results. Check out my story, “Still largely white and male — Scarborough helps Toronto city council maintain status quo” to find out what they said.

There was another vote going on this past week: our community-powered poll that asked you to tell me which topics I should report on, as I start to cover overlooked #ScarboroughStories. Here are the results:

  1. Scarborough stereotypes: Reality vs. perception 
  2. Solutions to address inaccessibility of transit, which has led to sprawl and disconnection 
  3. Spotlighting the overlooked arts and culture scene 

I’ll be pursuing stories about our winning topic first, and then plan to explore the runners-up in the near future. I’d also love to hear from you — please send me suggestions for stories that’ll help dispel common Scarborough stereotypes by emailing me.


Neethan Shan, former Toronto city councillor for the then-Scarborough-Rouge River ward (formerly Ward 42) and city councillor candidate for Scarborough-Rouge Park (Ward 25), answers calls during his election campaign.

Well-known in the community for his grassroots work, Neethan Shan lost out to Jennifer McKelvie in a close race on Election Day (the final count, according to Toronto city records was 11,624 votes for Jennifer versus 11,470 for Neethan). I had a chance to interview Neethan in the last days of his campaign. 

When he described Scarborough issues, Neethan spoke from the perspective of someone who was raising two kids in the community. “I live in Morningside Heights. For me, I don’t get to spend much time with the kids because of transit,” he said, reiterating the common complaint many Scarborough residents have about getting around on public transit.

Even little things can have a big impact on families, Neethan added: “Snow removal delays or parks upgrades are all real issues. There are parks where a young child might be waiting for 45 minutes to use the swing because there’s three, four people already waiting.”

Around town

  • Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: TAIBU’s Fall Bazaar. TAIBU Community Health Centre.For those of you who are super organized, get your holiday shopping done at this pre-Christmas sale, featuring jewellery, crafts and baked goods and more for sale. Proceeds benefit Malvern Women In Action.
  • Oct. 28, 3 to 5 p.m.: The Scarborough Sign at the Chinese Cultural Centre. Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto. Take part in a free all-ages Chinese calligraphy workshop, as the the Scarborough Sign makes its final stop. No registration required; all ages and skills welcome. Instructions will be provided in English and Mandarin. The Sunshine Performing Arts Festival (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) will follow the workshop.
  • Oct. 30, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Rouge book launch. Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough. Adrian De Leon wrote his debut poetry collection in response to the 2012 shooting at a block party on Danzig Street. Inspired by Scarborough and structured around TTC stops along two subway lines — Finch to Downsview and Kipling to McCowan — this book celebrates community through poems.

Real talk

This didn’t make it into my article, but I want to get your perspective on an issue that one of my sources, Cheyanne Ratnam, a Scarborough resident and social worker, raised: that some people vote based on a candidate’s ethnic or cultural background without really understanding their platform. What do you think about this approach? Let me know in our Facebook group or via email.

So, an East Asian will vote for an East Asian, and Tamil for a Tamil. For a lot of people, it’s about that statistical push — you just want to see your people out there, even though at the end of the day, someone Tamil may not represent your issues in a local community versus someone who is not Tamil. …That is a democracy because you are choosing [whom] you vote for. But a meaningful democracy is when you are well-informed [about] what you are voting for, as well.

Another source, Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki, also pointed to the limits of voting for a candidate just on the basis of their name.

One of the problems now, depending on what ward you are in, you will go to vote and there are 12 names on the list. It may well be that half a dozen of those names, just judging by the names, appear to belong to a racialized minority community. But you have no idea who these people are, what they stand for. So it’s impossible to make an informed choice among who those people are. [end]


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