Are we going to Scarborough Fair?
Or, I should say, fairly. The old city of Scarborough may well prove to be one of the more interesting elements in the new city council. It's too soon to say how the two new faces, the return of Ron Moeser and a second chance for Paul Ainslie to do, well, something will help or hinder a cross-city approach.
But this must certainly be the term when Toronto will have to deal in earnest with its collective lot as a variegated mini-megalopolis.
Many Scarberians resented amalgamation, fearing a loss of self-sufficiency, and still bemoan inequity of funding. But outgoing Scarborough East councillor David Soknacki feels otherwise.
"When you take the numbers apart, there is more a perception than a reality,' he says, adding that the early days of the Sheppard subway - and the need to get East York out of debt - "skewed the numbers away from Scarborough," but that the city has been making new investments since then.
But disenfranchisement, he says, is a real problem.
"The suburbs feel they're not being heard. People choose their communities for different sorts of lifestyles,' he says. "There's a feeling that because I choose to live at Markham and Sheppard, all my life choices are evil and wrong and carcinogenic. They're not.'
Brian Ashton (Scarborough Southwest's victorious incumbent) says the prouder aspects of living there don't get noticed downtown.
"Scarborough, because of its nature and development, always tended to have very sophisticated volunteer organizations,' he says. "Downtown it tended to go the other way - you had the city providing these things for people.'
Of course, the riddle of Scarborough is that while its built form is something of a monoculture, its population is anything but. Neighbourhoods tend to be more mixed than in the core, arguably even more multicultural than our multi-faceted urban gem.
Scarborough is also, by and large, poorer than old Toronto, and the feeling of being marginalized may have fostered a sense of pride in an urban design that, according to the accepted downtown wisdom, is something to be ashamed of.
"How we come to terms with the 50s-, 60s- and 70s-style subdivisions will be an interesting part of our future," says Ashton. "Will communities rise up to protect that kind of built form?'
Well, they might. The Scarborough cityscape has its own set of signifiers. Downtown, "strip mall" is likely to mean "blight," while in Scarborough it's a symbol of cultural diversity and independence, brimming with small multi-ethnic cafés and shops.
And while parking lots are deadening at best in the core, in the suburbs they often serve as gathering places. Scarborough Centre's Councillor Michael Thompson tells me of a new lot on Lawrence that's been outfitted with community notice boards. My city boy brain is atizzy.
Thompson butted heads with the mayor now and again last term. He's taken more of a shine to consensus of late, but he's still fiercely independent. Election results paint an interesting picture: voters gave a healthy nod to suburb-proud councillors (Thompson, Del Grande and Moeser) as well as our big-city urbanist mayor.
So how do we tell the common threads from the tripwires? Transit, handled sagely, may be the peacemaker.
"The transit level in Scarborough is just not adequate,' says Thompson (which is rather like calling an amputation "inconvenient"). "I asked [former TTC manager Rick] Ducharme what the plan was, and he said, 'Well, it's part of the overall ridership growth strategy.' He'd never been asked about a plan for Scarborough before.'
Recent moves to overhaul the Scarborough RT, though mostly made from dire necessity, are a good start, as is the willingness of nearly all Scarborough councillors to back down from the tunnel dream of a full Scarborough subway. As the potential for a surface network of light rail grows, so does the possibility of a solution to development battles down the line.
If transit expansion and development are wedded carefully, residents may see development not as an invasion but as an intensification of the reasons they chose Scarborough in the first place - the spaciousness of the suburbs and the access of the city. And so, ironically, Scarborough may welcome the surface rights-of-way that have proved so controversial in the core.
But what locals may most welcome is some direct engagement. The Scarborough Civic Action Network's Effie Vlachoyannacos points to the recent SCAN-organized Scarborough Summit. "The Civic Centre was full of people who were disappointed that they weren't being engaged by those they elected,' she says.
And that's not to mention the official lack of recognition of the borough's vast diversity. Vlachoyannacos says the city's slow progress on communicating in multiple languages means huge numbers of people don't even know how to vote - likely skewing election results. She says young people are also clamouring for more inroads. Would a ban on youth gatherings at Albert Campbell Square, supported by Thompson and Scarborough Centre's Glenn De Baeremaeker, have gone through if the youth vote mattered?
But the issue people most supported at the Summit, she says, was the empowerment of neighbourhood councils. Though it may seem unlikely to city folk, these councils may work better in Scarborough because so many neighbourhoods are built around school buildings, which act as a central focus. Scarborough could be a laboratory for how a 21st-century city deals with the legacy of postwar planning - but only with a bit of 21st-century democracy.