Saturday, November 24, 2012

GridTO article: Splitting the Village

This week, I was happy to be interviewed for this Grid Toronto piece about the possible splitting of Toronto's Gay Village into two federal/provincial ridings. Here's an excerpt and link to the reporter Luc Rinaldi's great article:

The changes, proposed in August by Valin and the other two members of Ontario’s electoral-boundaries commission, would split the Village into two ridings along Wellesley Street. The southern half would remain within the existing Toronto Centre; the northern portion would join the newly created Mount Pleasant riding. Provincial ridings and municipal wards are expected to adopt these new boundaries as well.

Goyeau and a handful of others at the hearing are determined to keep the Village in a single riding. He contends that the split, which would give the area two different political representatives instead of just one, would make it harder for the neighbourhood to find a devoted champion for its causes. But making that change isn’t as easy as simply moving the boundary north.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Goyeau says of the redistribution process. “When you push in one particular place, there’s a bulge in another.” Under the proposed boundaries, each of the newly defined ridings would have a population of about 100,000, just shy of the province’s ideal average of 106,000. Removing the territory north of Wellesley from Mount Pleasant and leaving it within Toronto Centre would upset the population balance, likely necessitating another boundary adjustment elsewhere.

Matthew Guerin, a screenwriter and producer who’s lived both in and around the Village, is also opposed to dividing the community between two ridings.

“It’s easy to think that little sliver [between Wellesley and Bloor] would be pretty much drowned out by the voting habits of those north of Bloor,” says Guerin, who believes that northern Mount Pleasant residents typically vote more conservatively. Guerin says that the area in question has more in common with Toronto Centre and that, symbolically, the split is “odd.”

But not everyone is convinced that the proposed change is a negative one, including the riding’s former MPP and 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman. “I had the same first reaction—I was quite emotional about it,” says Smitherman, who still considers the Village—where he once lived and operated a business—his home neighbourhood. Upon further consideration, he realized the new boundaries could offer the area greater attention and representation.

“The neighbourhood association would suddenly have two different representatives, possibly from two different political parties, that could advocate and lobby on issues that matter to them.”

Smitherman says the Wellesley Street split wouldn’t necessarily be as divisive as some fear because Toronto’s LGBT population is less concentrated in the Village than it once was.

“The gay community can find itself without a street corner,” he says.

1 comment:

Skinny Dipper said...

Just looking at my polling map of Toronto, I don't think that splitting the Gay Village into two ridings is the main issue. It is the limitation of effective voting choices that matters. If one lives north of Wellesley Street, one will have an effective voting choice between the Conservatives and Liberals. If one lives south of Wellesley, the effective choices are between the Liberals and NDP. That is a problem with our single district First-Past-the-Post voting system. Voters' choices become limited.