Investing In Scarborough? Social Infrastructure? CBC Toronto, Metro Morning

Matt Galloway spoke with Deborah Cowen about her new report and the forum at which it would be launched. The report, “Toronto’s inner suburbs: Investing in social infrastructure in Scarborough,” by Deborah Cowen and Vanessa Parlette, was launched June 16, 2011, at Scarborough Civic Centre Council Chambers.  Toronto is a divided city. Social polarization and spatial segregation are clearly visible in the landscape, and our inner suburbs are home to more and more concentrated and racialized poverty. Investment in these suburbs is a key part of the solution, and yet its future is in question. How can we enhance investment in Scarborough when budgets everywhere are being cut? How do we unite across different issues and diverse communities? This forum provides an opportunity for community members to come together to learn from research about the big picture of urban change, and to take action for the future of Scarborough’s communities.  The forum was hosted by the Scarborough Civic Action Network, Social Planning Toronto, and Cities Centre, University of Toronto.

The City-Suburban Cleavage in Canadian Federal Politics

Despite increasing speculation and attention, as of yet insufficient empirical research has been conducted on the possibility of a political cleavage based on differences between Canadian inner cities and suburbs. This article sheds light on the potential existence of such differences by analyzing federal elections at the level of the constituency from 1945 to 1997. Results show that city-suburban differences in federal party voting did not become significant until the 1980s, and increased after this point, with inner-city residents remaining to the left of the rest of Canada in their party preferences while suburbanites shifted increasingly to the right in their voting patterns. The results obtained from regression analysis suggest that such a divergence cannot be reduced solely to differences in social composition, housing tenure, or region, and thus confirm that it constitutes a ‘true’ political cleavage. It is argued that intra-urban geography needs to taken into account in future analyses of Canadian political behaviour.

The boundaries of suburban discontent? Urban definitions and neighbourhood political effects

Residents of city and suburban neighbourhoods have diverged in the way they vote, with inner-city dwellers preferring political parties on the left while suburbanites increasingly vote for parties on the right. Yet it is not clear whether such a division is more evident between residents of central and suburban municipalities (the jurisdictional hypothesis), or between residents of neighbourhoods differentiated by urban form and, by assumption, lifestyle (the morphological hypothesis). While there are clear reasons for the predominant reliance on municipal differences in research based in the U.S. and other countries, it is not evident that these reasons apply in the Canadian context. This article examines how urban boundaries articulate electoral differences between metropolitan residents in Canada’s three largest urban regions, using aggregate election data for federal elections between 1945 and 2000, survey data from the 2000 Canada election study and a series of indices developed by the author. It is found that while trends towards city–suburban polarization are similar regardless of the boundaries used to define the zones, in the
Canadian case the results are stronger and more significant when boundaries based on urban form (between pre-and post-war development) are employed. The implications of these results for the relationship between urban space and political values in Canadian cities are then discussed.

The urban in fragile, uncertain, neoliberal times: towards new geographies of social justice?

Canadian cities are at a crossroads. The neoliberalization of governance at multiple scales, inadequate re-investment in urban infrastructure, increasing reliance on continental and international trade, and the restructuring of the space economy have combined to weaken Canada’s cities just as the global economic system is undergoing transformation. Canadian urban geographic
scholarship has much to offer under current conditions, and is already making significant contributions in key areas. In particular, research on what might be called the contours and impacts of urban restructuring and the neoliberal city, immigration and cities of difference, and urban environmental justice show much promise and are likely to define the core of Canadian urban geography
into the future.

Ghettos in Canada’s cities? Racial segregation, ethnic enclaves and poverty concentration in Canadian urban areas

Recent literature suggests a growing relationship between the clustering of certain visible minority groups in urban neighbourhoods and the spatial concentration of poverty in Canadian cities, raising the spectre of ghettoization. This paper examines whether urban ghettos along the U.S. model are forming in Canadian cities, using census data for 1991 and 2001 and borrowing a neighbourhood classification system specifically designed for comparing neighbourhoods in other countries to the
U.S. situation. Ecological analysis is then performed in order to compare the importance of minority concentration, neighbourhood classification and housing stock attributes in improving our understanding of the spatial patterning of low-income populations in Canadian cities in 2001. The findings suggest that ghettoization along U.S. lines is not a factor in Canadian cities and that a high degree of racial concentration is not necessarily associated with greater neighbourhood poverty. On the other hand, the concentration of apartment housing, of visible minorities in general, and of a high level of racial diversity in particular, do help in accounting for the neighbourhood patterning of low income. The authors suggest that these findings result as much from growing income inequality within as between each visible minority group. This increases the odds of poor visible minorities of each group ending up in the lowest-cost, least-desirable neighbourhoods from which they cannot afford to escape (including social housing in the inner suburbs). By contrast, wealthier members of minority groups are more mobile and able to self-select into higher-status ‘ethnic communities’. This research thus reinforces pleas for a more nuanced interpretation of segregation, ghettoization and neighbourhood dynamics.

Mapping Aging in Place in a Changing Neighbourhood in West-Central Toronto

This project engaged a working group of older adults to “map” how well Toronto’s West-central housing, neighbourhoods and health and social service agencies are equipped to support aging in place, and identified what barriers exist, as well as strategies to enhance the “livability” of these communities for older adults. The purpose of the “map” is to assist the community in recognizing, expanding and mobilizing individual and neighbourhood social capital to secure appropriate and accessible support to older adults and their caregivers. Overall, the working group identified three thematic clusters where greater accessibility is critical: in their housing, neighbourhoods and local health and social service agencies, to sustaining aging in place. Despite the rapid gentrification occurring in the neighbourhoods, surprisingly, the impact remains largely invisible to older adults and their service providers.

Food Insecurity and Participation in Community Food Programs among Low-income Toronto Families

Canadian Journal of Public Health 2009, 100(2).  Responses to food insecurity in Canada have been dominated by community-based food initiatives, while little attention has been paid to potential policy directions to alleviate this problem. The purpose of this paper is to examine food security circumstances, participation in community food programs, and strategies employed in response to food shortages among a sample of low-income families residing in high-poverty Toronto neighbourhoods. Results: Two thirds of families were food insecure over the past 12 months and over one quarter were severely food insecure, indicative of fooddeprivation. Only one in five families used food banks in the past 12 months and the odds of use were higher among food-insecure families. One third of families participated in children’s food programs but participation was not associated with household food security. One in 20 families used acommunity kitchen, and participation in community gardens was even lower. It was relatively common for families to delay payments of bills or rent andterminate services as a way to free up money for food and these behaviours were positively associated with food insecurity.  Discussion: While documenting high rates of food insecurity, this research challenges the presumption that current community-based food initiatives are reaching those in need. Public health practitioners have a responsibility to critically examine the programs that they deliver to assess their relevance to food-insecure households and to advocate for policy reforms to ensure that low-income households have adequate resources for food.