Scrap 'priority neighbourhood' tag : councillor

A north Toronto councillor wants the city to stop designating certain areas "priority neighbourhoods," saying the term stigmatizes the communities and is no longer required.

A north Toronto councillor wants the city to stop designating certain areas "priority neighbourhoods," saying the term stigmatizes communities and is no longer required.

Thirteen communities across the city were designated priority neighbourhoods in 2005 as part of the city's strong neighbourhoods strategy. The goal was to attract government funding to areas that were underserved. 

But Vincent Crisanti, who is the councillor for ward one (Etobicoke North), says the label is bad for business and morale.

The Jamestown area accounts for a significant portion of his ward and has been identified as a priority neighbourhood.

"By labelling a neighbourhood in negative way, as I believe we are when we are identifying them as a priority neighbourhood, it is not going to help them achieve their goals — whether it is improving their business, whether it's going out and looking for work," Crisanti said.

In a letter to council's community development and recreation committee, Crisanti said his community received "important investments" due to the strong neighbourhoods strategy, but adds that he has seen improvement.

"Conditions have changed in many Toronto neighbourhoods over the last decade and I believe the continuation of a single list of ranked neighbourhoods is no longer appropriate," he wrote.

But in Weston-Mt. Dennis, another priority neighbourhood, a community activist says the label has brought growth and funding for community programs.

"What you used to do in the past was you land and soon as you start getting settled, ... you move out because there are not a lot resources locally," said Cutty Duncan.

"What you start to see is people start to take more pride and say, 'You know what? Maybe things are going to improve and rather than move around, I can start building a life for my kids [and] my family right here in this neighbourhood.'"

But Crisanti believes the best label is no label.

On Wednesday the community development and recreation committee will debate his request to remove the designation. Crisanti also suggests reviewing the strong neighbourhoods strategy to "better serve and invest in all neighbourhoods with identified needs."