The name game: city councillors look to scrap “priority neighbourhood” label

The name game: city councillors look to scrap “priority neighbourhood” label

An apartment complex in a priority neighbourhood (Image: Danielle Scott) 

In a bid to distance themselves from previous strategies that involved public investment and social programs—heaven forbid—a group of conservative Toronto councillors has come up with a bold new plan for dealing with problems in the city’s 13 priority neighbourhoods. Essentially, they want to stop calling priority neighbourhoods “priority neighbourhoods.” The group of councillors—led by Vince Crisanti, with support from Giorgio Mammoliti and Frances Nunziata, who all have priority neighbourhoods in their wards—say they’re hoping to remove the stigma caused by the designation, one they claim has not made a measurable positive impact, despite the influx of millions of public dollars. But we have to ask: are these kinds of semantic games really going to make a difference when it comes to actually helping low-income communities?

Spacing Toronto columnist John Lorinc thinks not:

My question is this: how did Argo legend Michael “Pinball” Clemons react to Crisanti’s ploy? For the past five years, Clemons has chaired the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF), which has raised over $42 million for 111 programs and facilities geared specifically at young people living in those 13 priority neighbourhoods. Clemons, who is also the Argos’ vice-chair, appears to have been untroubled by the stigma bogeyman: he focused on solving real problems instead of cosmetic ones.

We’re inclined to agree. It seems unlikely that private investment is being kept out of these neighbourhoods simply because they’ve been identified as impoverished. At least with targeted programs, the city can make a concerted and focused effort to solve the poverty-by-postal-code problem.

Really, city council can call priority neighbourhoods whatever it wants—say, “investment neighbourhoods,” “high-impact neighbourhoods” or the always sexy “Shark Week neighbourhoods” (a sure-fire ratings bonanza). But we suspect the city’s problems aren’t likely to go away just because council stops actively identifying them.