Toronto #1: Scarborough is the Key to Toronto Politics


Scarborough is the key to Toronto politics. Scarborough voters are simply different, they have an unrepressed Scarborough identity. People in Scarborough vote based on what they think is best for Scarborough. In Scarborough, there’s an extra element of suburban isolation.

Scarborough is the Quebec of Toronto. When asked what city they live in, people in Scarborough will consistently say or write “Scarborough” rather than “Toronto.” Scarborough shows that Toronto politics is coloured by pre-amalgamation identities.

In 2006 every ward in Scarborough went for David Miller, in 2010 every ward in Scarborough went for Rob Ford. Those two politicians are not terribly similar, but Scarborough went all in for both. What Miller and Ford had in common was a populist image, hence Scarborough.

Scarborough has picked the winner in 4 out of 6 Toronto municipal elections. If you’re running for mayor of Toronto you don’t necessarily have to win Scarborough, but you have to get a lot of votes there.

Because Scarborough is the key to Toronto politics, something labeled “the Scarborough Subway” had to go ahead no matter how ill-advised. Anyone with political aspirations at the “megacity,” GTA or provincial level has to keep Scarborough in mind.

Scarborough dwarfs East York, York and Etobicoke in population, and has approximately the same number of people as North York (630,000 in Scarborough vs. 670,000 in North York as of 2016). But -and this is key- Scarborough is geographically the biggest of the pre-amalgamation cities and the least accessible by transit, meaning you have to work harder to get votes there.

Scarborough is home to the most “people of colour” of all the pre-amalgamation cities as well as a substantial number of first-generation immigrants. Particularly at the municipal level, these voters are more “up for grabs” than white voters and longer-standing residents.

Scarborough has an underdog/working class identity. Scarborough is the Liverpool of Toronto. In Toronto politics, you can count on concerns about Scarborough getting its “fair share” coming into play. Some in Toronto mock Scarborough, but if you want to win in Toronto politics you have to love Scarborough.

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