Mr. Speaker, I grew up in beautiful Etobicoke and I have always been proud of my green community ever since my grade three class at Silver Creek Public School produced its first map and then walked our neighbourhood. We had to tell the teacher what we liked best about Etobicoke. I liked the parks, rivers and sports facilities.
All these years later, I still love to bike, run and walk the ravines of the mighty Humber and trace the paths of the first settler, John Rowntree, who brought his family to Canada in the 1830s, with the dream of a new life, a new beginning and of real hope for the future.
Ever since, Etobicoke North has drawn from people from around the world, and in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was an ever expanding community. Schools were being built at a fantastic rate: Kipling, Lakeshore, Martingrove, North Albion, Thistletown, West Humber and Richview, where the Prime Minister went to school.
The Etobicoke Olympium was built in the 1970s and was, at the time, a world-class facility, where our diving team hosted the World Masters Games, the Canadian Olympic trials and our gymnastics club welcomed the Chinese national team, as well as top gymnasts from around the world. There was an excitement, a focus on the future. There was real investment, fostering of the next generation and the building of a strong, well serviced community.
In the ensuing decades, however, Etobicoke North suffered.
Today, numerous high-density apartment complexes mark the landscape and car infrastructure built in the 1960s is in disrepair. Almost 20% of the riding is engaged in manufacturing, the second highest percentage for the entire country. In stark contrast, only 5% is involved in management, the 301st ranking of 308 ridings in Canada. Investment disappeared, as did hope.
Today, Etobicoke North has been identified as one of thirteen at-risk neighbourhoods by the city of Toronto and United Way. The community wrestles with many socio-economic issues related to affordable housing, education, family breakdown, immigration, poverty and unemployment.
Sadly, during the election campaign, two our volunteers lost family members to separate gun crimes within a period of only three days. Each assault causes unspeakable grief to families, creates instability in communities, obstructs the development of business centres and reduces trust in government. The Etobicoke North community needs investment and our children need a real deal.
A visionary principal, Michael Rossetti, from Father Henry Carr wants to build a field of dreams for Etobicoke North. His hope is to build a first-class track and field centre and basketball courts for the school, as well as for the whole community. Etobicoke North needs investment in sports as there is no athletic centre in the district.
The field of dreams project is receiving strong support from Pat Flatley, a former alumnus of the school and New York Islander captain, who has already met with Toronto's mayor, as well as Michael “Pinball” Clemons, CFL legend and Toronto Argonauts CEO. The principal has also received letters of support from Ron Taverner, chief of 23 Division, as well as Bill Blair, chief of the Toronto Police Service.
Investment in communities is more than an economic stimulus, more than jobs and lack of investment hurts families. Our community cannot afford to finance or borrow beyond existing budgets. Will the government help?