Despite the significant global economic downturn precipitated by housing markets, regulatory structures and capital flow woes, the Scarborough-Guildwood riding benefited from several major investment initiatives last year.
“I am elated to be representing this riding and its constituents’ interests at a time when we have had quite a bit of success over the past year,” said provincial Minister Margarett Best at her New Year’s levee last Sunday at Scarborough Village Community Centre.
“In spite of the economic problems facing the world, we see some glimmer of hope and we are very fortunate indeed to live in this riding and this great province of Ontario, especially when we compare ourselves to some of the other G-7 and G-8 countries…We have a lot to be thankful for.”
The Scarborough Village Community Centre was among six projects in Best’s riding that received $5,383,866 in joint federal and provincial funding last year to improve community recreational infrastructure under the Recreational Infrastructure Program in Ontario (RInc Ontario) and the Ontario Recreation Program.
Best, who played a significant role in the province’s banning of smoking in a vehicle when a child is present, said the projects will provide stimulus to the local economy through investments that will engineer construction activity related to recreational infrastructure.
A total of $400,000 was allotted to the centre for expansion.
The East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, located in one of Toronto’s designated priority neighbourhoods, received $1,222,933 for energy retrofit, the installation of a new gymnasium and other refurbishments. The club services nearly 16,000 young people, ranging in age from one to 24.
Work on the 8,500 square foot project will start this year.
In addition, Cedar Brook Community Centre received $36,000 for health and safety upgrades, Global Kingdom Ministries, $1,000,000 for a new gymnasium and Peter Secor Park got $33,000 for playground enhancement.
The 51-year-old Best won the Scarborough-Guildwood riding for the Liberals in the 2007 provincial elections and was appointed Minister of Health Promotion, becoming the third Jamaican to hold an Ontario cabinet post after Alvin Curling, who attended last Sunday’s levee, and Mary Anne Chambers who encouraged Best to run in the riding she held before retiring from politics two years ago.
As the province’s Minister responsible for Sport, Best was at the forefront of Ontario’s successful bid to bring the 2015 Pan American Games to the Greater Toronto Area and Golden Horseshoe region.
The University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus in Best’s riding will be upgraded to a state-of-the-art athletic facility with two Olympic-sized 52-metre swimming pools, a 10-metre diving tank, a 400-metre running track, multipurpose gymnasiums, racquet courts and fitness and training areas. Work on this project is expected to be completed in 2014.
“Enhanced transportation links, including the creation of a rapid transit line to the campus and access to world-class health and wellness facilities, will be legacies of the Games,” said Best who served on the College Compensations and Appointments Council which recognizes outstanding graduates of the province’s college system. “It’s all good and I am very happy about all of that.”
The other post-secondary academic institution in Best’s constituency – Centennial College – broke ground last October for a 103,500 square foot, $46 million full-service library and academic facility that will include 22 additional classrooms, lab space, a living bio-wall and a large lecture theatre.
While she enjoys selling the province and playing a key role in the Ontario legislature, Best says her work in her constituency gives her the most satisfaction.
“They are the ones that elected me and they have real issues,” she told Share in an interview last year. “I get to sit down with the elderly lady who could not pay for her medication or another one whose wheelchair is stolen, and listen to their stories and do something about it.”
Best, who holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica in 2008, is the only Black member in the 107-seat Ontario Legislature.
Two of her three children – sons Colin and Ryan – and Athletics Canada Coach of the Year Anthony McCleary, also attended the levee.