Ontario’s economy thriving is again after the global economic downturn and its significant financial challenges, the province’s Health Promotion & Sports Minister, Margarett Best, said at her annual levee last Sunday.
According to Statistics Canada, Ontario recovered almost all the jobs it lost during the meltdown with the private sector adding thousands of positions last month.
The province, with the help of the federal government, is also pouring millions of dollars into recreational infrastructure. In the past year, Best’s Scarborough/Guildwood riding in the city’s east end has benefited from joint funding of nearly $380 million.
The Scarborough Village Community Centre, the site of last year’s levee, is among several projects to receive funding for facility upgrades. The new 225-square metre space will include a multi-purpose room, a kitchen, meeting place, an office, storage space and three washrooms. It will be used to address community-identified needs for services and programs and will serve as a hub for residents to meet and strengthen their community.
The federal and provincial governments have committed up to $400,000 to the project while the municipal government has contributed the balance of the total project cost of $1.68 million.
“I know many of the constituents benefit from the services at this facility, including our seniors,” said Best. “It’s very nice to have the opportunity to be part of a government that has contributed to the expenses.”
Arising Women’s Place, established a decade ago by domestic abuse survivor Annie Kashamura to provide women experiencing abuse with a non-judgmental and inclusive environment where they can feel safe, understood and supported, has collaborated with Scarborough’s Salvation Army on a holistic wellness project for women and girls from low-income and ethnic communities.
They have received $67,330 through the Healthy Communities Fund which has provided more than $21.9 million to 369 organizations since it was established in 2009.
The Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities, formerly West Hill Community Services, also collected $90,089 from the fund to plan and implement physical activity and healthy eating programs.
“This is in response to the fact that we have to maintain and sustain the health care system which you know cost almost $40 billion a year to maintain,” said Best, who played a significant role in the province’s banning of smoking in a vehicle when a child is present. “So we are working as a government to keep people healthier so that we can have more funds to invest in other community initiatives as well.”
Last June, Best joined former Mayor David Miller and federal Member of Parliament Lois Brown at a groundbreaking ceremony for the refurbishment of the East Scarborough Boys and Girls club in Galloway.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments have each contributed nearly $1.3 million in funding while the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) has chipped in with $1 million to the project that costs almost $4.7 million. The community club serves nearly 16,000 young people annually, ranging in age from one to 24. The building expansion will allow the club to reach up to an additional 200 children daily.
The club has never been renovated since it was built in the early 1970s. The joint funding for the 700-square metre expansion is to be used for energy retrofit, the installation of administrative offices and a new gymnasium and other refurbishments.
“The existing facility will be rehabilitated to improve the efficiency of the building,” said Best. “The club is certainly one of the most useful resources in this part of the province.”
The Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto are building a two-storey Aboriginal Family Life Centre in Best’s riding and upgrading the existing Children’s Visitation centre.
The total investment of $2,957,026 is helping to create local jobs in Scarborough and support children in need and families in the community.
Best, who played a key role in Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe region securing the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games, said she’s excited about the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus’ dramatic makeover in preparation for the Games.
The renovation plans include a $170 million aquatic centre, a hotel and convention centre, a performing arts centre, new residences and academic buildings and a pedestrian thoroughfare.
Ajax-Pickering MPP Joe Dickson attended the levee.
The 52-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 and Mary Anne Chambers who encouraged Best to run in the riding she held before retiring from politics three years ago.
Last August, the Ministry of Health Promotion was renamed to include “Sport”.