Is There Too Much Attention Given to "Downtown" Mississauga?

While it seems that everyone is in agreement that the key to Mississauga becoming a real city is to develop the City Centre into a truly vibrant 'downtown' district like most major cities in the world, there might be some feelings of neglect from other parts of the city, as reflected by local politicians during a recent meeting.

It was two weeks ago that a few members of Mississauga City Council showed some concern that 'too much' was going on in City Centre at the expense of their own communities. The discussion starts around the 2:48:40 mark of the video when Ward 4 Councillor John Kovac asked city staff about what more could be done to enhance the public realm in the City Centre, such as streetscaping, improving walkability and installing public art. As Councillor Kovac said in an email to Insauga:

My motion does not conflict with the City's Downtown 21 Master Plan, which is obviously strong but also rather overarching. Instead, this motion will serve as a supplementary piece and ensure that we do not neglect the look and feel of our civic precinct, the area immediately in and around City Hall, Celebration Square and the Living Arts Centre. I feel there is a great need, now and in the near future (post-LRT construction) to get going on reinvigorating the streetscape, luring residents to City Centre by improving upon, making more comfortable and by beautifying the landscape so long as we are cost-effective in the process.

Ward 8 Councillor Matt Mahoney (second from right) and Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito (far right) with Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr (Photo courtesy of City of Mississauga)

While Kovac got support from colleagues such as Councillor Nando Iannicca and Councillor Jim Tovey from Lakeview, he seemed to have gotten some flack from those representing other parts of Mississauga. Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito from Meadowvale was weary of supporting a motion without 'enough information.'

Saito also opined that it seemed all these projects were getting done in places like the City Centre, Lakeview and Port Credit; meanwhile west end Mississauga isn't seeing much of the same. She was concerned that she had been asking for a similar revisioning project in Meadowvale and if staff resources would be diverted from her ward to acquiesce to Kovac's request.

Another councillor, Matt Mahoney who represents Ward 8 in Erin Mills, also in west end Mississauga, said while he supported city building and offered praise for the projects that are going on, he said he could not support a motion that seems to have suddenly been dropped in front of Council without adequate information. Mahoney thought that, at times, it seems that he, Saito and Councillor Sue McFadden represent the 'forgotten' area of Mississauga.

Mayor Crombie somewhat politely disagreed with these assessments, citing the $36 million new Meadowvale Community Centre and the new $1.5 million pool in Ward 10. Crombie also said Kovac's motion was simply asking for a review of four streets in City Centre. In the end, Councillor Kovac's review motion was passed by a vote of 9-2 (one councillor was absent at the vote), with Mahoney and Saito abstaining (not voting), rather than voting no as they indicated they would earlier. Insauga emailed both Saito and Mahoney for a response or statement to what occurred at this meeting, but neither responded as of this writing.

This actually isn't the first time that someone noticed bubbling divisions between 'downtown Mississauga' councillors and their suburban colleagues. They may not be as intense as the debates that plague Toronto City Council between so-called "downtown" councillors and councillors representing suburbs like Etobicoke (the political terrain of the late Rob Ford) and the ever subway-deprived Scarborough, but they are there, albeit manifested in a more collegial manner. Saito and Mahoney may have cited the need for more facts, but I do not doubt that they are speaking for some constituents who do feel some neglect from the municipal administration.

I am reminded of a former candidate for Mississauga City Council who was running in one of the west end wards in the last election about how sometimes her area is like the 'Deep Space Nine' of Mississauga. If you're not a Star Trek fan, Deep Space Nine was a spinoff of the old Star Trek: The Next Generation series where a former starship captain, Benjamin Sisko, was assigned to an old outpost previously occupied by a hostile race who fled after occupying a neighbouring world for 50 years. Sisko took over the space station, but as he was so far from Federation territory it seemed as though he was operating on his own at times, with whatever resources he could find locally with little to no help from 'Starfleet Headquarters'.

While Mississauga is light years away from the world of Star Trek, the point is as Mississauga becomes a urban city in its own right there’s bound to be some political divisions and disagreements over the allocation of resources. That's actually a healthy debate to have; the challenge is to not let those debates consume you to the detriment of your community.

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