Remarks by Councillor Lily Cheng during the 1st year anniversary of the World Urban Pavilion on April 24, 2023
Good morning Officials, Dignitaries, fellow elected officials - including Councillor Moise, and leaders from across the sector and city,
Happy one year anniversary to the World Urban Pavilion in Regent Park.
The transition from a newly planted institution to a fully developed organization has been impressive. Similarly moving from ideas to projects to real community impact will be key towards urban transformation.
Willowdale is proud to be associated with this visionary organization. Willowdale began as a farming community into a suburb and now a vibrant and dense neighbourhood of immigrants in the City of Toronto.
Our neighbourhood has many attributes including many public parks, a landmark library, and diverse restaurants that fill our streets. We have a community square called Mel Lastman Square where people can gather, connect with neighbours, and partake in a wide variety of cultural performances that result in many cultural exchanges as we create a beautiful mosaic that reflects the diversity of Canada. 6 out of ten residents of Willowdale have cultural roots outside of Canada. We are a microcosm of Toronto and Canada.
At the same time, Willowdale faces multiple challenges: growing inequalities, homelessness, housing affordability, transit, and increasing social isolation resulting from rapid densification without strong social infrastructure.
Yet, as a neighbourhood, we have the privilege of scale. With a Ward population of nearly 120,000 inhabitants, we are experiencing population growth double many parts of the city of Toronto and a residential density one third higher that brings the possibility of using better economies of scale and agglomeration.
With the World Urban Pavilion, we have confirmed that our neighbourhood has enormous potential with significant growth and development that can be leveraged. It is at the neighbourhood level that public participation and civic action takes place. It is from here that we can reshape citizenship, increase participation in decision-making and foster transformation not only of our community, but the whole city.
Neighbourhood-based collective action is the key to address health in cities, inequalities, climate change and many other persistent challenges that affect our cities and people’s wellbeing. The existing social capital in our community presents a great opportunity to undertake a real city transformation.
I am very proud to announce today our intention to enter into an agreement with the World Urban Pavilion and join the “Toronto Global Frontrunner City on Urban SDGs” in which Willowdale will be a “Global Pilot for Integrated Community”.
This is the beginning of a transformational journey.
The Frontrunner initiative is not about branding but a real opportunity to bring the Ward and the city of Toronto to the global scene.
As city representatives, we have the responsibility and moral obligation to play a critical role in this process of transformation. We need to have better communication channels with other Wards and local leaders to build together the necessary consensus for city change. “Toronto Global Frontrunner Initiative” has all the possibilities to become a world leader in the climate change agenda and the sustainable transformation of cities.
In order to bring change, we need to assess current challenges and opportunities towards creating a pathway that can empower residents to participate in community impacting decision-making.
Once a baseline of data is collected, we can evaluate assets and resources towards reinvigorating the planning process, and help to identify the most important actions for transformation.
I am convinced that change implemented at the Ward level has the potential to ripple into opportunities to transform the entire city of Toronto, one that reinforces our respective unique strengths, creates strong ties and collaborative relationships.
We are ready to identify pilot next steps and goals.
Willowdale can become an example of real-world transformation that can inspire better cities for all around the planet. Working hand in hand with the Pavilion, our neighborhood will become an example of sustainable urban development.
Thanks for the invitation.
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