The Ontario government is holding back on funding that would help build a cultural community hub in the area of Lawrence Heights and residents who live in the area say it’s disappointing to hear.
“I think that’s really bad because it could be useful in the area,” said resident Vagoline Miller.
Miller has 10 children and believes an upgraded community centre would be beneficial to her family and the community at large.
“I have teenagers, I have youth that could benefit from programs,” she said.
In April 2018, the former Ontario Liberal government pledge $14 million dollars to a new community hub that would increase the cultural and community services to residents of Lawrence Heights, but the Progressive Conservative government said money was never set aside for the project.
“This was a project that was talked about – it was an idea – but it was not funded. The Liberals had no money set aside for it,” said PC MPP Robin Martin, adding a formal application has yet to be submitted.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Mayor John Tory said he was first made aware that the PCs were withholding the funding in June.
“Mayor Tory was first made aware of the potential withdrawal of the provincial funding for the hub ahead of the official opening of the first new TCHC building in Lawrence Heights which he attended on June 8. Together with local Councillor Mike Colle, he immediately approached MPP Robin Martin at the event to express concern about this possibility and to offer help in producing a positive result,” the statement said, adding he is determined to work with all levels of government to build the hub.
“Lawrence Heights is a neighbourhood of great opportunity. It needs and deserves the complete support of all governments to make it the proud, peaceful community of hope that it can be,” the statement said.
Area councillor and former Liberal MPP Mike Colle said he is worried about potential delays because of the province’s move to hold back on the funding.
“To hear that the Ford government is cutting their commitment of that project really means that this will not go ahead. It would be delayed for years,” Colle said.
“This community hub would be a safe haven for young people and old people where they could get involved with community activities and arts and culture and sports.”
The Lawrence Heights neighbourhood has seen a number of shootings in the area in recent months and Miller said she doesn’t feel safe.
“It’s not safe for my kids here anymore. I don’t want my kids to play outside anymore. It’s frustrating,” she said, adding a cultural hub could help bring the community together.
Martin said the cultural centre is expected to be ready in 2022 and would likely have little impact on preventing shootings this summer.
“There is an existing community centre there and I don’t think that having an upgraded community centre in 2022 would have prevented any shootings that might have happened this summer,” she said, adding she sees the benefits of having the centre but an application needs to be brought forward in order for the funding to be considered.
“The specific application has to be brought forward before we can commit one way or another.”
The Ontario government said the city can submit a formal infrastructure project plan for consideration when the Ministry of Infrastructure calls for proposals which will be later this year.