Fast forward five years

Scarborough has an opportunity to become more than Toronto’s Bronx, known for crime and gangs.

With the Pan Am Games, a new Toronto mayor and green energy projects like wind turbines, by 2015 it could be a very different Scarborough from today.

There are two very different possibilities for our future.

In one, Scarborough has a new world-class athletic complex with Olympic-size pools, tracks and more. It’s open to the public and strengthens our athletic talents. Who knows, maybe Scarborough athletes will win gold in international games because of it, making our identity known to the world.

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To host the games here, a new transit system is built — one that finally evolves past our archaic system — with light-rail transit, which brings commuting in Scarborough into the 21st century.

The new transit line increases food accessibility. With more food stores planned along transit lines, the elderly, sick and poor could have food security once and for all.

Though today budget issues are slowing the tracks being built for the LRT, our new mayor could find the resources to connect us to the grid. The next mayor could also spread the wealth from Toronto to Scarborough, building the economy with job creation here and vamping up our manufacturing base.

And we could become a green energy powerhouse with 60 to 100 wind turbines built off the Scarborough Bluff’s, helping not only us, but Ontario in the switch to renewable energy.

A Scarborough to be proud of.

In the other vision of the future, Scarborough gets worse.

The world is not even able to visit us during the Pan Am Games. Budget cuts have created a gap in our transit system. The LRT sits incomplete until 2016 and the old SRT is shut down.

Lack of public transit leads not only to empty seats at games but empty stomachs. With a vast expanse of land and few grocery stores, those without a car know what it means to go hungry.

These were common themes found during the recent Vancouver Olympics. And just like the Toronto’s west, the east will also know issues like gentrification, essentially kicking out the poor to “beautify” Scarborough for the games. As real estate prices rise and condos are built, less space is made for the poor.

And instead of becoming a green energy leader, we become the next green energy loser, as a lot of hot air by members of the Guildwood community scraps plans for the Bluff’s wind turbines.

So which of these two parallel universes is our future?

Well, as usual, the truth probably lies somewhere between the extremes: Scarborough will reap both benefits and costs in the years to come.

What we gain from the opportunities that lie ahead depends on whether we hold the changemakers accountable.

If we are to host the world at the Pan Am Games, we need more benefits from it than swimming pools. We need the promised transit to make the games accessible and for ourselves before and after.

The next mayor needs to make our concerns his concerns if we are to give him our support — and votes.

And if we want sustainable energy for future generations, not just a pretty view at the Bluffs, we ourselves need to take responsibility for our future.

With 2015 around the corner, we can shape the Scarborough of the future.

This is our chance. Let’s not blow it.