Building inclusive and equitable local economies requires a fair redistribution of wealth and benefits from neighbourhood improvement. What is equally important is an equitable redistribution of decision-making power. Community members stressed the importance of participatory planning and democratic participation in deciding how neighbourhood should develop and how local economic resources are allocated. Despite such an apparent importance, community members raised a concern about losing community control over the development of the neighbourhood. In addition to limited formal governance mechanisms (e.g. statutory public consultation), community members identified another critical barrier for democratic participation: a gap in knowledge about Parkdale. They mentioned that they do not know what is going on in Parkdale. They wanted to learn more about Parkdale but do not know where to go to find out more.
Therefore, there is the urgent need to renew local democratic mechanisms as well as to create pre-conditions for participation. The project has encountered a genuine desire from diverse community members for learning more about Parkdale so as to work together. Learning was seen as the first step for taking community action together. Community members hope to develop resident leadership capacity. They expressed the need to extend the exercise of democracy beyond participating in elections and statutory public consultations; they aspire to have more democratic control and influence to guide the development of the neighbourhood they live, work, and socialize. This aspiration is a crucial asset in Parkdale that needs to
Parkdale has a range of existing community assets that can contribute to realizing the community aspiration, such as strong community activism, various neighbourhood-wide networks, and learning programs. Some community organizations have developed an organizational governance structure that emphasizes the voice and decision-making power of community members. For example, by leveraging its democratic governance and neighbourhood-wide membership structure, Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust is building its capacity to act as a vehicle that fosters community-led participatory planning. The following four directions can harness these existing initiatives to promote greater local democracy in Parkdale.