The Houseless People Who Served First

It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifyingly unsafe and unlivable—a rotting, moldering, and vermin-infested nightmare. Inside were some of the most dangerous people in the world, including former Toronto Police Services Board member and then-publicly-elected MPP Christine Elliott and her husband. But Elliott knew better than anyone else. It was the last place she and her husband would ever live.

Elliott was one of the most powerful and politically influential women in the world when she was elected as the MLA for Scarborough Centre in 1997, and her rise to the top of the Toronto Police Services board began in the very months and week that she was elected.

But the people she was elected to serve first were the homeless people in her community, the mothers and fathers dropping their children off at school or work while their homes were being renovated. The homeless people were not allowed to stay in their houses until the people who built them were gone, which meant that Elliott and the people she called her “partners”—most likely members of her Liberal Party—were the only ones who could stay.

On those first weeks in her new office, Elliott began calling community programs to inform her staff about the people in her area who were sleeping on the streets. It would become a game she played each time a housing need arose.

“I was very upset,” Elliott told the Toronto Star in 2014. “I became very aggressive, and all of a sudden it became a very negative place.”

The next year, Elliott and her husband moved out of their homes and into a hotel to rent to find temporary shelter while they moved out of politics. But she’d learned a valuable lesson. She had underestimated the challenges she was going to face, which was exactly what happened that February day in 2010 that Elliott met her future husband, Jim Flaherty, for the first time.

A decade after her election as the MPP for Scarborough Centre, Elliott was back in power, only this time she was the minister of housing.

It was March of 2010—six months before the Toronto Star’s March 5, 2010 editorial about a “sick” Tory government-sponsored consultation on

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