Written by: Dave D’Oyen, from CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network
Toronto has again been labelled the child poverty capital of Canada. Housing has become unaffordable, even for dual income families. Individuals with lower incomes are being forced out of the downtown, some even out of the city. The challenges are many. My vision of Toronto is a city where individuals of all income levels have the ability to thrive. That vision will not be materialised without anti-poverty strategies fully funded by all levels of government and working in partnership with Corporate Canada.
You may have heard the phrase, “It’s easier to get a gun than it is to get a job.” That sentence rings true for many who have become involved in gun and gang violence, which has taken hold of certain parts of Toronto and seems to be spreading to others. Louis March, founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement, will remind everyone that today’s side effects are a result of political inaction yesterday. Many are forced into illegal activities because of the obstacles they face in meeting basic needs such as food, clothing and good housing.
Toronto is being recognised in some ways as the Silicon Valley of the North with a booming tech sector whose job offerings have outpaced those of the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, more TV series and movies are being filmed in Toronto – signs of a growing media industry. While these are indicators of a healthy business environment and an improving economy, the benefits are not being felt by all Torontonians.
As mayor, I would be frequently engaging with organisations in Corporate Canada, particularly the tech sector, partnering with them to facilitate the opening of offices and moving some operations to neighbourhood improvement areas (NIAs) by unlocking city land to prioritise such efforts. The benefits of that would be manifold, while being careful to mitigate the effects of gentrification.
Investing in NIAs would cause the Toronto Transit Commission to improve transit offerings in those areas while also relieving pressure on Line 1 and possibly relieve congestion in the downtown. It also brings with high-wage jobs into those areas, which can improve the local economy. Businesses that successfully operate in an area becomes attractive to complementary businesses, causing them to potentially collocate. It would also propel signal governments to maintain or build infrastructure to ensure businesses can succeed.
Beyond the economic benefits, social benefits can also be derived. Through appropriate and meaningful engagements, the employees of those businesses will come to know their local community and be desirous of investing in its wellbeing, whether it be through mentoring, sponsorship, skills development, job opportunities and more.
We need a city that everyone can live in and feels welcomed to call home, no matter how much money they make. Let’s make the commitment to ensure no Torontonian is left behind and can thrive in this great and prosperous city.
The “If I Were Mayor” blog series profiles the ideas of youth and rising leaders from across the GTHA as a way to add their voices to the municipal conversation. Posts have been curated by CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network, For Youth Initiative, Laidlaw Foundation, Toronto Youth Cabinet, Citizen Empowerment Project, Young Women’s Leadership Network, and the Centre for Community and Immigration Services. The views contained in this post are the author’s and are not reflective of CivicAction or the CivicAction Leadership Foundation.