Toronto’s Economic Development Committee
Toronto’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) has a multi-faceted mandate — to increase Toronto’s business, cultural and economic competitiveness, encourage and nurture job creation, and promote Toronto as a world-leading, competitive city.
Growing the city’s economy in the shadow of the current global economic crisis, EDC faces a daunting task. Fortunately, Toronto possesses formidable strengths and promising opportunities, and EDC is positive about the city’s future on all fronts.
According to unemployment records for August, about, Toronto’s unemployment rate reached nine per cent, compared to eight per cent for the rest of the Greater Toronto Area and about 7.3 per cent across Canada. “Toronto is working to address the imbalance reflected in these numbers,” said EDC Chair and Councillor Michael Thompson. “While the numbers are larger than we would like, they are somewhat skewed by the high numbers of people who come into the city looking for employment opportunities. While our unemployment may be higher than the national average, there are plenty of opportunities and money in the city. Our job is to find ways to bring people and opportunities together.”
Toronto believes that many sectors are ripe with opportunity. For example, the educational sector is expanding, in part to accommodate a growing population, and in part to attract more international students. Currently, there are approximately 25,000 international students in Toronto bringing with them $1.2 billion in annual revenue for the city, and the province. These students spend money on living expenses, purchase cars and some even buy houses.
Councillor Thompson believes that there is an excellent opportunity for growth in this arena. Toronto’s EDC has recently collaborated with universities and colleges in Toronto, Hamilton and London to establish a “Welcome Initiative.” The initiative offers welcome services to newly-arrived international students, providing them with information about their schools and the city, and easing the transition into their new environment.
Creative and technology sectors in Toronto also present exciting opportunities for economic growth. Toronto’s film industry, for example, now brings $1.3 billion to the local economy each year. At the epicentre of this sector’s growth, Pinewood Studios, the first major film studio in Toronto’s Port Lands, is undergoing a $40 million expansion that will add studio and office space to the facility.
EDC also believes that there is untapped economic potential in the stream of newcomers to Canada arriving in the city each year. “Many newcomers are highly educated, and bring valuable skills to Toronto’s economy. If enterprises in all sectors figure out how to fully utilize the skills and experience of new immigrants, the economic impact would be enormous. Moreover, many people come with entrepreneurial experience and know-how that can be extremely valuable to Toronto businesses, enabling them to expand their markets and grow their revenue.”
Thompson also noted the potential for export growth that arrives with new Torontonians. “Many countries of origin can benefit from Canadian products, ingenuity and know-how. Many new Canadians have strong business and family relationships in their home countries that can be used by businesses here to connect to new market opportunities overseas.”
Toronto continues to take steps to expand its international trade. In September, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and EDC led an economic development mission to Chicago. Chicago and Toronto had originally entered into a partner-city relationship in 1991. The relationship has lagged over the years and the mission was assembled to reinvigorate it. In an interview with the National Post in August, Mayor Ford declared, “Our goal is to attract new investments that can cultivate assessment growth and produce employment opportunities. In turn, Toronto business leaders will have new opportunities and avenues to do business in one of North America’s biggest financial and manufacturing regions.” However, Toronto is also looking for growth beyond its relationship with Chicago, and into the global marketplace. The city is building relationships, opportunities and markets internationally with countries from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.
Perhaps the city’s brightest economic light is Toronto’s world class financial sector, one of the fastest growing, most sophisticated clusters of financial services companies in the world. These internationally competitive organizations offer a range of quality services and expertise that ranks among the best in the world.
Toronto is also working to grow its profile in the business arbitration segment. According to, a study commissioned by Arbitration Place, “Toronto will play host to an estimated 425 arbitrations this year bringing $256 million into the city’s economy,” and that “Toronto has everything it takes to be an international seat of arbitration,” says Yves Fortier [Resident Arbitrator, Arbitration Centre]. “It is a cosmopolitan city, relatively close for US companies, it shares a similar legal system and uses English as its predominant legal language. Toronto provides a neutral non-U.S. jurisdiction and our courts have a great reputation for supporting arbitration and enforcing arbitral awards.”
These and dozens more initiatives are underway in Toronto under EDC’s watchful eye. But Councillor Thompson believes that economic development goes beyond job creation, infrastructure and business growth. “Our role is to create an environment where people want to come, invest, and raise a family. While we address needs and pursue opportunities, we are ultimately trying to create a city where everybody feels connected. We never stop pursuing the opportunities implicit in our motto, ‘Diversity is our Strength.’ From my vantage point, I like the progress that I see as we keep moving toward this vision.”