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Study finds Toronto failing to keep pace with other Canadian cities, poll shows residents also fear city is falling behind and city hall is to blame

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Release Date: June 25, 2008

TORONTO, ON- Toronto may be losing its status as Canada's pre-eminent city and business hub and that has city residents worried, according to a new study and poll from independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

Median incomes in Toronto have failed to keep pace with the rest of Canada and management, business and finance jobs are in decline, says the study Is Toronto in Decline? Worrying Trends from the Census, which analyses Toronto's economic health using data from the 2006 census.

Median income in Toronto grew by just four per cent from 2000, while Ontario's median income grew by 10 per cent and median income across all of Canada grew by 16 per cent. Edmonton experienced the highest growth in median income at 26 per cent followed by Saskatoon (21 per cent) and Calgary (20 per cent).

Additionally, Toronto's median income in 2000 was 106 per cent of the national average; by 2005 it had fallen to 96 per cent of the national average. By comparison, Ontario's median income was 112 per cent of the national average in 2000 and 106 per cent in 2005.

"A key marker of a city's economic health is the income level of its residents. Since 2000, Toronto has lagged behind the Canadian average," said Mike Harris, Fraser Institute senior fellow and former Ontario premier.

The peer-reviewed study, written by Fred McMahon, Director of the Fraser Institute's Centre for Globalization Studies, found that the number of management positions in a city can serve as a good proxy for a city's health as a business centre. But in this area, Toronto is bleeding management occupations. Both Toronto and Ontario had negative growth in the number of managers and specifically the number of management positions in the private sector. Toronto is also the only city studied that suffered a loss of business, finance and administration occupations, compared to the 9.3 per cent increase in this area across Canada and 9.6 per cent increase in cities other than Toronto.

"While most other major cities across Canada have experienced growing incomes and job creation, Toronto has become a national laggard. It's little wonder a feeling of unease has crept into the public's consciousness," Harris said.

On top of the census data pointing to a decline in Toronto's economic standing, city residents responding to a poll conducted by COMPAS Research indicated a growing sense of disenchantment with Toronto's direction and concern that city hall is failing to adequately plan for the future.

The June poll of Toronto residents found that 40 per cent were concerned that Toronto is falling behind other business centres such as Calgary or Vancouver. Additionally, 42 per cent of respondents think the city is going in the wrong direction while only 33 per cent see it as moving in the right direction.

According to the poll results, blame for the problem falls on city hall. Sixty-two per cent of respondents said the city does not spend money efficiently and 63 per cent feel that the city's tax policy is driving business away. Little wonder then, 67 per cent of respondents also want the city to hold a referendum before any tax increase.

On the performance of Toronto's civic politicians in using tax dollars and providing leadership for the future, respondents give the mayor and council a barely passing grade of 52 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively.

"The people of Toronto are looking for leadership and a vision for their city and the future. They are calling for control over their taxes through a referendum, a response to the waste and lack of direction coming from city hall," Harris said.

Harris and Preston Manning, former leader of the federal opposition, are both senior fellows with the Fraser Institute and are working with a group of international urban researchers to craft a series of policies dealing with the urban issues facing Canadian cities. The project is an extension of their previous Canada Strong and Free policy work with the Institute.

"Toronto and other major Canadian cities are facing great challenges and we need to develop innovative, well-thought-out, principle-based, and world-leading urban policies to address them," Manning said.

"All too often, urban issues are not at the top of the policy debate. Moreover, the discussion of urban policies is typically fragmented-the dialogue in Vancouver is unheard in Halifax, new ideas in Winnipeg never make their way to Montreal, and so on. Canadian cities can learn from each other. Successful policies in one city can often be transported to other cities and we can all take lessons from failed policies and avoid repeating the same mistakes."

The COMPAS Research poll of 653 Toronto residents was completed in June 2008 and is accurate to within 3.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

COMPAS Research Poll



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