Toronto's Vital Signs® Report 2015 points to the need for unified thinking and action to solve Toronto's growing challenges and maintain its 'most liveable' standing
TORONTO, Oct. 6, 2015 /CNW/ - Toronto Foundation releases today its 14th annual Toronto's Vital Signs Report on the state of Canada's largest city which is now the fourth largest in North America.
"Toronto is a petri dish for globalization. More than any other 'most liveable' city, we can be the model for everything a great city can be. But we have some serious challenges in front of us and the only way to address them is by seeing ourselves as one city. We must become one place," says Rahul K. Bhardwaj, President & CEO of Toronto Foundation.
Toronto's Vital Signs Report is the definitive measure of Toronto's quality of life. It pulls from more than 300 sources to present a snapshot of our collective wellbeing, both the good news and the bad.
"The issues we've identified this year are not new; they're chronic," explains Bhardwaj. They're also interconnected. Ignoring them will have implications for all of us as well as on our global standing."
In his keynote address today: One Place, One Peace: In it Together, Bhardwaj calls on Torontonians – all 2.8 million – to take individual responsibility for sustaining our city's vaunted liveability "because we're in it together."
"Whether you're a planner, a politician or a philanthropist, a voter, volunteer or neighbour, you have a role to play in making this city a place that works for everyone. We need to transform ourselves into a unified, singular metropolis where we all have the peace of mind to make a good life for our families, where older citizens can age with dignity and where our young people are optimistic about their futures," says Bhardwaj.
First launched by Toronto Foundation in 2001, the Report is one of 28 Vital Signs Reports released today by Community Foundations across Canada and the model for 75 communities around the world.
Mr. Bhardwaj's speech takes place today at The Canadian Club of Toronto, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 107 at 12:40pm.
Visit www.torontosvitalsigns.ca to access the full Report and the accompanying Foundation Message. A copy of Mr. Bhardwaj's speech will be posted at www.torontofoundation.ca at 2:30pm today. A live broadcast of the speech can be followed on Periscope.
Key Findings from the Report follow.
For an interview with Mr. Bhardwaj, please contact:
O: 416-921-2035 ext. 213 C: 416-402-4274
Toronto's Vital Signs Key Findings
The Good News: Toronto on Top
A record-breaking year. We hosted the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games, a spectacular series of events around the GTHA and beyond. The Games were a big win for Canada: our athletes won 385 medals; 7,000 athletes participated; 20,000 volunteers gave their time and energy to the cause. And the Games were a big win for Toronto too: a civic "aha!" moment when we realized what can happen when we work together toward a common goal. Events like the Games are a huge tourism draw too. The Region drew the highest-ever number of overnight visitors in 2014. Beyond tourists, Toronto now attracts more new Canadians than any other part of the country. Today, 51% of us are foreign-born, with one third having arrived in the last 25 years.
We continue to win accolades. For the seventh year, Toronto has earned fourth place on the Economist Intelligence Unit's list of most liveable cities. And the new Sustainable Cities Index ranked us 12th in the world. Employers rank Toronto 1st in liveability for their ex-pat employees. At a time when the environment is paramount, Toronto's green spaces got the nod. At 445 hectares per 100,000 people, our parks keep us four degrees cooler on average and our urban forest removes airborne particulate equivalent to the output of one million cars.
Toronto's economy continues to grow. Overall employment was up by 1.5% over 2013 with 20,850 new jobs and more than 5,000 new businesses to Toronto (16% more than in 2013.) We're building more high-and mid-rise buildings than any other North American city other than New York. On-location filming exceeded $1 billion for the fourth straight year (up 4.3% from 2013), and the World Pride Festival directly contributed $313 million to Toronto's GDP.
But 17 years after amalgamation, Toronto remains tenaciously divided. The gap between the richest (1%) and the rest is the second largest in Canada (next only to Calgary) and income inequality is increasing at twice the national average. At the neighbourhood level the income divide has grown by 96%. Average household incomes in the poorest 10% of neighbourhoods rose by only 2%, while those in the richest 10% of neighbourhoods grew by 80%. And this polarization is also illustrated at City Hall debates on the Gardiner, carding, and subway-versus-LRT.
The Bad News: 6 Chronic, Interconnected Issues
- The rise of the 'precariat." Last year, 22.7% of us depended on temporary and contract work, up from 19.4% in 2013. And a whopping 54.3% of us no longer rely on the "standard employment relationship," meaning full-time, permanent work with benefits. And these numbers are likely to go up. Almost half (47%) of respondents to a recent poll of Canadian firms planned to increase their use of "contingent, outsourced, contract or part-time workers" in the next three to five years. In Toronto, two working parents with two young children must both earn at least $18.52 an hour to make ends meet while the minimum wage is $11.25. The impact? Close to 80,000 on the waiting list for affordable housing. Close to one million visits to food banks. Health suffers too: low-income men are 50% more likely to die before 75 and poor women are more likely to have diabetes.
- Unaffordable housing. Toronto's house prices have tripled since the 1970s. We are the 13th least affordable housing market of 86 global cities.
- Excessive traffic. The GTHA's congestion crisis continues. We can stake claim to the second longest round-trip commute – still at 66 minutes – in North America. And only 29% of our employed labour force uses transit.
- Declining health. Fewer than half of us are active (46.1%, down from 52.6% in 2013) and 50.7% are overweight or obese (up from 43.8% in 2012 and 46.2% in 2013.) And while most residents (70.5%) report good mental health, 262 people took their own lives in 2013 (that's over four times the number of homicides and four times the number of auto accident deaths.)
- More seniors alone. One in five Torontonians 55-plus now lives alone; for those 85 and older, it's 44%. And the numbers are rising: today, 14.76% of us are seniors; by 2036, one in four will be.
- Uncertain futures for our young. For young people, work is hard to come by: in 2014, youth unemployment was almost 22% (up from 18% in 2013) and much higher than the national average of 14%. No work means you can't afford a home: youth are the fastest growing homeless segment in Canada, representing one third of the total homeless population at 65,000 young people living on the street (2,000 in Toronto.) Only half of young adults feel a strong sense of belonging vs. 69% of the rest of the population, aged 12 and up. Is it any wonder young people don't feel connected to their city? Or that they're not voting? Only 39% voted in the 2011 federal election – a startling contrast to the 80% of their parents' generation who did so at the same age.
About Toronto Foundation
Established in 1981, the Toronto Foundation is one of 191 Community Foundations in Canada. We are a leading independent charitable foundation that connects philanthropy to community needs and opportunities. Our individual and family Fundholders support causes they care about in Toronto and across Canada, through grants to any registered Canadian charity. We currently have more than 500 active Funds, including endowments and assets under administration of more than $400 million. In 2014, the Foundation directed over $10 million to charities in the GTA and across Canada.
A growing number of Torontonians support the Vital Toronto Fund, our community fund that helps mobilize people and resources to tackle community challenges in innovative and inspiring ways. To find out more, please visit www.torontofoundation.ca.
About the Toronto's Vital Signs® Report
The Toronto Foundation's Toronto's Vital Signs Report is an annual consolidated snapshot identifying the trends and issues affecting the quality of life in our city – progress we should be proud of and challenges that need to be addressed. It aims to inspire civic engagement and provide focus for public debate. It is used by residents, businesses, community organizations, universities and colleges, high schools, and government departments. In addition, the Report is being replicated by cities around the world.
The Foundation partners with many researchers to produce the Toronto's Vital Signs Report, including George Brown College, our Lead Research Partner.
SOURCE Toronto Foundation
For further information: For an interview with Mr. Bhardwaj, please contact: Julia Howell, JHowell@torontofoundation.ca, O: 416-921-2035 ext. 213, C: 416-402-4274