CityTalk | Live: How Can We Build a Dynamic, Inclusive and Resilient Economy in Canada’s Largest City?

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. A call for a forward-looking new economic plan  

The last economic development plan for the City of Toronto was in 2011. Pat Tobin, General Manager of Economic Development and Culture with the City of Toronto, is calling for a new economic development plan focused on the future and charting a course for where Toronto’s economy can go. It is time for a plan that tends to both the marco economic factors driving the city’s prosperity, but also helps to deal with some of the emerging challenges. A new plan would emphasize the cultural sector, create more inclusive opportunities and project into the long term.   

2. Equity-centered planning: Protecting the people 

Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director at Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), remarks that we have enough experience and enough knowledge to be able to mitigate harm to equity-deserving groups when planning transit expansion projects. We have tools such as Community Benefits Agreements which point to how work and activity is happening at the grassroots level with coalition forming across Canada. Prentiss Dantzler, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Advisor within the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, agrees and provides questions necessary to ask when approaching these projects:  

What are the long-term protection strategies for tenants? What are more progressive tax strategies for different businesses, particularly mom and pop and small businesses? Are there city funds that we can do to alleviate displacement within those spaces?  

3. Is Toronto’s economy becoming more or less inclusive?  

In discussing the trends the economy is heading in, Nation Cheong, Vice-President Community Opportunities and Mobilization at United Way Greater Toronto, points to the fact the gap in the economy is growing wider creating less inclusive economies. Young people, newcomers and other racialized populations are the most affected. Pat agrees and highlights the intersection of mental health, addictions, and homelessness as a significant and palpable issue affecting Toronto’s residents and the city’s overall sustainability and inclusivity. 

Despite challenges, Pat highlights Toronto’s assets, such as its ability to attract talent, world-class university system, and successful integration of newcomers, which contribute to the city’s sustainability. Pat also suggests that Toronto’s post-secondary institutions could play a crucial role in addressing these challenges and proposes innovative ideas, such as converting commercial towers into dorm-style living to tackle housing issue.  

4. Having a metropolitan mindset: collaboration across all levels of government  

David Campbell from the Toronto Board of Trade expands the perspective by considering and asking us to consider Toronto as a region, emphasizing its cultural and economic capital. Prentiss adds on by discussing the importance of a “metropolitan mindset” and the necessity of regional governance, urging collaboration among government levels for effective planning. He highlights the challenge that people often don’t know which level of government is responsible for specific aspects of city life or where funding comes from. He suggests that municipalities need to collaborate and think regionally to address issues like housing costs, acknowledging the broader impact on neighboring areas. 

5. Resilience and future goals: “Nothing for us without us”  

Rosemarie says: “think about how to intentionally get out there and find the voices of those people who are often not heard in these circumstances and give them an opportunity to give their really intelligent, lived experience, input into the process and create opportunities for them”. Resilient for her means having a strong foundation of affordable housing, resilient infrastructure and living wage jobs for historically marginalized communities. The panelists agree and Nation adds that “in ten years, if we can show a demonstrable change between the income gap and the cost of living, that’s a very clear marker that we are doing well in our economy” as he emphasizes the importance of a dynamic, equitable, and resilient city.  

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software.  Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary W. Rowe Hi, folks. Mary Rowe is in the midst of taking something off the stove. Literally, it’s true. Welcome to CityTalk and welcome to being here with us four days before the holiday or before… whatever you observe. I’m assuming a lot of people finish their workday today and then we hope take a good break over the next five or seven days to just regroup. I’m very delighted to have this esteemed group with us to talk about a topic that is relevant to communities and cities across the country, always acknowledging that we are a national network of folks working in different environments and on varying and ancestral territories, of ceded and unceded territory. And in Toronto’s particular case, home to many First Nations, Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples and specifically the Algonquin, the Mississauga’s of the Credit, the Chippewa, the Anishinaabeg and the Wendat peoples and appreciative of all that we continue to learn and come to terms with in terms of true reconciliation and what that looks like. This topic is, I think, as I suggested at the outset, of interest to everybody. Because we’re at a time of extraordinary global transition. And what does that mean for the economies of cities? What does that mean for the economies of different regions, economic regions in the country, but also specifically complicated, complex places like Toronto, that isn’t just the city of Toronto, but actually has many cities around it, and then rural areas and all the different varieties of economic activity that take place in a geography like the one we’re in. And so we thought we’d start this discussion because the City of Toronto is and embarking on a refresh … Is an understatement here. Pat’s going to tell us more. But it’s actually starting to really come to terms with the post-pandemic period, how that should be affecting its intentions and its policy leadership and then by association, the investment patterns and the other public policies that are being established by the province and the federal government for a dynamic, inclusive and resilient economy. What does that actually look like? So we’re pleased to be working with the City of Toronto on this, and I look forward to talking to all the stakeholders that need to have … don’t need to, but have something so valuable to contribute to what we think the future of the economy will look like here. So, thanks for joining us and everybody check in on the chat. Tell us where you’re coming in from and your ancestral territory. We’re always interested to hear that. As you know, we have lots of engagement on the chat. So if you’ve never participated in a chat for a CityTalk, you don’t know what you’re missing. You should feel free to post some comments there. And they are a fabulous, active, self-organizing community who write all sorts of things and we publish the chat. So we publish this recording and we publish the chat and it’s just a lively place to have a good conversation. So I hope you will post where you’re coming in from. Pat, I’m going to come to you first, if I may, because I’m hoping that you can sort of set the tone for us about what this big adventure is that you’re embarking on. And at some point in your opening piece here, I need you to tell me why dynamic, why inclusive and why resilient. And then I’m going to come to everybody else and hear what they think about why dynamic, why inclusive, why resilient, and what does that look like and where should we be? So I’m going to go to you first and thanks for joining CityTalk.


Pat Tobin Good. Thanks a lot, Mary. I’m Pat Tobin, I’m General Manager of Economic Development and Culture, City of Toronto. As Mary says, we are in many ways overdue for an economic development plan. Last one was 2011. So more than a decade ago. And while we’ve had two plans over the course of the pandemic that were really about mitigation and recovery, now is the time to look much further into the future and try to chart a course of where we’re going. Resilient and inclusive, I think one of the things Toronto pre-pandemic ran a, you know, the virtuous cycle of a ten-year economic bull run that in some ways seems a bit far from us today. But what that meant was that we didn’t attend to some of the perversities that were growing up in terms of how the gains were being distributed. And even as we layered over the effects of the pandemic and things like transit expansion and how that hit some of our neighborhoods, it really is time for a plan that tends to both the major, the macro economic factors driving the city’s prosperity, but also helps to deal with some of the perversities that perhaps were not foremost of mind in gentler economic times. And as Mary says, we’re really happy to have the Canadian Urban Institute as a partner on the research and public engagement side. So we’ll market through our own channels, and Mary, a lot of opportunities for people here to get involved.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah, I mean, the thing is, the economy by definition, is a conversation. You know, an economy is relationships that we are creating with one another that have some kind of a financial interaction. But it’s not, I always comment on – when people think that there’s one entity that’s the boss of a city or the boss of an economy. There really is no boss. I know we all want to think there might be, but you know, there isn’t. It’s all about relationships and interactions. So. Rosemary going to come to you next because that’s the business you’re in is strengthening these economic relationships with local communities and investors and all that kind of stuff. So, we’re going to come back to everybody, and I also, Pat, I don’t want to lose this idea that we had a gentler … I’m going to write that down. Somebody out there is tweeting or saying gentler. I want to know what a gentler economy actually was … when that was. Rosemary, what’s your view about the sort of moment we’re at?


Rosemarie Powell Well, you know, just following, you know, right on Pat’s heels, we’re actually turning ten years old, next year, the Toronto Community Benefits Network [Happy Birthday] … Thank you very much. And ten years ago, it’s just a totally different landscape now. When we started out with the work, looking at how our cities were being planned with the massive investment that had been proposed by all levels of government and infrastructure, especially in transit. And now we’re seeing more investment that’s happening. You know, as we think about the need for affordable housing, you know, we were looking at those people who were not a part of those conversations. And yes, we do need to, you know, to go back to our residents and, you know, have these really meaningful conversations, ensure that people are centered in these conversations. We were looking back and, you know, ten years ago, at multiple billions of dollars that were being spent on transit with no plan in terms of how people from those local neighborhoods that we were about to just drive through their communities or bulldoze through these communities to build transit. And we had no plans for how we were going to make sure that the people who would be most impacted by this build, you know, would benefit from it in any ways or look at how we can mitigate … what we could have seen back then, were going to be some of the challenges that we’re even experiencing today. Like if we think about the Eglinton Crosstown project, which is what … A $5.5 billion project, they think it’s now maybe 8.5 billion and still not finished yet, ten years later. And we could have foreseen that, you know, that little community along the strip, little Jamaica, you know, would have been terribly impacted by it. These were small businesses that, you know, struggled financially for years, but they kept it going. They kept the vibrancy of that neighborhood going. And, you know, after the build happened and after COVID just basically put the nail in the death coffin for 50% of the local businesses there who were the mom and pops, you know, people from, you know, these, you know, black and racialized communities who, you know, had been living there and sustaining that neighborhood for a long time. And now are they going to be able to even live in that community anymore? Will they be able to afford it? Taxes are, you know, skyrocketing for them. And obviously, many of them don’t even have their businesses anymore. So those are the kinds of things that we need to think about. So we need a city, you know, that is dynamic, that’s really reaching out to every single one, leaving no one behind so we can really hear from them and so we can get their feedback and input and also their talent in building up the neighborhoods that we deserve. So, you know, that’s our focus and that’s going to be our focus over the next ten years. And so we’re looking forward to, you know, to having these conversations with the city and all of our decision makers and residents and citizens.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah. I mean, as you say, it’s kind of a … It’s a galvanizing thing when these investments happen. But I know Prentice is going to want to talk about the sort of two-edged sword of development. Right? So what’s interesting Rosemary, with the anecdote that you just provided … It’s more than an anecdote, you’ve been living the Eglinton Crosstown, and I drove it a couple of weeks ago and still was kind of gobsmacked at just how long this has taken and have disruptive it is, so on the one hand, as you suggested, billions of dollars being spent to create that infrastructure, and that’s good. And we hope a good chunk of those billions went to employing local people in those jobs, we hope. But the downside of it is it’s unbelievably disruptive and it puts us in situations where businesses are in jeopardy. And the third piece, and I’m interested in Prentice will go here on this, is when you make these investments … So, in the future, if we ever have a situation where the damn thing is done, it will transform those neighborhoods, and runs the potential to gentrify them and force people who were there and could afford to be there can no longer be there. So, Prentiss, I want to go to you next, because we have apparently … we had an American visiting at the CUI offices this week from California, works in urban planning down there, was absolutely gobsmacked by all the cranes in Toronto and has read that stat that there are more cranes in Toronto building something than there are in all other North American cities combined. It’s an extraordinary step. So we’re in the middle of it. And what do we think that is going to tell us about the future of the economy? Prentiss I’ll go to you and then, David and Nation you’re coming up.


Prentiss Dantzler I think Rosemary pointed out something really important is that a lot of the things that we’ve seen today, we probably could have predicted a decade ago. Right? And so when we talk about displacement, where we’re talking more money is actually being spent, it’s not confusing or it’s not that surprising that you see a lot of equity deserving communities not being part of that conversation. And so we’re playing catch up to try to figure out how can we think about, you know, curbing displacement, curbing gentrification and how it is happening to those people. I think partly what we can do is think about how are we, when we have investments or we have growth strategies, what are the kind of protections that we have in place first? Right? And so, you know, doing a lot of research up here on displacement, particularly around evictions, Toronto is a place where, you know, semi-strong tenant protections but very weak market protections. And so as a result, you’ll get a lot of businesses and a lot of residents who can’t stay in those know those neighborhoods as they’re being changed or as they’re being redeveloped, revitalized. And so I think when we’re really talking about how we’re kind of curbing some of this development or who’s actually going to benefit from it, that’s a more kind of problematic question that a lot of us have to really ask ourselves. I think partly, what we could be doing, is thinking about, you know, what are those kind of long-term protection strategies? What are like, you know, more progressive tax strategies for different businesses, particularly mom and pop and small businesses? What are the kind of tenant protections or even city funds that we can do to alleviate displacement within those spaces? You know, you have a hot housing market, but the household incomes aren’t that high in the city. And so at the same time as you’re redeveloping these places, it still begs the question, who’s going to be able to buy these places? Who’s going to be able to rent in these spaces? And so I think having a more critical conversation not just around, you know, transit-oriented communities or just building more housing, we need to diversify what type of housing that we’re talking about. And so it’s not just building condos or single-family homes. It’s also thinking about rent control units. It’s also thinking about where social housing comes into play and having a more diverse portfolio of options, I think gets us at a place where we’re not just having the same conversations about forgetting about these communities existing today and trying to make sense of what happens to them over the next few years as we’re engaging in massive growth plans and strategic urban development strategies.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah, and I also want to make sure that we don’t get distracted only by how does the economy react when there’s this level of public investment in infrastructure happening. Because what happens when that isn’t happening? And I guess I would assume, Pat, that’s part of what you need to be focusing on at the city is – at the moment we have all these resources being piled into here. But what happens when you don’t and then what kind of an economy are we building? So, David, I’m assuming that’s a good cue for you to talk about what the Board of Trade’s longer term and what the business sectors longer term vision is, because we’ve been … I mean, both Rosemary and Prentiss are asking questions about have we ensured that there are sufficient local benefits for all this infrastructure investment that’s been going on. So that’s a fundamental question Prentiss is raising. And what about the implications of it after the fact? If it’s gentrifying, if it’s continuing to make it unaffordable, more unaffordable to live here. So those are important things we have to consider at the moment. But let’s just imagine we don’t have cranes in the sky and we’re not seeing that flood of public investment. Where do you think the economic opportunities need to be and what should the city be paying attention to as it creates the kinds of guardrails and stewards, whatever the future of the economy should be? And I know there’s region in your title for a reason. So talk to us about what the what the business community is thinking.


David Campbell Yeah, absolutely. Mary, thank you. And thanks for mentioning the region part because that is something that we really try to do at the Board of Trade. Think about the city not just as an entity but about the whole economic region. We’re so interconnected, you know, through the Waterloo Corridor to Hamilton and east as well. And we need to think about our challenges in that way. And I do think, you know, we’ll talk a lot about the problems. But just to take a moment, this is a really exciting period for Toronto, too. I mean, as you mentioned, the amount of construction going on. We have rapid population growth, which comes with challenges of its own, but also brings all sorts of new people and energy and ideas, which are the things that make Toronto really special. We are still the cultural and economic capital of the country. And when you look at sort of a continental lens, we are still one of the largest centers for industries like finance and tech and an auto manufacturing on down the list. So we have that really good foundation.  But to the point about the risks that we face, we think about a few. One is affordability, as we all know, has just become a massive challenge that’s affecting quality of life and it’s in turn affecting our attractiveness as a place for people to come and settle and build their businesses and, you know, be a talent pool for other businesses to grow. And on top of that, our productivity growth per worker is also very low. And this is compared to peer cities across North America and the world. And this is really being a drag on our economy. And then as I can speak to better than anyone, we’re really struggling under the weight of our own growth. The city budget’s strained and we need more help from other levels of government. But we also need to be introspective and evaluating our own spending, to make sure that it’s advancing our goals. And maybe just one other note I’ll say on that is that I think when we’re under strain, often it’s tempting to sacrifice the long-term investments first. Those are the ones that feel like we can get to them tomorrow instead. Right. But that’s often a mistake. We at the board, we think a lot about the investments that are being made to improve our productive capacity over the long term. So investing in things that provide the foundation for growth, like transit and housing and infrastructure and education and clean energy and so on down the list. So as we’re evaluating where we’re going and how the city can prepare, we really try to make sure that we’re keeping an emphasis on those long-term investments that provide the foundation for the future.


Mary W. Rowe You know, this long-term piece is such a critical piece. I know it’s always hard to get folks to think about the long term. And I’m going to come back, Pat, once I get through everybody else, we’re going to come back to you. I don’t want to put you on the hot seat totally. But I do think we all need a little reminder about what the city can or can’t do, because everybody wants to have you do everything. And we know it’s not possible. But this notion of, and I want to come back David, to productivity, because I just know this is a little trope we’ve got going here. And I want to just make sure that we know what we’re talking about, but I’ll come back to you. Okay, Nation, let’s hear from you. Inclusive, Diverse. Resilient. Hmm. What do you think?.


Nation Cheong Great. When I think about those three principles dynamic, inclusive and resilient, I come back to a comment you made earlier around relationships and that being the foundation of an economy. I appreciate the contributions of my colleagues that highlight a particular part of that relationship, in terms of who has been left out of the economy. I would say dynamic is an important principle because the economy situates or anchors itself on housing stability. It anchors itself on our capacity to embrace technology. It anchors on income security for all. It anchors itself on health and well-being. It anchors in terms not of inclusivity, which is a term I would challenge, but how we approach building our economy equitably. We think about folks in the disabilities community, how we building the buildings that allow them to be accessible, how we enabling that community, folks in that community to be part of the economy, not only beneficiaries but contributors to the economy. So that goes beyond inclusivity. That takes an equity principle from my two cents. I think this idea of relationships, ultimately the question you asked Mary is, who’s the boss of the economy? Well, the democracy is. The ability for the democracy, for the general public to set the principles and values. And this brings me back to this idea of the cyclical nature of our economy. If you’re left out, then you don’t feel like you’re benefiting from it. So then you disconnect from the democratic process and therefore, the economy continues to benefit those who are part of the democratic process and who have the wherewithal and resources to be part of that. So to me, when I think about dynamic, you have to be able to think about the economy along those dimensions. I said enough about equity. I would say resilient, because we are going to continue to face climate change. We are going to continue to face global conflict. We’re going to continue to face displacement within our own borders and seeing folks coming from different parts of the country, different parts of the world, not only because they have something to contribute to our economy, but because Canada, as its national identity, is a safe haven for folks who are fleeing persecution. And if we continue to hold that up as the ethos of our country, our province and our city, we have to go beyond the lip service of the great multicultural dream that that Canada represents. And that has to be reflected in the way in which people can settle into this country, settle into our province, access housing really quickly and stabilize their lives and become part of the economy. I think those are some of the areas that really need very focused conversations when we think about these broad principles. And I think they are the right principles, of being dynamic, being equitable, I would challenge inclusive, and certainly being resilient because we will have all kinds of tech, environmental and political disruption that will require our economy to be dynamic and resilient and to ensure that we’re creating the space not only for big business, but small business, not only for the professionals, but the baristas, the soccer coaches, the teachers that need to be able to live in the city, the bus drivers, because without them, I’m not sure that everyone signing up to be a taxi driver and a financial planner all at the same time. So this is the situation we’ve got to solve collectively and it requires my last comment on the relationships, again, it requires business, it requires the not for profit sector, it requires public sector. And I’m talking about all three levels of government. That is where the solutions lie. Municipalities cannot do it on their own. We need the province to weigh in. We need the Feds to unlock access to the resources. And I see work happening in that regard. But we’ve got to hold – it can’t be just emergency response. We’re beyond just the emergency response. We are in a whole other situation right now dealing with dynamics that are global in nature and to a certain extent beyond our control. So those are my comments to keep the conversation going.


Mary W. Rowe Thanks. Okay, well, let’s all have a go at this, you know. Have you guys heard this phrase – “The urban doom loop”? It’s a meme. “The urban doom loop”. And it started in the U.S. and then it percolates up here. And it’s basically saying that cities are in trouble, that people are leaving them that … and it’s part of this sort of reiteration of all the things that aren’t working and that are negative in city environments. And that has a negative effect, obviously, for people like David and organizations trying to attract investment. But it also just has a lag effect on generally, I think on advocating for sort of empowering the imaginative capacity of cities as problem solvers, you know, So I think this is going to be a challenge for Toronto because if we spend too much time lamenting all the things that are broken, we can end up forgetting all the things that are good and that are still working, you know what I mean? So that’s just an editorial on my part because I want to try to figure this out. I look at how housing has become – every newscast now, do you guys notice this? Every newscast. Housing is the first story. The first story, the first story, the first story … And I’m wondering what the next story will be. Part of it is just what are we collectively building? So anyway, end of my little existential struggle here. But here at CUI have been focused on the two corners of the economy, main streets, as the sort of lungs of the city, and the downtown – as being spatial lenses to think about where do people work and where do people go for economic activity. And I’m curious about whether … And Rosemarie, I’m going to ask you this, do we actually have data that tells us … Is there a measure that tells us whether or not we have an inclusive economy? Or do we just have these statistics that feed the doom loop? Do you know what I mean? Do we have anything? Are we getting better or are we more inclusive than we were ten years ago? Less inclusive?


Rosemarie Powell Well, I don’t necessarily know which data points I would be able to kind of point you to. But what I do know is that within our movement for community benefits, we see that it’s growing. And, you know, ten years ago, we started out with 13 members today we’re at 127-member organizations and groups, including labor, that are standing with community and saying that we need a change. We see that we now have over, you know, 16,000 supporters, not just here in Toronto, but across Canada. We see more and more community benefits, coalitions, that are popping up in communities all across Ontario and Canada. There’s a community benefits coalition in Hamilton. There is a community benefits coalition in Ottawa. There is a community benefits coalition in Peel, in Windsor. You know, and, you know, we want to celebrate the – there’s a lot of activity happening at the grassroots level where people, where citizens are recognizing that, you know, they need to activate, they need to be a part of the conversations and they are taking leadership in their own hands.


Mary W. Rowe But let me just clarify. So these are mechanisms of community bandwidth, just for people that maybe don’t know what it is. A community benefits agreement is a mechanism. Am I right?


Rosemarie Powell Yes.


Mary W. Rowe That ensures that the investment, the money that’s being spent to create something is being shared with the local community. Right?


Rosemarie Powell That’s right. And so what we’ve seen through community benefits so far is that, you know, we have community benefits on the Eglinton Crosstown Project, the West Park Health Care Center, the Finch West LRT. And we see that thousands of jobs are being created. But also these same people who are getting the jobs, they’re not just sitting there taking the opportunity and run with it. They’re actually turning back into their own community and becoming community benefits ambassadors themselves. Think about the challenge I told you about the little Jamaica community. There is one young lady, she’s a hazmat worker and she got a job through community benefits, but she saw that in her own community there was this huge condo that was going up and she was invited out just like all the other residents to have, you know, that community consultation. And she actually challenged the developers there and asked if they would include community benefits. And that’s at the point where TCBN was thinking, you know, not just a government investment, but also there’s a lot of … 80% is private development. How do we tap into that? She is the one that initiated this and now we have community benefits and conversation on that.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of a great that’s a great anecdote. Rosemarie. Just to talk about the ripple effect. Right? And it seems to me this is an instrument of inclusion and equity, what Nation was getting at? It’s a tool. Right? To get at that.


Nation Cheong Mary, you’d asked a very specific question around data around … [ do we know?] We do know. We’ve published three reports called the Opportunity Equation. 2019 is the last one, and it looks at the distribution of income across the GTA and it cuts it across age, settlement, gender. And so there is information there that has been tracking on the income gap.


Mary W. Rowe Are we are getting more inclusive or less?


Nation Cheong As of the last report, and we still have some work to do, and I would look to David and Pat to see if they have more current data. That gap has been growing.


Mary W. Rowe So we’re getting less inclusive.


Nation Cheong Yes, we are becoming … We have been less inclusive along those dimensions. Newcomers, young people are being left out. And while the gap has been closing amongst women, there’s still a gap. And you can break that down further amongst newcomer and racialized populations. Pat, I see you nodding. I wonder if you have anything to add to that.


Pat Tobin Yeah. So. So as you suggest, Mary, there are varying indicators. They are not all uniformly moving in a single direction. But the overall trend that Nation charts is the one that exists. So you go back to the United Way’s research around the racialization and specialization of poverty in this city, and we continue to see those trends. They become more acute as you segment those out and newcomers in some examples are doing well after a certain period. Here they outperformed native born Canadians in terms of income and as entrepreneurs they form new businesses at a rate four or five times higher than native born Canadians. So it’s not uniform. But I’m going to tie back really briefly to the question you asked – David does well, as you did, Mary, to remind us that Toronto has many, many assets, has many things working for it. And many of those are incredibly foundational in terms of how a city is sustainable, not just economically, but socially. And so you look at the, you know, our ability to attract talent. Our world class university system, our ability to integrate newcomers that exceeds that – if you look at intermarriage, citizenship, take up of any other global arrival city, frankly, not perfect, but much better than most. So we have these fundamental assets that I think, you know, are going to continue to drive our prosperity. Our collective task is to ensure that that prosperity is shared as broadly as possible through mechanisms such as the one Rosemarie is describing. But you asked Mary, too, but how we keep our eye long term, and David did well to comment on that too, needing to think long term, but also think like a region. And, you know, there are things that we are doing now, you know, doing his exit interviews right now. Our great chief planner, Greg Lintern, is fond of quoting a great line from Michael Ondaatje In The Skin of the Lion, which is “before the real city could be seen, it had to be imagined”. And then he uses the illustration of building the Bloor Viaduct two decades before the subway would ultimately come through. So let’s look now at what we’re doing. Incredible opportunity on the waterfront, single biggest infrastructure project in North America. And yet we are challenged to get an LRT through in time to actually maximize the value and accessibility of that. So I say we have to think long term on things like that. And secondly, we do have to control for some of the perversities that that Nation is touching upon. So for me, like Nation is citing, the affordability crisis, particularly as it hits racialized folks and youth, is something that perhaps threatens to actually break the social contract that undergirds the economy. And yes, housing is the number one story of every day. But as you drill down into that story and look at its impacts on young people in this city and the highly corrosive impact it has on their civic engagement and aspirations, that for me is an incredible worry as is. And I’ll close on this. Toronto’s tendency sometimes to take for granted its high functioning diversity model and ability to integrate high numbers of newcomers effectively, we have to tend to it. There are cracks. We need only look at other continental cities and other jurisdictions to see what could lay before us if we are not careful and conscious about that.


Mary W. Rowe Can somebody put into the chat? Maybe – and I see that our super CityTalker Abby Slater is on today. Abby, can you find that Michael Ondaatje quote and put it in the chat, unless somebody already done it. What is it again, Pat, give it again …


Pat Tobin Before he real city could be seen, it had to be imagined.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah. It’s a beautiful quote, isn’t it. And the viaduct, you always think about that, don’t you, when you look and saying how did they know? How did they know to make that damn bridge with a place to put a subway underneath it. This idea that we don’t rest on our laurels, for many years thought we were the best at settling newcomers. It was like we said, we have the best neighborhoods. I don’t know if anybody remembers this, you’re all …. You know, I came to Toronto in the seventies to come to university and that was the notion. We had the best neighborhoods, we had the best this we had the best that, the Urban Institute that I lead was founded at that period when we thought we were the best. And now we’ve got this kind of reality check. Well, maybe not so much. So I’m interested, this idea of the role of imagination, though, can we recapture that vision? David, talk to us about the challenges of building a regional vision. Seems to me it’s not that easy and Pat’s looking for how he’s going to do that from the city of Toronto’s perspective. So you straddle that all the time.


David Campbell Yeah, well, first of all, just on the newcomers point, I’d also say, you know, we need to …. Part of the challenge can be whether people arriving have a realistic idea of what they’re going to be able to walk into when they arrive as well. And that’s where things like housing costs and affordable living can really be a shock to people just arriving in the city. To your point, we need to think about the city not just as an entity on its own, I mean, we kind of have this governance model that we’ve inherited and it’s not going anywhere. So we have to work within those bounds. Ultimately the borders of the city are arbitrary, right?


Mary W. Rowe It’s like water. You know, I agree with you. This is the one of the strengths of a regional argument, not regional government, nobody gets nervous about regional government. But I like your phrase – it’s sort of a riff on Mariana Mazzucato, who wrote a book called “Think Like a State.” This is like, think like a region. I like that idea. And so, as you say, David, it’s fairly arbitrary, the 427 between Mississauga and Toronto and yet, the homeless population moves businesses and delivery move. We all move between. So how do you at the board anticipate building that? Do you think we’re getting to a place of sort of better regional empathy, let’s say?


David Campbell Well, I think the recent agreement between the city and the province for the province to take more responsibility for the regional highways was, you know, one example of a step in that direction. But that had been long overdue. And it took a crisis basically to get us there. And so we do – It is incumbent to some degree on higher orders of government to step up and give this recognition. They are the higher orders …


Mary W. Rowe We don’t call them higher orders here, David. We call them the other orders.


David Campbell The other orders of government department. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, they need they need to step in and they are ultimately responsible for these sort of cross-border projects across municipal border projects. And so, you know, there have been there have been some signs that that’s on its way. Certainly at the board, we have lots more ideas around whether it’s transit or land use planning, ways that those governments can better help the city and the surrounding municipalities, better plan and better build sort of a regional vision for the area.


Mary W. Rowe And a lot of this is case by case, right? Prentiss I’m interested in the terms of the research you do with the School of Cities, and as a sociologist, you know that best practice doesn’t actually confine itself to a municipal boundary, right? So the best practice in addressing homelessness or providing economic development seems to me to be straddling all sorts of things, not confined. You have a view of that about how you cultivate a regional approach?


Prentiss Dantzler Yeah. I mean, so we have a report that was done by a couple of colleagues, Gabe Idleman and Don Iveson, really thinking about regional governance, right. Even as a, as a way to kind of think about long term strategies. And then to that point, people walking down the street don’t know, may not know if the city is responsible for some vs the province versus federal government. And at the same time, they don’t know where funding is coming from to do a lot of those type of things. And so really thinking about how people are actually moving around the city, you have to think regionally. I don’t think … Especially where you have a lot of things that are not at the control at the city level. Right. And so the city does not dictate how many immigrants move into the city on a every year basis. It does not say if the federal government changes any types of like housing in particular, like the housing accelerator fund. Right. And so really thinking about how can we take more regional approach and what can municipalities do in tandem. You have to think about planning going forward. And so even if you’re thinking about housing cost, building in the city of Toronto is also going to put pressure on other municipalities around it to build as well. But at the same time, people are moving across those boundaries. And so thinking about this as a jurisdictional thing, as a lot of governments have to at certain times to do, is not actually conducive to thinking about long term strategy building, if you’re not thinking about more regional kind of ways to actually design policy, implement policy in going forward. And so I think that’s one way where we have to think about, be really honest about ourselves when we have these kind of big long term, you know, infrastructure projects or kind of affordability tactics, that these are not centralized just in the city. They have a really big regional impact as well.


Mary W. Rowe You’re talking about the metropolitan mindset, which is that what Gabe and Don did and they talked about it on the 30th – I’m hoping somebody can put that into the chat so they can find out. And it’s also, a précis of it is in our State of the Cities report. So in terms of the inclusion and the equitable piece, Nation, you’ve suggested, those two need to be kind of in tandem with one another. And let’s talk for a minute, if we could, about resilience. Do you use resilience in your thinking about the work you’re doing and to what extent is resilience a top-drawer value for you in your work? How important and how do you define resilience? Maybe I’ll go to you first, Nation.


Nation Cheong Thanks, Mary. It’s a habit – the mute unmute. I know …


Mary W. Rowe I’m trying to rise out of it, take your mute off so you can just bark whenever you want.


Nation Cheong Yeah. I think the word resilience has been overused. There’s a point at which resilience puts the onus on the individual to just be able to withstand the forces that are up against them. And it takes the responsibility of like, how do we address those forces? So there is a certain requisite resilience when dealing with the impacts of poverty, which is the mission of the United Way. How that impacts individuals, families, communities, the dynamics within communities, and I think requisite for many of the communities who have demonstrated resilience through all types of systemic challenges. It’s requisite, but it falls short of where people want to be. People don’t want to be just surviving. They want to thrive. People want thrive like everyone else.


Mary W. Rowe So I think Pat, you may want to think about how you want to qualify resilient. I mean, I’m a resilience fan because I started using it before, years ago when I was in a city where it made some sense. But I’m like you Nation, I know that it’s seen now as …. and certainly people will say resilience somehow gives you permission to just put more pressure on us and deprive us of more stuff. Look how resilient we are because lots of nasty things are resilient. Poverty is perniciously resilient. So you put something in there that’s more aspirational. Yeah, more visionary and positive.


Pat Tobin Sorry Nation, really briefly though, too, I think it aggregates at a societal level and at an economic level, and I think maybe that’s speaking just for the city’s economic planning efforts is what we’re trying to talk about with resilience. And when you go back and look at the last plan again, more than a decade ago, our big concerns there were competitive position for talent attraction, FDI attraction, slippage of business and therefore our corporate or corporate taxes into the 905, the downtown that while by American standards was doing okay, probably needed a bit of a boost. So we have corrected in some cases overcorrected for those things. And the result today is a bit more of a resilient economy, I would say, in terms of its diversity. We are not too heavily over indexed on any given sector. We need to constantly tend to that. The Board of Trade put out a great report called The Race for Space. So while it’s housing, housing, housing, as you say, Mary, our employment lands are under threat in a way that might be easily dismissed by how the footprint of an individual worker through technological gains is being reduced. But no, we need every inch. We need to preserve and intensify every inch of our employment lands to absorb the population and the jobs that will need to be created as we bring aboard another 700,000 people here in the next 20 years. So I think resilience can take many forms. And while I entirely agree with Nation, I think it’s a concept that we’ve got to really dig into as we do our economic plan for the city.


Nation Cheong If I could, Mary, just qualify, I think when you would ask you how does resilience look in the United Way world, that’s what framed my answer. But to Pat’s comments, in terms of resilience in the context of an economy, I go back to my opening comments. We’re going to deal with ongoing climate change within Canada’s borders in and of itself. And what will that mean for movement of people to Prentiss’s earlier comments that people will be crossing borders and that is in addition to folks coming into the country, either economically or because of global conflict or because of climate change. So I think resilience in the context of an economy that builds and is forward thinking on those are pernicious dynamics. I think in that context, resilience makes a lot of sense.


Rosemarie Powell The only thing I’d kind of add to that – that concept of resilience is that you need to have the foundation that is strong first in order to even consider the concept of resilience, because like Nation says, that concept, especially when you think about people who have been, you know, just historically deprived and has been historically the ones who have to be the ones absorbing and being the resilient people in face of all of the, you know, the poverty and economic challenges and the dilapidation in their neighborhoods and so forth. You know, unless you correct those kind of things foundationally that there is, you know, and living wage, you know, good jobs, affordable housing, you know, and green buildings that can, you know, withstand … I mean, you know, it’s really hard to think that, you know, resiliency ought to be that value that we espouse.


Mary W. Rowe You know, it’s back to the foundations, as you’re saying there, Rosemarie, and whether or not we have the right foundations. I mean, we saw during Covid, we have parts of the city that are isolated from other parts. So our capacity to actually be connected – resilience is dependent on connection and reciprocity. And we’ve got a lot of hot zones that aren’t connected. So I hear you. There’s has to be some fundamental stuff. Let me just riff on that. We’ve got a question in a chat about the role of anchor institutions in this strategy going forward and who wants to comment on the role of anchor institutions? Anybody want to jump in first?


Nation Cheong Me? [Go, jump]. Listen, I think right now a very clear example is the work that UHN has been doing with the City of Toronto and United Way in the downtown West. That to me is an example that can be scaled across ….


Mary W. Rowe Just describe it for people that may not know you.


Nation Cheong University health Network has property land in the downtown west and has partnered with the city of Toronto to utilize, maximize, the value of that land for inclusive, equitable community in the downtown and to ensure that we are creating spaces homes for some of the most marginalized individuals with health complications. These are the folks from a UHN perspective that take up a lot of resources in the emergency room because there’s a gap between the emergency room and then when folks come back into community, the lack of social supports. And so this concept of social medicine is at the heart of this partnership with UHN, the City of Toronto and United Way, and that’s leveraging the assets of an anchor network, never mind an anchor institution. Now, we think about the housing. We think about housing. Universities have tremendous amounts of land and assets. Hospitals have tremendous amounts of land and assets. They can free up those land and assets for better student housing, for better housing opportunities for their clients. So the question on anchor institutions is essential. They have a critical role to play in this economy and to solve some of the crises that we are, the intersectional crises that we are seeing in this city.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah, I mean, we keep pushing around the role of, when we look at commercial conversions and all this extra housing and all the office talk that Pat’s worried we’re eliminating or that David’s going to say don’t be so hasty with. But there there’s some of it’s going to go, we’re wondering about post-secondary institutions. Could we, could post-secondary start to take a bigger role in downtown cores, that’s happened in American cities. And so that’s another example of an anchor institution. Another question from the chat and I again, I’m wondering about, Pat, one of your challenges is going to be how do you create a vision that isn’t just responsive to the current pressures, as you say, but also the future pressures? But certainly one of the current pressures is the manifestation of mental health on the streets and the fact that there are more and more homeless people, that people feel unsafe, that it’s affecting people’s willingness to take transit. How much do you see addressing community safety issues to be part of going forward?


Pat Tobin Yeah, it’s huge and I’m surprised that it has taken us this long. In a chair, a chat about the sustainability of Toronto to get to the intersection of mental health, addictions and homelessness. It is a huge threat across multiple fronts. There have been … Karen Chappel at U of T does well to show that Toronto is to a degree insulated from many of those. But I think for the average resident of Toronto, this is the most palpable change that they feel in terms of the lived reality on the street. It’s something that could, as you say, have all kinds of effects on the fate of small business, visitation. I mean, we’re hearing it from business in terms of their ability …  Again, talent is our number one asset in attracting new business investment. If the talent doesn’t want to live near the employer, then that’s going to be a huge challenge for us. I do think just to make a segway back, Mary, to your comment about anchor institutions. Yeah, I mentioned it really briefly before. Toronto’s post-secondary institutions are an enormous advantage and here is an opportunity as well to draw them into partnership in solving this problem. Even on the conversion question that you raise, while you’re right, I don’t think there is the rush here to convert a lot of Class A and B commercial real estate, particularly to residential that you might see in other places like Calgary. But we can’t let ourselves be too complacent, not think about it. And one of the best ideas I’ve seen, given the built form of those commercial towers, is that you replicate sort of dorm style living with all the amenities clustered in the middle of the tower and access the natural light on the outside. Well, there’s a rapidly deployable convergence addressing a significant issue that would have spillover effects in terms of people on the street and those who really, really want to participate in the urban life of the city.


Mary W. Rowe There was an article in The Washington Post a couple of days ago about Cleveland, and that’s what they’ve done. They rapidly moved in and put some … Because they had the post-secondary anchors there and they rapidly were able to convert. So part of this is nimbleness, I guess, and how quickly we can all respond and which sector can respond more quickly. We don’t know, we’ll see. I’m going to go back to the chat, if I can. Another question about well, actually, one of … Abby Slater is asking, do you think the next dominant challenge is going to be community safety after housing? I might just turn that a little bit differently and reflect on what Pat’s just said. We work with the city managers across the country as part of something called the Big City Executive Partnership, and they’ve been advocating for some time that we need a national strategy on mental health. And even though it may not be only one jurisdiction, it kind of goes back, David, to your comments about other orders of government that there are topics that need to be addressed by everybody. And sometimes the national government is the one that gets out in front of it. Do you see that David, is mental health, something that’s being raised by your members? I’m assuming it is.


David Campbell Yeah, well, I think Pat described it well in terms of where it often comes up, which is that when it comes to talent attraction, we want the city to be a vibrant, healthy community where people want to live and be, right? And, you know, the that the challenge for those people is the challenges that they’re going through themselves, folks who are experiencing those difficulties, as well as the impact that then they have on the city and some of the businesses, just as Pat was talking about.


Mary W. Rowe I mean, one of the things, Pat, that you live with, which we often remind our colleagues in the other orders of government, is that a municipal staff person has to deal with about ten things at once. You know, you’re not just … I mean, your division is culture and economic development, I’m assuming for a reason. And you’re on the ground all the time. We haven’t talked about culture. Where does culture fit, Pat, in your view?


Pat Tobin Thanks Mary, I’ll be really brief because I love to hear my colleagues weigh in on that too. But you’re right. Ten years ago, we brought the two functions together – culture and economic development. For two reasons, I would say. One, the creative industries are a significant component. They were then, and they more are now of Toronto’s overall economy. And they are one of the one of the real strengths coming out of the pandemic. We’re going to explode in terms of screen-based very, very soon, which is phenomenal. And secondly, you know, as goes the overall economy, and corporate revenues, so does the city’s ability to generate tax revenue and invest in the not for profit culture sector. So we pioneered it a bit. We were active in the Creative Cities movement, both nationally, internationally. We think there is a virtuous relationship between the two. We think that culture is a significant element of the city’s overall global branding. We ran one analysis just anecdotally once looking at social media impressions in the early days of social media, of Toronto, Drake and TIFF accounted for two thirds of such. So I think our face to the world is defined by some of the really diverse creative talent that Toronto has thrown up. But I think like these other sectors we describing, we sometimes take all this for granted. And I really worry about the cultural sector. The hard days are coming now, as they are for small business. As audiences are returning, people are adapting to structural changes in consumer behavior, and public money is receding dramatically from the sector. So I think we really need to be on the creative economy in the way that we are on small business and other factors to ensure that that we’re trying to do as much good as we can in what are still some prolonged hard times.


Mary W. Rowe I mean, so many people, you know, we talk about work from home or whatever particular pattern we want to talk about, but the people always we always have to remind ourselves that how we spend our money and how we spend our time matters. It affects how people are employed. It affects the vibrancy of the economy. It affects that the resilience – sorry Nation, I’m using it more broadly, of different sectors. You know, if you want to have theater and you want to have access to those kinds of things for your kids or whatever, you need to get out and do it. And know, just going back to the chat briefly. Ian, thank you for your comment about making sure that we don’t equate mental health with disruption and violence. And I appreciate your caution in the chat, Ian has cautioned us to not say that one brings on the other. And I think that that’s a that’s an important thing for us to always be reminded. I mean, everybody that is part of the city is part of the city. And the question is, are we creating the right enabling conditions for people to get whatever supports they need, whether they’re running a small business or they’re not sufficiently housed or they need some kind of service?


David Campbell Yeah, I think that I think that point is really worth underscoring. I think that when the conversation of mental health and substance disorders comes up, a picture comes into our mind of the person under the tarpaulin, the person who’s disheveled and on the street, the person who is screaming at the top of their voice because of schizophrenia. Yes, those are but there are people in our workplaces. There are people in our communities that are struggling with that level of mental health. And so it behooves us to think about mental health beyond the stereotype and think about the culture within our workplaces, the culture within our communities and our neighborhoods that recognize, acknowledge different forms of mental health when they appear. The proliferation of mental health and suicide ideation amongst our young people, to bring it back to Pat’s earlier comments, around who is being significantly impacted. What does that mean for their ability to navigate the education system? And then ultimately, what does that mean for our economy? So I think we have to really be mindful about going beyond the stereotypes of who struggles with mental health and recognize that it’s showing up everywhere, in our workplaces and in our places of worship.


Mary W. Rowe Yeah, I mean, it’s not a simple, straightforward thing, obviously. But that’s the challenge that any municipal government faces. It’s got to find a way to rally a whole bunch of different resources and other orders of government to engage with this. With the time we have left folks, if in terms of advice that you would give to the city and to your colleagues working in this space, what in ten years do you think is a reasonable thing for us to set up as a goal? Going back to the aspirational piece, as you were saying at the beginning, what would be the measure? You know, years ago, the city of Seattle set a goal for itself. It said it wanted to bring back wild salmon to its river. That, to them was a sort of proxy for this would be we’re on the right track. I don’t know if we have anything like that. But what would the measure be in ten years, Prentiss?


Prentiss Dantzler I think for me, having a bigger assessment of what affordability really means to the city, we kind of keep kicking it around depending on who we’re talking to because it’s dependent on, you know, rental rates or housing costs or wages and actually having something that’s a little bit more nuanced to really think about how we’re building stable communities. I think the issue with equitable neighborhood development is that a lot of those neighborhoods will change. And so we’re really trying to think about resiliency as a more kind of complicated or nuanced term. Where are the stable communities in the city and how can we increase those type of places for people to actually think about living here long term? I think a lot of things we just think about is a simple turnover of places, and so really having stable communities as a goal would be my advocacy policy goal.


Mary W. Rowe You should think about how we would measure that. How would we know? You know, how would we know that people come and stay? We probably have it somewhere. And you guys are in the data business, you probably know. But that’s partly what we have to sort of reach for, is this kind of, you know, I don’t know, it’s not a happiness indicator, a contentment … I don’t know what it is, but something. Rosemarie, you and I were at the launch of the latest Toronto Vital Signs report, and that’s where there was a lamentation there about people not having a sense of belonging and attachment and challenging folks. So I’m interested what you would say in ten years, what should we be watching for?


Rosemarie Powell I think the one thing I would say is “nothing for us without us”. And if we try to live up to that, you know, kind of values, you know, as a city, as decision makers, as you know, as we’re thinking about those big issues, you know, affordability and sustainability and just everything, just think about how do you intentionally get out there and find the voices of those people who are often not heard in these circumstances and give them an opportunity to give their really intelligent, lived experience, input into the process and create opportunities for them to also benefit economically from it as well. Nothing for us without us.


Mary W. Rowe In the same way that Porto Alegre became the sort of ground zero for participatory budgeting, it established its primacy in that. So you’re saying can we make that the hallmark that in Toronto, “nothing for us without us”. David, thoughts from you?


David Campbell Well, I’ll maybe pull my economist hat on tightly here and go back to productivity. We really don’t … I mean, there’s two ways that we can grow our economy, right? One is adding more people, which is mostly what we’ve done in recent times, and the other is be more productive per person. And the reason that really matters is then that growing economy is what allows us to pay for all of the other things we care about. Right? So we’ve done some analysis on this in the last couple of years at the board. Long story short, our productivity lags well behind most other cities in North America, and we’re really not doing well. And in ten years, I think if we want to have a healthy city, that that is a challenge that we really have to find a solution for.


Mary W. Rowe I want to have a whole session on productivity because I want to understand what it’s code for. Because when you say that, it makes me think you’re just going to make us all work harder and I want to know what you’re really saying when you say that. So I’m just saying …


David Campbell It’s not that.


Mary W. Rowe I know it’s not that, but I want to go back to that because what I always hope for is that a productive economy is one where all of our talents are harnessed and deployed in creative and imaginative ways to me, and that can be inclusive and resilient. But I want to hear. Because I know the business guys are always saying our productivity is bad, so we’re going to have another session on that. Nation, last to you. What?


Nation Cheong Okay. Measurable outcomes. I think in ten years, if we can show a demonstrable change between the income gap and the cost of living, that is a real … That’s a very clear marker that we are doing well in our economy. If we can show a reduction in mental health issues amongst low income, working class, middle income folks, not to say that folks in a higher income don’t struggle with mental health, but if we can show a shift in that in ten years, fantastic. And the third measure, if we can show an increase in social capital amongst working class low income, that folks trust their institutions, they trust their government, they trust their neighbor, what a remarkable change we would have fostered in ten years. And then lastly, that we’ve closed to the disparities between income, mental health amongst indigenous black and other racialized newcomer populations. If we can hit the markers on 5 to 10% improvement percentiles, I’m done. I’m retiring. I’ve done the best I possibly could for this city. Every little contribution we could make.


Mary W. Rowe Listen, I want to stay in touch with you guys. I always feel, you know, I don’t know always … But this time for sure. I wish we could talk longer, because these are all really important topics that you’re touching on, and you want to have longer on each one, but I just want to acknowledge … Thank you for taking the time. Thanks for getting us on this path. And, you know, as we always say, it’s only the start of a conversation that’s going to continue. And it’s a very, very important one for us to have, about what is the future economy we’re building together in this remarkable moment of reflection that we’ve got in front of us. So, Patrick, we’re looking forward to whatever the City of Toronto is able to produce. There’s lots of ways for people to engage in this and watch CUI’s newsletters, we’ll get out to you how you do that. This is the last CityTalk of the season. Thank you very much to everybody that comes and shows up to these things and throws their comments into the chat and watches them and rewatches. It’s a really important opportunity for us to have a conversation about what is happening in urbanism around the country. And it’s important that we’re all part of this discourse and discussion. So thanks to Sam and Emily and Wendy and the whole production team and to all of you for joining us. Nice to see you guys. Prentiss, nation, Rosemarie, David, Pat … Have a great holiday, whatever it is you’re taking. And I hope for a peaceful New Year. And we’ll see you back here in 2024.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact with “Chat Comments” in the subject line

12:01 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

Welcome everyone! We invite you to say hello in the chat before we get started. Tell us where you’re watching from! Please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so that everyone can read your comments.  Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb  #citytalk 

We are recording today’s session and will share it online next week at 

We also have closed captioning enabled for today’s session. If you would like to turn it off, please click on the button at the bottom of your screen and disable 

We hope this session is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links or questions in the chat. Reminder for the chat to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so that everyone can read your comments.  Please note that given the limited duration of these sessions, we are not able to answer to raised hands. Do you have specific questions for the panellists? Post them in the chat, and we’ll try to answer as many as possible.Responses to questions and additional resources will be provided in the chat by CUI staff. 

Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb  #citytalk 

12:05 PM From Ian Kamau to Everyone:

from sunny esplanade in downtown toronto.. traditional territory of the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabeg, including the Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit. 

12:06 PM From Minu Benny to Everyone:

Hello everyone, 

Minu Benny from Kitchener, Ontario 

12:07 PM From adam redish to Everyone:

Good afternoon – Adam Redish from Toronto 

12:09 PM From reg nalezyty to Everyone:

good day from no-snow-yet Thunder Bay 

12:11 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director, Toronto Community Benefits Network (Toronto, ON)Rosemarie Powell is a passionate advocate for social, economic and environmental justice. She has worked for more than 20 years from the grassroots up, leading progressively to more senior management positions overseeing a number of community-based programs and services, including those with the Jamaican Canadian Association, Jane-Finch Community and Family Centre, and Skills for Change. Currently, Rosemarie is the executive director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), a community-labor coalition with a membership base of more than 85 groups and organizations across Toronto. TCBN negotiates jobs and opportunities into major infrastructure and urban development projects for historically disadvantaged communities and equity-seeking groups. 


12:16 PM From Sam Staresincic, CUI to Everyone:

Prentiss Dantzler, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Advisor, School of Cities at the University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)Dr. Prentiss Dantzler is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Advisor within the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on housing policy, neighborhood change, race relations and community development. Dr. Dantzler studies why and how neighborhoods change and how policymakers and communities create and react to those changes. He received his Ph.D. in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University-Camden. He also holds an M.P.A. from West Chester University and a B.S. from Penn State University. 


David Campbell, Associate Vice President, Policy and Research, Toronto Region Board of Trade (Toronto, ON)David is Associate Vice President, Policy and Research at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. He has more than a decade of experience as a policy researcher, writer, and communicator. David is passionate about ways that government and the private sector can work together on big challenges. He has extensive experience studying issues related to energy, climate change, and economic competitiveness. Previously he has worked at the Public Policy Forum, Bruce Power, Deloitte, and as an advisor to a provincial energy minister. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, David currently lives in downtown Toronto. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University, and a Bachelor’s of Arts & Science from McMaster University. 


12:20 PM From Sam Staresincic, CUI to Everyone:

Nation Cheong, Vice-President, Community Opportunities and Mobilization, United Way Greater Toronto (Toronto, ON)For over 25 years, Nation has dedicated his professional and personal time to community development strategies. He started on the frontlines supporting individuals impacted by chronic mental health, substance disorders and inadequate housing. Later, his work focused on positive youth development for Black, Indigenous and other racialized young people across the GTA through the Youth Challenge Fund and United Way’s Youth Success Strategy. As United Way’s VP of Community Opportunities and Mobilization, Nation oversees United Way’s Research, Public Policy and Public Affairs, Strategic Initiatives and the Reconciliation and Equity Action Plan. He collaborates with public, private and not-for-profit sector partners to develop equitable and inclusive communities, particularly focusing on local economic strategies that benefit low to moderate-income residents. 


Do you have specific questions for the panellists? Post them in the chat, and we’ll try to answer as many as possible. 

12:26 PM From Sam Staresincic, CUI to Everyone:

As always, the CityTalk chat is thoughtful, provocative and dynamic! Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb  #citytalk 

12:31 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

Find the opportunity equation here: 

12:33 PM From Sam Staresincic, CUI to Everyone:

Pat Tobin, General Manager, Economic Development and Culture, City of Toronto (Toronto, ON) Pat Tobin is the General Manager of Economic Development and Culture at the City of Toronto since October 2022. In this capacity, he manages the city’s economic development policies, initiatives, and supports for the culture sector, including heritage, arts, and creative industries. Prior to this role, Pat served as the Director of Arts and Culture Services from 2017 to 2022. Before joining Toronto, he spent 18 years in various roles with the Canadian federal government, focusing on culture, civic engagement, and economic development in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. In his last federal role as Director General at the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, Pat supervised supports for the innovation economy and community economic development. Beyond government work, he collaborated with the Maytree Foundation and the Inuit Art Foundation. 


12:33 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

“Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting.” 

― Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion 

12:35 PM From Abby S (she/her) to Everyone:

I was slow bc my hands are cold!! 

Thank you EW!! 

12:37 PM From Gloria Venczel to Everyone:

Is there an economic infrastructure difference between  local small mom n pop businesses, very sensitive/responsive to their neighbourhoods and larger, non-local businesses which often respond to national and international markets ? Should analysis/dialogue  and problem solving acknowledge these differences? Ie, phantom density  taxes in Vancouver, especially in a white hot speculative market,  presumably in  Toronto as well, decimate local small businesses whereas chain stores do okay. 

12:38 PM From adriana dossena to Everyone:

sorry if you discussed (I missed starting discussion) but have you considered the role of anchor institutions such as education or healthcare aligned with conservation authorities for newcomer orientation to place, community & services? 

12:39 PM From Milton Friesen to Everyone: 

12:40 PM From Abby S (she/her) to Everyone:

100% agree with Nation 

On onus that resilience puts on those challenged 

12:40 PM From Larissa Stefurak to Everyone:

👍Nation – responsibility on the ‘producer’ 

12:45 PM From Matt Buckman to Everyone:

In the next 10 years, how would you measure success on creating a more inclusive rand resilient Toronto? If the City could take one big action today to help us get there what would you choose? 

12:49 PM From Abby S (she/her) to Everyone:

When Mary asked what the next headlines after housing might be I wondered and worried that it might be public safety. 

12:52 PM From Ian Kamau to Everyone:

Mental health seems to be being associated with “safety” here. It is an issue but I’d be careful of linking mental health and violence.. those are related but separate issues. 

12:53 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

Keep the conversation going #CityTalk @canurb  

If you have any questions you would like us to follow up on, please send them to 

12:56 PM From Abby S (she/her) to Everyone:

My comments about public safety were more around a fractured society and broken communities. 

12:56 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways within a week at Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter: 

12:58 PM From Abby S (she/her) to Everyone:

Real estate turnover of homes in communities would indicate stability wouldn’t it? 

12:58 PM From Emily Wassmansdorf (CUI) to Everyone:

“Nothing for us, without us.” 

01:00 PM From Ian Kamau to Everyone: 

innovation is also a way 

01:00 PM From Roland Dorsay to Everyone:

Long term goals: I like Ottawa’s To become the most liveable mid-sized city in North America” There are of course many different measures of “liveability” The key is definignthe term and reseting the correct benchmarksm metrics and tracking data and ensuring there is accountability in getting there. 

01:02 PM From Milton Friesen to Everyone: 

We also need to better understand the dynamics of socially generative spaces / places. What are they? How are they changing? Can we design for that – not only physical space but socially generative processes. 

01:02 PM From adam redish to Everyone:

Great comments Nation! 

01:02 PM From Larissa Stefurak to Everyone:

much thanks to the panelists & Mary, etc. – Happy Holidays 

01:03 PM From Milton Friesen to Everyone:

Valuable. Thanka. 

01:03 PM From Kumsa Baker to Everyone:

Very insightful discussions, thanks Mary for pulling this together. happy Holidays! 

01:03 PM From Minu Benny to Everyone:

Happy Holidays. Thanks for the wonderful session 

01:03 PM From Rosemarie Powell to Everyone:

Happy holidays! 

01:03 PM From Rajini Tarcicius to Everyone:

Thank you 

01:03 PM From adam redish to Everyone:

Great session – thx! 

01:03 PM From Elizabeth Jassem, to Everyone:


01:03 PM From Jody Yantha to Everyone:

thanks so much~