December 11, 2018

OPINION

The announcement of a new Microsoft headquarters in the heart of downtown Toronto will no doubt be a boon for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but will likely only benefit the rest of Ontario in the short term, if at all. When Toronto was in the running for a Amazon new headquarters (dubbed HQ2), concerns arose in the tech community that the online giant would assimilate most of the talent in the area.

Planned to open in 2020, Microsoft Canada will relocate their headquarters from Mississauga to Toronto, creating 500 new full-time positions and generating a projected 59,500 new jobs in the area. Microsoft will also be investing around $600 million in developing or relocating its other offices across Canada, consolidating its offices elsewhere to major cities such as Montreal and Vancouver. While these investments will no doubt lead to strong short-term growth and a more robust economy in major cities, the number of jobs available outside Toronto have been dwindling in Ontario.

With so much capital and power consolidated in Toronto, does the province have too many of its golden eggs in one basket?

According to Statistics Canada, while the number of jobs in northern and southwestern Ontario have both shrunk by about 20,000 in the last decade, growth in the GTA has been steady during that same time. Central Ontario, where Toronto’s public transit gives many in the region access to the metropolitan area, has also seen a reliable growth in jobs created. While provincial reports may reflect developments and improvements in Ontario, this is far from the whole story.

In the current situation, many young people looking to enter the workforce or start their own business are faced with a challenging predicament. For Ontarians, working in Toronto is a sort of Catch-22, where there may not be enough business outside Toronto to make a profit, but working or living within Toronto can be a financial burden.

The problem may be one of population. The metropolitan area of Toronto boasts a hearty population of just under six million people as of 2016, which is just under half of the province’s population. In 2017 Statistics Canada published the GDP of Toronto as $330 billion (including the metropolitan area), which was barely under the earnings of Alberta and Quebec, at $331 million and $337 million respectively. For reference, the population of Alberta at the time was just over four million, so the strength of Toronto’s economy comes as no surprise.

There is also the issue of transparency. Many reports on employment rate and economic growth in Ontario do not separate Toronto’s impact on the province enough. In 2016 when Statistics Canada reported the GTA added 69,700 jobs, the rest of Ontario (not including central) only added 1,600. These releases are often swept aside or ignored in the torrent of news about Toronto, so a positive development there is reported to be beneficial for the entire province.

This isn’t to say Toronto’s growth is detrimental to all Ontarians, but for many outside of the GTA the advantages of living near Toronto are not as pronounced. As more people and capital flow into Toronto, it will become more and more difficult to wean the province off of Toronto’s influence in the future. It is in the province’s best interest, and likely the nation’s, to further invest in other sectors of Ontario.

In order to build a better future for everyone in the province, Ontarians should vote with their wallet. Wherever possible, look to invest in local businesses and manufacturing in your area. If Ontarians aren’t careful, they may find themselves living in the province of Toronto in the near future.

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