Toronto Mayor John Tory lays out a vision for the city’s economy in a speech

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he’s optimistic about the future of the city’s economy, but is acknowledging that continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will take place in a “challenging” economic period.

In a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade Thursday, Tory said he sees the city’s economic recovery and future growth resting on five pillars; rebuilding and instilling confidence, attracting new business and expanding existing ones, supporting businesses with an emphasis on small business, supporting growth, and being ready for the future and possible “transformational change.”

Tory said there is “always a tomorrow” following a crisis, but making it brighter requires planning.

“That’s why I have been talking a lot about the city’s recovery from the pandemic, a recovery that will take place during challenging economic times,” the mayor said. “I am completely committed to making sure Toronto comes back stronger than ever and that will be my main focus in the weeks and months ahead.”

To that end, Tory said he will be assembling a volunteer panel of accomplished leaders to help provide “real-time advice” as the city continues to reopen following more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I believe the rapid pace of change and need to adapt will continue and I will rely on this group to help provide real-time advice and insight so we can remain nimble,” Tory said.

While the mayor did not go into detail about the city’s economic challenges, Toronto is facing a number of hurdles. The city is still facing a major budgetary shortfall as a result of shrunken revenues. While the TTC used to be jam-packed on a daily basis, ridership numbers have still not returned to normal and ridership patterns have become more unpredictable as many businesses have allowed their employees to work from home for at least part of the week. It is also not yet clear how rising interest rates and inflation will affect the local economy in the coming months.

“Successfully addressing the issues we face as a city will take everything we’ve got,” Tory said in his speech, acknowledging that the pandemic hurts people and businesses.

“I am committed to making sure those who have lost so much over the last two years get the support they need and can be confident in playing a full and satisfying role in a strong recovery,” he added.

He said the future of work remains a key question tied to the city’s recovery and said the panel will be examining that as one of its key issues.

“This is a very profound question with potentially very profound consequences depending on the answer so we must get the very best answer we can from our advisors and from you,” Tory told the board in his speech.

He said that for example, just having people work from home on Mondays and Fridays can hugely impact the TTC and its revenues.

“What that means is a huge revenue shortfall for the transit system, because the cost of running the system for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and for the people who do go to work Monday and Friday stays about the same, (even if) you can make some changes around the edges,” Tory said. “And that creates a huge problem for us. So that’s just one small example of the kinds of questions that we have to answer.”

Tory also touted the city’s success and highlighted recent investments by the film and pharmaceutical industries from companies such as Netflix and Sanofi Pasteur. He said he would like to see those successes replicated in other industries as well.

“The world has taken notice of the growth and success story that is Toronto,” Tory said. “It was a constant conversation in the halls of the Collision conference. But at the same time, Toronto and all cities are facing challenging times ahead.”

More details about what work the advisory panel will do and who will sit on it are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

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