Toronto may be the fourth most livable city in the world according to The Economist, but it only feels like that way to residents who live in its better neighborhoods, says Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Foundation. “We are one of the safest cities in the world, but it really depends on where in the city you live,” he said, as the foundation prepared to release its 13th annual Vital Signs Report, which looks at the trends and issues affecting the quality of life in Toronto and the wellbeing of its residents. The foundation partnered with researchers and identified Toronto’s progress and the challenges the city still faces. The city’s low crime rate, the booming construction industry and The Economist ranking are all examples of the good things the report found about Toronto, said Mr. Bhardwaj. On the flip side are the unaffordable housing market, long commute times and lost opportunities among youth and immigrants. Here are 10 of the key findings in the 200 page Vital Signs report.
Toronto’s shifting demographics
The city continues to grow, with a population of 2,771,770 million in 2013. Toronto’s seniors account for 14.5% of the population and the city now has a “Seniors Strategy” aimed at making Toronto an “age-friendly city.” Toronto’s immigrant population also continues to grow, as 51% of Toronto’s residents were born outside of Canada.
Health and wellness
The percentage of Toronto residents reporting good health remains stable, but four in 10 Torontonians reported health issues. Diabetes and youth inactivity are major concerns in some Toronto neighborhoods.
The majority of Torontonians feel safe and almost 80% of residents feel somewhat comfortable walking in their community at night. The total number of criminal offences, excluding traffic offenses, has dropped from 167,339 in 2010 to 150,808 in 2012. The crime rate in Canada in 2013 dropped to its lowest level since 1969 and the homicide rate fell to its lowest rate since 1966.
Toronto continues to experience modest GDP growth, at 1.9% in 2013. Also, the Toronto Region set new records for numbers of overseas visitors, hotel room nights sold, and contributed $6.45-billion to the local economy.
The unemployment rate improved in 2013, but still sits at 8.8%, not having returned to the pre-recession level of 7.5% in 2008. Youth unemployment was 17.6% in 2013 and the recent immigrant youth unemployment rate’s annual average was 27%.
In 2014, the wait list for social housing climbed to over 100,000 households. The vacancy rate among one-bedroom apartments in the GTA was 1.7% in 2013 and the market is increasingly difficult for young renters.
The congestion of regional arteries could be costing the greater Toronto and Hamilton region more than $6-billion annually in lost productivity, the report said. The average round-trip commute time in 2013 was 66 minutes and the percentage of commuters who take transit, walk, or bike to work instead of driving was 47.2%.
Residential water consumption has been consistently dropping every year and the tree canopy was estimated to be about 26-28% in 2013. Toronto’s 11 beaches were open 83% of summer days in 2013 and 439,222 tonnes of residential waste was diverted from the 823,743 tonnes generated.
Toronto’s schools have a third-place ranking out of 24 global metros on the Toronto Regional Board of Trade’s 2014 Scorecard on Prosperity, the report said. More students are graduating from high school than ever before, as the study reported 83% of students from the Toronto District School Board graduated in 2013.
Arts and Culture:
The city increased its cultural spending by 1.1% in the 2014 budget and professional employment in arts and culture is rising, with an increase of 16% since 2011. Revenue from film, television, and other screen-based media production has exceeded $1-billion for the third year in a row, according to the report. The city budget for culture is $55,420,000 for 2014 and over 19 million people attended city-funded or city-programmed cultural events.
Source: National Post
In his column for The Toronto Star, columnist Rick Salutin asserts that policies like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are not merely a cause for concern in Canada. Instead, Salutin writes that because of the widespread effects of globalisation and free trade, temporary foreign workers are currently a global phenomenon, as they move from country to country, seeking jobs and better living conditions than those provided by their native countries, in many cases.
Salutin mentions that initially, temporary foreign workers were simply immigrants. They did jobs that Canadians didn’t want to do. They bought and carefully tended homes in Canada. Their jobs did not define their lives. Consequently, they felt that they – and their kids – were en route to becoming Canadians. Hence, they went about their jobs with verve and panache.
The recent incidents of abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have resulted in several people criticising the Program because it amounts to nothing more than “importing poverty”. However, Salutin mentions that critics conveniently forget that Canada allowed these foreign workers entry and gave them the opportunity to mutate.
Therefore, he refutes the argument that Canada’s immigration policy aims at selecting people with skills and education instead of bringing in “ditchdiggers and hotel maids”. He writes that while Canada allowed workers like “ditchdiggers and hotel maids” to enter the country, it also enabled these workers to raise their children in decent schools. As a result, many of the children of these foreign workers found employment as artists, bankers, teachers, hockey players etc.
Thus, by bringing in foreign workers, who have no stake in the country, are insecure and willing to work for lower wages, Canada ends up with a number of foreign workers, none of whom would ever be able to become Canadian citizens, thereby contributing to the success of the country.
The rise of globalisation and free trade resulted in businesses commencing operations in countries across the world, in an attempt to hire workers at lower wages, thereby boosting profitability. Over time, it became easier to transport entire workforces, as these workers had no citizenship and little rights. This made the issue of temporary foreign workers a global phenomenon, with massive pools of foreign workers “floating” across the globe. When these workers leave Canada, they do not return to their native places. Instead, they move to another country.
Therefore, Salutin writes, policies like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have their roots in extended historical conflicts over power between forces like capital and labour, often among people who remain clueless about their stakes in the struggle. These policies are no longer issues confined to any specific country or moment currently.
Source: The Toronto Star
The Canadian Government plans to launch a new immigration system that would offer express entry to qualified immigrants for filling open jobs for which there are no available Canadian workers in 2015.
Named Express Entry – formerly referred to as Expression of Interest – this program would provide swifter entry into Canada, wherein the government and employers would select immigrants based on the skills and attributes that Canada needs. Canada’s new immigration system would come into force from January 01, 2015. Under this system, prospective immigrants would apply to express their interest in coming to Canada by answering a series of questions about their professional skills, their education, languages spoken etc.
The system would then match the skills of the prospective immigrants with the labour requirements identified by the provinces, the territories and employers. On finding a suitable match, the immigration authorities would offer Express Entry to a prospective immigrant who has applied via the:
• Federal Skilled Workers Program
• Federal Skilled Trades Program
• Canadian Experience Class Program or,
• Business Class Program
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that Canadian employers would be able to bring workers into Canada through the Express Entry system, with the long-term objective of making them stay behind in Canada. In a press conference, he said, “You can bring your labour market opinion, your job offer, to the Express Entry system and ensure that the person you need comes to Canada as an immigrant, not as a temporary foreign worker. Not as someone who is here with an uncertain future and likely to go back, but as a full immigrant to Canada”.
Alexander said that prospective immigrants who apply via the Provincial Nominee Program could also benefit under this system as long as the concerned province and territory brought their program under the federal one. Immigration authorities would extend invitations to Express Entry candidates for applying for permanent residence if they have a valid job offer or a provincial or territorial nomination.
Other features of the Express Entry program include the fact that Canada would be able to select the best candidates, who would be able to achieve success in Canada, rather than just the next person in the queue. Immigration authorities would also have access to an improved Job Bank for matching Canadian employers with the most suitable Express Entry Candidates.
The Government plans to invest $14 million over two years and $4.7 million thereafter, to ensure that Express Entry is a success.
Source: CBC News