AUDIO: City Hall charts economic course
The economic brain trust at City Hall spent Wednesday considering new ways to speed up the wheels of commerce in Toronto.
A new, 50-page report presented to the city's Economic Development Committee updates Toronto's goals surrounding jobs, workforce education, and business investment.
Presented by Mike Williams, Toronto's General Manager of Economic Development, the report says that the city must make moves to close the 1.1% gap between Toronto's unemployment rate (8.4%) and the national rate (7.3%).
It says the city should strive to create a net 20,000 new jobs each year through steps like reducing industrial and commercial taxes and asking the provincial government to increase financial incentives for building owners and companies that move into vacant commercial units.
Williams warns that Toronto cannot continue to allow residential developments to swallow up available land.
"We have to have the land available for business growth," he says.
He fears if the condo boom is not slowed, Toronto could find itself in a similar situation as Vancouver, with many city-dwellers forced to commute to the suburbs because of a lack of jobs downtown.
Williams says that commercial development can be encouraged by cutting down on red tape required to get approvals on new building projects. Creating more flexible rules on commercial and industrial zoning is suggested, too.
The report also stressed the importance of getting skilled immigrants working in their field of expertise.
It says the city must take the initiative in connecting these workers with existing social programs that can help them get the necessary training and connect them with employers who are hiring.
Williams' report says that City Hall must also invest in infrastructure, saying that transit, roads, hydro, and reduced gridlock are all essential to an economically healthy Toronto.