About the Initiative
The Pearson Economic Zone Growth Initiative (PEZGI) is a call to action for business and government leaders to launch a step change in regional coordination - for transit, passenger vehicle and freight transportation, and land use planning for housing and employment, among other levers of growth.
We will take a place-based approach to the Pearson Economic Zone in three phases:
- Convene stakeholders to identity, refine, and prioritize the problems that must be solved.
- Connect to identify and prioritize solutions and pilots supported by stakeholder feedback, research, and data analysis.
- Champion those solutions through an advocacy campaign calling for the implementation of an action plan for the Zone.
We are currently working with businesses and other stakeholders throughout the Zone on the problem identification phase. Together, we will connect the dots to establish a roadmap for action backed by a plan for policy advocacy and projects at all three levels of government.
About the Zone
The Pearson Economic Zone (the Zone) employs 400,000 workers and contributes $53 billion to Ontario’s Economy. It functions as Canada’s gateway to growth for business, trade, and immigration, with the potential to dramatically fuel our region’s ability to compete on a global scale. Unfortunately, today, that potential lies largely unfulfilled.
Key Challenges in the Zone
A lack of transit accessibility limits businesses’ ability to attract and retain workers.
In a survey, businesses in the Pearson Economic Zone cited the difficulty faced by their workers getting to their workplaces as the biggest challenge they face. Today’s transit service in the Zone is inconsistent, poorly integrated, time-consuming, and often unavailable at overnight and weekend shift change times.
We need consistent service standards so that everyone can get to work when they need to without waiting an unreasonable amount of time. We need faster inter-municipal services to get people from other parts of the Toronto region to their jobs and innovative public and private sector last-mile solutions within the Zone. And we need fare integration, so that people who want a job a short distance across a municipal boundary don’t have to pay a double fare.
Crippling congestion restricts the movement of goods and increases business costs.
The Zone is one of Canada’s most important logistics hubs because of its extensive transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, it has become a victim of its own success because many of the roads in the Zone are severely congested for much of the day.
Smart and connected technologies can help maximize the capacity available on our roads, prioritize essential goods movement, and reduce congestion and business costs. Our rail and air cargo infrastructure also needs expansion to meet growing needs. There is an opportunity to investigate and then advocate for Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) pilots and the regulatory and infrastructure investments needed to reduce congestion and increase the flow of goods.
Scarcity of employment lands prevents companies from locating and expanding in the Zone.
The rapidly growing Toronto Region faces intense demand for land—especially for housing. But we can’t forget the need for businesses to secure the land they need for expansion and new projects. However, employment land, particularly for high value manufacturing – close to market, talent and transportation hubs – is in increasingly short supply, giving the GTA one of the lowest industrial land vacancy rates in North America.
The region needs comprehensive and coordinated planning to make sure that suitable land is available for industrial businesses to operate and grow, including a better framework for development charges and other incentives. We need a provincial-municipal joint effort, with input from business, to better track availability of land that is appropriately sized and zoned for businesses to locate or expand close to market and transportation hubs, and to address demand vs. supply challenges. To protect this valuable land, new legislative frameworks may be required to better differentiate between types of employment areas or facilitate like-for-like land swaps.
Underinvestment in advanced manufacturing and tech threatens our ability to compete globally
Advanced technologies are making it possible to create products at a lower cost and higher quality than ever before. Adopting the latest technologies is critical for a high-income country like Canada to remain competitive on the global stage.
There is an opportunity to brand the Zone as a “tech belt” and global powerhouse in manufacturing where Toronto region tech ecosystem and advanced manufacturing intersect. With the large presence of manufacturers in the Zone, it is possible to develop a pilot to understand what core business, supply chain and regulatory obstacles must be addressed to grow advanced manufacturing and GDP in our region. We also need to look at what investments and policy tools are needed to fuel an industrial strategy based on Industry 4.0, and where federal, provincial and municipal strategies and incentives can be aligned to attract advanced manufacturing and promote technology adoption.
A lagging transition to net-zero hinders our competitive advantage in the global climate economy.
Accelerating the transition to the net-zero economy isn’t just an economic, social, and environmental imperative, but a springboard to seizing North American competitive advantage for the GTA. The Pearson Economic Zone is one of the world’s great clusters of logistics and industrial businesses, and has the potential to be the world’s greenest industrial zone.
That means the Zone has the scale to serve as a living laboratory for manufacturing and deploying clean technologies and innovative processes. These can be exported around the world to help achieve the goal of net zero emissions. This includes exploring the potential of the Zone to be a feasible low-carbon hydrogen hub to decarbonize vital economic activity in the manufacturing and goods movement sectors.