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Event Recap: 2024 Annual Lunch - Mayor Olivia Chow on Building Tomorrow

Our Annual Lunch, a time-honored tradition served as a dynamic platform for Toronto’s Mayor, Her Worship, Olivia Chow, to outline her vision to Toronto’s business leaders. With a sold-out crowd of more than 430 members and stakeholders in attendance, this year’s lunch fostered a collaborative dialogue around Toronto’s growth and development.

Bridging the Productivity Gap

Giles Gherson, our President and CEO, opened the discussions by underscoring the critical need to address Toronto's productivity challenges. He highlighted how the city's economic engine must be realigned to meet its ambitious goals. Gherson noted how the Board is leaning in to address the challenge through strategic initiatives including the formation of the Business Council of Toronto and the Congestion Task Force, and through policy and advocacy and a new series of events focused on our highest productivity sectors. “Toronto is North America's 4th largest city, boasting a quality of life envied the world over. Yet, our economic engine does not support our ambition. We need to create the wealth required to support our aspirations,” said Gherson.

He also pointed out the alarming deficit in housing supply, with an annual shortfall of 10,000 units relative to demand. Addressing this housing crisis is crucial for maintaining Toronto's economic stability and quality of life.

Mayor Chow's Transformative Agenda

In her keynote address, Mayor Olivia Chow laid out her plans to tackle Toronto's pressing issues, focusing on housing, transit, and livability. Her transformative agenda aims to build a more connected and inclusive city:

  • Affordable Housing: Mayor Chow emphasized the need to accelerate affordable housing development. She outlined plans to construct 130,000 new homes and create 50,000 jobs in the Eastern Waterfront by 2040. She called for provincial cooperation to allow higher percentages of affordable units in transit-oriented developments, stating, “We need to build more housing now. The plans for Toronto’s eastern waterfront will be transformative for our city’s future prosperity.”
  • Transit and Infrastructure: To alleviate congestion and enhance productivity, Mayor Chow prioritized upgrading infrastructure with new subway cars for Line 2, the Waterfront LRT, and the Scarborough Eglinton East LRT. She stressed the necessity of federal support to unlock $1.6 billion in funding for these crucial projects, noting, “Good transit is crucial to creating neighborhoods where people feel connected and can thrive.”
  • Complete Neighborhoods: Mayor Chow advocated for the development of complete neighborhoods that include essential amenities such as parks, community centers, and libraries. Facilities that she said are vital for fostering social connections and enhancing the sense of belonging among residents.
  • Collaborative Approach: Emphasizing a collaborative approach, Mayor Chow called for efforts across government, business, and community sectors to drive Toronto's economic resurgence effectively. “The future of our city relies on ensuring everyone has the opportunity to live, work, and play here. Addressing housing insecurity and social infrastructure is crucial for a connected, productive, and caring city.”

Bold Leadership for Transformative Change

Yung Wu, Chair of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, resonated with Mayor Chow’s call for bold leadership. He encouraged embracing innovation to dismantle systemic barriers and drive sustainable prosperity. Wu reflected on the need for courageous decision-making in times of volatility, asserting, “Leadership is not about playing it safe. At times of great volatility, it's about having the courage of our convictions. Our game plan cannot be playing not to lose; we must be playing to win.”

Ray Williams, President of Music Marketing, added a narrative of local success, illustrating the importance of staying rooted in Toronto despite opportunities to relocate. He shared how his Scarborough-based company became a global leader in music technology, emphasizing, “Despite tempting invitations to move to Los Angeles, we stayed in Toronto because this region's creative economy helps incubate homegrown companies and attracts global clients. Toronto is the hub for our industry’s global retail sales.”

Looking Forward

Our event’s overarching message was clear: Toronto's future hinges on collective action, bold leadership, and a commitment to addressing critical issues like housing, transit, and economic inclusivity. It’s clear Toronto stands at a pivotal juncture. Mayor Chow’s vision for a connected and inclusive city puts forward her agenda for the future. 

Thank you to our partners:

Presenting Partner

Reception Partner