- Toronto is Canada’s leading production centre for film and television, the third largest in North America
- The city is working to manage rapid development through a planning framework and support to the cultural sector
- More than 50% of the city’s population is foreign-born
City data: Key facts
Geographical area: 630 sq. km
Total population: 2,615,060
Total national population living in the city: 7.8 %
Education level – with degree level or higher: 69 %
GDP (PPP) million: US$ 125,670
Creative industries employment: 6.0 %
Toronto was founded upon land transferred to the British government in 1787 by the Mississaugas of New Credit under the ‘Toronto purchase’ agreement. Toronto was incorporated in 1834 and was briefly the capital of Canada in the mid-nineteenth century. It became the capital of Ontario in 1867. In the twentieth century it became the country’s main centre of industry and business.
Today, it is Canada’s largest city and has a population of 2.8 million. It is at the core of the economic region of the Greater Toronto Area which has a population of about 6 million. With more than 50% of its population foreign born, and a large number of countries represented in its immigrant pool, Toronto has been called one of the most diverse cities in the world. More than 140 languages are spoken in Toronto. Close to half of its population are visible minorities. While ageing, the bulk of its population is of working age, with only 14% aged over 65. Toronto’s City Council is committed to integrating newcomers, including refugees, into the city’s cultural life and views culture as a tool for building social and economic capital.
Toronto is Canada’s leading production centre for film and television, the third largest in North America after Los Angeles and New York City. Total production investment in Toronto by screen-based production companies reached a record $1.55 billion in 2015. Toronto also boasts more than 75 different film festivals. It is also home to more artists and cultural workers than anywhere else in Canada; its creative and cultural economy employs 6% of the overall workforce. Growth in this sector has been rapid over the past 20 years.
Economic development is an important driver in Toronto’s cultural policy. The city supports the growth of creative clusters and particularly the for-profit music and film sectors to capitalise on their potential as generators of economic growth. The 2011 report Creative Capital Gains – An Action Plan for Toronto has set the city’s strategy as a ‘creative capital.’
Municipal cultural planning is evolving into a City Planning consideration. Projects which aim to provide affordable, sustainable cultural space that is authentic, creative and sustainable are given priority. Toronto is known as a city of neighbourhoods, each with their own distinctive local and ethnic character: for example, West Queen West is known as one of the city’s trendiest and more creative areas, with a concentration of street art along its ‘Graffiti Alley.’ Retaining this distinctiveness can be an important differentiator for Toronto, given current global trends towards urban homogenisation.
Rapid development is a major challenge: Toronto’s cultural sector is being squeezed out by rapidly rising property prices and the gentrification of city neighbourhoods. Population density is increasing downtown through intensification and redevelopment of properties, and the TOCore initiative is developing a planning framework to manage this growth, with special attention to the creative sector. Equitable distribution of cultural services and access to cultural programs across the city remains a challenge, as poverty remains concentrated in the suburbs. Affordable housing and public transportation are the City’s top priorities for infrastructure investment.
City staff are working across departments to achieve planning objectives such as requiring that developers ensure that there is ‘no net loss’ of affordable creative workspaces. Artscape, a not-for-profit urban development organisation specialising in creative place-making while transforming communities, has been the City’s key partner in working with local developers to do this. The city also offers a range of support to the cultural sector, including capital loan and line of credit guarantees, below-market rent leases and ‘Section 37’ benefits (community amenities provided by developers in exchange for receiving planning permission typically with extra density associated).
Important new developments in Toronto’s cultural scene include the Aga Khan Museum in 2014 and new home of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, to open in 2017. A major new development for the city’s entertainment district, Mirvish+Gehry Toronto, will include the retention of four heritage warehouse buildings., an art gallery and an arts centre for OCAD University, as well as retail and commercial space topped by two residential skyscrapers of record height for Toronto.
Toronto is also developing its cultural sector using public-private partnerships. Both the Guild Inn (a former artist colony) and Casa Loma (a Gothic Revival house, now a museum) are being leased for operations by private companies while the city maintains ownership. Innovative partnerships have also been behind the repurposing of industrial heritage buildings such as the Evergreen Brickworks, Artscape Wychwood Barns and the John Street Roundhouse.
Festivals are a central part of cultural life in Toronto. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the city’s signature events, having been called ‘second only to Cannes’ and one of the world’s most influential film festivals. The Toronto Caribbean Carnival, a festival of Caribbean culture, will celebrate its 50th edition in 2017 and regularly draws a million participants. Other events include the Pride Festival and Salsa in Toronto (a festival of Latinx culture).
In 2017, Canada will celebrate its Sesquicentennial, and Toronto is planning its role in these celebrations. In the same year it will host the North American Indigenous Games, a multi-sport competition drawing over 5000 indigenous youth that includes a cultural programme highlighting the rich traditions of indigenous peoples.