Canada’s largest city has always been a hedge for people and capital—from English companies moving here in the ‘70s from Francophone Montréal to immigrants seeking a foothold to start a better life.
The thing about welcoming everyone is that many appreciate the hospitality and never leave, creating a diversity of individuals that blends into a unified critical mass. With almost half of its population foreign-born, Toronto powered into the world’s #17 best city based on its diversity and Education Attainment by residents—the two components of our People category.
The city’s open doors, combined with its financial density (with a Global 500 head office ranking of eighth) has resulted in unprecedented downtown density and local satisfaction with just staying put, egged on by real estate wealth and whatever nickname Drake gives his beloved hometown in a particular week.
Being the only non-American city in both the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, in addition to trailing only Mexico City, New York and L.A. in North American regional population, means that a place known forever (locally) as “Toronto the Good,” is finally gaining some swagger. From vocal athletes to unabashed pitches for Amazon’s second headquarters, it’s a Toronto Vs. Everybody mentality that is creating a distinction the likes of which has never existed.
The sentiment was brazenly captured by Tourism Toronto in early 2017, spearheaded by a 71-second video that held up Toronto’s size and its diversity for the world to see.
The video refers to the city approaching a population of 6.5 million people as “Canada’s Downtown,” a bold appropriation of everything that’s urban, cultural and ethnically diverse in the Great White North.
The confident campaign could very well elicit eye rolls from residents of other Canadian cities that also happen to have large, vibrant downtowns. Montreal, for instance, has more than four million people and a 375-year-old cobblestone European heart. Vancouver is Canada’s densest urban center, with almost 5,500 people per square kilometre in its high-rise, “City of Glass” urban peninsula, according to the most recent Canadian Census.
Still, Toronto’s claim to quintessential Canadian downtown-ness rings true, effectively spotlighting the unique kinetic human energy and thick cultural stew that is the city today. The country’s stock exchange is here, most of the media, the big sports teams and the long-run theater productions.
What Toronto’s brand is perpetuating today is that it stands for openness. The scrolling declarations in recent campaigns—“All flavours are welcome”; “In this city, it’s okay to let your guard down”—point to an articulated crescendo of almost 50 years of unabashed immigration from all over the world. The result? Toronto now boasts the second-most foreign-born residents on earth, second only to the money printers in San Jose’s Silicon Valley and ahead of London, New York and Vancouver.
And it’s not only the culinary tourists eating their way through St. Lawrence Market (just east of downtown—do not leave without the peameal bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery) or Kensington Market (just west—and home of the mandatory Mexican at Torteria San Cosme) who are looking at Toronto as a unique tourist destination.
In late 2017, Sidewalk Labs—an offshoot of Google’s parent company Alphabet that plans on “reimagining cities from the Internet up”—scoured the world for its incubator and settled on a 12-acre site just southeast of Toronto’s downtown. It’s not quite Amazon, but it does pave the way for the city to further increase its business clout that will fuel the city’s biggest building boom in its history, including cultural investment like the new Museum of Contemporary Art in a reclaimed century-old high-rise in the once-industrial Junction neighborhood that is already drawing breweries, restaurants and anyone else looking for a break on rent (and instant credibility in a town suddenly swimming in it).