So you want to live in Toronto?

So you want to live in Toronto?

So you want to live in Toronto, eh? Toronto has been my home since childhood, although I’ve traveled and lived in many different cities throughout the world for occasional periods of time. If you’re planning to move to Toronto, allow me to be your guide.

Geography

Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest metropolis in Canada. With over 2.7 million residents, it is the fifth most populous municipality in North America. The heart of the Greater Toronto Area, Toronto is also part of the Golden Horseshoe, a densely populated area of Southern Ontario. It has an area of about 630 square kilometers and has a waterfront shoreline 46 kilometers long. Toronto has a moderate climate — moderate for a Canadian climate that is — with warm, humid summers and cold winters, snowfall being anytime from November to mid-April. There are four distinct seasons, with winter and summer being the longest. Due to the proximity of water, the range in temperature between night and day is minimal. Rain tends to be evenly dispersed throughout the year, with summer being the wettest season.

Character

The City of Toronto’s motto is “Diversity Our Strength”; this exemplifies Toronto’s cultural mosaic that is its population. Known as one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, Toronto prides itself on its diverse range of cultures, languages, food and arts.

The Province of Ontario has been traditionally known as being a strong supporter of the liberal party (left wing politics), which also includes Toronto. The support for the liberal parties is also reflective of the demographics of Toronto’s population.

Economy and Education

Ontario has the largest economy in Canada, and Toronto is home to the banking and stock exchange centre of Canada. With a wealth of raw materials and hydroelectric power from the various rivers in Ontario, Toronto and its surrounding municipalities have been turned into major centers of industry.

Toronto and Ontario have not been impervious to the ill-effects of the global recession, with Ontario leading the jobless surge in Canada. In February 2009, 35,000 jobs were cut in the manufacturing industry. With the unemployment rate standing at 8.7%, the unemployment rate in Toronto is running at about 8.3%, a rising number according to Statistics Canada. The Canadian Auto Industry has also been hit hard with auto manufacturers closing plants and cutting down on production due to erratic fuel prices.

Toronto and its surrounding regions are still home to some of the largest growing sectors, including the IT sector stationed in Waterloo and the steel manufacturing industry in Hamilton, which is the largest steel manufacturing city in Canada. While these sectors are oversaturated, turnover in Toronto is quite frequent.

Ontario’s teachers are the highest paid in the country. That being said, the supply of teachers in Ontario surpasses the demand by a significant amount. Ontario’s provincial tax rate is on par with many of the other provinces and second highest after P.E.I. at 13%.

The University of Toronto is one of the most prestigious post secondary institutions in the world, ranking 24th in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities. There are three different campuses, one located in the west (Mississauga), east (Scarborough) and the downtown campus. Toronto is also home to two other universities, Ryerson and York University as well as several community colleges conveniently dispersed geographically.

Environment and Transportation

Toronto is not as clean a city as the other large metropolitan cities in Canada. Yet it was still slotted in the 21st position in the Top 50 cleanest cities by Forbes Magazine. The air quality has been compromised due to the large population of drivers and vehicles in the city.

Toronto’s city-wide Green Bin program has been acclaimed for its solution for waste diversion and management.

The Toronto Transit Commission is the third largest public transit system in North America, featuring a far-reaching network of buses and streetcars all interconnected by the extensive underground subway system. The TTC in the past has been criticized for their inefficiencies and unionized strike actions. The buses currently running are newly manufactured hybrid electric buses, introduced as an initiative to reduce air pollution.

The Ontario Government also operates a rail and bus system called GO Transit, connecting the TTC and the Greater Toronto Area. The surrounding regions (York, Peel and Durham) also have their respective transit systems that connect with the TTC, making the ease of traveling with the public transit system nearly seamless.

Toronto also has Zipcar, a membership car-sharing service that is billable by the hour. This service is most frequently used in the downtown core.

The 400 series highways all merge in Toronto’s core. The 401, which is North America’s busiest highway, is the spine of Ontario and Toronto’s infrastructure. The explosion in population has in turn led to an explosion of the number of vehicles on the road which creates significant gridlock at rush hour periods on most, if not all, major highways.

What to do in Toronto

There isn’t a single facet of life one cannot find in Toronto’s downtown core. There’s a brimming arts scene, sporting events, a vibrant nightlife, restaurants, bistros and eateries from just about any nationality one could think of or any other attractions.

The Art Gallery of Ontario and Royal Ontario Museum are two places that are popular among tourists and newcomers to Toronto. Toronto is also a major scene for the performing arts with more than fifty ballet and dance companies, six opera companies and two symphony orchestras, with many notable venues including Roy Thompson Hall, The Hummingbird Centre and The Centre for the Performing Arts.

The CN Tower is Toronto’s most prominent landmark — the tower held the record for the tallest free standing structure for thirty years.

Toronto is known for having many amusement parks, the most recognized of which is situated north of Toronto, called Canada’s Wonderland.

Toronto has 6 major sports teams in the National Hockey League, National Basketball League, Major League of Baseball, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer and National Lacrosse League. The major venues for sporting events are the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre and BMO Field.

Where to live in Toronto

Housing markets in Toronto and the Greater Area are relatively down. While it’s not the best time to be selling, it is a great time to be buying. Though the market slide has slowed down somewhat, as the rate of decline gradually eases, a sellers market may arrive in the near future.

Location choice is dependent on one’s lifestyle, whether they have a family or not, and of course, one’s own financial constraints. While bordering suburbs such as the North York, Markham and Richmond Hill (north, east) and Halton regions are more likely to be favoured by families, single men and women flock to the downtown core as the condominium market had exploded over the last decade.

As you move closer to west Toronto, near Pearson International Airport, the surrounding area becomes more industrialized and less attractive to suitors. With such a large population, crime and poverty eventually become factors. Government housing is prominent in west Toronto, and these areas are also more susceptible to violence — which is dispersed all over Toronto, not only in the west. Still, Toronto’s crime rate pales in comparison to large cities throughout North America, including the large Canadian cities Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Summary

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, filled with a diverse choice of food, arts, festivals and weather patterns. There are relatively smaller suburbs surrounding the large city as options for those who prefer to stay clear of the big city life. But for individuals who love the big city vibe, like those of New York’s and Los Angeles’ (just not the crime that comes along with it), Toronto is the perfect fit.

Toronto Negatives

- Oversized and ever-growing population
- Somewhat cold winter
- Constant influx of traffic and vehicles on the road
- Pollution, not the cleanest city
- Growing unemployment rate in certain industries

Toronto Positives

- Prestigious schools, from elementary to post secondary
- Multiculturalism
- The art scene and leisure options
- Surrounding suburbs to get away from the big city
- Transit system that spans far lengths
- Opportunities for the educated
- The financial hub of Canada
- Long hot summers with spring and fall to dovetail the seasonal transition