Economic Development in Scarborough


This Discussion Paper on Economic Development is the first in a series of discussion papers prepared as part of the 2014 Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign (Campaign) initiated by the Rotary Clubs in Scarborough. The Campaign is seeking to raise the profile of the need for social and economic renewal in Scarborough, given an overall increase in the concentrations poverty and low-income households, and the lack of resource investment in economic and social development.

The series addresses 5 key areas of growth and development: 1) Economic Development; 2) Social Development; 3) Urban Planning; 4) Arts and Culture and 5) Health Care.

Each discussion paper reviews research and statistical trends for the above mentioned areas, and propose potential solutions for renewal. These solutions are intended to serve as a framework for discussion, and to stimulate additional consultation on the topic.

A series of questions are presented at the end of this discussion paper to gather responses on the direction of community renewal. Feel free to share comments and additional  recommendations for building a better community in Scarborough.

1 Economic Development in Scarborough

1.1 Background

As Canada’s largest urban centre, Toronto generates 45% of Ontario’s GDP and 18% of Canada’s GDP.[1] Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America. The city is continuing to grow, and is a leading economic player in the global economy. As Canada’s largest city, Toronto is home to over 85,000 businesses and is the country’s financial and cultural capital.[2]

The landscape of inner-suburbs in the GTA has changed significantly over the past 50 years. Toronto grew differently than many American cities, with the inner core housing a generally more affluent population and the inner suburbs housing working poor multi-cultural communities.

Much of the industry in the inner suburbs has relocated or transitioned, largely due to the deindustrialization of the economy. Over a 10-year period from 2002-2012, Scarborough experienced a net loss of 1,758 jobs, with fluctuations in job growth and decline varying from year to year. The most significant decline in Scarborough occurred in 2005, with a loss of 3,637 jobs.[3] Over this same period, Toronto as a whole experienced a net growth in employment of 68,200 jobs.[4]

Scarborough has not only seen a loss in jobs, but also a shift in the type of employment, becoming more service-oriented. The manufacturing sector in Scarborough experienced the greatest loss over this same 10-year period, declining by 14,462 jobs.[5] As other sectors grow, the manufacturing sector overall has been in decline in Toronto; however, over this 10-year period, Scarborough accounted for approximately 28% of the total loss in this sector. Conversely, the retail and service sectors combined in Scarborough experienced a growth of over 3,000 jobs, representing approximately 20% of the total shift in Toronto.[6]

This shift in the employment sector is evident in the Scarborough landscape. Photo 1 shows a typical street view of Scarborough, with one for sale sign followed by another. In the Signature Sites Collection, profiling commercial and industrial development, redevelopment and available properties in Toronto, 7 out of the 16 currently vacant industrial buildings are located in Scarborough, which hold high potential for job creation in Scarborough neighbourhoods.[7] Photo 2 is one example of potential employment spaces being replaced by residential uses, schools, indoor recreational facilities and religious facilities. Other former industrial employment lands are being replaced by lower employment generators such as auto repairs or retails sales. Scarborough still has the majority of Toronto’s undeveloped industrial land. Photo 3 displays more recent industrial space development; however, many of these spaces continue to be unoccupied.

Photo 1: Industrial space for sale in Scarborough

Photo 1: Industrial space for sale in Scarborough

Photo 2: Former Publishing House in Scarborough, currently being used as a Church.

Photo 2: Former Publishing House in Scarborough, currently being used as a Church.

Photo 3: Newly built industrial space in the Birchmount and Eglinton area that remains vacant.

Photo 3: Newly built industrial space in the Birchmount and Eglinton area that remains vacant.

Toronto has a higher percentage of immigrants than New York, with a large percentage locating to Scarborough.  Inner suburban neighbourhoods are dramatically under-serviced and are characterized primarily by “residents with low incomes, many of whom face physical and mental health challenges, as well as greater members of newcomers.”[8] In addition, close to half of the city’s Neighbourhood Improvement Area’s (NIAs) are located in Scarborough.

Compared to the inner suburbs, downtown Toronto has seen impressive investment in development, both residential and non-residential.  It is notable that, over a 4 year period, 1,671,919 m2 of new non-residential gross floor area was developed in Toronto’s downtown core and central waterfront, compared to only 6,567 m2 in Scarborough.[9]

With a population of almost 600,000, Scarborough is larger than the city of Halifax, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, or the combined areas of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo.[10] Scarborough was amalgamated into Metro Toronto on January 1, 1998 and of all the amalgamated municipalities, Scarborough has fared most poorly. This includes loss of Economic Development staff and loss of political mayoral leadership.  For example, the Greater Halifax area has dedicated a 21-person team focusing on economic development.[11] Scarborough has a team of 3 individuals at Toronto Economic Development responsible largely for retaining existing businesses, jobs and the tax base with a focus on industrial and office employment.  They encourage and assist growth and the expansion of existing and new firms and increase jobs and City tax revenue.  The City has also assigned a team of 3 individuals at Enterprise Toronto focused on supporting entrepreneurs.

1.2 Programs and Incentives

Toronto also offers a number of tax incentive programs for new commercial or industrial developments. The Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) property tax incentive is available for new developments for employment uses in these specific sectors, and provides a grant equal to the property’s municipal taxes.[12]

At the Provincial-level, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) offers programs to drive economic development by supporting the creation of new jobs, products, services, technologies and businesses. Numerous programs exist through the OCE target entrepreneurs, industry and business. With incredible cultural diversity, international connectedness and a diverse business landscape, Scarborough has excellent potential to develop as a community of excellence with the presence of resources and leadership. Photo 4 displays an area of redevelopment at Kennedy and Highway 401.

Photo 4: Kennedy and 401 land use changes

Photo 4: Kennedy and 401 land use changes

1.3 Community Economic Development in Scarborough

The Rotary Clubs in Scarborough are promoting, a range of social and economic initiatives in Scarborough including community economic development. Community Economic Development (CED) is driven by a vision, followed by a strategic plan that is crafted by the communities themselves. It approaches economic development holistically, and finds solutions rooted in local knowledge while taking unique community dynamics into consideration. A Toronto Region Board of Trade strategy released in 2014, highlights that Toronto is a collection of individual municipalities, and establishing processes based on the diversity of industry and specialization in each area is central to the larger economic growth and prosperity of the city as a whole.[13] With this in mind, it is crucial to establish priorities and a Scarborough specific community economic development strategy that serves the interest of the resident population.

This begs the question of who is in a position to establish this strategy. Governments play a key role in supporting community economic development, and allocating available resources accordingly. However, discretionary money lies in the hands of local businesses and entrepreneurs who have the capacity to establish solutions addressing real needs of the Scarborough community. It is the community that needs to come together to identify, advance and implement economic renewal.

2 Potential Proposals for Renewal

2.1 Establish a Scarborough Economic Development Corporation

The Rotary Clubs in Scarborough have identified ‘proposals’ for discussion.  In order to facilitate economic investment in Scarborough, the first proposal is to establish a Scarborough Economic Development Corporation. The business community in Scarborough is comprised of diverse industries, and would benefit from greater interaction, cooperation and leadership among the business community. This organization could work in partnership with the Toronto Board of Trade and other business groups to strengthen and foster continued business growth in Scarborough. The Scarborough Economic Development Corporation would have an autonomous Board of Directors.

2.2 Increase Economic Development Staffing Resources

With limited City of Toronto staff resources allocated to Scarborough, support for community economic development can be improved. In coordination with the development of an Economic Development Corporation, a significantly enhanced dedicated staff could contribute to the growth of Scarborough business. This could involve a minimum of 12 additional staff dedicated to employment growth and significant municipal and provincial funding to support the establishment and on-going work of the department.

2.3 Implement Scarborough Tax-Free Enterprise Zones

Scarborough’s existing industrial areas have suffered from economic changes over the last 25 years. As a global economic player, there is incredible potential to leverage Scarborough’s multi-cultural community and presence of international entrepreneurs in a way that attracts international investment. Creating tax-free enterprise zones in select industrial areas would support a private sector investment climate and highlight the diversity of industry in Scarborough. Currently, incentives exist within the City of Toronto that assist new business development, such as the Tax Increment Equivalent Grant, a reduced tax rate for industrial and office space, and the Brownfield Remediation Tax Assistance program. A tax-free enterprise zone, however, could significantly stimulate international business opportunities for investment in Scarborough.

2.4 Head Office Attraction Initiative

People have a hard time finding a local job in Scarborough. Map 1 displays the location of employment industrial zones throughout the city. People are looking for work outside of Scarborough, but transit infrastructure is aged and much of the population is under-serviced in terms of higher order transit, making it difficult for people to access employment. By having the Scarborough Town Centre Area as the ‘head office’ location of several major, global private sector firms and/or Provincial agencies such as Metrolinx, this would create local business and institutional leadership, while also increasing City tax revenue.  Additional Scarborough locations could also be identified to serve as head office locations.

2.5 Renew Scarborough Town Centre

The Scarborough Town Centre has the potential to be a destination for not only Scarborough residents, but also for residents east of the GTA. The location makes it a convenient hub for community and cultural activities, entertainment, food and shopping. The redevelopment of the Scarborough Town Centre could create jobs in the service and retail sector, and attract additional investment in the area.

Map 1: Toronto Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones, 2013.[14]

Map 1: Toronto Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones, 2013.[14]

3 Questions for Discussion

  1. What Social and Economic Development initiatives are working well?
  2. What would need to change to allow Scarborough to attract a major head office?
  3. How can Scarborough attract additional employment space through development of new spaces and/or redevelopment of existing aged infrastructure?
  4. Would a Scarborough specific Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Corporation create change in the economic climate? Are there other mechanisms that need to be considered?
  5. In your experience, are there opportunities for the City to provide enhanced support to the development and growth of new and existing businesses?
  6. Are there other priority economic development opportunities that need to be considered?
  7. Should we be locating clusters of employment lands in other areas of Scarborough? What clusters? Which locations?


[1] Toronto Region Board of Trade. 2014. Toward a Toronto Region Economic Strategy: Economic Vision and Strategy Report for the Toronto Region.

[2] City of Toronto. 2013. Collaborating for Competitiveness: A Strategic Plan for Accelerating Economic Growth and Job Creation in Toronto.

[3] City of Toronto. 2012. City Planning Establishment-based Employment Survey.

[4] City of Toronto. 2012. Toronto Employment Survey 2012, Revised December 2013.

[5] Ibid.

[6] City of Toronto. 2012. City Planning Establishment-based Employment Survey.

[7] City of Toronto. 2014. Signature Sites Collection.

[8] Cowen, D. & Parlette, V. 2011. Toronto’s Inner Suburbs: Investing in Social Infrastructure in Scarborough.

[9] City of Toronto. 2013. Profile Toronto.

[10] Statistics Canada. 2011.

[11] Greater Halifax Partnership. Accessed April 14, 2014.

[12] City of Toronto. 2014. Signature Sites Collection.

[13] Toronto Region Board of Trade. 2014. Toward a Toronto Region Economic Strategy: Economic Vision and Strategy Report for the Toronto Region.

[14] City of Toronto. 2013. Citywide Zoning By-law Employment Industrial Zones.

About Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited

Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited (HSAL) is a multidisciplinary strategic planning and public affairs consultancy, focused on environmental and land use planning, stakeholder relations (including communications, facilitation, public consultation and engagement), socio-economic impact assessment, communications, engineering and related services. We have the expertise to predict and decipher technical and public policy issues, and significant experience mitigating them, building consensus and attaining even the most complex approvals. For more information, visit
This entry was posted in Consultation, Planning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.