ESPN recently ranked Toronto as the worst sports city in North America. They calculated this based on a ratio of ticket prices to wins by the city’s teams. Toronto’s sports fans loyally pay top dollar to see their favourite teams lose all too often.
I think this affects the psychology of the city, including the business community’s outlook.
No matter how well things are going for Toronto, many of my friends, colleagues and network in Toronto refuse to believe in it. They seem convinced they’ll soon be let down—that there is no more point in believing in Toronto’s solid economy than in a 3 game win streak by the Mapleleafs.
The sad state of the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and other teams is about more than sports. The inability of these teams to win consistently and live up to expectations seems to create a pattern in peoples’ heads that they expect to be repeated elsewhere–such as in the city’s economic performance. For nearly 3 years now I’ve been hearing it when I put evidence in front of people that Toronto will do (or is doing) fine in this era of global economic uncertainty.
For example, job growth in the knowledge sector has been strong over the past three years, right through the global economic turmoil. Finance, professional services and information and culture sectors have together added tens of thousands of jobs since 2008. Despite this many in the commercial real estate sector have been convinced that office demand will fall (that this is a mirage of some sort). Instead absorption has been strong, especially in 2011 as companies lease space in which to put these workers.
Since the global financial crisis began in 2008, Toronto has risen up the ranks of global business and financial centres, as well as the livability rankings. Compared to most other world cities, and even Toronto’s own past, Toronto is thriving.
And it’s not all business. Toronto’s international film fest, TIFF, has also risen in prestige and is now *the* place to showcase a new movie. Bollywood even held its annual award gala in Toronto last year, illustrating the international nature of this city. With over 50% of residents foreign born, and many from Asia, it’s as connected to Mumbai and Shanghai as to many US or European cities, whether economically or culturally.
Toronto is a city to believe in. As hard as this is for a Vancouver Canucks fan to say, I hope the Maple Leafs start winning so more of my friends and colleagues in Toronto will start believing in their city too.