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GTA Residents Value More Diverse Leadership, Study Finds

A new poll indicates that Torontonians think diverse leadership will boost prosperity.

The Changing Face of Leadership in the GTA 797

From left: Alison Loat (Samara), Matt Galloway (CBC radio), John Tory, Mitzie Hunter (CivicAction), and Alan Broadbent (Maytree) at a launch event for DiverseCity’s report. Photo by Mike Hagarty, courtesy of The Canadian Club of Toronto.

A new study commissioned by DiverseCity, a group devoted to diversifying leadership in the Greater Toronto Area, shows that the region’s residents value ethnic and cultural diversity in business, education, and politics.

According to a survey [PDF] conducted on DiverseCity’s behalf by Nanos Research, 43 per cent of 1,000 respondents said more ethnically and culturally diverse leadership is important. When respondents learned that only 14 per cent of leadership roles in the GTA are held by visible minority groups and underrepresented immigrant groups (even though these groups make up about half of the GTA’s population) they were more likely to say the status quo isn’t good enough.

Respondents were particularly concerned with the lack of diverse representation among the GTA’s political leadership—only one in 10 said elected officials adequately reflect the population. When asked where they saw the most diverse leadership, residents were most likely to mention the media and the civil service.

Nanos Research president and CEO Nik Nanos told us by email that he was intrigued by the way survey respondents seemed to associate diversity in leadership with the GTA’s ability to attract foreign investment. “People believe that a greater diversity in leadership can lead to a stronger economy and will help to advance Toronto as a world-class place to not only live, but to invest and work,” he wrote.

Nanos also addressed findings that some residents fear a trade-off between quality, competent leadership on one hand, and diverse, representative leadership on the other. “This is the potential trap in the dialogue on diversity of leadership—that it is code for quotas or a non-merit system of advancement,” Nanos wrote. “The reality is that most people see diversity in leadership as something that can elevate the GTA as a place to do business and a place to live.”

The DiverseCity initiative is a partnership between two non-profit organizations that promote social inclusion, the Maytree Foundation and CivicAction. Maytree project leader Cathy Winter told us by email that while the survey is encouraging, it also shows that more work is needed to promote the importance of diverse leadership. “Many survey respondents did not know about the diversity gap in leadership, but they thought it was a problem when they found out,” Winter wrote. “We need to continue to raise awareness of the issue.”

Over the past five years, DiverseCity has been attempting to do just that, through programs like DiverseCity onBoard, which facilitates the placement of diverse leaders on public and non-profit boards in the GTA, and the School4Civics, which tries to equip people from underrepresented groups to participate in the political process as candidates and campaign organizers.

School4Civics leader Alejandra Bravo has been keeping statistics on the impact of campaign training on participants, and believes the initiative is working. “Ninety per cent said the DiverseCity project helped in their political journey,” Bravo told us by email. “Sixty per cent have already opened the door or supported someone else in his or her political aspirations; another 30 per cent have plans to do so.”

At a luncheon at the Canadian Club of Toronto, where the DiverseCity report was released, CivicAction chair John Tory emphasized the importance of building personal relationships with people from underrepresented groups. “It’s the matter of a comfort zone that people have to get themselves into,” Tory said. “Once you get the first people on corporate boards that are more representative of the population, people will see for themselves that it just adds to the robustness and richness of those boards, and they’ll want to do it more.”


  • passing

    I’m curious about what impact Maytree’s reports have. This isn’t to detract from their work, which I think is extremely important, but I’m wondering about the pace of change.

    For example, in 2010 they released a report showing significant under-representation of visible minorities in the media – it was particularly severe in the print media.* Three years later, has very much changed? Should we expect things to change that quickly?


    • Desmond Cole

      These are excellent questions. Although Maytree and Civic Action have substantial networks, they are the first to admit that change is happening slower than they would like.

      Here’s a recent episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin in which he and his guests examine the lack of diversity in the media. Until more viewers demand the changes discussed in this program, change will likely continue at a slow pace.

  • OgtheDim

    (Complete aside)
    John Tory seems to have rediscovered his hair from the 80′s.

    • Walter Lis

      At least its John Tory and not Rob Ford (shivers) and his short (hide the evidence) haircut.

  • diogenes

    good start with a lesbian premiere – and then maybe an asian lady mayor? and someone to replace hazel.

  • Antiyou

    You are all so fucking racist and delusional.Good luck, the people are waking up and seeing your disease.

    • OgtheDim

      See Children:

      Never beer and google at the same time.

      It wastes a good buzz.

  • sunbeamcatcher

    and who will pay them?

  • sunbeamcatcher

    merging wards in Toronto? with more and more people moving in, new houses and new condos crowding every inch of breathing space – can’t see how that will improve services. from the fair representation point of view I understand your proposal, but I think a more practical solution can be found. as to muslims presence in Toronto – they are quite well connected and influential already (especially in the business sector) . i would rather think of those who always seem to fall through the cracks, in particular the “invisible minorities” (white, but not Canadian).

    • Gary Dale

      Improving services is a city-wide thing. However, services depend somewhat on the demographic you are in. Tenants need different services than homeowners. Unfortunately, our current system elects few tenants so homeowners issues tend to dominate.

      Fair representation is essential to delivering the services that people living in Toronto need.

      So far as Muslims being well connected goes, if that were true, one would expect to see Muslims on city council. Moreover a groups ability to influence city hall should be determined by their numbers, not by their connections.

      Muslims was just an example of an underrepresented group. It’s certainly not the only one. People with disabilities is another group that rarely achieves representation despite making up a substantial share of the population. South Asians is another. Even Asian, the most prominent visible minority group on council, is underrepresented compared with their share of the population.

      When a voting system provides fair representation, it does so without regards to skin colour. If you fix the voting system, your concern about invisible minorities should be fixed – unless you are referring to the issue of non-citizen voting which is a distinct reform that can be made regardless of the voting system.

      • sunbeamcatcher

        I personally care about being represented by people who know how to serve – I trust them and communicate my needs and concerns to them. It does not matter if they are from my group or not – they can do a great job because they care. There is the problem in my opinion – I witnessed crooks coming from all walks of life, all colors of skin, all races, gay and straight, NDP or PC or Lib, etc. I care not at all if they are Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck as long as they are public SERVANTS.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Wouldn’t merging wards A and B simply let the largest group in A and the largest group in B elect the two councillors for ward A-B? And wouldn’t it introduce the possibility that both councillors essentially represent the same group, one made larger by the merger?

    • Gary Dale

      The mathematics doesn’t work that way. If the two largest groups had the same basic views and each represented 50% of the voters in the single-member districts, then their combined votes would still only equal 50% of the voters in the new combined ward. This means that each would now be receiving only 25% of the votes. This allows a second group with a combined vote of more than 25% to take one of the seats.

      By combining wards you’re allowing groups that our current splits up to gain enough electoral clout to gain representation.

      For example, people of European heritage make up about half the population in Toronto. Asians make up 1/3. In two single-member wards, Europeans would get both seats (see a picture of our current city council). In two-member wards, Europeans would get one and Asians would get the other.

      While single-members wards would allow half the voters to be represented, in a two-member ward, that could be 80%.

      Again, I’m just using race here to demonstrate the point. People don’t vote strictly along racial or ethnic lines but a truly representative system should match the demographics closely.