Six Things We Learned from Toronto's Vital Signs Report
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Six Things We Learned from Toronto’s Vital Signs Report

We delved into the annual update on the status of our city.

Every year the Toronto Foundation releases Toronto’s Vital Signs report, an analysis of how the city is doing across all sectors—and it can reveal some pretty fascinating stuff. We examined the 2016 report, and here are six things we learned.

Toronto is the New Cannabis Capital of Canada

Toronto has snatched the cannabis crown from Vancouver, making it the weed capital of the country. The city is currently home to nearly 100 marijuana dispensaries. This year, a Forum Research telephone survey found that the number of Torontonians who noticed dispensaries in their neighbourhoods had doubled.

In May, Toronto Police raided about 43 of these shops, arresting 90 people, laying 186 charges and seizing about 270 kilograms of marijuana. Almost half of those surveyed by Forum Research have no idea whether dispensaries are illegal or not.

Only 26 Per Cent of Our Buildings’ Waste is Actually Recycled

Toronto buildings need to step their recycling game up, according to the Vital Signs report. Only 26 per cent of the waste produced in Toronto’s high-rises is being recycled. If things don’t change quickly, Toronto’s Green Lane Landfill (located in London, Ont.) could fill up in just 13 years, according to the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

And it’s not just recycling that needs improvement. In 2014, Toronto Community Housing’s buildings produced enough CO2 emissions to launch 8,780 NASA space shuttles into space.

Pearson International Airport, though, is setting a good example for slashing CO2 emissions. In just four years, Canada’s largest and busiest airport cut its greenhouse gas emissions by almost half.

Photo courtesy of Toronto's Vital Signs Report.

Photo courtesy of Toronto’s Vital Signs report.

The Housing Market Stresses Everyone Out, Except for the Very Rich

Did you know that to afford an average home in Toronto, you now need to have an annual income of $87,407? Toronto is second only to Vancouver in being the most expensive place to buy a home in Canada—and these days it’ll cost you nearly three-quarters of your income to live in a single-family detached home here. The luxury market is booming, however. The city was rated the second hottest million-dollar-plus market in the world by Christie’s International Real Estate. But if you’re a renter, the Vital Signs report doesn’t have great news for you, either.

The City of Toronto is the most expensive place to rent in Ontario, with an average monthly rent of $1,206. Toronto Community Housing is also losing funding from the province. Since 2013, the province’s share of the social housing bill dropped from one-third to just 7 per cent. Without this money, as many as 7,000 of these units will become uninhabitable in the future.

On the bright side, the province is working on a bill to give cities the power to make developers set aside a percentage of their units for affordable housing and lower incomes.

The Kids Aren’t Necessarily Alright

One in four children in Toronto live in poverty, making the city the child poverty capital of Canada. It’s unfortunate that even though this rate dropped in 2013, Toronto’s child poverty rate is still the highest among large Canadian cities.

Sadly, many families aren’t all right, either. Parts of the city are food deserts—low-income areas with access to few grocery stores. In Toronto, the ratio of unhealthy to healthy food stores is four to one, and in the lowest-income zones, for every healthy food source, there are at least 15 unhealthy ones.

But Torontonians are doing their part to change that. The Mobile Good Food Market is an effort by Toronto Public Health and Foodshare to bring fresh, healthy food to lower income neighbourhoods. Milk crates are also being repurposed in empty lots around the city to create mobile farms by The Bowery Project. There’s even a shipping container that’s been turned into a fresh food market in Moss Park, providing fresh produce three days a week, year-round.

Toronto has a Plan to Fight Intimate Partner Violence

The city is fighting against intimate partner violence (IPV). Last December, Toronto City Council green lighted Toronto Public Health’s recommendations for dealing with domestic violence. It’s a serious problem that not only harms victims, but costs Canadians an estimated $7.4 billion yearly, for health care, social services, and legal proceedings.

Toronto has come up with an action plan: 10 goals to prevent and detect IPV cases. These goals include educating kids and teens on healthy relationships, identifying cultural norms that perpetuate IPV, and increasing IPV screening in hospitals.

The City's plan to combat intimate partner violence has 10 goals. Photo courtesy of the Vital Signs report.

The City’s intimate partner violence action plan has 10 goals. Photo courtesy of the Vital Signs report.

Torontonians are Pretty Darn Educated

We’re lit—educationally speaking. Torontonians now have more post-secondary degrees per 100,000 people than Melbourne, Australia, which held the top spot for this statistic in 2014. More than half the population of Toronto Region (the Toronto census metropolitan area) has completed some kind of post-secondary education, with about 70 per cent of our workforce having a degree or a diploma. In 1990, it was just 41 per cent.

University of Toronto grads are the 10th most employable in the world, and the Economist rated both Ryerson and York Universities’ MBA programs as part of the top 100 MBA programs. Our high school kids are graduating at higher rates too. The Toronto District School Board boasts an 85 per cent graduation rate now, up 16 per cent from the year 2000.