December 4, 2014 7:00 pm
Updated: December 4, 2014 7:06 pm

Tory says better housing, transit can help stall growing income gap

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TORONTO – John Tory says connecting people to jobs and making Toronto a more welcoming business environment will dent the city’s growing income gap.

Toronto’s middle class is shrinking as the city becomes increasingly polarized between high and low earners.

“That is a reality. And it’s a reality that isn’t just about numbers: It’s about people having difficulty supporting their families, finding adequate housing, feeding their kids and so on,” Tory said Thursday morning on The Morning Show.

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According to research done by University of Toronto professor David Hulchasnki, 68 per cent of Torontonians were considered middle-income in the 1970s. Now, only 28 per cent are. At the same time, the number of low-income earners has more than doubled, from 23 per cent of Torontonians to 51 per cent.

Tory said there are three things he can do to as mayor  to address the city’s growing income gap: Fix transit, support job-growth and build affordable housing.

The city still has a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the country – and it’s especially high for young people.

“The first thing … is to help attract more jobs to Toronto. Because the better a job somebody has the better they’re going to be able to look after their families and the higher their income will be,” Tory said.

WATCH: Minna Rhee reports on Toronto’s growing income gap. 

In depth interactive: Mapping Canada’s shifting incomes

Toronto’s gridlock has been a drag on the region’s economy: A Metrolinx report pegged the amount of money lost due to gridlock or insufficient transit each year at $6 billion.

And, as Global News has shown, some of the city’s worst transit deserts are also places where few residents have cars or driver’s licences.

Tory’s SmartTrack plan includes converting current GO Transit lines into an above-ground subway line that spans the city with a stop at Union Station.

The plan, which he says can be built in seven years, is expected to cost roughly $8 billion.

“To addressing transit and connecting people to jobs, and SmartTrack, that I want to build, is going to connect a lot of people to job opportunities and that’s a big part of this – mobility around the city.”

Related: Long after ‘priority’ designation, pockets of poverty persist in east Scarborough

Hulchanski’s report, entitled The Three Cities Within Toronto, suggests the city can be broken up into three different cities with varying levels of income: the first city closer to the city’s core has the highest income, the second on the outskirts Toronto near Peel, York and Durahm is home to the city’s shrinking middle-class, and the suburbs, the third city, is mostly low-income.

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And some neighbourhoods are doing better than others: Tax data obtained by Global News from Statistics Canada showed a large swath of neighbourhoods in west Toronto and Etobicoke filled with steadily increasing incomes.

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