Toronto has benefitted from the immigrant experience

October 13, 2015

By Hugh Heron, Toronto Sun |

— Hugh Heron is Principal and Partner in the Heron Group of Companies, President of Heathwood Homes and Chair of The Mikey Network, as well as a past president and member of a number of industry associations.

Every time I drive down the Don Valley Parkway, I look at the skyline, and it makes me think about how far we’ve come as a city, as well as where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

Not all that many years ago, I remember the Harbour Commission encouraging developers to build condominiums south of the QEW. Look at it today — we have beautiful condos all along the shoreline, and the progress is exciting.

The area’s potential is finally being realized with new amenities such as Sugar Beach and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

It blows my mind how terrific our city is, even with the current challenges we face, such as a lack of transportation infrastructure. In spite of occasional gridlock, we are making Toronto one of the great cities of the world.

In addition this year, the federal government announced the Public Transit Fund (PTF)
infrastructure program, of which $2.6 billion will go toward easing the overcrowded Yonge-University-Spadina subway line and connect to Mississauga and Markham — if the application is approved.

The money would be used for Mayor Tory’s SmartTrack proposal to electrify and retrofit existing GO Transit railway tracks. Yes, at this point it’s just a promise, but it means our federal government representatives are thinking about the challenge we face and are willing to work with us to find a solution.

This situation has not deterred immigrants from choosing Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area as their new home. In the big picture, we offer the best quality of life in the world.

International surveys continually rank us the best place to live. Our approximate 100,000 immigrants per year will continue, and we have to get our priorities right when we think of these people.

From the time immigration into Canada began in the 17th century, newcomers have helped to build our country and have made major contributions to our society.

The arrival of the Irish in the mid-1800s was instigated by the potato famine, with approximately 40,000 of them passing through Toronto.

In 1847, the population of Toronto was 20,000, and this influx of Irish settlers nearly tripled that.

They indeed played a big role in growing the city, and even today, we are better for the work ethic, commitment to family and community, and bright outlook they brought with them.

In the 1970s, the Vietnamese boat people we invited into Canada as refugees have worked hard as well and have had a tremendously positive effect on our country. These are things we should keep in mind when considering the current Syrian refugee situation.

Our immigrants introduce so much to Canada, and many of them sacrifice a lot to come here with a better life in mind. Nowadays, we have cab drivers who have PHDs and MBAs.

They are here for their families, hoping to raise their children in a place that is not war-torn and dangerous — a place where they can live their life to their potential and walk the streets without worrying about risking their lives.

When it comes to the global economy, we need immigrants to help us meet the need for the people power necessary to maintain and grow our competitive edge.

Tapping into the skills and expertise of newcomers benefits just about every industry here, including new home building. As an immigrant myself, I see both sides of the coin.

Immigrants benefit from the educational and training opportunities we offer in Canada, as well as our cultural, entertainment and business resources. It’s win-win all around.

Now considered one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Toronto is an especially popular destination for newcomers.

Our reputation as a wonderful place to live, raise a family and even conduct business is recognized around the globe.

I am proud to be a Canadian citizen, and I applaud a political platform that will open the door for more immigrants to come here and enrich our city and country even more.

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