President & Chief Executive Officer
Royal Bank of Canada
Metro Convention Centre, Toronto, ON
Toronto, February 11, 2010
Good afternoon. It's a real pleasure to be part of this day,
and to share with you my thoughts on civic leadership.
The process of city building is not simple. It's complex
and multi-dimensional, and highly dependent on innovative
thinkers. It requires citizens who care not only about what
the city is today but what the city could be tomorrow. It
requires individuals who are prepared to put short-term self-interest
and political gamesmanship behind long-term vision and planning.
It needs regional leaders in all areas of the community --
business, labour, academia, social services, NGO's and politics
- leaders who live here, work here and build their businesses
here, and people who can actively participate in formulating
a shared vision.
The Toronto region needs all of this - 1 in 6 Canadians live
in the GTA and it is our country's most important region and
our flagship in so many areas. But because of our scale, our
complexity is greater and our social issues more prevalent.
The Toronto economy is large and diversified; its largest
sector, banking, I am proud to say is respected globally,
and the possibility of Toronto becoming a key global financial
centre is entirely achievable.
The good news is that the Toronto economy remains structurally
sound despite the challenges of the recent economic cycle
but, more importantly, it holds huge potential.
Toronto is also the city in Canada that most immigrants choose
to make home and is a model of diversity, inclusion and integration.
While multiculturalism is currently being viewed by some as
a failure, particularly in Europe, let me be clear - it has
been an unparalleled success in our city. We have issues and
challenges to work on - difficult questions that should be
asked - many of which you have been addressing, but immigration,
diversity and multiculturalism has brought vitality, culture
and economic growth and RBC is a shining example of its benefits.
Virtually every culture in the world can be found in Toronto
through its cultural events, neighbourhoods, and sports. From
Chinatown to the Beach to Little Italy, Toronto has found
a way to grow and thrive amicably amidst more differences
than any other city in the world. Our population of visible
minorities is fast approaching the 50% mark. By 2031, we won't
need to use the term anymore and we should not push back but
rather work on the challenges and embrace the opportunity.
We can achieve everything our potential promises, as long
as we can collectively address our challenges and don't shy
away from the politically challenging questions.
We know, for instance, that our results in integrating new
immigrants into the labour market are imperfect. We have too
many high priority neighbourhoods, too little cultural integration
and too many people who don't have enough access to food,
housing or health services.
In addition, we have let historically important buildings
fall into disrepair, and we are paying a price for a lack
of long-term vision in areas like transportation and the waterfront.
Our roads are more congested every year and we must now address
better, alternate modes of transportation if we are to continue
our growth and manage our environment. We have challenges
and that is why you are here - not to criticize but to help
find solutions that will make our city better and more competitive.
It's these tough issues and big opportunities facing the
Toronto region that make me very glad we have Civic Action.
The projects that Civic Action is leading not only lay down
clear paths to improving the GTA's social and economic future,
but also paint a picture of how much more we can be through
We want to get this right. I say this from the perspective
of the CEO of Canada's largest bank, certainly, but also from
the perspective of a resident, a community member, a taxpayer
and a participant in many of the cultural and charitable activities
And so while my interests and experiences extend right across
the social, economic and political fabric of Toronto, this
morning I'd like to address employment, diversity and community
- because these are things that can be advanced through a
multi-stakeholder approach - one that includes active engagement
These are also the things Civic Action calls the "tough
issues and big opportunities."
First, the issue of employment. Toronto is the economic engine
of Ontario and Canada, yet our unemployment rate is higher
than the provincial rate and higher than the federal rate.
With the number of businesses concentrated in our region,
with the influx of the best and the brightest from other countries,
and with the largest and fastest growing self-employed population
in the country, this is something we should be able to address.
While we have had to adjust to things like the global recession
and a strong dollar, I believe Toronto's biggest challenge
relates to our country's low rankings in research, development
and innovation. These are things that transform an economy
which is critical for a region like the GTA.
While it is easy to start a new business in Canada it is
more difficult to grow them. Our relative difficulty commercializing
our research and new ideas is a barrier to improving productivity,
and thus our standard of living.
Canada's productivity has been lower than that of the U.S.
for almost half a century, and it's costing our citizens in
personal disposable income and our country in global competitiveness.
Fortunately Toronto has some truly great institutions focused
on innovation, research and commercialization. MaRs, the Canadian
Innovation Exchange and Toronto Region Research Alliance are
three stellar examples here in the GTA that businesses can
partner with to unlock new revenue opportunities, create higher
quality jobs, and move Toronto forward as a strong economic
force. I would also be remiss not to point out that governments,
and the provincial government in particular through MRI, have
provided great support and commitment to this challenge of
But it is critical that we keep our foot to the pedal in
supporting initiatives that will help transform our economy.
Our country's economic success still remains rooted in natural
resources more than innovation and the knowledge economy and
we must re-adjust this balance. Ontario and GTA, in particular,
is critical to our ability to transform and compete. We have
a wealth of talent and assets that companies and organizations
can capitalize on but we must execute.
We must find ways that work for our city and capitalize on
our strengths - initiatives like the Toronto Financial Services
Alliance, a public private initiative whose mandate is to
support and promote the competitiveness of Toronto as a financial
centre. Given our tax advantage, people strength and regulatory
environment, we should be attracting more international financial
companies to our city - we have a great story.
Another example is MaRS (which I have the honour of Chairing)
- again, a private public initiative that promotes and enhances
entrepreneurship and commercialization. I am constantly amazed
at the talent and activity that emanate from MaRS. It is achieving
remarkable success in facilitating collaboration and in bringing
together research, creativity and business opportunity.
There is no region more important to Canada's economic success
than the GTA and we must continue to find ways to support
our emerging entrepreneurs and I am glad to see that "Reinventing
our Economic Base" is one of the summit's roundtable
themes - I look forward to the output.
If we as business leaders make this our priority, job creation
will follow naturally.
The second arena where I feel business can unlock new successes
and new value for Toronto is diversity and inclusion - and
I should reinforce that this is not just about immigration.
Business growth, participation in the global economy and
competitive success all need an increasingly educated work
force. Toronto is already a destination of choice for skilled
immigrants, scientists, professionals and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately,
recent immigrants - even highly educated immigrants with high
demand skills - are struggling to find jobs that capitalize
on their skills.
Recently, the Globe and Mail reported that here in Canada,
university-educated immigrants are finding it better to move
to the U.S. than to stay in Canada, where they earn significantly
We in Canada pay immigrants about half what we pay Canadian-born
employees, as compared to the U.S. where the gap is about
30 per cent less.
For a country that prides itself on its multiculturalism,
fairness, and our open door policy, this is a surprise. For
a country whose demographics promises worker shortages in
the decades ahead, this doesn't make sense. Diversity is our
We need that talent in Toronto. We should be seizing this
strength that is right in front of us. I see first hand the
talent that diversity in all its forms brings to businesses
and cities, as a business leader and as co-chair of The Toronto
Region Immigrant Employment Council. There is hard, tangible
value in hiring the market you serve - in having the opportunity
to better understand your markets.
It's not just about doing the right thing, it's about doing
what makes good business sense.
We have to engage with our markets, and they are changing
- regardless of whether your business operates with city limits,
within Canada, or is expanding internationally. I think that
all of us in leadership roles, be it business, government,
academia etc., have the opportunity and the responsibility
to capitalize on our country's exceptional diversity and the
very real benefits of inclusion.
For my fellow business leaders in the Toronto region, this
is an important means to succeed and contribute to Canada's
In 2005, RBC Economics found that if all new Canadians were
fully employed, at their level of education and experience,
earning equal pay to someone born in Canada, personal income
would increase by $13 billion a year. We are leaving economic
growth - never mind fuller lives and stronger communities
- on the table.
In the Toronto region alone, there are dozens of great organizations
focused on connecting recent immigrants with growth minded
businesses - TRIEC, ACCESS, Career Bridge and CPAC are just
a few doing so much, so well and efficiently. They need your
business card and your interest, and have the track record
to show the returns from partnering with them - we can show
that first hand at RBC.
At RBC, diversity has been an important investment opportunity
for a long time. It's one of our five core values, and while
we're not where we want to be, we are tracking against goals
that are measurable and important to our businesses, for all
the reasons I've talked about. We know this effort will pay
off in the form of our continued leadership in financial services,
serving an increasingly diverse marketplace.
Last year, we were particularly proud to have won the Global
Catalyst Award for Diversity and I would encourage you
to review the RBC
Diversity Blueprint on our website.
By now, you may be appreciating that I'm a big believer in
business engaging in the tough issues and big opportunities
that Toronto faces. And one of the most critical partners
for business today is the communities in which they operate.
Community is the third arena where I feel business can unlock
new successes and new value for Toronto. By actively contributing
to the development of their communities
by being a visible
participant in successes achieved and problems tackled, businesses
end up adding to their own success.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. A while
back, we were approached by a corporate client, Daniels Corporation,
who together with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation,
were planning the revitalization of Regent Park. We were asked
to consider opening a branch there.
Now Regent Park has a long history of problems. The average
income is about half of other Torontonians, its residents
are largely immigrants, and social housing dominates the community.
There is a disproportionately high number of youth 18 years
and under, along with high unemployment.
For the last ten years, RBC has been active in this community,
with partnerships with Pathways to Education, Kiwanis Boys
and Girls Club, and most recently, our not-yet officially-announced
donation to the Regent Park Arts and Culture Centre - yet
to be built so stay tuned.
Throughout all of this time, the only financial services
available to Regent Park residents were cheque cashing stores.
We looked at the numbers and saw that a branch would not meet
our minimum return goals. But a decision based solely on the
numbers didn't sit well with us.
To say no was really a vote against the vision of revitalized
community. Last year, we opened a branch on the corner of
Dundas and Parliament, and, as it turns out, for all the right
reasons. In addition, 50 per cent of employees were hired
from the Regent Park community and according to our Regional
President, Jennifer Tory, we are ahead of plan.
As one of the largest companies in Canada, RBC does write
a lot of cheques for good causes and sponsors numerous activities.
This year RBC donated approximately $7 million to charities
in the GTA and the bank combined with our employees raised
over $9.6 million for the 2010 Toronto United Way Campaign.
But when we create grassroots partnerships for the benefit
of the community, it's about far more than the writing of
a cheque or getting our brand attached to a program. It's
about participating in the community and helping to make it
better, and there are many, many opportunities for every size
of business to do so.
Another "tough issue/big opportunity" that businesses
can play an important role in is our youth, and again there
are many outstanding organizations eager to partner to create
better futures for our young people.
Thorncliffe Park is a good example. For those of you who
don't know this neighbourhood, it's Toronto's number one destination
for new immigrants from South Asia and it houses 30,000 people
in 34 apartments. RBC has been partnering with the Thorncliffe
Neighbourhood Office over the past three years to support
their After School Program, which gives youth a safe environment
to learn and build their self esteem.
From this partnership, we then launched our RBC Play Hockey
Program in the neighbourhood last November - this has been
a very well received initiative to encourage the game of hockey
from the community level up.
Every business should and can make a difference in people's
lives and in their neighbourhoods. A lot of great work has
been accomplished but so much more still needs to get done.
There are so many changes taking place in every part of the
Toronto region; whether communities flourish or flounder is
as much in the hands of the businesses that operate there
as it is in the hands of governments and citizens.
And while everyone intuitively understands that a prosperous
business sector is key to Toronto's employment levels and
economic success, they are less attuned to the notion that
business can also play a role in other aspects of Toronto's
success, like diversity, inclusion and community.
We are not "Bowling Alone" as Robert Putnam titled
his observations about the decline of social capital in the
U.S. We are a team. And we can choose to work together as
a team to make the Toronto region the very best it can be,
or we can be a team whose failure to engage with each other
ends up proving Mr. Putnam's point.
The process of city building in Toronto is our tough issue
and great opportunity. We live here, work here, go to school
here and build our businesses here.
Youth employment, high priority neighborhoods, poverty, the
waterfront, funding for the arts, transportation needs and
bottlenecks - these need our attention as business leaders.
There is no provincial or federal department or agency that
can replicate the partnerships forged within an engaged community.
I encourage Civic Action and my fellow business leaders to
continue to work together.
I would conclude by emphasising that while it is important
that we consistently reflect, look to improve and act to make
Toronto all that it can be, we must also appreciate what we
have created. I travel a great amount and I can tell you that
there are few cities in the world with the vitality, diversification,
sophistication, culture and strength as our city.
I see our Toronto for what it can be: a truly first rate,
globally important city, built on diverse, vibrant communities
that are fully engaged in the social and economic fabric of
our city. The objective of Civic Action is to find ways to
solve our problems and improve our city and we have a remarkable
base from which to move forward.
Thank you very much.