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Tough Going: Few Winners, Many Losers in the GGH Job Creation Game

By: Frank Clayton and Tyler Olsen
June 22, 2018



This blog post compares local shares of Greater Golden Horseshoe (“GGH”) employment growth over two decades, 1996-2006 and 2006-2016. Municipalities are found to fall within three categories of relative growth experience:

  • Those with higher growth share in 2006-2016 than preceding decade:
    • Halton Region
    • City of Toronto
    • Wellington County (includes Guelph)
  • Those with similar growth share in 2006-2016 as in the preceding decade:
    • Peel Region (small relative decline)
    • York Region
    • City of Hamilton
    • Haldimand County (small decline both decades)
  • Those with lower growth share in 2006-2016 than in the preceding decade:
    • Durham Region
    • Brant County (includes Brantford)
    • City of Kawartha Lakes
    • Niagara Region
    • Northumberland County
    • Peterborough County (includes Peterborough)
    • Simcoe County (includes Barrie and Orillia)
    • Waterloo Region

GGH-wide employment growth fell considerably from one decade to the next, from an average of 84,000 jobs per year in 1996-2006 to just 42,000 in 2006-2016.



Local employment growth is a critical factor to healthy urban development. It is typically a net fiscal benefit, providing more in local tax revenues than it costs in programs and services. It can help to reduce long-distance commuting and auto dependency. And, especially in Ontario, local employment growth is a key prerequisite to the achievement of the long-term vision of creating “complete communities” throughout the GGH, a fundamental objective of the Province’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (“Growth Plan”).1

The Growth Plan promotes “complete communities that are compact, transit supportive and make effective use of investments in infrastructure and public service facilities” (p. 5) and “a land use pattern that encourages the efficient use of land, walkable neighbourhoods, mixed land uses (residential, retail, workplace, and institutional) all within one neighbourhood, proximity to transit and reduced need for infrastructure” (p. 69), across the full Greater Golden Horseshoe (“GGH”) region, shown below.2

This blog post examines employment growth within the GGH, using Census of Canada data. Comparisons are made between the decade preceding the Growth Plan’s initiation (1996-2006) and the decade following its initiation (2006-2016).4



Before looking at the distribution of employment growth within the GGH it should be noted that average annual job growth for the GGH overall from 2006-2016 was roughly half what it was in the preceding decade – net job growth averaged 84,000 jobs per year in 1996-2006 and 42,000 jobs per year in 2006-2016. The rapid employment growth in 1996-2006 in large part reflected the region’s recovery from a major recession in the early 1990s.

The GTHA dominates employment growth and its share jumped further over 2006-2016

From 1996-2006, employment growth in the large-scale sub-regions was largely consistent with existing shares of employment distribution—dominated by the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (“GTHA”) at 77-78% with Outer Ring municipalities consistent at 22-23%.5

From 2006-2016, the GTHA’s share of the GGH’s employment growth surged at the expense of the Outer Ring – to 89.3% of all employment growth over the decade. Consequently, the Outer Ring’s share of employment growth dropped by more than half, to 10.7% over 2006-2016.

Toronto and Halton were the top performers

The most striking shift in the location of employment growth within the GGH between the two decades is the sharp rise in the shares accounted for by the City of Toronto and Halton Region. The share of GGH employment growth occurring in these two municipalities surged to about 42% in 2006-2016 from less than 28% in the preceding decade:

  • City of Toronto: increased from a 21.0% share to 31.5%; and
  • Halton Region: increased from 6.5% to 10.7%.

Toronto’s impressive job generating performance reflects the presence of several positive factors including the growing importance of agglomeration economies in financial and other service industries, the rapid growth in the millennial-aged population residing in the multitude of condominiums built in Toronto since the late 1990s, and transit-related improvements enhancing downtown Toronto’s accessibility from other parts of the region.  

In Halton Region, the extension of trunk sewer and water services to Milton in the early 2000s allowed the town to attract large-scale industrial uses and distribution centers along its Highway 401 corridor as a spillover from neighbouring Mississauga, where the supply of industrial sites was nearly exhausted.

Two other municipalities within the GTHA, Peel Region and York Region, also continued to attract sizeable portions of GGH employment growth in 2006-2016, although Peel’s share dropped slightly.

The only Outer Ring municipality to record a larger share of employment growth in 2006-2016 than in the previous decade was Wellington County (including Guelph).


Durham, Niagara, Simcoe and Waterloo were the biggest losers

Toronto and Halton’s gains in the share of GGH employment growth from 2006-2016 came at the expense of Durham Region in the GTHA and almost all municipalities in the Outer Ring, but particularly Niagara Region, Simcoe County (including Barrie and Orillia) and Waterloo Region:

  • Durham Region fell from a 6.3% share of GGH growth to 4.2%;
  • Niagara Region recorded a decline in its total employment base from 2006-2016, compared to a 3.2% share of growth in the preceding decade;
  • Simcoe County’s share fell from 6.7% to 4.2%; and
  • Waterloo Region fell from 6.6% to 3.9%.

All remaining municipalities in the Outer Ring experienced either stable or slightly declining employment growth shares in 2006-2016, relative to the previous decade.

It is evident that Durham Region and many of the Outer Ring municipalities became relatively less important in terms of jobs within the broader GGH. This in part reflects the continued declines in traditional industries like manufacturing and the loss of some major local employers (such as RIM in Waterloo).


These employment growth patterns have critical implications for the Growth Plan’s objective of creating “Complete Communities” throughout the GGH

This will be the topic of a soon-to-be published blog post.


(1) Ministry of Municipal Affairs. (2017). Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

(2) Separate cities within counties (e.g., Barrie and Peterborough) are treated here as part of the respective county for statistical purposes as per the Census Division concept in Statistics Canada data.

(3) Allen, R. & Campsie, P. (2013). Implementing the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Neptis Foundation. Online. Retrieved June 6, 2018 from:

(4) Employment in a municipality or region is calculated as the sum of: jobs with a usual place of work (allocated to the place of work location), jobs without a fixed place of work (allocated to the worker’s place of residence) and jobs worked from home (allocated to the worker’s place of residence). Note this treatment of employees without a fixed place of work differs from that utilized by Hemson in its employment forecasts for the Growth Plan.

(5) The Outer Ring includes the parts of the GGH other than the GTHA.

Frank Clayton is the Senior Research Fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR) in Toronto.


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