Project Management Institute

Toronto, Ontario, Canada




Population: Toronto has approximately 2.5 million residents—making it the largest city in Canada. That number doubles if you count the greater Toronto area.

Language: The majority of Torontonians speak English, but French is Canada's other official language. And almost everything from Chinese to Spanish to Italian to Urdu can be heard on the city's streets.

Currency: Canadian Dollar

C$1 = US$0.99

C$1 = € 0.62

C$1 = ¥ 103.63

Economy: Based on purchasing power, Toronto was named the 15th richest city in the world by global financial firm UBS in 2008. The city is home to approximately 40 percent of the Canadian companies on the Fortune Global 500 list and 90 percent of the foreign banks in Canada.

This is also where most of the financial action happens. Valued at more than C$164 billion dollars as of March, the Toronto Stock Exchange is the largest in Canada, the third-largest in North America and the seventh-largest in the world.

Canada's major trading partner is the United States, but the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Norway have recently made their way up the list. In 2007, Canada's imports to countries other than the United States totaled C$109.9 billion, up from C$70.4 billion in 2000.

SOURCES: The City of Toronto, Statistics Canada



With approximately 50 hospitals and more than 100,000 employees in the medical field, the Greater Toronto Area ranks as a major player in Canada's healthcare sector. “If one looks to our national initiatives in healthcare IT, they will find billions of dollars being spent and much of it in this locale,” says Robin Lobb, principal at Effects-Based Analytics Inc., a healthcare, public health and security consultancy in Toronto.

And the healthcare field offers plenty of opportunities for project managers—if they have the right skills. “It is less competitive for project managers with relevant healthcare experience as it is difficult to find people who understand the unique needs of healthcare providers and healthcare implementations,” he says.




Toronto seems to take a certain pride in being a city of firsts, biggests and bests. Not only is it the largest city in Canada, it's the fifth-largest in North America. The Canadian metropolis also boasts the world's longest street, North America's biggest castle and the country's largest museum. And until the Burj Dubai passed it last September, Toronto was the hometown of the world's tallest freestanding structure, the CN Tower.

The epicenter of Canada's entertainment, financial and banking industries, this city clearly likes to stand out from the crowd.

And it expects its project managers to do the same.

That might be a problem, however, because while organizations have plenty of project managers to choose from, the really good ones are in short supply, says Michael Flint, PMP, a Toronto-based independent consultant and president of the PMI Southern Ontario Chapter. “I'd say we have maybe a quarter-million people in the city that claim to have that [project manager] title…. They can spell project manager, but they can't necessarily run projects.”


The number of Torontonians who speak a language other than English or French at work


The number of Torontonians who speak English at work

SOURCE: 2006 Census of Canada, Statistics Canada

To make it here, project managers must be ready, willing and able to prove their skills—and that may require more than earning the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential. Indeed, many organizations in Toronto view the certification as a basic requirement.

Companies are looking for project managers to show leadership—and that's not necessarily something that can be taught. “There's no certification for leadership,” Mr. Flint says. “It's experience.”

It also helps if project managers can work across the organization, says Ardi Ghorashy, PMP, PgMP, senior executive director, global solutions, International Institute for Learning Inc., Toronto. “The difference between a project manager and a good project manager is in their [people] skills. It's their ability to work with senior managers, line managers and technical professionals alike, build bridges and create a culture of collaboration across the firm.”

And that means developing a skill set that transcends any specific industry or talent.

“Companies would like to see project managers with skills in multiple areas,” says John Abraham, an IT talent scout and human resources liaison at Metafore IT Solutions, Toronto. For example, in the IT industry, it's no longer enough to simply manage a project. The project manager must be able to “go down to a level of coders and developers to understand the technical side,” he says. Then they must have the writing skills to document the entire process.

To ensure their project teams have what it takes, some companies are looking to grow their own talent.

“Project management is a profession that is well-recognized and understood in the majority of industries in the greater Toronto area,” Mr. Ghorashy says. “Several of this area's business sectors such as banking, telecom and consulting have gone beyond just training their project managers, recognizing that project management is a skill applicable at all levels. As such, these businesses are training a larger portion of their workforce in basic project management skills and techniques.”



Local real estate player International Development Inc. heard those magic words: You're hired. The company will join forces with U.S. business mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump for a new 68-story, $500 million building. When completed in 2010, the Trump International Hotel & Tower is set to become Canada's tallest residential building. Located in downtown Toronto, the building will be a major part of PATH, the city's underground area linking 27 kilometers (approximately 17 miles) of shopping, services and entertainment.






Like almost every other government in the world, Canada and Ontario alike are investing in alternative-energy projects. “The government of Canada is committed to biofuels production,” says Joe Preston, Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ontario. “Biofuels not only offer new markets for farmers, but new jobs for our cities and towns, and a new source of cleaner renewable energy.”

In late March, the government of Canada announced it will provide C$3.9 million in funding for the C$132 million IGPC Ethanol Inc. project in Aylmer. It's just one part of the country's C$200 million ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital effort.

Expected to be completed in November, the Alymer project has also received equity investments from farmers totaling approximately C$15.5 million.

Along with its capacity to generate 150 million liters (39.6 million gallons) of ethanol, the plant will produce protein sources for cows, hogs and poultry, and carbon dioxide for use in producing carbonated beverages, freezing foods and making chemicals.



A new IT project will let doctors view CT and MRI scans immediately—instead of waiting two weeks for the images to arrive by courier. The electronic diagnostic digital image database will link 19 regional hospitals, promising streamlined service and better patient care, according to the Ottawa Sun.

“The quicker we can get the information into the hands of a clinician, whether it's an X-ray or a laboratory test result or a drug profile of a patient, the sooner they can make the right decision,” Gino Picciano, CIO and COO of Ottawa Hospital told the newspaper.

The C$18 million project is being sponsored by the federal Canada Health Infoway and provincial Ministry of Health.



Ontario's auto industry represents 20 percent of the province's manufacturing output, employs 130,000 people and makes up 90 percent of Canada's auto industry, according to the Government of Ontario.

But the business is stalling.

The parts sector, in particular, is struggling on multiple fronts: lower demand from struggling U.S. automakers; a rising Canadian dollar that makes exports more expensive to foreign buyers; stiffer offshore competition; and increasing material and energy expenses. In November, the Conference Board of Canada said profits in the auto-parts sector would tumble about 40 percent in 2007.

Striking workers at a U.S. auto-parts supplier aren't helping matters either. In late February, more than 3,650 workers walked off the job at American Axle and Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Detroit, Michigan, USA-based General Motors (GM). The strike has left several GM plants sitting idle, including ones in the Ontario cities of Kitchener, Oshawa, Windsor and Cambridge.

But a couple of projects in the works—including one with backing from GM's Canadian arm—may help steer Ontario's auto industry in the right direction.

GM of Canada, EDS, HP, Siemens PLM Software and Sun Microsystems are joining forces with the local and federal government to establish an Automotive Centre of Excellence at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario.

“The center will help inspire our next generation of auto engineers and strengthen Ontario's [research and development] network that is essential to make this province the best place to create the products and jobs of the future,” said Sandra Pupatello, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

In addition, Japanese car giant Toyota is slated to open a new plant in Woodstock, Ontario. Originally set to begin production in mid-2008, the C$1.1 billion, 1.3-million-square-foot (120,774-square-meter) plant is now looking at a start date closer to the end of the year. The plant will produce nearly 150,000 of Toyota's RAV4 compact sports utility vehicles per year.


At a time of non-stop chatter about globalization and multiculturalism, Toronto can stake its claim as one of the world's most diverse cities. Nearly 50 percent of the city's population was foreign-born, according to 2006 census data. And the business community has clearly learned to adapt. Ten of the 25 organizations named by Mediacorp Canada Inc., BMO Financial Group and TWI Inc. as “Canada's Best Diversity Employees” last April were in Toronto.

Mr. Ghorashy came to Toronto from the United Kingdom nearly 18 years ago and says the city's diversity can be an asset to project managers. “In Canada, cultural differences are not suppressed, but on the contrary are celebrated and encouraged,” he says. “The culturally diversified business environment within this region allows for one of the greatest fields in developing global project managers who become sensitive to such issues.”

Mr. Abraham agrees. He moved to Canada from India in 2004 to improve his skills and grow in other areas and says Toronto combines “all the nations in the world into one city.”

But newcomers can't ignore the distinctions of Toronto's project environment. “[They] still do need to understand the way of life and the communication styles in Canada and North America. As such, conflict arising from misunderstanding is not infrequent,” Mr. Ghorashy says. “However, as we know, for project managers, dealing with conflict and negotiations are the way to build effective teams—and project managers in this environment get plenty of opportunity to flex their muscles in this area.”



Seven years ago, when home goods giant Umbra planned to set up headquarters in a renovated warehouse just north of Toronto, the company wanted to show its creative side. Working with Kohn Shnier Architects, the retailer decided to surround the building in blue-green vacuum-formed panels.

John Shnier, a partner at the Toronto-based architectural firm, says the concept offered a way to “simultaneously call attention to the building, but at the same time hide its most unattractive features.”

That experience came in handy last year. Umbra was out to open its first retail concept store in downtown Toronto. But its location—just off of the city's main shopping thoroughfare—meant the team had to find a way to draw in customers from that street.

“It had to be a building that grabbed people's attention,” Mr. Shnier says. The idea was to play off the brand created by the blue-green headquarters without copying it. So for this project, the team opted for a different form of plastic—long panels that served as more of a veil versus the quiltlike structure that encased Umbra's main office.

And this time they decided to make it pink. “No one except for maybe Victoria's Secret had really appropriated that color yet with a visible branding objective,” Mr. Shnier says.

The color choice—a sort of cranberry-fuschia blend—helped to solve another problem as well. During the renovation, a condominium began to rise directly behind the store and the Umbra building started to look more and more like the base of the condominium. But now the effect is almost opposite, Mr. Shnier says. “We used the size of our neighbor to add to our strength.”




Toronto boasts one of the largest public transportation systems in North America. And it's about to get bigger—and more efficient, if the government of Ontario has anything to say about it.

In June 2007, Ontario's premier announced MoveOntario 2020, a C$17.5 billion plan that aims to build 902 kilometers (560 miles) of new or improved rapid-transit systems starting in 2008. It's expected to create 175,000 jobs during construction and deliver 52 individual projects, including a light-rail system, across Toronto.

The program was prompted by the flood of people moving to greater Toronto. According to the Government of Ontario, the area's population grows by approximately 100,000 people—and 50,000 cars—every year. And that's creating a bit of a traffic jam. Commuting in the area currently takes 32 percent longer than it would in free-flowing conditions. The extra delays cost around C$2.2 billion per year, and the government estimates that number would jump to C$4.1 billion without action.

Plans call for 66 percent of the projects to be completed by 2015, and 95 percent to finish by 2020.

Anticipated number of new transit trips per year resulting from the overhaul
Anticipated number of car trips eliminated in the greater Toronto area once the project is complete

SOURCE: Government of Ontario

And as project managers grow within the profession, working with such varied teams can become an asset. “This diversity seems so normal [in Toronto], that it seems surprising to not see it elsewhere,” says Keith Farndale, PMP, founder of Procept Associates Ltd., and director of the project management program and adjunct professor at the Professional Development Centre, Faculty of Engineering, University of Toronto. “I see Toronto project managers as well-prepared to manage global projects and virtual teams with geographical dispersion.”


That preparation might just come in handy down the road if the United States—Canada's biggest trading partner—continues to slide slowly toward what many people are calling a recession.

Of Canada's C$465.2 billion in exports in 2007, C$355.3 billion landed in the United States, according to Statistics Canada's International Merchandise Trade Annual Review 2007. But the recent slump south of the border is sparking some concern about Toronto's future.

“I think the biggest single challenge is, without question, ‘What happens next in the United States?’” says Tom McCormack, executive director of The Centre for Spatial Economics, a demographics and economics research firm in Milton, Ontario. “If the United States really does hit a deep recession, then there's no way Canada or Toronto can avoid it.”

And although projects in Toronto are booming—especially in construction and infrastructure—most experts would agree the long-term outlook is unpredictable. “The fact is, our manufacturing and production has leveled off in the last few years as a result of the exchange rate and the minor slowing in the U.S. economy that's occurred,” Mr. McCormack says.

But he remains optimistic: “Everyone's sitting around worrying a lot right now about whether we've gotten through the worst of this in the United States or not. So far, it hasn't hit Canada as much as you might have thought it would.” PM

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