2015 Summit – Better City Bootcamp

We are excited to share our Better City Bootcamp report: Jumping into Action that captures the day’s dialogue and proposed ideas, which will help shape our actions going forward. 

Every four years, CivicAction holds a summit to put our finger on the pulse and identify the biggest issues facing the region. Out of the summit, CivicAction sets our agenda for the next four years and focuses on high-impact initiatives that lend themselves to multi-sector solutions.

True to the CivicAction model, attendees, speakers, and panels were there to represent a wide range of voices and experiences, as complex urban challenges need an all hands on deck approach.

In 2015, we broadened our reach to bring the conversation and action to more people than ever by live-streaming the event, having satellite locations, and engaging in digital conversations. Thank you to the hosts of our satellite locations – Rexdale Community Hub and the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus – for helping us to engage more people across the region!

On April 28th, Better City Bootcamp drove attention to five interrelated themes influencing our region’s personal and civic health and well-being. Leading up to the Summit, we worked with TD Economics to define the key challenges related to these issues, helping to set the context for action. Read about their findings in the full report here.

Over the next four years, we will drive progress in each of the five Summit issues, starting with the launch of an initiative to mobilize GTHA employers and employees to better support mental health in the workplace. We have convened a Champions Council and Advisory Group to guide this work, who are committed to making workplaces a better resource for colleagues who are struggling with mental health issues.

Missed Better City Bootcamp? We have video highlights from the day including remarks from Minister Lisa Raitt, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor John Tory, Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO, CivicAction, and Rod Phillips, Chair, CivicAction, the ‘Connecting the Dots’ morning panel, and a powerful closing by spoken word artist Mustafa the Poet. Visit our YouTube channel to see how the day unfolded!

And for more information on our themes, please see our Fast Facts.

  1. Housing affordability and the growing need to match seniors’ healthcare to housing options
    The number of people aged 75+ in the GTHA is expected to reach more than 1.2 million by 2040. At some point, most seniors will require additional assistance with their day-to- day needs, and with many seniors living on fixed incomes and more seniors carrying debt into retirement, housing affordability is a big issue.Senior-assisted living space in the GTHA is on the ris­e but still only covers about 5% of the population of 75+. Many seniors end up in acute care beds as they wait for other care options. Supports for low-income seniors exist, but seniors face an average wait time of 5.5 years for subsidized housing. Despite accounting for just 15% of the Canadian population, those 65+ account for more than 31% of healthcare costs.Collectively, we need to encourage supportive living arrangements, integrate supports within communities, and finance care options that allow seniors to maintain their independence.
  2. Mental health and the workplace
    Mental health issues often involve “invisible” suffering, with Statistics Canada reporting that of adults with a mental health-related disability, nearly a third indicated that their employer was unaware of their condition.Mental health has been referred to as “the new second-hand smoke”, with research finding links between parental mental health, and the future mental health of their children. People with mental health issues may need special accommodation in their work place, but less than half of those employed reported having all their needs met. Collectively, we need to encourage employers to play an active role in fostering workplaces that are supportive of mental health.
  3. The importance of the ‘first 1000 days’
    Research shows that the first thousand days – between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday – have a critical impact on childhood development and their adult life. The Summit will shine a spotlight on many factors including environmental stresses, physical activity, nurturing and education, and nutrition, and the role all sectors have in providing the supports parents and their children need.It will be a broad conversation focused on childhood health and how to set our children up for success through proper support for mom, child and families. Research shows that children exposed to environmental stressors before they are born still benefit from early interventions, which underscores the need for programs that support at-risk children as early in life as possible.Proper activity, socialization, and nutrition can have a life-changing impact on a child’s future health, cognitive ability, and physical development. It is in all our interests to make information and resources accessible to expectant and new parents to help them on their journey.
  4. Public spaces, physical activity, and health
    As the GTHA densifies and living and office space shrinks, public spaces play an increasingly important role in people’s lives. As backyards give way to balconies, opportunities for physical activity declines.For adults, regular physical activity, combined with other factors, can help avoid 90% of type 2 diabetes cases and improve mental health outcomes. Physical health, higher grades and better self-esteem are positive outcomes of child­hood physical activity. Unfortunately, just 15% of adults get enough physical activity, while only 5% of Canadian youth are getting the activity they need. The result: diabetes is expected to cost Ontario nearly $5.5 billion in 2014.In recent years, urban green space is coming under threat, with the Toronto District School Board alone selling 66 sites declared surplus since 2008. We need to be smart about how we use underutilized schools across the region, and about how we engage communities to inform the uses of new schools that are being built. Different sectors need to collectively contribute to the optimal use and accessibility of public space.
  5. Increased density and weather intensity and the infrastructure needs of tomorrow
    As the GTHA densifies, there are additional demands on our infra­structure, which increased extreme weather events strain even more. In 2013, extreme weather lead to insurance claims of $3.2 billion Canada-wide and the December ice storm cost $106 million in clean-up for the City of Toronto. Quality infrastructure can help mitigate the impacts of extreme weather. However in Hamilton alone, the state of good repair backlog is at $3.3 billion.With the majority of municipalities’ capital budgets going to state of good repair costs, cities must use revenue tools alongside better infrastructure management to close funding gaps.The solutions to better protect us from future weather events and enjoying enough urban green space are connected. Solutions will require creative thinking around infra­structure priorities, community support, planning for the future, and supporting decision-making with data. Given low interest rates, investing in infrastructure now will help the region prepare for the future.

Thank you to our Better City Bootcamp partners! We rely completely on the generosity of our corporate partners and supporters, and are thrilled to work together to help tackle some of the region’s biggest challenges.