BMO Commits $10 Million to United Way; CEO Darryl White Brings Together GTA Business Leaders to Tackle Economic Disparity in Communities

BMO Financial Group today announced a $10 million commitment to United Way Greater Toronto to encourage economic growth in the Greater Toronto Area, and launched an initiative to bring together business leaders to work with community and come up with break-through approaches to reducing economic disparity in the region.

“This is the next step in strengthening GTA neighbourhoods and ensuring that everyone has access to opportunity – regardless of your postal code,” said Daniele Zanotti, President and CEO, United Way Greater Toronto. “In the past decade, we’ve worked with communities to build Hubs, empowered residents to take action on local issues and promoted investment in neighbourhoods that are being left behind. But we can’t do it alone. BMO’s leadership with the private sector will ensure that we are creating inclusive local economic opportunities across Peel, Toronto and York.”

Economic disparity between neighbourhoods in the GTA has steadily grown to become a seemingly intractable problem. United Way Greater Toronto, along with its long-time corporate supporter, BMO Financial Group, today launched a concerted five-year commitment to find innovative ways to dramatically reduce the gaps in economic prosperity, and to create lasting inclusive economic vitality in neighbourhoods throughout the region.

“We have a long history of working closely with United Way Greater Toronto, most recently on their neighbourhood hub strategy, helping to make basic services available in neighbourhoods that needed more,” said Darryl White, Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “With several major infrastructure projects on the books across Toronto, we must now move from addressing shortfalls to promoting economic opportunity. The insight driving this initiative is that the private sector can play a catalytic role to identify and enable the inclusive local economic growth that can come with these efforts.”

A new model for corporate-community partnerships for building stronger neighbourhoods

In October, leaders from United Way, BMO and other prominent local businesses will begin meeting to devise solutions to the problem and propose ways to ensure that the fruits of economic development are shared in all parts of the community, and not just its wealthiest neighbourhoods.

“Rising inequality means that increasingly, GTA residents live in “have” or “have not” neighbourhoods,” said Mr. Zanotti. “To create systemic change and address inequality at a neighbourhood level, we have to create inclusive economic opportunities.”

“In our discussions, we asked the United Way Greater Toronto about the biggest challenge communities face – and how can we help?” Mr. White explains further, “What we learned is being at the table, bringing our network of resources to the effort from the very start – may be the source of greatest value for local residents. So we’ve asked Toronto business leaders to join us to identify the ways we can bring inclusive economic growth to these neighbourhoods.”

To date, 19 corporate leaders have confirmed their participation in the Local Economic Opportunity Leadership Table, including:

  • Darryl White, BMO Financial Group, Co-Chair of the Table
  • Daniele Zanotti, United Way Greater Toronto, Co-Chair of the Table
  • Ayman Antoun, IBM Canada
  • John Beck, Aecon Group Inc.
  • Jenny Coco, Coco Paving Inc.
  • Mitchell Cohen, The Daniels Corporation
  • Dean Connor, Sun Life Financial
  • Daniel Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs
  • Michael Friisdahl, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
  • Meric GertlerUniversity of Toronto
  • Jonathan Gitlin, RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust
  • John Honderich, Torstar Corporation
  • Michael McCain, Maple Leaf Foods
  • Nicolas Marcoux, PwC Canada
  • Marcia Moffat, BlackRock
  • Andrew Pickersgill, McKinsey & Company
  • Andrew Pringle, RP Investment Advisors
  • Kenneth Tanenbaum, Kilmer Group
  • Beth Wilson, Dentons

“Participants in the initial meetings are innovative, collaborative thinkers who will look at the problem of economic disparity through a different lens and what roles their sectors may be able to play,” said Mr. White. “The ideas and projects proposed will then be tested, refined and implemented, drawing on BMO’s initial seed funding, as well as additional funds raised from others who share our desire to be change makers and tackle this important challenge.”

“This kind of partnership is a first for United Way Greater Toronto,” said Mr. Zanotti. “We’re excited to see private sector thinking on this issue, and working with community, government and other sectors to bring ideas into action for meaningful change.”

Corporate partners will work directly with community leaders from across the region to implement programs locally.

While the range of potential solutions can be limited only by the creativity of the meeting participants, there are models of success in other jurisdictions around the world. For instance:

  • In the United Kingdom, the London Crossrail Project was designed in such a way to create thousands of jobs for unemployed and economically inactive residents
  • Local Cleveland-area hospitals re-oriented their procurement programs to support the creation of employee-owned businesses, such as the Evergreen Cooperatives which provides laundry services to the hospitals
  • In Australia, the state of Victoria requires its agencies to procure goods and services from social enterprises whenever possible.