Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Introduction

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Introduction

Article excerpt

Comparing Montreal to Toronto is a longtime favourite activity of Montrealers. Long before benchmarking gained the popularity it enjoys today, pundits, journalists and others commonly tallied all kinds of differences between Canada's two largest cities. This exercise gave way to the catching-up ideology that underpinned the Quiet Revolution in the sixties. And, in the next decade, it fueled the more radical rhetorical discourse of the sovereignist movement which asserted that the straitjacket of federalism, as practiced by the government of the day in Ottawa, was a major cause of the decline of Quebec relative to Ontario and thus of the decline of Montreal relative to Toronto. Later, the debate over the comparative development of the two cities took a new turn as scholars recognised the importance of the continental dynamics that were inexorably pushing the centre of gravity of the North American economy westward. And even more recently, the debate received yet another orientation as scholars acknowledged, at the other extreme, the critical roles played by local and metropolitan governments.

This thematic issue of the Canadian Journal of Regional Science calls on the reader to look anew at the already old debate concerning the comparative attributes and development of Toronto and Montreal. In lieu of pursuing a biased dogmatic approach or adopting a partial theoretical framework -- the methods favored in the past -- it embarks on a more objective and comprehensive course that relies on careful empirical analyses of the data currently available for Toronto and Montreal. The analyses have been carried out by a multidisciplinary team of well-known researchers whose various backgrounds have enabled them to cover the multiple facets of economic growth and social development in the two cities. Because the initiative for this special issue originated in Montreal, organisers of the issue at first thought only in terms of a team of Montreal-based scientists. They quickly realised, however, that the special issue would gain credibility if several Toronto-based scientists joined the team, in enough numbers to achieve a reasonable geographical balance. A Toronto-based co-editor was thus added to the two original Montreal-based co-editors and several Toronto-based researchers were recruited to write papers on important comparative aspects not yet covered by Montreal-based researchers. At last count, 16 researchers -- including several geographers, sociologists and political scientists, as well as two economists and a demographer -- have prepared between them 10 contributions of which six can be identified with Montreal and four with Toronto.

Economy, Demography and Culture

This special issue opens with a comparative look at economic activity in the two cities. William Coffey and Mario Polese show that the economic structure of Montreal is similar to that of Toronto as well as to that of the eight largest metropolitan areas in Canada considered as a whole. The proportion of those employed in the service sector is nearly the same for the two cases at 78%. But the upper-level tertiary sector, consisting of finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) activities and services to firms, is substantially more developed in Toronto than in Montreal. Such a finding illustrates the trend evident since the early eighties in which the command functions of the economy have moved with increasing rapidity from Montreal to Toronto. In other words, the hinterland of Toronto has assumed a true Canadian dimension, whereas that of Montreal has shrunk to just the province of Quebec. Nonetheless, Montreal remains an important manufacturing centre, in particular in the high-tech sectors where its fabrication activities are first among all cities, tied with Ottawa. This, in turn, translates into a strong job market in the fields of science and engineering.

The overall picture, then, is one of two cities that share roles: Toronto, the financial metropolis and centre of strategic upper-level services for the Canadian economy, on the one hand, and Montreal, the manufacturing centre specialising in high-tech activities, on the other. …

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