It’s no surprise that Toronto’s population has been steadily rising. The past four years have seen Toronto’s population increase roughly 0.93 per cent annually, with a population of roughly 6,431,000 in 2024. The economic opportunities and high quality of life that Toronto provides have made the city an attractive destination for immigration.

However, this surge in population has also put a severe strain on the city’s infrastructure. Various sectors in Toronto — such as its healthcare, transportation, and housing sectors — have been seriously compromised. Wait times in hospitals are too long, traffic is too congested, and housing has become too expensive. 

As we head into 2024, I believe Toronto’s most important New Year’s resolution should be to find ways to accommodate its rising population while maintaining its infrastructure. 

Ineffective healthcare services 

In recent years, Toronto has been experiencing overcrowding in emergency rooms across the city. Extended wait times have been seriously frustrating patients, with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children reporting wait times of up to 12 hours in 2022. In addition to posing a risk to patients who may not receive the timely care they need, the extended wait times are also affecting hospital staff. 

Erin Ariss, president of the Ontario Nurses Association, noted how nurses are being severely overworked in their attempts to manage over-capacity emergency departments. Coupled with bed shortages, some health professionals believe we are facing a medical crisis.

A major reason for this emergency room crisis is the passage of Bill C-124, which has slashed the pay of certain public sector workers, including nurses. With nurses leaving Ontario in search of better pay, patients have been suffering in greater numbers. 

With our rising population, it is more important than ever for Toronto hospitals to retain nurses to ensure better healthcare services, and I believe repealing Bill C-124 would be a good start. Progress has already been made on this front in part due to the advocacy made by unions. With the support of the Ontario Federation of Labour and over 40 other unions, Bill C-124 was deemed unconstitutional by the Ontario Superior Court. While the provincial government appealed this decision in December 2022, the court has not made a decision yet.

Too much time in traffic 

According to a new index by TomTom — a navigation and location technology company — Toronto has recently been labelled as the worst city in North America for traffic, beating New York City and Mexico City. The index states that it takes around 29 minutes for Toronto commuters to complete a 10-kilometre trip, while comparable trips in Montreal and Vancouver mark 19 minutes and 23 minutes, respectively.

In addition to an increasing population, Toronto’s horrible traffic is also due to poor infrastructure maintenance along important highways and downtown arterial roads. Although the City announced plans to improve traffic by modifying traffic signals in high-density areas, progress remains slow. 

Downtown is not the only area that is affected. Etobicoke, where I live, has also been seeing severe congestion along major roads, such as Bloor Street and Burnhamthorpe Road, which has frustrated commuters. All in all, it is unacceptable that Toronto drivers are currently spending roughly 199 hours per year in traffic. 

Skyrocketing real estate market 

Most notably, perhaps, is what I see as Toronto’s real estate market crisis. As more people move into the city and surrounding GTA, demand for homes has skyrocketed. According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, the average house has risen in cost by 3.5 per cent since October 2022 to a whopping $1,125,928. Townhouses and semi-detached homes have also seen price increases.

Rent prices in Toronto have also increased by 4.9 per cent in 2023 compared to the previous year, with the average monthly rent price for a one-bedroom property this past fall being roughly $2,614. These rent prices have generated unrest among many tenants in the city, especially considering that many are being forced to live with roommates as a means to alleviate costs. 

A major factor for these price increases is the labour shortage of construction workers. The rate of construction for new homes has simply not kept up with the population growth in the past couple of years. In an effort to spur development, Mayor Olivia Chow announced that the City Council committed $8 billion for the following decade to speed up development processes. The City’s HousingTO action plan for 2020 to 2030 also sets the ambitious goal of raising $33.2 billion across all levels of government in response to housing challenges. Although this shows promise, it has proven difficult to secure the federal and provincial funding necessary for the project. 

Overall, I believe it’s a good thing that our population is increasing. Immigration has greatly benefited Toronto by enhancing its cultural richness, increasing economic opportunities, and attracting investments. I do not believe Toronto has returned the favour. In my view, City Council needs to secure more provincial and federal funding in order to invest in infrastructure development and respond to this increased demand for city resources.

Rubin Beshi is a third-year student at Woodsworth College studying political science and English. He is the Local Affairs columnist for The Varsity’s Comment section.