Canada’s growing tech talent is drawing more investment to cities like Toronto and Montreal, but the country could lose momentum if it doesn’t do more to encourage industries to scale up, according to CBRE Ltd.

The country lacks “tech clusters,” dense areas of activity that contain critical mass for companies and educational and research institutions, the Toronto-based brokerage said in a report Thursday. Tech clusters like those in San Francisco and Seattle have helped propel those cities to global success but Toronto is the only Canadian city competitive enough to rank among powerhouses in North America.

All of Canada’s big cities are “tech talent” markets but each of them needs to expand their academic and research centers, talent pools, access to capital and infrastructure, CBRE said.

In Toronto for example, “for the life of us we can’t get a downtown relief line built,” Paul Morassutti, vice chairman at CBRE Canada, said in a phone interview, referring to more public transit.

The federal government’s $950 million initiative to encourage the establishment of business-led innovation superclusters and the success of MaRS Discovery District, a public-private partnership that has created one of the world’s biggest science and technology incubators are good examples of what the country can do to foster tech hubs, Morassutti said.

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  • Oshawa, Ontario was the fastest growing tech talent market from 2012 to 2017, jumping 71 per cent to 3,000 new tech jobs. Toronto led in terms of absolute growth with a 52 per cent jump to 82,100 new jobs.
  • Venture capital funding doubled to a record in 2017 from 2013 and has reached $1.7 billion this year, slightly ahead of the first half of last year.
  • Canada’s tech industry accounts for 23 per cent of office space requirements and 5.3 per cent of all workers.