'Don't Tell Toronto' billboards aim to lure people to the Forest City

The London Economic Development Corporation's 'Don't Tell Toronto' campaign has seen a surge in interest since launching billboards in the Greater Toronto Area, with promises of shorter commutes, cheaper housing and jobs.

London's campaign has garnered attention since launching the signs in September

billboard on a street
This billboard seen in Toronto is part of London Economic Development Corporation's campaign to entice people to move to London. (Shana Cohen/CBC)

A London campaign to attract workers from the Greater Toronto Area has been gaining interest since a number of billboards were put up last month.

The London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) launched its "Don't Tell Toronto" marketing campaign in February 2021, pitching shorter commutes, more affordable housing and jobs.

Since putting up the billboards after Labour Day, more than 5,000 Torontonians have shown interest in moving to the Forest City, according to Kapil Lakhotia, the president and CEO of the LEDC.

"When people reach out to us, they've been sharing more about their background, their interests and what they're looking for in London," said Lakhotia. "Our staff then takes the time to connect them with employers as well as offer supports in terms of partner employment and family resettlement."

Lakhotia said employers in the technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and food and beverage sectors in London have been experiencing rapid growth and attracting new talent is necessary to fill positions.

"As our region has attracted record investments from companies such as Volkswagen, Maple Leaf Foods, Amazon and others, we know what's coming around the corner in terms of the thousands of open jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities," Lakhotia said.

Man talking in front of podium
Kapil Lakhotia, the president and CEO of London Economic Development Corporation, says the city needs to attract more workers from cities like Toronto to keep up with a growing job market. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

London's population is predicted to grow by more than 200,000 over the next 30 years. The city has large demographics of potential workers that could fill those positions, said Don Kerr, a demography professor who teaches at King's University College at Western University.

"We're talking about labour shortages, and that's a challenge for our universities and colleges to meet and also for industries to train workers," Kerr said.

Statistics Canada shows most of London's growth between 2021 and 2022 came from landed immigrants (7,121) and non-permanent residents, such as international students and people with work permits (6,167). Comparatively, the city saw an influx of less than 5,000 people from across the province during that same time period.

With the city still in the midst of a housing crisis, Kerr said he is worried the housing market won't be able to keep up with the projected growth, especially with an aggressive recruitment campaign from cities like Toronto.

"That dramatic population growth is certainly relevant if we're not keeping up in terms of infrastructure," Kerr said. "I don't think we're even close to accommodating that growth right now."

man with grey hair in front of red background
Don Kerr, a demography professor at Western and King's University College, believes that London should focus more on the labour market we already have in the city instead of trying to encourage people from cities like Toronto to move here. (Western University)

As for the LEDC, Lakhotia said they are planning on continuing the "Don't Tell Toronto" campaign for the foreseeable future.

"There is no end date currently, but we try to stay relevant and contemporary," he said. "Once enough interest has been demonstrated, we'll switch over to a different campaign. We need to continue attracting talent to fuel that growth."


Mike spent his early life in Northern Ontario and Quebec before making London his home. He is a graduate of Fanshawe's Broadcast Journalism program and lives in the city with his family and three cats.