London

These two Ontario cities have launched campaigns to attract GTA residents

London and Owen Sound have each launched campaigns to attract people who are looking to move out of the Toronto area.

Owen Sound is calling itself the Work From Home Capital of Canada

The City of Owen Sound has trademarked the name 'Work From Home Capital of Canada' and is giving away free pyjamas in an effort to attract new residents. (City of Owen Sound)

Two southwestern Ontario municipalities are touting jobs, space and nature in a pair of marketing campaigns aimed at attracting people who are leaving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Don't Tell Toronto campaign, driven by the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), targets Torontonians specifically.

"Look, we love Toronto, too," the website reads. "But let's face it, it's tough out there. Tough to find affordable living, tough to find a bit of green space, tough to find parking when you need it." 

Gerry McCartney, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce, says campaigns that overtly or indirectly appeal to people living in the big city are not unusual. 

"I don't think it's a bad thing," he said. 

"The retail prices of homes have crept up gradually [to the point] where we can't say it's the most affordable housing in all of Ontario anymore but it's still very affordable and very realistic." 

The price of an average home in the London region surpassed $600,000 in January 2021.

A screenshot of the London Economic Development Corporation's website, donttelltoronto.ca (donttelltoronto.ca)

The website highlights the city's 356 parks, roughly 7 million trees and a population density of 178.1 persons per square kilometer. "That's compared to Toronto's 4,149.5," it says. 

There's also a featured employer. 

"There are some 6,000 job postings [in London] and these aren't serving coffee or french fries at the local fast food outlet," said McCartney. "These are high paying jobs that require good technical, knowledgeable skills." 

Canada's Work From Home Capital

The City of Owen Sound, meanwhile, is taking a different approach. 

The municipality, a two-and-a-half hour drive north of London, has trademarked the title "Work From Home Capital of Canada," and is offering a pair of pyjamas to people who visit the corresponding website. 

"You consider yourself a 'city person'. But recently, all the things you loved about the place have disappeared," its website says. "You're paying a premium price to be near things that aren't what they used to be."

When the pandemic hit, Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy said real estate agents started fielding calls from people living in large urban centres who were re-imagining their quality of life. 

The City of Owen Sound launched this website Feb. 18, 2021 to attract new residents leaving big cities. (City of Owen Sound)

"We started to see a trend," he said. "They could work online from home and enjoy everything that's going on up here." 

That includes a vibrant cultural community, a recreational leisure community, and a "pristine natural environment," he said. 

The average price of a home in the region, according to the Realtors Association of Grey Bruce Owen Sound, was $549,056 in January. 

"If we have a few more taxpayers and residences, we of course can lower our cost per house and can spread those taxes across more people," said Boddy. 

The point of the free pyjamas, he added, was to inject the campaign with some humour. 

Boddy said it's "caught a lot of attention" and the city has had to order a second round of the fleecy pants already.

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