Go back to 2007, the last full year before Nortel Networks — once our largest private-sector employer — began its descent into oblivion. High-tech firms in the region that year employed an estimated 61,000 directly, representing nearly 10 per cent of the local workforce. That was the highest such ratio in the country by a fair margin.
When Nortel slipped into bankruptcy in 2009, the impact was huge. The region’s high-tech workforce dipped to an annual low of 40,000 before recovering to about 46,000 — a level that has been static for the past five years.
Given the massive shock of Nortel’s implosion, that’s actually not a bad outcome. But in the meantime, the rest of the country’s tech industry has caught up to or surpassed the capital region.
Consider that while Ottawa-Gatineau shed more than 15,000 tech jobs between 2007 and 2020 (annual averages), Toronto added 94,000 and Montreal and Vancouver bulked up by 25,000 each.
Toronto is now the country’s most tech intensive city. Last year 7.6 per cent of its workforce was employed directly by high-tech firms, up from 5.3 per cent in 2007. The capital region last year was number two at 6.3 per cent, but only just. The comparable ratio for Montreal and Kitchener-Waterloo was 6.2 per cent. For Vancouver, it was 5.9 per cent.