COLUMN: Surrey, meet Mississauga

Two Canadians cities have striking similarities.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Mississauga, Ontario on a brief trip to that province.

The similarities between Mississauga and Surrey are significant, and it could be said that Mississauga is a picture of where Surrey will be in 10 to 15 years’ time.

For those who don’t know, Mississauga is the largest Toronto suburb. Located immediately west of Toronto, it is home to the Toronto International Airport, so almost anyone who has visited Toronto has been in Mississauga.

Its current population is approaching 750,000. Surrey’s estimated population for 2010 was 474,000.

Mississauga is ethnically diverse – as is Surrey. In 2006, Surrey’s population was 46 per cent Caucasian, 27.5 per cent South Asian and five per cent Chinese, with many other ethnic groups making up the balance. Mississauga had a Caucasian population of 49 per cent; South Asian, 21.6 per cent; and a Chinese population of 6.9 per cent.  In both cities, the number of residents born outside Canada is high – 30 per cent in Surrey, 46 per cent in Mississauga.

Mississauga’s background is somewhat different from Surrey’s. It was once a rural farming community, and gradually became suburban and then more urban, as a result of freeways, the airport and proximity to Toronto. The first big urbanizing factor was the building of Ontario’s first freeway, Queen Elizabeth Way, back in 1935.

Surrey also was once totally rural. The first factor in gradual change to a more suburban community was the opening of the Pattullo Bridge in 1937. The construction of the Highway 1 and 99 freeways in the early 1960s threw the gates wide open.

Mississauga has lots of jobs and a young population, as does Surrey. It has a downtown civic centre with a major shopping centre and city hall. It is encouraging more density there. It sounds very similar to what is going on in Surrey – with city hall relocating to what is known as Surrey City Centre. The presence of Simon Fraser University has made the area much more vibrant, and Sheridan College is planning a similar downtown campus in Mississauga, which is also home to a campus of the University of Toronto.

There are many head offices located in Mississauga – 60 Fortune 500 companies have head offices there. This is not surprising, considering that Toronto is the financial capital of Canada, and there is also the proximity to the airport. Surrey will likely never come close in this category.

However, Surrey’s two border crossings add strength to the Surrey economy, and the annual Surrey Economic Summits have served to give Surrey an even higher profile in some respects than its Ontario counterpart.

Mayor Dianne Watts is finishing her second term as Surrey’s mayor. In Mississauga, Hazel McCallion has been mayor since 1978, and often wins unopposed. Watts has started to build that type of hold on power in Surrey, but it is unlikely she is planning to be mayor for 33 years.

Transportation issues are important in Mississauga, as they are here. While GO trains provide good commuter service to and from downtown Toronto, the bus service is operated within the city. This gives Mississauga more control over transit, but on my visit there, I didn’t see too many city buses. Most people are dependent on their cars, as they are here.

Mississauga has developed as a very important city in Ontario. In fact, it is larger than many U.S. cities that front on the Great Lakes, including Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo. Its diverse population and strategic location mean it will continue to grow, and likely provide a disproportionate share of jobs in the Greater Toronto area.

Surrey’s future may be quite similar.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society doing ‘better than we were expecting’ amid COVID-19

At one point, the board thought it might have a donation shortfall of $250,000

Delta artist John Horton named to Order of British Columbia

Honour for significant contributions made to the appreciation and safety of B.C.’s coastal history

Man arrested in ‘after-hours club crackdown’ in Whalley, Surrey RCMP say

Police say they received information about clubs, parties ‘springing up’ at commercial properties

Former White Rock mayor, MP shares community connections via YouTube

Gordie Hogg aims to highlight those who’ve impacted South Surrey, White Rock

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Most Read