Dr. Janani Suriarachchi
Now in his sixth term as Councillor, Michael Thompson is widely regarded as one of Toronto’s hardest working and most effective political leaders.
Under the banner of “getting things done,” Michael is known to his constituents as a community builder committed to bringing people together in a spirit of collaboration. He has led the formation of local community associations, youth leadership initiatives and Business Improvement Areas. To engage residents in his ward, he holds regular public meetings and annually resolves hundreds of local and city-wide issues.
In addition to a strong focus on serving his constituents, Michael’s commitment to developing Toronto’s economy is longstanding. He regularly draws upon his widespread network of business relationships to help the city to enhance business retention, promote economic growth, advance equity and increase private-sector employment. As former Chair of the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee, he convened an advisory group of leaders in business, labour, academia and the not-for-profit sectors to advise the city on its economic development strategies and priorities. The group’s Collaborating For Competitiveness recommendations were adopted in full by the city and incorporated into the city’s operations. Locally, he spearheaded the creation of the Wexford Heights Business Improvement Area and established a Job Fair that each year brought thousands of job seekers together with dozens of employers.
His active engagement with business has helped speed the launch of new business ventures, resolved business/residential conflicts and gained business participation in a wide range of community-building initiatives. In recent years, the international connections he has developed and nurtured have played a significant role in securing billions of dollars in new investment for the city, attracting major international conferences, growing city-wide employment and contributing to a more robust economy.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the city in 2020, Michael stepped to the forefront to educate, motivate and support city residents as they coped with unprecedented challenges. He held frequent virtual town hall meetings to ensure that residents had the best and latest expert information. Seeing pandemic recovery as an opportunity to redress previous equity failures, he convened a panel of diverse and creative leaders to ensure that the city’s recovery did not leave chronically disadvantaged groups behind. The recommendations in the group’s report, Building Back Stronger, were adopted by the city and incorporated into its recovery strategy.
Michael is a firm believer in the critical value of culture as a builder of strong communities and a major contributor to Toronto’s economy. When he first took office, he co-founded the Taste of Lawrence Festival, which brings together tens of thousands of people each year to experience local cuisine and performing arts. In 2013, he led the city’s efforts to create a new arts and culture plan that provided a bold roadmap for cultural vitality, strengthened arts spending and launched a new era of collaboration among arts and culture groups across the city. Michael spearheaded the creation of Toronto’s Music Office and served as the first Chair of the city’s Music Advisory Committee. He also played a key role in efforts to attract international film and television productions, and studio investments to Toronto.
Throughout his years on Council, Michael’s unrelenting drive for public safety in the face of increased gun violence ultimately led to the development of a city-wide Community Safety Plan, a GTA-wide police task force on guns and gangs, an increase in the numbers of police officers in the street, and a young offender program that diverts young people into jobs instead of jail.
Michael received his public school education in Scarborough and a BA in Economics from Concordia University in Montreal. Prior to entering politics, he earned his credentials as an entrepreneur in the business and financial services sector. In 2018, he successfully completed the Institute of Corporate Directors’ ICD.D Directors Education Program presented by the Rotman School of Management.
Michael is the recipient of the African Achievement Award for Excellence in Politics, the York University International Award, the Jain Society of Toronto Community Award, the Bob Marley Award and the Bob Marley Lifetime Achievement Award.
(Information provided by the Councillor)