Toronto’s most inspiring people of 2016: Richard Florida on Jennifer Keesmat, Toronto's city builder

Jennifer has quite uniquely helped make our city stronger, more urban, pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly and better planned. She is a natural leader who is very pragmatic and non-partisan, and she’s also a great role model. 

Young people especially resonate with her when she comes to guest lecture at my class of Rotman MBAs at U of T. She is always the favourite speaker — especially at a time like this, when Hillary Clinton lost the election, and many young women pinned a lot of their aspirations to her. Jennifer stands out locally as a leader who provides the same kind of inspiration to young Torontonians and young women.

Professionally, she has the ability to deal with council, the mayor, the development community and the neighbourhoods. It’s a challenging group of stakeholders, and she does it very well. 
She’s one of the few chief planners whose names people know. She’s made planning interesting and engaging for the broader public. That’s quite an achievement.

Today, the chief planner’s role has become very important. This is a role where she sees herself serving the public interest and helping to make Toronto a better place. Toronto’s ambition is to become a 21st-century global city. Jennifer is helping make that a reality.

She told me recently that the election in the United States made her want to work harder to make Toronto more inclusive, to ensure it’s a more diverse place and that our own divides don’t become worse.

She believes our city has the opportunity to be an example of a less divided, more unified and inclusive community — a Toronto for everyone. That’s an objective that our city and the world need.

Richard Florida is Director at U of T’s Martin Prosperity Institute. This is the eighth story in our multi-part series on the most inspiring Torontonians of 2016. Yesterday's featured Donovan Bailey on Andre De Grasse

The full index of our stories about Toronto's most inspiring people of 2016.

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