Would the World’s Fair have been good for Toronto? PRO

Expo would have shone a global spot­light on city, says Brian Ash­ton

Toronto Star - - Comment -

t’s Paris, Fe­bru­ary 2008. The Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the Bureau In­ter­na­tional des Ex­po­si­tions opens the en­ve­lope, the hall falls silent and he reads: “The host city for the 2015 World’s Fair is . . . Toronto, Canada!”

The prime min­is­ter, pre­mier and mayor leap to their feet in a raw dis­play of vic­tory and unity. In Toronto, the Rogers Cen­tre is bed­lam as GTA res­i­dents raise the closed roof. Fi­nally, Toronto, al­ways the brides­maid, finds it­self front and cen­tre on the world stage. The 98 mem­ber coun­tries of the BIE re­joice in the con­fi­dence that their choice will fol­low in the tra­di­tion of Mon­treal’s Expo ’67 and Van­cou­ver’s Expo ’86. Both were hugely suc­cess­ful with Expo ’86 in­ject­ing $3.5 bil­lion into the econ­omy, and Expo ’67 con­sid­ered to be one of the four best World Ex­pos.

World Ex­pos have of­ten been called “the Eco­nomic Olympics” be­cause such events can de­liver enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties to cities, prov­inces and coun­tries that host them. Toronto came con­fi­dent to Paris know­ing that a Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers study es­ti­mated Toronto 2015 will gen­er­ate na­tion­ally $13.5 bil­lion in new

IGDP, 215,000 jobs, $8.4 bil­lion in wages, and $5.3 bil­lion in new tax rev­enues.

But World Ex­pos are about more than just money. They chal­lenge cities to meet their po­ten­tial. They rob gov­ern­ments of ex­cuses and set dead­lines that must be met. Above all else, they cre­ate six months of a heady, dizzy­ing out­pour­ing of civic pride.

The BIE site se­lec­tion com­mit­tee mar­velled over the cho­sen site for the fair. What is to­day a derelict, in­dus­trial waste­land would soon be­come Toronto’s new­est wa­ter­front com­mu­nity.

Plans are well un­der­way for the fu­tur­is­tic grounds that will cre­ate ir­re­versible mo­men­tum for wa­ter­front re­newal, cul­tural re­nais­sance, worldlead­ing in­no­va­tion, stronger com­mu­ni­ties, bet­ter trans­porta­tion and stronger en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship.

Busi­nesses, big and small, across the Golden Horse­shoe also cheer for Toronto’s win. They know that Toronto 2015 will de­liver op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness in vir­tu­ally ev­ery sec­tor of our econ­omy. Whether to the Ni­a­gara wine re­gion, or to Canada’s cap­i­tal, peo­ple will come to ex­plore. Tourism num­bers will grow dur­ing the fair and con­tinue af­ter as Toronto’s in­ter­na­tional profile con­tin­ues to reap re­wards.

There will be op­por­tu­ni­ties for the con­struc­tion in­dus­try to build nearly $5 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture. The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try will shel­ter, feed and en­ter­tain mil­lions of vis­i­tors. Knowl­edge based in­dus­tries like bio-science, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and de­sign will take up the chal­lenge to show­case Canada in the 21st cen­tury.

Canada, On­tario and Toronto will never be the same. Toronto 2015 will put a global spot­light on the city. To­day’s an­nounce­ment starts a sev­enyear global mar­ket­ing blitz. Win­ning Expo 2015 is more than a six-month show­case and cel­e­bra­tion; it’s about help­ing build a city/re­gion in the years that pre­cede the fair and pro­vid­ing a tremen­dous legacy for the years that fol­low. What a sight to savour — laugh­ing chil­dren, awestruck faces, na­tions shar­ing — all on Canada’s doorstep. Too big a dream? It’s Toronto, Novem­ber 2006. Toronto Mayor David Miller en­ters the room, Toronto’s me­dia fall silent and the mayor an­nounces: “Canada will not be en­ter­ing a bid for Toronto 2015.” Toronto goes silent. Brian Ash­ton

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