On May 17, 2016, ULI Toronto tackled that very question at an event held at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Civic Action CEO Sevaun Palvetzian led a unique conversation examining the opportunities and the risks associated with an Expo bid. Her panel consisted of both yea and naysayers. Former Premier David Peterson, former Mayor Barbara Hall, CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham and Wellesley Institute CEO Dr. Kwame McKenzie all participated in the panel discussion.
Through a candid conversation, the group colloquially clarified common misconceptions and debunked stereotypes associated with the term Expo and over the course of the evening, a diverse group of ULI members and attendees began to understand what an Expo is and what it means for Toronto.
The event began with a short and powerful statement by Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. She set the tone with an impassioned speech highlighting her rationale for an Expo in Toronto through a series of facts. She poignantly focused on three key reasons to support an Expo bid.
Expo 2025 has the potential to enhance Canada’s brand as a global beacon for multiculturalism and pluralism.
An Expo 2025 effort will accelerate the work that needs to be done in the Port Lands to ensure good development.
And what seemed to resonate with the audience most;
An Expo will bring great economic benefits. Leading up to an Expo, there will be a great deal of work for the trades and labour sector. During an Expo, Toronto will see upwards of 40 million visitors enjoying all that Toronto has to offer. And after an Expo, Toronto will collect $50 million to $70 million in property tax per year, in perpetuity.
She also pointed out that an Expo is not the Olympics. It does not mean large stadiums of targeted development for sporting events. It means exposure, culture, boldness and branding.
Many leaders in the City of Toronto’s business and arts sectors are championing the pitch to bid on the Expo. Councillor Wong-Tam and Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Vice Chairman Ken Tanenbaum have assembled an impressive Expo 2025 executive committee. This group is continuing to work to galvanize support to re-join the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the treaty organization that oversees the awarding of the World Expos. The end goal of the Expo Committee is to receive multi-governmental support and present a letter to the BIE, officially entering the bid for Expo 2025.
Now, full disclosure, this writer is in favour of a bid, but considering the facts above, the benefits do seem to outweigh the costs.
Palvetzian stated that in our city, we tend to focus on the problems, not the solutions. An Expo will drive solutions and bring an incredibly diverse group of minds to the table to bring those solutions to life. An Expo will accelerate development of urban transit, employment and environmental planning and leave a major post-Expo legacy of a green and urban waterfront.
Dr. McKenzie pointed out that we have only begun to understand what an Expo could mean for Toronto. So perhaps we bid and learn more about what an Expo can bring to Toronto and Canada.