The former mayor argues that Toronto can use Expo 2025 as a catalyst for city building.
There comes a time in the life of every major city where one must look ahead and envision where we want to be in the decades ahead—how will we achieve future prosperity and a greater quality of life for our children, for youth, and for all the citizens of Toronto, Ontario, and Canada.
We have a unique opportunity to start building the Toronto of the future in the heart of what is now the last development challenge we face as a city. This is a key reason why I support efforts to further explore a Toronto bid for Expo 2025.
As we all felt and experienced first-hand, there was an unmistakable positive energy and “buzz” when we hosted the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Toronto can do it, and do it well. It’s a spirit and a legacy that Expo could also achieve.
I have spent much of my life seeking to improve Toronto’s waterfront. Collectively, we want to do it and we want to do it right.
The Waterfront/Port Lands site, unique among proposed World Expo sites, would be reborn, transformed by the catalyst of the Expo project, with hard and fast deadlines for needed infrastructure, housing, transit, and flood protection. We can agree that these things must be accomplished before any major re-development can occur in this area regardless of what or how we build.
Note that flood proofing alone is critical to the mayor’s SmartTrack initiative and for the premier’s Regional Express Rail station; it is needed for the future Port Lands re-development that Council wants implemented and that it unanimously supported in 2012.
The benefits of an Expo 2025 Canada go well beyond infrastructure and development.
A few years ago, former provincial Finance Minister Greg Sorbara completed a comprehensive report on tourism in the province titled “Discovering Ontario: A report on the future of tourism,” calling for a doubling of the tourism revenues by the early 2020s.
Expo 2025 Canada would significantly advance efforts towards that target and would boost Ontario’s tourism standing, profile, and jobs in a meaningful and concrete way.
We also do not have to re-invent the wheel: much prior work has already been done for our Expo 2015 bid, including studies, financial analyses, budgeting, revenue projections, attendance, site issues, community consultation, organizational framework, and budgeting. The economic studies showed clearly that an Expo 2025 would be a key economic driver. Expo 2025 is winnable. There is no single leading contender. There has been no Expo in North America since Expo ’86 in Vancouver, and the Bureau International des Expositions would like to return to North America.
Toronto also has one huge advantage that other potential bidders do not enjoy: of the current 169 member-nations making up the voting members of the Bureau des Expositions, Toronto is the only 2025 bid city with a community from virtually every one of these 169 member-nations. We have community leaders who can be activated, organized, and energized to help influence leaders in their countries of origin.
I hope that the mayor and City Council will support efforts to proceed to the next stage in collaboration with federal and provincial partners and not shut the door to Expo. It is important, of course, that we ensure that any existing and long-term commitments towards funding for transit and housing be protected and maintained.
Expo 2025 Canada is a major job creating economic project, one that aligns with the priorities of the Government of Canada, the province, and city in the areas of arts and culture, infrastructure, transit, waterfront revitalization, the environment, trade, investment, and re-engaging Canada in the global community. It is definitely worthy of further exploration.