Civic leaders - including ex-premier David Peterson and former Toronto mayors Barbara Hall and Art Eggleton - gathered at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday morning in support of a potential bid for World Expo 2025 ahead of executive committee deliberations.
Although there has been scant fanfare from the provincial and federal governments regarding funding, the latest city staff report recommends no further resources be spent on developing an Expo plan until financial backing is secured from upper levels of government.
The city says it will not proceed before commitments from provincial and federal governments, which in turn say they will not commit before council's approval.
Mayor John Tory said he is taking a “cautious and responsible approach," adding that he couldn't be a “flying flag in favour” until a feasibility study (done at the sole expense of a coalition of 40 private sector businesses) details exactly how much the project would cost. He added the question has been asked, but no definitive answer received.
Ahead of the executive committee meeting, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she was “open to working with the city” – but fell short of making a tangible financial commitment. She added the government would look to last summer’s Pan Am Games as a blueprint.
“Any conversation that I would have with the city about an event like that would be of the nature of the conversation we had about the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games. What are the legacy pieces of infrastructure, what’s the overall and lasting benefit to the city and province of a project like that,” Wynne said.
Tourism Minister Michael Coteau, who oversaw the Pan Am Games, echoed that “the decision to bid for World Expo 2025 rests with the mayor and the City of Toronto. Should the City of Toronto make an official bid, we will assess its merits and determine a path forward.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also been coy on the matter, saying in a letter that the federal Liberals are “prepared to explore next steps,” which wouldn’t come before “a decision by city council taking a position on this issue.”
A world's fair has the potential to create 190,000 jobs over eight years and generate $8 billion in the GTA and $5.4 billion in new tax revenue, according to the Expo 2025 steering committee. Of the $2 billion gain projected for provincial treasuries, Ontario would get $1.8 billion, with $600 million going to provincial municipalities. The project has received support from art, trade, business and labour groups.
Crusaders for a Toronto Expo, including former mayor David Crombie, have said such an event would boost the city’s profile and economy, adding that work and investment wouldn't ramp up until after 2018, when Ontario presumes to balance the budget. In a letter penned to the mayor, Crombie cited a 2009 report from then-Finance Minister Greg Sorbara recommending Ontario double its tourism revenue by 2020, which an Expo would help achieve.
If it comes to fruition, Expo 2025 would be the third in Canada – joining Vancouver's of 1986 and Montreal’s Expo 67. As it stands, Paris and Osaka are the only other cities discussing a formal bid for 2025.
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