By Richard Holt –
On July 13, Gooderham & Worts residents listened to representatives from the Toronto 2015 World Expo Corporation describe the city’s bid to host the 2015 World Expo.
Lance Alexander, project director for the Toronto 2015 World Expo Corporation, explained the purpose of a world fair. “World fairs are an opportunity to showcase a theme or a set of ideas around a theme that is educational in nature, and is about emerging issues of global significance.”
He also talked of two other components—global cultural celebration as well as trade. “A Toronto world fair would include an international business centre to promote the integration of businesses from third world with first world. You really have to try to encourage the cooperation and involvement of developing nations. As there are not a lot of forums to do that we are developing a strategy to encourage developing nations to participate and we have thought about doing legacies relating to the developing world.”
The city’s preferred site is the Portlands.
Carlo Bonanni, project manager of the corporation, said that the original feasibility study had three sites: Downsview, a combination Toronto Island and Portlands, and the Portlands. “The BIE (Bureau International des Expositions) is looking at a site of a minimum of 400 acres. While each site could hold an expo the Portlands site was deemed the best for a number of reasons: transportation, long lasting legacy, location, getting people in and out of the site, and it’s a waterfront site.”
He showed a conceptual drawing of the site and spoke of its features. “There will be 126 pavilions: the majority will be taken down but there are opportunities for permanent structures. One example is a Canada pavilion that will remain as a permanent legacy for the city. Plans for it post-expo include a cultural centre for the city and a Great Lakes centre for aquatics.”
Other plans for permanent structures include community facilities and possibly a 500 seat theatre that could be used during the Toronto Film Festival. A cable car is proposed that would carry visitors through the grounds and swing over Lake Ontario giving a spectacular view of the city, though it wouldn’t permanent.
Much like the city’s bid for the Olympics local residents had some concerns. Distillery resident Bruna Nota asked how the Expo would be powered. According to Bonanni, “if we can use the Hearn (powerplant) we will – if not we will have to work around it. If it is a co-generation plant we might be able to use it.
Other resident’s concerns included the provision of more affordable housing units as part of site development, sufficient transportation to the grounds (the Expo will not allow cars on the site), proper sewage systems and whether the expo will make or lose money. “Expos lose money directly,” said Alexander. “However, tourism goes up, new development starts and land values raise. You can’t measure how people view your city and country after a good Expo, however, if you do it right there is a structural change in the tourism industry. You become known. It is conducive to attracting new investment.”
World expos are regulated by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), headquartered in Paris, France. It is the BIE who decides who gets the expo. A Toronto World Expo in 2015 would be a “registered” expo similar in scope to Expo ’67 in Montreal. Though the bid is being developed by the city it will be up to the federal government to submit the proposal in November.
“Our biggest challenge is getting agreement from all 3 levels of government,” says Alexander. “We have a legitimate shot of winning and hope people will get behind this. We are convinced it’s a good thing to do.”