The past year has tested the strength and adaptability of supply chains, driven digital innovation and strained local economies around the world. Now, as we move into 2021, Toronto’s ability to rebound and rebuild is essential to our success.
Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and leaders from the City’s Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group joined us to talk about how they have approached rebuilding and revitalizing Toronto since the beginning of the pandemic, and what the priorities will be heading into 2021.
- Michael Thompson, Deputy Mayor and Co-chair of the City of Toronto’s Economic and Culture Recovery Advisory Group
- Zabeen Hirji, Executive Advisor, Future of Work, Deloitte
- Blake Goldring, Executive Chairman, AGF Management Ltd.
- William Robson, CEO, C.D. Howe Institute
Jan De Silva: (silence)
Hello everyone, thank you all for joining. I'm Jan De Silva, president and CEO of the Toronto region Board of Trade. Before I welcome our guests, some quick housekeeping notes. A recording of this session will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com, that's supportbusines.B-O-T.com. If your video is lagging, select click here to switch stream to view at a lower bandwidth. For any technical issues, click help in the bottom right corner, and to submit questions at any point, click on the questions tab to the right. Finally, a very warm thank you to our principal sponsors, the Globe & Mail, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, and ScotiaBank, for making this webcast possible.
This is one of the last virtual events the board has scheduled this calendar year. And while we have certainly missed hosting you in our event space, going global, or going virtual, rather, has allowed us to include many more people. By the numbers, we've hosted over 85 online events since April, attracting more than 11,000 participants. Today, our focus could not be more important. It's on building a better Toronto, and a better tomorrow. What will recovery look like in 2021? And we're incredibly fortunate to welcome Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson and members of his Economic and Community Recovery Advisory Group.
He convened this advisory group to reflect on how the city's recovery efforts pertained to research, education, the arts, and business. They just released a report identifying the steps Toronto needs to take in 2021 to ensure Toronto remains an economic powerhouse, and a hub for culture, art, and diversity. I'll let the Deputy Mayor speak to the report, but two themes that jumped out for me. First, we simply can't wait. Even with the promising news of the first doses of a vaccine being administered here in Toronto yesterday, Canada's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer expects it will take until the end of next year to have most Canadians vaccinated. This would make winter of 2022 the expected time horizon for a return to pre-COVID-like conditions.
Their report acknowledges that our economy can't endure another year with the status quo, and we at the board agree. We're working now on a way to safely reopen some business districts, and you'll hear more about that from us at later events.
The second important theme in the report, incredibly important theme, is inclusion. There's been a lot of talk about how the pandemic has focused more on women and diverse communities, forcing them out of work and into more precarious financial situations. If we want to rebound from this recession quickly, we need everyone having a chance to participate. It's not just an equality issue, it's an economic one as well. I know our keynote guest has more to say on these and other topics, so please welcome Toronto's Deputy Mayor, chair of the city's Economic and Community Development Committee, Scarborough Center councilor, huge Raptors fan, and a good friend, Michael Thompson.
Michael Thompso...: Thank you very much, Jan, and good afternoon everyone. Several months ago in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, the city of Toronto began planning for economic and social recovery from the devastating effect of the pandemic. While controlling the spread of the disease was and is our top priority, we were well aware that at some point in the ensuing months, we would have to switch from defense to offense and begin to dig in to ensure that we can dig our way out of this crisis. We have to dig in to dig out of the crisis.
Toward that end, the city established the Toronto Office of Recovery and Restoration, or TORR. TORR's job was to assess the damage and come up with a plan to get our economy, society, and city goverments back to normal. It may not be the old normal, but hopefully a new normal that corrects the longstanding institutional inequities and systemic weaknesses in our system. As chair of the city's Economic and Community Development Committee, I felt it was important to inform the process by bringing forward ideas from a broad social, cultural, and economic perspective, hence the Economic and Cultural Recovery Advisory Group was born.
I approached Blake Goldring, executive chairman of AGF Management, with the idea, and he quickly agreed to sign on as co-chair. With the help of city staff, we established an eclectic and diverse team of 20 volunteers that includes leaders from a wide spectrum of social, cultural, and economic communities. The team's mission was to identify priority actions to advance the city's economic and cultural recovery with an emphasis on equity and inclusion as core drivers. After several months of collaboration, the advisory group brought forward its report, Building Back Stronger. The report includes 18 specific recommendations focused primarily on four areas: economic recovery, antiracism and inclusion, workforce and talent, and arts and culture. The Building Back Better report has been approved by the Economic and Community Development Committee. The report's been sent to council, council will deal with it this week.
We have a recommendation that we ask that the city manager incorporates the recommendations from the report into his overall recovery plan that he's working on that will be brought back to council. You can find the report on the city of Toronto's website. Rather than providing you with a formal presentation today, we decided to open up the form so you can ask questions and get answers quickly and directly from members of the advisory group. I've asked my co-chair, Blake Goldring, to join us today, along with the advisory members Bill Robson, chief executive officer of the C.D. Howe Institute, Zabeen Hirji, executive advisor on the future of work at Deloitte. We will be happy to address any issues regarding our recommendations about COVID-19 recovery efforts or related issues.
There is one thing that I would like to stress on behalf of the advisory panel. We all believe that Toronto's recovery from COVID-19 meant our city has an unprecedented opportunity to address the underlining issues of inequities and systemic discrimination. As we move forward to recovery, we have an opportunity to address these issues. We are confident that not only will we recover, but we can in fact build back stronger and better than ever before. This is a unique opportunity that we must not miss. Thank you, Jan.
Jan De Silva: Thank you very much, Deputy Mayor. And again, as I said in my opening remarks, we know the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact to various parts of our community, and so the focus on dealing with underlying inequities and systemic racism, hugely important. I don't want to delay moving into the panel, so let me just reset for the audience. We've got Deputy Mayor Thompson, who chairs our Economic and Community Development Committee, convened this workforce; Blake Goldring, AGF Management's executive chair, who was co-chair of this advisory group; Zabeen Hirji, who's a good friend of ours and of mine, she's executive advisor, as the deputy mayor mentioned, of the future of work at Deloitte. She's also very active on issues of talent and the future of work, serving on the board of the Toronto region Immigrant Employment Council, and chairing CivicAction, a board on which I serve with her. So Zabeen, great to see you again.
And finally, hello to another good friend, C.D. Howe's CEO, Bill Robson. He's been at the helm of this think tank since 2006, written more than 240 articles, books on subjects like government budgets, healthcare financing, and brings a degree of expertise to the panel that I'm sure the committee greatly appreciated. A reminder to our audience, you can ask questions to the panel through the Q&A function to the right, and ask you do, I'll bring a few of my own questions forward.
I mentioned off the top, but the very first priority identified in the report is that to speed Toronto's recovery, business districts need to be safely reopened. Why is this so essential, and what will it mean for businesses if Toronto can get this right? Bill, can we start with you?
Bill Robson: Well, thanks very much, Jan, and let me start as is entirely appropriate by thanking you for the opportunity to present to this group, to everybody who's on this call, and to say that it was great to be involved with the advisory group. When Deputy Mayor Thompson and Blake Goldring team up, it's not just hard to say no when they ask you to say in, but it's very easy to say yes. And I think the framing for this advisory group was very good, so to your question, Jan, it's really about the ecosystem. The recovering economy is such a fundamental part of moving ahead on all of the core concerns that this group had, and you touched on it already in your opening, the opportunities for people, including people who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, groups that you mentioned, and young people generally, when you think of the areas of the economy that have been hardest-hit, a lot of it, hospitality, food and drink, various other types of activities, so much, so important when it comes to that first rung on the job ladder for people who are just starting out.
On the arts and cultural activities side, we have to be thinking about all of the arts and cultural activities. Some of the sort of headline ones, and then there are others that have less access to government support and generous donors. And we talk in the report, and I'm sure we'll talk in this session about various types of supports, but government money can't indefinitely replace what we all hope to get back to, in-person events, including those at the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the C.D. Howe Institute. But working together, eating out together, socializing, live entertainment, retail, all of that, the economic and the cultural recovery, future growth, it all goes together.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. And I know we were talking in the green room just before we started this. Just reflecting on the fact, C.D. Howe and our offices are in the PATH network downtown, and how decimated the PATH has been. Because in addressing COVID, we've got, responsibly, work from home situations, but pre-pandemic, 418,000 daytime workers were in our financial district, and we had over 1500 small businesses that relied on them as their customers. So those small businesses and their workforces, it's the food courts, it's the hair salons, it's the shoe repair shops, all of them have been so badly impacted, so thank you for that.
Deputy Mayor, with a lot of applause to you and to the city, the report talks about programs that have been stood up, ActiveTO, CafeTO, which gave, boy, such an influential lifeline to businesses over the summer. Can you talk about the success of these initiatives, and how can we expand them in 201?
Michael Thompso...: Sure, thank you very much, Jan. We had to come up with ideas to help businesses. Obviously we knew the impact of the pandemic, and so we had obviously been planning activities prior, and of course we were forced to put into action, as you talked a little bit about ActiveTO. So ActiveTO, what that was is an opportunity, along with Quiet Streets, were to help people to be able to socially distancing themselves and to create things like temporary bike lanes and so on in communities and in the city in general. What is really impactful, though, is beyond those initiatives, things like CafeTO in terms of responding to businesses in terms of how do we help the restaurant and the food and beverage industry, as Bill spoke briefly about them?
We were able to bring into place as well things like Shop Here, which is an initiative that helps to create online opportunities for businesses as well, along with what's called Digital Main Street, we've helped some almost 5000 businesses to be able to get online to create that presence, to be able to help them. Of course, we know that if customers are not able to get to those businesses, there's a great impact with respect to the business.
We also create an opportunity where we develop a chatbot where we had between 8000 plus questions and answers to be able to help individual businesses to be able to, yeah, feedback and information to be able to help them. We were able to also put together a BusinessTO, a newsletter to help some 55,000 businesses to provide information to them. And that's on the sort of economic development side. On the cultural side, we were able to help businesses by providing some $500,000 for the cultural recovery. This helped about 35 organizations in the city.
Along with that, we're able to implement a tax relief program to help venues with respect to, music venues and so on. Now, we know that because people are not able to visit these particular places, it is a problem now, but going forward, this will be extremely helpful. We also provided investment of about $1.2 million in terms of investing in the cultural and economic investment in the confronting anti-Black racism and dealing with this issue of systemic racism and the inequalities that we know existed. We provided features for some of our local artists as well, we created an opportunity where we had about 115 live stream events live from city hall, along with, we have introduced what's called ShowLoveTO, where we're partnering with community organizations, the city's providing funding to help those organizations. There's a whole stream of activities that we've included.
And of course, we introduced Collision, which is the tech conference that was brought in last year, and although we were not able to have it live, some 36,000 people participated in the event. A variety of other things that we've actually done as well is that we've provided Business Support Center, and where we're able to provide on-on-one interaction and rapport with business owners in the city. So we have responded greatly, and we will see more of those things coming forth in addition to that as you talk about new, reimagining how we can actually help in varying sectors, such as focusing on developing plans for the tech sector, entrepreneurship, expanding program as well in terms of manufacturing, and of course we know that restaurants and retailers will need additional help, and so we're working on a variety of different measures to help, and of course with respect to community and economic development.
But I would be remiss by not saying the following, Jan. I really want to thank the amazing administrative team, and led by Chris Murray here, and of course the leadership of Mayor Tory, and all the great things that we've been able to do with respect to our city staff, because they have risen to the occasion in order to respond to the needs of our community in so many different ways.
Jan De Silva: Yeah. No, hear, hear. I fully agree, and I think you reflected, Deputy Mayor, on Collision, and our restaurants. And just a fact for the audience, you may not be aware. 2019, our visitor economy, the number of tourists that came into the city, totaled 28 million people. So that's 28 million customers that have not been available to our restaurants, to our events. So this is, again, the criticality of the support programs that the city had very excellently put in place, but also a number of the recommendations that have come out of your report about how do we stand things up?
And certainly, small business is a concern, but as you said, our cultural communities, live entertainment, all of that is also impacted with the absence of a visitor economy. So the sooner we can get things on track, the better, but I know you recognize that. Diversity, a critically important core theme to emerge from the work that your group did, both in terms of business owners and the workforce. Zabeen, why is it economically important to keep that a priority in recovery planning, and how will the city promote diversity in the business and working community?
Zabeen Hirji: Thank you, Jan, and my thanks as well for inviting me, and what a privilege it's been to be part of this advisory group. And since we're on the theme of diversity and inclusion, one of the things I would point out about this group of 20 is the diversity of the group. It really brought together people from all sectors, business, government, academia, not-for-profits, arts and culture, multigenerational, racially and ethnically diverse, and the kind of committee and group, I think, that really shows the power of diversity, that reflects our city, and the importance of inclusion. Diversity's a fact, and that's what we had around the table, but our co-chairs really did a good job of creating a very inclusive environment, so that everyone could really put their ideas, put their voice, put their perspectives on the table, which really is the theme of the question, I think, that you asked, which is why is this important?
And as Torontonians, we know that in our city, more than 50% of people, around 52, identify as visible minorities, about 2% is Indigenous people, and in order to create a city that's vibrant, that's thriving, that's prosperous, we need to create opportunities where everyone can succeed. And that's that beautiful win-win. When individuals in our city succeed, our city succeeds. We grow, we create opportunity to invest in the future. So it very much is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
And what I am heartened by is we have had organizations, institutions come together from all walks of life, and really commit to tackling some of the issues that were there before, the issues of racism, discrimination, inequities were there before, but COVID has really illuminated that. It's illuminated that, certainly in health outcomes, employment outcomes, but even more broadly, just all the systemic barriers that are there. So I'm optimistic that we're going to be able to turn this moment into a movement, but it is going to take people from all sectors to come together. And the city is taking this leadership, but I really hope that it's going to inspire leaders from all sectors in civil society to join up on this and really accelerate the progress, because really, if not now, when?
So let me talk about a couple of things in the report specifically. And you asked the question, it's really around business owners and workplace that we've made recommendations. On the business owner side, we all know that, and you know very well, given, really, the mandate and the work of the board, is that SMEs are critical to the vitality of our communities, they create the majority of jobs, and we know that many of them have been very hard-hit. And back to the numbers of the BIPOC population, we know that they face more barriers, and they've required special support. The city's made some investments in Black-led businesses this year, and I think as the report aptly puts it, it's a down payment. More needs to be done, including investments to break down barriers for other equity-deserving communities as well.
The other really important issue that's highlighted here is access to technology and capital. We know, again, this is not new news in terms of the barriers there for businesses, entrepreneurs, not-for-profits. So this is a space where the city is using, and I think can really leverage the convening power that they have to bring together people from the different sectors, for example, partnering with incubators and accelerators. But again, this theme of collaboration and cross-sector co-creation really pops up.
On the workplace side, you talked about some of the impacts of COVID being different, more significant for underrepresented and BIPOC communities. This one stat, I think, really says a lot. The unemployment numbers from October showed that the overall, the BIPOC unemployment rate was 11.7%, and for non-visible minority it was 6.7. That's five percentage points higher. And in our city, more than 50% of our population is, identify as visible minority. So the economics of this are huge for us, and so how we work to really help people back into jobs, also recognizing that some of the jobs, skill requirements in some of the jobs will change as well. So the future of work is here now as we see more businesses will automate and the nature of jobs will change, so it really introduces a whole reskilling aspect here as well.
And finally, we talk about childcare, which is super important. And one of the things that I'm really quite concerned about is seeing women stepping out of the workforce, women reducing their hours. And something we don't see as much pop out in numbers, women turning down promotions because of childcare responsibilities during this, and we're at risk of losing and really sort of losing the progress that we've made with women in the, not just the workforce, but in leadership roles. And that's an area I know the city is going to take leadership on. But again, I think the partnership here with employers will be really, really important to manage that and ultimately, build a future of work that works for all.
Jan De Silva: Thanks Zabeen, and I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to the work that you're leading as chair of CivicAction, tremendous amount of work that you've been doing looking at systemic racism, and ways of putting solutions in place. I know there's a very strong working partnership between the city and CivicAction in terms of driving that civic action for change, so congratulations and that lines up very well there.
Zabeen Hirji: Yeah.
Jan De Silva: Continuing on this topic of the workforce, your report emphasizes how youth have been among the hardest-hit during the crisis, with an unemployment rate double that of the overall population. Blake, what can the private sector or city do to help set young people in their careers next year?
Blake Goldring: And I thank you, Jan, for the question. Very important issue, youth unemployment. And as you pointed out, youth unemployment in Toronto was actually 40% in June. Dropped to 22%, but it's double the national average. But it's really not just a Toronto-specific issue, it's one that actually affects all communities across the country. Youth are really, I think we'd all agree, the future of the country, and it's really critical that they be totally engaged. Think of how the pandemic's really hit them hard, though. Hospitality industry, recreation, the food and beverage industry. I mean, they've been really, really hard hit.
And those students who are leaving for a first-time job, just getting job opportunities to appear, the interview. We cannot allow there to be a lost generation of youth leaders. That's why as part of our report, we are insisting that there be a new Youth Economic Recovery Report, Table, rather. And this would not be just a regular table of just getting some people together and patching over a few ideas, it would be really one where we'd bring together leaders of business, unions, government, not-for-profit, and we would really see how do we best channel and work with the youth to ensure that they are able to be engaged with the overall economy, [inaudible 00:28:52] stage.
So for instance, what we were thinking of having a experiential type of programs, these would be co-op, getting internships, that's the best way for students really to become exposed and see what is happening in the workforce, and to have them become part of the broader community. We also believe that it's something which, frankly, when you look at a lot of youth unemployment and look at the population that Zabeen has just said, there are a number of minorities as well, which we can work hard towards getting them involved, and it's really an investment into our future as we address these issues of inclusion and overall equity. So I'll stop there, Jan, but we could go on and talk about the various recommendations.
Jan De Silva: Well, and we will go on, because your comments, Blake, are perfect to set up the first question I'm going to take from the audience. And this question is, are there ways to partner with postsecondary institutions to facilitate the economic recovery? For example, many universities have major co-op programs with exceptional students. Any thoughts on using these programs both to solve some of the economic recovery issues you've identified, but also to create a year-round talent pipeline that's giving these students experience? So Blake, I don't know if we want to start with you, Zabeen, any of our panelists. Deputy Mayor? With Blake?
Blake Goldring: Yeah, I think that's an excellent question. They almost answered the question with the question. These are really important steps to take, and in fact, it's right at the heart of one of our core recommendations in this area about youth unemployment, that we really do need to convene a table of really interested individuals, all stakeholders, really, to really address the issue of youth unemployment, to make sure that there is not this lost generation that I referred to. And it's a sense of urgency, we'd like to get onto it. And it's not just something just to deal with the immediate impact of the here and now of the pandemic, but it really is, as our committee really put forward, is an investment in the longer-term economy of Toronto. So it's not a sort of short-term fix, but really a long-term strategic plan to really use the diversity of this great city, and really plan and get people all ages to really participate and share in the prosperity.
Zabeen Hirji: Jan, if I could jump in, maybe, and-
Jan De Silva: Please.
Zabeen Hirji: ... in fact, I was just having a conversation yesterday with Wisdom Tettey, who's the principal of University of Toronto Scarborough, and as you know, Jan, he recently joined the CivicAction board, and he chaired national dialogues on anti-Black racism for universities across Canada, to really identify the systemic barriers in particular that are faced by Black students, and actually their plan is to do a similar thing with another underrepresented group next year. And the question really was around partnership, and that's what Wisdom and I were talking about, is how do we get employers and individuals more engaged? Because it's not just about getting, making it easier and breaking down barriers for BIPOC students and particularly Black students to enter university, but it's what's the support that's provided while they're in university, the mentoring, the, really, the, ultimately the sponsoring, where somebody can actually then, their sponsor can advocate for them for good employment after they're done, and how do you continue that even once in the workplace?
And so that's a partnership opportunity that organizations can certainly tap into, and one, Deputy Mayor, the university may actually be in your riding, I'm not sure. But certainly it's in Scarborough.
Michael Thompso...: It's just outside, but-
Zabeen Hirji: Is it?
Michael Thompso...: ... I have to say that ... Yes. I have to say that we have a number of programs that are ongoing now in terms of workforce development. Some time ago I had looked at what was happening in Germany with respect to how, the programs that they have in place, and it's just a massive program that obviously would require a complete transformation. But the pandemic is offering us that opportunity. At the time when I looked at it, they were saying, "Well, no, we can't do it because so much is required." Now, we have an opportunity to do this. I will say that we've been doing a lot of this work with the industry already. Of course not enough was being done, and I think this is clearly being illustrated as part of the gaps that we are able to identify. But it's important with respect to talent and workforce development and education and training.
I was talking to a mechanic some time ago, and he said to me, "When I started in this business, I would have all these tools, I would have all these books I would basically use." He says, "Now I need a degree," for people coming into this area, because of the technological natures of vehicles and automobiles and what have you. And I just use, as an example, my point to that is that we have to ensure that our young people are trained, and they're educated to be able to take on all the opportunities. Because we know that most of them will not just work one job, they will have a variety of different career options. So we have to train them for that, and it's a competitive world environment. So government and industry and all of the eight different agencies have to take an active role.
And Zabeen, as you pointed out, I mean, the city and cities have an opportunity to be able to engage partners. The labor organizations as well will play a tremendous role, I know that Mike York was a member of our group, and he voiced his points that suggest that there are more that we can do, and I totally agree. But we have to make sure that as we talk about these tables, Youth Economic Recovery Table, that we are really serious about ensuring that we can create the opportunity and advance it, measure it. We talk about ensuring that we are able to measure and monitor what we do, because we have to be able to have KPIs to determine whether or not we're successful or not. And some of the programs that we may be involved with may not work, and we may want to shift our resources to other areas to create that concentration of where it's working, to create that utility that we need in order to advance opportunities for our young people.
Bill Robson: Jan, I-
Jan De Silva: I will apologize ... Oh, go ahead, Bill, go ahead.
Bill Robson: I know you want to get to other questions, but Blake and Zabeen and Michael all said such interesting things, it's such an important question, I want to just say two things quickly. Creating internships, that sort of opportunity. Very early in the lockdown, we at the C.D. Howe Institute had an offer from one of our supporters to create some intern positions. Was that ever an easy thing to do. So this is something that people can do on their own, and I know a lot of people are, I just wanted to shout out on that one.
And with respect to the postsecondary institutions, on an optimistic note, this has been such a area of advantage for Toronto for a long period of time. It's one of the main reasons why we've become such a talent magnet. We do need to manage the safe reopening, and there are other jurisdictions that might be getting a bit ahead of us there. But I think as you look forward, this has to be a cause for optimism for us. Getting a bit into Zabeen's territory about the future of work, if it's now going to be possible for people to work at distances more easily, what we need to be doing in Toronto is setting ourselves up even more than we already are, and we're already ahead on this, as the place where talented people want to live. And if they're selling what they do around the world, but they're living here, that's good for us. So an optimistic note there from me.
Jan De Silva: Excellent. And just before we move on, I apologize, it's going to be a shameless plug for some work we've done, and I know the deputy mayor and I have had many, many discussions, but when you mention Mike York from Carpenter's, so many things that we know are likely to come as part of recovery, like stimulus funding. And we know we've got insufficient number of workers in the trades, in construction. So our ability to be able to help stream some of our unemployed youth into these opportunities, because there's dramatic amounts of technology, as you indicated, Deputy Mayor, at all levels of this, and it would solve so many problems. It would get the transit built, the housing built that we needed, and it's creating really great job opportunities. So to be continued, we're all a group of the willing here.
Let me move on, really interesting question. Do you see opportunities in new or non-traditional business sectors to help with the city's economic recovery. Who'd like to take that one? Bill, you're not on mute, so I'll maybe throw that one at you. Any thoughts on new or non-traditional business sectors to help with the recovery?
Bill Robson: Well, it's such a big question that maybe I'll focus on one that probably popped to a lot of people's minds quickly, and that is a ways of delivering services. In a way, maybe I'm just going on a little, beyond what I had said before. I have, like all of us who've been in this city for a while, I think we're just amazed at the degree to which it has become a talent magnet. I mean, one of the reasons we're so diverse is that people come from all over the world looking to Toronto as a great place to be.
And I think, just expanding on the earlier point, we think of the remote workforce participation and so on as potentially a threat to the downtown. There's no reason why it shouldn't be an asset to us. There are lots of reasons why Canada could be in general, and Toronto, right at the center of it, a place where talented people want to be in order to deliver whatever they are doing to the world, and it, even in the case of manufacturing, but certainly in the case of all sorts of services, cultural products as well.
And one of the silver linings of the cloud of this pandemic, I mean, here we are all participating in Zoom, it's no good for live music, as some of us have discovered to our dismay, but there are all kinds of things now that we are able to do while we live here. So that's a fairly high level comment, but I think it's going to be quite a profound thing for us, because it's actually going to play to one of our strengths going forward. People will want to be here, no matter who they're selling to, what kind of activity they're engaged in. If they can be here and market all around the world, then it's a total win for Canada, it's a big win for Toronto.
Michael Thompso...: If I could just add to that, Jan, just as an example, just yesterday I fielded a number of calls. One was from Panama, and the other one was from Guyana in South America, looking for training talent, looking for opportunities in terms of innovation, and companies who could help them to build through their hotel and their tourism sector, and so on. And just form an educational perspective, looking to have Canadian ingenuity and Canadian know-how, we have to remember that we are extremely talented as people in this country. There's so much that we have to offer, and as Bill talked about, and Miss Zabeen as well, and Blake, the ability for us to be able to be in Canada and to be able to work globally and to provide advice globally is extraordinary, and people are looking to us not only for simply resources, but for talented and innovation and creativity. We have to be reminded of this, and that's why we need to ensure that our young people are trained and are ready to be tooled up to be able to create opportunities and so on. And we have to then figure out how we can work together.
Obviously we know that by exporting opportunities, whether or not it's goods and products and services and so on, it's going to create enormous amount of wealth in our city and in our country as a whole. So there's huge opportunities, we have to harness that, and goverments can play a role. As you know, Jan, we've worked with you, the board of trades, and so on, and your team there regarding being able to travel around the world and to create international opportunities and investments. We are sitting on some huge opportunities that we've been working on here at the city, and I'm hoping to be able to, with the mayor, to make some amazing announcement going forward in the new year. Because I have to tell you, there's a level of confidence that still exists in our city, in spite of the pandemic, and it is because of who we are. The diverse population, the talent and the leadership such as members of the advisory group panel. And Jan, may I just say, your extraordinary leadership through this time has not gone unnoticed, and so we're just so delighted to have you at the helm of the regional Board of Trade, so thank you so much for your outstanding leadership.
Jan De Silva: Thanks, Deputy Mayor. I definitely need to send you a bigger Christmas gift. Anyway, but what I did want to reflect on as well, and just, I don't know, Blake, Zabeen, if you've got any thoughts on this. I interviewed Dean Stoneley a couple weeks ago, CEO of Ford Canada. Really exciting news about the electric vehicle production that's moving into our market. And he was reflecting on the ripple effect to supply chain, to the need for EV infrastructure to be built, all of this which was going to really upskill a lot of our automotive production and the research talent that's required for that, and, and, and. Your thoughts on activities like that and how that fits in with your views on new economic or new sector opportunities for workforce that have been displaced?
Blake Goldring: Perhaps Zabeen, if you don't mind, I'll just make one comment, and that is certainly in the world of Bay Street, and the world of pension investing, ESG is here to stay. That's not going to go away. And it is just increasing. So when you start talking about any sort of product, be it a vehicle or whatever, with renewables, this is the place to be, and is a great area for the future. So I would just say that. And last point would be on digitization. I mean, the digital world we all know is here, the fact we're participating this, even though Bill says music's not as good on Zoom or whatever, let me say that one of the things that we need to do is get our cultural community back on its feet, because it is a big employer. And one of our recommendations, really, is speaking to more training and allowing more voices, BIPOC and other, to participate in this great sector. And it will come back, because Toronto is a leader in the arts, and we're, our committee really are determined to make sure that that is a long-term growth vector for us.
Zabeen Hirji: Jan, perhaps one thing I will add, and it's more related to the prior question. As I think about small SMEs and opportunities, as we look at the changing consumer and citizen behavior, we talked about digitization and other things, but we're also seeing this move towards people actually being outdoors more, because we can't actually meet up with people indoors. And so what comes to mind is how, I mean, we have five, six months of cold weather here, how do we actually create, are there business opportunities to create more outdoor culture and other activities to really bring the city to life, and not just the downtown but across the entire region of the city where we'd get that combination of the economic value that comes from that. But there's so many other benefits that come from people coming together in these kinds of spaces and building a stronger sense of being Torontonians, and how do we harness that? This is the time to do it. Habits take, I think they say 100 days or something like that to form, so we've got that ahead of us this winter. Let's do it and become a great winter outdoor wonderland going forward.
Bill Robson: Jan, can I-
Jan De Silva: Well, and I'm going to roll us into our final ... Oh, sorry, Bill, go ahead, and then I'm going to roll it into final remarks from Deputy Mayor Thompson by setting him up with a final question, but go ahead, Bill.
Bill Robson: Thank you, and I think I'll provide a good segue to the Deputy Mayor. I wanted to seize on the point about electric vehicles, to make a point complimenting the city. I was impressed by the speed with which the city moved, and our report deals with some of these things. I mean, the new uses of streets, CafeTO, that was very commendable, and it showed a sort of nimbleness and willingness to experiment. So as we think about some of these new technologies, we weren't talking about self-driving cars, but a lot of that stuff, we've seen spurs to that type of thing as a result of the pandemic, and I hope Toronto will stay on the forefront of innovating imaginative uses of public space, being a little flexible with regulations when times have changed, because we've done well so far, and that's going to be very vital to attracting the new technologies and getting back to some of the things that we all want to keep doing.
Jan De Silva: Excellent, thanks so much. So Deputy Mayor, I'm going to turn it over to you for closing remarks, but I wanted to try to line this up. Because one part of the report that we haven't spent as much time on, we've referenced it, but it's the hard-hit sectors like the arts. And I reference that 28 million visitors in 2019 is a stat, I know Destination Toronto, our tourism and ambassador for the city is part of economic development. Your thoughts? Like I understand you've got playbooks ready to go as soon as we can get some reopening opportunities in place. Any thoughts on how we can use the ideas that Zabeen's raised, and ideas that already are ready to go to help hard-hit sectors like the arts and our tourism sector?
Michael Thompso...: So thank you very much, Jan, and I want to thank the members of the advisory group, and certainly thank you for moderating and sharing this panel, and thank you to those who are watching. Yes, there's a collective of things that we're actually working on, some I've already described. The one that we have coming forward is the ShowLoveTO, it's a partner program which is extremely important. We know also from our museum, even our museum sector, we're looking at virtual opportunities there, but also expanding opportunities there as well. It's really important that we recognize that the cultural sector, the value and the benefits. The cultural and the economic sector is basically the two-sided coin, if you will. Basically, they mirror each other, and one doesn't happen without the other.
We recognize the fact that they've been hard-hit, along with the restaurants and retail sector and so on, and so we have a series of [inaudible 00:48:32] that we're working on. But it's really important to recognize that it's not just the city working on these initiatives. We have, the cultural sector have been working really hard. I was speaking just yesterday with Sara Diamond, formerly of OCAD, and some of the work that she's doing, and next year is the year of art in the city of Toronto, and we've been working at that for some time. I've spoken with Claire Hopkinson and Toronto Arts Council and the work that's being done there.
What's also important is that they, too, recognize the issue in terms of bringing the BIPOC population into not simply addressing some of the challenges that our musicians and our actors and our performers have been having, but also into leadership role. And as well, we have businesses that are actually contributing to support us in order to advance these initiatives. So as we sort of migrate towards the full reopening, as you pointed out earlier, it's going to be a bit later than we realize, even though we have a vaccine. We have a lot of different portals that are open that we're actually working on and trying to address the issues around how do we help this particular sector? And I want to encourage people that once it's safe to do so, please do go out and enjoy our cultural excellence that exists in this city, and the performers that are there, and the people that are working.
If you just utilize what we call StrollTO, you can stroll around your city and engage in a variety of different initiatives and so on, all of the different facilities, whether or not it's Massey Hall, Roy Thompson Hall, and all these facilities, they're ready to reopen, we just have to be safe and ready to do so. But I do think, going forward, we're quite well-positioned in terms of how we respond in a safe way to ensure that we can open, and our economic resurgence and our vitality will take on that purposeful meaning, so that we will be able to welcome the 28 million plus tourism back to Toronto, as well as to bring new, innovative ways of doing things, and to capture the imagination and the spirit that is this city, that of creators, of innovators, and people who can get things done.
Jan De Silva: Spoken like the Deputy Mayor of Getting Things Done, which is Deputy Mayor Thompson-
Michael Thompso...: Thank you.
Jan De Silva: ... [crosstalk 00:50:52]. I am so sorry to report this is all the time we've got for this afternoon's discussion. Thank you Deputy Mayor, Blake, Zabeen, Bill. It's been such an engaging conversation. I think, Zabeen, I'm going to paraphrase something you said earlier in this event, I am very, very excited about the report you've released. I'm very convinced that this report, if it's the moment, it will create a movement. There's so much that is actionable, there's so much that touche son rebuilding stronger for everyone, so congratulations to all of you for the work that's gone into this report. We look forward to working with you to help activate it and bring it to life.
Before we sign off, just a quick note that's related to our discussion today. On Thursday, February 25th, we are going to be continuing these conversations with a daylong virtual summit called Reimagining our Workforce. So many important themes touched on today about how do we keep our talent, how do we attract more talent here, how do we compete with globally being able to work from home, but it's also how do we upskill and create opportunities for those who have either been left behind or have been underemployed coming out of this? So again, thank you so much for excellent work on that report, and bringing together such a very diverse group of thought leaders. It's just congratulations, huge applause to all of you. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Have a tremendous day.