Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, head of Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, is in Toronto urging the city to submit a bid to host Expo, the world’s fair, in 2025. Some say the event could build on the success of the Pan Am Games and galvanize government energy to jump-start Port Lands development. Others fear a costly boondoggle.
What were Canada’s previous Expos like?
Montreal’s Expo 67 is considered a massive success and key moment in Canada’s coming of age as it turned 100. The six-month “Man and His World”-themed festival drew representatives from 120 governments and more than 50 million visitors. Vancouver’s 1986 Expo was also a triumph, drawing more than 22 million visitors with a theme of “World in Motion — World in Touch,” and 65 pavilions showcasing themes from transportation to life in the Northwest Territories.
Where was the last Expo?
The fair in Milan, Italy focused on food, agriculture and healthy eating. It ended last fall. Early concerns about corruption and a lack of public interest evaporated. Most complaints ended up being about the waits of up to seven hours to get into popular pavilions. One Italian comic joked: “Couples got married in the queue, had babies while they were waiting and have now put those children into primary school,” Reuters reported. Political leaders declared it an important showcase for foreign investment.
What has to happen before Canada can apply?
The federal government in 2012 cancelled Canada’s membership to the Expo organization to save the annual $25,000 fee. While technically possible to bid as a non-member, observers say the chances of winning are slim to none. Gonzalez Loscertales told reporters he believes Canada must be a member by November to mount a 2025 bid. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government hasn’t yet said if it will rejoin. The province and city council must also endorse a bid.
What would Canada’s theme be?
The city and other bid participants would have to decide it as part of a bid process. The Expo organization says the theme must have specific relevance to the past, current or future of the host city and country, and is a factor in the choice of a winning city. Toronto’s multiculturalism as a model for the world is one obvious possibility. A York University student exercise included the suggestion: “A World Connected by Water.”
What are the potential benefits?
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says an Expo bid would help leverage funding from all levels of government to kick-start development of the Port Lands on the east waterfront. That would spawn legacy infrastructure, much as the Pan Am Games athletes’ village has become the Canary District neighbourhood. An Ernst & Young 2014 report predicted hosting would cost $1 billion to $3 billion but generate new tax revenues of $5.4 billion plus significant economic spinoffs.
What are the potential risks?
It could be a costly flop. Even successes like Expo 67 leave a mixed legacy including the utopian apartment block Habitat, now a concrete curio. Hanover, Germany’s Expo 2000 lured 18 million visitors, less than half the goal. Pavilions with no obvious lasting value were left to rot or torn down. The federal and state governments shared a loss estimated in 2010 to be $1.6 billion.