G20 in Toronto hopes for potential but sees problems


Later this month, they city of Toronto will be hosting the G20 summit. It will be held in the downtown core and due the security concerns that come to mind when the most important world leaders come together in one place, there are going to be many inconveniences for a few weeks. People that live within the security zone will have to be screened when leaving and entering the area and many businesses will be closing until it is over due to the lower traffic and inability to operate. This may even force some small businesses that are on the bubble to close up for good.

All this effort is being done by the federal government to showcase Toronto and Canada to the world in order to boost tourism. The G20 is going to be bringing in about 3,000 journalists from 25 countries that have the power to influence millions of people’s perceptions and if they are wowed enough by the city then they might speak positively about the city and country which can turn in to tourism. At least that is the hope.

The obvious gamble here is that the cost of arranging such a complex summit in the core of one of the largest cities in the western hemisphere will pay off. An even bigger gamble is to add to that the money the city will be losing in opportunity cost by effectively shutting down a portion of the city for a week or more. It seems unlikely that this will pay off at all and seems a lot more likely to end up being a money loser that the tax payers will have to cover. Most people do not really care where these G20 summits are held or even remember the locations. Most people associate these summits with a meaningless meeting, photo op of the world leaders and perhaps some protests.

The Conservative government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are receiving a lot of criticism from the Canadian media and his opponents for costs and unnecessary displays that were made for this event. The most talked about issue among them is a $2 million fake lake that was constructed to showcase Canada’s dynamic landscape. However, the Prime Minister is comparing this criticism to that which took place before the Vancouver Winter Games that ended up being a success in terms of showcasing the country.

This event does not usually have a very big impact on tourism like the Olympics sometimes does and all this seems to miss a very important point: the G20 will be taking place at a time when a much bigger event is taking place which will likely steal most of the thunder from Canada- the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. No one in the media here in Canada has pointed this out yet and what impact it will have on the G20 and the government’s attempt to showcase Toronto and Canada when all anyone will care about are the countries participating in the World Cup and host South Africa. Moreover, bars and pubs in the downtown core have been looking forward to the important increase in business due to the World Cup and for some that period will actually be much slower for their business because of the G20 summit.

I don’t expect the positives to out weigh the negatives with this event, but hopefully I am wrong on this one and the country and city benefit greatly from it. We will find out after the June 25-27 events end.