Day 2 | Fuelling the Economic Recovery of Canada: the Role of Business to Lead

Day 2 | Fuelling the Economic Recovery of Canada: the Role of Business to Lead

Businesses are the catalysts for regional economic growth. What are the key actions that different sectors (businesses, commercial real estate and different levels of government), can take to support local economies to recover in a strong, resilient and equitable way? How can they compete internationally and rebuild as places that residents, tourists and workers want to be in?

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe [00:00:05] We seem to be fortuitous here that we’re building on that session after session, and we just had a bunch of city employees and their advocates in the business improvement area in Edmonton advocating for how government can be an enabler, of everybody else to do what they need to do and particularly business. So this session is all about business and all about the leadership the business can provide. And we have four important advocates for the business sector coming in from the Chambers of Commerce in Calgary, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto. So if I could ask Deborah and Michel and Patrick and Jan to put their cameras on and then we’ll bring you into the screen here, and we’ve got a good chunk of time actually to talk specifically about what your chambers have been doing and what you see as the role of business going forward. You know, we did start just FYI, we did start last yesterday and we did hear from business leaders and we had a various of sector leaders coming in from commercial real estate and various components to talk about housing and transit and various things. But you’re really our first session to talk with people that see themselves as the stewards of the economy and how we’re going to contribute. You know, we’re trying to make the case to the federal government. We’re not trying. We are we’re making the case to the federal government that if you want the Canadian economy to recover, you need to be very serious and strategic and tactical about how you invest in downtowns and in the businesses and the commercial life that exists in downtowns. And I know this is the priority that each of you’ve been placing in your particular cities. And so we’re really keen for you to talk with us. And then we have, as you know, hundreds on the line here who will ask all sorts of questions, which I’ll feed into you as we go. The other thing I just want to remind people is that we are offering the summit in English and in French, en francais. So if you prefer to hear in French, just go down to the bottom right there and click on the translation toggle and click the language in which you would like to receive the proceedings so you can hear in either English and French. So Michel, tu parle francais if you prefer, you just choose whichever language. And if anybody else wants to. Deborah, I’d be dazzled if you want to speak in French, that’d be great. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:02:00] Not today. 


Mary Rowe [00:02:03] All right. We’re happy to have you speak in whichever language you prefer. So I’m going to start, if I can, just by going around to each of you and asking you to give us a kind of picture of what the particular challenges like that you’ve been experiencing and what the approaches you’re taking. So I’m going to end. Maybe one of you can talk at some point. I know, Patrick, you’re the current chair. You can talk a little bit about the Canada Global Cities Council and your effort to stitch together this national narrative and coalition of commerce leaders like you folks. And why that’s, why, that was important for you to form and how you see yourselves using it. We did have this morning and I think all these intermediary organizations, networks that exist across the country are so critical to making. We’re all making the same case. I think that cities need to be treated differently and they need to have particular kind of investment and policy leadership that empowers them or as the session immediately prior to you and allows them to enable the kind of life that we all want to live in the cities in which we’ve chosen to be. So. Deborah, I’m going to go to you first. And welcome to the summit and keen to hear you and the floor is yours. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:03:06] Thank you very much and great to be here today. Obviously, Calgary is in a bit of a different situation than the rest of the cities, the major cities in Canada because we started on our back foot in that when COVID hit. So we were already dealing with the fallout in the energy prices and what that meant. And so we still paradoxically have the highest number of head offices per capita of any major city in Canada. When we look at our vacancy rate in downtown Calgary, you’ll have seen that it is 33 percent of the office towers in downtown Calgary are empty. And so what that means is we have a lack of vibrancy. We have businesses that have been compromised because they relied on that industrial model of a downtown that brought everybody in during the day and spread everybody else out at night. And really, the foot traffic generated throughout the business day was what they relied on. So that’s a huge problem. What it’s translated into, of course, is a rising property tax burden for businesses outside the core because of the falling falling property values in downtown. There’s an erosion of community vibrancy, the financial sustainability. We’ve also seen community facilities like the Calgary YMCA, which is right downtown, right on the on the river has been closed because of its lack of, it just wasn’t financially viable to stay open. And so there’s all these pieces that we’re trying to figure out how to reclaim that vibrancy and what do we need to change to bring people downtown. Of course, we are seeing a startup ecosystem that is starting to gain traction, which is great. The University of Calgary has been ranked one of the top five research universities in the country. Now, as of this week, we’re first and startups out of the university, so that means we’re contributing to economic diversification and creating businesses. And we are the third most diverse city in Canada. But it’s still the downtown remains very challenged, and we have to figure out what we do with those empty office towers. There are initiatives to convert them to living spaces, but there has to be more to it. It has to become a neighborhood that people want to live, work and play and have the services and amenities that are available to other people across the country, I would argue. We’re behind Toronto, we’re behind Montreal because we don’t have that, let’s say, post-secondary presence downtown that really adds to the vibrancy of a downtown core. So for us, it’s how do we reinvest? How do we connect with it from a transit perspective? How do we revitalize and how do we make sure that we have different pieces as part of our downtown that contribute to the vibrancy? And take us away from that industrial model that we relied on for so long. 


Mary Rowe [00:05:37] It’s interesting that you said, you know you were behind. I mean, in some ways you were ahead, you know? 


Deborah Yedlin [00:05:41] Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, in a way, we’re already working on this for a while. But still, as you can see, though, because we have, you know, seven years on, arguably we’re still trying to figure it out. So it’s not an easy. There’s no easy fix here, and it has caused deliberate investment and it’s not cheap. 


Mary Rowe [00:05:57] Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. Thom Mahler was just on and talking about the downtown Calgary strategy, and I feel like, you know, lots of communities were looking quite longingly at what the municipal staff of, you know, put a line in the sand and said, this is what we’re going to do. So it is not cheap. And you’re right, and this is part of, I think, our challenge and I’m assuming you’re all going to try to call for this is we need governments to understand that even when the lockdown is lifted, there’s still going to be residual effect. And there are all sorts of pre-existing conditions that were just exacerbated through Covid that are still there. And and now we’re going to have to come to terms with it. Then Michel, can I go to you next? In terms of people who are envious, a lot of people are envious of the unique relationship that Montreal has with the province of Quebec and how you have been able to actually form a bunch of partnerships and do some really ambitious things. Again, pre-covid with the city and with different kinds of animation of this. I mean, we all look at the Quartier des Spectacles and just think it’s the most fantastic thing. But why don’t you talk to us a little bit about what your focus has been and what the chamber’s focus has been in Quebec, in Montreal and your thoughts? And then I’ll carry on with the other two, and then we’ll have a collective conversation over to you, Michel. 


Michel LeBlanc [00:07:04] Ok. Well, clearly. And to link with what Deborah said. I don’t know if we were ahead or lacking when the other cities, but we have decades of sometimes and the last 10 years were good for Montreal. So we were on a momentum when the pandemic hit Montreal downtown was doing very well. Lots of towers being built, the occupation rate was getting higher, so it was very positive. Pandemic’s hit and we took a few months and then we launched an initiative which was called We launched Montreal, supported by the federal government and the provincial government. And what we wanted to do at the time was to look at each economic sector with the belief that the dynamics would be very different. Obviously, if you, the airlines industry, the tourism industry versus the IT industry. Clearly, the pandemic was having different impacts, and at the time we decided we would treat the downtown as an economic sector of itself. And we kind of disciplined Quebec government and everyone to say ok, let’s look at the downtown as an economic sector. So if you’re going to focus on Earth space or life science sector, you have to have a policy, a strategy for the downtown and with the Quebec government. We were very successful. Clearly, the minister understood right away. So in March last year, the government of Quebec agreed to have a downtown strategy committed twenty five million to that strategy of that money. The chamber received eight point five million dollars to launch a series of initiative, and I can get into the details if you want. But clearly was to mobilize everyone, the employers, the building owners, everyone to say, ok, what should we do to bring back the workers? And when we launched it, the occupation of the number of workers coming downtown was below 10 percent, and over the summer, up to November, we were raising back to sixty one percent, coming back to the workplace downtown of the city with hybrid model. Not all the time. It was having a positive impact on, of course, retail stores. Plus, in the fall we had the students coming back. The university students, also foreign students coming back one hundred thousand of them, so that had a positive impact. Then comes Omnicron, shuts everything down. We’re back to below 10 percent, probably around five percent of presence of work of downtown. We are right now in the midst of planning all the the steps that we will undergo in the spring, and we have money to do that. We have the eight point five million that I mentioned and we’re discussing with the provincial government for a phase two, a multimillion dollar phase two. That what’s lacking and we’ll come back to that is is federal support for the downtown. Of course the federal approach has been to have all these aid measures and then to look at sectors that traditional sectors. So they will reply that we’re helping restaurants or that we’re helping the tourist sector. But I want to have the federal government involved with a downtown strategy all across Canada. Also from Montreal, we can come back on that if you want. 


Mary Rowe [00:10:20] Thanks, Michel. I mean, again, I think just to signal to people, there many people in the chat who are contributing here, and I just want to re-emphasize that, you know, we’re going, will continue to be in conversation with everybody about these topics. And I think this is important that we create these networks and sustain them. Just as you were suggesting, Michel, that it has to be a collaboration and the question is going to be what is the role of federal government? And that’s what I’m going to come back and ask you each about. But just to reassure people, we’re not losing anybody’s phone number and there are other ways for us to continue to be in communication with one another, including this Canada Global Cities Council. So maybe, Patrick, you could speak to that. Tell us about your experience looking at I can see your lovely view behind you in Halifax and also the CGCC if you want to just speak a little bit about that. 


Patrick Sullivan [00:11:02] Yeah, absolutely Mary, it’s actually kind of nice to see cars running behind me and not as many cars as there should be, obviously, but it’s great to be able to join you and really enjoying the sessions that you’ve been putting on yesterday and today just to give you a little bit of background. Like all Canadian provinces and major cities, both in Canada around the world, the pandemic has had a tough effect, very, very grave effect on our business community. And I do hate to have benefited a little bit from the misfortunes of some of my colleagues. But last year, Halifax was actually the second fastest growing city in Halifax. So we’ve had some of that movement. In fact, as I look at Jan, my neighbors on each side of me have both recently arrived from Toronto. So not good for Jan, not good for Toronto. But, but obviously good. Good for Halifax. And well, Halifax was envy. Nova Scotia was envy for its COVID response with some of the strictest restrictions in the country. It’s been very tough. 90 percent of businesses are still reporting lower sales. 80 percent of hotels are, have desperate numbers. Business travelers, which was over 500,000 room nights, nothing compared to again, Toronto, Montreal or likely Vancouver. But 500,000 room nights in Halifax is a lot of room nights that simply disappeared in March of 2020. I want to jump in rather than jumping, I guess telling you a little bit more about Halifax, tal.k a little bit about the CGCC. And although I’m the perhaps I’m the current chair, Michel and I are transitioning now. So Michel is about to become the chair, and Jan is the previous chair. And in fact, if we go back, Calgary had the chairmanship a long time ago, so a few years ago, not that long. So the CGCC, are the nine largest chambers of commerce and and boards of trade across the country. We gathered together to advocate for cities to talk about what cities should do and how cities can, cities are the the economic engine of our country in Canada. You know, greater than 50 percent of the GDP greater than 50 percent of the population are in the nine cities that are in the CGCC. And although there is a rural caucus in parliament, there is no urban caucus in parliament to advocate for cities. So we felt that getting together, working together and speaking to our friends in the federal government particularly could really help us to to move forward. I want to talk about one other thing that we’ve done in Halifax, and that is we’ve been very proactive from the start, creating a group that we called the Nova Scotia Business Labor Economic Coalition that gathered leaders from business improvement districts, all sectors and industries, government policymakers to ensure quick and relevant changes to policies, introduce provincial programs and supports, and provide a common space for the exchange of issues, information and feedback. And Mayor Savage alluded to that when he was speaking. He mentioned the 11 o’clock meeting he was attending. And that was what we affectionately called NS. Today was our one hundred and twenty ninth meeting, and I’m really getting tired of it. I’d like to, you know, we’d like to get out of this. We’d like to move forward. And I think to speak specifically about some of the things that are needed. The federal government needs to continue the activation of downtowns. It needs to be targeted to groups like chambers or support from the bid’s, the business improvement districts, who can immediately make Halifax and other downtown core an attractive and easy place for people to visit. And most importantly, I suppose they need to help revive that 500,000 room nights that were missing in Halifax from business travel and really help support tourism across the country. I’m traveling. I expect to travel to every one of the cities that you see on the screen today. And I really hope that that others will start to travel some of these cities as well. 


Mary Rowe [00:15:07] It’s very hopeful of you, Patrick, I appreciate that I think that, you know, one of the reasons that we want to talk with you, folks and Jan your next, is just to talk, you know, is to talk about the unique role that business can play. It’s maybe not as prevalent in our Canadian tradition, but those of us that have worked in the United States are more familiar with how and sort of the recovery efforts in the U.S. business is a is a very, very prominent voice at the regional level in many of the what they call metros, what they call, you know, and they’re expected to play that role and they do. So interesting for me to hear from you, folks. The efforts that you’re trying to make to do that and and whether Canada’s ready to understand that, that you could do that. Jan is the Toronto Region Board of Trade has done a lot of this sort of stepping into domains that people might not have expected the business community to come into. And there you are, leading some processes. So do you want to comment a little bit about what you’re experiencing in Toronto, what the priorities are for you, for the region? 


Jan DeSilva [00:16:03] Sure. Thanks Mary. Bonjour a tout le monde. I’m delighted to be here. I know Goldy Hyder off the top was warning us to be careful about this work from home phenomenon of being a North American thing and not losing sight of the fact we compete with Asia and Europe. And that’s been very much what’s been driving us throughout the pandemic. We’ve been paying very, very close attention to what’s happening as global best practices. So let me just share some of our lessons. And as we navigate the fifth wave of the pandemic in Toronto, I think the key message I want to share is that reopening is simply not an on off switch. Our recovery is not possible if recurring temporary lockdowns are the only approach being deployed by governments. Downtown Toronto is Canada’s largest employment zone. We share a lot of the same pain points that Deborah mentioned from Calgary. Pre-pandemic, 550,000 workers commuted daily and where the customers are more than 17,000 small businesses in our downtown. The first lockdowns saw 85 percent of these workers transitioned to working remotely, and that triggered a 77 percent drop in spending at those small businesses. And despite various reopening plans since then, a very small percentage of those workers have been back to our downtown in the past two years of the pandemic. Our board’s Economic Blueprint Institute is tracking returned to office. By January 2021, only five percent of workers had returned to downtown offices. By November 2021. That number had grown from five percent to only 31 percent. And then, as we all know, we went into yet another temporary lockdown. Our downtown small businesses are bearing the brunt of a stop start stop policy mindset on business activities and government stimulus. Our businesses are amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars of repayable debt because, as our data proves, reopening simply is not an on switch for them. So two years in, we need to start treating the pandemic as a continuing condition and applying best practices globally around sustainable mitigation and not just turning to temporary lockdowns. So what we’ve been doing in Toronto is a continuation of efforts we’ve put in place over the past 18 months. Is pushing for the adoption of sustainable mitigations, there are four that we’ve been calling on since the first wave hit us. Speaking to federal and provincial governments about the need for sustainable backstop funding for our public transit systems, we have stood up a program with our financial district BIA, Mayor Tory, large employers and building owners to put coordinated programing and communications in place to rebuild worker confidence in public transit. Returning to the office and returning to our downtown merchants, that needs to continue and that needs to be funded on a bigger scale. Michel, I might be giving you a call for some assistance in that regard. You were so successful. And finally, not to lose sight of the fact that all the problems we had pre-pandemic about housing affordability, homelessness, those issues are still major issues that need to be tackled as we’re thinking about recovery. So that’s just to look at how we’re experiencing this in Toronto and some of the things that we’re pushing forward on. Really, look forward to the rest of this discussion, Mary and sharing with my colleagues on the Canadian Global Cities Council about the things we can be doing together to really make a difference as we move forward. 


Mary Rowe [00:19:39] Thank you. And, you know, in the old days, we thought that business just cared about business. You know, like we just thought you were out there running around figuring out how to print money. And I don’t know if we, I mean, I’m of a particular generation. I don’t know if there was an expectation that you would actually be a leading stakeholder voice about the quality of the built environment or the quality of life. And I think making that shift, you know, we’ve gone through this extraordinary period of time where public health has been the dominant narrative. It’s hard to imagine anything good to say about a possible war in Europe. But I will say that it seems to be the only thing that pushed called COVID off the front page. Was the fact that we had troops and we have forces lining up on the border, you know, and I remember thinking, Wow, we’ve had public health be the only narrative really for almost two years, and I’m interested in how much responsibility the business community could take for that. To say there is actually a variety of voices because I feel for the mayors and I feel obviously for the provincial leaders as well, who have felt that their priority needs to be keeping people safe and healthy. And it’s hard to argue with that, right? But I wonder if we haven’t had a sophisticated a narrative to be able to say there might have been a different way to do it because the result is this extraordinary polarization we have now where some people think it was that we’ve gone too far and other people think we didn’t go far enough. You know, so from your perspective in terms of bringing business leadership into this. Deborah, you’ve had a lot longer in Calgary. Well you’ve had a lot longer. You know, you’ve had to balance the oil and gas sector with calls to have a more diverse economy, for instance, and also calls for a cleaner economy. And you’re finding a way to navigate all those voices. Is there something we can learn from you about how to have this conversation, as Jan suggested going forward, because behind Covid will be something else. Right. And we are obviously not sustainable to just go into lockdowns. That isn’t going to be the way to future so. Deborah, what’s your insight in terms of how you’ve done it over eight years, nine years? 


Deborah Yedlin [00:21:53] Well, I don’t. I think we’re still on that journey, right? And that’s that’s the challenge. So what we’ve what we’ve done has been very deliberate in terms of from a pivot standpoint, from an economic standpoint, we’ve been very deliberate in terms of how we are attracting business and diversifying the economy. And we’ve had a record year in Alberta for attracting venture capital. We just announced the University of Calgary announced this morning that there’s going to be a $25 million investment in brain health with Azrieli Foundation. So we’re really starting to, we’re starting to move forward from that diversification piece. But it has been, it’s man to man defense. It’s base hits. It’s there’s not one silver bullet. Truly, I love sports, but it’s really been a lot of hard work on the part of the Calgary economic development, the chamber working with the city and making sure that and then creating a fund called the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund to actually help attract companies to come and set up their offices in Calgary.


Mary Rowe [00:22:48] So it’s been a it’s been a partnership. And this fund and this fund is funded by the government.


Deborah Yedlin [00:22:54] It is. It’s a city fund. 


Mary Rowe [00:22:56] It’s city funded. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:22:56] Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund and it has brought in accelerators like Thrive, which is a tech accelerator, has helped companies consolidate space in Calgary. It has made some very strategic investments to bring to set up programs, with a company called Altaml, to teach machine learning to help upgrade, reskill and upskill. So there’s been a number of different approaches to where they’ve deployed capital, and they’re still continuing to do that. It’s very it’s been very, very, very successful and certainly one of the things that we’ve been very pleased with, how it’s it’s supported the diversification efforts. 


Mary Rowe [00:23:34] Well, just, you know, this is the Calgary show today here it’s at the at the container of history because every session people are talking about, look at Calgary, look at Calgary, because you also did have done some very interesting things on mental health. And I think this is, the interesting thing is it can’t just be one thing which is part of what Jan was suggesting with the Blueprint Institute. You have to look at a whole bunch of things. Michel, you have a unique relationship, obviously, with the government of Quebec. Do you have particular insights about how you’ve been able to build this cross-sectoral effort, based in Montreal but with different partners? Have you got thoughts on how that’s worked? Well? 


Michel LeBlanc [00:24:15] Clearly, the first word and I think today it’s meaningful was mobilization. When we spoke with the provincial government, we said, ok, now every business in town will be looking at its own solution for its own issues, whether it’s bringing back the employees, finding the customers going international. And we said, we need to share the best practices as one business will start is the deployment strategy or bringing back the employees and the leader of the business community we’re extremely, extremely available whenever I call, and they would return the call immediately saying, ok I want to do my share for the downtown. So the provincial government understood clearly that if we can harness the energy of the business sector, things will fall back into place, so that was the first message we need to mobilize the private sector. And secondly, it was we will need to speak to the employee themselves and not only, not each company speaking to its own employees, but globally, because we want their family to feel comfortable if they come back to the downtown. We will want them to feel comfortable to get back into the public transit system. We will want them eventually to realize that coming back to downtown might be a bit different than before. So we told the provincial government help us stimulate the creation of new projects that would be in the private zones, not on the streets, but clearly in the lobbies of big towers in the underground system. And how do you say to the worker, if you come back, you will feel something different. You will find something different. And I will say lastly, we thought about what will be changed forever with the downtown. And one thing that came and people agreed to is, it will be less about neck ties and more about running shoes. We will have a downtown with more start ups, younger crowd that thought downtown is not for me, it’s too corporate or it’s too expensive. 


Mary Rowe [00:26:20] Oh, that’s interesting. 


Michel LeBlanc [00:26:21] With the availability of space, we told the government we will try and put oil in the system so that it will be very easy for small start ups or even businesses in the regions that always thought maybe I should have a foot in the downtown Montreal but didn’t know how or found it’s too expensive. How can we make sure that the downtown after the pandemic is a new gathering place for a new type of customers and the provincial government liked that. So they said ok, it’s not only about trying to save what can be saved, but it’s about projecting in the future the type of downtown we want. And from then on, I guess everybody embarked and the city also has its own view of what it can do in the public space. And we’re working with an organization called Tourist Memorial, whose goal is to make sure that within Quebec, Quebeckers wants to come to Montreal in the downtown. Even Montrealers will want to come to the downtown and eventually, of course, in due time, international mobilization of tourism. So we’re working on all access and it’s about mobilizing. It was also about giving hope, making sure that businesses, small owners, would find, you know, lights at the end of the tunnel, even if it seemed to be very small, very far away. 


Mary Rowe [00:27:39] I can see Patrick just thrilled with the idea that neck tie might go by the board there. And you might be into the running shoes next Patrick. And Michel, in terms of shocks, though, and what Deborah is talking about, I mean, Montreal went through an extraordinary economic shock 40 years ago, right? And I’ve written about this a bit and I reflect on it whenever I’m there that even though that cause an extraordinary rupture and a number of Fortune 500 headquarters decamp, what I observe is it created the conditions for a remarkable, locally generated economy to grow up so that as as a result, you’re more resilient. Right? You have.


Michel LeBlanc [00:28:23] Yeah, when we look and we have lots of numbers that I’m not going to give today because we’re going to launch publicly that study in two weeks and it was made in December and we looked into what will be the impact on under the number of people coming downtown and the expenses consumer expenses downtown. And one thing we found was that the current people who live downtown are helping to stabilize the downtown economy through the pandemic. You have the one hundred thousand students that came back last September. So even though we’re lacking the 300,000 daily worker that would come there, probably around thirty thousand workers coming instead of the 300,000 and there’s no tourists, it served as a stabilizer for the downtown economy. Now, mind you, restaurants are suffering incredibly. But at the same time, and I heard Deborah earlier saying, we know that the live work and play downtown exist and Montreal. And that’s a very positive factor. 


Mary Rowe [00:29:25] You know, we have some university presidents coming on for a session this afternoon to talk about the role universities in downtowns. And you know, the question is, well, if you don’t have a university downtown, as Congress suggesting it doesn’t, then those who have maybe the University of Alberta and University of Calgary need to rethink and say, Well, we’re going to put a campus into our downtowns. And I think that’s a that’s part of the institutional response that we would start to invest differently. They can bring their running shoes into downtowns. Deborah, your hands up, go ahead. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:29:52] My hand’s up for a reason because it’s exactly right. That’s how you sort of create that sustainable downtown vibrancy by having the post-secondary institutions downtown, which we do not have in size in Calgary. And that is something that we have to figure out how to make that. And there are conversations going on about that. But the pieces? Who’s going to pay for it? Right. And we need to have, you know, I’m very envious that know Michel’s talking about the investments and the support they’ve had from the provincial government. We need to have that same kind of financial support from the federal government and from the provincial government. I’m sorry to make sure that this happens because it’s again, it’s an expensive undertaking, but it really does create a sustainable and different downtown where you have the opportunity to cross-pollinate across disciplines and within the business community, which strengthens the downtown core in a broader context and over the long term. 


Mary Rowe [00:30:45] We know that we have people from Infrastructure Canada on the call listening and we will continue, of course, to advocate for them that as they allocate their infrastructure resources, which will be a huge part of, I think of the recovery, post- covid recovery. Can those be targeted in particular kinds of ways, hard for the federal government to sometimes target that, at that local level. But as you suggest, the opportunity exists to do that. Patrick, you’ve got more universities per capita than any city, as I recall, and more post-sects. Do you see that as part of the sort of organic structure that you want recovery structure that you’re imagining? 


Patrick Sullivan [00:31:20] Well, I think we certainly see it, and we were very happy that the universities eventually came back. But remember, for almost a year, they were at home. At home could have been they were, you know, they were in Quebec or they were in Ontario or wherever those students happened to be. So we were very happy when they came back, but I want to pick up on something, Jan said earlier. You know, we’re in a health crisis, but we’re in an economic crisis. And that’s I think what many people tend to forget is there is a focus on health and there has been support available for for businesses. But I suspect every business would give that money back to get back the last two years, particularly in hospitality and tourism and restaurants and entertainment, you know, particularly in our downtown core. 


Mary Rowe [00:32:11] Do you think we’re going to get the workforce back, guys? Jan, your hands up. Go ahead and offer whatever comment. But in the middle of it, tell me whether you think we’re going to get the workforce back. 


Jan DeSilva [00:32:19] Well, I wanted to build on what Patrick is saying, is the health and economic crisis is being  enabled by a data crisis. We simply don’t have good information. Drive these decisions about lockdowns. Tell me it’s the small retailer that’s only allowing two patrons in their stores, that needs to be locked down. So shame on us, being we’ve been calling for this is the beginning of the pandemic. Use the tools that we’re using to verify proof of immunization to capture robust contact tracing. People are nervous about public transit, but our public transit systems have invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars on clean ventilation systems and can trace no cases to them. So in comment to all of this discussion, I think we’re we’ve got among the highest immunization rates in the world yet. We’ve had the most draconian lockdown situations and it’s building a deeper hole that we’re going to have to dig out of to get through recovery. Do I believe people will be coming back? Absolutely. And it’s been an ebbs and flows because our large employers in the early days said everyone’s happy at home. But mental health, stress, the whole lack of collaboration. There’s a need may not be five days a week or, I’d argue, seven days a week, which is what some of the businesses in Toronto were operating at particular innovators. But I think there’s going to be a mix where you need to get back in person. 


Mary Rowe [00:33:36] Michel, Patrick and then Jan, go ahead Michel or Deborah sorry.


Michel LeBlanc [00:33:40] There’s a question by Paul MacKinnon about the population movement in the Montreal area because numbers came out recently saying Montreal was losing population. And just to put that in perspective, I think one thing that’s happening, of course, is the pandemic and the impression of people that they will live very happily in the wood, as opposed to in the downtown. And we’ll see if that happens. But there are two other elements. One, is we’re kind of catching up with Vancouver, Toronto and other cities in Canada where our real estate prices are going up. And at this point, there’s kind of a shift in certain populations that cannot afford. So that’s something we will look into. We are looking into more housing buildings, more housing construction. The other thing is, of course, the cost of no immigrants or very few immigrants over two years and immigrants tend to stay first in the large metro area and sometimes eventually moving elsewhere. So what we suspect is that over the next year, as the provincial government has said, that they will try to catch up the numbers that did not come. We will see an influx of immigrants that is higher than what would be normal and therefore probably if we do things well, we have more housing, we have housing near the downtown. We also have more immigrants and we can bring back the worker. And mind you, our numbers say that if we bring back with hybrid models worker three days a week, while those workers, they probably did not go to restaurants five days a week, they probably did not track the five days a week. So if they end up going to restaurants when they come to the downtown, if they end up shopping or going to shows in the evening, what may be the definition of expenses downtown will not be that much. And eventually it will be back to normal. So again, we may have a shift in working arrangements, but perhaps a same level of expenditure in the downtowns, at least in Montreal. 


Mary Rowe [00:35:44] Boy, that’s going to be interesting. I mean, I agree with you completely. It’s not like you went out for lunch every day or the restaurants may have been too crowded, so you didn’t go out a couple of days. Whereas if you were saying when you come down, it might be special, you will go. That’s a very interesting question, Michel you’re raising. Patrick and then Deborah. 


Patrick Sullivan [00:35:59] Yeah. So I believe that people will come back downtown. Workers will come back. We do need to have some consistent period of time where we don’t have variants. But I believe people will come back. The bigger issue for me right now is the labor force in hospitality, in hotels, in tourism. Those people have gone. I hate to say it. Many of them, not all of them. Many, many of them have gone. And to pick up on Michel’s point without immigration, we are going to have such a shortage that those folks are telling me now that they may not be able to open one hundred percent even when travel starts again this summer. So if we have hotels that are sadly closed or have sorry, 20 percent of their floor is closed because they don’t have the labor to to fill those hotels, that’s going to be a real problem. 


Mary Rowe [00:36:51] Yeah, and we’ve saw that during these episodic reopenings, the question is because they just couldn’t get staff back. But as you say, the question is, is this going to be more than chronic? Is this like a fixed rate? Ok, Deborah, then Jan. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:37:02] Oh just wanted to pick up on Jan, talked about this. You know how the information piece. There’s a great article in the Financial Times today about the need for the economists and the business people to talk to the epidemiologists. We still have tried to solve this in a very siloed manner. And I think what we really have to do, is do more of that cross-pollination and exchange of ideas so people understand the language of science and the scientists understand the language of business. And I don’t think that’s really come together the way we’ve needed it to in order to address where we need to go and how to best mitigate the situation. Secondly, about people coming downtown, it’s interesting. There’s a bit of a paradox. If you come to restaurants and some bars downtown Calgary, they’re pretty full, but people are not working downtown. So that tells me people want people want to be together. And I think when you’re looking at it from a corporate standpoint, people will come back downtown because they realize that it’s important for their careers. It’s important for their mental health. We have families and we have work families, but we also need to connect and from a company perspective and organizational perspective, this is the way you build your corporate brand. It’s just the way you sustain your corporate brand. This is how you build your business. That culture is critical and people find those threads are fraying as people continue to stay and work at home and not have those serendipitous exchanges, either in the hallway or wherever they are in the elevator. It’s also critical for businesses to be downtown or to be back in the office. What that looks like. Hopefully, it’s a bit more of a varied population, but we do need to see that return because it’ll affect businesses. It’ll affect their valuations, it’ll affect how they do business going forward. 


Mary Rowe [00:38:36] Businesses may need to get pretty creative, though, about how it initially gets people back because how it’s formed and people are kind of adverse to whatever. So it was one of the suggestions yesterday, for instance, is are business going to find themselves often required just to get their workforces back, offering transit passes so that you actually underwrite the cost of your worker to get themselves into the office. There’s an idea to throw out. Jan and then Michel.


Mary Rowe [00:39:00] Your muted Jan. 


Jan DeSilva [00:39:00] I was trying to get it off here. I was going to say we’ve had, I want to talk quickly to this from two perspectives two different business districts or downtown district. We’ve been at the table since October 2020 with Mayor Tory large employers about how do we get the workers back? We were standing up a campaign, it’s called We’re Ready Toronto, and every time we’re ready to go big with this, Leslie and chat, you’re asking about place making activities. This was intended to be just that, and the latest start date was supposed to be January until the latest lockdowns. But let me tell you, the large employers are all over this. It’s not transit passes, Mary. It’s if you’re in the work or if you’re working from the office, we’re going to offer you restaurant vouchers to go to local restaurants in the downtown core. We’re not going to pay for that if you’re working from home. But if you’re downtown and if you’re going to do a team meeting there, there’s some other incentive. So there was a lot of things that were about making it attractive for people to get back into the office, but then also helping the small businesses. 


Mary Rowe [00:39:58] Helping the local businesses. Yeah, because it used to drive me crazy that Google in the before time, you know, you’d go to a meeting in Google in San Francisco and they’d have all the food and the people would never leave the office. And you think, well, you’re doing nothing for the local business. 


Jan DeSilva [00:40:10] Our employers were unapologetically saying, If you work from home, that’s your choice. But if you’re in the office, you get these perks and it’s going to help businesses in the downtown flip side. Another business district, Pearson Logistics Zone, is where E-Commerce Central is happening, it’s Amazon, Canada Post. Second largest employment zone in the country, 300,000 workers in that area. More than half of them make less than forty thousand dollars a year, and all of them have to take private transit to get in to their jobs. So there is a lot of work going on there. This was Adriana, your question about how employers are responding to calls a ton of work that we’re convening right now to look at. How do they make it easier for those workers to get connected to their jobs. Do we need to look at some kind of transit shuttle service not waiting for public transit, but workers shuttle where you can take workers that live in the same residential areas and get them into the zone, even though they don’t all work at the same company. So a lot of really good discussions happening because businesses recognize they need to create the incentives for workers to come back and support the downtown businesses. And they also need to make it easier for some of these more discriminated members of the workforce to find it easier to be connected to jobs. 


Mary Rowe [00:41:24] And of course, the question would be maybe to find a way to pay them better than $40,000 so that they actually have. 


Jan DeSilva [00:41:30] No, I guess. But I mean, you got the practical reality of, you know, Amazon, Walmart, how much is the customer going to want to pay at a certain point? There’s that. So anyway, story for another day. 


Mary Rowe [00:41:39] Michel? 


Michel LeBlanc [00:41:40] Yeah, of course.Yes, I wanted to add one of the angles that we’re trying to look into, which is how do we achieve a green relaunch for the downtown? I think that when we speak to our economic base, we see that the new generation is all about greening not only the businesses, but greening the downtown, which means also first, what is the place of cars in the downtown? But eventually, it’s also about how did you use the public space downtown. A desire to work outside. Now, it may sound weird in Canada when it’s minus 30, but still we used to have downtowns where you work in your office and you never go outside to work in the summer. So we’re going to look into how can we change. I said earlier, more running shoes, less neckties in the downtown. But also a downtown that is part of the energy transition in Canada and making sure that if you work downtown, you have an impression that and it’s a reality that it’s good for the environment because proximity might mean that in many ways you’re more efficient, you have more services that are available for a larger group of people. So it’s also making sure that downtowns are perceived as good for the economy, but good for the environment as well. 


Mary Rowe [00:43:07] Yeah, I mean, we periodically we see surfacing in the chat people to say, well, maybe we shouldn’t just be focusing on downtown. Maybe it’s good that everybody is distributed across other sites, but then every then, as you suggest, people then come back and say, but wait a second, denser living, more people living downtown, less commute. So probably last word to you, Deborah, because I think we’re going to have to wrap. Oh, sorry. And then Patrick with the neck tie gets in. In for the win! Deborah, first you, then Patrick. 


Deborah Yedlin [00:43:34] So just wanted to point out, you know, Calgary City Council has declared a climate emergency, and we’re looking very, very closely at how we make sure that we green the downtown or LRT system already runs on green power, so on wind power. So it’s, you know, we’re working, we’re moving in that direction. But Michel’s absolutely right. The next generation is not as committed to the car culture as the previous generation, and we actually have condos downtown in the East Village that were built without parking, because we know that people will not be looking to have that. It’s not something that they value the way their parents did. And so we have to be very mindful of that. But the other pieces, in Calgary were particularly challenged in terms of having a services downtown to support people living and working downtown in a broader context, their services to support you. If you’re there for the day you want to grab something to eat, that’s fine. But from a broader context, we’re still lacking a lot of services, and that’s the other piece that has to happen to make that neighborhood a reality. 


Mary Rowe [00:44:27] Mm hmm. Patrick.


Patrick Sullivan [00:44:28] Just wanted to say, although I’m wearing a tie, I’m wearing jeans, you know, and sneakers to the office, ok. Just wanted to say. 


Mary Rowe [00:44:38] You’re a hybrid. You’re a good hybrid example of a hybrid worker. Well, listen, gang, thank you very much for joining us. I think that, you know, there’s more to this story, right? There’s more. There were a couple of questions in the chat about what about a universal basic income? We just started to talk a little bit about how do you do economic diversification? How do you do it greening? There’s we have sessions this afternoon talking about the role of culture and cultural amenities for both locals and for the tourist economy. I know that business tourism is part of a large part of your constituency, are concerned about conventions and the future of business travel and all that things. So the conversation will continue. I’m so appreciative of you taking the time and also to continue to look to the Canadian Global Cities Council for the leadership that business can provide in matching, so that we don’t matching the intensity of the public sector on this so that Jan, we don’t have that kind of, you know, your four lockdowns. We aren’t kind of dynamic, but that we’re actually all in this together, somehow agreeing which of the multiple emergencies a pandemic, a climate emergency an economic emergency, and equity emergency. How do we collectively embrace that? So I appreciate the leadership that you’re doing in each of your cities and that you’re doing with the council across the country. Michel, lovely to see you because as I told you, lots of people look to Montreal as having done a lot of the right things. And Deborah, I used to call Calgary the prophetic city. I still will because you’ve been at it for so much longer and so we appreciate learning from you and always great to have the gtha here in the capacity that you represented Jan. And Patrick, glad to see you and your running shoes next time. And we’re now going to take a break for, I think, thirteen minutes or so and we’re going to come back and we’re going to talk specifically with the International Downtown Association, who are going to have a variety of perspectives that Ken Kelly is convening on what they’re calling street issues, all of which are relevant to what our previous panel just talked about. So. Thanks very much for joining us. Really great to be on with us. 


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

01:53:02 Canadian Urban Institute: Hi everyone! Welcome back! A friendly zoom reminder, you can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear you

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We hope this summit is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links and questions in the chat.

Canadian Urban Institute: We are going to jump right into our next session “Fuelling the Economic Recovery of Canada: the Role of Business to Lead.  Businesses are the catalysts for regional economic growth. What are the key actions that different sectors (businesses, commercial real estate and different levels of government), can take to support local economies to recover in a strong, resilient and equitable way? How can they compete internationally and rebuild as places that residents, tourists and workers want to be in?

01:53:44 Mark van Elsberg: Re: the question on how BIAs might evolve.  I am not an expert in the legalities, but BIAs range in size and complexity and…as a result have different levels of complexity and capacity.  For instance Downtown BIAs in Toronto are not focussed on longer streets but districts which include residential and parkland and are responsible for a much larger range of issues.  They add capacity to many city divisions and not just taking care of the streetscapes.    the larger BIAs are in discussions on how they can take on more responsibility.  What is needed is a centralized BIA resource group that shares knowledge and capacity.  this is a resource that needs more consideration

01:53:47 Canadian Urban Institute: Joining us today are:
Deborah Yedlin, Calgary Chamber of Commerce
Michel Leblanc, Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal 
Patrick Sullivan, Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Jan DeSilva, CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade

01:55:56 Kerry LeBlanc: mary slow down. maybe less coffee? lol

01:56:11 Canadian Urban Institute: Deborah Yedlin joined the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in July, 2021 with a background that includes experience on Wall Street and Bay Street, and more than two decades as a business columnist for various media outlets, commenting on the nexus of business and politics since 1996. Since moving to Calgary in 1992, Yedlin has been very active in the Calgary community – as a board member on a number of not for profit organizations and including serving as the co-chair of the 2016 United Way Campaign. Yedlin is currently serving as the 14th Chancellor of the University of Calgary and is one of three co-chairs of the $250 million Calgary Cancer Centre fundraising campaign. A first-generation Canadian, born and raised in Edmonton, Deborah is a graduate of the University of Alberta and Queen’s University. She also completed her ICD.D designation through the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.

01:57:16 Tim Kocur: Mark Van E., Downtown 6 BIAs made a joint statement today in support of Toronto’s #SafeTO Implementation Plan. Hopefully we’ll all be working in a more coordinated manner post-pandemic, I agree.

01:57:55 Kerry LeBlanc: love it!

02:00:02 Canadian Urban Institute: Michel Leblanc is President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Quebec’s leading private economic development organization. In this position, he is the official spokesperson of the organization, and is responsible for planning, managing, coordinating and monitoring all its operations. With extensive experience in the public and private sectors, Michel Leblanc has an in-depth knowledge of metropolitan issues. A trained economist, he has a clear understanding of economic questions and the challenges facing the business community. Michel Leblanc received a Bachelor of science in economics in 1987 and a Master of science in economics in 1992 from Université de Montréal.  In October 2012, he was honoured by the Université de Montréal’s alumni association for his professional achievements.

02:01:09 Cherie Klassen: Another BIA specific organization in Canada that brings together Western BIAs is BIABC. Maybe if they host a conference this year, there could be some breakout sessions for some of these discussions related to collaboration.

02:02:16 Tim Kocur: In T.O. I’m more than happy to advocate for the expansion of our TABIA and OBIAA organizations, too.

02:02:55 paul mackinnon: Business and government collaboration has been key during Covid, particularly in the early days. Patrick Sullivan, during the first weeks of the pandemic, established a working group of business, labour, and government and we have had weekly (plus!) meetings ever since.

02:03:07 Mark van Elsberg: Covid has enabled us to conference from home.  Maybe we can start a Bi monthly BIA working group that starts some of these discussions

02:03:56 Peter Vaisbord: BIABC is in schedule planning now for a May conference in Vancouver (Coquitlam)

02:04:06 Canadian Urban Institute: Patrick Sullivan is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. He has been General Manager and President for both start-up and large organizations, including, and most recently Tourism Nova Scotia. Mr. Sullivan has also worked for Procter and Gamble, McCain Food Ltd., Moosehead Breweries Ltd., and Upper Canada Brewing Company, specializing in marketing and digital marketing. Mr. Sullivan enjoys running and has run half/marathons, marathons and in October of 2011 completed a 250km run across the Sahara Desert. This run helped raise over $100,000 for the National Advertising Benevolent Association or NABS.  He holds a Bachelor of Administration from Mount Saint Vincent University.

02:04:08 Peter Vaisbord:

02:04:38 Kay Matthews: OBIAA has twice weekly calls with BIAs across Ontario, Mark, and you are welcome to join us.  These calls are for BIAs to share, so the conversations are varied and engaging.

02:04:52 Kay Matthews: Now we have them once a week.  Tuesdays at 2pm.

02:05:01 Cherie Klassen: Thanks @Peter. Maybe BIABC and OBIAA could collaborate?

02:05:47 Peter Vaisbord: BIABC Mgr – Lori Baxter –

02:05:47 Kay Matthews: We collaborate through IDA Canada, however, we would have a different agenda if and when we do.

02:05:53 paul mackinnon: Mark, there is a BIA leadership group, IDA Canada, that meets monthly, led by Ken Kelly, which has representation from all regional BIA associations. We sometimes have larger group meetings, but this could be coordinated through Ken. Also looking at a Canadian BIA summit in May, and also in Sept (at the IDA conference in Vancouver). We don’t focus much on regulatory issues though – more on gov’t advocacy and sharing best practices.

02:06:50 paul mackinnon:

02:07:47 Cherie Klassen: Great idea @Paul. Here’s more info on IDA Canada:

02:08:41 John Kiru: Toronto Welcomes you Patrick.

02:08:55 Canadian Urban Institute: Jan DeSilva is the President & CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade. Jan has focused her efforts on realizing the Board’s 2020 vision of making Toronto one of the most competitive and sought after business regions in the world with a strategic emphasis on trade, transportation and talent. Prior to joining the Board, Jan established solid international business experience with a track record for excelling in on-the-ground leadership roles. Highly respected for her business advocacy and government engagement efforts, Jan has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, a Woman of our Time by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post and made the Canadian Board Diversity Council’s inaugural Diversity 50 list.

02:09:09 Patrick Sullivan: Toronto is first. Mid february!

02:09:19 Mark van Elsberg: I hope we can share many of these connections and organizations and ..conferences  at the end of this session.  I would really like to explore some of these ideas and make sure we don’t go back to the old normal in our downtowns

02:12:04 Cherie Klassen: How about creating a LinkedIn Group or Page we could all join?

02:16:58 Mark van Elsberg: Cherie this would be a great start.. some of us might wish to update our profiles…

02:20:15 Leslie Fink: Now that’s reimagining!

02:20:33 John Kiru: Interestingly enough, the Province and cities of Toronto and Ottawa were able to among the pandemic focus develop a Small Business Tax Class to benefit thousands of small businesses.

02:20:43 Gelare Danaie: Montreal should be the example for all Canadian cities, I love what Michel is sharing …a different downtown

02:22:59 Catherine Deegan: City of Mississauga has a college in their city center

02:23:44 Kay Matthews: However, Universities left a huge hole in the street economy when the lockdowns happened.  So creating diversity is still key – building the ecosystem.

02:24:41 paul mackinnon: Montreal is currently losing population (-0.58%). I wonder if there are stats about what % are leaving downtown vs rest of the city, and also what is driving this.

02:25:55 Cherie Klassen: @Mark would you be willing to set up the LI page?

02:27:35 Christopher Clacio: How about 4 day work weeks?

02:27:44 Canadian Urban Institute: Hi everyone! Just a reminder to change you chat settings to “everyone,” so all attendees can see your questions and comments.

02:27:53 Leslie Fink: Workforce/ talent drives growth and investment, and there’s a war on talent in Toronto.   Is there a role for businesses in placemaking activities to help bring the talent back downtown?

02:29:15 paul mackinnon: Was just surprised at negative growth numbers for Montreal, because it’s a city that’s doing a lot of things right, particularly Centre-Ville area. I look forward to visiting soon!

02:29:27 Adriana Dossena: To what extent is momentum, confidence, agency building by way of employers responding to existing calls to action with employee engagement programs, labor unions up skilling & just transition strategies changing expectations (including pivots in their pension planning) aligned with or co-creating a healthier, sustainable recovery?

02:29:58 Gelare Danaie: Totally agreed with Leslie and I think the experience of downtown should be revisited. My team prefer to come to our office in west end with their bikes and not go to downtown

02:31:34 Christopher Clacio: Does the business leaders/community have a perspective of how Basic Income  would change the business sector and the Canadian economy?

02:32:08 Jamie Van Ymeren: There are some examples of employers in SF subsidizing employee lunch to get them back in the office

02:33:06 Jan Mowbray: basic income or at least pay  decent wage for work done

02:33:35 Kelly Bergeron: Mary:

02:34:25 Cherie Klassen: I see co-working companies growing now. We’re moving our offices to a co-work. It allows for more flexibility, creates community and reduces overhead costs.

02:34:30 Diego Almaraz: It is also a matter of repurposing offices and transforming them into social activity hubs that are flexible, attractive and practical. I see many office spaces shifting to become more of a “third place” style.

02:35:56 Maria Bravo: Here is the report from the Institut de la Statistic of Quebec:

02:36:12 Jan Mowbray: what amazon wants to charge its customers shouldn’t be borne on the backs of workers, that’s a wrong-headed way of trying to improve the economy.

02:36:15 Gelare Danaie: Great points! Compare Canada goals in 2050 and compare Toronto downtown we need to rethink our built environment

02:37:16 Cherie Klassen: How about we consider all the cities “Downtowns”? Our mainstreet districts and core mature neighbourhoods are also downtowns. We need to look at densifying them too and making them 15 min districts.

02:37:27 Rino Bortolin: removing parking minimums is a must. In fact should be a national policy

02:37:36 Brendon Hemily: Follow up to Jan’s comments about airport area: may be time to resurrect the concept of Transportation Management Associations (TMAs)

02:37:59 Alysson Storey: Another great discussion! Thank you everyone!

02:38:11 Canadian Urban Institute: Thank you Jan, Michel, Patrick and Deborah.

We are going to take a quick 15 minute break and return at 2:30pm ET for our next session “Everyone’s responsibility: Canada’s Challenge with Street Issues ” with Judge Christine Lowe, Victoria Integrated Court, Mark Garner, CEO, Downtown Yonge BIA, Craig Cooper, Director of Housing Stability Services, City of London, Derek Pace, Brunswick Street Mission, Halifax. Moderated by Ken Kelly, Project Manager at IDA Canada

02:38:23 Jonathan Ricci: Thank you for a great discussion!

02:39:05 Cameron Charlebois: GREAT session.  Thanks.  Proud to be a Montrealer.

02:39:10 Kelly Bergeron: Cherie – we are working on a solution/product to help build the 15 min city

02:39:17 Gelare Danaie: Thanks a lot. Amazing discussion

02:39:17 Kelly Bergeron:

02:39:18 Maria Bravo: Thank you!

02:39:28 Cherie Klassen: Thanks @Kelly!

02:40:26 Kelly Bergeron: No problem! We are starting to pilot this spring in various communities in Eastern Ontario. No time to lose when it comes to reducing emissions.