The Toronto Region Vision (TRV) 2014 event on Feb 6, 2014, was a terrific success, with over 300 participants coming from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The day was designed to get people from the region to talk about their visionary ideas for the GTHA. Business leaders rubbed shoulders with leaders in government, nonprofits, and students. History was made in taking the first step toward creating a strong regional vision.

The day was launched by Premier Kathleen Wynne, who gave a fantastic keynote speech in the form of a “Pecha Kucha” (ideas jam) presentation – 20 ideas on 20 slides; at times funny at times serious her presentation focused on the need for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to unite around a strong regional vision. She outlined some of the hurdles in the plan to improve transportation in the GTHA and the need to stop debating over

Following the Premier were five more Pecha Kucha presentations.

The first speaker, Dan Hoornweg (professor and research chair at University of Ontario Institute of Technology) pushed for making Toronto the “teaching” capital of the world. He suggested building a museum of civilization and cities and use it to house the Frist Nations welcome centre. He also suggested a carbon tax for the Toronto urban region dedicated to transit in collaboration with the other cities in the region. And to create government ministries for the Toronto urban region.

The next speaker was Zahra Ebrahim, founder of archiTEXT, a design and architectural think tank. Her lively presentation covered everything from the Copenhagen Wheel that stores a cyclists kinetic energy,  to the use of “Parmigiano” capital – In Milan banks let producers use their chees as collateral for two years (the time it takes to age). Zahra also spoke about the need for good public awareness campaigns to change negative habitual patterns like driving. She capped off with the idea of participatory budgeting where residents brainstorm around how municipal taxes should be spent.

The third speaker was Sunil Johal, policy director at the Mowat Centre. His presentation focused on reinventing government employment services, measure government collaboration and make them accountable for working together. He spoke about getting employers to support training opportunities through training payback guarantees; and the idea of creating telecommuting hubs in different parts of the city.

The fourth speaker was Terry Cooke, president and CEO of Hamilton Community Foundation. He gave a passionate presentation that focused around Hamilton and the idea of desegregating schools and nieghbourhoods by income. He pointed out the success of mixed income schools.

The last speaker was Mary Rowe, flown in from New York she suggested we abandoned the idea of a “plan” as a map, but instead look at it as something that evolves, modifies and grows.  Mary encouraged participants to think big through small initiatives that together make big change. She spoke about the need to build consensus to tax and invest in the region.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to brainstorming. Ideas were captured by note-takers at every table and will be put into a report, with help from the Mowat Centre, that will be released in March. The goal is to get the ideas out to communities across the GTHA and we are hoping that candidates in the next election will help with that.

Together 300 people took the first small step toward creating a vision for the GTHA. But it doesn’t stop with one event, one report, one commitment. Together we must continue to untie our communities around a building a strong, shared, vision. We need champions willing to dedicate their time to pushing this forward and judging from the first TRV2014 event I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding them.


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