Toronto is one of the best cities in the world and I have been to many of them. But Toronto needs to get it. Let me say this again, with emphasis, we are one of the BEST cities in the world! Let’s be proud of it and own it. But somewhere this message is short circuiting. I think the recent Pan Am Games brought this to the surface.
So I am going to call out the TTC, the City of Toronto, and the Province of Ontario. I would characterize the communications around The Pam Am Games as: What a “damn” nuisance. “ There were messages about new laws on HOV lanes, expect delays getting to work, stay off the roads, stay at home, heck leave Toronto and avoid all this hassle!
Where, I ask you is the messaging welcoming visitors to our glorious city, or even (heaven help us) encouraging our own people to attend the games and extend the warmth and care to our visitors and celebrate the Games? Where was the messaging of support to our glorious Canadian athletes, not to mention all the athletes in the games? I not saying these messages were not existent, I’m just saying they were not heard. They were overshadowed.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. During the Games, High Park was closed to the public for various races. Now, I get the choice of this venue, it’s a beautiful park. Each time the park was closed, a sign would go up, pylons put down and fences placed for the racers.
There was NEVER any signage at this venue that indicated what the races were, when they were, or even (hold your breath on this idea) encouraging the citizens of Toronto to watch and support these wonderful athletes. Strong men and women who were pitting themselves against each other, bringing on their personal bests in the name of their country. Toronto I ask you where is the love. Instead we got notified of park closure. Do you see my point?
This little story is indicative of so many things. We, the little people of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, are to be managed. It is a “we/them” mentality. Did anyone ever stop to think that we are/were all co-creators of this event because we shared our home with these visitors? From how things were managed, I would suggest that this was never the perspective of any of the government organizing committees. Was there any coordinated communications leadership that positioned celebrating the Games while at the same time clearly communicating the possible inconveniences, all for a good cause?
I want to share another little story with you. I encountered a couple from Columbia one day during the Games. As it turned out, they were brother and sister. The young woman has lived in Toronto for the past 13 years. Her brother had come to visit and was on his last day of a three week vacation. I asked him how he had enjoyed Toronto. He was effusive about the great time he’d had, how friendly everyone had been, how Toronto was a city filled with magic and wonder for him. I was happy and proud to hear his story.
If we can have a vibrant, multicultural, progressive, prosperous country. If we can do all of this here, in peace, then the world can do it. Toronto needs to own being that beacon. Toronto needs to own that noble, empowering communications strategy.
And of the governments of Toronto, Ontario, Canada need to understand that this is our home and when we share it, we all want to do this graciously with warm hospitality, encouragement and care.
Toronto, this is what love looks like.