Pandemic-era tech changes should become permanent, says Toronto mayor

TORONTO — The COVID-19 pandemic has put a dent in Toronto's economy but it has also taught valuable lessons that should lead to permanent technological change, Mayor John Tory said Tuesday.

"I think what we're discovering is that a lot of the stuff we did during an emergency circumstance should be made permanent," Tory said at the opening of the Collision at Home conference.

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"I think that includes the use of technology to stay in touch with people and to do things virtually that we couldn't do with vulnerable populations, for example."

He added that he also anticipated "some fairly fundamental rethinking" of what he called "social economic order of things" as a result of a second crisis over anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

Tory made the comments at the opening of a three-day conference that had to be conducted entirely online due to travel and other restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19.

The Collision conference was originally expected to attract thousands of people to see dozens of high-profile tech, media and entertainment speakers at a downtown Toronto venue this week.

Although Tory didn't dwell on the pandemic's impact on the tourism, conference and hospitality industry, he told conference co-founder Paddy Cosgrave that he wants Collision to return in 2021.

The mayor of Canada's largest city also played up the vibrancy of its technology sector, which he said has benefited from attracting people from all over the world.

"We need to get back to opening the borders, having people fly, having immigration to Canada, where this country is being built continuously by immigration," Tory said.

"We need all that to start up again and that's not happened as yet."

The city of nearly three million people has been one of the last areas of Ontario to begin Stage 2 of the provincial government's reopening strategy due to the high number of active cases.

Stage 2 includes the resumption of service at bar and restaurant patios, sightseeing tours, as well as some outdoor activities such as paintball and swimming pools.

According to the City of Toronto, there have been a total of 13,893 COVID-19 cases, including 37 add since Monday. To date, 1,044 deaths in the city have been attributed to the virus and 11,879 people have recovered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2020.

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