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Last call at the bar

Earlier this week I attended the CityAge conference here in Toronto and participated in a panel discussion about talent. 

The questions were all about how cities can attract and retain talent, and how they can best leverage the talent they already have. These are questions that a lot of cities around the world are thinking about.

In my responses I talked about things like transit connectivity, which is a problem that all of us in Toronto recognize we have. But I also focused a lot on quality of life, on sense of place, and on being a cool place to live. These are important factors.

The example I then gave is Berlin. Some say Berlin is now over. But for many years Berlin has been dubbed one of coolest cities in the world. And I personally think a lot of that has to do with the arts, culture, and nightlife scene that emerged in the 90s. 

But this wasn’t a government initiative to make Berlin a hub for talent. It was largely a grassroots movement that took hold for a myriad of reasons, one of which was simply empty buildings that people could colonize for parties. And it transformed the place into a city that later became known as “poor but sexy.”

That brought me to another point, which is that Toronto’s 2AM last call at the bar is laughable by global city standards. And we know that. That’s why whenever we host an event of any sort of notoriety – such as the Toronto International Film Festival – we extend it to 4AM. The people coming here from all around the world expect that.

This may seem like a small thing. And I am sure many of you here in the city would like things to stay just the way they are. But I think we need to loosen up.

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