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The mayor of Toronto is counting on interest from global technology companies to rejuvenate business life in Canada’s largest city, which has endured one of the continent’s longest lockdowns to combat COVID-19.
“My greatest level optimism arises out of the fact that I’ve continued to do virtual trade missions over the course of the pandemic, and we continue to attract new offices here to Toronto from well-known companies including Reddit, Netflix, Uber,” John Tory said Tuesday in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
As U.S. cities return to normal, Canada’s capital of finance and commerce is only now crawling out of months of severe restrictions. Indoor dining, hair salons, movie theaters and other businesses and activities have remained closed since late 2020 in Toronto. The city moved on June 11 to a partial reopening -- allowing restaurants to set up outdoor seating areas and non-essential retailers to open their doors for the first time in months.
Most employees at downtown businesses, including the country’s biggest banks, continue to work from home, while border restrictions mean that streets that are normally filled with tourists in June are mainly occupied by local residents.
“It’s been tough,” Tory said. “It’s been very, very tough, especially on the downtown business. But like I’ve been reading in New York, people want to come back to work, businesses are ready to take on renewed challenges in a post-pandemic world.”
As of June 14, almost three-quarters of Toronto adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the city government; almost a fifth had received two shots.
Despite this, Toronto’s Bay Street continues to be quiet, and Union Station, normally one of the continent’s busiest commuter hubs, is still largely deserted, even in rush hour. However, the rush to fill patios during this past weekend’s partial reopening may be a harbinger of things to come.
The province of Ontario plans to remain in the current stage of reopening for at least three weeks, or until the beginning of July, before moving to the second stage, which will allow for small indoor social gatherings and the resumption of larger outdoor events. For now, concerts and large sporting events are still banned, with baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays and soccer’s Toronto FC playing their home games in the U.S.