Toronto mayor downplays security concerns, sells city aggressively

08:46, June 25, 2010      

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With world leaders starting to arrive for the imminent Group of 20 (G20) summit, Toronto Mayor David Miller on Thursday downplayed media concerns about tight security and possible violent protests while actively promoting the host city for tourism and business.

"Toronto is incredibly safe ... There is nowhere in Toronto that is unsafe. You can walk anywhere in the city, it's incredibly safe," the mayor stressed at a press briefing held on Thursday morning in the International Media Center for the G8 and G20 summits.

This largest city in Canada, with a population of about 2.6 million, is hosting the G20 summit from June 26 to 27, immediately after a Group of Eight summit held in Muskoka, an obscure Canadian county about two hours of car ride from Toronto.

Asked whether he is concerned about some people's plan to protest against the G20 policies and Canada's hosting of the event over the weekend, which might mar the city's image as a peaceful place to live, the mayor responded: "That's something Toronto copes with every day ... And our Toronto police service has a well- earned reputation of policing democratic dissent appropriately and facilitating it."

While massive protests turned into violent clashes at the previous G20 summit in Pittsburgh, the United States last September, forcing the police to fire tear gas to disperse angry crowds on the streets, Miller confidently ruled out the possibility of any recurrence in Toronto.

"We do have a police service that is very very experienced and working ... to make sure that protests are facilitated as best as possible and that nothing violent happens," he said.

But the mayor also warned: "Should there be small groups of people that want to infiltrate that and commit criminal acts, they will be dealt with."

It was reported that over 10,000 police and security personnel at the federal, provincial and city level have been deployed in Toronto to ensure a safe and trouble-free summit. Core areas around the summit venue are fenced off and subject to around-the- clock police patrols.

The estimated cost of security measures reached some 1.2 billion Canadian dollars, mostly covered by the federal and provincial governments, the mayor confirmed on Thursday.

But he dismissed worries that such measures would have a major negative impact on local business and tourism activities, although many restaurants, attractions and business institutions will be forced to shut down during the summit.

"Sure there is security, but there is also a really great city. And you only have to go a few steps from the fence and you can be right in the heart of it," he told the reporters at the briefing.

Even during the summit, there will still be "amazing activities " happening all around the city, such as the Jazz Festival and the celebration of the ongoing soccer world cup, he noted.

The mayor, who appeared in the briefing room with the city manager and heads of Toronto's investment and tourism promotion agencies, spent most of the time presenting the city as a perfect place to live, visit or do business.

The world is going to see how "diverse and modern" and "special and unique" Toronto is through the city's hosting of the G20 summit, he said.

He described the city as a "diverse world city," a "green city, " a "prosperous city" and a "livable city with a thriving cultural sector," with no less attraction than leading global metropolises like New York, London and Paris.

And according to city officials joining the mayor at the briefing, Toronto is already cashing in on the summit, at least in the tourism and hotel sector.

All local hotels are full thanks to the summit, while occupancy for the same period last year was about 60 percent, said David Whitaker, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto.

The direct and indirect revenues for the G8 and G20 summits are estimated to be around 300 million Canadian dollars, including some 53 million from the hotel community alone, said the mayor and Whitaker.

Source: Xinhua


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