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We Are The World: Toronto's 122nd Annual Board of Trade Gala

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It was an inspiring night of much-needed storytelling, a night charged with frenetic excitement for a future brimming with possibility and prosperity, and a night humming with hope for a new era in which Toronto takes the world stage. The message on everyone's lips? Toronto's time is now.

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The Honorable Frank McKenna with presenting sponsor Carl Lovas and wife Kathy (Sonia Recchia, Pimentel Photo)

Every year the Toronto Board of Trade Gala celebrates the individuals and corporations who pour their blood, sweat and tears into making Toronto one of the world's greatest cities in which to live, work and play - and this year was no exception. Out from under the global shadow of economic failure and rabid financial uncertainty, Canada has emerged valiantly strong and secure, in great part thanks to Toronto's dedicated financial players. Yet despite the many, many accolades that Toronto deserves, Canadians' notorious penchant for modesty has crippled the reach of the city's reputation abroad.

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President & CEO of Board of Trade Carol Wilding with Rod Barr and Gerry Millis (Sonia Recchia, Pimentel Photo)

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Frank McKenna, deputy chair TD Bank Financial Group and Premier Dalton McGuinty (Grant Martin Photography)

I asked Toronto's Mayor David Miller to tell me 'the most important thing foreigners don't know about Toronto but should' and I got a zealous barrage of answers; when I pressed him for a single sentence he seemed stumped but then, perhaps divinely inspired, said "we are the world". While this may seem an overly confident answer to outsiders, it bares an enormous amount of truth: Toronto is one of the world's most diverse urban landscapes, a magnificent mosaic - not a maligned melting pot.

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Mayor Miller with Hazel McCallion, Mayor of Mississauga, and Phyllis Morris, Mayor of Aurora; Marissa Bronfman and Mayor Miller (Sonia Recchia, Pimentel Photo)

The night's keynote speaker, the Honourable Frank McKenna, let us all know that he's not just telling Toronto's story, he's telling it with a megaphone! It was a passionate call to arms as he voraciously enumerated Toronto's strongest traits, surprising even the most knowledgeable Torontonians I'm sure. To be fair he weighed his remarks with some serious criticisms of the city, chastising us for lagging productivity, a poorly aligned government and most of all, for not marketing ourselves and our city. "It's not enough to have the steak", said McKenna, "you have to have the sizzle...Toronto needs to get its swagger back!"

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Chair of Board of Trade Bill MacKinnon with politicians, members of the Board of Trade Board and Advisory Council (Sonia Recchia, Pimentel Photo)

Toronto has fared exceptionally well through the torrent of economic hardship that has beat down even the world's strongest players; the city must act now to nourish a flourishing future. The 2010 Olympics will reintroduce Canada to the world this month, and Toronto will soon host the G20 Summit, PanAm Games and Bollywood Festival. As Mayor Miller said, "the world will be watching", and it's about time they knew our story.

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George Smitherman, Toronto Mayoral Candidate with Senator Pamela Wallin and Andy Merchant, Presdient Canada-Pakistan Business Council (Sonia Recchia, Pimentel Photo); Rocco Rossi, Toronto Mayoral Candidate and John Tory (Grant Martin Photography)