Huge Toronto tech conference goes online-only over coronavirus, says it would be ‘irresponsible’ to host amid outbreak

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Huge Toronto tech conference goes online-only over coronavirus, says it would be ‘irresponsible’ to host amid outbreak


Toronto tourism suffered a major loss from the coronavirus outbreak Friday after organizers announced the huge Collision tech conference scheduled for June is going online-only.

In tweets and a blog post organizers of the international event, which last year drew more than 25,000 people and more than 1,000 start-ups to downtown Toronto, said Collision 2020 will still happen, but online.

“For now, given the evolving nature of COVID-19, we think gathering tens of thousands of people from almost every country in the world in one place this June would be irresponsible. Toronto has not suffered a significant COVID-19 outbreak, and at Collision we want to ensure that remains the case.”

This is a second major Toronto event lost to fears over the global coronavirus outbreak after Ottawa-based e-commerce company Shopify last week cancelled its annual Unite conference.

Around the world, other countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have already put a stop to large gatherings amid more serious local outbreaks.

Ontario has so far seen 24 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease, all of which have been linked to travel or contact with a known infected person.

More than 100,000 people have been infected globally, with nearly 3,400 deaths.

On Thursday evening, British Columbia confirmed Canada’s first case of suspected community transmission.

In a statement, Mayor John Tory, who has repeatedly heralded Toronto landing Collision over global tech hubs such as San Francisco as a sign of the city’s success, expressed disappointment in the announcement.

He called it “a tremendously difficult decision — as many other conferences around the world have had to do as COVID-19 has spread and many businesses limit global travel.

“I have spoken personally with Collision founder and CEO Paddy Musgrave and told him we are committed to working with Collision to help host Collision from Home — the online conference that will be taking place this year.

“And I will be working with Collision, City staff and Exhibition Place to make sure Year Two of Collision in Toronto in 2021 will be a fantastic event.”

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Collision moved from the U.S. to Toronto last year. It took place at Exhibition Place over three days in May, with talks from tech CEOs, celebrities and politicians including Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Collision organizers said the online-only event will be re-branded as Collision from Home. All attendees will get full transfers of their tickets, or can request a full refund.

David Rider

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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