LONDON, ONT. -- It will cost Londoners up to $60 to watch the live-stream of the mayor’s State of the City Address in 2021.

More than 1400 business and community leaders usually fill the RBC Place Convention Centre each January for the speech on political priorities and economic development.

Occupancy limits during COVID-19 pandemic , however, will force the 2021 event online, and the livestream will only be viewable by those who buy a $45 or $60 ticket.

“The optics are bad on this,” asserts Lincoln McCardle who views the free livestream most years. “It just looks poor on the city and the Chamber of Commerce that they are limiting this event to those who can afford to access it.”

In January, CTV News and other local media outlets simultaneously live-streamed the event online for the broader community.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Gerry McCartney explains why that won’t happen in 2021.

“If everyone stays home and watches, and there are no ticket buyers, there is no event.” says McCartney. “We’ve been hosting the event for 50 years as a way to raise money for the chamber.”

The annual State of the City Address is a London Chamber of Commerce event, but local taxpayers usually contribute some of the costs incurred by the mayor.

In addition to staff time in his office, the mayor expensed $2,893.04 for videography services in 2019, and earlier this year $1,584.91 for slide projections.

“For the chamber, this is one of their major revenue generators because they get the mayor cheap,” admits Mayor Ed Holder. “And the way that (the chamber) makes money is to sell tickets.

McCardle points to other municipalities in Ontario that hold similar objective-setting speeches organized through city hall and broadcast for everyone.

“It should be a public event, it’s information that effects all Londoners,” he adds. “With due respect to the chamber of commerce, I’m baffled how they managed to get exclusivity rights to this event.”

McCartney suggests the chamber ensures a large audience and engagement.

“That’s true, some other cities and towns do that. But we’ve had a very successful run,” he says. “We’ve got the machinery that helps to market the event, we have the audience that guarantees the huge attendance.”

There have been significant announcements during Mayor Ed Holder’s speeches in 2019 and earlier this year:

  • launching his Jobs Now initiative
  • pushing to electrify LTC buses
  • setting a 60-day deadline to conclude the bus rapid transit debate

The mayor and McCartney offer some hope that the live-streaming decision may be reversed, or recorded video will be posted online at a later time.

“But we have to reach a certain ticket threshold, otherwise ticket buyers would have no advantage. Why would they buy a ticket?” explains McCartney.

“For those interested in watching this through streaming, is it critical that they get it at that very moment, or an hour later?” asks Holder.

Tickets are now available for $45 (members) or $60 (non-members) for the online event on January 26, 2021.

Tickets include a $20 voucher to purchase breakfast and support local restaurants.