POLITICS

Trudeau Visits Toronto, Gets Mobbed For Selfies And Photos

01/13/2016 04:43 EST | Updated 01/14/2016 09:59 EST

TORONTO— The first official visit of a sitting prime minister to Toronto's city hall in almost 20 years was marked by a cheering mob of onlookers and staffers, not-so-subtle digs at Justin Trudeau's predecessor and, of course, selfies.

Trudeau made a $20-million funding announcement Wednesday to help establish a stem-cell therapy development facility in the city, but the biggest hoopla was reserved for his subsequent city hall visit.

Residents waited outside in the cold to see the prime minister and swarmed Trudeau as he arrived. TV cameras and the mob of people clamouring for photos— with Trudeau or of him— moved slowly in a teeming mass through the square.

Inside, hundreds more onlookers and city hall staffers ringed the city hall rotunda to watch and a group of taxi drivers who frequently protest the ride-sharing service Uber erupted in cheers when Trudeau arrived.

justin trudeau Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was mobbed for photos during his visit to Toronto. (Photo: CP)

Trudeau then met with Mayor John Tory in the first official visit of a sitting prime minister since the city was amalgamated in 1998. They addressed the media after their meeting and Tory— a former leader of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives— began by making reference to a shift in tone since Trudeau's election.

"Since our country's new government was elected last fall, we've been reminded of who we are as Canadians. We are people who believe in a reasonable, evidence-based approach," he said.

"We manage carefully, we invest prudently and we celebrate enterprise and hard work. We're people who care about each other, who live with each other peacefully and productively despite our different backgrounds. We welcome to our country people seeking new opportunity as well as those in need."

"We have put behind us the politics of division and we are working much better together," said Tory, though he added the relationship wasn't yet perfect.

"We have put behind us the politics of division and we are working much better together."

Earlier in the day, Trudeau announced that Ottawa would help fund a Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies— the first such facility in the world to use a collaborative approach between research institutions and industry to solve cell therapy manufacturing challenges, the government said.

"Regenerative medicine is the future and not only is it the future, it's a branch of medicine that Canada and the province of Ontario are actually quite good at,'' said Trudeau.

"The medical advances and innovations happening right here in Toronto are world-class."

Trudeau made the announcement on an empty floor of the MaRS tower in downtown Toronto, designed for medical and research labs, where the stem cell facility will be located.

justin trudeau Trudeau announced that Ottawa would help fund a Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies in Toronto. (Photo: CP)

The MaRS tower has been a source of controversy for the provincial Liberal government.

The province loaned MaRS $225 million for its second office tower, then later provided an $86-million line of credit to help attract tenants, spent $65 million buying out an American real estate company's interest in the project, as well as giving a $16-million grant for the purchase of the land.

The opposition has been critical of the provincial Liberals for granting the loan without a proper business case.

The MaRS tower once sat nearly empty, with high rents demanded by the U.S. real estate company, but now a spokeswoman for the minister of infrastructure says MaRS has leased 84 per cent of the available space.

Ontario provided seed funding for the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, which will establish and operate the stem-cell facility.

It has a total cost of $43.8 million, with funding also coming from GE Healthcare. The federal money will be provided once certain terms and conditions are met, the government said. That money will be used to ``support improvements to the new facility and the purchase of specialized equipment.''

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