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EDITORIAL: Bleed it and then blame it for dying (April 2023)

August 8th, 2023 · No Comments

Mayoral candidate Anna Bailao launched her campaign with a plan to move the Science Centre to Ontario Place and replace it with housing. Premier Doug Ford promptly seized the moment by saying this was his plan all along, for three years now!  This is hard to believe; it’s a scheme fraught with problems and a scheme that must absolutely be challenged.

NDP MPP Chris Glover, whose riding encompasses Ontario Place, called the premier’s comments “bizarre…this sort of back-of-the-napkin planning without any meaningful public consultation or even a conversation with the impacted communities is not uncommon for this government.” 

Should this plan move forward, Ontario taxpayers will pay for it. “It” includes a five-storey underwater parking garage for 2700 cars to support the patrons of the private spa, other amenities, and ostensibly the Science Centre—though most of those attendees arrive in a school bus. Apparently, we can’t expect the spa customers to take public transit after all. 

One of Ford’s favourite political strategies is to distract the voters with shiny objects so that they don’t look too closely at what’s actually going on. This plan is a case in point, and if it’s true that he has been considering it for years, he should know that the site is jointly leased by the city and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to the province for the Science Centre for one dollar a year until 2064. Under lease terms, the province can replace this historic building, but only to build a new science centre. Even if the province seeks to override the agreement, the ravine where the Science Centre is located is considered hazardous, with its steep slope and flood plain. The land is also home to several species of turtles, mammals, birds, and amphibians. 

Cue the following narrative: the province balks at the city’s opposition to new housing in Don Mills, paints opponents as anti-housing, takes over the City of Toronto and the TRCA (both by the way are mere creatures of the province), builds houses with provincial funds and then doles them out to the premier’s developer buddies. Always scheming, this is how he got to be premier, after all.

The province has frozen Science Centre funding for 10 years now but blames the Science Centre for its brokenness. This narrative sounds an awful lot like what’s happened in health care. Ford says attendance is down 40 per cent when in fact on-site attendance for 2021-22 well exceeded the Centre’s target of 142,078 for that year. Attendance on Family Day and March Break exceeded the 2019 pre-pandemic numbers. Though the long-term numbers are down, the Centre’s annual reports blame a zero budget for marketing: you bleed it, and then blame it for dying. It’s okay, Doug is here to rescue us with a new building proposed to be half the size.

There is currently unbearable gridlock near Ontario Place, and Ontario Place is closed indefinitely. Can anyone imagine what it will look like with the private spa, the Budweiser Stage expanded to 20,000 seats, plus Echo Beach, the Science Centre, and 2700 cars leaving at the same time? As city planners have noted, this whole plan, “overwhelms the public realm.” 

Ford’s Infrastructure Minister, Kinga Surma says she has a business case for all of this, but she is conveniently unable to share it. She has told the legislature that there is “a train planned to move people around the island,” which no one has heard of before, and a “year-round marina where people can socialize.” Apparently, the province is banking on global warming to keep Lake Ontario ice-free. 

This may be urban planning by impulse, but you can’t blame the public for imagining it might be something more sinister.


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