Ontario Place doug ford

Doug Ford wants to completely overhaul Ontario Place

Ontario Place has reemerged over the past two summers as one of downtown Toronto's most vibrant destinations: A true "public backyard," as promised, in the form of sprawling, beautiful lakeside parks, trails and event space.

Premier Doug Ford, who has been pushing to build a casino on Lake Ontario since 2013 and once pitched a 1.6 million-square-foot "megamall" along Toronto's waterfront, isn't impressed.

The lawsuit-plagued PC leader has recently taken "a personal interest in Ontario Place," according to The Toronto Star, and now wants to redevelop the 51-hectare former amusement park again — just over one year after Kathleen Wynne's Liberals spent some $30 million on phase 1 of a comprehensive (and so far very well received) revitalization project.

Lucky us.

"Ontario Place was spectacular in the day," said Premier Ford on August 17 while opening 2018's Canadian National Exhibition across from Ontario Place.

"I'm proud to announce we're going to work in conjunction with the CNE, redo Ontario Place and make it the most spectacular destination anywhere in North America to visit," he said of the provincially-owned land.

"We'll bring it back to life."

The Star reports that Ford's ministers have been mum on the issue since then.

Government officials were also unwilling to comment on the future of Ontario Place back in July, when The Globe reported that all existing redevelopment plans had been put on hold.

Ford's Progressive Conservative party won a majority government in early June, for those who don't remember, ousting the Liberals after 15 years in power.

Things at Queen's Park have since been... rambunctious, to say the least, particularly when it comes to matters involving the City of Toronto.

As The Star points out, Ford's plans for a waterfront redevelopment project were famously shot down in 2011 during his one term as a Toronto city councillor under his brother, the late mayor Rob Ford.

He had pitched a giant ferris wheel in Toronto's Port Lands at the time, and a shopping centre inspired by discussions he'd had with the Australian mall developer Westfield Group.

He also fought for a downtown casino in 2013, and was incredulous when city councillors rejected the idea amidst public backlash. When he ran against John Tory for the mayorship in 2014, Ford once again floated the idea of a downtown casino.

The Star reports this week that "sources" say Ford wants to "scuttle proposals that were being considered by the previous Liberal government and start anew with an international competition to rethink the sprawling green space along Lake Shore Blvd. W."

What that could look like remains to be seen, but it's of note that Rod Phillips — former head of Ontario Lottery and Gaming commission and supporter of Ford's waterfront casino idea — is now Ford's Minister of Environment.

Lead photo by

Tanya Mok


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