doug ford ontario place

There's a growing campaign to halt Doug Ford's controversial Ontario Place scheme

Premier Doug Ford's controversial plan to rebuild Ontario Place in his own corporate image has not exactly been met with open arms by the public, and one grassroots organization is doing its best to kick up some dust into the path of the sweeping redevelopment plan.

And they're doing it the good, old-fashioned way.

The group known as Ontario Place for All (OP4A) is leading a campaign to place pressure on the premier in a last-ditch effort to keep the 155-acre waterfront park a free, open, and accessible space for people to gather.

Norm Di Pasquale, Co-Chair of OP4A, suffered a heartbreaking loss in the October election, falling just 124 votes shy of becoming the new University Rosedale city councillor in a nail-biter finish. He may have come up just short in winning a council seat, but Di Pasquale hasn't given up on his fight to bring about positive change in the city.

The group is asking members of the public to sign a pre-drafted letter or write their own, addressed to Doug Ford, his ministers of Infrastructure and Tourism, Culture and Sport, and Toronto Mayor John Tory to reconsider provincial plans currently advancing for the Ontario Place lands.

In the pre-drafted letter, the organization asks Ford "to rethink your government's direction for Ontario Place."

"The public realm master planning process has confirmed our worst fears — very little of the open space being used right now will remain open and accessible to the public."

"The Therme renderings show that the scale and design of the spa seriously undermines the cultural heritage value of OP, requires the clear-cutting of hundreds of mature trees and results in the destruction of established habitat, and erases any trace of Ontario."

The organization cautions that "as expensive commercial venues, neither Therme nor the expanded Live Nation is consistent with the original intent that Ontario Place is a resource that democratized the waterfront for everyone. Crucial decisions continue to be made behind closed doors."

The letter urges the province to give the project's master planning team "the scope to create an overarching vision for the entire site in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto, the Province's extraordinary waterfront revitalization lead."

It closes with a stern warning, cautioning that "continuing with the current plan will be a generational mistake and a huge loss to Ontario. It is not too late to change direction."

Cynthia Wilkey of OP4A tells blogTO that in the letter, "In our letter supporters of OP4A are asking the Government to rethink its strategy for Ontario Place. In particular, we are looking for the government to reconsider its agreement to privatize the entire West Island and even adjacent water through its lease to ThermeCanada."

"The pandemic has shown us the benefits of access to public parks in a new way. Ontarians are seeing the value of the treasures in their own backyard," says Wilkey.

She stresses that "Ontario Place is a publicly owned asset that was intended to democratize access to the waterfront. It has done that for 50+ years. The future of its next 50 years should be determined by the public, not by the commercial interests of private companies."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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