ontario place

Doug Ford is letting contentious Ontario Place redevelopment project skip a very key step

A stunning new bombshell has just dropped in the Ontario Place redevelopment saga this morning, inciting further outrage from residents of Toronto and beyond who want to save the public greenspace from being turned into a private megaspa.

It appears that the newly-released Draft Environmental Study Report for the project notably omits the very much opposed Therme Canada location coming to the prime waterfront property, as Doug Ford deemed private projects exempt from the environmental assessments usually required for such largescale construction a few years ago.

Currently, the Environmental Assessment Act only applies to provincial ministries and agencies, municipalities, and public bodies such as Metrolinx, leaving Therme and Live Nation (who will revamp the site's existing performance venue) immune.

Given the nature of the Ontario Place land, proper assessments could, and likely would have put at least some of Therme's and the government's plans for the space in jeopardy. And while many are not surprised by the snaky move from Ford and co., the news is still coming as a massive and frustrating blow.

The boujie facility from Austria-based Therme featuring botanical gardens, waterslides, restaurants, "well-being areas" and more is the cornerstone of the massive project to revitalize the defunct theme park, which, though it is admittedly in need of a facelift, is still a space that many residents walk, cycle, picnic and otherwise hang out in on a daily basis.

The key aspect of this regular use is that it is free, as opposed to the enormous complex (and five-level underground parking garage) that will bar much of the 155-acre piece of land from public use, aside from 12 acres of beach and pathways that Therme is throwing in to appease aggrieved citizens.

Many are now vowing to write to their local representative and otherwise take civic action to resist the enterprise, but given the outpouring of public backlash that stakeholders have already received at every turn, it doesn't seem that anything will halt or change what's already in motion.

This is despite the fact that the venture, though it has private players, will still be partially funded by taxpayer dollars — the 2,100-space parking garage alone is estimated to cost the province $400 milion.

As Spadina-Fort York MPP Chris Glover noted when he broke the news, the new report also states that "if an agreement to transfer the City of Toronto-owned water or lands to the Government of Ontario is not reached, expropriation will be required," meaning that things will go ahead regardless of who is on board, including the city itself.

It's something that will work in favour of those behind the initiative, as the city said in a scathing report this spring that the concept goes against both local and provincial policy, and that "the height, massing and scale of the main building overwhelms the public realm, heritage features and overall size of the west island landform."

Lead photo by

Therme Canada

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