Ontario Place is a treasured public space, a site of international heritage importance, and well-used, well-loved parkland. In 2019, the Province proposed a development plan for Ontario Place that includes a private spa, waterpark, and parking garage. On top of that, the Province has proposed subsidizing the cost with hundreds of millions in public funds.
We can do so much better. It’s clear from the City’s review so far, and everything we’ve heard from you, that the Province’s proposal does not belong on our waterfront. Disappointingly, in November 2023 the Province announced it will be using unprecedented legislative power to bypass the City’s development process, expropriate city lands, and avoid an environmental assessment.
Since the beginning of the Ontario Place redevelopment process, the Province has had the power to impose their development plan. The City has been determined to collaborate and find the best outcome for the future of these well-loved, well-used public lands. The Province’s announcement to bypass the City’s development process has understandably raised a lot of concern and questions, and it is all the more important for us to stay informed and motivated.
As your Deputy Mayor and the Councillor for Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York, I am determined to keep working with people across Toronto and Ontario to keep Ontario Place public and for all. Read on for how you can stay engaged.
From the beginning of this process, I have prioritized a robust and transparent public process by the City to review the Province's proposal in line with Council approved Guiding Principles for any redevelopment of Ontario Place (adopted in 2019).
I disagree with the Province of Ontario’s opaque and undemocratic decision-making process that resulted in the carving up of Ontario Place into private leases for development. I don’t believe the Province should be spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds to subsidize a private spa water park and accompanying parking structure. We already have the template for success for the site, with Trillium Park having been built at a fraction of the cost of the Province’s plan.
Action to Date
In April 2023, a City staff report on the Province’s application found numerous issues with the proposal, including the scope and scale of the structures and the lack of public space on the West Island. It is clear from this assessment that the Province failed to prove its plan fits into our vision for our waterfront.
I am grateful for the tremendous public response to this proposal and participation in the City consultation process I worked to create with City staff. In April 2023, hundreds of people attended in-person and virtual meetings on the application, with many more providing comments to City staff online. Responses overwhelmingly stated strong opposition to the proposal. You can read a summary of the comments here.
Also in April 2023, my colleagues on the General Government Committee adopted my recommended motion to defer considering the Ford government’s demands to transfer City lands at Ontario Place until City Council makes a decision on the application and receives information on the terms of the lease with Therme.
In June 2023, I hosted an Active Walk and Update with City Planning at Ontario Place on the application when the Province’s resubmission was delayed, keeping the public updated at every step of this process.
We supported another round of community consultations on a revised development application in September 2023. The presentation by the applicants still didn’t address the fundamental concerns of the project, including:
- The size and footprint of the building, which is ill-suited for the location;
- An exorbitantly expensive parking garage, paid for with hundreds of millions of Ontarians’ dollars that doesn’t help us meet our climate goals;
- The destruction of the current heritage landscape, including 850 trees and obstructing the views of the Cinesphere and the pods.
You can read the background on the City’s review of the application here.
In early December, the Provincial government rammed through the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act in just one week, undemocratically cutting short debate and enacting extraordinary legislation to take over the Ontario Place development process and break all the rules of good planning. It:
- Allows an Enhanced Ministerial Zoning Order that removes City authority over the Zoning by-law and Official Plan application so the Province can impose their development plan;
- Directly expropriates City property within the Ontario Place site;
- Exempts the West Island from a public Environmental Assessment review;
- The Ontario Heritage Act does not apply to any changes to the land or buildings at Ontario Place;
- Exempts all construction activity from the City’s noise by-law.
- Requires the City to allow any closures of City roads or paths and access to City infrastructure related to the redevelopment;
- And, it also strips Ontarians of the right to take the government to court for actions by government ministers that constitute “acts of bad faith”, “malfeasance”, or failure to meet any “fiduciary obligations”.
There are still many outstanding questions that the Province has not answered about how it will move forward with its plans, despite repeated requests by the City for a work plan and construction liaison committee with the public.
The fight for Ontario Place is not over. The Province and Therme can make a different choice. We’ve seen it happen recently, with the Greenbelt. As the battle moves to Queen’s Park, I am determined to keep working with people across Toronto and Ontario to win. You can reach my office anytime, follow on social at @ausmalik, and sign up for my newsletter for updates and opportunities to get involved.
Here are some immediate actions we can all take right now:
- Stay connected with Ontario Place for All, and get involved in their advocacy campaigns.
- Contact your local MPP to share your support to save Ontario Place. Spadina-Fort York MPP Chris Glover has a petition – take a moment to fill it out here and share.
- Find regular updates right here on our website and ensure you are on our mailing list.
The Province is using these extraordinary powers because of the powerful organizing and action we’ve taken together that’s shown their plan to be a bad use of public money and precious waterfront lands. We have won before. We won’t stop now.
Let’s keep working together.