In a move that has garnered significant attention, Premier Doug Ford came out in support of the idea of moving the Ontario Science Centre to the Ontario Place site on the city’s waterfront. It’s an idea first floated by mayoral candidate Ana Bailão, but, at a news conference, Ford said the government has been looking into the idea for a year.
“I personally think it’s a great idea, but if I told you now, my minister of infrastructure would shoot me on the spot,” he said, at the press conference on an unrelated matter, adding that people should “stay tuned until next week.”
Apparently, at that point, the Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma could be making some sort of announcement with more details.
The province has been pushing a project from Austrian company Thermé to build a massive 65,000-square-foot spa at the Ontario Place site that has seen significant opposition from the city of Toronto, local residents, the official opposition NDP at Queen’s Park as well as a number of mayoral candidates in the upcoming by-election.
Although there are many criticisms of the Thermé plan, one that seems to be getting the most attention is a massive underground parking lot that will cost the province more than a half-a-billion dollars in subsidies.
Today’s news regarding the Ontario Science Centre moving to the site caught most by surprise.
Bailão, who proposed to build 5,000 homes on the science centre site if it is moved, responded to Premier Ford supporting her idea by saying that she is “pleased to hear that Premier Ford and I agree on this proposal–and that the province has been working on this for some time. I look forward to seeing the full details of their announcement next week.”
If the Ontario government proceeds to relocated the science centre to Ontario Place, Bailão said she’d like to see the Don Mills and Eglinton facility turned into a community hub with housing on the massive parking lot beside the building.
“The Science Centre is a beloved heritage building. I look forward to working with Flemingdon, Thorncliffe, and other surrounding communities to turn this building into a community hub that serves all residents,” she added.
Others suggest both moves are examples of a provincial government pushing a privatisation agenda by starving public buildings and institutions of funding until the begin to fall apart.
Both Ontario Place and Ontario Science Centre, by the way, are examples of governments neglecting maintenance and manufacturing a situation where they can claim a place is falling apart, and that it requires privatization/replacement to continue the use.
— Gil Meslin (@g_meslin) April 13, 2023
And, of course, the comments surprised many because the Ford government has invested billions of dollars in bringing an LRT and the Ontario subway line to the site only to now close it down.
This government is an actual joke. Billions on the Crosstown LRT, a new station at the doorstep of the Science Centre, and it being one of a handful of non-downtown centric public attractions and y’all are throwing this out as a legitimate plan? Worms. For. Brains.#ONPoli #TOPoli https://t.co/BU2ES00s9h
— Kaila Hunte (@kailahunte) April 13, 2023
Mayoral candidate Josh Matlow has not responded to Ford’s comments about the science centre, but has already voiced his opposition to the Thermé spa plan. He is proposing to turn the Ontario Place site into a public park.
“Because a growing number of Torontonians are living in housing that does not have access to green space, it is more essential than ever that we preserve free public spaces,” said Matlow, in a press release.