Court dismisses legal challenge to Ontario Place redevelopment

An Ontario court has dismissed a court challenge against the Doug Ford government's plan to redevelop Ontario Place. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News - image credit)

An Ontario court has dismissed a legal challenge by an advocacy group opposed to the Doug Ford government's plan to redevelop Ontario Place.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court quashed on Tuesday an application for a judicial review filed by Ontario Place for All, a grassroots organization that says it has more than 30,000 supporters.

The group wanted to force the province to carry out an environmental assessment of a part of the Ontario Place's West Island before proceeding with the redevelopment.

"The applicant's request for an order requiring the respondents to conduct an environmental assessment of the West Island redevelopment cannot succeed," a panel of three judges concluded in the ruling.

The province's controversial plans for Ontario Place include a new massive spa and indoor water park, to be built by the Austria-based company Therme, and a revamped Budweiser Stage concert venue. The province will also be moving the Ontario Science Centre, currently located in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, to the site.

In the ruling, the judges argued the application could not be successful because of a new law, Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, 2023, that the government passed days after the court application was filed last November.

The law expanded the powers of the infrastructure minister, exempted the province from the Environment Assessment Act and stated that the Ontario Heritage Act will not be applied to portions of Ontario Place.

In a news release that followed the ruling on Tuesday, Ontario Place for All said it's disappointed by the decision and concerned about the fate of 850 mature trees at Ontario Place.

"We are in the process of reviewing the decision to decide on next steps," the group said in the release.

Norm Di Pasquale, co-chair of Ontario for All, said the group believes that the government passed the law to undermine the legal challenge.

"I'm disappointed that the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, which was brought to the legislature seemingly in response to our legal action, was used as the basis to quash our action," Di Pasquale said.

"This bill, which aims to strip all rights and protections from Ontario Place, sets a terrible precedent for the future of Ontario's public institutions."

The group said the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act must be fought to protect the future of Ontario Place.