Doug Ford says it would be 'foolish' to repair science centre building

TORONTO — Trying to repair the Ontario Science Centre building would be "foolish," Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday in response to calls to reverse his abrupt closure of the attraction.

The government has said that the science centre had to abruptly close last month because of structural issues with the roof, but there has been widespread criticism of the decision to shut it down rather than address those problems while keeping parts of it open.

Ford announced Wednesday that the original engineering report has now been peer reviewed and officials will hold a press conference Thursday to discuss the various other issues with the building.

"You'll fall off your chair when you see all the issues we have down there, not just the roof," he said.

"It's not as simple as you just saying, 'Go in there and throw some shingles down and we're all done.' You have to listen to the technical briefing. That place is absolutely just a total mess from top to bottom, to front to back, to every single building — even the bridgeway is closed, the air conditioning is gone. It would be a foolish decision (to repair it)."

Ford did not mention any future plans, if any, for the building.

A deal last year between the city and province to have Ontario take over operations of two Toronto highways included a discussion of maintaining some form of science programming at the original science centre site. But Ford suggested Wednesday he was no longer supportive of that.

"It's the city of Toronto that owns (the property) and anything they decide to do — outside of building another science centre — we'll be there to support them," he said.

The city of Toronto did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but one councillor wrote on social media that the terms of the 99-year lease with the city and its conservation authority state that the building could only be used as a science centre.

Last month, city council voted to support Coun. Josh Matlow's motion asking staff to examine what legal requirements the province may have to operate or maintain the Ontario Science Centre and report back on the feasibility of the city taking over operations.

A government-commissioned business case that examined moving the science centre from its east Toronto location to the waterfront Ontario Place attraction found that the current building is facing $369 million in deferred and critical maintenance needs over the next 20 years.

The auditor general has said that a lack of funding from successive governments is a key cause of that.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

Allison Jones and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press