Advertisement

Toronto uploads Gardiner, DVP to province, steps aside on Ontario Place redevelopment

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow leave their post-meeting news conference at Queen's Park on Sept. 18. The two announced a new deal between the province and the city Monday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow leave their post-meeting news conference at Queen's Park on Sept. 18. The two announced a new deal between the province and the city Monday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Oversight of two major Toronto highways — the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway — is being uploaded to the provincial government, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow announced Monday.

As part of the deal, the city is also allowing the province to take over responsibility for the entirety of Ontario Place — the city owns a small sliver of the land — paving the way for the province's controversial redevelopment of the site to continue.

Ford and Chow both called the deal "historic" during a joint news conference Monday.

"When Toronto succeeds, Ontario succeeds. When Ontario succeeds, Canada succeeds," Ford said.

The premier said the deal would open up $1.2 billion in new operating supports for the city over the next three years, and would allow the city to spend on things like homeless shelters, increased police presence on the TTC, infrastructure and other transit projects.

"By uploading the Gardiner and DVP, the city will be able to spend billions more on affordable housing, fixing transit and building communities," Chow said. "Over the next few years we will continue to examine the city's finances and working on Toronto's long-term financial sustainability. It's a beginning of a journey, it's a wonderful first step."

Both Ford and Chow also called on the federal government to similarly increase funding to the city, which has been a regular rallying cry from the pair in recent months.

City facing budget crunch

Last year, city staff estimated annual maintenance costs for the two major highways adds up to about $16 million per year, while $2.2 billion has been budgeted over the next 10 years for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner. Ford said the two highways will never be tolled by the province.

The arrangement comes as Toronto has launched its latest budget process. Without money from Ford's government and the feds, Chow and Toronto city council would likely be left considering service cuts or large tax increases in the coming months.

The city is grappling with a $1.5 billion budget hole. Unlike other levels of government, the city is required to balance its budget every year.

The province's plans for redevelopment for the waterfront site have proven controversial, with Chow herself previously promising to push back against Therme Canada's indoor water park and spa, slated for Ontario Place's West Island. The mayor also recently suggested the site should be located at the Better Living Centre, part of Exhibition Place.

When asked about a perceived flip-flop on the issue Monday, Chow said her position is "clear," and Ontario place should be a public park.

However, she said, "It is is called Ontario Place, the land belongs to the provincial government, and we do not have the authority to stop the development."

The debate over Ontario Place's future will happen at Queen's Park, not at the municipal level, Chow added.

Controversial plans for Ontario place

The province said in a news release that as part of this deal, the city is accepting "that the province has the authority to advance project approvals for Ontario Place and intends to do so imminently."

The province has also agreed to explore relocating parking for the site to the nearby Exhibition Place grounds to "improve public access to the shoreline," the news release reads.

Therme Canada unveiled a new design featuring a smaller main building and more public park space back in August.

The redesign came after politicians and community members voiced opposition to the initial proposal because of its plan for a $350 million "year-round, family-friendly" waterfront attraction, the centrepiece of which would have been a 65,000-square-metre, seven-storey indoor private "wellness centre" and water park.

Earlier this year, the company said its redesign will include more open parkland, natural spaces, public trails, and places for people to gather.

Meanwhile Ontario Place for All, a community group against the redevelopment, is seeking an injunction to stop the process.