NDP claims evidence is mounting that process for Ontario Place redevelopment was ‘rigged’

The NDP says is has mounting evidence that suggests the Ford Government’s process for the redevelopment of Ontario place was “rigged”. Faiza Amin reports on the calls for the province to cancel the controversial plans for the waterfront.

By Faiza Amin and Meredith Bond

Another rally has been held to oppose the province’s plans for Ontario Place at Queen’s Park on Monday, just hours after the NDP said it has “mounting evidence that suggests the Ford’s government’s process for this redevelopment was rigged.”

“A rigged process that ultimately saw this public parkland handed over to a very particular private luxury spa company,” NDP leader Marit Stiles said.

The NDP says a Freedom of Information Act request from Infrastructure Ontario shows that the government had plans to build a parking garage for the Therme Spa at Ontario Place two years before the public knew of the structure. 

The document is dated January 28, 2021, six months before it announced on July 30, 2021, that Therme and Live Nation were among the successful bidders for this project.

“It suggests that Mr. Ford gifted a publicly funded half-billion-dollar parking garage to Therme and hid it from the public for two years,” Stiles said. 

The Austrian-based company has plans to open a private spa and waterpark at the public site. The NDP is raising questions over the province’s timeline and the bidding process for the iconic waterfront.

“Every question we asked about the procurement process, we were met with, ‘Just trust us,’ and we don’t. Is there corruption? I would say I hope not,” said Jennifer French, NDP Infrastructure Critic

In Monday afternoon’s question period, the NDP introduced a motion to terminate the deal with the Austrian-owned Therma spa and was supported by the Green Party.

“Public land should remain in public hands. And that’s exactly why we have to end the lease,” said Leader Mike Schreiner. 

The motion was struck down by the government shortly after.

Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure, Kinga Surma, was asked Monday if the process was fair and if the bidders didn’t have adequate knowledge.

“I think parking is really important … it’s a site that will attract close to six million if not more people,” responded Surma. “The annual report was submitted to the Ministry of Infrastructure in June. It will be presented in the house, and it will be made public.”

When asked if the government has considered Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow’s proposal to put it at Exhibition Place, where land and parking are available, Surma said, “Work has already started at the site.”

Outside, a rally in support of calling off the lease was organized by Ontario Place for All, a group publicly opposed to the project.

“This lease is for 95 years, so we’re giving away public waterfront land, so our children and our children’s children, so they won’t be able to use it. Everything we’ve learned about this lease is bad news,” said Norm Di Pasquale with Ontario Place for All.

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