‘Old decrepit building’: Ford won’t change his mind on Science Centre closure

Doug Ford was questioned about the closure of the science centre and teased at more information to come regarding the building's condition on Thursday.

Premier Doug Ford says the Ontario Science Centre is an “old decrepit building” and he won’t change his mind regarding its closure.

The premier says a technical briefing scheduled for Thursday will confirm the findings of an engineering report last month, which found that the roof is at risk of collapsing.

“We did a peer review with the Science Centre, meaning we had another firm come in and confirm what the first firm said and it would cost minimum – minimum – close to $500 million, it would shut the Ontario Science Centre down,” Ford said during an unrelated event Wednesday morning.

“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).”

The engineering firm Rinkus Consulting Group said replacing and repairing the roof would cost upwards of $40 million and would take two or more years to complete with the facility closed.

Critics and the firm of the late architect who designed the building called the move to close it “absurd” and motivated by politics rather than safety concerns. The architecture firm has offered its services for free to the Ontario government to make the necessary roof repairs and keep the facility open.

Ford said there are issues that go beyond the roof, such as asbestos and other dangerous chemicals that would be released into the air if repairs were attempted.

“At the end of the day, this is not a safe building,” he said. “When I have two engineering reports back-to-back and I was briefed for over an hour, not just about the roof, but about every issue you could possibly think of, it just doesn’t make sense to throw good money into an old, decrepit building.”

“You’ll fall off your chair when you see all the issues we have down there, not just the roof,” he added.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford is “grasping at straws” when it comes to justifying the shutdown of the Science Centre.

“The engineering report that his own government commissioned outlines a clear pathway to repair, restore and reopen the Science Centre at its current Don Valley location,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “Nowhere does it refer to the cultural and educational hub as a ‘total mess’ or ‘an old decrepit building.'”

“The Premier’s story is nothing more than an attempt to prop up his own political interests, and no amount of technical briefings are going to convince Ontarians otherwise.”

The government is currently exploring alternative locations for the Science Centre and a request for proposals indicates the space would be between 50,000 to 100,000 square feet – or about one-fifth of the size of the current facility. They are also looking to lease that temporary space for four to eight years, despite the fact the new permanent home for the Science Centre at Ontario Place could open as early as 2028.

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