Just what part of the word ‘park’ is not understood by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Whigs? In 1971, then Premier John Robarts introduced Ontario Place as a jewel on Toronto’s waterfront—a park extending Exhibition Park. A park is a public trust. It is a place for public recreation. It belongs to the people of that place. It is definitely not a place for residential development or anything else that does not contribute to the public enjoyment of the park.
We hardly expected John Tory and his panel to understand that. This will teach us to not just laugh at John Tory’s recommendations and throw them in the recycle bin. We already knew that John Tory is not the most astute politician in the province. He showed that when he lead the Ontario Conservatives down the garden path back in 2007 with his offer of expanded parochial school funding to ethnic groups. What he did was hand the election on a platter to Dalton McGuinty. Why is McGuinty now listening to John Tory tell him what to do with Ontario Place?
This is serious. How could McGuinty be so foolish as to let a junior minister stand up and tell people that his government is going to allow condominiums there? Can you think of a worse place for people to live? There are no city services handy. There are no convenient shopping areas. How are these condos going to have vehicle access? Ontario Place is a place for people, not cars.
Why would people who understand casinos have already said this would be a very bad place to have a casino? It is because Ontario Place has built its identification as a place for children, a place for families and a place for youth. There is no space for commerce or business that does not provide direct services that contribute to the enjoyment of the park.
This is not to suggest that the province pay public funds to create a more advanced entertainment area at Ontario Place. With the size of the Toronto market and its tourism, no doubt some enterprising entrepreneur with deep pockets could see the profit in something such as a modern year-round water world at the park. And there are many other ideas to be explored. There is nothing wrong with public-private partnerships when they fulfill the objectives of all concerned.
But the Tory report on Ontario Place is wrong and the McGuinty government is absolutely wrong to go along with it.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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