Site preparation, including clear-cutting of more than 850 trees, should be paused
TORONTO – Marit Stiles, the Leader of the Official Opposition NDP, welcomes the Auditor General’s probe into Ford’s plans to move the Ontario Science Centre and spend more than $650 million on a private luxury spa.
“People are frustrated with an affordability crisis, closing emergency rooms, overcrowded classrooms... and rather than help make life easier, Ford’s spa-obsessed Conservatives are blowing more than $650 million of public money on a private, luxury spa,” Stiles said. “People know this is a bad deal for Ontario, and I’m confident the Auditor General’s report will confirm that.”
NDP MPP Chris Glover (Spadina—Fort York), whose riding is home to Ontario Place, says the news of the audit means the site preparation underway should be paused. “Ford’s Conservatives must immediately halt the destruction of more than 850 trees and critical habitats for species-at-risk,” he said. “Stop the bulldozing until this audit is complete.”
Ford’s corrupt Conservatives have refused to make the details of their 95-year lease with Therme public, despite concerns around how the deal came together.
Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma repeatedly cites a “business case” for closing the Ontario Science Centre and building one half the size at Ontario Place but refuses to make the case public.
"We want what Ontarians want: to see this deal cancelled and for the truth to come out,” Stiles said. “An Auditor General report confirmed people’s suspicions about this government’s Greenbelt Grab. Now, this government is under an RCMP criminal investigation. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Auditor General uncovers.”
- The value-for-money audit was requested by Ontario Place For All, Waterfront For All and Architectural Conservancy Ontario. The Ontario NDP wrote the Auditor General in support of this request.
- Ford’s Conservatives voted down an Ontario NDP motion to terminate the lease with Therme at Ontario Place on October 16.
- Ford’s “Special Advisor” at Ontario Place collected more than $70,000 in public money, but failed to produce any real work as per an FOI obtained by the Ontario NDP
- In a testimony before the Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy committee in June, the CEO of Infrastructure Ontario Michael Lindsay confirmed that Therme’s bid had not been received prior to August 28, 2019, when IO announced a deadline extension. He also confirmed that several other bids were received before the initial deadline.
- The NDP has also received confirmation via a FOI request that the procurement had no Fairness Monitor, which is standard for large procurements to ensure fairness and integrity.
- Ontario NDP has obtained FOI documents from Infrastructure Ontario that show plans to build a parking garage by Therme’s entrance at Ontario Place The document is dated January 28, 2021, which is six months before Infrastructure Ontario announced on July 30, 2021, that Therme, Live Nation, and Écorécréo Group were the successful bidders for this project, nearly two years before the public learned about the below-grade parking garage in late 2022.
- Media reports have already revealed that Minister Surma was informed by Carmine Nigro, Chair of Ontario Place Corporation, that the site had 2.8 million visitors in 2022 and a record profit. Minister Surma never shared these numbers with the public. Instead, she continues to insist that Ontario Place is not enjoyed by people.
- Minister Surma often refers to a business case in her pitch to turn Ontario Place into a luxury mega spa and destroy the Ontario Science Centre. This business case has never been shared or seen. Minister Surma refuses to answer about the questionable process that appears to have favoured Therme.
- Ontario Place Corporation has submitted reports beyond 2018. The annual reports for 2019 and 2020 have been received by the Ministry of Infrastructure but they have not been made public. Ontario Place Corporation - a public entity - is obligated to publish their reports on their website, however, they remain confidential until approved by the Ministry.
- The NDP revealed that a relocated Ontario Science Centre would be about half the size of the current attraction, which is located in a landmark heritage building listed on the City of Toronto’s Heritage Registry.