Press Release: Toronto must reject the application by Infrastructure Ontario that would turn Ontario Place’s West Island into a spa for the rich


November 25, 2022

The City of Toronto Must Stop the Vandalism of Ontario Place

Ontario Place for All is calling on the City of Toronto to reject the application by Infrastructure Ontario to redevelop Ontario Place’s West Island. The application would take the entirety of the West Island out of public hands and turn into a private spa for the rich.
“This is not the vision Ontarians have for Ontario’s most iconic urban park,” says Co-Chair Cynthia Wilkey. “Turning over public space to a private spa is unacceptable. Other cities around the world are more farsighted and are embracing the civic and economic value of spectacularly designed parks.” Wilkey said.  “City Council must turn down this development application and insist the Province produce a plan that better serves the people of Ontario.” 
Ontario Place for All is concerned that  the Ontario Government appears to be positioning itself to violate long-standing environmental and heritage protections in its efforts to destroy the West Island. Bill 23 threatens the statutory heritage protection for Ontario Place and the Province has exempted the West Island from the Ontario Place Environment Assessment that would put the plan to bulldoze all the trees and natural landscape under scrutiny.
Instead of celebrating this rare example of mid-century modernist design, the Ontario Government is promoting plans by a private (Austrian) company that flagrantly disrespect the innovative integration of architecture, engineering, landscape and water that is key to the cultural heritage value of Ontario Place. The threat of redevelopment has garnered global attention for Ontario Place and placed it on the World Monuments Fund 2020 Watch list for endangered places. 
“This proposal undermines a multi-generational effort to make the waterfront available to all when there is a dire need for public space to serve a rapidly expanding population”, says Ken Greenberg, one of the founders of Ontario Place for All. “How does leveling Michael Hough’s ground-breaking landscape design and replacing it with acres of greenhouses and tropical vegetation align with the Provincial commitment to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Ontario Place?  What has happened to the original intent that Ontario Place both democratize access to the waterfront and showcase the best of Ontario? 
Ontario Place for All says now is the time for Toronto City Council to reconsider its cooperation with the Province over Ontario Place and insist the park’s future incorporates important lessons from the COVID pandemic.  “We all saw how important open and publicly-accessible parkland is for preserving the health of a community,” says Co-Chair, Norm Di Pasquale. “Any significant shift to “pay to play” attractions would be a serious misstep.”
Ontario Place for All will continue to advocate for a long-term vision for Ontario Place that respects the core principles supported by thousands of Ontarians.
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For more information or for interviews
Cynthia Wilkey              (416) 892-8941
Norm Di Pasquale         (647) 917-3198
Our Core Principles

  • Ontario Place must be for ALL and kept publicly accessible.
  • There must be a thoughtful, comprehensive public review before any changes, with a full and robust public consultation that:
  •  conforms to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report’s call for informed, respectful and meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples over economic development.
  •  recognizes the diverse communities that use and contribute to Ontario Place.
  • Public interest, not commercial interest must drive the new vision. 
  •  Future plans must:
  •  acknowledge the waterfront’s Indigenous heritage and incorporate meaningful Indigenous consultation.
  • maintain Ontario Place as part of Toronto’s waterfront park system. 
  • be integrated with the revitalization of Exhibition Place. 
  • celebrate Ontario.
  • be guided by a collaboratively developed Strategic Conservation Plan that sustains Ontario Place as a recognized cultural heritage landscape. 

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