Mak­ing On­tario Great Again

In praise of Doug Ford’s mon­u­men­tal On­tario Place plan — a legacy of lu­nacy

Waterloo Region Record - - Editorials & Comment - GE­OF­FREY STEVENS


My dear Premier Ford:

It’s me again, sir, your faith­ful fan here in the foothills of Ford Na­tion.

I’ve writ­ten to you a cou­ple of times, first to com­mend your ef­forts to re­turn On­tario to the glo­ries of the 1950s, and sub­se­quently to en­dorse your in­vo­ca­tion of the not­with­stand­ing clause to sub­due that twit, John Tory, the mayor of Toronto.

I write to­day for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. I be­lieve it is time, Mr. Premier, to ce­ment your legacy by build­ing a mon­u­ment that will cel­e­brate the achieve­ments that you, our great­est provin­cial leader since, well, Patrick Brown, are amass­ing.

It should be the kind of mon­u­ment to make fu­ture gen­er­a­tions re­flect on the ways you Made On­tario Great Again be­fore you passed into the Great Hereafter of fed­eral pol­i­tics.

They will re­mem­ber how you rid the prov­ince of the green en­ergy non­sense im­planted by that ir­ri­tat­ing woman, Kath­leen Wynne. They will hon­our you for scrap­ping her rad­i­cal sex-ed cur­ricu­lum. They will ap­plaud your bold scheme to pave the Green­belt to make way for more On­tario es­sen­tials: fac­to­ries, sub­di­vi­sions, shop­ping malls and lots and lots of park­ing lots.

Fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will re­mem­ber with grat­i­tude those big signs you erected at the bor­der to re­as­sure Amer­i­cans flee­ing Don­ald Trump that On­tario was open for busi­ness — with grat­i­tude be­cause no one ever took the trou­ble in the past to no­tify On­tar­i­ans the prov­ince was closed for busi­ness. What we need now is some­thing more dra­matic. A mon­u­ment to your vi­sion and val­ues.

I re­fer, of course, to the rein­ven­tion of On­tario Place, the 155-acre park, recre­ation and en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­ity that sort of floats in Lake On­tario just west of the Cana­dian Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion grounds in Toronto. Con­ceived in 1967 and opened in 1971 — it may be of in­ter­est that it opened on time and un­der bud­get (how quaint) — On­tario Place was Toronto’s re­sponse to Mon­treal’s Expo 67.

Not an over­whelm­ing re­sponse, per­haps, but On­tario Place man­aged to thrive for years. Of late, how­ever, it has fallen on hard times.

Your gov­ern­ment is fac­ing a ma­jor de­ci­sion, Premier Ford: to scrap On­tario Place, fix it, or turn it into some­thing that will stand as an en­dur­ing mon­u­ment to your Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

Peo­ple do care about On­tario Place. They jammed the Metro Toronto Con­ven­tion Cen­tre on Satur­day to air their ideas at a “Rally Round On­tario Place.” Some (prob­a­bly Lib­er­als) wanted to keep it as a park and hik­ing trail, a place for calm and re­flec­tion in the heart of the city. Some (prob­a­bly New Democrats) saw af­ford­able hous­ing. Some peo­ple called for con­dos, plus the­atres, pubs and re­tail stores — just like ev­ery other part of down­town Toronto.

Some thought it would be a nifty place for an open-air base­ball sta­dium with nat­u­ral grass for the Blue Jays. Some touted the po­ten­tial for a yacht club for large lake ves­sels.

But wiser par­tic­i­pants — our sort of peo­ple, Mr. Ford — saw the true po­ten­tial of On­tario Place. They called for a de­vel­op­ment with a gi­ant fer­ris wheel, per­haps the world’s high­est, fastest, most heart-stop­ping roller-coaster, and, at the cen­tre of it all, a hu­mungous casino with ev­ery­thing a world-class gam­bler could dream of: a vast poker hall and banks of roulette wheels as far as the eye can see.

Now, Premier, there are cer­tain peo­ple who hold the view that On­tario Place should be a place for ev­ery­one — in­clud­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren — not just for games and high­stakes gam­bling. There are many NIMBY types in Toronto who re­gard a casino in the cen­tre of the city with the same hor­ror they would some other per­fectly le­gal op­er­a­tion, such as a slaugh­ter­house.

But do not let this co­terie of self­in­ter­ested small thinkers de­ter you, Mr. Ford. You have an op­por­tu­nity to turn Toronto into the Las Ve­gas or At­lantic City of the North. This could be your legacy.

Your loyal ad­mirer, etc.

Cam­bridge res­i­dent Ge­of­frey Stevens, an au­thor and for­mer Ot­tawa colum­nist and manag­ing ed­i­tor of the Globe and Mail, teaches po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Guelph. His col­umn ap­pears Mon­days. He wel­comes com­ments at ge­off­[email protected]­pa­

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