Making Ontario Great Again
In praise of Doug Ford’s monumental Ontario Place plan — a legacy of lunacy
HON. DOUG FORD, QUEEN’S PARK
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]patico.ca