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Ontario Place redevelopment subject of new auditor general probe


The office of Ontario’s auditor general has confirmed it is looking into the provincial government’s controversial plans to redevelop Ontario Place and move the Ontario Science Centre to the waterfront.

"I can confirm that the Office of the Auditor General is conducting audits on both Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre," a spokesperson for acting auditor general, Nick Stavropoulos, told CTV News Toronto Friday morning. "As these audits are currently in progress, we cannot comment on them further."

Premier Doug Ford government’s plans for what’s been described as a “mega spa” by Austrian developer Therme at the site of the decommissioned Ontario Place have garnered criticism since they were first announced in 2021.

Community groups and local politicians who take issue with the project say that the development of a private spa and multi-level parking garage on the land will result in a loss of public space and the removal of hundreds of mature trees in the area.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles welcomed the news of the AG probe into the Ontario Place redevelopment and called the plan to reimagine the space a “bad deal for Ontario.”

“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 wrote in a statement.

Little is known about the actual cost of the project, but Ford said in April that construction wouldn’t cost taxpayers a thing. The government has said that Therme will put up $500 million towards the construction of the 22,000 square-metre spa.

Therme’s lease on the public land is reportedly good for 95 years.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma said that audits are "a standard part of government business."

"We will continue to work collaboratively together with our partners to rebuild an Ontario Place that’s fun for families, students and tourists to enjoy for generations to come," the statement read.

For Therme's part, it said in a statement: "We look forward to engaging with the auditor general, and we’re confident he will find that Therme’s participation in the revitalization of Ontario Place brings excellent value for Ontarians."

Construction equipment is seen in front of the cinesphere at Ontario Place in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The AG is also probing the province’s decision to relocate the Ontario Science Centre from Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue to the waterfront, a plan the Ford government has said it is moving ahead with. According to Surma's spokesperson, the Ontario Science Centre board voted unanimously in favour of the decision to move.

On Wednesday, the city’s executive committee voted to explore moving the Therme facility away from the “treasured green space” of Ontario Place and to the nearby Exhibition in Place instead. However, Therme Canada has since rebuffed the idea.

At the same time, tall fences have gone up around Ontario Place leading some to wonder whether the government is trying to “hide” its activities on the West Island.

With files from CP24’s Joshua Freeman and Bryann Aguilar Top Stories

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