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Premier Ford calls Ontario Science Centre a 'decrepit building', says repairing it is 'foolish'

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Ontario's premier pushed back against critics of his government's controversial decision to shut down the Ontario Science Centre, calling the building "decrepit" and saying completely fixing it would cost upwards of half a billion dollars.

Doug Ford said keeping it open would be unsafe and fixing the current building would be too expensive, promising a new engineering report to be publicly released on Friday would justify the dramatic move three weeks ago.

"It's not as simple as you just saying, 'Go in there and throw some shingles down, and we're all done," Ford said when asked by reporters at an unrelated press conference.

"That place is absolutely a mess from top to bottom. Front to back. Every single building. Even the bridgeway is closed. The air conditioning is gone. It would be a foolish decision," he said.

The building was shut down on June 21 in the wake of an engineering report that found aging roof panels needed to be fixed before heavy rain or snow caused them to be a safety hazard.

"When engineers are telling me this is critical, it's unsafe – I'm not chancing it," Ford said.

But the engineering report itself gave other options than shutting down the building. Others, including the firm that designed it, also said the buildings could be renovated safely by cordoning off some of the areas.

The provincial government has issued a request for proposals for another space to start no later than January 1, 2026, which critics have labelled potentially more expensive than simply fixing the roof until a new science centre can be built at Ontario Place by 2029.

On Thursday, the province is set to provide an update on the closure of the centre.

In the meantime, fences surround the building, visitors have been turned away, summer camp plans for parents are in disarray, and at least two semesters of the OSC's "Science School" have been cancelled.

"It was really sad, very disappointing," said Suzanne Fielder, a former science school student in the 1990s. She said the experience in the school propelled her to work in a genetics lab and then teach science.

"Those experiences at the Science Centre were foundational in what I chose to do with the rest of my life," she said.

The opposition NDP blamed the chaos on "Ford's irresponsible decision-making," saying, "Just this week, Ford blocked an NDP attempt to have his infrastructure minister finally provide the public with much-needed answers, which means we're still left with far too many questions about what is going on."

The Green Party of Ontario said in a statement, "The premier is grasping at straws to justify his unjustifiable Science Centre shutdown, and Ontarians can clearly see through the façade."

Ontario Liberal MPP Adil Shamji said in an interview that he has been fielding many calls from his disappointed constituents and labelled the argument the Science Centre is beyond repair 'categorically false.'

"What a peculiar statement," Shamji said. "The building is 55 years old. There are many buildings that are significantly older. The building needs some maintenance. But to argue that the 55-year-old building is beyond salvage flies in the face of what so many people have said.

"Nobody is saying the Ontario Science Centre is about to fall apart except the premier," he said.

Ford said he supports whatever the City of Toronto wants to do with the land and the building, which it owns, as long as it is not build a science centre.   

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