Ontario Place development concerns taken to the courts

May 13, 2024 | Headlines, News, Provincial News

Crowds gathered at Toronto’s City Hall to support Ontario Place 4 All as their case for a judicial review was re-assessed at Osgoode Hall courts on Monday morning.

Ontario Place 4 All, a citizen-led advocacy group, was formed to demand a proper environmental assessment of Ontario Place, which the provincial Doug Ford government wants to develop into what the advocacy group describes as a private mega spa to be built by Therme Canada.

Ontario Place’s West Island was exempt from assessment after the Conservative Party fast-tracked the Rebuilding Ontario Place Act, created to speed up the construction of the Toronto landmark.

Despite the government’s desire to quash the OP4A request, judges put the motion forward, and Monday morning saw a re-assessment of the claim in front of three judges rather than one.

This represents an opportunity for Ontario Place 4 All to make its demands known to the courts.

A photo of a supporter of Ontario Place 4 All walking to Osgoode Hall on Monday morning.

A supporter of OP4A arrived at Osgoode Hall with signs supporting the movement. Photo credit: Liv Chug

OP4A Co-chair Norm Di Pasquale said the development of Ontario parkland is cause for environmental and economic concern.

“Construction of this mega spa will release 100,000 tonnes of carbon and use the same amount of energy as thousands of homes every single day, all to keep palm trees heated on a frozen lake in Ontario,” Di Pasquale said.

However, Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina and Fort York, said the more immanent concern is the potential for governments to exempt themselves from their responsibilities.

“This country is overriding our democratic rights,” he said.

“They’ve overruled the Environmental Protection Act, the Environmental Bill of Rights, the Heritage Act, and they’ve exempted their ministers and government agents from any indemnification,” Glover said.

“I hope the courts decide that it’s not proper for a government to try to exempt themselves from loss after the fact. The decision today is bigger than just Ontario Place,” he said. “This is about our democratic rights and whether governments have to follow their own laws.”

Representatives were joined by concerned Ontarians who want to see the government conduct a proper environmental assessment of West Island before construction begins.

“This is the last opportunity to have an environmental assessment and to be getting some legal founding,” said Helerie Bowring, an environmental activist.

“It’s so anti-environmental in its consciousness, we can hardly stand it,” she said.

The crowd marched from City Hall to Queen Street to raise awareness for the OP4A cause, championed by Di Pasquale, who led group chants roadside.

A photo of Ontario Place 4 All Co-chair Norm Di Pasquale holding up a sign at City Hall that reads "Save Ontario Place".

Norm Di Pasquale demands Ontario Place needs to be saved from corner-cutting construction. Photo credit: Liv Chug

Di Pasquale said he hopes to see the motion for assessment heard by the court, but also for more Ontarians to be aware of the government’s plans.

“The Environmental Assessment Act needs to apply if you’re tearing down 850 trees and levelling an entire island, that’s the kind of project that screams for an environmental assessment,” Di Pasquale said.

“Filling West Island, turning that place into a giant mud ball, and then replacing that with a giant mega spa has us concerned,” he said.

The courts will make their decision late Monday afternoon.

While they wait, OP4A and community members say they will continue their stand so Ontarians know about the potential future of Ontario Place’s West Island.