There’s nothing like waterfront property. So, leave it to the government to lose money on a theme park situated on Lake Ontario.
Case in point: when Ontario Place first opened in 1971 it was a gem. The park attracted millions of visitors every year to enjoy all the low-cost and even free attractions. Anyone who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s undoubtedly has fond memories.
But because this is a government-run park, it eventually fell into deep neglect (what happened to the once iconic Children’s Village is nothing short of scandalous). And after years of financial losses, Ontario Place was more or less shuttered by 2012.
Yet, last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a grandiose new development plan for what has become the “mistake by the lake.” Three private companies will be investing some $500 million to build water slides, an adventure park, botanical gardens, and to revamp the concert venue. It was also announced that Ontario Place would morph into a year-round attraction.
While it “looks good on paper,” as the saying goes, we are concerned about what taxpayers will need to kick in to make this revitalization a reality (after all, a government-funded mega project results in fiscal disaster more often than not).
Yet, surprisingly, Premier Ford was evasive when it came to offering up such nitty-gritty details pertaining to public funding. How odd. Isn’t this the individual who, along with his late, great brother Rob, ran under the brilliant slogan of “Respect for Taxpayers”? Where is that respect now that Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford has become Ontario Premier Doug Ford?
Something else that is odd is the timeline for this rebuild. At the earliest, the new Ontario Place will be open in 2027, but more likely it won’t be ready until 2030. Why should it take so long? Especially given that much of the infrastructure, such as the Cinesphere, the Pods and the Budweiser Stage are already built and only require renovations?
Yet again, government proves that it moves at the speed of molasses going uphill in the wintertime. And should costs spiral out of control, the mindset seems to be “just put it on the tab” — the taxpayer tab, that is…