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Ford & Chow: Strange Bedfellows

November 29th, 2023 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, what a difference a few billion dollars can make between political adversaries.

I have never had the patience to delve deeply into the mysteries of politics and those who make it their profession. I perceive it as a quagmire of conflicting interests with levers that move other levers that in term move other levers theoretically in the interests of public service but mostly about the acquisition and manipulation of power.

So you will not be surprised to hear that I go out of my way to steer clear of political discussions. But there are times when the levers are moved in a certain way that I find interesting. The latest moves and countermoves in the Ontario Governments plans to redevelop Ontario Place in Toronto are a case in point.

Full disclosure. I worked at Ontario Place for one summer some 40+ years ago when I was in university. It was a tedious, clerical job in the Maintenance Office that bored me to tears. But it is a part of my personal history so the Ontario Place controversy has captured my attention.

The infrastructure of Ontario Place has fallen into disrepair resulting in it being mothballed. The Ontario Government has a redevelopment plan for the facility which includes a large private spa with a 95-year lease and moving the Ontario Science Centre to the site. They need to expropriate some adjacent land and bypass a few bothersome laws to move forward.

The plan faces opposition on several fronts including, until recently, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. When Chow became Mayor of Toronto, she went public stating that she would oppose the government’s plan as she believed the site should remain a public park.

But now comes the news that Chow has struck a deal with Premier Doug Ford whereby the province will take responsibility for Toronto’s two major highways – the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway – and she will walk back her opposition to the Ontario Place redevelopment plan. A one-time handout of $300 million for transit costs is bundled into the deal.

It is extremely expensive, in the neighbourhood of $16 million per year, for the City of Toronto to maintain those two highways. The raised section of the Gardiner Expressway has been crumbling for years. The cost to rehabilitate the Gardiner is reportedly in the vicinity of $2.2 billion – a figure which will no doubt snowball once private interests start bidding on the work.

Chow is trumpeting the deal as a “wonderful partnership”. This begs the question: Was she ever really opposed to the Ontario Place redevelopment plan or was she using that issue as a lever? She certainly pulled off a major coup for the city getting it out from under the costs involved in ownership of the two highways and securing the bucket of cash in the process.

The Ontario Government is now proceeding with the New Deal for Toronto Act to expedite the redevelopment plan including exemptions to existing laws to allow the construction of the massive private spa to begin. Levers that move other levers that move other levers.

Doug Ford and Olivia Chow did not see eye to eye on much when Chow became mayor. But they are best buddies now. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel (now out of print) which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at

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