Ontario’s Auditor General has launched yet another investigation into the Ford government, this time concerning the redevelopment of Ontario Place.
The provincial watchdog confirmed to STOREYS that it is conducting an audit concerning the transformation of Ontario Place into a private luxury spa, as well as the move of the Ontario Science Centre to the waterfront site.
"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 Nick Stavropoulos, the Acting Auditor General, told STOREYS.
"As these audits are currently in progress, we cannot comment on them further. With regard to the timing of the release of these audits, at present, the tabling date for both of these reports have not been finalized."
The Ford government’s plan to redevelop the West Island into a massive new spa and waterpark has received intense backlash from the public and officials, with Marit Stiles, the Leader of the Ontario NDP, calling the decision a "bad deal" for the province.
The redevelopment comes with a $650M publicly funded price tag. Therme, the company behind the spa, has been given a 95-year lease for the land, the details of which have not been made public.
"We want what Ontarians want: to see this deal cancelled and for the truth to come out," Stiles said. "An Auditor General report confirmed people’s suspicions about this government’s Greenbelt Grab. Now, this government is under an RCMP criminal investigation. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Auditor General uncovers."
In August, a report from the Auditor General found that the provincial government’s removal of land from the Greenbelt was done in a biased manner that showed "preferential treatment" to certain developers. Last month, the Auditor General launched an investigation into the province’s use of Minister’s Zoning Orders.
Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina-Fort York, called for the immediate cessation of site preparation until the audit is complete. According to Glover, whose riding is home to Ontario Place, the province intends to cut down more than 850 trees as it gears up for construction.
However, in a statement to STOREYS, a spokesperson for Kinga Surma, the Minister of Infrastructure, said that work would continue despite the audit.
"We’re moving forward with our plans to rebuild Ontario Place and work is well underway with shovels in the ground," the spokesperson said. "In order to support this rebuild, Ontario sought applications from companies with expertise from across the globe. This competitive, open process was led by nonpartisan procurement officials at Infrastructure Ontario and supported by external subject matter experts from leading advisory firms."
"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."