UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, a spokesperson from the Minister of Infrastructure's office has denied any ongoing plans for a second phase of development at Ontario Place.

The Ford government for years considered a second phase to its already-controversial Ontario Place redevelopment, internal documents obtained by the Ontario NDP via a Freedom of Information request and shared with STOREYS show.

The proposed second phase would see the redevelopment of up to 25 acres on the eastern side of the Ontario Place site, between Budweiser Stage and Trillium Park. For that space, the government is contemplating the "development of large-scale entertainment, retail, and [a] restaurant destination" but the documents note that it will be "informed by the outcomes of Phase I."

Initial plans also call for bridging between the East and West islands to be expanded, and for a revitalized marina development to be created.

A January 2020 illustration showing the proposed second phase.

Trillium Park and the William G Davis Trail would be preserved, however, drawings of the plans appear to show part of the lake being filled in to accommodate the redevelopment. Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport were tasked with working on "designing the approach to Phase 2."

The documents outlining these plans are from 2020 and 2022, revealing that a second phase had been a potential part of the redevelopment for quite some time. The 2020 documents also include plans to move the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place, which means the provincial government was considering relocating the Science Centre at least three years before it was announced to the public.

“This is more evidence that Ford’s Conservatives have been keeping the public in the dark about their plans for Ontario Place from the beginning,” said Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles. “If it wasn’t bad enough that they are using hundreds of millions of public dollars to subsidize a private luxury spa and parking lot, now they’re looking to pave over part of the lake. What else have they been hiding from Ontarians?”

Following the publication of this article, a spokesperson for the Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma said there are no current plans for a second phase.

"The document in question is an outdated slide deck that is several years old," Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor Alexandru Cioban said. "The Ontario Place rebuild project has evolved since. The province does not have any plans for a potential Phase 2, and we continue to move forward with the vision we presented in April 2023. As you can see from concepts we publicly released, Brigantine Cove and the East Island are envisioned to be free public spaces and parkland."

An August 2022 "vision overview" for the Ontario Place redevelopment.

A proposed timeline for the redevelopment, from August 2022.

The Ontario government's Ontario Place redevelopment plans received intense backlash from both the public and local officials virtually from the get go. The biggest target of that fervor has been the massive, privately owned spa and waterpark from Vienna-based Therme that's set to rise on the West Island which will not only privatize part of the waterfront park, but also comes with a publicly funded remediation of the site to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

On top of that, the Province, as part of its 95-year land lease agreement with Therme, is contractually obligated to provide dedicated parking for the spa and is exploring the construction of a $307M underground parking structure to accommodate parking for the spa, Science Centre, and Budweiser Stage — a total of 2,118 parking spaces. In late November, however, the Province said it would consider building the parking spots on the Exhibition grounds.

In response to the public's backlash, Therme has twice adjusted its design plans, most recently shrinking its building footprint and adding more public parkland.

Others have taken issue with the Province's decision to not include the spa or Budweiser Stage redevelopment — which will see the venue turn into a larger, year-round facility — in the environmental assessment for the project.

“With this secret plan to fill in the lake, it’s no wonder Ford’s Conservatives exempted the redevelopment of Ontario Place from environmental laws," said NDP MPP Chris Glover. "A taxpayer subsidy, parkland giveaway, and now environmental devastations, there’s more than enough reasons to stop this project.”

As for who — if anyone — could stop it, it seems it won't be the City of Toronto, as Mayor Olivia Chow announced in November that, as part of a deal with the Province, Toronto has accepted the Province's authority to advance approvals for Ontario Place.

"My position is clear on Ontario Place […] I believe that Ontario Place [is] a public park, but it is called Ontario Place," Mayor Chow said at the time. "The land belongs to the provincial government and we do not have the authority to stop the development. The future of Ontario Place, that debate is going to happen here in Queen’s Park, not at the municipal level."

In November, the Auditor General's office confirmed that it is conducting an investigation into the Ontario Place redevelopment.

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