Published On: Tue, Nov 27th, 2018

Hearn sale another bad deal for Toronto courtesy of the province

In Toronto’s real-estate market, there are single-family mansions and even a swanky condominium currently priced at more than $ 16 million. And yet, that’s all a provincial corporation decided a landmark building on Toronto’s waterfront — along with 16 hectares of land — was worth.

Such a seemingly low price would raise eyebrows in almost any circumstance. But in this case, there’s extra cause to think this was a terrible deal for taxpayers, and quite possibly for the future of the city’s waterfront redevelopment plans.

The provincial sale of the decommissioned Hearn power plant to a private company is a bad deal for Toronto.
The provincial sale of the decommissioned Hearn power plant to a private company is a bad deal for Toronto.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

With no fanfare at all, Ontario Power Generation announced last week it had sold the decommissioned Hearn power generating station on Toronto’s east waterfront to long-term tenant, Studios of America.

There was no public consultation or debate about what the site should become ahead of the sale. No land appraisals were made public to show why such a low price could possibly make sense. That’s all troubling enough. But add to that the fact that Studios of America is owned in part by prominent real estate developer Mario Cortellucci, a Doug Ford supporter and campaign donor, and it looks even worse.

The government claims this sale was entirely OPG’s doing, though Energy Minister Greg Rickford was quick to claim that it was “in the best interest of taxpayers.”

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Just as we’re expected to believe that firing Alykhan Velshi, the former chief of staff to Ford’s old rival Patrick Brown (with a severance package on his first day on the job) was also entirely OPG’s decision and in the interests of taxpayers.

Recognizing the strategic importance of the Hearn site to long-term waterfront redevelopment plans, OPG had said in the past that it would not sell without the “blessing” of the province. And the former Wynne Liberal government promised to take that a step further and consult with the city before any decision was made.

But under the Ford government, Toronto Mayor John Tory wasn’t consulted or even warned about the Hearn sale. The man elected to lead this city found out an iconic public building and enough land to build a small neighbourhood had been sold to a private company when OPG put out a four paragraph news release stating the deal was done.

And this is part of a troubling pattern of provincial behaviour. Indeed, the Ford government seems determined to find new ways to undermine Toronto council.

With no consultation or warning, Ford slashed Toronto council nearly in half throwing the last municipal election into turmoil.

His government axed the governing board for Ontario Place, opening the door for the province to do whatever it wants on the vast swath of waterfront land. That could be anything from putting a casino there against the city’s wishes, to selling the land for a wall of condominiums with no requirement for public space or access to the water.

And the province is now vowing to take over Toronto’s subway system so it can extend it into York, Peel and Durham regions, even though the Yonge line is already past capacity. The province has shown decidedly less interest in the city’s transit priority, the downtown relief line.

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Whether it’s waterfront development, the size of city council or building transit in Toronto, Premier Ford has made no secret of his belief that he knows what’s best for the city. But it’s well past time for Ford to realize that he wasn’t elected to do that job. He was elected to run the province.

And that shouldn’t mean looking for new ways to undermine the wishes of Toronto’s actual elected representatives.

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TORONTO STAR

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Hearn sale another bad deal for Toronto courtesy of the province