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The Globe and Mail

Government-sponsored waterfront development a waste: Doug Ford

A woman hides from the sun under a parasol on the Toronto waterfront during an extreme heat alert for the city on May 24, 2010.

Darren Calabrese/For The Globe and Mail/darren calabrese/The Globe and Mail

The mayor's closest adviser is no fan of government-sponsored redevelopment along Toronto's waterfront.

In response to a reporter's question about whether the city should pull out of Waterfront Toronto, the tri-partite agency charged with revitalizing 2,000 acres of the city's lakefront, Councillor Doug Ford launched into a lecture on the folly of the government's role in development projects.

"That was the biggest boondogle the feds, the province and the city has ever done," he said of Waterfront Toronto.

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Governments have devoted $1.5-billion to the waterfront, money that Mr. Ford said is a waste.

"You don't subsidize the most valuable property in Canada to the tune of $10-million an acre," he said. "You let the private sector buy it and let them develop it. We can control it. We can say we want a round building here and a square one here. We can control it but we don't spend 1.5 billion dollars in tax dollars when everyone's feeling pressure. It's just common sense."

He later said the city should withdraw from Waterfront Toronto, but added that he was speaking only for himself, not the mayor.

New developments have recently popped up all along waterfront, transforming the look of Toronto's once-languishing lakeshore. Sugar Beach, facing the Redpath sugar refinery, opened in the summer featuring Muskoka chairs and white sand. Close by is Sherbourne Common, which has a skating rink and splash pad. And then there's Corus Quay, the George Brown College's health-sciences campus, the West Donlands, slated to serve as the athlete's village during the 2015 PanAm Games before it becomes low-rent housing and condos.

Former Ontario premier David Peterson, who chaired the bid for the 2015 PanAm Games, said in an interview that the city does have a role to play in waterfront revitalization. "The question is, what face do you want to put forward?" With an athlete's village consisting of 8,000-10,000 apartment units slated for the West Donlands, he observed that the city can leverage the event to beautify the area and attractive even more development.

But Mr. Peterson stressed that he hasn't tuned in to the hints comings from the mayor's office that the city may dial down its contribution to Waterfront Toronto. "This isn't my debate," he added. "What they decide to do is kind of up to them."

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National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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