City council may have voted against the new proposal for the Port Lands—but we still have a few unanswered questions
City council voted unanimously last night to leave control of the Port Lands in the hands of Waterfront Toronto, essentially squashing the Brothers Ford’s Epcot-like dreams for the area. Rob Ford, not surprisingly, hailed the turnaround as a victory, describing it as “a win-win for everybody.” Of course, it’s probably more accurate to call it an example of the mayor backing down in the face of overwhelming opposition to what probably wasn’t a well thought-out idea in the first place. But in an era of vote whipping at city council—and, at times, even unilateral decision-making—we still have to wonder what will happen when other ideas, also half-baked, aren’t met with such widespread public opposition and such strong dissent from council (like, say, killing the vehicle registration tax and Transit City). With that in mind, we ask a few lingering questions about the Port Lands, after the jump.
1. What about the Hearn Generating Station?
Yesterday, the Toronto Star reported that the Hearn Generating Station could stay in the hands of its current lessor, Studios of America, until 2041. During that time, SOA can essentially do whatever it wishes with the property, which is not insignificant to the Port Lands larger development (according to the Star, it could house 12 Parthenons).
2. Where are the Fords going to find their tax cut money now?
Matt Elliott points out that the Fords’ initial plan would have injected money from land sales right into city coffers, rather than into Waterfront Toronto. In other words, seizing control from Waterfront Toronto and selling off real estate could have provided the necessary revenue for things like tax cuts. Of course, that’s all speculation—but it’s “safe speculation,” according to Elliott. If this really was the plan, are more loopy schemes to finance a tax cut in the offing?
3. Is the mayor really just one vote on council?
The vote whipping at city hall often gives us reason to doubt the old argument that the mayor is just one vote on council. But in this case, it seems to have been true. While we remain skeptical about the mayor’s real reasons for backing off, the Port Lands vote seems to be evidence that there could be some bona fide battles on council in the future.
4. Where did Doug Ford’s grand vision come from in the first place?
The Star reports that Doug Ford met with an Australian mall developer in May—months before his plans became public. And yesterday, the Globe reported that the Toronto Port Lands Company pressured Waterfront Toronto to abandon its environmental assessment in February. That doesn’t exactly make the process sound transparent, and we’re still unclear on where Ford’s ideas came from.
• Mall giant met with Doug Ford in May [Toronto Star]
• James: Ford poised to lose Waterfront vote [Toronto Star]
• How exactly did the ‘consensus’ on the Port Lands happen? [National Post]
• Toronto Port Lands Company—Revitalization Opportunities for the Port Lands—Supplementary Report [City of Toronto]