Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Where does John Tory stand on Toronto's waterfront?

By: Metro Published on Mon Dec 22 2014

Mayor John Tory doesn’t look a thing like Santa, but I’m going to ask him for a Christmas gift anyway.

I’d like to know what his vision is for Toronto’s waterfront.

That’s not too much to ask, I don’t think. After all, issues relating to the waterfront will loom large over the next year.

There will be more debate over expansion of the island airport. There will be more talk about Tory’s SmartTrack plan, which leans heavily on a Canary Wharf-style development on the side of the Don River.

And there will be continued hand-wringing over the future of the Gardiner Expressway, our ever-expensive lakeside highway.

Involved in all these discussions will be Waterfront Toronto, the public agency supported by all three levels of government.

They’ve spent the last decade cleaning up contaminated soil, building public spaces and spurring $3.2-billion in economic output and $622-million in government revenues, according to an economic analysis published in 2013.

But when he was asked by reporters last week if he supported Waterfront Toronto’s continued existence, Tory was cagey. And his actions since he took office earlier this month have given waterfront advocates reason to wonder what the mayor really wants to see happen along the water’s edge.

These concerns started with Tory’s appointing Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong to the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors. Minnan-Wong has been a regular critic of the agency, to the point where you can now go online and find several pictures of him glaring at Waterfront Toronto-commissioned infrastructure he believes cost too much money.

Things escalated further after Waterfront Toronto publicly disclosed a budget overrun on the Queen’s Quay revitalization project. Though the news didn’t come with a request for additional government funds and they don’t have a history of blowing budgets, Tory took the opportunity to chide the agency for its management of the project.

And OK, sure, cost overruns are never good, but Tory’s words and actions so far are enough to make me wonder if he sees some kind of better alternative to the current arrangement for waterfront development.

That brings me back to my Christmas wish.

Maybe it’s been inadvertent, but Tory has created a level of uncertainty when it comes to the future of the city’s waterfront, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Doug Ford once mused about building a lakeside Ferris wheel.

To fix that, Tory should put all of his waterfront-related cards on the table. How does he want the city’s waterfront to develop? Who does he want to see doing the work? And when does he want to see it done?

In other words: What’s the new mayor’s waterfront vision? This Christmas, that’s all I’m asking for.

This post was originally published at on 2014-12-22T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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