Act now to save our waterfront from the Fords

A major threat as the Ford brothers try to undo planning for the waterfront and put a giant shopping mall there, among other atrocities

By Stig Harvor –

Do we really want a large shopping mall and the world’s largest Ferris wheel on our unique and valuable waterfront? This is what we will get if we follow the intentions of our Mayor Rob Ford, and his mouth, his older brother and suburban city councillor Doug Ford.

They want to sell city-owned land south of the present Keating Channel of the Don River as it empties into the harbour. Out the window will be thrown existing, well-studied and forward-looking Waterfront Toronto plans for the Port Lands, carefully crafted with public input through a maze of governmental approvals at a cost of millions.

(See these plans on the website

This type of unwarranted political interference in a complex, on-going public process involving three levels of government, is not new. In 2004, the then federal Liberal MP of Toronto-Danforth, Dennis Mills, suggested a casino and other unwelcome facilities on the Port Lands. He had suddenly been appointed advisor to then Prime Minister Paul Martin shortly before an election to counteract the popularity of his opponent, Jack Layton.

Mills failed both with his plans and his election. In the case today of Rob and Doug Ford, however, we are not so fortunate. They will remain in power for another three years.

The Ford brothers want their closed administration, not the public-minded, innovative Waterfront Toronto organization, to be in charge of city-owned land development. They want this to be done through an existing city agency, the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC). To that end, they want to fully reorganize and expand the powers of the TPLC so it will do their bidding. Their blatant aim is to privatize city property.

The Ford administration claims private interests can develop land more efficiently and quickly than public authorities. But what type of development and how quickly? Let us remember that the mighty Ontario Municipal Board some years ago, after a drawn-out hearing, decided against a proposed Home Depot superstore on waterfront land. Also more time-consuming and expensive environmental assessments of the Ford plans will delay action.

Waterfront Toronto’s existing plans for the mouth of the Don River is a renaturalized, divided estuary providing parkland and cleansing of the water of the Don. The wide dispersal of the river waters provides the necessary flood protection for the entire Port Lands.

The Ford brothers’ plan, however, must keep a single, narrow, polluted channel in order to consolidate a large plot of land for their shopping mall with parking and other features of their suburban vision. Their plan requires expensive flood protection measures. Like their ill-conceived and so far unsuccessful proposal to build a new city subway with private money, they want private developers to pay the high costs of flood protection and infrastructure. In return, the developers will of course want the valuable city land virtually for free.

The Ford brothers revealed their intentions in a just-released city hall memo on Aug. 26. They are now rushing their ideas to their powerful Executive Committee for full council debate less than three weeks later. No public input is provided. The exercise is a raw attempt to push through a plan to derail all previous and valuable work of Waterfront Toronto for city land on the Port Lands. Today’s actions on the waterfront will be with us for at least a century. Let us get it right.You can contact the mayor and all city councillors automatically in one go on this issue by emailing your comments to and ask your message be forwarded to all of them. And you can make a deputation to the Executive Committee Sept. 6 by following instructions on the city website