Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 7, 2023
Doug Ford’s Ontario Science Centre Move: A Skeptical Look at Taxpayers’ Interests
The recent decision by the Ontario government to relocate the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place has raised eyebrows and skepticism among taxpayers. Premier Doug Ford’s claim that the move will save over $250 million appears to be a complex equation that doesn’t add up when closely examined.
Firstly, the province’s acting Auditor-General, Nick Stavropoulos, highlights significant flaws in the government’s cost analysis. Stavropoulos points out that the business-case report failed to include essential elements such as the price tag for legal assistance, financing, and other transaction costs for the new facility. Moreover, the estimated cost of repairing and rehabilitating the existing building, pegged at $370 million, was conveniently left out of the equation.
The government’s assertion that the move will benefit the struggling science centre financially is met with skepticism, given the omission of crucial costs. It raises questions about whether Doug Ford has the best interests of Ontario taxpayers in mind or if there are ulterior motives at play.
Furthermore, the lack of proper consultations with the city, school boards, and other relevant authorities is a cause for concern. The Auditor-General’s report emphasizes the absence of discussions with the Toronto area’s school boards and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Such a significant decision impacting public resources warrants thorough consultation and transparency, which, in this case, appears to be lacking.
The suspicions surrounding the motivations behind the move gain traction when considering the potential financial gains for developers. The plans to allow a private Austrian-based company to build a large spa and waterpark complex on the Ontario Place redevelopment site could enrich connected cronies of the government. The absence of clear details about the fate of the existing science centre building and the potential for condo development raises red flags about the true intentions behind this decision.
The released business case, after multiple delays, does little to alleviate concerns. Liberal MPP Adil Shamji points out that the math only works because the science centre’s footprint is being “slashed in half,” despite the province claiming there will be more exhibition space. The opposition, including NDP Leader Marit Stiles, criticizes the government’s justification, describing it as relying on “shaky 50-year guesstimates” without accounting for crucial expenses.
The move, planned for 2028, also seems to lack consideration for the potential decline in attendance from suburban families and schools, as noted by the Auditor-General. The government’s focus on job creation and operational savings, while valid considerations, should not overshadow the broader implications and potential costs hidden in the fine print.
Premier Doug Ford’s decision to move the Ontario Science Centre prompts skepticism about its true motives. With financial calculations that appear incomplete and a lack of transparent consultations, there are concerns that the interests of Ontario taxpayers might not be at the forefront. The potential for enriched developers and the absence of a comprehensive, well-reasoned plan contribute to the prevailing skepticism surrounding this controversial move. (AI)