Historic Agreement: Ontario Takes Over Gardiner, DVP in Trade-Off for Ontario Place Redevelopment

Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow hug during hold a joint press conference at Queen’s Park Monday, where a new deal between the province and the city was announced. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In a landmark agreement, the City of Toronto is transferring oversight of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) to the Ontario government, as announced by Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow in a joint news conference on Monday. This move is part of a broader deal that also includes the city stepping aside on the Ontario Place redevelopment.

Key Elements of the Agreement

The agreement, hailed as “historic” by both Ford and Chow, is expected to provide Toronto with $1.2 billion in operating supports over the next three years. This funding will enable the city to allocate more resources towards projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, increased police presence on the TTC, and support for homeless shelters and new subway cars, contingent upon matching federal support.

The provincial government will take over responsibility for the two major Toronto highways, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow announced Monday.

Impact on the City’s Budget

Toronto is currently grappling with a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. The transfer of the two major highways to provincial control is anticipated to save the city approximately $16 million per year in maintenance costs and free up $2.2 billion budgeted over the next decade for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner. Mayor Chow highlighted that the upload of these highways would allow the city to invest billions more in affordable housing, transit, and community building.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow return from a news conference in Toronto on Monday Nov. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Future of Ontario Place

The agreement also entails the city relinquishing its small portion of land at Ontario Place to the province, thereby clearing the path for the Ford government’s controversial redevelopment plans. Despite previous opposition, Mayor Chow stated, “It is is called Ontario Place, the land belongs to the provincial government, and we do not have the authority to stop the development.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Ernest Moral about a heat pump he was installing during a visit to an apartment construction site in Hamilton, Ont. on July 31, 2023. He was joined by Mayor of Hamilton Andrea Horwath. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

Calls for Federal Involvement

Both Ford and Chow emphasized the need for increased federal funding to support the city further, especially in areas like homeless shelters and transit funding. Ford noted, “When Toronto succeeds, Ontario succeeds. When Ontario succeeds, Canada succeeds.”

The province’s plans for Ontario Place have proven controversial, with one advocacy group now seeking a court injunction in an effort to pause the project. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

Controversy and Community Response

The deal, which includes funding for transit and efforts to build housing and transit-oriented communities, represents a significant shift in Toronto’s approach to managing its major roadways and dealing with financial challenges. The agreement over Ontario Place has raised questions, as it suggests a step back from Mayor Chow’s previous campaign promises.