QUEEN’S PARK – Marit Stiles and her Official Opposition team today revealed documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request from Infrastructure Ontario show this government had plans to build a parking garage for the private luxury spa at Ontario Place nearly two years before the garage was known to the public.
Stiles raised questions about whether Therme was given preferential treatment, pointing to the pattern of behaviour seen within the ranks of the Ford government.
“Why did the Premier gift a publicly funded, half-billion-dollar parking garage from Therme and hide it from the public for nearly two years?” Stiles said. “Half a billion dollars of taxpayer money being spent on an elite luxury spa while people were pleading for investment into emergency rooms and schools. This government needs to stop the transfer of public funds to private profits.”
“When did the government commit to this half-billion-dollar parking garage, and why have they refused to be transparent with Ontarians about this process?” asked Opposition Infrastructure Critic Jennifer French (Oshawa). “Between this government’s absurd plan to put a luxury spa at Ontario Place, Infrastructure Minister’s inability to provide a business case or answers on why she is hiding information about visitor numbers and financials, one has to wonder what exactly this government’s goal is here.”
MPP Chris Glover, who represents the riding where Ontario Place is located, shared that the FOI document noted the government’s obligation and responsibility for developing parking solutions on the site of Ontario Place. “Ford failed to tell us how much taxpayer money is being spent on this ridiculous spa project. What obligation did this government make to Therme? Did they promise this advantage to other bidders or just Therme?”
“We need answers,” said Opposition GTA Issues critic Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale—High Park). “Why is Minister Surma hiding information and trying to paint a picture that no one visits Ontario Place? Why is there an Infrastructure Ontario document that shows plans to build a below-grade parking structure next to Therme 2 years before the public was ever informed about this parking structure? What else has Ford promised this Austrian luxury spa company?”
This afternoon, the Legislature will debate and vote on an Official Opposition motion calling on the Government to cancel the 95-year lease with Therme.
- Official Opposition has obtained FOI documents from Infrastructure Ontario that show plans to build a parking garage by Therme’s entrance at Ontario Place. The document is dated January 28, 2021, which is six months before Infrastructure Ontario announced on July 30, 2021, that Therme, Live Nation, and Écorécréo Group were the successful bidders for this project.
- This was nearly two years before the public learned about the below-grade parking garage in late 2022.
- The document shows that a parking structure had been proposed next to the Therme entrance even before January 28, 2021
- There is a section titled “A government obligation,” - which is mainly redacted,however, it concludes that “it is recommended the government assume responsibility for developing the parking solution on site.”
- The 2019 Call For Development document clearly stated, “Participants should consider the adequacy of parking for their development concept” and “The Government will not be making any financial contribution to the design, construction or maintenance of any public or private realm that is part of the development concept.”
- If other bids were based on existing parking, but Therme could submit a bid that required additional government-funded parking, this would be evidence of preferential treatment and conflict of interest.
- In a testimony before the Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy committee in June, the CEO of Infrastructure Ontario, Michael Lindsay, confirmed that Therme’s bid had not been received prior to August 28, 2019, when IO announced a deadline extension. He also confirmed that several other bids were received before the initial deadline.
- Mr. Lindsay was also unable to provide any scoping criteria used to assess the bids or the bid scorecards.
- The Official Opposition has also received confirmation via a FOI request that the procurement had no Fairness Monitor, which is standard for large procurements to ensure fairness and integrity.