Dennis Mills released his much-anticipated waterfront report Friday. The report, entitled "Building on the Green Footsteps," is a list of 43 proposed projects and investments that the federal government should undertake. The media called it, "doable", "ambitious", and even "political opportunism".
Mills' mandate was to "develop specific recommendations for immediate action by the Government of Canada to rejuvenate the physical and social environment and the economic competitiveness of the city of Toronto." He proposes projects such as the United Nations University for Peace, new greenspace, and a new theatre.
Most of the projects are laudable, but they have very little to do with Lake Ontario or Toronto. Mills recommends the construction of a National Arctic Ocean Museum. Great! But what about the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system? Mills recommends purchasing new equipment for beaches. We love our beaches, so why not start with water quality? The sad truth is that only two of Toronto's beaches were clean enough for swimming last summer.
One of those beaches is Hanlan's. This beach is the closest to downtown Toronto, yet it is relatively inaccessible to the public because it is on the other side of the Toronto Island Airport. The Airport is the dominant industrial player in the Toronto Harbour, with all the qualities of industrial land: inaccessible to public, not safe for humans and wildlife, and it limits development and conservation choices for its land and its neighbours.
"There's something for almost everyone in Liberal MP Dennis Mills' hastily drafted plan for Toronto's waterfront," wrote the Toronto Star. Maybe that's the problem. Mills tried to be all things to all people everywhere and, in doing so, he failed to capture the spirit of Toronto's waterfront.
Toronto is a real place, with unique characteristics, a diverse population, and unique environmental, economic and cultural history and opportunity. Did you know:
- Babe Ruth hit his first major league homerun in a stadium where the Island Airport now operates?
- Rock bass, brown bullhead, and carp from the G. Ross Lord Reservoir (Don River) are at least as safe for eating as other Lake Ontario fish (8 meals/month)?
- The Toronto Harbour is off-limits for swimming?
- This time of year is the best for viewing migratory birds in the Toronto Harbour, especially the arctic birds?