Tag Archives: provincial interest
The Canadian Press
It’s up to Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government to save the Ontario legislature’s impressive vista from being permanently destroyed by highrise condominiums, Speaker Steve Peters said Friday.
Two condo towers are slated for construction behind the 118-year-old building in downtown Toronto, which Peters said will undermine the structure’s grandeur and importance as the seat of provincial parliament.
His fight to preserve the view has put him at odds with his own party, which has so far refused to step in with legislation that would protect it.
“I just continue to come back to why: why won’t the government step in?” Peters said Friday in an interview.
“They have an opportunity now to protect the sightline in perpetuity. I think on behalf of both present and future citizens, that they should exercise that ability to protect those sightlines.”
An Ontario court has turned down his request to appeal approval of the project by the government-appointed Ontario Municipal Board, leaving him no other option but to plead his case directly to the governing Liberals, he said.
“From the legislature’s standpoint, to the best of our knowledge, we’ve exhausted all of our avenues to protect the sightline,” Peters said.
“Now it’s up to the government.… They need to step forward to protect that view of the legislature.”
The ruling can’t be appealed, so Peters is writing directly to the government in a last-ditch effort to persuade it to protect the view of the historic building.
He said he tried to persuade Jim Bradley, the former municipal affairs and housing minister, and Tourism Minister Michael Chan to intervene, but his pleas were ignored.
“I argued and continued to argue that it may be a municipal decision, but this is a matter that is of provincial interest,” he said.
He fears that if the government fails to act, it will open the door to more development around the legislature.
“I’m just really frustrated and disappointed that they won’t step into this,” Peters added.
Two opposition critics share those feelings, saying the Liberals should have moved sooner to protect the skyline that greets visitors from all over the world as they approach the legislature.
Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod said she’s personally disappointed that the condo project will go ahead and that the Liberals haven’t lifted a finger to stop it.
“Again, it goes to leadership and Dalton McGuinty could have led by example,” she said.
“He chose not to, and now there’s no turning back.”
New Democrat Peter Kormos said he’s still holding out hope that something can be done to preserve the view.
“What’s tragic is that this government has failed to join in this issue, has failed to express its support for the Speaker in his pursuit of maintaining the pristine quality of the site of Queen’s Park,” he said.
Peters, who served in McGuinty’s cabinet, took the unusual step of pushing his own party to halt the planned construction last May, when the municipal board gave the project a green light.
The New Democrats backed him up at the time, saying they would support legislation that would preserve the view of the building.
A history buff, Peters takes his job as guardian of the legislature very seriously and took special precautions last June to protect the building from protesters during the G20 summit of world leaders.
The structure wasn’t fenced off, but many of its large windows were boarded up and journalists were forbidden from shooting pictures or video from inside the building.
Over its long history, the legislature — or Queen’s Park as it’s known in Ontario — has survived destructive fires, bloody riots and even the slow erosion of its unusual, pink-hued bricks.
Although height restrictions exist in cities like Washington, D.C., government sources have said there are no plans to enact similar legislation for the Ontario parliament.
They argue that tall buildings already exist around the legislature. But Peters said the two planned condo buildings will extend even higher at 127 and 133 metres each.
There have been calls for the City of Toronto to do more to protect its heritage structures in the wake of a fire that destroyed a historic building downtown earlier this month.
The empty structure at Yonge and Gould streets had gone through many changes in past decades — at one time housing the Empress Hotel — before it was gutted by a six-alarm blaze Jan. 3.
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