Toronto City Council was awash in a sea of blue Wednesday afternoon as Code Blue, a community group formed to fight proposed changes to the Port Lands Development, packed the council chamber to watch a vote on the future of the project.
All 42 councillors present voted unanimously to maintain Waterfront Toronto as the lead agent for the project but pledged to look at options that could speed up the redevelopment of a wide swath of land at the mouth of Don River.
Peter Milczyn, Ward 5 Councillor and Planning Chair, told reporters that Mayor Rob Ford simply wanted to move the project foward in a timely fashion.
“(Mayor) Ford is extremely enthusiastic about the project and is worried why we aren’t moving ahead,” he said. “He simply wants to accelerate the development of the City-owned lands… The staff report represents a consensus on the issue.”
There had been much controversy since the mayor’s brother, Doug Ford, proposed that the city take control of the project, presenting a new plan that would see a mega mall and the world’s largest ferris wheel as part of the development. Milczyn said that kind of thinking was also part of the development process.
“That was never more than a blue-sky vision and exercise of ideas,” Milczyn said. “We have 600 acres of city-owned land (for which there) is no for plan… and it’s reasonable for a city agency to look for alternatives.”
One provinical politician watching developments closely, Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, said the rush to develop is motivated by a desire for quick money.
“I think the proposal is profoundly flawed and a huge problem for Toronto,” he said. “I think it is driven by a desire for a fire-sale and quick money and would interfere with plans to develop a flood plan to protect Riverdale.”
Paula Fletcher, Councillor for Ward 30, agreed saying she was surprised by the level of civic engagement in such a short amount of time.
“Public outpouring about the waterfront was extremely important and when perhaps we go off course… the public is there in a very big way,” she said. “We know that we have to rethink the directions and make sure we are on the right course because we only have one waterfront.
Raymond Cho congratulated the opposition noting that women, such as Councillor Fletcher, spearheaded opposition to Doug Ford’s proposed takeover: “It appears women have more courage than men… people power is much more powerful than one or two councillors.”