Local communities push back against Science Centre move at Riverdale rally

Protesters hope to keep the Science Centre right where it is

Protesters hold up signs and
Save Ontario's Science Centre co-founder, Floyd Ruskin addresses the crowd at Riverdale Park on Jan. 27, 2024. (Ryan Donahue/Toronto Observer) 

Local communities came together Saturday afternoon to oppose the relocation of the Ontario Science Centre.

Dozens of protesters gathered at Riverdale Park to voice their dissatisfaction with the provincial government’s plan to move the attraction to Toronto’s waterfront. They were joined by MPs, MPPs and city councillors

“[The Ontario Science Centre] is Canadian-made,” said Floyd Ruskin, co-chairman of Save Ontario’s Science Centre, a grassroots group he created with Jason Ash. “This is something to be proud of.” 

Participants gathered in front of St. Matthew’s Clubhouse on Broadview Avenue, where signs and buttons were handed out to everyone. Ruskin, Liberal MP of Toronto—Danforth, Julie Dabrusin, and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow all gave speeches.

“It is critically important, especially for the children, and the young people, and the families in the neighbourhood, because there’s not a whole lot in that neighborhood,” said Chow.

OSC maintenance and repairs deferred for years: business case

The Ontario Science Centre opened in 1969, and has seen more than 54 million people come through the doors at its location on Don Mills Road near Eglinton Avenue to take in its interactive exhibitions and learn about science through play.

Approximately 20 per cent of visitors come from outside Ontario, and 13 per cent are from outside of Canada, according to the OSC website.

Maintenance of the Science Centre has been deferred for years, according to a March 2023 business case prepared by Infrastructure Ontario, with the current location facing $369 million in “critical” repairs.

The business case estimates the relocation of the Science Centre to Ontario Place could save Ontario taxpayers $257 million over 50 years versus repairing the current structure. The provincial government unveiled the plan to relocate the Science Centre in April 2023.

Business case missed key details: auditor general report

A December 2023 Ontario auditor general’s report found that the business case did not include a complete cost-benefit analysis, did not include concerns about travel times and car access for suburban families and school groups, and did not consult key stakeholders.

Save Ontario’s Science Centre has held numerous rallies since the announcement of the relocation plan and is now expanding its efforts. “The idea was, how do we involve all the different communities? Let’s take this show on the road,” Ruskin said. 

The group has garnered support from residents with their letter campaign which has seen more than 12,000 letters being sent to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and provincial ministers.

Bigger than one community

Those opposed have expressed concerns about job losses related to the relocation and difficulties accessing the new Science Centre.

On Save Ontario’s Science Centre’s website, the organization expressed concerns the new facility will not meet the needs of its core southern Ontario audience.

“Our outreach is to the people that have used and enjoyed the Science Centre in its last 54 years,” said Ruskin. “That’s students, kids, parents, grandparents, educators, and tourists.”

An Instagram post from @savesciencecentre shows an informal Breakfast Television poll on moving the Ontario Science Centre. (Instagram)

The Science Centre sits at the foot of the Don Valley East riding, and representative, Liberal MPP Adil Shamji, and New Democrat MPP Jill Andrew (Toronto—St. Paul’s), believe its reach extends province-wide.  “[The Ontario Science Centre] may exist in one community but we all love it,” said Andrew. 

Liberal MP Robert Oliphant, representing Don Valley West, echoed the sentiment saying, “The Science Centre doesn’t belong to one part of the city but it’s in one part of the city.” 

Oliphant expressed his desire for the influence of the Science Centre to be expanded with the creation of other facilities across Toronto. “Let’s be bold in this city,” he said.

‘New is not always better’

The relocation of the Science Centre would see it in the heart of Ontario Place, on Lakeshore Boulevard West, housed in an upgraded Cinesphere and Pod complex that is smaller than its current building space.

“New is not better when you build a facility that is half the size,” said Ruskin, referencing the auditor general report. “New is not better when you build a facility that has 18 per cent less exhibit space.”

While the new Science Centre will be half the square footage of the current one, the business case has stated that the new building will “operate more functionally and efficiently.”

Construction of the new facility is set to begin in 2025.

Ruskin and Save Ontario’s Science Centre say they plan to keep up the pressure and keep the conversation going outside of just Toronto to ensure the Science Centre stays put.

“Issues get forgotten if they’re not in front of people,” said Ruskin. “Any community, or neighbourhood, or riding, that wants us to come, we will come out there and do the same thing again.”

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Posted: Jan 31 2024 9:00 am
Filed under: News