Expo bid at City Hall draws attention to developing the Port Lands

The momentum for an Expo bid continued at Executive Committee this week – sort of.

The vision for Expo 2025 turned into an ‘Expo 2030’ possibility through a motion brought by Mayor John Tory on Wednesday evening at Executive Committee. Tory was a supporter of the Expo bid before he recused himself when he became mayor. However, despite the mayor’s motion to keep the dream alive, Tory was clear that he will not stand behind the idea of an Expo bid if it means deprioritizing transit and housing. The mayor also suggested that to make a formal bid right now would be reminiscent of one of his mayoral predecessors. “That’s the old way. It’s the old way, where you sort of – I’m not saying anyone wants to play games, but where you play games with the other governments and you sort of, as they say, throw them a hot potato back and forth.”

Despite the mayor’s disinterest in making a bid right now, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, leader of the Expo bid group, did not see the outcome as a negative. “This team is obviously energized. They’re not going to go away tomorrow, I can tell you that.” Wong-Tam says funding announced from other levels of government in the new year would be a crucial step in the Expo bid. “If flood-protection money flows in 2017, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be back at the table.”

Depending on what funds Wong-Tam needs to keep her Expo bid in play, she could be in luck. Later at Executive Committee, an item called “Port Lands Flood Protection – Due Diligence Review and Next Steps” provided the long-term financial plan for flood-plain protection on the Port Lands. (Flood-plain protection is one of the necessary steps required for the Port Lands to be developed and used for parks and housing.)

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong brought a motion to deal with the debt that will result from the City’s part in the flood-protection funding. “I asked for a report that would ensure that we find a way to pay for our $400 million share of undertaking flood-plain protection work because right now we have no way to pay for it,” Minnan-Wong said in an interview with Signal Toronto on Thursday. He wants to ensure that future proceeds from the sale of the Port Lands be directed to flood-protection costs, and other infrastructure improvements. “I want to find a way that we can pay for this project, and so in the future there’s no effort to use the proceeds from the sale of those lands for other things, and that we should be paying for projects that are going to improve the Port Lands from the lands that we own on the Port Lands.”  

The estimated cost of the Port Lands Flood Protection project is $1.25 billion. The city’s one-third share is $401 million, which could be spent over 2017 – 2026 capital budgeting and planning process.