The annual auditor general report highlights numerous examples of waste and inefficiency at Waterfront Toronto, saying it has failed to deliver on its mandate to revitalize Toronto’s waterfront.
Auditor Bonnie Lysyk found that Waterfront Toronto has developed just 5 per cent of publicly-owned waterfront land in 16 years and that it has been plagued by cost overruns and poor budget projections.
The report also found that Waterfront Toronto’s mandate overlaps with other entities, making building difficult.
Lysyk further said Waterfront Toronto did not properly consult with any levels of government regarding the Google-affiliated Sidewalk Labs project.
Last month Sidewalk Labs unveiled more details around its ambitious plan for a high-tech Toronto waterfront community, but it’s still unclear who will own, operate, and pay for the company’s futuristic neighbourhood.
Sources tell CityNews Ford wants to take control of Waterfront Toronto, an agency that operates under provincial legislation, and is contemplating pulling millions in funding for the Portlands flood protection.
“We take the concerns that the auditor general raised very seriously,” said Minister of Infrastructure, Monte McNaughton. “We inherited a mess right across government … after 15 years of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, but we are going to fix it. Specifically with Waterfront Toronto, I am going to fix it.”
“We heard that 20 per cent of all projects done at the waterfront were over budget,” he added. “This is unacceptable.”
McNaughton said the government would be announcing “decisive action” on Waterfront Toronto in the coming days, a prospect that concerns Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
“The last thing we need is Mr. Ford’s political interference with what’s happening at the waterfront,” Horwath said. “And that’s something I”m quite concerned about and I’m sure Torontonians are quite concerned about.”
Lysyk’s 763-page annual report also takes aim at GTA transit projects that have seen costs balloon due to indecision and delays.
The report questions the decision by Metrolinx to put GO stations at Kirby and Lawrence East saying it “was clearly influenced by the Minister of Transportation and the City of Toronto.”
Lysyk found $436 million in additional costs because of changes to light rail projects (LRT) by both municipal and provincial governments. The changes to the Scarborough line and the delay of the Sheppard LRT cost $125 million.
Bombardier LRT vehicles cost $30 million more than expected.
Student loans jump; elevator safety issues
The report also found that Health Quality Ontario, an agency that advises the government on the quality of Ontario’s health care, spent $44.2 million, though the province does not have to implement any of its recommendations
On the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) it found that student loans jumped 25 per cent in the 2017/2018 academic year, though enrollments in college and universities rose just 3 per cent.
The auditor found significant issues with elevators and elevator oversight in the province. A whopping 82 per cent per cent of elevators have failed inspections.
Three hundred elevators were shutdown because they were deemed unsafe. Among them, five were St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Ontario Works provided financial and employment assistance to 250,000 people but only helped 10 to 13 per cent find a job. The program costs $3 billion, with $1.6 billion currently going to grants that don’t have to be repaid.
On health care, the auditor found that MRI and CT machines could be operating at longer hours, reducing wait times.
Lysyk also found that school boards spent $227.8 million for IT systems and computers, though availability of computers was inconsistent.