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Province temporarily pauses demolition in West Don Lands 'as good-faith measure'

Last Updated Jan 22, 2021 at 6:24 pm EST

Workers exit the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Company site in Toronto on Tuesday January 19, 2021. The heritage site owned by the Province of Ontario is being demolished under a Municipal Zoning Order. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The Ford government is taking a break from demolishing heritage buildings in the West Don Lands.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark says he informed Mayor John Tory that the province will temporarily pause demolition, effective immediately.

“Although an injunction was not ordered, as a good-faith measure towards the City of Toronto, I have called Mayor John Tory to advise that the Province will temporarily pause demolition and environmental remediation, until next Wednesday, January 27,” Clark said in a statement.

Toronto Centre’s NDP MPP Suze Morrison says she is “elated” in the decision but is calling for the reprieve to be extended even further.

“I want to thank the community members that have stood together with me to oppose the government’s attack on our community,” said Morrison in a statement. “No further demolition activity should take place on this land until a proper consultation with the community and city officials have taken place — and that can’t possibly be concluded before Wednesday.”

The provincial government owns the property at 153-185 Eastern Avenue, located where the old Dominion Wheel and Foundry buildings have a heritage designation.

“The Province has been clear that this provincially-owned property – which has been largely abandoned for over 40 years and requires demolition to allow for significant environmental remediation – will be revitalized to allow for the construction of new affordable housing, market housing, and community space,” Clark added.

Tory says though he wishes the situation “had started in a more cooperative manner”, discussions between both sides will continue in the next few days.

“… I remain hopeful that a path forward can be found that gets more affordable housing built and at the same time takes proper notice of community concerns such as heritage,” the Mayor’s office said in a statement.

“As I said earlier this week, building affordable housing should be a priority of all governments right now and we should all be committed to doing it as quickly as possible. But we must also consult with local communities in a timely manner since any new development, good as it may be, will have an impact on existing communities.”

The Ford government’s push to take over the land comes after they prompted reaction from local residents and Toronto officials by allowing demolition to begin.

In 2020, Minister Clark issued more than 35 Minister Zoning Orders (MZO) across Ontario, which were met with backlash from local citizens, politicians, and environmental groups.

The NDP has been critical of MZOs and claim that Ford has used them at least 19 times to the financial benefit of insiders and donors to the PC Party.

Activists have the support of City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who wants to force the Ford government to repair the damage already done.

“The community has invested time and proposals into a holistic approach to this site, including affordable housing, performance, and community spaces. Local voices help build complete communities,” Tam said Thursday.

“I look forward to a resolution where the province pauses the demolition work so that the community and the City can have a reasonable opportunity to participate and make our views known on the project.”

City councillor Joe Cressy also vocalized his support of preserving the heritage site saying, “Step 1 – stop the demolition. Step 2 – work with the City and the community to build affordable housing and preserve our heritage. A truly great and liveable city needs both.”

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