Toronto mayor says she’s not giving up fight to keep Ontario Science Centre where it is

Mayor Olivia Chow insists she’s not giving up a fight against shifting the Ontario Science Centre to a revamped Ontario Place but is urging Torontonians to imagine a new era of science programming at the site.

Chow says the provincial government following through with the move would be a worst-comes-to-worst scenario.

The mayor made the comments Saturday afternoon at a rally against the government plan at Riverdale Park. Dozens of demonstrators showed up, including politicians from the municipal, provincial, and federal level.

A business case prepared by Infrastructure Ontario in March 2023 estimates shifting the Science Centre to the lakefront from its home at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East could save $257 million over 50 years as opposed to refurbishing the current building.

In December, the then-acting Auditor General said the decision to relocate was made using incomplete costing and without proper consultation.

As part of Toronto’s new deal with the Doug Ford government, the two sides agreed to maintain some type of science programming at the Don Mills site, but no specifics have been determined.

The Science Centre sits in Liberal MPP Adil Shamji’s riding, but on Saturday, insisted the campaign to keep it there isn’t a hyper-local one. His comments were echoed by New Democrat MPP Jill Andrew.

“(The Science Centre) may exist in one community, but we all love it across the city and certainly across this province,” the Toronto-St. Paul’s representative said.

Demonstrators raised concerns about job losses associated with the move and difficulty with accessing the future Ontario Science Centre site.

“Every part of our city should have a hub where people can go to, to take their kids, to be entertained and to learn,” said councillor Josh Matlow.

“Access for the traffic, the busses. I would be questioning that,” said Patricia Milne with the Architecture Conservancy of Ontario. I would be questioning vehicular access for transports, bringing exhibits in and out.”

Tai Viinikka worked at the Science Centre in the 1990s. He worries moving it will mean that Torontonians “miss real moments of wonder and joy and an amazing sort of revelations that come from science and technology.”

While the footprint for the new Science Centre is half the square footage of the current one, the government has insisted there will be more room for exhibits with less wasted space.

On Saturday, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma defended the Science Centre move, saying the government is confident in its decision.

“The planned new Ontario Science Centre facility at Ontario Place, including its extension into the Cinesphere and pods, will have more exhibition space and will be more easily accessible to the public,” the spokesperson writes in a statement.

The government has not confirmed a timeline for the move.