Toronto mayor backs down on waterfront plan


Philip Langdon

New Urban Network


Mayor Rob Ford has abandoned his effort to seize control of development on Toronto’s eastern harbor—an effort that had set off a controversy over how the Ontario city’s waterfront should be developed.

This summer the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, shocked many Torontonians by proposing that the city government take control of planning for the Don lands. For years, planning of that area has been led by a Waterfront Toronto, an agency made up of three governments, as New Urban Network reported Sept. 16.

Where the waterfront organization envisioned a mixed-use community, a streetcar line, and natural features on the former industrial land, the Fords called for a megamall and a Ferris wheel, among other elements.

Widespread opposition to the Fords’ proposal led Sept. 21 to a new accord between the mayor and Waterfront Toronto, the Globe and Mail reported. The paper described the accord this way:

The new agreement leaves control of developing the Port Lands in the hands of Waterfront Toronto, the three-government agency created a decade ago to redevelop the derelict stretch of harbour. In return, Waterfront Toronto and the city have agreed to review the existing environmental assessment for the mouth of the Don River and to look at the costs of all the options included in that document.

The waterfront organization will move forward with its existing plan for a riverside park and the mixed-use development. But development is expected to get under way faster, as the mayor had wanted.

Royson James, a columnist for The Star, said of the mayor’s decision to leave the waterfront in the hands of the existing agency: “it all blew up in their faces with a ferocity that left its architect, Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, ashen-faced.”

On, a new website operated by The Atlantic magazine, the Toronto-based urban economic thinker Richard Florida praised the outcome, noting that protests agains the Fords’ plan had included a letter that was co-signed by 147 urbanists from the academic and professional realms. The result, said Florida, who is now a senior editor at The Atlantic in addition to directing the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, “is a tremendous victory for urbanism—and for a greener, more prosperous, and more sustainable tomorrow.”