Toronto

Trudeau, Wynne, Tory announce $1.25B to revitalize Toronto's Port Lands

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the plan to flood-proof and redevelop Toronto’s industrial Port Lands "ambitious" and "transformational."

Funding will go toward improving flood protection along the city's waterfront

Justin Trudeau, Kathleen Wynne and John Tory took a water taxi across a choppy Lake Ontario to Wednesday's major funding announcement. (Chris Young/The Candian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls a $1.25-billion plan to flood-proof and redevelop Toronto's industrial Port Lands "ambitious" and "transformational."

Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory arrived at an afternoon news conference by water taxi Wednesday, despite choppy conditions on Lake Ontario where water levels have been extremely high throughout the spring.

"Next time we're going to do canoes, OK?" Trudeau joked, before making the announcement that all three levels of government have agreed to fund the project over a seven-year span.

The money will go toward protecting the Port Lands, which juts out from the east end of the city's downtown core, and rehabilitating the mouth of the Don River, which empties into the lake.

Trudeau says this project has the potential will help protect Toronto from serious flooding in the future. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

With Toronto already feeling the effects of flooding, Trudeau says governments have to invest in projects that will help cities weather the changing climate.

"We need to take steps now to make sure the land we're gathering on now can be used for generations to come," he said.

Tory says building up the area will generate $1.1B

Mayor John Tory tours the shoreline of the flooded Ward's Island with residents earlier this spring. (Chris Mulligan/CBC News)

The prime minister also touted the jobs this project will create, as well as the housing developments that are being planned for the Port Lands. Tory says construction and design work alone is expected to bring in some $1.1 billion dollars in the coming years. 

Wynne, meanwhile, says the Port Lands represent the largest development opportunity in the city and will be home to thousands of affordable housing units. She says she expects it to one day look similar to the West Don Lands, a new neighbourhood the province helped to develop and one which served as the Pan and Parapan Am Games athletes' village in 2015.

"We know how much this will be needed in the city," she said. 

Investing provincial dollars, Wynne said, is "the right thing to do for the people of Toronto — but also benefits Ontario and Canada."

Work already underway on Port Lands

Waterfront Toronto will be in charge of the project. Its president and CEO, Will Fleissig, said work is already underway, thanks to more than $65 million committed last September.

"We can do big things when everyone is rowing together," he said at the event. 

Fleissig says he expects naturalizing the bottom of the Don River will take at least six years to complete, but some new spaces will open up before that. Waterfront and the city's planning department are also set to bring their vision for parts of the Port Lands to city council later this summer.

The city owns a lot of the land in the area, so it will have a lot of control over how the new precinct will look in the future, Fleissig told reporters.

The city is also planning to expand its transit options in the area, including a potential waterfront LRT line. 

Wynne and Trudeau were both asked about the potential of funding that transit project. The premier responded that the province is "working with the city" and Trudeau — who recently announced billions for light rail plans in Ottawa and Montreal — added his government is looking forward to partnering with the city on the projects it wants to pursue.

Tory has been calling on the province to commit to funding that transit project and others for months.​ There was nothing for those priorities in the provincial budget unveiled this spring.

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.