Harbourfront Centre’s skating rink has been an iconic feature on the Waterfront for decades. Generations of skaters had their first steps on the ice here, and their memories of the beautiful setting by the lake remain strong. When Harbourfront Centre suddenly announced January 10 that the rink was closing for good, response was swift. A petition to restore this Waterfront gem got over a thousand signatures right away. Strong opinions followed on TV, newspapers and websites, pointing out that the rink had disappeared without public consultation.

Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye said the board had made an irreversible decision and that equipment was ready to start demolition. The rink, which becomes a paddle pond in summer, could not be restored due to lack of funds, she explained. The Federal Government had recently donated $20 million for repairs on the ten-acre Harbourfront site, which includes the skating rink. But those repairs proved too costly, so it was scrapped. 

YQNA Chair Angelo Bertolas told CP24: “The skating rink is a wonderful place to spend some outdoor time getting exercise and fresh air along the water’s edge. The Waterfront desperately needs winter activation for the many condo dwellers, visitors and tourists.” Kevin Vuong, MP for the Waterfront, heard the outcry and called for a town hall meeting February 3rd. It took place in the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre and confirmed public anger over the demise of the ice rink. Plans to turn it into “a completely updated new plaza” for staging events met with scepticism, because Harbourfront already has several outdoor event spaces. Vuong had talked with a corporate donor who was open to supporting the skating rink, news that was warmly received.

Bertolas says, “Harbourfront Centre is a crucial component of Toronto’s Waterfront, which attracts millions of tourists to the city and is a gathering place for residents from the entire GTA.” YQNA is the voice of the community, so he is establishing a Community Liaison Committee with Harbourfront to keep open communication that will protect gems like the skating rink and other attractions that draw the broader public to the Waterfront.

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The Second City Toronto actors celebrate their new location at 1 York St. Photo: Arthur Mola

Second City fans, rejoice: Canada’s most storied comedy institution is now on the Waterfront at 1 York St. And its new facility is a shiny space with three bars, three stages, glimmering lights and food plates from Oliver & Bonacini — a far cry from their early days at The Old Fire Hall!

The massive 28,700-foot-venue also boasts a big bar area and nine studio spaces for adult/teen classes, which include acting, writing, improv for anxiety and improv for autism. Even online classes are available.

Find it all at secondcity.com/toronto or call (416) 343-0011 for tickets, which range from $29 to $101 for sketch/comedy shows.

“The old place had a thick smell of blood, sweat, tears, fear and joy,” quips Carly Heffernan, creative director of The Second City Toronto. “And the new smell is bright, shiny and exciting. It might be paint fumes. We did just open.”

Get a whiff of the excitement and kick off the new year with a laugh.

Second City fans are ready for a night of comedy. Photo: Arthur Mola
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Firefighters at the Queens Quay Station demonstrated the 22-storey reach of the ladder on the new Bronto Skylift truck. If it looks like it’s competing with the CN tower, it’s an optical illusion. Photo: Ed Hore

The Waterfront is newly built with more high-rises than any other part of Toronto. In all, this city has 2,500 high-rises and is second only to New York City in high-rise construction. That leaves a lot of vertical safety in the hands of Toronto Fire Services. The new Bronto Skylift firetruck with a 22-storey ladder is an important addition to their equipment. It is located at the fire station on 339 Queens Quay West due to our concentration of tall towers, and it will respond to emergency calls throughout the city. The cost of $2.9 million was covered by the City.

YQNA member Ed Hore visited the Queens Quay Station to see the impressive Bronto Skylift and took these photos. Not only is the 22-storey ladder twice the hight of existing ladders in the Fire Service’s equipment, but the master stream nozzle at the end of the platform is capable of flowing up to 3,800 litres of water per minute. Mayor John Tory said at the launch: “It is much more certain now that we can provide residents the kind of protection they need.”

The Bronto Skylift truck provides a very sturdy platform for the tall ladder and extra water pressure it adds to the range of Toronto Fire Services. Photo: Ed Hore 
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A fictional image of Therme’s glass structures with pools and palm trees, proposed at Ontario Place. No buildings are transparent. Public space is reduced to a sliver around the 10-acre site.

Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America and has a serious lack of green space. A revitalized Ontario Place is part of Waterfront developments that include parks and public spaces along the downtown lakeshore. It is now in serious danger of becoming a profit-driven destination at the invitation of Premier Doug Ford. What was intended as public space, could now require high-price tickets to enter a massive tropical spa proposed by the Austrian company Therme. It features 10 acres of palm trees and pools under glass. Entry is expected to be $40 plus extras for treatments and services.

The U.S. company Live Nation is contracted to run the upgraded open Budweiser Stage. Frequent concerts would block off a large area to the public that had not bought a high-priced ticket. A third development party, Ecorecreo of Montreal, has apparently dropped out of the Ontario Place bidding. The details of the provincial government’s negotiations to commercialize Ontario Place are not available, since they were made behind closed doors and without public consultation. They were never mentioned in the run-up to the provincial election.

The future of this precious Waterfront site looked very different in 2012, when Mayor John Tory was chair of the Ontario Place Revitalization Panel. He wrote recommendations for bringing Ontario Place into the 21st century with an expanded public park to celebrate its connection to Ontario and the lake. The original iconic floating structures designed by architects Eberhard Zeidler and Michael Hough remained protected. This grand scheme would require public-private partnerships to create a revenue stream to realize the 55-acre park site in the west end of Ontario Place, always with the public in mind. That was then, this is now. Premier Ford has declared John Tory as ‘strong mayor’ with veto power, unless the council vote goes against provicial interests. That makes the city-owned land at Ontario Place easy pickings for the province, whether council likes it or not.

YQNA invited Ken Greenberg, leading urban designer in Toronto and many other world cities, to present the threats to Ontario Place. Here is his gripping presentation, Sept. 13, 2022. He urges the people of Toronto to join the growing protest against the commercialization of Ontario Place. It requires action from people like us, so join the campaign spearheaded by the citizen’s group Ontario Place for All at https://ontarioplaceforall.com to see the multiple ways you can participate.

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Our interim City Councillor, Joe Mihevc, wasted no time in contacting YQNA and other downtown neighbourhood associations to discuss a staff report headed to the Mayor’s Executive Committee on June 8, 2022. The subject was “Advancing City Priority Transit Expansion Projects – Eglinton East Light Rail Transit and Waterfront East Light Rail Transit.” With a long history on City Council and sitting on the TTC Board, Joe was quite familiar with these transit projects. He was seeking community support for his motion of pushing for more funding to get the Waterfront LRT studies completed sooner to a higher level of design, so that construction funding could be secured.

YQNA sent a supportive letter to the Committee, as did several of our neighbours. At Council on June 15, 2022 Joe’s motion was adopted:

1. City Council direct the City Manager to determine potential undertakings to expedite the budgetary and design processes for the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line. 

2. City Council direct the City Manager to engage with officials of the Provincial and Federal Governments to identify and secure funding to advance the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line as expeditiously as possible.”

YQNA sits on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) for this project. We received an update on the status of the study on June 20, 2022 following the report to Executive Committee and Council. Further public consultation is planned for Fall 2022.

The design work of the LRT is at the 30% stage. This means that the basic route and concepts are established, and preliminary costs can be estimated. However, many details remain to be worked out, and the current focus is on “value engineering”, which means eliminating parts of the project to save money. YQNA expressed concerns with some of these proposals, such as deferring the canopies over the tunnel portals and reducing the improvements to the Union and Queens Quay stations.

The tunnel construction for the LRT is under TTC’s control, while the surface sections of Queens Quay East and Cherry Street are done by Waterfront Toronto, as is so much of the successfully completed Waterfront. A new tunnel under Queens Quay East will be built so that streetcars can run continuously along Queens Quay, even as the tunnel to Union is being renovated.

City Staff were seeking authority to review what can be constructed in light of other projects along the LRT route. They expect to report back with a new cost estimate and a funding, financing and implementation strategy next year. The City’s own report on the Next Phase of Waterfront Revitalization is also expected next year.

YQNA continues to monitor this study and to work with staff and the Councillor’s office to ensure the best possible outcome for our wonderful Waterfront.

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