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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yesterday's Tomorrow

Courtesy of the government of Ontario:

Ontario Place, a fading Toronto icon, will soon be torn down and replaced by a newer version to restore the park to its former glory.

The provincial Crown corporation has put out a formal request for ideas to completely redevelop its 39-hectare (96-acre) space along Lake Ontario, which will probably result in the removal of features, such as the once groundbreaking Cinesphere, that have grown tired.

About twenty years too late. I have fond memories of Ontario Place. But those memories are old ones. Forty years after its opening, it's difficult to recall how original the idea was and how popular its attractions, including the groundbreaking Cinesphere. Ontario Place is proof that governments are like broken clocks, they are right about twice a day. 

Building and running amusement parks, however original in concept and implementation, is not the proper function of government. Its near hundred acres of developed landfill is a monument to a different age, when governments thought they could be all things to all people, and when people still believed that was possible. Big government is still big, bigger than it was in 1971, when the park opened. What's gone is the optimism of that era. 

Sure Queen's Park could take care of your health care - Ontario had opted into Medicare in 1969 - why couldn't it do something simple, and popular, like set up an amusement park? Certainly no grubby little businessman would take a risk on something as bold as Ontario Place? More than few laughed when a serious competitor, Canada's Wonderland, opened a decade later and miles to the north. But the success of the latter, and the decline of the former, showed just how misplaced was the optimism of the Robarts-Davis era. Sure government could do something spectacular, but it couldn't keep it up. Like plenty of other Crown corporations, Ontario Place sat on its laurels while the world moved on, and its customers made the drive up to Vaughan. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 22, 2010 | Permalink


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