Statement on the Province's Move to Expropriate First Parliament Site Lands
The City has learned that the Province of Ontario has initiated expropriation proceedings for the First Parliament Site lands owned by the City of Toronto. I am deeply concerned by the lack of collaboration by the Province, and the potential risk to this important historical site and city-building project.
Located at the intersection of Front and Parliament Streets, the First Parliament Site is a full city block, bounded on the west by Berkeley Street and on the south by Parliament Square Park. These lands are a site of local, provincial and national significance. Following thousands of years of human activity and use by Indigenous communities, in 1797 the site became the location of the first purpose-built buildings to house the Parliament of Upper Canada. After its destruction by United States forces in the War of 1812, a Second Parliament building, followed by a district gaol (jail), and then the Consumers' Gas Company buildings occupied the site.
Years of community advocacy, championed by the late Deputy Mayor McConnell, led to the uncovering of the archeological heritage at the site, and the lands were later secured into public hands by the Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Toronto.
The First Parliament site is to be developed for a mix of public uses in partnership with the Ontario Heritage Trust. The First Parliament Project team has engaged stakeholders and the public, completed a Heritage Interpretation Strategy, and is leading a Master Plan process to develop an implementation framework for the vision. City Council has approved a new district library for the site. New public open space, commemoration of the heritage of the site, and new public use opportunities are being explored.
Last year, we learned that the Province's Ontario Line project would place a subway station in the vicinity of the site. Metrolinx had informed the City that the area around the future station, including the First Parliament lands, would be required for construction staging and an access shaft, for the duration of several years of construction. Plans for redevelopment of the site would be delayed, while the City moved ahead with planning its future use.
The notice of expropriation by the Province to take permanent ownership of the site now raises serious concerns for the planned public uses for the site, including critical community facilities such as the district library. Successful city-building requires collaboration between government partners, working together on shared objectives. I will continue to work with Councillor Wong-Tam, stakeholders, and the public to secure the goals that our community and leaders like former Mayor Deputy McConnell have envisioned for this important site.
The public meeting on the Master Plan scheduled for January 21st is being postponed while City staff meet with the Province to gain more understanding of the expropriation, and will be rescheduled shortly to update the public. You can register to receive updates on the project by visiting the First Parliament Project webpage. I will continue to keep you updated.
Present day aerial view of the site.