Let’s save our Ontario “Success” Centre

The Great Canadian Innovation Circus, was an amazing comedic spectacle at the Ontario Science Centre.
The Great Canadian Innovation Circus, was an amazing comedic spectacle at the Ontario Science Centre.

Ontario (along with yours truly!) was young once. The 1960s and 70s were heady times, innovative, energetic and exciting. As a gift to the people of Ontario to mark Canada’s Centennial in 1967, the provincial government commissioned Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama to design the Ontario Science Centre – one of the first interactive science museums in the world, uniquely located on the banks of a Don Valley ravine.

The government also commissioned architect Eberhard Zeidler and landscape architect Michael Hough, to envision Ontario Place, an expansive park on artificial islands rising out of Lake Ontario.

As parents, and now grandparents, we have enjoyed both places immensely. With our young family we enjoyed many a summer evening on the grassy slopes of the Forum attending concerts by Victor Borge, the Danish-American comedian and pianist who always seemed to work in a couple of visits to Toronto each year. But that was then, and this is now. Right?

Well, this New Year’s we paid a visit to the Ontario Science Centre with our daughter and three grandchildren. It was full of visitors – hundreds of people, in fact – to the point of capacity. And everyone was having a great time. A special event, the Great Canadian Innovation Circus, was an amazing comedic spectacle (see photo). Too bad we had to take a mini-bus to get to the children’s exhibits. I guess the province needs to be reminded that maintenance can only be “deferred” so long!  

Under threat

As you’ve probably heard, both facilities are now threatened: Ontario Place by turning over the West Island to Therme, an Austrian spa company, and the Ontario Science Centre, to be demolished, with the exhibits shipped to a mini-Science Centre in half the space at Ontario Place. It’s rumoured that the Therme plan is merely a waystation to a casino that the Fords have always wished for on the Waterfront. But that’s just a rumour for now.

So, why is this relevant to Leaside? While both of these attractions have “Ontario” in their names, they serve the whole province. We are fortunate to have them in our city, and the Science Centre will be only a couple of stops away on the Crosstown, opening soon (hopefully!). The OSC is also relevant to all ages, not just those old enough to remember the unofficial provincial anthem:

“Give us a place to stand.
Give us a place to grow.
And call this land, Ontario.
A place to live. For you and me.
With hopes as high.
As the tallest tree.”

What can we do about this? Note the emphasis on the “we.” We can protest and support the Save the Science Centre campaign. Stephanie Bowman, MPP for Don Valley West, has done just that – she was a speaker at the Ontario Science Centre Rally at the St Matthew’s Clubhouse at Riverdale Park on January 27th. She said that two elementary students at Bessborough Public School had collected 200 signatures on a petition to save the Ontario Science Centre following her talk to their class about “Citizenship, and how to make a difference.”

These students recognized that this is an issue for them and they took action. We should take a leaf from their book and do the same: https://savesciencecentre.com.

It would be a travesty to demolish this architectural gem. Tell the Ontario government: all that’s needed is to allocate funds to repair the bridge. Otherwise, keep your hands off our Ontario Success Centre.

About Geoff Kettel 223 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.