Building on the Green Footsteps

Developed in 2004

On January 16, 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin assigned Dennis the task of reviewing the progress to date of the Toronto waterfront revitalization and to develop specific recommendations for how the federal government could better serve the Greater Toronto Area.  The result is the action plan, Building on the Green Footsteps.

Background and Message from Dennis Mills

On January 16, 2004, The Honourable Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada, gave me the task of reviewing the progress of the Toronto waterfront revitalization initiative. I was asked to develop specific recommendations for immediate action by the Government of Canada to rejuvenate the physical and social environment and the economic competitiveness of the city of Toronto.

Over the past 100 years the Toronto waterfront has been created through the continuing efforts of all three levels of government. The federal government has made significant investments in this important undertaking.

These recommendations support the work done by many dedicated parties and, in particular, highlight initiatives proposed by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation.

Toronto loves the waterfront and it has the potential to be one of the city’ major tourist attractions. The waterfront properties east of Yonge Street, and especially the Port Lands, are ripe for rejuvenation and improved public access. Several of the initiatives that we recommend are of national importance and the Government of Canada should play a role in their realization.

We have recognized the requirement for mixed-income housing in the West Don Lands. Beyond that housing, we see an opportunity to quickly invigorate the waterfront with acres of new green space for the enjoyment of Toronto citizens and visitors all year round. We are recommending that the Government of Canada work closely with the local transit providers to determine the best means of developing public transit to the new parks and recreation facilities.

To quote Thomas Homer-Dixon, “we design our cities to block out the intrusions and fluctuations of the natural world”. This should change.

Our waterfront should not be a wall of condominiums. We do not want the waterfront east of Yonge Street to mirror the area west of it. Instead, we envision easily accessible green space and recreational facilities, where citizens will be glad to go and enjoy their lake.

By greening our waterfront we will enhance the already thriving variety of wildlife and birds in the area. Our support of cultural activities, including a Shakespearean outdoor theatre and an aboriginal cultural centre, will make the lakefront a destination place.

Some of the Port Lands will be dedicated to a variety of sports facilities. These facilities will provide badly needed infrastructure for Toronto to capitalize on the growing sports tourism industry. It will also promote healthy exercise and recreation for our youth.

Friends of the Leslie St. Spit have offered suggestions for maintaining the greenery in the southern part of the Port Lands. Our recommendation that major parkland be administered by Parks Canada will guarantee the long-term security for the public of the green waterfront.

We need to clean up our environment for future generations.

Our recommendations will create major tourist activity that will lead to expanded economic opportunities on the waterfront. The National Arctic Ocean Aquarium, the tourism created by the new ferry service to the United States, as well as the sport tourism generated by international competition in paddling, rowing and dragon boat racing are examples of such synergy. In so doing we support the Toronto Board of Trade’s initiatives to encourage tourism.

Toronto’s international profile will be enhanced by the establishment of the United Nations University for Peace.

Toronto is a great and unique place. The new green space we propose is our commitment to the future of this city. Facilities built for year round activities will ensure a vibrant waterfront.

We applaud the fine planning work accomplished by the City of Toronto. Our desire is to build on the vision to make this vital part of our city, not only a jewel to Toronto, but to all of Canada.

In developing these recommendations, we have been inspired by the work of a great conservationist, Charles Sauriol, enshrined in the book, The Green Footsteps. Amongst the hundreds of proposals and people consulted, the passions and writings of two other very dedicated men have shown us the way: David Crombie and Robert Fung.

We believe that these recommendations can be acted upon immediately. Seventy-eight million dollars of new money is required to initiate the action plan. This is a public investment in the health, commerce and social fabric of Canada’s largest city. It is an investment to secure Toronto’s future.

The recommendations reflect and give testimony to the work and thoughts of many who have dedicated their lives to this great city. Their footsteps are large and I propose that we follow in them.

Dennis Mills
MP, Toronto-Danforth


Charles Sauriol

Charles Sauriol, the renowned author and conservationist dedicated his life to rescuing natural heritage land. He acquired a life long appreciation for the natural treasures it held. He foresaw the relationship between a clean environment and a healthy life.
Mr. Sauriol would have been delighted that the final chapter of the Don River story will have a happy ending

David Crombie

David Crombie is a former Mayor of Toronto, Member of Parliament and Federal Cabinet Minister. He is the Founding Chair of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. In 1988 Mr. Crombie was Commissioner of the Government of Canada’s Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Waterfront and is one of the most insightful champions of waterfront revitalization.

Robert A. Fung

Robert A. Fung is chairman of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, a corporation established by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto to lead the renewal of Toronto’s waterfront. Mr. Fung chaired the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Task Force whose report was issued in March 2000.

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