The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have accused Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne of secretly approving $317-million to bail out a real estate development for a downtown Toronto research centre. But Ms. Wynne says the deal was confidential because it isn’t finalized and would actually save taxpayers money in the long run.
According to cabinet documents released by the PC party Thursday morning, the Liberal government was arranging a deal over the last few months to purchase an office tower in Toronto that houses MaRS, a registered charity that focuses on technology and medical research. The Liberal government previously gave MaRS $71-million plus a $234-million loan to build the tower, but the documents indicate the charity and a private real-estate company that had a stake in the building are unable to pay back the loan. The documents indicate the $317-million purchase price would include the loan.
The Liberals say the value of the downtown building would cover the cost of the loan, but stressed the deal has not been finalized. The agreement would also provide revenue for the province through leasing out the rest of the space.
“To this date, that agreement is not final,” Ms. Wynne repeated while at a media event at Centennial College, adding the deal would also provide space to move in other government offices that are currently paying rent elsewhere.
“The Ontario government occupies more than seven million square feet in more than 100 buildings in Ontario. What this agreement would do, if it is finalized, is allow the consolidation of some of those government offices into a building that would be owned by the province.”
But the PCs say the deal is a Liberal party attempt to avoid a political embarrassment by quickly bailing out the tower. Leader Tim Hudak attacked Ms. Wynne for handling the deal behind closed doors and not disclosing it in the budget.
“The fact that this was done in a cabinet meeting, just before an election campaign tells me this was another wasteful Liberal scandal and cover-up,” he said while touring a pre-apprenticeship training centre in Toronto Thursday.
Such matters should be handled publicly, Mr. Hudak said.
“It shouldn’t happen in secret. It shouldn’t happen with a lack of transparency,” he said. “A $300-million bailout just before an election campaign.”
Instead, the PC party says the province should eat the cost of the loan and have MaRS go bankrupt, rather than try to fix what they consider a bad real-estate investment.