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City council agrees to invest in BMO Field expansion

Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake take part in an MLS game at Toronto’s BMO field on Aug. 13, 2011.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Toronto city council has agreed to invest $10-million to expand BMO Field at Exhibition Place over the objections of Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford.

The deal will add city dollars to a plan by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to expand the city-owned facility, paving the way for football to be played at the stadium. MLSE also is seeking $10-million from both the provincial and federal governments and is investing $90-million of its own funds.

The vote was called before either the mayor or his brother had a chance to speak. Both have criticized the deal, with the mayor calling it "corporate welfare."

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Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly urged council to support the deal. "We are not giving any money to a private corporation, we are co-investing." he said. The investment, he said will allow the city to grow an asset.

During the debate Councillor Mike Del Grande the city's former budget chair and the other councillor to vote against the deal, advised against investing city dollars in the sports facility. He reminded them of the trouble created when the city agreed to backstop a loan in another project – the Mastercard Centre in Etobicoke – a move that eventually left the city stepping in to take over operation of the arena.

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