The Toronto casino has gotten harder for the OLG to sell after a real estate development company chaired by OLG chairman Paul Godfrey has spoken out against the downtown proposal. According to the Toronto Star, casino opponents have used the letter to suggest that Godfrey couldn’t even convince his own people that the gaming centre is in Toronto’s best interests. Godfrey has already gotten into hot water with controversial comments about the casino location in January.
RioCan is one of the largest commercial property development groups in the GTA, and the company’s board is chaired by Godfrey. However, CEO Edward Sonshine signed a joint letter will Allied Properties and Diamond Corporation sent to Toronto city manager Joe Pennachetti asking the city to reject the OLG casino proposal, despite Godfrey serving as lead architect of the plan. The OLG chairman tried to downplay to the media the RioCan opposition, stating the matter is a personal opinion of Sonshine and not the entire board.
“I’ve encouraged people on both sides of this issue to make their positions quite clear. If you’ve followed any of the speeches I’ve given, I’ve said until all the facts come in, one shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.”
Sonshine says his opposition has more to do with the downtown location rather than the casino. He writes that the downtown traffic is already over-congested, and that the city’s infrastructure can’t handle the extra cars a casino would bring into the city.
“I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to create something where a lot more vehicles are coming into the downtown core.”
The traffic concerns were echoed by the Toronto Board of Health, which issued its second report investigating a casino’s impact on the social health of the city. In this report, the board says air pollution would get even worse from casino traffic, which could be even more hazardous for the thousands of citizens who already struggle with smog in the summer months.
The OLG wants a casino somewhere in the GTA, but has emphasized downtown is one of its preferred locations. Sonshine gave no indication if RioCan would oppose a casino located outside of the core, but city councilor Adam Vaughan – one of the casino’s harshest opponents – says the letter is proof Godfrey and the OLG are operating outside of Toronto’s best interests.
“He couldn’t convince his own board. They know that in the healthiest downtown of any North American city, dropping a casino in is like dropping a grenade in a crowded room.”
The RioCan opposition follows a similar letter from three ex-Toronto mayors submitted to Rob Ford, which urged the mayor to reject the casino plans. Toronto city council has until the spring to approve or reject the OLG proposal.