The provincial government has announced former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders will be a special advisor on the redevelopment of Ontario Place.
According to information posted on the government’s website, Saunders will be paid $700 a day for a maximum of up to $171,500 a year in the part-time role. An order-in-council said Saunders was appointed on Feb. 25 and will serve until Feb. 24, 2024 at the latest.
“The special advisor on Ontario Place Development will provide technical expertise and strategic advice to the premier of the province of Ontario and the minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries on approaches and strategies to support the redevelopment of the Ontario Place site,” the order-in-council said.
However, it’s not exactly clear what type of “technical expertise and strategic advice” will be provided.
A news release issued on behalf of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod on Friday said Saunders would be “working closely with the City of Toronto and Indigenous communities as well as stakeholders and businesses involved in the redevelopment project.”
“Mr. Saunders’ intimate knowledge of the diverse communities in Toronto and across Ontario will bring important perspectives to the project, as well as a level of expertise that will help turn our vision for the site into a reality,” MacLeod said in the statement.
The release said Saunders “will be able to leverage his senior-level experience in a major organization, experience in large-scale transformation change management and in the execution of complex project management initiatives to effectively advise the premier and minister.”
Saunders, who resigned as Toronto’s chief of police at the end of July, served with the service for nearly four decades. Before becoming chief, he oversaw the guns and gangs, homicide and sex crimes units. Saunders also worked as an officer in the homicide and drug squads.
When he made his announcement in June, he didn’t reveal what specifically led to his decision and said there were a “whole host of reasons.” Saunders said he received calls recently about working for an extended term and “had to put it to a stop.” He told reporters at the time he wanted to work with community initiatives in Toronto and said he wanted to be more involved with his family.
It’s not known if any other candidates were considered for the posting.
Also, given Saunders’ extensive background in policing, it’s not clear what exactly his role will be when it comes to matters related to tourism, land use, land development or real estate.
It also appears the provincial government is looking for a new part-time chair and a board member to oversee the Ontario Place Corporation based on a posting online.
The government announced in 2019 a search for international partners to help redevelop Ontario Place, which is about to mark its 50th anniversary. It was previously confirmed that a casino will not be built on the grounds and the famous Cinesphere will remain along with other newer recreational amenities.
“Clearly, a modern new Ontario Place will attract local, provincial and international visitors, playing a key role in our post-pandemic recovery while creating unforgettable memories for a new generation. When complete, Ontario Place will regain its iconic status as an integral part of the province’s identity,” MacLeod said in Friday’s statement.
The government has made investments in recent years to bring events and amenities such as drive-in movies to the site.
The statement said further details about the project would be unveiled sometime in the spring.
— With files from Jessica Patton
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