Liberals ready to drop $317M on failed real estate project

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park Columnist

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

TORONTO -- Our free-spending Liberal government is from MaRS when it comes to accountability and spending your money wisely.

And your tax dollars? They may as well be hidden in Uranus.

What else can you conclude after you discover the real estate wheeling and dealing that happened as Ontario's legislature was dissolved and the election called?

Just when you thought there was no more room for sleaziness up the sleeves of this dreadful Liberal government, we find out taxpayers got bitten in the butt by another deal gone bad.

In an early morning conference call with reporters Thursday, former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees revealed the government is preparing to bail out a failing real estate project in downtown Toronto to the tune of $317 million.

Liberals gave $71-million to build a second tower at the MaRS research centre at College St. and University Ave., and provided a $234-million loan for the project, but cabinet documents show the registered charity and the New York-based real estate developer can't repay the money.

So why on earth is this government getting into risky real estate deals?

This government has doubled the debt -- to a whopping $300 billion -- since it came to power in 2003.

It's facing a $12 billion deficit -- with no hope of paying it off.

Yet the Liberals had $317 million in loose cash hanging around to throw away on a failed real estate deal?

PC Leader Tim Hudak said Wynne is following in her predecessor's footsteps.

"Kathleen Wynne has learned a lot of lessons from Dalton McGuinty.

"That's obvious and it's disappointing. All they care about are Liberals, Liberal insiders and Liberal seats," he said.

"I care about taxpayers and getting people back to work," he said.

Klees is being "irresponsible," Wynne countered.

"The negotiation is not complete," she told reporters.

"I hope that what he has done doesn't derail the negotiation and doesn't derail the agreement because it's in the best interests of the people of Ontario that this building be used in this way," she said. She said the building can be used to house government programs.

As for Wynne's claim that it's not a done deal, cabinet documents show it's supposed to close July 14.

"I have not said anything that isn't directly in these documents," Klees said in a phone interview.

"What's the premier saying? That this is just a sham and they're not planning on closing the deal?" he asked.

As for the notion that the government can house civil servants in MaRS, Klees points out amortization costs are $11 million annually for 40 years.

"The premier said they won't have leases to pay," he said.

"You may not be paying a lease, but you're paying through the nose far and above what you're paying anywhere else in this city for market rent," he said.

That cost, though, will be hidden. It won't show up as a lease.

In a news release from 2007, then-premier Dalton McGuinty gushed about the development.

"MaRS is our gateway to innovation in Ontario, our calling card to the world as a leading example of innovation," he was quoted saying in a news release.

Until it all goes sour, of course. In which case you turn it into a giant, interplanetary boondoggle.

Calls to MaRS and the U.S.-based real estate company, Alexandria Real Estate, were not returned. Alexandria makes no mention of MaRS on its website.

Klees says government has no place doing real estate deals such as this and hopes he does "derail" the deal.

"Only 30% of the building was leased and as a result they were going bankrupt," he said.

Klees, who decided not to seek re-election, was the guy who doggedly dug up most of the dirt in the Ornge scandal.

It makes you wonder how many other bad deals this government has landed us in. And will we ever find them.

And when will voters wake up -- and toss them out.


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