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Key Vote: Union Station Lease

Despite a flawed and scandal-ridden bidding process, City Council voted to approve a deal to lease Union Station for a term of 100 years to Union Pearson Group, as part of the $150 million renovation of the key transportation hub. The decision broke with the city’s Administration Committee’s recommendation to shorten the lease to 60 years, and negotiate with the other major bidder, LP Heritage, if Union Pearson rejected the shortened lease.

Councillors who voted to approve the lease chose to accept the problem-ridden bid process, which shut the public out of consultation, favoured backroom power-brokers, and even destroyed evidence of the bid process. Based on an evaluation of proposals by senior city staff in July 2002, Union Pearson was originally selected as the preferred bidder over LP Heritage, a Chicago-based consortium that includes noted architect Rem Koolhaus, and whose members previously completed a redevelopment of New York’s Grand Central Station and Washington’s Union Station. The public was largely shut out of the bidding process, which was later revealed to be rife with scandals. Paula Dill, Commissioner of Urban Development Services and former planning chief for Mel Lastman in North York, gave zero scores to LP Heritage in her evaluation of the bid. After a freedom-of-information request to see the score sheets, it was revealed that the documents had been destroyed, after the public request for the forms was submitted.

The Union Station leasing scandal was one of the primary examples where backroom dealing took precedence over public interests at City Hall. The Union Pearson Group has close ties to Mel Lastman and other powerful backroom figures. One member is Larry Tanenbaum – part owner of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and the Air Canada Centre, and a close associate of Mel Lastman. Lobbyists for Union Pearson included Paul Godfrey (owner of the Toronto Sun and another close associate of Mel Lastman), David Smith (recently appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Jean Chretien), and Stephen LeDrew, president of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Vote Essentials:
That Union Station be leased to the Union Pearson Group for a term of 100 years, to restore, revitalize and operate Union Station on behalf of the City of Toronto

Voting FOR the 100-year lease of Union Station: 31
Altobello, Ashton, Augimeri, Balkissoon, Berardinetti, Cho, Di Giorgio, Dominelli, Duguid, Feldman, Flint, Hall, Holyday, Kelly, Johnston, Korwin-Kuczynski, Lindsay Luby, Li Preti, Mammoliti, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Nunziata, Ootes, Pantalone, Pitfield, Rae, Shiner, Silva, Soknaki, Sutherland, Tziretas

Voting AGAINST the 100-year lease of Union Station: 10
Bussin, Chow, Filion, Ford, I. Jones, L. Jones, Mihevc, Miller, Moscoe, Walker

Vote Date: July 2003

Vote Specifics: Clause No. 1 of Report No. 8 of the Administration Committee, headed “Union Station Request for Proposals – Status Report – Negotiations with Union Pearson Group (Ward 28 – Toronto Centre-Rosedale)”

For more information, see the City Council Minutes. (PDF file opens in a new window.)