Fighting Therme Group’s Toronto Spa

Yesterday The Globe and Mail published my critique of the contracting process for Therme Group’s proposed spa at Ontario place, comparing it to the flawed privatization process for Highway 407. Today, The Star published privatization critic Linda McQuaig’s critique of the spa. She, too, discusses Highway 407. She also deals with the spa’s business model of an expensive facility “whose luxury experience will be confined to the well-to-do.” She reminds us of the Ontario Government’s $200 million commitment to prepare the land and $450 million five-storey underground parking garage, asking the question of what benefit the public derives from them.

Getting the Word Out

My article is behind The Globe and Mail’s paywall. For readers of this blog who aren’t subscribers, here is a pdf of the text of the article.

I also posted a link to the article on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Twitter post was picked up by the Ontario NDP Press Office, which retweeted it, leading to another 8 retweets and almost 700 views.

The Spa Experience

Though my article is mainly about the contracting process, I am interested in the proposal itself, as discussed on the Therme Group’s website. The Therme Group is attempting to recreate the experience of well-known hot spring spas, such as those in Europe and Japan. The differences, however, are stark. Most of Therme Group’s spas, in particular the one proposed for Toronto, aren’t located on natural hot springs. They embody no local culture comparable to that of Japanese onsens. The original hot springs are reasonably priced, but Therme charges premium prices.

What’s Next

The proposed spa is now linked to the much-criticized proposal to move the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place, doubling its opposition.

The Ford Government has occasionally backed down from its most benighted ideas in the face of massive public opposition or successful court challenges. The Science Centre and Ontario Place have now become issues in the mayoral by-election. The election of a mayor opposed to the Ford Government’s initiatives at both locations should doom them, because the people will have spoken and the city will refuse to cooperate with the Ford Government.

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