Minister defends Ontario Science Centre closure as necessary for health and safety

The Canadian Press
Minister defends Ontario Science Centre closure as necessary for health and safety

TORONTO — Ontario Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma is defending the decision to abruptly close the Ontario Science Centre, saying it was done for health and safety reasons.

Surma said Monday she had every intention of keeping the science centre open in its east Toronto location until a new one the government is planning to build on the waterfront at Ontario Place opens in 2028.

“It’s terrible,” she said Monday at an unrelated appearance. “It’s horrible. It was a very difficult decision. I am saddened by it, just like anyone else.”

But, she said, engineers who identified some roof panels at risk of collapse told government officials that the roof should be replaced in its entirety, which would take two to five years.

“One must remember that this was a warning, a health and safety warning, and as a representative of government, I have to take that seriously,” Surma said.

“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of people, of workers and of children.”

Opposition politicians and science centre supporters have criticized the abruptness of the closure, which was announced and put in effect on Friday afternoon, saying people should have been allowed through the building one last time.

Surma said even though the engineers said the building was safe until Oct. 31, when risk of the weight of snow on the roof starts, the employees need time to decommission the building and move all of the exhibits out before then.

When it opened in 1969, the Ontario Science Centre was the world’s first interactive science centre, but years of limited capital investments have left the building with multiple deficiencies.

An engineering report the government recently received found that there are a number of roof panels “in a distressed, high-risk condition” that could fail under the weight of snow this winter. That type of roofing panel, prevalent on the science centre buildings, has been found to be failing in other jurisdictions, prompting Ontario officials to take a closer look, they said.

Infrastructure Ontario said it will look for a temporary science centre location until the new one at a redeveloped Ontario Place opens.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2024.

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