[Hpn] TORONTO: Cemetary faces Provincial 'land flip' - what will happen to the people already buried there? the people already buried there?

Graeme Bacque gbacque@idirect.com
Wed, 07 Jun 2000 10:08:13 -0400


  Thursday, April 27, 2000 The Toronto Sun
  Grit grills crematorium deal
  McGuinty: Government OK on road created $25M 'gold mine'

By JAMES WALLACE, QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU

A Tory land deal could turn a near-worthless cemetery for psychiatric 
patients and homeless people into a $25- million "gold mine" for a 
developer, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty told the Legislature yesterday.

The government's embattled Ontario Realty Corp. put the 2.95-acre cemetery 
in Etobicoke near the Gardiner Expressway up for sale in January 1998. At 
the time, it was worth between $250,000 to $300,000 and five bids were 
received, McGuinty said.

The winning bidder, funeral home owner George Damiani, won with an offer 
that was conditional on the city approving a
  crematorium on the rear portion of the property.

That approval was only possible because the Tories made a subsequent 
"secret deal" to sell a strip of abutting land owned by the ministry of 
transportation, land that was necessary for road access to the crematorium 
site, McGuinty told the Legislature.

With road access and city approval, a crematorium with 10,000 niches valued 
at $2,500 per niche could gross $25 million for the owner, McGuinty said. 
"We have a piece of property which was put out for public tender and 
secretly, behind closed doors, the person who got the deal suddenly has 
added to it a strip of land which increases the value of the property close 
to 100-fold," McGuinty told the Legislature.

He also produced a note obtained through freedom of information laws 
stating there was "ministerial involvement" in the deal. Management Board 
Chairman Chris Hodgson hotly denied that was so. "This was a request by my 
office on behalf of an MPP who wished to be briefed about the details of 
that (sale)," he said. Etobicoke Lakeshore MPP Morley Kells confirmed he 
asked Hodgson for the information.

"This property is not closed and it will be under full review by the audit 
team to make sure it was done properly and if it wasn't done properly it 
won't close," Hodgson said. "If there are any irregularities, it will be 
referred to the police."