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2009-03-05
Toronto, Ont. Wal-Mart Suffers A Defeat At The OMB

After announcing that it was closing down Sam's Club Canada, Wal-Mart suffered another embarrassing defeat this week in Ontario. Municipal officials in Toronto were pleased with the support they received at the Ontario Municipal Board. The OMB, in a 56 page decision, voted to support the city in its ruling to deny a big box retail complex in the Leslieville neighborhood, that was anchored by a Wal-Mart superstore -- one of the many new superstores Wal-Mart had hoped to build in Ontario this year. According to the Toronto Star, the OMB said the developer's proposal did "not constitute good planning" and would and "very likely destabilize" the area known as the South of Eastern Employment District near the intersection of Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Leslie St. The proposal was forwarded by SmartCentres, one of the premiere Wal-Mart developers. This project weighed in at a staggering 700,000 s.f, including two big box stores, one of which was a 180,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore. SmartCentres never announced who its tenants were, but according to The Star, "Wal-Mart was being courted to be an anchor tenant." Many residents living near the site formed a citizen's group, the East Toronto Community Coalition, and testified against the project at the OMB hearing. The city of Toronto opposed the big box project, saying that low-wage retail work was not the kind of jobs the city wanted, preferring higher wage "creative industry" jobs in film or media. SmartCentres, hoping that local officials were economically illiterate, boasted that their development would create 2,000 permanent jobs. But the city was not buying. Torono Mayor David Miller issued a press release thanking the OMB for backing the city. "Preserving and protecting employment lands is an important part of Toronto's Official Plan," Mayor Miller said. "This decision recognizes that position and strengthens our ability to ensure Toronto can prosper now and in the future."

What you can do: On March 4, 2009, Mayor Miller announced in a press release that the OMB had decided in favor of the city's rejection of a big box project on South of Eastern Avenue. "The City of Toronto successfully defended its Official Plan policies today," the Mayor said, "as the Ontario Municipal Board upheld the City's right to maintain the area South of Eastern Avenue as an Employment District without large format, stand alone retail outlets. Preserving and protecting employment lands is an important part of Toronto's Official Plan. This decision recognizes that position and strengthens our ability to ensure Toronto can prosper now and in the future." One of the city's lawyers said, "The OMB decision has found that the test to add large format stand-alone retail to employment districts is a difficult one to meet." The Mayor's press release went on to say: "The OMB found that the functioning of other economic activities within this district would have been undermined if the Smart Centres application had been approved. Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents." A huge Wal-Mart supercenter just did not fit into that scenario. The citizen's group, the East Toronto Community Coalition held various fund-raisers to help pay for the defense of their neighborhood, including one event that screened the film "Wal-Mart Nation," which was produced, written and directed by Canadian film-maker Andrew Munger. The film screening raised $5,000 for the citizen's group. Readers are urged to email Toronto Mayor David Miller at mayor_miller@toronto.ca with the following message: "Dear Mayor Miller, Congratulations for your victory against SmartCentres at the OMB. You are right that a Wal-Mart supercenter 'just did not fit' into Toronto's future, and I applaud the city for drawing the line against suburban sprawl. Many other communities are now fighting Wal-Mart's superstore push into Ontario, and Toronto shall be a reminder that communities can fight and beat the big box stores. All Wal-Mart Canada has given to Ontario is half a dozen soon-to-be-dead Sam's Clubs. Toronto had the vision to say No to more of this sprawl, and we appreciate your leadership on this issue."











 
 
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