TORONTO - “I have refused to meet with anybody from Villa Charities about this because I do not want to be any part of this proposal which make no sense”.
Mike Colle, MPP for the riding of Eglinton- Lawrence for 22 years, speaks out about the Columbus Centre ”demolition”, which is at the core of criticisms regarding the project for shared-use facility with Dante Alighieri Academy.
Colle doesn’t approve of the decision to build a new facility on the same territory as site of Columbus Centre. “I’m really irritated by the Toronto Catholic District School Board`s project that no one supports. We all know that the community is not happy about it. I want this to be clear: I am now 100% against the proposal of the Columbus Centre right now. I do not support it”, Colle adds.
The school instead, according to the MPP and Parliamentary Assistant of the Secretary of Labor, is a necessity. “In 2011 the Government allocated 32 million dollars for the Toronto Catholic Board in order to rebuild Dante Academy and move the students from the Elementary School Regina Mundi to the facility used at that time by the Academy. Currently Dante Alighieri Academy has to host some students in 22 prefabricated buildings. This is not the right option for allocating the school`s students. Many parents decided not to enroll their children in this school due to these portables”, Colle explains.
According to Colle, building a new school for Dante Academy is necessary. What disturbs him is the fact that the 32 million dollars were allocated to Toronto Catholic District School Board in 2011 for this purpose because “the Board explained the emergency situation of the Academy, that there was an urgent need to build a new facility since the portables constituted a danger for the student’s health”.
MPP Colle highlights with regret that six years have passed since then. “My role was to make sure that the funds would have been allocated for the school. And I did it, but now I`m not happy at all because during these years the new school has not been built and no one has talked about the students who have to attend the lessons in the portables. This situation is really frustrating”.
Colle seems ready to point fingers at those who didn’t act as they should have or against choices such as the one to build on the site where the Columbus Centre is located (since the ‘70s), an undisputed reference point for the Italian community in Toronto.
“The school, in my opinion, is indeed necessary but not to be constructed where the TCDSB and Villa Charities have decided. It could be build where they are located now or, as I suggested many times, on the other side of the street (Dufferin St.) where public school sits empty on the site. This was a good idea and I expressed it to the Trustees and the Catholic Board”, Colle affirmed.
On the one side, there is a Community determined to continue the battle to defend and preserve the Columbus Centre, on the other side, instead, the Catholic School Board and Villa Charities are trying to avoid their objections and get straight to the project’s approval.
After having asked for the Ontario Municipal Board’s permit to proceed with the project, Villa Charities is now organizing a weekly series of “Customer Chats”, hourly conversations followed by a discussion with the President and CEO, Anthony DiCaita, at the Columbus Centre.
The stated purpose is to share updates on the project to redevelop Villa Charities/Columbus Centre and Dante Alighieri Academy. Villa Charities’message is loud and clear: they have no intention to stop the project.