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Protesters hijack Mills announcement

MP ready to announce new plan for Toronto waterfront when demonstrators pounced



Protesters disrupted and then forced delay of a press conference this morning in which Toronto MP Dennis Mills planned to announce results of his study into the future of the Toronto waterfront.

Former Mayor Art Eggleton had just introduced Mills when protesters started to scream and shout. "Resign, Dennis Mills,'' they chanted.

"Where's your leader, Jack Layton?'' he shouted back - a reference to NDP leader Jack Layton, who will try to unseat Mills when the next federal election is called.

Layton's office denied any involvement.

When things quietened down, and the protesters left, Mills announced a vision for the waterfront that would see condominiums and other large structures banned east of Yonge Street and an emphasis placed on parks and sports fields to revitalize the now-scruffy portlands.

Among the recommendations are a United Nations 'university of peace'' and an aquarium. Mixed-income housing would also be part of the mix.

Mills, when confronted by the protesters, indicated that some affordable housing was included in his plans by pointing to an illustration behind the podium.

"What do you think that is? What do you think that is?'' he said as demonstrators crowded around him.

The rest of his words were drowned out and he left the conference room at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel shortly afterward.

Eggleton returned to the room several times to talk to protesters. Other notables in the room awaiting the announcement included the federal cabinet minister responsible for the GTA, Joe Volpe (who told TV reporters that that Layton's "assistant'' was directing the protesters), MPP Marilyn Churley and former mayor David Crombie.

The demand that Mills resign, chanted by some protesters, was linked to a demonstration last summer in which people belonging to OCAP (the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty) occupied a vacant downtown building. Mills promised to take up their cause and to resign if he failed to get affordable housing built in the short term.

Screamed one woman: "Dennis Mills promised me a house. Where is it?''

Mills was adamant that he had kept his promise. He said he had commitments in writing from various groups for the necessary funding to convert the building, but that the work required to retrofit the building takes time.

"You just can't do those things overnight," he said. "But the monies are in place."

Mills said money tied up in plans to extend Front Street, in the works for more than two decades, could be used to help fund the waterfront project if the street project was deferred.

The $245 million Front Street project, meant to smooth traffic flow entering the city from the west, was approved last year under a plan in which all three levels of government would split the bill.

Prime Minister Paul Martin tapped Mills (Toronto-Danforth) in January to review waterfront revitalization plans.

The appointment came more than three years after Jean Chr

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