The Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area


The Four Sisters
If you lived almost anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area in 1962, you would have seen the skyline along the shores of Lake Ontario dramatically change with the arrival of the four sisters – towering smoke stacks in Mississauga. The sisters were part of an industrial landmark that could be seen as far away as Burlington to the west and downtown Toronto to the east. The Lakeview Generating Station was the largest coal-fired power plant in Canada, built to provide electricity to a booming population. In 1989, when Jim Tovey moved to the community, he helped to lead the citizen group that convinced politicians to demolish the station and abandon plans to construct a new gas plant in its place. His vision for a new type of shoreline, would help to reinvigorate the area and change the way today’s generation sees the shoreline from the east to the west of the GTA.

Sunset on the reclaimed lakeshore of Mississauga

Morphology – Photo by Martin Pinker

A revitalization project
In 2010, Tovey was a Mississauga City Councillor working with community organizations and developers on plans to transform the city’s eastern waterfront. A reclamation project called the Lakeview Waterfront Connection would create a new 64-acre conservation area along the Lake Ontario shoreline using leftover aggregate from construction projects in the region. When completed, the site would include a waterfront trail, cobble beach, meadow, forest, and wetland—restoring the ecosystem. In addition, the now-vacant industrial park would be revitalized into a multipurpose hub—with the development of new residential units and commercial, institutional, and cultural amenities. This new space would support the future economic, environmental, and social life of the city.

The Morphology exhibition
Tovey was also a musician and artist, and inspired by the reimagining of the waterfront, he conceived of Morphology: an annual photography exhibition documenting the emerging landscape of the Lakeview Waterfront Connection. The images were meant to help the public reconnect with the lake and imagine it’s future. At the inaugural launch of the exhibition in 2018, Councillor Tovey proudly remarked, this “is the first ecosystem that’s ever been built in Lake Ontario in the GTA—ever.”

A lasting legacy
Sadly, Jim Tovey passed away unexpectedly soon after the launch. In a statement to a shocked community, Mayor Bonnie Crombie remarked, “Mississauga has lost one of its greatest champions today. Jim was a community builder whose legacy will live on through the growth and redevelopment of the waterfront.” A few months later Credit Valley Conservation announced it would name the Lakeview Waterfront Connection project in Tovey’s honour. The Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area commemorates the Councillor’s transformative vision and provides his much-loved community with the green shoreline oasis he had always imagined.

Jim Tovery and construction worker stand with a backhoe on the waterfront under construction

Across Ontario I am often struck by the great pride with which communities large and small tell stories of their history. Knowing where we’ve come from roots us to place. Knowing where we go next is often the larger challenge. It takes a leader with great vision to take our history and reimagine it for future generations. Jim Tovey was a remarkable individual. He understood that progress did not, and indeed, must not, mean leaving anyone behind. Tovey’s vision replaced a landmark that was once a symbol of innovation, but later one of environmental damage, with a space that took in the whole concept of what a resilient and sustainable community can be. He knew inherently the importance of connecting the dots between environmental stewardship, social cohesion, and economic prosperity.

I was delighted to be invited by Tovey to the launch of Morphology. He understood that art has the power to both share new ideas, and to help shape the public’s thinking about important issues. Among the guests at the launch were civic leaders, artists, and members of the public along with the construction workers who through the photographs were able to see how the aggregate created by their construction projects had been turned into art.

In the years to come, the Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area will continue to bring together the old and the young, new Canadians, and those whose history can be traced back to before the four sisters. It is a place with a future that is inspiring and evolving, a new and exciting page in Mississauga’s story.