Newsmaker of the day: Elton McDonald, the Toronto tunnel digger -

Newsmaker of the day: Elton McDonald, the Toronto tunnel digger

The man who dug the notorious Toronto tunnel tells the Toronto Sun why he did it

(Toronto Police Service)
(Toronto Police Service)

After all the fraught fears over terrorism, after the wild media frenzy, after all the social-media frothing—the notorious Toronto tunnel that captured imaginations across the country was ultimately just someone’s literal interpretation of a “man cave.”

“I just want people to know that I meant no harm at all,” said Elton McDonald, a 22-year-old long-time construction worker told the Toronto Sun Wednesday. “It was not meant as a bad thing.”

According to the Sun, McDonald lives with his family near York University, and has long dreamed of building a space like that just to hang out. He detailed plans to put in a TV and expand the tunnel, which had been there for about two years, into a multi-room complex.

mcdonald“It was a lot of work,” he said. “Me and a friend did most of it. It took about five months all in total. We drained the well water from the surface and secured it with wood (beams) and made sure there was enough clean air to breathe. I put the generator in another hole so that there would be no gas fumes down there.”

But then what about the mysterious rosary beads and Remembrance Day poppy that police found in the tunnel, the items that really ignited many fears, given the still-fresh attacks that claimed the lives of two soldiers, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec? Well, that was McDonald’s odd idea of a good-luck charm, with the rosary gifted from his sister—luck that he said he needed because he worried that the thing would collapse on him.

Perhaps the most amazing quote that McDonald gave the Sun, who got the exclusive story when McDonald walked in their offices with photographic proof that he was, as he described, the “main digger,” is the statement that when he first heard the news break about a mysterious tunnel, he shrugged it off as a different mysterious tunnel. “At first I didn’t think they were talking about my tunnel but a different one,” he said. “But then I saw the pictures and I knew.”

Police managed to track him down by tracing the equipment that he had borrowed from his boss. McDonald had been worried that he’d be in trouble if he went to the police—he says he has no criminal record but “dealt with police before”—but he assuaged their concerns with an hour-long visit to 32 Division.

So yes—after all the Twitter snark and the press conferences, the infamous Toronto tunnel wasn’t a devious terror plot to attack York University, the location for the upcoming Pan-Am Games: it was a guy who just wanted a place to bro out. So maybe next time, let’s just breathe before we pull in our fears about terrorism.

Really, this story says less about terrorism and more about Toronto’s painfully tight housing market—after all, how does a worker in the construction industry struggle to find a place of his own to dig a tunnel under? Well, his announcement came on the same day that the Toronto Real Estate Board released numbers that showed the average price of a detached home in the city past the million-dollar mark in February, the highest it has ever been in the city.

McDonald did not respond to requests for comment as of publishing time, but we’ll be sure to fill in any holes in his story when he gets back to us.