“We will open up the Greenbelt — not all of it, but we’re going to open a big chunk of it up — and we’re going to start building and making it more affordable and putting more houses out there.” – Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford, while he running as candidate for the party’s leadership in a February, 2018 video.
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted May 1st, 2018 on Niagara At Large
In the wake of a recently released video, revealing Ontario PC leader Doug Ford’s vision for the future of Greenbelt lands in Niagara and around Hamilton and greater Toronto, I can only imagine the late Mel Swart and Peter Kormos up there in the heavens, shaking the windows and rattling the walls.
Those two Ontario NDP members, along with veteran Liberal MPP Jim Bradley of St. Catharines, had a good deal to do with the creation of Ontario’s Greenbelt, as one of North America’s greatest preserves for what are left of our precious good-growing farmlands and natural areas.
Indeed, after decades of Ontario citizens and politicians like Mel Swart, Kormos and Bradley, whose parties were both sitting opposite to a P.C. government at the time, tabled a private members’ resolution, calling for the preservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland outside urban boundaries in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara area before low-density sprawl took any more of a toll.
The resolution became the for-runner of the Greenbelt protection legislation passed by a newly elected Ontario Liberal government in 2005 – legislation was soon recognized by other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States as a model for keeping the pavement off of what are left of the continent’s most fertile lands.
“I think it would be a national tragedy to lose this farmland,” stated Bradley after he and Kormos tabled their resolution for preserving these lands 16 years ago. “I think we have a chance to preserve it for future generations.”
“We have a historic and national interest in preserving this agricultural land,” added Kormos following Bradley’s words. “New Democrats call, once again, for the establishment of a land easement system that will preserve this agricultural land, not only in the short term but, quite frankly, forever. …. Anything less is mere tinkering. Anything less is less than a sincere commitment to the preservation of this unique, scarce and valuable asset of Ontario and, indeed, all Canadians.”
Now the Ontario PC Party, that did worse than nothing to protect these lands when they last governed the province from 1995 to 2003, sound ready to kick out jams and let their friends in the land speculation and building business start paving over them again.
“We will open up the Greenbelt — not all of it, but we’re going to open a big chunk of it up — and we’re going to start building and making it more affordable and putting more houses out there,” Ford is heard and seen saying on that February 2018 video, reportedly made public by members of Ontario’s Liberal Party.
Looking and sounding, in this journalist’s view, like Homer Simpson with Scott Pruitt’s (Trump’s infamous EPA – now late, great Environmental Protection Agency – administrator) brain, Ford goes on to say; “I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in this country and again, I wish I could say it’s my idea, but it was their idea as well. Give us property, we’ll build and we’ll drive the cost down. That’s my plan for affordable housing.”
This is Ford’s plan for affordable housing? Did he ever stop to think that many of the people having trouble affording a home are probably also having trouble affording a car? What does he want to locate them out in the country for?
You’d think that with all the years of experience Ford and his late brother Rob had governing in Toronto, he’d be able come up with a few ideas for providing more affordable housing inside the existing urban boundaries of our province’s towns and cities.
When Ford was asked about the video this April 30th, he attempted to backtrack a little. Insisting, as he put it, that “I support the Greenbelt in a big way,” he went on to say; “I give you my commitment that anything we look at on the Greenbelt will be replaced, so there will still be an equal amount on the Greenbelt.”
This sounds dangerously close to the bone-headed ‘biodiversity offsetting’ idea managers and board directors on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) – a bunch that may very well be applauding Ford’s “plan” for the Greenbelt, by the way – were peddling a couple of years ago for getting age-old and provincially significant wetlands out of the way and supposedly reconstructed somewhere else so they could make way for urban development.
At this point I have a suggestion for Ford that is so simple, you’d think even he could come up with it.
If he is going to replace “chunks” of Greenbelt he guts for housing with an equal amount of Greenbelt somewhere else, then why not build the housing somewhere else in the first place?
As a matter of fact, Frank Clayton, an economist and senior research fellow with what The Globe and Mail describes as Ryerson what University’s developer-funded Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, was quoted in that newspaper this May 1st saying that there is plenty of land outside the Greenbelt that is available for development.
“There’s lots of land for the next 20 or 30 years within the white belt (the areas of unprotected farmland between areas already designated for development and the Greenbelt). So you don’t have to touch the Greenbelt for residential land to keep the prices (for housing) from going up.”
That, according to a number of individuals who have worked in the urban planning field in Niagara for many years, is also true in the Niagara region. As much as some of our current municipal leaders would have us believe, there are enough other lands available for building in Niagara to avoid gutting places like the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls or the Waverly Beach area in Fort Erie or Niagara Escarpment Lands, etc.
By trying to force development in what we have left of our high quality farm land and environmentally sensitive places, these politicians are the ones who are placing urban growth plans in jeopardy – not the citizens who are fighting to protect and preserve these rich and vital, irreplaceable places!
Doug Ford’s “plan” for our province’s internationally re-known Greenbelt should not be surprising or shocking to anyone who has monitored the record of right-wing ideologues in Niagara and other regions of Ontario and Canada when it comes to conserving and protecting what is left of our natural heritage.
It should, however, be seen for what it is – a pledge to commit acts of vandalism on lands that present generations of Ontario residents have a responsibility to use wisely and preserve for ourselves and for future generations.
Ford’s posturing on this issue alone should be enough to destroy his PC Party’s chances of winning enough seats in the coming June 7th Ontario election to form a government or even the official opposition.
It is all the more reason to defeat his ideological soul mates here in Niagara, at the town, city and regional government levels, in this coming October’s municipal elections too.
To view the February 2018 video of Doug Ford making his comments about the Greenbelt, click on –
To learn more about Ontario’s Greenbelt, click on – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenbelt_(Golden_Horseshoe) .
For one of the CBC’s takes on this issue, click on – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/doug-ford-pc-greenbelt-open-developers-mike-schreiner-1.4641575 .
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