The Survival of Ontario’s World-Renown Greenbelt Is Still Hanging In The Balance Under Ford

A New CBC Report Says Doug Ford Is Continuing To Talk Up Urban Development In Greenbelt

Jim Bradley, during one of the many times he, as an MPP for St. Catharines, spoke to a gathering of Niagara residents working to protect and preserve green space in the region.

“When our (Ontario Liberal) government was elected to office in 2003, urban communities were sprawling at a dangerous rate and tens of thousands of acres of precious land were being gobbled up for development. To counter this worrisome trend, our government created the largest permanent Greenbelt anywhere in the world, which protects almost two million acres of pristine land and fresh water.”                                                  – then-St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, in a statement in the Ontario legislature, delivered May 1st, 2018

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted September 190th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

“One of the main reasons I decided to run for public office at the provincial level was to protect our valuable farmland, green fields, wetlands, ravines, rivers streams and environmentally sensitive areas from unwise and reckless development.”

Those words were spoken in the Ontario legislature on May 1st, 2018 by Jim Bradley, who was the Liberal MPP for St. Catharines at the time, and who earlier in his long tenure in provincial politics, served twice as Ontario’s environment minister.

Now Chair of Niagara Region’s council, Jim Bradley’s words recall the concern he already had for the survival of what is left of our natural heritage in the Golden Horseshoe while he was a a St. Catharines city councillor in the late 1970s, preparing to run as a candidate provincially.

Bradley’s words were also spoken after a video tape was leaked to the news media a year ago this spring, showing then Tory leadership candidate Doug Ford speaking to a group of developers in what he thought was a private setting about allowing “chunks” of the province’s protected Greenbelt to be paved over for housing if he were to become premier.

“People of all political persuasion have … expressed support for the Greenbelt,” added Bradley during his statement in the provincial legislature in May of last year. “They would be appalled and extremely concerned when viewing a video of (then) PC Party leader Doug Ford promising developers to open up a “big chunk” of Ontario ‘s greenbelt for development, and admitting that he had already talked to some of the biggest developers in the country (about doing just that.)”

Before I go on to comment on Ford’s continued, obsessive interest in turning over “chunks” of our world renown Greenbelt running through Niagara and around Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area, here is that infamous video that you can watch by clicking on the screen below –

After this video went public, political critics like Jim Bradley slammed Ford. And the video also  triggered an outcry from environmentalists and members o the general public alike.

So much so that Ford quickly retreated from the words he was caught uttering in the video.

“The people have spoken,” Ford told reporters with only a month to go before Ontario voters went to the polls. “I’m going to listen to them, they don’t want me to touch the Greenbelt, we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”

Yet almost everything Ford and his government have done since coming to power, around reforming or revising provincial planning rules, weakening environmental protection legislation, including Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, seems to be paving the way  (pun intended) for unleashing a new era of low-density urban sprawl into the countryside.

And now we have another report, this one posted by CBC News this September 9th,  talking about Ford spending “nearly a year”  – and he’s only been Ontario’s premier for a little over a year now – talking to a developer about a plan to building housing in the Greenbelt  despite the promise he made after that video came out that “we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”

This poster/image was produced and circulated widely through social media by the Green Party of Ontario several months ago – just one more expression of opposition to any move by the Ford government to allow urban development in the Greenbelt.

“The discussions involved a 60-hectare property in the north-eastern corner of Vaughan,” the CBC report says, and get this.

The report goes on to say that “he land is owned by a family whose members have donated more than $100,000 to the Progressive Conservative party in recent years, including to Ford’s 2018 leadership bid.”

Of course, all of the off-and-on time Ford spend  in talks about this matter has nothing to do with the generous donation the landowner invested in Ford’s political fortunate, I say sarcastically. And it certainly doesn’t take “nearly a year” to tell someone; Sorry folks but “we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”

I think that we have every reason to believe, based on what his government has been doing to planning and environmental protection rules over the past year, that what Ford was caught saying to a group of developers in that video last year is what he really, really, really wants and intends to do’.

A map of Ontario’s Greenbelt shows the area now protected in green

And for anyone in Niagara who may be tempted to say; ‘Oh well, it is somewhere above Lake Ontario in Vaughan. It’s not in our backyard,” it is very important to consider that once the Greenbelt protections are trespassed or violated anyone, nowhere is going to be safe.

The proverbial genie will be out of the bottle and we might just as well kiss everything around any permanency for what is left of our most valuable food-growing lands in Ontario goodbye. We better believe that there are plenty of land speculators and developers in Niagara who are waiting and hoping that Ford kicks down the protective walls in Vaughan so they can rev up their dozers and chainsaws here.

What we heard from Ford in that video and what we have heard from him several times over the past year is that he wants to build more affordable housing for people. “We need affordable housing. … We need to drive the cost down. … “That is my plan for affordable housing,” Ford tells those developers in the video after pledging to offer up a “big chunk” of the Greenbelt for them.

And around all of this, Ford has this ever so menacing “More Houses, More Choice Act” in the mix.

Do we really want to see more of what is at the bottom of this photo covering the land on top? There is still decades worth of land inside existing urban boundaries for more of those dead-worm roads and cookie-cutter suburban houses.

What on earth does the need for more affordable housing have to do with protecting and preserving what is left of our farmland? We can have more affordable housing or what is left of our food-growing lands? What kind of a false choice is that?

Don’t people who need housing need to eat too? Don’t we want to save any land for our children … for future generations so that they can grow the food they need to survive here and not have to rely to depend on getting it from foreign markets in a world of nations that we can no longer count on to be friendly?

Besides, figures show that there is still plenty of land inside our existing urban boundaries – land that does not host great stands of trees and wetlands – that developers can build on for decades to come.

Any move to smear low-density  development into the Greenbelt is tantamount to an act of vandalism and rape on these precious lands, pure and simple, by the worst elements of the industry – many of them older chiggers who place their lust for piling more on their stash above the responsibility we all have to leave what is left of this earth’s natural resources for future generations.

Once again, I ask the question – Where are the more responsible developers in our region? When are they going to speak out against some of the conduct that has been putting such a stain on their industry?

I am sure that many people in this region would applaud them for speaking out.

As Jim Bradley concluded in his May 2018 statement in the Ontario legislature – “Most people would agree with Joni Mitchell, who implored us not to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Now here is a September 9th, 2010 statement released by the not-for-profit Canadian citizens group Environmental Defence, on this important issue –

For Immediate Release – September 9, 2019

Statement from Executive Director Tim Gray on the Ontario government moving to allow development in the protected Greenbelt

Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence

Toronto, Ontario Ontario Premier Doug Ford keeps promising he won’t touch the Greenbelt. Yet his Minister of Municipal Affairs started a process to allow sub-division development on protected Greenbelt land.

The forested land, located on the north side of Vaughan in the “Natural Core” protected zone of the Oak Ridges Moraine, supports important wildlife, including endangered species such as bobolink, butternut and bats. It contains a provincially significant wetland and the headwaters of Patterson Creek, therefore helping to provide clean water and reduce flooding in the region. It has been protected under the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt acts since 2003.

Its development would remove one of the last large intact forested areas in north Vaughan. Building a sub-division on the land will also increase the amount of car dependent housing and the pollution that causes climate change. It is also unnecessary, as York Region has more than enough land within existing urban boundaries to provide for all projected new housing needs to at least 2031.

The Minister, by ordering the Provincial Development Facilitator to begin negotiations to allow development on protected Greenbelt land, would have opened the door for other developers to ask for the same. The result would be death by a thousand cuts and makes a mockery of the Premier’s claim that he won’t touch the Greenbelt.

Rather than attack it, our provincial government should work with the public, municipalities and MPPs to expand the Greenbelt. It will have a chance to do so when the Legislature resumes this fall and the private members bill to extend protection to the Paris-Galt Moraine is considered at Committee.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

Here, also, is a statement Ontario’s Official Oppostion/New Democratic Party released on this issue on September 9th – 

Ford’s third attack on the Greenbelt shows it isn’t safe in his hands: NDP

QUEEN’S PARK — The Ontario NDP’s critic for Ethics and Accountability, Taras Natyshak, made the following statement following  (the September 9th, 2019) CBC report that Doug Ford has, for a third time, attempted to punch holes in Ontario’s Greenbelt — this time, by holding secret, backroom meetings with a developer whose family members have donated more than $100,000 to the Conservative party:

“Ontarians have made it clear that they do not want holes punched in our cherished Greenbelt. But, apparently, without constant supervision, Doug Ford will just keep cooking up backroom deals to mow down chunks of the Greenbelt for developers.

At this point, it should come as a surprise to no one that Doug Ford has, according to reports from the CBC, acted in true Doug Ford fashion and tried to strike another shady deal with wealthy developers at the expense of the interests of regular Ontarians.

The first time he got caught promising developers he would open up a ‘big chunk’ of the Greenbelt, Ford said he would leave the Greenbelt alone. The second time Ford tried to break up the protected land, by sneaking legislation into his omnibus Bill 66 that would have scrapped environmental protections and handed over Greenbelt land to developers, the outrage of municipalities, environmental groups and the public pushed Ford to back down — publicly, at least.

Now, we learn that Ford has spent months trying to cut a sweetheart deal to break up the Greenbelt with a developer whose family has given more than $100,000 to Ford and his Conservatives.

We know Doug Ford never does the right thing until he gets caught. They say third time’s a charm, but it seems that Doug Ford will keep trying to trade favours with insiders at the expense of the rest of Ontario.”

For more news and commentary on this and related issues, here are some links that you can click on, one at a time, below –

https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/09/09/ford-wields-axe-over-activities-conservation-authorities-host-to-fund-eco-programs/

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doug-ford-greenbelt-housing-vaughan-milani-rizmi-developer-1.5263980

Here is a detailed Ontario Nature report on the rich biodiversity in the province’s Greenbelt – https://ontarionature.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/REPORT-GB_Habitat-Dec2011.pdf .

This one is a reprisal of a commentary Doug Draper wrote on urban sprawl while still working as an environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard. Yes, it is long but it is also, unfortunately, just as relevant today, if not more so, as it was when it was first published in the mid 1990s https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/07/11/paving-paradise-gutting-planning-rules-sacrifices-natural-heritage-to-urban-sprawl/

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For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

“A politician thinks of the next election. a leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

One response to “The Survival of Ontario’s World-Renown Greenbelt Is Still Hanging In The Balance Under Ford

  1. Honourable (Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing) Minister Steve Clark has stated he won’t ,,,how long can he hold out if Premier is intent on doing this ?

    Like

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