If They and Their Pals in the Development Industry Win, The Biggest Losers Will Be Our Children and Grandchildren
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted January 24th, 2023 on Niagara At Large
When it comes to full-out, in-our-face exhibitions of ignorance, insults and disrespect for democracy and the rights of citizens to speak out for the common good in their communities, I did not think that anyone in Ontario’s so-called “Progressive” Conservative Government could hold a candle to that government’s boss hog, Douglas Robert Ford Jr..
I have to admit that I was wrong.
Enter Stage Right – and I mean really far right – is Premier Doug Ford’s cocky Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the dishonourable Steve Clark.
Clark, a former three-term mayor of Brockville, Ontario who was inflicted on the rest of us by voters in that area of the province, is Ford’s lead bully and bouncer when it comes to shoving through Bill 23 – an infamous piece of legislation, cynically cloaked as a measure to create more affordable housing, yet aimed at weakening rules and silencing voices for protecting what are left of our food-growing lands and natural heritage, and at eliminating charges developers would pay for water and wastewater lines and other new infrastructure, all as gift to the Ford government’s partners in crimes against our communities in the development industry.
Yet here is Clark, shameless hack that he is, out there insulting anyone who speaks out against this God-awful bill and its attack on what is left of our green lands and watersheds, as people inflicted with NIMBY (the not-in-my-backyard syndrome).
In a most condescending sort of way, he has also taken to smearing people who are speaking out for our Greenbelt and other precious natural lands and watersheds as with the acronym BANANA –“build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone”
He has accused municipal governments across Ontario, including in Niagara, of being afraid of change and of stuffing their reserves with development fees they rightfully collect from developers for the roads, water pipes and other infrastructure municipalities that must necessarily be built to accommodate low-density sprawl.
Clark is either being untruthful with us or, like his big boss man Doug Ford, is apparently too stupid to know that if developers don’t pay these costs of doing business, it will have to come out of the pockets of those paying property taxes inside the existing urban boundaries that they want to break down.
This commentator’s view is that Clark, at least, is not all that stupid and that he knows that waiving the costs for infrastructure for developers and making the rest of us pay for them is the Ford government’s way of giving a gift to the pirates they embrace as friends and supporters in the development industry.
When I rake through the malodorous mountain of manure that Clark has shoveled out on Bill 23, there is one statement from him that assaults the senses of this father of a young daughter who will have to live longer than I will with the consequences of what this government is doing more than any other.
“I want to make a promise to young people in Ontario today who are ready to give up,” Clark stated this past December in a response to concerns Niagara area NDP MPPs Jeff Burch, Jennie Stevens and Wayne Gates raised in the provincial legislatures about plans to allow urban development on what are supposed to be permanently protected Greenbelt lands. “Our government is fighting for you and we will continue to do so.”
Really? Fighting for what?
What kind of a future are these young people going to have in this province if we don’t have enough good land left to grow our own food?
As if the growing frequency of severe blizzards, wind storms, floods and droughts aren’t causing enough death and suffering and costly destruction of property already, what kind of future are they going to have if we add to the crisis by destroying ever more woodlands and wetlands, and allow ever more low-density sprawl that depends on ever more roads and highways and trucks and cars?
Even if Clark thinks that building more houses and letting developers off the hook for paying development fees may make housing more affordable for younger people, it’s hard to believe that this guy, who was once a mayor, thinks it is a good idea to put that housing out in the sticks where these same young people will have ready access to a grocery store and other essential services unless they can also afford to buy a car.
This is Ford’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister? What a complete ignoramus he is.
Earlier this January, I attended a New Year’s Levee that Niagara West and Ford government MPP Sam Oosterhoff was hosting for his constituents at a Legion Hall in Pelham where there were fewer people inside the hall meeting him than there were people outside the hall protesting Bill 23.
Inside the hall, Oosteroff had information on a table loaded with the same kind of propaganda about the legislation that we have been getting for the past two or three months from Clark and Ford.
At one point one constituent approach Oosterhoff and expressed concern about possibly losing more food-growing land. Oosterhoff quickly asked her where she lived and what was on the land before her home was built.
“I think it was an orchard,” she said, to which Oosterhoff, doing his own twist on Clark’s NIMBY line, said in so many words, and I paraphrase; ‘There, you see? People live on land that was once agricultural, then they don’t want any other agricultural land built on.’
Well Sam, when it comes down to it; We all live on land that once upon a time was likely a field or a woods or an orchard or a cornfield or a pasture full of grazing cows.’
The message here seems to be that therefore we have no right to speak out about ever more green lands being built on. It’s kind of like saying, we once burned leaded gas in cars so let’s keep doing it. Who cares if we know better now.
You know, like a lot of reporters, I receive Christmas cards from politicians in the area and Sam Oosterhoff sent me one with a nice picture of him, his wife, holding their very young child in a field full of wild grass and flowers.
I think Sam Oosterhoff should take a good look at that Christmas card and ask himself if he really wants to follow Ford and Clark down the road to paving over more of our natural heritage.
If he does and that beautiful field on the Christmas card and others like it disappear forever, how is he going to explain it to that child someday.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
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