Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 9, 2022
Pushing back against Doug Ford’s heavy hand
Premier Doug Ford and his government backed down dramatically on their unconstitutional dealings with education unions, specifically, CUPE. Is there any chance Ford will similarly back down on his government’s decision to override the will of Hamilton city council to freeze the city’s urban boundary?
It would be nice to argue yes, but it would also be fanciful. Ford didn’t back down from the education fight for any ethical or moral reason. It wasn’t because he wanted to keep kids in schools or wanted a fair deal for Ontario’s lowest paid education workers.
Rather, he backed down entirely out of fear. He saw the public opinion polling that showed most Ontarians blamed his government for the standoff, not the union. He heard the threats of wider-spread job action in support of CUPE. Faced with a protracted labour war, recognizing that the optics don’t favour his government, Ford did a dramatic reversal.
Good for CUPE and other unions lined up in support. But the grim reality is Hamilton city council does not have a similarly big stick. Municipalities are creatures of the province, and there is no real appeal of a decision taken directly by Queen’s Park and dropped on a local government.
Nor is there much people can do when a government so blatantly reverses itself on environmental policy, which it did last Friday with the decision to allow development on Greenbelt lands.
Four years ago, Ford said: “The people have spoken. I’m going to listen to them, they don’t want me to touch the Greenbelt, we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”
That was after he was recorded telling development friends that he would free up Greenbelt land so they could build more urban sprawl. His response was that now historic promise, which now lies in pieces on the ground.
The plan is to take 15 pieces of Greenbelt land, totalling 7,400 acres, and make them available for development in places like Hamilton, Toronto, Grimsby, Pickering and Ajax. But it’s all good, says the government, because we will add another 9,400 acres back in from somewhere else.
What many people don’t yet know is that most of that replacement land, river valleys and the like, is already covered under other environmental protection policies. So it can’t be developed anyway, and the net environmental impact will be more development and on previously protected lands.
That’s the sort of sleight of hand practised by Ford and friends. And up against it, there’s a limit to what a local government, like Hamilton’s, can do.
That doesn’t mean city council shouldn’t try, only that our expectations should be tempered. Re-elected Coun. John-Paul Danko put it this way to Spec journalists: “I think we need to turn over every stone, as it were, to find ways to resist this kind of growth that is not in the best interest of our city.”
An example, cited by Danko, could be delaying servicing previously protected lands with essential infrastructure. You can’t build houses where there are no roads and sewers. Another tactic might be expediting intensification in existing neighbourhoods, suggested Environmental Defence lawyer Phil Pothen.
These and other ideas are worth exploring, and will challenge our new city council. But based on the overall reaction to the province’s stomping all over local democracy, they are worth discussing and implementing where it makes sense. The good news is that we’re hardly alone as other municipalities are also feeling betrayed and will be weighing their options.
Given that, it makes sense for municipalities of a similar mind to come together, perhaps under the auspices of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). Individually, there might be little they can do to slow down the government’s “pave paradise” mentality. But collectively, who knows?
What is the alternative? Roll over and accept the government’s ideologically-driven development agenda? Allow conservation and wetland protection to suffer as conservation authorities are neutered? Watch farmland disappear under expensive urban sprawl, which ultimately costs local taxpayers because greenfield development doesn’t pay for itself? Those options are even more unappealing. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro … These sped up clips are posted to encourage others to be creative, to take advantage of the technology many of us already have and to use it to produce satire. Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comforted.