Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday August 5, 2023
Doug Ford’s Greenbelt Gamble: Sacrificing Conservation for Developer Gains
Premier Doug Ford’s decision to open up the Greenbelt for housing development has been a contentious move from the start. Now, as the auditor general’s report into the controversial land swap looms, questions arise about the true motivations behind Ford’s actions. It is becoming increasingly evident that monetary gains for his developer friends may have taken precedence over environmental conservation.
The Greenbelt, a vast expanse of sensitive lands covering two million acres, has long been considered a vital ecological treasure for Ontario. It serves as a critical buffer against urban sprawl and protects valuable ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and water sources. However, instead of cherishing and safeguarding this natural heritage, Ford’s government opted to open up 7,400 acres of the Greenbelt for housing development, a move that would undoubtedly benefit wealthy developers with connections to the Tories.
The auditor general’s “value-for-money” audit into this decision has the government on edge, as they await the findings with bated breath. NDP Leader Marit Stiles rightly points out that the walls are closing in on the Conservative government, with both the auditor general and Integrity Commissioner investigating the Greenbelt deals.
The recent departure of Luca Bucci, a former top Conservative official who played a crucial role in crafting the Tories’ ambitious housing plan, raises eyebrows. It is worth noting that Bucci was Steve Clark’s chief of staff before joining the influential Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA). The timing of his departure is suspicious, given the ongoing investigations, and Stiles has raised questions about the possible conflict of interest.
Developers who benefited from Ford’s Greenbelt changes, Michael Rice and Silvio De Gasperis, have gone to court to resist the auditor general’s summons for an interview. They argue that they are private citizens and that Lysyk is overreaching her authority. However, their attempts to block or delay the investigation only add to the perception that the premier’s decision was meant to serve the interests of a select few.
Ford, attempting to fend off criticism, insists that he “expanded the Greenbelt by 2,000 acres” and that his Liberal predecessor made similar boundary changes. But the scale of the changes under Ford’s tenure dwarfs the previous adjustments, making his comparison seem like a distraction from the real issue at hand.
It is crucial to recognize that preserving the Greenbelt is not just a matter of environmental stewardship; it is a question of ethical governance. The government’s responsibility is to serve the best interests of all Ontarians, not just a privileged few. Sacrificing vital ecological zones for short-term financial gains for developers betrays this trust.
As the results of the auditor general’s report draw near, the people of Ontario must pay close attention to the findings. If it becomes clear that the premier’s decisions were driven by financial interests rather than the well-being of the province and its natural heritage, serious questions about accountability and transparency will arise.
Conserving the Greenbelt is not just an environmental concern; it is a matter of moral duty. The long-term consequences of sacrificing these ecologically significant lands for short-sighted development will far outweigh any immediate financial gains. Premier Ford must be held accountable for his actions and prioritize the welfare of the province and its people over the interests of his developer friends. It’s time for the government to embrace true conservation and protect the Greenbelt for generations to come. (AI)