September 29, 2023

Skepticism abounds as Ontario's housing minister, Paul Calandra, claims that developers whose lands are returning to the Greenbelt will not be compensated, given the province's history of favouritism and a lack of transparency in past actions.

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday September 29, 2023

Greenbelt Reversal: Ontario’s Compensation Commitment Under Scrutiny

In a recent announcement, the Ontario housing minister, Paul Calandra, has assured the public that developers whose lands are being returned to the protected Greenbelt will not receive compensation. However, skepticism runs high regarding this promise, given the province’s track record and the circumstances surrounding this decision.

Calandra’s assertion that the government will not compensate these developers is met with a degree of cynicism, and for good reason. The province’s previous actions, including removing land from the Greenbelt last year as part of an ambitious housing development plan, have raised questions about its true intentions. While Premier Doug Ford has now announced the return of 15 parcels of land to the protected area and offered an apology for the initial decision, it’s worth noting that this move came only after damning reports from the auditor general and the integrity commissioner exposed flaws and favoritism in the process.

The auditor general’s revelation that property owners stood to gain a staggering $8.3 billion from this land transfer only adds to the doubts surrounding the government’s intentions. The aftermath of these reports saw the resignation of key figures, including the then-housing minister Steve Clark, further eroding public trust.

The upcoming legislation, which aims to codify Greenbelt boundaries and prevent future changes via regulation, seems like a step in the right direction. However, the government’s history of favoring certain developers and its reluctance to compensate for past actions raise concerns about its commitment to true reform.

Moreover, the lack of transparency regarding the deals made with developers is a troubling aspect of this entire affair. Opposition leaders rightly question whether there are other ways developers might be compensated, which could ultimately benefit them in the long run. The absence of disclosed agreements and a tendency to operate behind closed doors only fuel suspicions.

In essence, while Minister Calandra’s statement may suggest a change of heart, it is difficult to ignore the lingering skepticism. The province’s actions have, unfortunately, cast a shadow of doubt over its commitment to protecting the interests of the public over those of influential developers. Only time will tell whether Ontario can truly uphold the principles of a civilized democratic society in this matter. (AI)

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