Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday May 30, 2023
Doug Ford’s Greenbelt Blunder Exposes His Betrayal and Ignorance
In a shocking display of betrayal and ignorance, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has denounced the province’s cherished Greenbelt as a “scam” and dismissed its creation as a random act of the previous Liberal government. This absurd characterization is not only an insult to the countless professionals, citizens, and organizations who dedicated their time and expertise to establish the Greenbelt but also a blatant disregard for his own promises.
Let us not forget that during previous elections, Ford assured the public that his government “would not touch the Greenbelt.” Fast forward to the present, and we witness his administration allowing developers to encroach upon 3,000 hectares of the protected 800,000-hectare Greenbelt. Such a move, justified under the guise of addressing a housing crisis, raises serious concerns about the integrity of the decision-making process.
The Premier’s decision has triggered investigations by both the integrity commissioner and the Auditor-General, amid allegations of unfair benefits bestowed upon developers with close ties to the government. The irony is striking. Ford, who claims to champion the interests of the people, appears to be serving the interests of his well-connected friends instead.
In his attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Greenbelt, Ford casts doubt on the process by which it was created, alleging that it was haphazardly conceived using a dartboard and highlighters. These baseless accusations demean the hard work and dedication of experts, scientists, and planners who meticulously analyzed agricultural conditions and evaluated lands for inclusion. Victor Doyle, the former senior provincial planner involved in the Greenbelt’s development, emphatically refutes Ford’s claims, highlighting the comprehensive evaluation process that was undertaken.
Ford’s dismissal of the Greenbelt as a mere “fancy word” concocted by the Liberals is not only factually incorrect but also reveals his astonishing lack of understanding of the significant environmental, agricultural, and economic benefits it provides. The Greenbelt ensures clean water by protecting aquifers and rivers that feed the Great Lakes, safeguards forests that supply clean air and habitat for diverse wildlife, and preserves Canada’s prime farmland, which is crucial for food security and the economy. Moreover, the Greenbelt plays a pivotal role in mitigating climate change impacts through flood prevention, carbon sequestration, and temperature moderation.
It is ironic that Ford, as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, denounces the Greenbelt while conveniently overlooking that the Greenbelt builds upon and expands the protections established by prior Conservative administrations, including the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine Plans. The Greenbelt represents a culmination of extensive research, analysis, and consultation, incorporating the expertise of leading hydrologists, ecologists, biologists, and other specialists, as well as valuable input from local communities and stakeholders.
Ford’s comments about the Greenbelt reflect his profound disconnect from reality and his willingness to dismiss internationally recognized preservation initiatives as inconsequential. His disregard for the importance of protecting the environment, safeguarding water sources, and preserving green spaces for future generations is deeply troubling.
The Greenbelt is not a partisan issue. It transcends political affiliations, with supporters from all parties recognizing its significance in ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for Ontario. The Premier’s attempt to carve up our green spaces to reward his wealthy associates is a clear demonstration of his misplaced priorities.
Furthermore, Ford’s audacious claim that his government has one of the best environmental records in Ontario’s history is a laughable distortion of reality. His actions speak louder than his empty words. From curbing the powers of conservation authorities to canceling renewable energy projects and weakening protections for endangered species, Ford’s track record demonstrates a concerning disregard for the environment.
It is disheartening to witness the leader of Ontario’s government spout baseless claims, belittle the efforts of dedicated professionals, and undermine a vital environmental asset. The Greenbelt stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, science, and evidence-based decision-making. It is a vision for a sustainable future that Ford has callously abandoned.
As concerned citizens, we must hold our elected officials accountable. We cannot allow the Greenbelt, a symbol of our commitment to environmental stewardship and the well-being of future generations, to be tarnished by the shortsightedness and political expediency of our leaders. It is time to stand up for the Greenbelt and demand that Ford’s government rectify its misguided actions. Our collective future depends on it. (AI)