Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 31, 2023
The Lingering Spector of Corruption and the Ghastly Haunt of the Greenbelt Scandal on Ontario’s Government
As Halloween casts its eerie shadows, the spector of corruption looms ever closer for Premier Doug Ford and his government, showcasing a pattern of questionable Minister’s zoning orders (MZOs) that intensify the ghostly presence of the Greenbelt scandal. The recent scrutiny sheds light on how the Ford administration expedited approvals for rezoning, particularly benefiting developers linked to the controversial Greenbelt land swaps.
The surge in MZOs, an astounding 110 since 2019 compared to the mere 18 issued by previous governments, raises deep concerns. These orders, executed by the stroke of a pen, circumvent public consultation and alter local planning rules, potentially increasing the value of select properties. The opposition’s concerns have validity: a disproportionately high number of MZOs seem to favour a select few, including individuals linked to the Ford family.
The optics of MZOs benefiting guests from a Ford family wedding reception, especially when compared to the entire tenure of the previous Liberal government, indicate a troublesome trend. The association between certain developers, their relationships with the government, and the number of MZOs they’ve received present a disconcerting pattern. This intertwining web raises serious questions about conflicts of interest and the fair distribution of these orders.
The opacity and lack of transparency surrounding the MZOs amplify suspicions of unfairness and favouritism. The alarming findings by the auditor general highlight that nearly 40% of the MZOs benefited a handful of development companies, evoking criticisms of conflict of interest.
Moreover, the cozy connections between the Ford family and individuals receiving these MZOs paint a worrying picture. The associations and benefits granted to friends and close allies of the Premier imply an inappropriate confluence of personal relationships and public governance. The convergence of interests between the government’s actions and the well-being of specific individuals or groups exacerbates concerns of impropriety.
The government’s defensive stance, justifying MZOs as tools to expedite housing and alleviate bureaucratic hurdles, seems increasingly feeble in the face of mounting evidence suggesting a different narrative—one of favouritism and expedited benefits for a select few.
As the haunted tale of the Greenbelt scandal refuses to fade, and revelations continue to surface, Ontario’s government needs to address the widening shadows of suspicion. The clamour for transparency, fairness, and ethical governance in the use of MZOs grows louder and demands an immediate and thorough review. The ghostly echoes of past scandals must not be allowed to haunt Ontario’s governance any longer, and a definitive course correction is imperative to restore public trust and integrity. (AI)