Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 30, 2022
Doug Ford has no mandate to sell off the Greenbelt
The Ford government is messing with the Greenbelt and Ontarians should be furious.
I say this as someone who was part of the McGuinty government that brought the Greenbelt to life in 2005 — one of the most important accomplishments of my time in office.
The idea was simple — take two million acres of environmentally sensitive forests, wetlands, and prime agricultural farmland off the table for development. The result was the largest Greenbelt in the world, enhancing our environmental ecosystem, curbing urban sprawl, maintaining precious farmland, and creating greenspaces for recreation and tourism.
The key to the exercise was its permanence — it would never be developed.
Over the years the idea of preserving this area has gained popularity. Polling by the Greenbelt Foundation has shown that 90 per cent of Ontarians support the Greenbelt and 86 per cent believe that it is an important contribution to future generations.
Enter the Ford government. Several weeks ago they announced a plan to allow 50,000 homes to be developed on 7,400 acres of the Greenbelt.
The result is a double whammy. Not only will a significant chunk of the Greenbelt be lost, but the idea that this was untouchable space has been undermined.
The government is defending this extraordinary step by arguing that making more land available is crucial to addressing the current housing crisis.
Unfortunately for the government, they have little to back up this assertion.
Their own Housing Affordability Task Force of experts and industry leaders concluded that a shortage of land has not caused the current housing crisis, specifically noting that “Greenbelts and other environmentally sensitive areas must be protected.”
There is something else a bit fishy about the decision. An investigation by the Toronto Star and the Narwhal magazine found that significant portions of the Greenbelt land under question had been purchased over the last several years by developers with close ties to the PCs — even though development was prohibited. As this land becomes eligible for housing, its value is about to go through the roof.
Despite the Greenbelt’s supposed permanent nature, we do live in a democracy. I acknowledge that if a party came to power with the expressed intention of opening up this precious tract of land, they have every right to proceed.
This isn’t the case. During the 2018 election campaign, a video surfaced of Ford privately promising developers that he would open up the Greenbelt. The revelation caused significant public outrage and Ford quickly backtracked, promising to never touch the Greenbelt if he became premier. They have no mandate to do this. (The Hamilton Spectator)