Ontario’s Greenbelt: A breach of trust
September 26, 2023
To the Editor:
Over the course of nearly 10 months of rallies, letters and phone calls, citizens throughout Ontario spoke loudly and clearly against the provincial government’s use of protected Greenbelt lands for housing development.
I’m happy our collective voices were heard and the disastrous Greenbelt land-grab was reversed. It’s disappointing, however, that it took a scathing report from the integrity commissioner, allegations of corruption, and multiple cabinet resignations, before the decision was finally made.
Yet, just as my faith in democracy is revived, I’m reminded that the government seems to have a habit of ignoring advice from commissions it initiates.
The Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force reported to the government in 2022 that “… a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available. … Greenbelts and other environmentally-sensitive areas must be protected, and farms provide food and food security.” (Page 10, Report of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force)
Yet, the announcement was made Nov. 4, 2022, that 2,994 hectares would be removed and the legislation was hurriedly passed Nov. 28, 2022.
Now, we learn that a study on the impacts of climate change was commissioned by the Ontario government in 2020, presented in January, 2023, but made public only in August. The report – called the Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment – warns that climate change is already posing risks to Ontario’s agricultural and business sectors, with serious impacts on infrastructure, eco-systems and residents taking place now and expected to continue in the future.
Ontario premier Doug Ford specifically ran on a promise to leave the Greenbelt alone but broke it in spectacular fashion. How can we trust the government to take climate change seriously and legislate changes that will build climate resiliency without questioning who will profit?
Our provincial leader broke his promise and our trust, and we won’t forget. We expect our government to operate in good faith for the benefit of all Ontarians. We also expect it to take climate change, habitat loss and threats to bio-diversity, seriously.
We will be watchful and ready to mobilize again, if necessary.
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