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LETTER: Dunlop will be held accountable for Greenbelt flip-flop

'Are you that person of integrity who still believes what you publicly declared in that 2018 debate, who worked to convince Ford to abandon his plan, or are you on the side of greed, urban sprawl and development?' writer asks
20200305 jill dunlop
Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, is seen here at the March 5, 2020 question period at Queen's Park.

MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is an open letter from Debbie Palmer to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, who voted in favour of Bill 23 last week. 
Dear Ms. Dunlop,

I watched the all-candidates discussions on food security in 2018. You spoke proudly of your upbringing, being raised on a farm, being a 4H Club member, your love of rural life and your pursuit of a degree in science, food and nutrition. You spoke of the need for helping farmers, supporting locally sourced food and teaching about healthy eating and healthy living.

All this would have and should have made you one of the most outspoken members of the Conservative caucus in opposing Bill 23. This bill threatens the very values you spoke to. How can we ensure food availability and security when valuable agricultural land is being gobbled up and paved over?

Currently, over 300 acres of farmland are lost every day in Ontario, and much more will be lost when taken out of the protected agricultural areas of the Greenbelt. Food will have to be brought in from further distances, which, by virtue of transportation cost and distance, ensures food will be more expensive and increasingly out of reach for many. Instead of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, we will rely increasingly on foreign-sourced products, which, with increasing climate change, is not always reliably available.

In 2018, when Doug Ford first indicated he was removing land from the Greenbelt, you stated that you and other members opposed this, and justifiably so. You stated that as a result of voicing your concerns, Ford had abandoned the plan; indeed, he committed to protecting the Greenbelt as recently as 2020.

What has changed since then that you are supporting decimating the Greenbelt now? Bill 23 isn't about creating more housing; we know that simply is not true. The government's own commission stated it was not necessary to obtain more land to address the housing crisis; indeed, it spoke to the continued need to protect these valuable resources in the Greenbelt.

I understand that cabinet solidarity requires that you publicly support your government's measures. You may well have voiced your concerns on camera; however, in the end, you voted in favour of it last week.

You may feel you have some opportunity to ameliorate the terms of the bill by working behind the scenes to bring about essential change. However, as the government has pushed ahead with this agenda with astonishing speed, limiting public consultation to 30 days which is insufficient to mount any kind of true challenge, it isn't likely.

This is a time for you to truly decide on what side of the food security and agriculture divide you stand on. Are you that person of integrity who still believes what you publicly declared in that 2018 debate, who worked to convince Ford to abandon his plan, or are you on the side of greed, urban sprawl and development?

One position requires you to resign from the party, sit as an independent member of the legislature, or even cross the floor to join forces with those who share your concerns about food security, preserving agricultural land and our Greenbelt. The other is to stand by your decision to support Bill 23 and face the electorate; you will be held accountable.

There are going to be consequences of your decision, not just for you personally in terms of being re-elected, but for many, many others; for municipal councils who are being deprived of essential funding for services and social programs now and in the future, for taxpayers who will be faced with escalating taxes or loss of services, for loss of agricultural land and the resulting escalation of the cost of food and increasing loss of food security, for flooding as a result of the loss of Conservation Authorities, for loss of habitat and species currently at risk, for increasing sprawl which will deprive people of green space.

These are the consequences of Bill 23, and they will be on you. Remember 2018? Time to make a stand.

Debbie Palmer