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LETTER: Opening up Greenbelt lands is 'fraught with peril'

'What’s next for a government that has been weighed, measured and found wanting? Simple. Blame the past McGuinty government for the Greenbelt mess,' laments reader
2021-10-04 Doug Ford TADH2 MH
Ontario Premier Doug Ford at Timmins and District Hospital on Oct. 4, 2021.

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What’s next for a government that has been weighed, measured and found wanting?  

Simple. Blame the past McGuinty government for the Greenbelt mess and repeal the Greenbelt Act of 2005 altogether.

Ontario’s new municipal affairs and housing minister, Paul Calandra, announced a Greenbelt review which will “re-examine land already removed for development as well as the possible removal of additional Greenbelt lands.” Calandra insists that this time the government will use a fair, transparent process. 

Under the Greenbelt Act of 2005, Ford and Calandra do not have a choice!

Ford and Calandra threaten to take even more land to support Ford’s contempt for the Greenbelt. Remember that he told developers during his 2018 campaign that he was going to “open a big chunk” of the Greenbelt up for developers. He’s called the McGuinty Greenbelt Plan a scam and a failed policy.  

Actually, under s.10 of the Act, the Minister shall “ensure that a review of the Greenbelt Plan is carried out every 10 years.” In point of fact, the last review occurred between 2015 and 2017, which means that the Ford government is jumping the gun by 2 years.

The Greenbelt objectives are crystal clear under the Act. 

The Greenbelt plan was meant to establish a network of countryside and open spaces which supports, not hinders, the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment.

The Plan was designed to sustain the countryside, rural and small towns and contribute to the economic viability of farming communities, not poke a hole in the “donut”.

The past government sought to preserve agricultural land as a continuing commercial source of food and employment, so land swapping was never really part of the original plan.

The Plan was designed “to provide protection to the land base needed to maintain, restore and improve the ecological and hydrological functions of the Greenbelt Area”. Opening up these lands in the GTA is fraught with peril.

Connections between lakes and the Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment were meant to be promoted and maintained for ecological health and well-being of the GTA. 

The Plan was also to provide open space and recreational, tourism and cultural heritage opportunities to support the social needs of an already rapidly expanding and increasingly urbanized population. Removing lands is an overreach and open to charter challenges. (See Linda Silver Dranoff’s article entitled Here is the way to hold Doug Ford accountable for the Greenbelt scandal.)

Another goal of the Plan was to promote linkages between ecosystems and provincial parks or public lands. Poking holes in these lands disrupts ecological continuity and sorely lacks vision and insight.

A major goal of the Plan in 2005 was to control urbanization of the lands to which the Greenbelt Plan applies. Dollars to donuts, Ford and Calandra are going to scrap the Act altogether.

Regardless of the reckless rhetoric used by Ford, he is stuck with the Greenbelt Act of 2005 for now.

The Act, not Ford, mandates consultation and public participation. 

During the 10-year review process, the Minister shall

  • consult with any affected public bodies, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the Greenbelt Council;
  • consult with the council of each municipality or with each municipal planning authority that has jurisdiction in the Greenbelt Area; and
  • ensure that the public is given an opportunity to participate in the review.

Ford pays lip service to the idea of public participation and consultation, but the Auditor General’s Report and the Integrity Commissioner Report speaks of a government out of control and devoid of public input.

Be ever vigilant, for this guy is going after the entire Greenbelt, not just certain pieces of it.

Tim Taylor