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LETTER: People power prevails in Greenbelt about-face

'This rare moment merits celebration that acknowledges all of the many organizations and people who did their part,' says letter writer
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MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from Gary Machan, an Oro-Medonte resident who is affiliated with the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

And just like that, the Ford government ‘banged a sharp uey’ with their recent announcement that they were halting their plans to develop on parts of the protected Greenbelt.

Better still, the premier apologized for breaking his promise not to develop on the Greenbelt and vowed not to touch it in the future.

All of which brings me back to a forum, Protecting What Matters Together, organized by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition just last week, devoted to this very topic, and, in particular, the comments of Franz Hartmann, who seemed to be completely out of touch with reality by calling on the audience to not lose hope. Hope? What hope?

Bear in mind, at the time of this event, none of the invited several Progressive Conservative MPPs bothered to show up, as the premier had announced his intention to review the entire Greenbelt with the intent of carving up even more of the Greenbelt for more suburban sprawl at the expense of existing homeowners and municipalities, never mind all the environmental considerations.

So, why hope? Short answer: We live in a democracy, something that the Ford government forgot about for several months, but fortunate for everyone, including themselves, someone, or a small group of people close to the premier, advised him that he was destroying his party and the province along with it. Best to cut bait while you still have a chance and pray that Ontarians have a short memory.

Now, having been involved in several major provincial advocacy campaigns resulting in the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, phasing out of coal-fired generating plants, the hard truth is effective coalitions don’t happen by themselves. They require strong leadership, a sound capacity for strategic thinking and fierce determination by everyone involved.

Enter Margaret Prophet, who has emerged as the public face in many ways for the Greenbelt, if not provincially, most certainly, locally. I write this letter because she deserves our gratitude for not just the countless hours she has contributed to the cause, but for the courage to speak truth to power. This stands in sharp contrast to other opportunistic environmentalists who have opted to play footsies with prominent developers.

While there is admittedly much more work to be done to protect our environment, such as to advocate against Sarjeant’s proposal to take 1.3 billion litres of water out of Oro-Medonte’s local aquifer, this rare moment merits celebration that acknowledges all of the many organizations and people who did their part — large and small. Mind you, not in a way that gloats, but rather is appreciative of the fact we still have a functioning democracy.

Dare I say, hope is as hope does. May we, as citizens, be inspired by this victory and never succumb to the growing cynicism, apathy and despair that comes in its wake.

Gary Machan