Doug Ford will be remembered for many issues that somehow dragged on longer than it should have.
Ontarians will remember for years to come his gutting of workers’ rights, his handling of unions and the muddled response on the second wave of COVID-19.
However, one issue he somehow keeps getting into is the Greenbelt. This is a fight that never needed to be fought, but somehow Ford keeps getting himself into the centre of this issue.
Ford proposed a bill in 2018 that would allow developers to have more freedom in the Greenbelt area. A lot of push-backs came with this decision and Ford backed off of the bill and hasn’t touched it since.
A new omnibus bill suggests Ford wasn’t done with the idea of opening up the Greenbelt to developers. He was waiting for the right moment to act. Bill 229 was proposed by the PC government as what they claim is a way to economically bounce back after the pandemic.
The environmentally protected area was created by legislation in 2005 by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty that linked 1.8 million acres of wetlands, farms and other green spaces to help fight climate change and preserve the quickly vanishing natural areas between Durham and Niagara Regions, north to Lake Simcoe and even a strip to Georgian Bay.
It was also a buffer to limit development.
Ford tabled the omnibus bill last month that includes trimming power to conservation authorities have and transfer it to other authorities that can open up the Greenbelt to development.
This time, there wasn’t much attention to this new bill because the world is consumed by a global pandemic, and as the second wave hits Ontario with numbers breaking records almost daily, it isn’t the most alarming issue coming out of Queen’s Park.
But there has been an awakening to the potential scuttling of parts of the Greenbelt. NDP Leader Andrea Horvath said recently the developers who expressed interest in developing the Greenbelt had connections to the PCs, and seven members of the Greenbelt Council stepped down, including the chair and and still revered former mayor of Toronto, David Crombie.
Because of Crombie, who’s nickname is Toronto’s Tiny, Perfect Mayor and whose connections and history with the Conservative party runs deep, the Ontario population knows that the fight to protect the Greenbelt is still ongoing. The opposition is expected to defy the bill but they don’t have the numbers to stop the bill if it comes to a vote. It’s still to be seen if any Conservatives are against the provisions in this bill.
Ford has never let an issue beat him no matter the cost. In his first year in office, he threatened to stoop so low as to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter, but stepping back when judges agreed the city couldn’t stop him from reducing the number of elected councillors in Toronto.
When he wants something done, he will get it done no matter how many experts he ignores on the way.
It would be wise if Ford rethinks this part of the omnibus bill. He should weigh any gratitude from developers with the reaction the electorate has towards losing parts of the Greenbelt.