Vincent Black

The Stop Sign has turned “Green”




When thinking of green I usually associate this color with money, and any other form of currency. The color green is also a symbol of moving forward, getting the green light to cross the street or move forward with what is at hand. The Ford government has given a green light to unlocking the greenbelt and moving forward with development, infrastructure and a possible new airport with a newly signed bill. Yes, you read this correctly, Doug Ford who prior to this past provincial election indicated that he would not touch the Greenbelt has lifted the restrictions making room for developers and others to benefit big time.

The greenbelt means money, lots of it to a select handful of folks that either purchased land prior to the past provincial election or have had farmland and greenbelt lands within their portfolios and will be able to cash in quite handsomely very soon. When you piece together the sequence of events over the past year, it all makes sense as to why Ford has done what he has accomplished thus far. He has done a couple of things to layout a solid foundation and give this process a tremendous amount of power that will move the file forward unlocking the greenbelt very quickly. Allowing the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the power to override the municipal structure with a tool called an MZO, better known as a ministerial zoning order, gives the minister total control and all rights to override the municipality. Ford has also given two mayors unlimited powers in the cities of Toronto and Ottawa for now with other to follow as Ford see fit.

Let me explain in the simplest of terms what is about to happen.

In the first phase, Ford will pick off all the prime lands that will possibly benefit his supporters, give them first crack at implementing, and roll out new communities. It has been stated and it is public record that as of today, a handful of his supporters will benefit significantly and all that this premier will say is that we need more housing. Many others and I are not against new housing and improving our infrastructure, but we need more consultation and openness to engage affected communities. Transparence is the ultimate litmus test and thus far this government gets a failing grade.

Minister Clarke denies claims he tipped off developers about greenbelt changes. Steve Clarke is Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister……he has offered an emphatic denial to allegations that he tipped off developers ahead of announcing changes to the greenbelt. This denial comes after Clarke refuses to be explicit earlier on about giving any favoritism. Clarke announced earlier this month that he is proposing to remove land from 15 different areas of the Greenbelt, so that 50,000 homes can be built, while adding acres elsewhere – despite previous promises from Premier Doug Ford and the minister that they wouldn’t touch the protected land.
Recent reports have suggested that some prominent developers who are Progressive Conservative donors stand to benefit from the move. Some bought that land in the past few years despite Ford and Clark’s public pronouncements it wouldn’t be developed, with one purchase happening as recently as September, according to reports. If you want to find some names, they are listed and can be easily sought just with a simple goggle search. As reports indicate, if you connect the dots, many of these roads all lead back to Ford and his close circle of friends.

Ford’s plan to open up Ontario’s Greenbelt is essentially a massive land swap. The idea, the province says, is that it can drop some pieces of the protected area and add other, bigger pieces to make up for it. But the Greenbelt is big, important and contentious, and changes to it are the result of decades of pressure from opponents. These words from this government in my humble opinion is that they have a plan and due to their massive majority, they will not adhere to any pressure or protest. Aside from the media calling out this government and exposing any wrong doings, nothing will happen, and the Federal government will not step in. Public pressure and continuous efforts to keep the process straight is all that we can hope for.

Unfortunately, it just may be too late for any of us to do anything. This government and the so-called Ford nation will not budge to anyone or any protest or push back. The people of Ontario are rightfully suspicious of the timing of the sale of certain protected Greenbelt lands that will now be open for development, and the ties these land speculators have to the PC party. Unfortunately, right now folks feel that their government has let them down and threatened the land they love for the benefit of private interests.

Now the counter argument when it comes to the Greenbelt, yes housing is needed for a growing province and yes infrastructure is definitely needed, new hospitals and there is speculation that a new airport will also be part of the overall master plan. A new airport will need at least 7500 hectares of prime farmland, forests and parks to get a workable new airport. All these cool sexy things are all great and can and should be part of an overall master plan that benefits all Ontarians and not just a handful of wealth individuals and their families.
Good, bad or indifferent are all great words to describe this unlocking of the Greenbelt….but which word best suits this unlocking of the Greenbelt.

Maybe the stop sign should be Red on the Greenbelt!

Vincent Black/MS

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