Ontario's GreenBelt Could Be Turned Into "Largest Condo Farm This Province Has Ever Seen"

Video screen capture. Doug Ford in his natural habitat, talking to real estate developers

Doug Ford, now leading in the polls, wants to open up more of it for development.

Ontario, Canada is big- it has 40 percent of the country's population and 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Provincial governments are powerful compared to US state governments; you can't even take a case of beer across provincial borders.

So a lot of people were shocked when Doug Ford was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative party- he is the "populist" brother of the late Rob Ford, known to TreeHugger for trying to put a monorail and Ferris wheel on the waterfront instead of a park.

And now, people are shocked, shocked that Doug Ford promised developers that he will open up the Greenbelt that surrounds the City of Toronto for development. In the video, released by his Liberal opponents, Ford says:

“I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in this country, and I wish I could say it was my idea, but it was their idea as well,” he said. “Give us property and we’ll build and we’ll drive the cost down.”

greenbelt plan

Greenbelt plan/CC BY 2.0

The Greenbelt, created by the Liberal government in 2005, "protects environmentally sensitive areas and productive farmlands from urban development and sprawl." The trouble is that the developers already own most the land and they have been fighting the Liberals' development policies ever since. Nobody should be shocked at all that the first thing the PCs would do is pave it.

Backtracking a bit, Ford is quoted in Macleans:

I support the Greenbelt in a big way. Anything that we may look at to reduce housing costs, because everyone knows housing costs is through the roof and there’s no more property available to build housing in Toronto or the GTA....I give you my commitment, that anything that we look at on the Greenbelt will be replaced. So, there’ll still be the equal amount of Greenbelt.”

Other conservatives (like this one from Niagara in the middle of the Greenbelt) are touting the same line.

Unfortunately, Doug Ford doesn't understand how watersheds and ecosystems work; you can't just push here and pull there. It is also not true that there is no more property available to build on; the plan included a "white belt" of unprotected land that was planned for development. As economist Frank Clayton told the Globe and Mail: "There’s lots of land for the next 20 or 30 years within the white belt. So you don’t have to touch the Greenbelt for residential land to keep the prices from going up." (John Michael McGrath has a nuanced view of the white belt, noting that it is not exactly open for development, and that the Liberals are not totally clear of any fault in all of this).

Chris Ballard, the current Minister for the Environment says:

(Ford) will bulldoze a great swath of the Greenbelt and turn it into the largest condo farm this province has ever seen. We moved to protect it forever so that our kids and grandkids would never have to worry about having access to nature and that we would have productive farm lands well into the future. So, it’s essential this area stay protected.

Many people think that the Conservatives will have to backpedal on this; a lot of their rich voters near the greenbelt have their houses already and don't want anymore in their backyard. I suspect that the GreenBelt will just get nibbled away, bit by bit as the developers control the land, the local councils and soon, the government.

Kathleen Wynne, the Premier who Ford is trying to replace, is blunt:

“If you open up the Greenbelt and make it into a Swiss cheese map you never get that back. You never get that water protection back. You never get that agricultural land protection back. It is absolutely wrong-headed. I could not disagree with (Ford) more.”

But many people are tired of her. Many people hate her simply because she is a woman and she is gay. They would rather vote for the loudmouth who would roll back sex education and carbon taxes.

But anyone who cares about the environment should recognize that her party created the GreenBelt and they got rid of coal fired electricity. These were both a very big deal. I wonder if people shouldn't thank them for the things they have done instead of throwing them out.

UPDATE: That was fast. He has backtracked totally.


Progressive Conservatives of Ontario/via