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Dear Editor

In 2018, Premier Ford said “unequivocally, we won’t touch the Greenbelt” and he repeated that statement in early 2022. However, late in 2022 the Ford government announced the removal of 3000 hectares of land from the Greenbelt. Ontario’s Auditor General has just released a scathing report on the removal of this land.

The Greenbelt is 810,000 hectares of farmland, forest and wetland that stretches from Niagara Falls to Peterborough. The Greenbelt Act was passed on Feb. 28, 2005 to permanently protect valuable farmland, forests, wetlands, environmentally sensitive land and water sources. 83% of the 3000 hectares recently removed is prime agricultural land and the rest is forest and wetland.

The AG’s(Auditor General) report has put forward 15 recommendations and Premier Ford has stated that they will implement 14 of the 15. The only one that they won’t implement is the reversal of the land swap to correct their mistake.

Premier Ford says he won’t reverse this decision because we have a housing crisis and we need to build quickly. There is a housing crisis, but in October, 2022 the Housing Affordability Task force indicated that Greenbelt land was not needed to address it and that 1.5 million housing units were already allocated.

From the AG’s report we know.

1. Two developers directly lobbied for their sites to be removed from the Greenbelt.

2. The Greenbelt Project Team(under the Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff) had only three weeks to assess twenty-two sites.

3. The Greenbelt Project Team were sworn to secrecy and had to sign confidentiality agreements.

4. Neither the public, Municipalities, or First Nations were properly consulted on the changes.

5. OMAFRA has indicated that there are significant agricultural impacts such as the direct removal of farm land and making farmland unaffordable for farmers.

6. This land isn’t needed. The chief planners of York, Hamilton and Durham regions have indicated that they have sufficient serviced land available to build 1.5 million units.

7. There are no guarantees that housing will be built or when it will be built.

8. Legislative rules were broken when lobbyists communicated directly with staff on their personal emails.

The two developers that weren’t named in the AG’s report are Michael Rice and Silvio DeGasperis. They stand to profit by at least 8.3 billion dollars and they have ties to the Conservative Party. So many rules were broken during this process. To me it doesn’t pass the “smell test”. Premier Ford says that we need to build housing quickly but there are no guarantees that houses will ever be built and no requirement that they be affordable if they are. As stated in the Auditor General’s report, these parcels of land aren’t serviced and it will take years to build that infrastructure.

We are in an environmental crisis with climate change and our governments need to be doing everything in their power to protect the environment. We need clean air, water and food. With population increasing, the protection of farmland is critical.

I call on Premier Ford to do the right thing and stop this erosion of the Greenbelt. He promised that “Unequivocally we won’t touch the Greenbelt”. He must keep this promise. This decision can be reversed and that needs to be done now! Premier Ford has admitted that the process that led to the removal of land from the greenbelt was flawed. Reversing the land removal is the first step towards fixing this issue. Investigations into inappropriate actions taken during the process need to be started immediately! I demand that our MPP, Rick Byers, lobby the Conservative caucus to reverse the land swap and investigate the process. We elect our governments to serve the people, not the wealthy few.


David Walton



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