Ottawa/Queen's Park



rick byers pa swearing in

Dear Editor

A group of citizens (Danuta Valleau, Ann Schneider,Joachim Ostertag and David Walton) concerned about the land swap out of the Greenbelt had a meeting with MPP Rick Byers September. 15th. We had a good conversation and Rick listened and conceded to some of our points.Rick stated that he is an ethical person and that the process in which this land was removed was clearly flawed and the process is being reviewed.

He also stated that climate change was real and action was needed. He added that it is difficult to change course very quickly.

We asked some direct questions and requested yes or no answers to some questions.Rick agreed that good planning means increasing density and not sprawl onto farmland.When asked if he would pressure Premier Ford to reverse the land swaps he indicated that he would continue to discuss this with his colleagues.When asked how many new homes were needed, his answer was 1.5 million. We replied that his government’s Housing Affordability Task Force (2022) had indicated that there was enough land already zoned and serviced to accommodate those units. He replied that 57% of the land swap was in Pickering and that Pickering had been asking for this land to be removed from the Greenbelt for a long time.

We should have questioned him about the other 43%.

We suggested that it would make sense for this government to park the Green Belt swap, wait for the review outcomes and start building on these already zoned and ready lands ASAP. If we really need more land later let’s have discussions and political processes that follow due diligence and not corrupt deal makings. This also would lead to better PR for his government. It appeared that Rick carefully listened to this point. We suggested that if there was a perceived demand in Pickering than they could begin a proper review of the Greenbelt in Pickering first , following all the steps of item number 14 in the Auditor General’s report:

‘Given that the Premier and the Minister of Housing have communicated to us that they were unaware that the pre-selection of lands for removal from the Greenbelt was biased, controlled and directed by the Housing Minister’s Chief of Staff (a political public servant) rather than informed by environmental, agricultural and infrastructure considerations, we recommend that the government request that the Housing Ministry, in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Indigenous communities and relevant stakeholders, such as impacted municipalities, re-evaluate the 2022 decision to change the Greenbelt boundaries.’

When we stressed that new builds should follow green building standards, be carbon neutral with renewable energy built in, Mr. Byers agreed.There was some discussion about removal of agricultural land. He said he would like to hear where the 319 acres of farmland lost per day info came from. [Ontario Federation of Agriculture] He also suggested that corn production had gone up by 25% .

The Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment commissioned by the Ford Government was made public earlier this week . The report stated:‘The agriculture sector faces risks of declining productivity, crop failure, and livestock fatalities. Yields will decrease. It will affect the overall health of livestock. It will pose direct threats to things like water availability, water quality. It will indirectly impact soil health and soil quality.’

The report breaks down the different risks to various parts of Ontario's $45- billion agriculture sector, including a potential 50 per cent drop in corn production from inadequate moisture, the high risks to apple crops from late spring frosts, extreme precipitation or extreme heat.’

There was discussion on the importance of green space on health as well as how having green space in urban settings as one of the best ways to keep temperatures down in heavily built areas.

The concept of a town hall meeting with a focus on a cooperative, collaborative response to climate change that would include local municipal politicians, himself, Alex Ruff and the general public was put forward and Rick said he would be interested in attending.

We presented a petition asking the government to abide by all 15 recommendations of the Auditor General’s Report and asked if he would present it to the legislature. Rick was left with the text of the petition and he will get back to us as to whether he will present it.Rick listened and thanked us for our input but didn’t promise anything, however he said he would bring some of our points forward with his colleagues.

David Walton, Danuta Valleau, Ann Schneider, Joachim Ostertag

(photo supplied to media of Rick Beyer's swearing in as a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance)


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