Tough day for the Premier - Great Day for the province

By Pepper Parr

September 22, 2023



Progressive Conservative Ford still did something you rarely see Liberal premiers or prime ministers do. He apologized. He took it on the chin, fell on his sword in full admission that this was messed up.

Doug Ford has certainly had a better month – in three weeks he lost three of his Cabinet members and on Thursday had to drag his Cabinet into a parking lot behind a hotel to publicly apologize for what he admitted was a mistake.

At that point it became a bit of a pile on with Burlington’s Mayor Marianne Meed Ward saying she “applauded the reversal of Ford’s plan that will now see 7,400 acres of land returned to the Greenbelt” adding it was great news for the environment.

The mayor went on to suggest the Ford government was left with few options to push the development agenda once the Auditor General’s report confirmed no Greenbelt land is required to meet the goal of new housing units.

However, the mayor acknowledged that work still needs to be done to meet necessary housing requirements.

“Burlington remains committed to working with all levels of government to do our part to get permits to builders so they can get shovels in the ground (to build homes,” she said. “We know the City of Burlington can do this within our urban boundary while protecting our rural and Greenbelt lands.”

Environmental Defence has been hounding the provincial government for months on the decision to let Greenbelt properties be opened up for housing saying “We hope this change marks the beginning of a broader shift away from the government’s current misguided policies, including: forced boundary expansions in Hamilton and Halton, Waterloo and elsewhere; its lowering of Growth Plan density requirements; its gutting of Conservation Authorities; and its dismantling of regional land use planning. These damaging decisions, along with attempts to repeal laws which promote efficient land use and construction, must also be reversed.

Environmental Defence kicking up their heals at a staff retreat

“Environmental Defence is particularly concerned that Premier Ford continues to pursue the wasteful and unnecessary Highway 413 scheme. Not only does the highway divert billions in public funds but also misallocates crucial construction resources needed for housing and transit. The only beneficiaries of building highway 413 appear to be a select group of land speculators who have invested in farmland and forests along the proposed route. Building 413 would mean fewer homes, slower, and worsened traffic in the GTA.

“The only way to deliver the number of homes that Ontarians need – with the speed that our housing crisis demands – is to overhaul the zoning and official plans of existing neighbourhoods where people want to live. This would permit and encourage the construction of compact, affordable family homes on all residential streets – including those currently limited to single detached homes. This approach would expedite the creation of much-needed housing without compromising community integrity.

NDP Leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles in a soybean field in the Greenbelt.

Leader of the NDP Opposition, Marita Stiles, who deserves credit for sending those two crucial letters to the then Auditor General Bonnie Lysak and the provincial Integrity Commissioner J David Wake to investigate what was taking place. Without the letters from Stiles neither bureaucrat could do anything.

Stiles has been particularly tough on Doug Ford saying: “This is a government in complete and utter disarray, fractured after lurching from scandal to scandal. Ford’s Conservatives are now down three Cabinet ministers in just three weeks.

“Will there be any cabinet ministers left on Monday?

“The curtain’s been pulled back on a corrupt Conservative government all too comfortable with making backroom deals to benefit a select few of their friends – at the expense of everyone else.

“We can’t have a government that’s so entangled in its own messes that it’s not helping Ontarians with the very real challenges they’re facing.
People deserve a stable government that sees their frustration with the affordability crisis and how much the housing crisis is hurting them – and offers solutions that actually make their lives easier.”

The day Ford made his roll back announcement Stiles said of the eleventh-hour decision to reverse the Greenbelt Grab: ““This is a victory for Ontarians, who fought long and hard to get this government to reverse their corrupt decision to carve up the Greenbelt.

“It was clear from the beginning that this was the wrong decision, and yet Ford’s Conservatives pressed on. It was a calculated attempt by this government to benefit a select few of their insiders at the expense of everyone else.

“And Mr. Ford continues to dodge responsibility as the Premier of this province, especially as this whole scandal has pulled back the curtain on a government all too comfortable making backroom deals.

“This reversal won’t clear the air on a government that Ontarians know stinks.”.

CBC reporter Mike Crawley at a press conference

CBC reporter Mike Crawley said he didn’t think the announcement would bring an end to the story saying there was “much more to be learned”. Crawley wanted to know why the Premier didn’t ask questions is as to why the list of properties that were being approved for removal from the Greenbelt was debated – maybe it wasn’t debated – just rubber stamped.

The Legislature returns on Monday – expect Stiles to be in full attack mode.

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