Ford government being investigated for Greenbelt development plan

The Ontario integrity commissioner and auditor general will open an investigation into the Ford government’s plan to develop the Greenbelt.

The request came from three party leaders (Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles, interim Liberal Party Leader John Fraser, and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner), who argued that the removal of those areas of land, as well as the repeal of the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve act, will be detrimental to local ecosystems. 

Another investigation will commence into Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark’s role in tipping off developers and revealing plans to open up the Greenbelt before releasing the information to the public. 

During Premier Doug Ford’s election campaign in 2018, he made a promise to not touch the Greenbelt.

WHAT IS THE GREENBELT?

The Greenbelt plan was developed in 2005 and is a set of policies that protect farmland and natural areas in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), the area that surrounds the GTA

The GGH is a secondary region of Southern Ontario, in the west end of Lake Ontario with outer boundaries south to Lake Erie and north to lake Scugog, Lake Simcoe, and Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. This region is the most densely populated and industrialized space in Canada. Cities in this region include Hamilton, Toronto, and Oshawa, and extend to cities such as Brantford, Guelph, Waterloo Region, Peterborough, and Barrie. The core of the Golden Horseshow covers approximately 3,898 square miles, while the Greater Golden Horseshoe envelops an area of 8,287 square miles. 

WHY IS THE GREENBELT PLAN IMPORTANT?

The plan is a set of policies that protects farmland, countryside, and natural areas within these regions. The project was designed to protect these areas from urban development, protect essential ecosystems, ensure habitat for wildlife and at-risk species, and make certain that the countryside is not destroyed. The agreement also ensures that the agricultural system, which provides local food to the region and employs thousands of jobs, is protected.

(Courtesy: Flickr/ Ken Nash/Corn Forever Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, Greenbelt, Pickering, Ontario)

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE GREENBELT PROJECT?

A considerable size of the land was sold recently for $80 million in September before the government’s new plan was revealed. 

During the provincial election in 2018, Ford promised not to touch any area of the Greenbelt. However, a video simultaneously circulated of him saying he would allow a “large chunk” of land to be developed. This promise was later repeated during the 2020 election. 

Now, the government has completely shifted focus and announced plans to remove 7,400 acres of land from the area to build at least 50,000 new homes. With that, land elsewhere would be added to the Greenbelt which would result in a net increase of 2,000 acres. 

Environmentalists, agriculture advocates, and land-use experts were outraged and sparked protests, as they argue swapping land can be ineffective as land has different environmental values.

 These would include at least nine properties topping a  whopping $300 million dollars that were purchased since Progressive Conservatives took over in 2018.  

The investigation’s final scope will be determined in the coming months. 

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