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LETTER: Calling Greenbelt a scam 'goes beyond the pale'

Premier's comment suggests 'there is no need to protect environmentally sensitive areas,' says letter writer
2021-02-16 Green trees
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BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter was submitted by Gary Machan, a member of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

While there were plenty of indications that the sum total of the Ford government’s environmental policy is best encapsulated by Joni Mitchell’s classic song, Big Yellow Taxi, the very fact that not only did the premier renege on his promise to protect the Greenbelt but now has the audacity to call it a “scam” goes beyond the pale.

Based on this statement, what Doug Ford is, in essence, saying to the people of Ontario is that there is no need to protect environmentally sensitive areas, preserve prime agricultural land necessary to feed our growing population, or try and curb the failed experiment of 1950s sprawl. I say this because these were precisely the reasons that the Ontario Greenbelt was established in the first place.

That being said, if the premier wants to talk about scams, how about talking about the handful of his development buddies who conveniently own the land that has been removed from the Greenbelt, some of whom purchased these parcels of land just a few months prior to the announcement? I mean, if this doesn’t give off a bad stench, I don’t know what does.

Now, lest this seem to be a partisan attack, the hard truth is Canada’s environment minister was hardly in a position to throw stones, such as he did upon hearing Doug Ford refer to the Greenbelt as a scam. I say this because the minister could have intervened at times on related issues, such as to ensure a comprehensive, up-to-date, proper environmental assessment be done with respect to the Bradford Bypass. Instead, he chose to do nothing.

Truth be known, so far as I can see, the only difference between the federal and provincial governments is one pretends to care about the environment and does nothing, while the other does nothing because it doesn’t care. Take your pick. What about electric cars, some of you might be wondering? Sorry to be a wet blanket, but these will only give rise to more sprawl. Also, where do people think all the clean energy will come from to power them?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy with Ford’s approach to managing growth is the extent to which it flies in the face of one of his predecessors — namely, Mike Harris, who set up five regional panels to examine smart growth options in 2002 in which the ‘business as usual’ scenario was rejected out of hand because of multiple adverse impacts projected, including 45 per cent longer commuting trips mostly due to congestion, marked deterioration in air quality and higher taxes.

In their stead, they proposed greater investments in public transit, implementing strong incentives to encourage the revitalization of downtown cores along with higher density growth in what are largely dead zones in a lot of communities. Meanwhile, look at where we are today, where, through a combination of ineptitude, political cowardice and failure of imagination, we are exactly where the conservative government projected we would be 20 years ago if we stuck to the status quo.

Bottom line: While the Ontario Greenbelt is not a panacea, it, along with conservation authorities (also started by the conservatives), has a vitally important role to play in matters pertaining to safeguarding ourselves from the consequences of continued dumb growth, which, unless things change in a hurry, is about to hit high gear with taxpayers picking up the bill. That will be the real scam.

Gary Machan