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LETTER: Ford's flip-flop lauded, but battle is not over

'There is good reason to be suspicious of the premier's motives. The leopard has not changed its spots,' warns letter writer and local conservationist
Around 100 people gathered out front of Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop's office last month to protest the Ford government and Greenbelt scandal.

BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from Bob Codd, president of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists and secretary for the MTM Conservation Association.

There's a saying that goes something like: I'm not angry that you lied to me. I'm angry because now I can never trust you again. That sums up my reaction to the premier's perfidious apology. It's not that I don't believe he won't try this again. He's had his fingers truly slapped in this regard. It's the motivation behind his change of heart that I question. 

Many people that I know are hailing the Ford administration's Greenbelt reversal as a victory. And it really is. A great many individuals and grassroots groups kept the Greenbelt in the public eye. The battle to keep the Greenbelt green became a rallying point as Ontarians joined forces to hold the government to account. 

Ford's flip-flop makes it look like we won the war. We have not. All his anti-democratic policies and weakened environmental regulations are still in place. Conservation Authorities remain hobbled by Ford's developer friendly initiatives. MZOs can still threaten municipal Official Plans without recourse or appeal. Protections for wetlands, the most productive natural habitats of all are no less compromised. Ford watered down protections for endangered species - twice.

In 2018, on the 25th anniversary of the creation of the position, the Ford government eliminated the office of the environmental commissioner, an independent provincial watchdog that held the government accountable on its environmental actions. This hasn't changed. 

Two new freeways will still punch their way through sensitive habitats in the Greenbelt. Right here in Simcoe County, the purest water on the planet is still being jeopardized with aggregate mining expansions. Ford even repealed the Toxics Reduction Act! And that's not the end of it. 

At best we have won a battle. The war is far from being over. Ford's crocodile tears can be seen as a tactical withdrawal, a clever diversion. Let the people think that we've won and by the same stroke, eliminate the rallying point that was the Greenbelt scandal. That had become the focus and symbol for all that is wrong with the current administration. The sheer volume of battles remaining will make it difficult to zero in on just one. Opposition efforts have effectively been diluted requiring even harder work to ensure that we don't slip into complacency and that we ultimately prevail. 

Consider another reason for Ford’s rethink. With so many of his cabinet ministers being implicated in unethical and even corrupt dealings could it be that the premier himself was feeling the heat and about to be singed? With the RCMP still investigating could this be an effort in blame shifting? Multiple cabinet ministers and senior officials have thrown themselves on their swords. Will that be enough to save the emperor?

One thing is certain: we cannot let our guard down. There is good reason to be suspicious of the premier's motives. The leopard has not changed its spots. 

We've shown that citizens value our natural communities and we want them preserved and protected. There is a lot of hard work yet to be done. So go ahead and celebrate this victory. Just don't be fooled into believing we've triumphed. 

Bob Codd