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LETTER: Province's Bill 162 smoke and mirrors, not 'getting it done'

Ford government legislation diminishing food security, wasting taxpayer money desperately needed for health care, affordable housing, clean transit and climate crisis, letter writer says
2020-08-20 Doug Ford OPP announcement 1
Premier Doug Ford is shown in this file photo. | Nathan Taylor/Village Media

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What is Premier Doug Ford attempting to get done with Bill 162?

This mixed bag of amendments that impacts eight other pieces of legislation is once again a smoke-and-mirrors attempt with a handful of red herrings thrown in to push through certain amendments this government doesn’t want the public to see.

How do we know there is something afoot? Look at the full title of the bill and read the overall summary on the Environmental Registry site; see what is highlighted and what is missing. Then watch or listen to the $20-million ‘it’s happening here’ ad campaign, for which your dollars paid, that started airing about the same time as this bill, just to make you feel all warm and cozy while the rug gets pulled out from beneath you. It’s like the parent hiding the veggies with some apple sauce, but what this government is trying to dish out is anything but healthy.

What are the red herrings or apple sauce? Well, for one, the great news that drivers will have their plates renewed automatically, something that really should have been in the original piece of legislation since over a million vehicle owners understood it as such and haven’t been renewing their plates. That seems justifiable as a needed amendment.

Next, the municipalities’ boundary amendments. Great. Well done. The Ontario government finally listened to what the municipalities were saying about the More Homes Built Faster Act and are reversing that mistake. What’s not to like about that except that Ford was attempting to erode democratic processes in the first place and undo years of municipal planning? If it hadn’t been for public outcry and the auditor general’s special report on changes to the Greenbelt, these amendments wouldn’t be happening. So, democracy is still intact with these amendments. Seems the public got that done.

Next up, a proposed amendment to prevent future highways having tolls. What a way to help the commuting driver and transportation of goods, one might say. Instead, let’s spend over $12 billion on two proposed stretches of highway, the 413 and the Bradford Bypass, when there are other viable alternatives — money that could be channelled to the crises in health care, affordable housing, and climate.

And while many countries have adopted toll roads so that they pay for themselves over time, Doug isn’t willing to buy back the 407, which he said was a mistake to sell off by the previous government; the currently estimated $12 billion (the province won’t release a cost) and ongoing tolls would pay for the buy-back, not including what he just spent on the ads. Is he really getting anything done with this?

Now we get to the pieces that Ford wants to be put through more unnoticed. First, legislation that would force an expensive and lengthy referendum on future carbon pricing. Moreover, even before that, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be spent in court on this. Why? Because Doug already cost us a bundle and it was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada that he couldn’t overrule the feds and ignore carbon pricing.

His current cut at the gas pump, which runs out in June, was likely paid for by a tax surplus in 2021-22. So, what he claims we kept in our pockets was actually handed out in a different way. Meanwhile, the worst offending climate polluters don’t have to pay or change their practices if it were up to him.

He doesn’t have an alternative plan. Neither does federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. The federal system has been proven to transition those polluters into cleaner practices for which they also receive incentives to do so, and every three months we get a federal climate cheque that, for most people, is more than what they are paying out with the increase at the pump, and is paid for by the industrial polluters. Is this Ford ‘getting it done?’

And the pièce de résistance? More amendments to the Environmental Assessment and Public Transportation and Highway Improvement acts — acts that will grant this government the power to shorten important environmental assessments and take land, including prime agricultural land and forests, before those assessments are completed. What happened to the humble, apologetic premier who said he was sorry for cutting corners and not listening to the public, especially on matters of the environment? Makes one wonder what else is behind the smoke and mirrors this time.

This bill will erode our protections that are in place for a reason, and so here we are again having to cry out ‘foul’ so that this government doesn’t steamroll over our province, diminish our food security and continue to waste taxpayer money that has become desperately needed for health care, affordable housing, clean transit and the climate crisis. By whose standards is this ‘getting it done?’

Say ‘yes’ to the plates and boundaries but ‘no’ to all the rest by March 22 at and contact your MPP. Bill 162 is not getting it done.

Melanie Duckett-Wilson