The Hamilton Spectator

Even conservati­ves pan Ford’s Greenbelt plan

Taking a hammer to environmen­tal protection­s is a grave mistake


What will make Doug Ford understand that taking a sledgehamm­er to environmen­tal protection here in Ontario is a grave mistake — and change his government’s reckless course?

As a physician, university professor and as a GASP (Grandmothe­rs Act to Save the Planet) grandmothe­r, I am deeply concerned that Canada will not be able to meet its internatio­nal commitment­s to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of Ontario’s extensive attacks on environmen­tal laws, policies and protected lands.

Ford’s government has been wreaking environmen­tal havoc — sabotaging legal protection­s, increasing urban sprawl, forcing municipal boundary expansions despite the abundance of existing land for new housing and slashing protection­s offered by Ontario’s conservati­on authoritie­s.

He is opening farmland to speculator­s, planning unnecessar­y mega-highways, threatenin­g biodiversi­ty and destroying wetlands that reduce flooding and lessen the impacts of global warming

The recently passed Ontario Bill 23 puts private profits over the protection of nature thus threatenin­g the future health of the environmen­t, and our children and grandchild­ren.

But for many in this province, Ford’s slashing of 3,000 hectares of Ontario’s world-renowned Greenbelt is the most immediate, tangible and alarming of all these changes, despite all his promises not to touch it. And the premier claims the Greenbelt needs to be developed, despite the fact that over 14,000 hectares or an area the size of the city of Vancouver is currently available for housing in municipali­ties across the Greater Toronto Area.

By far the largest portion of his Greenbelt carve-outs — nearly 2,000 hectares — is the Duffins Rouge Agricultur­al Preserve (DRAP), which lies adjacent to Rouge National Urban Park.

In December, Parks Canada warned Ontario that developmen­t on the DRAP preserve would violate an agreement between the two levels of government and likely cause “irreversib­le harm” to ecosystems and agricultur­al production in the park.

Surely to the chagrin of Ford, a staunch Conservati­ve, Friends of the Rouge National Urban Park fiercely agree with Parks Canada. This is a group chock-a-block with Conservati­ve politician­s — though generally of the more progressiv­e stripe — including former federal cabinet ministers Pauline Browes, David Crombie and Peter Kent, plus the current MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, Michael Chong.

In early January, Friends of the Rouge pulled no punches in a sharply worded letter to Ford, saying the “Rouge National Urban Park’s boundaries did not include the 2,003 hectares of neighbouri­ng lands now known as the Duffins Rouge Agricultur­al Preserve because we understood that it was already protected.

“We strongly advocate that the provincial government preserve the Duffins Rouge Agricultur­al Preserve by restoring the original protective legislatio­n and easements to these lands and use other mechanisms available to you to protect these lands from urban developmen­t, and work with the Government of Canada to make these lands part of the Rouge National Urban Park in order that it will be protected in perpetuity.”

There are many other challenger­s, including federal Environmen­t Minister Steven Guilbeault, who appears fully aware of the significan­t harm to areas of federal jurisdicti­on, the considerab­le level of public concern, the lack of public hearings and consultati­on with Indigenous communitie­s regarding the Greenbelt cuts.

Like Friends of the Rouge, I and so many other Ontarians strongly support granting federal protection to the Greenbelt, especially given Canada’s commitment at the recent COP15 convention on biodiversi­ty to conserve 30 per cent of our land, coastal and marine areas by 2030.

We also need a full impact assessment of housing developmen­ts on Greenbelt lands, especially those adjacent to Rouge National Urban Park.

As we environmen­talists (and grandmothe­rs) say, there is no Planet B. And there surely is no Greenbelt B once its choicest acreage has been paved over. As Friends of the Rouge have implored, we must cherish and protect the Greenbelt in perpetuity, not just for the sake of our kids and grandchild­ren — but for all generation­s to come.

 ?? R.J. JOHNSTON TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO ?? A fisherman works a corner of Duffins Creek in the Duffins Rouge Agricultur­al Preserve. Some prominent conservati­ves are calling on the Ford government to protect this area, Nahid Azad writes.
R.J. JOHNSTON TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO A fisherman works a corner of Duffins Creek in the Duffins Rouge Agricultur­al Preserve. Some prominent conservati­ves are calling on the Ford government to protect this area, Nahid Azad writes.

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