Farm­land pro­tec­tion a hot topic at Peter­bor­ough-Kawartha de­bate

The Peterborough Examiner - - Local - JOELLE KOVACH EX­AM­INER STAFF WRITER joelle.kovach@pe­ter­bor­ough­

The ques­tion of how much farm­land ought to be pro­tected in On­tario was a hot-but­ton is­sue at an all-can­di­dates’ de­bate on Wed­nes­day evening, with Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Dave Smith ar­gu­ing for greater free­dom for de­vel­op­ment and in­cum­bent Lib­eral Jeff Leal ar­gu­ing for less.

Smith said that the com­bi­na­tion of the Places to Grow Act and the des­ig­na­tion of prime agri­cul­tural lands in On­tario have left many com­mu­ni­ties “ham­strung” when it comes to de­vel­op­ment.

Den­si­fi­ca­tion and smaller res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties may work well in big ur­ban cen­tres, he said, and the PCs un­der­stand the need to avoid ur­ban sprawl.

“But let’s not just ap­ply what works in Toronto to the rest of the prov­ince,” he said.

Mean­while Leal, who has been min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, food and ru­ral af­fairs since 2014, ar­gued strongly in favour of pre­serv­ing land for farm­ers.

“I’ll do ev­ery­thing in my power to pro­tect prime agri­cul­tural land in On­tario,” he said, adding that PC Leader Doug Ford mused re­cently about open­ing up the Green Belt for more de­vel­op­ment “We’re not that party,” he said. The de­bate was hosted by Peter­bor­ough and the Kawarthas As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors (PKAR) at the Lions Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. About 50 peo­ple were there and the meet­ing was mod­er­ated by real­tor Kristi Doyle (of Exit Realty).

Leal, Smith, Sean Con­way (NDP) and Gianne Broughton (Green) par­tic­i­pated.

Broughton par­tic­i­pated for most of the dis­cus­sion, but left with about 30 min­utes to go in the two-hour de­bate; she said she wasn’t phys­i­cally able to go on (she also left early from a de­bate on Tues­day evening, say­ing she wasn’t able to con­tinue).

Mean­while Ken Ran­ney of the Stop Cli­mate Change party didn’t at­tend Wed­nes­day evening and nei­ther did Ja­cob Cur­rier (Lib­er­tar­ian party) or Rob Rod­dick (Tril­lium party).

Many of the ques­tions on Wed­nes­day fo­cused on hous­ing. Can­di­dates were asked, for in­stance, what they would do in the short term to add more ser­viced res­i­den­tial lots to the city.

Smith pointed out that a prospec­tive an­nex­a­tion deal with the Ca­van Mon­aghan Town­ship last year that would have brought more res­i­den­tial lots into city lim­its.

“The prov­ince could me­di­ate it, and come up with a so­lu­tion that would work for both (the city and the town­ship),” he said.

But Leal said he’d ar­ranged for a me­di­a­tor’s ap­point­ment to the case and that there’s been be­hind-the-scenes progress lately on the file (although he said he’s not privy to any de­tails).

Broughton took a dif­fer­ent tack: she said there ought to be a fo­cus on in­fill, rather than ur­ban sprawl.

“We would re­ally try to up­date city zon­ing laws … for tiny homes, sec­ondary suites and laneway hous­ing,” she said.

Con­way – who said he’s a renter – fo­cused on the big­ger picture, say­ing the NDP plans to build 65,000 new units of hous­ing across the prov­ince over the next decade.

“That’s the base­line of what we’re go­ing to need,” he said.

The can­di­dates were also asked how they would al­le­vi­ate the need for long-term care, and Leal men­tioned that in Feb­ru­ary the Lib­er­als an­nounced a new longterm-care home for Have­lock.

Smith said that was too lit­tle, too late.

“The re­al­ity is that in the last 15 years there hasn’t been a new long-term care bed in On­tario,” he said, adding that the new fa­cil­ity for Have­lock was an­nounced just 72 days be­fore the elec­tion.

Leal replied that Have­lock­Bel­mont-Methuen Town­ship Mayor Ron Gerow – who wasn’t in the room – wouldn’t likely call it a last-minute ef­fort from the Lib­er­als to gain votes.

“Ask Ron Gerow – his ver­sion of events would be rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent (from Smith’s),” Leal said.

Peter­bor­ough-Kawartha NDP can­di­date Sean Con­way, Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Dave Smith, Lib­eral in­cum­bent Jeff Leal and Green party can­di­date Gianne Broughton take part in the Peter­bor­ough and the Kawartha As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors de­bate on Wed­nes­day at...

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