UNNECESSARY, UNWISE, UNDEMOCRATIC about sums up popular opposition to Doug Ford’s Bill 23, a plan to remove 7,400 acres of farmland and natural areas from protected Greenbelt lands in the Golden Horseshoe region of southern Ontario.* Popular opposition is nothing new for Ford these days. What is new is the makeup of up this opposition.
It could well grow to give Ford more trouble than he expects or can handle.
Unusual makeup of opposition
Opposition to the Ford plan is not like anything he has seen before: it includes major environmental, civic, farmer, political and tenant activists. The statement that outlines the basis of their opposition is signed by over 140 prominent social activists.
Ford claims his land grab would lead to more affordable housing sooner. Critics say the bill would, in fact, reduce the supply of truly affordable housing; as well as open a pandora’s box of other problems, that would:
undermine environmental protection
supercharge urban sprawl
accelerate the current, untenable loss of 319 acres of farmland per day in Ontario
undermine the building of climate-resilient, liveable and affordable neighbourhoods, towns and cities
take money out of taxpayers’ pockets and put it into the pockets of for-profit developers
undermine local democracy.
Ford introduced Bill 23 in late October. Citizen opposition was instant. It featured scattered protest rallies in 75 communities across Ontario. Ford paid no attention. His government passed the bill on November 28. But that only seems to have stiffened and strengthened opposition to the bill.
Protesters gathered by the hundreds at 10 communities across Ontario on Sunday December 4 urging restored protection for the Greenbelt.
“We know that we’re losing farmland very rapidly in Ontario, about 300 acres a day, and the land inside of the Greenbelt is mostly class one farmland; we can’t afford to lose any more of it,” Tim Gray, Environmental Defence executive director, told the Toronto Star.
“Tens of thousands of people across the province are enraged, disappointed and want to stop this,” Gray said. “I have never seen 75 locations coming together in hopes of protecting the environment,” Gray said. “It’s unprecedented.”
“Housing is needed, but we want to see affordable housing; we want to see responsible and sustainable housing,” said Alison Forde, ecologist and part of the crowd at a Mississauga rally.
Protesters in Mississauga gathered around city hall and a similar picture was seen in Kitchener, North Bay and King City, where “Green, not Greed” and “Hands off the Greenbelt” signs rose to the sky.
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