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What’s going on in the Greenbelt?

This morning over breakfast, Tuffy P was perusing the morning Toronto Star and stopped at a headline buried on page 17: Greenbelt agency member resigns. City zoning order over Pickering wetland was ‘last straw’ for appointee. (article by Noor Javed)

Premier Ford has something called a Greenbelt Council. Their job is to provide guidance on the protected lands known as The Greenbelt. One of the members was Linda Pim, who the article tells me is an environmental biologist and planner. She has sat on the committee since 2018. Her concern has been with Ford’s government increasingly using ministerial zoning orders, known as MZOs. These orders give the Minister of Municipal Affairs power to override normal planning processes – and this includes eliminating public consultation and environmental assessments. The idea is to fast-track development.

One of these MZOs was issued for a project called Durham Live that would replace 22 hectares of sensitive wetlands in Pickering with a warehouse and movie studio. The article quotes Pim: “I find that with the issuance of the MZO for Durham Live and its complete destruction of an irreplaceable Provincially Significant Wetland, I have simply had enough.”

I recognize that the provincial government wants to make it easier to green-light development, but it is troubling that they would use a special order to circumvent public participation and the environmental assessment process, particularly around a site that the Province itself has determined is a Provincially Significant Wetland.

I wondered if anything else like this has surfaced recently. A quick Google search came up with a CBC article from September of last year by Mike Crowley:

The Ontario government spent nearly a year in talks with a developer about a pitch to build housing in the province’s Greenbelt, despite Premier Doug Ford’s promise not to touch the protected area, CBC News has learned.

The discussions involved a 60-hectare property in the northeastern corner of Vaughan. The land is owned by a family whose members have donated more than $100,000 to the Progressive Conservative party in recent years, including to Ford’s 2018 leadership bid. 

In January 2019, CTV news reported:

“Ontario will not move forward with a controversial element of proposed legislation that could have opened up the province’s protected Greenbelt to development.

Municipal affairs minister Steve Clark says the government will abandon plans to create a specialized planning tool for municipalities that would have allowed them under some circumstances to override certain laws, including those that safeguard the Greenbelt.

In a message posted on social media Wednesday, Clark says the government has heard from legislators, municipalities and stakeholders who were concerned about the impact the bill could have on the protected lands”.

This morning’s article suggests to me that the Ford government has found another way to open up protected lands. Is Linda Pim’s resignation much like the proverbial canary in a coal mine? I wish the Ford government would stop their shenanigans and keep protected lands protected.

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