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Monday, September 25, 2023
Editorial: Doug Ford’s Greenbelt doublespeak
Premier Doug Ford. File

Completing 14 out of 15 tasks would generally inspire compliments.

In sport, winning 14 of 15 games, stopping 14 of 15 shots, hitting 14 of 15 from the floor … all exceptional efforts.

Just that one little miss, the one that got away, woulda coulda shoulda. Next time.

But what if the significance of that one “missed shot” basically laid waste to all the other efforts?

That’s the cynical game the provincial government is now playing, folks.

Politics is not supposed to be a game, though most often it is treated as such. After all, it includes winners and losers, power plays and negotiations, so once people or political parties gain power, the goal becomes “hold onto that power for as long as possible.” Human nature, we suppose.

Premier Doug Ford, who, like his late brother Rob, portrays himself as a man of The People, is trying to convince we the people that the shady Greenbelt deal his government cooked up with a group of major developers is essential to the future housing needs of this province.

Despite the auditor general declaring that is poppycock, Ford and his minions continue to earnestly proclaim the opposite, declaring they are doing this for the good of the good people of Ontario. (“For the people was his campaign slogan, after all.)

The auditor general sees it much differently and said so in scathing fashion, including:

  • The government “proceeded without evidence” that the property it removed from the Greenbelt is needed to meet Ontario’s housing goals.
  • The selection of those sites was “biased and lacked transparency.”
  • The boundary changes were “inconsistent with the Greenbelt plan’s vision and goals.”
  • “Most of the land removed from the Greenbelt may not be ready for housing development in time to meet government goals.”
  • “Developers and their representatives lobbied for removal of 12 of 15 Greenbelt sites in the few months leading up to site removal.”
  • Emails about the Greenbelt changes were regularly being deleted by political staff and lobbyists often sent emails to the personal accounts of political staff.

And those are just a few of the smoking guns and questionable decisions outlined by the auditor general.

Now, despite what many people seem to think, developers are not all terrible people. They are in the business of building the homes and communities many of us live in.

They take a lot of risks and deservedly reap the rewards when their investments prove fruitful.

The problem with the Greenbelt is the game was fixed and the players had overwhelming, secret influence over the decision-making process.

Ford and his housing minister, Steve Clark, are busy playing dumb and pointing fingers. “Wasn’t us. We didn’t know. It was him …”

Clark’s chief of staff, a political appointee, is being thrown under the proverbial bus. His name is Ryan Amato and he’s being painted as the villain in all this. As if his bosses had no idea.

That is a sad exhibition of leadership and accountability on the part of Ford and Clark. “But, hey folks, we are implementing 14 of the auditor general’s 15 recommendations.”

Yes, all except #14, which says: Given that the premier and Clark say they “were unaware that the pre-selection of lands for removal from the Greenbelt was biased, controlled and directed” by the minister’s chief of staff “rather than informed by environmental, agricultural and infrastructure considerations” the 2022 decision to change the Greenbelt boundaries should be re-evaluated.

Not a chance, folks. Because Ford insists Ontario desperately needs this land for housing.

Except the auditor general makes it clear Ford’s own housing affordability task force, the housing ministry and municipal planners all contradict that and have said Greenbelt land is not needed to meet Ontario’s housing goals.

Folks, for a self-professed man of the people, Ford sure seems more interested in helping his developer friends than in doing what is best “for the people.”

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