This article originally appeared in the Toronto Sun
The letter's from city Mayors can be found at the link at the end of the article.
Municipalities spent years, decades even, asking the province to remove most of the land now taken out of the Greenbelt
Pickering called the inclusion of their land in the Greenbelt “singularly discriminatory”, Hamilton asked for lands now removed to be considered the correction of a “technical amendment” and Grimsby wrote to the province that, “we do not think this Plan has got it completely right” in arguing for their lands to be removed.
Before the Ford government announced changes to the Greenbelt last November, municipal officials had spent years lobbying to remove most of the land that was eventually taken out of the protected area. There are public record requests and even recorded votes from officials in Pickering, Durham Region, Vaughan, York Region, King City, Grimsby and Hamilton asking for lands to be taken out of the Greenbelt.
This includes the largest parcel of land in Pickering.
City council in Pickering opposed the inclusion of what they call the Pickering-Cherrywood Community in the Greenbelt since the McGuinty Liberal government launched their plans nearly 20 years ago. Multiple times the city council has sought to take these lands out of the Greenbelt, the former mayor Dave Ryan wrote to the Ford government multiple times on this issue while the new mayor, Kevin Ashe, wrote to the Ford government in favour of the changes after taking office.
In fact, last November, Ashe told CBC that the original decision to include the Pickering lands, often called the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, in the Greenbelt, was based on “political science” rather than “real science.”
Most of the land has been held for decades
Much of the land being released in this area is owned by TACC Group, or members of the De Gasperis family which controls the firm. They’ve owned most of the land for years and have tried in several different ways to get permission to develop it.
While the narrative is that this is prime farmland that was just recently purchased at cheap rates from farmers using inside information, a CBC analysis shows that of the 28 parcels of land owned by the company or family, 24 were purchased before the Greenbelt was created.
This means the vast majority of the land that was removed from the Greenbelt not only had municipal backing to take it out, but was purchased decades ago, long before Doug Ford was ever premier.
That hasn’t stopped the opposition parties at Queen’s Park, or much of the media from pushing an agenda. We’ve heard time and again that Ford gave away these lands, sold them off cheap or that he tipped off insiders.
The report from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk last week didn’t show any evidence of the claim that there was insider info being handed out.
The City of Hamilton has asked multiple times for properties in Ancaster, Mount Hope and Stoney Creek to be removed from the Greenbelt. Grimsby asked for lands to be removed in 2015 when the former Liberal government was performing a review of the Greenbelt, as did Vaughan and Markham.
Having municipalities, or even landowners and developers, ask for a change to how a parcel of land is treated is not new, shocking or scandalous. In fact, it happens every single day.
With the Auditor General’s report into the Greenbelt changes made last fall, you are being asked to believe that the entire process was driven by developers and backroom deals. Years, decades even, of public record documents don’t back up that narrative but it is an easy one, a lazy one, and it’s what is being pushed.
It doesn’t help that in her report, Lysyk completely discarded the years of requests by elected mayors and councils while pushing the views of planning departments all while claiming her report was about upholding “democratic principles.”
Facts matter but when it comes to the Greenbelt but they have been discarded by the Auditor General, the opposition and in much of the reporting you’ve been getting from the media.
This story originally appeared in the Toronto Sun and can be viewed here: