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Greenbelt Winners and Losers

Who got paid off? That’s a key unanswered question in the Auditor-General’s damning report on how the provincial Conservative government carved up the Greenbelt. She tells us the land speculators will get over $8 billion in a process that strongly suggests corruption.

Three prominent Conservatives are identified by the AG – Premier Ford, Housing Minister Steve Clark, and the chief of staff they appointed to pick whose lands got removed from the formerly protected Greenbelt. The AG tells us the latter got handed a package at a builders’ dinner last fall that listed 92 percent of the lands subsequently chosen for removal.

What did he or Ford or Clark get in return? They ignored or neutered the established process. They didn’t consult with municipalities, conservation authorities, Indigenous nations, or financial experts. They trashed their party’s promise to not touch the Greenbelt, with all the political fallout that entails. And that decision delivered an enormous windfall to a handful of already extremely rich people.

Who cashed in? Was it one of these, two of them, all three, and/or some others who somehow managed the process out of sight of the AG? Or are we to naively believe that those who got handed over $8 billion didn’t provide a significant payoff?

Will this be revealed or continue to be covered up? Will our alleged democracy deliver justice?

Because there are also big losers – you and me and the rest of the non-billionaires. What are our losses, besides having a government that clearly does not represent our interests and can’t be trusted?

Do you eat? We lose thousands of acres of the best agricultural land in Canada precisely when climate change has made the weather for growing food increasingly unreliable and food prices are jumping. And when heat, drought, wildfires and floods are also smashing up the foodlands we rely on in other parts of the world.

Do you breathe? We lose the air cleaning and oxygen from productive green fields plus the forests and wetlands being carved out of the Greenbelt whose public benefit is to be destroyed for private profit.

Are you feeling the heat? We lose the cooling effects of all these lands and waters on the rural and adjacent urban areas.

Is your community trying to reduce carbon emissions by more efficient use of lands? The sprawl development eagerly eyed by the billionaire developers will make that much worse and much harder to accomplish.

Do you struggle to get around in the time you have? The planned suburban housing will be car dependent, piling thousands more vehicles onto already congested roads.

Do you pay property taxes? You’ll pay more to provide the roads, sewers, water pipes, fire stations, and all the other services to new sprawl development.

Do you worry about climate change? All of the above will make it worse faster, filling pockets of the wealthy while they blame you for not personally doing enough. This scandalous giveaway reconfirms that our Ontario government is an intentional climate destroyer.

And will this build affordable housing? Not a chance. As always anything built on rural foodland and green spaces will be the most expensive. The billionaire speculators didn’t buy these lands to help you or your kids. Housing will continue to be converted from a place to live to an “investment opportunity.”

Who is benefiting? Is it the public or the billionaire corporations?

Hamiltonians get to challenge the Greenbelt removals Thursday, September 14 at the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre.