Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2017/ Goodbye, Greenbelt

Goodbye, Greenbelt

I was cycling on Wilmot line, which I believe is the Countryside Line for the City of Waterloo. Sure enough, there was an ugly residential housing development on one side of me and a cornfield on the other. It was then that I realized that the Ontario greenbelt legislation is doomed, and will very likely be revoked during the next government.

This is a conspiracy theory backed by no evidence, but I am confident enough in it that I promise $50 if: assuming the PC party wins the next Ontario election, the greenbelt legislation will either be banished or curtailed by the end of the next political term (scheduled for 2022, I guess). I have 80% confidence in this wager. I am not sure to whom I make this promise. Maybe I will contribute $50 to the PC party if I lose? This wager is not specific enough because I do not know what the threshold for "curtailed" should be.

For context: the Greenbelt is an idea to curtail sprawl. It sets hard boundaries around urban centres (in particular the greater Toronto area) beyond which greenfield development is no longer allowed. This is intended to reduce speculation around the borders of cities, and preserve agricultural land. Waterloo Region has a very similar concept (which inspired the provincial legislation?) called the Countryside Line. A list of developers (identified by their Ontario business registration numbers, which demonstrates to me that they are cowards) took the Region to the Ontario Municipal Board and won an additional 1053 hectares of land, which eventually was brought down to 453 hectares. The Region hailed this as a victory, but it was a defeat.

Here is my thinking: I am fairly certain the Ontario Liberals will lose the next provincial election, and that the Progressive Conservatives will win a majority government. If nothing else, those of us who refuse to vote Liberal will split the vote between the Liberals and the NDP. (I no longer trust the Liberals because of my other soapbox issue: electoral reform.)

That means either the NDP or the PCs form government, and Patrick Brown would have to mess up fairly thoroughly to lose the next election.

Who likes the greenbelt?

Who hates the greenbelt?

In other words, everybody who has money or financial interests in the issue hates the Greenbelt, and everybody who likes the Greenbelt is exactly the kind of urban elitist who is out of touch. This is not a winning strategy for the longevity of this legislation.

I do not expect that the PCs will ever admit to hating farmland or even to hating the Greenbelt. They will mouth their talking points aboit the importance of the environment and how much they respect agriculture and the mythical family farm. Instead they will reframe the issue. The housing crisis is one excellent talking point that will resonate with a lot of Toronto-area voters. Making up stories/lies about how they have increased the amount of protected land is another trick straight out of the federal Conservative playbook. They will be sure to mention hard-working middle-class Ontarians spending less time commuting and more time with their families a lot. But make no mistake. The developers are lobbying hard, and they know full well which political party is likeliest to pander to their demands.

Maybe the Greenbelt repeal/curtailing will attract the attention of urban elites, and they will scream and protest. It will not matter. With a majority government the PCs can do what they want, and once speculators have bought up farmland for future development, that land is gone for good.

This probably sounds as if I am shilling for the Liberal party. This is not true. Although I am much less negative about the Wynne government than others seem to be (I think the food labelling nanny legislation is an excellent idea, for example) I am not a fan, and after both the provincial and federal Liberals stabbed me in the back with respect to electoral reform, I am no longer willing to support the party. But one consequence is that the Greenbelt will die, and I am not happy about that consequence at all.