Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2019/ Greenbelt Respite

Greenbelt Respite

Loyal readers (hah) will remember me freaking out over Bill 66, which contained a proposal (Schedule 10) would allow municipalities to speed development by bypassing certain Ontario regulations, such as the Greenbelt Act, Places to Grow Act and the Clean Water Act.

The good news is that all eight municipalities within Waterloo Region took a stand against the legislation, passing resolutions that they would not use the provisions in Bill 66 when the government passed the legislation. And then, inexplicably, the government backed down. It did not scuttle Bill 66, but it removed Schedule 10 from consideration.

I am grateful that Schedule 10 will not go forward, but I am also completely mystified. The Ontario PC government has a majority. It can do whatever it want. The development industry clearly wants to pave over the Greenbelt, and was willing to spend lots of money to help the PC government get elected. Why did they back down?

I am pretty sure that my protests against the legislation did nothing; the Progressive Conservatives don't care one bit about what I think, and the same goes for the "downtown liberal elites" that Premier Ford scorns so much.

Municipality after municipality passed resolutions against Schedule 10. Maybe that made a difference? This is plausible, although clearly the Ford government does not care all that much what municipalities think. It unilaterally cut the size of Toronto City Council in half, and there is currently a set of consultations (or maybe "consultations") underway that could result in forced municipal amalgamation. But certainly I feel that municipalities have more sway with the province than a bunch of left-leaning urban environmental agitators.

My best guess is that pressure from farmer advocacy groups and rural communities may have made the difference. The PCs have lots of seats in rural areas; it is a constituency they care about. While I continue to believe that lots of individual farmers would like the option of selling their land to developers or land speculators for tens of millions of dollars, many farmer advocacy groups opposed the legislation, and maybe they were loud enough to catch the government's attention.

Is the Greenbelt safe now? It depends on who you believe. The government adamantly declares that the intention behind Schedule 10 was never to carve up the Greenbelt (but then why was the Greenbelt Act one of the regulations that municipalities would have been allowed to bypass?). I am fairly confident that the government does not want to appear as if they are threatening the Greenbelt, although I am not sure why. Everyone is beating the drum of "affordable housing", which is convenient an alibi as any.

I feel the Greenbelt is still under threat. The question is under what guise the next threat will come. Maybe (like the Wynne government) the Ford government will allow it to be nibbled away until it is gone. Or maybe there is something more dramatic coming down the pike.