Doug Ford assured developers he plans to open up Greenbelt to housing development
PC leader Doug Ford
PC leader said he will “open a big chunk” of protected GTHA farmland to build housing if the Progressive Conservatives win the June 7 electionBy
By ROBERT BENZIE and KRISTIN RUSHOWY Toronto Star
Doug Ford has privately assured developers he will “open a big chunk” of protected land in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to housing if the Progressive Conservatives win the June 7 election.
In a video recorded Feb. 12 and shared with the media Monday by the governing Liberals, Ford said the 800,000-hectare swath of environmentally sensitive and agricultural land known as the Greenbelt is “just farmer fields.”
“It’s right beside a community. We need to open that up and create a larger supply,” he said, noting that will lead to “price drops” in housing in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
“I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in the country, and, again, I wish I could say it’s my idea, but it was their idea as well,” the PC leader said in February.
“‘Give us property! We’ll build and we’ll drive the cost down.’ That’s my plan for affordable housing,” he said.
Speaking to reporters at a campaign event later in Whitby, Ford confirmed he was, indeed, looking at opening up the Greenbelt to development.
“I support the Greenbelt in a big way. Anything we may look at to reduce housing costs — because everyone knows housing costs (are) through the roof and there’s no more property available to build housing in Toronto or the GTA — it will be replaced,” he said.
“Anything that we will look at on the Greenbelt will be replaced, so there will still be an equal amount of Greenbelt.”
Housing Minister Peter Milczyn pointed out, that as a city councillor when his late brother Rob Ford was mayor, the Tory leader wanted to redevelop Toronto’s port lands and build a massive Ferris wheel.
“It’s very disturbing how Doug makes policy and the implications and the repercussions of that policy, but I’ve seen Doug do this at city hall — whoever whispers a business idea into his … ear, that’s what he runs with,” said Milczyn, who served on council with Ford.
Environment Minister Chris Ballard, who disclosed the existence of the video to reporters at Queen’s Park, said it is proof that “Doug Ford has made secret promises to big developers.”
“Once elected premier, he will bulldoze a great swath of the Greenbelt and turn it into the largest condo farm this province has ever seen,” said Ballard, who represents Newmarket-Aurora.
“Ford’s promise to pave the Greenbelt, not only encourages sprawl, but it puts farmland, wild land and wetlands, including ravines and rivers currently protected, at risk of being encroached and even replaced by new suburban development,” he said.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto Danforth) said “the Greenbelt has to be defended if we’re going to have liveable cities in Ontario.”
“You have to curb sprawl. It doesn’t strike me as a practical suggestion. It sounds like something that a land speculator would be very happy with,” said Tabuns.
Former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty enshrined the Greenbelt in law in 2005 to curb urban sprawl and conserve environmentally sensitive lands.
While some farmers and many developers have warned that it unfairly impinges upon land use, others have argued the Greenbelt should be increased in size.
Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said “the Greenbelt does not constrain housing supply or cause high house prices.”
“Municipal data shows that there is enough land available to provide for housing development within existing Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area urban boundaries until 2031,” said Gray.
“There are also abundant lands outside of towns and cities that are not within the Greenbelt that could be available for expansion after that date.”
Joe Vaccaro, chief executive of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, emphasized that its 4,000 member companies “support growing the Greenbelt through a science-based approach that protects significant environmental features.”
“OHBA, our local associations, our members and our industry are committed to working with all levels of government through a public process to build more housing supply and choice for Ontarians.”