Mike Schreiner: Paving over paradise a losing proposal for Doug Ford
Members and supporters of GASP — Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet — including Pat McKee protested new proposed highways, including Highway 413 last year.
From the Toronto Star, June 14, 2022
As Premier Doug Ford meets with his newly formed caucus, I ask him to sincerely consider the serious financial, health and climate implications of paving over paradise — the places we love, the places that feed us and protect us.
It is a now or never moment to tackle the climate emergency. The storms, floods and extreme heat we experienced just during the short election period alone is a stark reminder of what is at stake.
So, I ask the premier to consider if spending billions of dollars on supersprawler highways like Highway 413, which will pump 17.4 million tonnes of climate pollution into the air by 2050 (that’s more than the entire City of Toronto emitted in 2018), is really the best use of taxpayer money when our hospitals are backlogged, health-care workers are overworked, the housing crisis is at a breaking point and mental health care is inaccessible to far too many.
I ask the premier to consider the economic impacts of paving over the farmland that feeds us, threatening the province’s $50 billion food and farming sector that employs over 875,000 people. And the impacts of further threatening our food security when grocery prices are already skyrocketing and geopolitics and climate-fueled droughts and floods is putting pressure on food supply.
Ontario is already losing farmland at an alarming rate of 175 acres a day due to urban sprawl — that’s the equivalent of five family farms per week. When families are already struggling to put food on the table, why pave over a source of that food?
I ask the premier to consider the implications of paving over the nature that protects us from climate-fueled severe weather events, like the devastating storm that tore through southern and eastern Ontario just a few weeks ago. That one storm resulted in damaged infrastructure, homes powerless for days and most tragically, lives lost.
We need to make our communities climate-ready. But a sprawl-based agenda of destroying wetlands, forests and green space makes people’s homes, businesses, communities and lives more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Paving over the nature that protects us is fiscally reckless and will make the impacts of climate change even more costly and severe.
I ask the premier to consider the implications of opening up the Greenbelt for sprawl. The Greenbelt is a vital piece of our natural heritage that provides habitat for species-at-risk, is a place for Ontarians to enjoy and explore, contributes $10 billion annually to the Ontario economy, and is a key source of local food. It should be protected and expanded. Yet Doug Ford is planning to tear through it with expressways like Highway 413 and the Holland Marsh Highway.
I ask the premier to consider the implications of paving over our children’s future.
Sprawl development will make our children’s life more expensive, pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink. It will supercharge the climate emergency and destroy the farmland that feeds us. We cannot afford to continue in this direction. There is too much at stake.
We need to build livable, connected and affordable communities so we can clean the air, end expensive commutes and save property taxpayers money. We can achieve this through infill missing middle development within existing built-up areas.
We need to double the size of the Greenbelt to include a Bluebelt of protected waterways, so our kids have clean water to drink and better flood protection.
We need to protect the wetlands, forests and green space that protects our communities from the impacts of the climate emergency.
We need to permanently protect farmland and support local farmers so we have healthy food to eat.
Ontario Greens are ready to work across party lines to build more affordable homes, better transit infrastructure and more hospitals without putting our property, lives and economy at risk. Our future depends on it.
Mike Schreiner is the leader of the Ontario Greens and MPP for Guelph.