What Doug Ford’s Victory Means for Ontario’s Environment
From the Ontario Federation of Agriculture
After a campaign where candidates largely avoided discussing the environment, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the 2022 Ontario election with a majority.
During his victory speech, Ford reiterated his commitments to invest in new highway projects—including two running through Ontario’s greenbelt—and seek the minerals needed for electric vehicles in Ontario’s Far North.
A deadly derecho storm—a type of extreme weather event expected to become more common—swept through southern Ontario mid-election.
While this election has plenty of environmental implications, we will focus on what this means for Ontario’s farmlands.
Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass
The Tories’ big plans for building new highways through Ontario’s Greenbelt—Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass—were staples of their first four years in government. They’ve made it clear they intent to use their second term to get them done.
Critics have raised concerns about how they could harm protected area, endangered species habitat and farmland, and also increase greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2021, the federal government announced it would intervene and subject the project to the federal impact process, effectively delaying Highway 413 indefinitely.
Construction on the Bradford Bypass, however, is set to begin later this year. The federal government has twice declined to intervene on that project.
Farmland and the Greenbelt
Ford has said he would open Ontario’s Greenbelt for development, then backing off twice. He then eventually promised to compensate for fast-tracked projects by adding to the protected area, before releasing a proposed expansion plan that doesn’t add anything major.
The Progressive Conservatives have made liberal use of an unappealable special land use power called a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO), which allows them to bypass local planning processes to kickstart development. This is likely to continue.
The Tories’s rewrite of land use planning rules has also led to a series of votes at local councils over whether to open more farmland for development. The government has said it’s seeking to increase the supply of housing and has pushed cities to expand outward to allow for more detached single-family homes.
Environmentalists say this is a bad idea, since farmland is a crucial carbon sink and plays a key tole in local ecology.