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LETTER: Premier should keep his promise about Greenbelt

'Did your mom not teach you that honesty is the best policy?' letter write asks
Premier Doug Ford is shown during a stop in Barrie in this file photo. | Kevin Lamb for BarrieToday

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is a letter to the editor and an open letter to Premier Doug Ford.
Hello, Mr. Ford.

By now you will have received countless petitions and letters from hundreds of organizations and clubs throughout Ontario expressing their profound concern and alarm over the proposed Bill 23 and your plans to develop the Greenbelt.

In the petitions and letters, concerned citizens have raised their voices loudly and in unison over an omnibus bill whose policies have the potential to shred all protections for food sources and habitats not only for wildlife, but for the residents of Ontario as well.

Organizations such as Ontario Nature and all the conservation authorities (CAs) are beyond alarmed about the catastrophic impacts the loss of the CAs’ expertise, authority, skill set, environmental knowledge will have on all green spaces and the wildlife, and residents.

Mr. Ford, we are all connected in the web of life and so are all the watersheds in Ontario.

What will happen when the CAs no longer have the authority over these watersheds and wetlands and each municipality, lacking the expertise of CAs, will have to figure out on its own how to solve all kinds of complex habitat and drainage issues?

The question that begs to be answered of all the things that need drastic makeover: Why would you gut the authority of the CAs that have been doing an exemplary job since their inception?

I am curious. Did you get a flurry of letters from voters who complained that the 36 CAs in Ontario were not doing the jobs they were mandated to do?

Here are just of the few responsibilities in which they have taken active and successful roles:

  • helping to mitigate climate change, which is triggering costly and life-threatening events like flooding, including flooded basements
  • helping to reduce erosion of precious lands in town and cities
  • collecting data and monitoring the ecological health of all watersheds
  • working with landowners to enhance and protect all green spaces
  • reaching out to schools, clubs, and organizations in the communities to increase natural habitats and food sources for wildlife with tree planting, planting native flowers, restoring wetlands with student-grown native plants, as well as all kinds of education activities

On Nov. 4, you happily announced that you were planning to develop 7,400 acres of the Greenbelt. The residents of Ontario shook their heads in disbelief as they remember vividly, when it was not that long ago, you proudly and emphatically made the following pronouncement: “The people have spoken — we won’t touch the Greenbelt.” Did your mom not teach you that honesty is the best policy?

You declare that you have changed your mind as hundreds of thousands of immigrants will soon be coming to Ontario and they need places to live. That is true, but do you honestly believe newly arrived immigrants from impoverished countries have millions of dollars to spend on a single dwelling?

Then you point out that you will protect other areas of the province. Would that not be like me living in a home close to work, shopping, schools, and family and you relocate me into another house far away from work, family, schools and shopping and try to convince me there is no difference?

As well, you make the point that we have no choice but to develop the land in the Greenbelt. How curious indeed. The Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force pointed out to your government that land is available inside existing built-up areas, as well as undeveloped land outside the Greenbelt. Why are you not listening to the experts on the subject of land development in Ontario?

On behalf of my contacts, friends, and clubs to which I belong, we urge you to not make Bill 23 the law of the land and keep your promise not to touch the Greenbelt.

Gwen Petreman