Nearly 6 months into the 4 year second term of Doug Ford’s conservative provincial government, residents of Ontario are faced with one glaring, inconvertible fact: if not overtly corrupt (and I don’t know what qualifies as the legally binding definition of that word), there can be no denying it is ethically bankrupt and wholly compromised.
With the passing this week of its Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act – and a month of ‘public consultation’ still to go, no less – among other things, the Ford government has proposed to saddle already financially stressed municipalities with more costs for building and maintaining infrastructure, put further pressure on tenants, both current and future, and, to the point of this particular post, flipped 7400 acres of land out from the Greenbelt for development. For much needed housing, as the bill’s name informs us. More Homes Built Faster.
If you’re reading this, you are very likely hyper-aware of just how shady this business has truly been. Much of the freed-up Greenbelt land is in the hands of big-time developers who have donated heavily to the Conservative Party over the years, one who as recently as this past September purchased $80 million worth of the affected land, mere weeks before the government publicly announced their Greenbelt plans. (That sentence feels like it needs a few exclamation marks!!!)
If any of this has caught you by surprise, then google <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Narwhal’> or <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Toronto Star’> or <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘CBC’> or <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Globe and Mail’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Noor Javed’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Brendan Kennedy’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Emma McIntosh’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Ryan Patrick Jones’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Nicole Brockbank> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Oliver Moore’> <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘Jill Mahoney’>
Etc. & Etc.
Like the X-Files, man. It’s out there.
Now, in <‘Doug Ford’ ‘Greenbelt’ ‘¿corruption?’> defense, he was pretty upfront with his intentions during the campaign back in 2018.
Until he wasn’t after that video got out beyond his original audience.
The people have spoken – we will maintain the Greenbelt in its entirety. pic.twitter.com/VcNDZdXtPZ
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) May 1, 2018
His Minister of Urban Affairs and Housing was also pretty unequivocal about keeping the government’s hands off the Greenbelt back in 2018 with this now deleted tweet:
Look at this tweet that was deleted by Steve Clark: pic.twitter.com/2qdQKUAVO5
— T.O. Resident (@TO_Resident) November 4, 2022
It’s so fucking blatant. Right there in the open. Anywhere else, this kind of backroom, pay-to-play, wheeling-and-dealing between a government and cloaked, monied special interests would pejoratively be referred to as a ‘banana republic’.
How is this anything but?
From the province’s very own Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force report just this past February:
The Greater Toronto Area is bordered on one side by Lake Ontario and on the other by the protected Greenbelt. Similarly, the Ottawa River and another Greenbelt constrain land supply in Ottawa, the province’s second-largest city. But a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts. [Bolding mine]
Yet here we are, in December, with the government pushing to open up 7400 acres of new land inside the Greenbelt.
And the kicker is, this part of More Homes Built Faster is projected to only build 50,000 new homes, with no guarantees of any of them being affordable while the task force has stated that the province will need 1.5 million new places to live by 2031. The handy calculator tells me that’s
about a third of one percentage 3% of the goal [handy calculator’s good as long as you understand math — ed]. Not really the kind of payoff one would expect from such a disruption at every level, environmental through to political. Except, of course, for the few who own the newly developable properties and the political parties that rely on their well-heeled support.
Inquiries have already been called for from the opposition parties at Queen’s Park. Private citizens and organizations will, in all likelihood, proceed with legal action. Municipalities, who claim that Bill 23 will foist a $5 billion tab on them in order to build new infrastructure, are making noise about banding together to pushback on the government, citing its repeal of Bill 28 in the face of public anger as a precedent for resistance.
But, what if this, this whole More Homes Built Faster business, and its blatant quid pro quo with an influential, cash-to-the-eyes group of businesses, sits as the core tenet of the Ford government? Sure, fucking with the public unions has been a lot of fun, and their attempts to reduce the health and education files to rubble motivated as much by ideology as it is in the hopes of making space for the private sector to fill their pockets cleaning up the mess. All of it’s a sidelight, though, a make work project that pales in comparison to their main, ultimate modus operandi: money. Money, money, money.
It impacts everything they do, each decision they enact. Who, among our donors, can this benefit? That’s probably what’s in the ministerial mandate letters that the Ford government is taking all the way to the Supreme Court to keep secret.
Who benefits the most? Signed, Premier Doug Ford
Just yesterday in her annual report, Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, wrote that the province disregarded its own experts when it came to deciding what highways, to prioritize when it came to building. Why would they do that? Follow the money.
Or the Ontario Line, the government’s signature public transit project. The Relief Line, the long-held hope of transit planners and users, in the works in various permutations for decades. Just 10 months after being first elected, Doug Ford unveiled his version, slapped put together in 3 months by Metrolinx. Curious routing, station placement, above-at-below grade decisions emerged as the details surfaced (like the proposed subway will at the Gerrard Station.. a-HA, a-HA, a-HA).
I do not know transit planning and subway building nearly enough to criticize Doug Ford’s Ontario Line. But in light of the dirty dealings surrounding Bill 23, it isn’t unreasonable to assess every questionable decision this government has made on this project first and foremost through the lens of: Who stands to make the most from it? Follow the Money. After that, you can start to ask the usual questions about optimum ridership, proper connections. All the usual mundane queries and studies that should be the basis for any and all government decision-making.
Doug Ford, though. His politics are different. Pure green. The colour of money.