Ford tells Ottawa to back off

Federal environment minister clarifies remarks about intervening in plan

This article was written by Robert Benzie and Noor Javed, and was published in the Toronto Star on January 28, 2023.

Several hundred rally in front of the downtown Sheraton hotel on Monday in opposition to the Ontario government’s plan to develop part of the Greenbelt.

Premier Doug Ford says he is “really disappointed” the federal environment minister would muse about potentially intervening with the province’s plans to build housing on Greenbelt land.

“This is our jurisdiction,” Ford told reporters Friday in Brampton.

His comments came after federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was quoted as saying he has “a legislative obligation to intervene” if species-at-risk are threatened by any Greenbelt development.

“I’m really disappointed when I hear that, when we work collaboratively,” the premier said.

Guilbeault’s office on Friday moved to clarify what he had meant Thursday.

“In his remarks yesterday, the minister referred to some of the legal processes that are in place to protect nature,” said Oliver Anderson, his director of communications.

“In due course, all projects may be considered for review by the independent impact assessment agency. No specific projects have yet been proposed,” Anderson said.

“As the minister has always maintained, we can achieve the best results if we work together. Our government looks forward to continued collaboration with counterparts in Ontario on a range of files, like developing cleaner energy in a low-carbon economy, the protection of nature and fighting climate change,” he said.

Ford is opening up 7,400 acres of the two-million acre Greenbelt in exchange for adding 9,400 acres of protected land elsewhere in order to address Ontario’s housing crunch.

But an investigation by the Toronto Star and the Narwhal found eight of the 15 parcels of the Greenbelt being opened up to developers were purchased after his Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2018.

That has triggered probes by both integrity commissioner J. David Wake and auditor general Bonnie Lysyk after opposition complaints about the land swap.

The premier bristled at the suggestion that anything untoward happened.

“Now, let me make it very clear, there’s nothing going on there outside of building homes,” he said.

Complaining of “a little bit of a double standard,” Ford noted his government is not the first to make changes to the protected lands of Greenbelt, which has existed since 2005.

“I never hear anyone talk about the Liberals that changed the Greenbelt17 times … not a peep, not a word. And there was no housing crisis back there. We’re doing it for one reason. We want to build homes.”

Ford pointed out 50,000 homes will be built on the 15 parcels of Greater Toronto Area land being slated for development and that each is adjacent to fully serviced land.

“So there’s a community on one side of the road; the other side of the road, there’s an empty field, all the service things being there. So naturally, you’re going to build on that open field. Simple as that,” he said.

“But make no mistake about it. We’re building homes on those pieces of property as sure as I’m standing here today.”

Author: Ray Nakano

Ray is a retired, third generation Japanese Canadian born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He resides in Toronto where he worked for the Ontario Government for 28 years. Ray was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2011 and practises in the Plum Village tradition, supporting sanghas in their mindfulness practice. Ray is passionate about taking urgent and drastic climate action and very concerned about our climate crisis. He has been actively involved in the ClimateFast group ( for the past 5 years. He works to bring awareness of our climate crisis to others and motivate them to take action. We have to bend the curve on our heat-trapping pollutants in the next few years if we hope to avoid the most serious impacts of human-caused global warming. He has created the website, for tracking climate-related news articles, reports, and organizations. He has created to focus on what you can do to address the climate crisis. He is always looking for opportunities to reach out to communities, politicians, and governments to communicate about our climate crisis and what we need to do to take urgent and drastic action, if we want to have a livable and sustainable future for our children, grandchildren, and all future generations. He is married and has 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren. He says: “Our world is in dire straits. Doing nothing is not an option. We must do everything we can to create a liveable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations.”

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