Hundreds of demonstrators called on the Doug Ford government Sunday afternoon to halt the development of the Greenbelt in Durham Region.
‘Stop Sprawl Durham’ protesters gathered outside Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s office in Pickering, Ont., rallying to save Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, which makes up nearly 60 per cent of Greenbelt land set to be removed.
“This is a non-partisan issue in Pickering,” Abdullah Mir with Stop Sprawl Durham told CTV News Toronto. “We don’t want development on the Greenbelt land largely because we don’t need development on the Greenbelt land.”
One resident who lives nearby the preserve, Lloyd Thomas, expressed concerns, as there’s “no transit” or infrastructure in the area.
“It’s going to destroy all the environment that is out there,” Thomas told CTV News Toronto.
CTV News Toronto reached out to Bethlenfalvy for comment, and a spokesperson for the Premier’s Office responded, saying the City of Pickering has “advocated for removing these lands” for the last 20 years.”
“In fact, in 2019, the former mayor said the previous government’s decision to include these lands in the Greenbelt was ‘discriminatory’ and done so with ‘no evidence, no notice, and no opportunity to consult,” the statement reads.
“These changes will support the construction of at least 50,000 new homes while growing the Greenbelt by more than 2,400 acres. Critically, this initiative establishes conditions to ensure that billions of dollars worth of community benefits, such as new roads, parks, transit, water, and health care infrastructure, as well as significant affordable and non-profit housing, are fully funded by the landowners and homebuilders—not Ontario or municipal taxpayers.”
Stop Sprawl Durham protesters in Pickering, Ont. on Aug. 13, 2023. (Simon Sheehan/CP24)
This demonstration comes days after auditor general Bonnie Lysyk released a scathing report suggesting the Ontario government “favoured certain developers.” The report also revealed the process lacked transparency, and failed to consider agricultural, environmental and financial impacts.
The report found 92 per cent of the 7,400 acres removed from the Greenbelt could be tied to three developers with direct access Ontario’s housing ministry. Of the 15 sites removed from the Greenbelt, 14 were proposed directly by Housing Minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff.
Premier Ford told reporters Friday “no one had preferential treatment,” reiterating talking points centred on the province’s housing crisis as the reason for the Greenbelt’s development.
“We’re changing it to build homes for people that need it.”
Ontario’s integrity commissioner is reviewing a request to investigate the housing minister’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato.
However, the integrity commissioner is currently investigating whether Ontario’s housing minister tipped off developers ahead of the government’s announcement of its plans to allow development in the Greenbelt and Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve.
Housing Minister Steve Clark has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and says he will cooperate with the investigation.
– With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq and Mike Walker
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