On 6 April 2023 the Ford Government issued a consultation paper on land use planning designed to sweep away the impediments which prevent or restrict developers building in open countryside. A companion paper was published alongside on the “Proposed Approach to Implementation”.
Last week, as the result of an under-reported revolt by Ontario’s farmers, Ford abandoned proposals to allow more housing on farmland. The proposed new “Provincial Planning Statement” would have required municipalities to permit more housing on farms with additional residential units and housing for farm workers.
The farmers were not happy. They feared conflicts with non-farming neighbours would increase. Just think of the smells, the dust, the huge farm vehicles forcing highly polished SUVs off the road! The farmers believed Ford's plan would restrict future farm growth and jeopardise irreplaceable specialty crop lands.
A Joint Statement by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and a bewildering array of farm organisations - including the National Farmers Union-Ontario, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission, the Beef Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork, the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Sheep Farmers, the Veal Farmers of Ontario, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Farmland Trust, the Turkey Farmers of Ontario, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance - demanded a rethink on a proposal which they claimed would:
"severely threaten local farmland protection."
A tonne of manure was coming Ford's way and he ducked. The proposal was removed from the consultation paper and the consultation period – which was supposed to end tomorrow (5 June 2023) has been extended to 4 August 2023.
This is the way the Ford Government works. Policies are not stress-tested. It's all slap-dash. Ford makes it up as he goes along. And on those rare occasions when he feels he has made a big mistake he course-corrects and says he is sorry.
Ford's consigliere, the Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister, Steve Clark, told MPPs last week, the Government intended to integrate:
“key elements of two documents, the provincial policy statement and A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The reason this is so important is it would create a single, province-wide, housing-focused, land use planning policy document. We believe it’s very important for us to simplify existing policies…”
Newmarket-Aurora’s Dawn Gallagher Murphy, Ford’s faithful, fully house-trained lapdog, trilled:
“We’re streamlining land use planning policies, making policies for land use planning in Ontario easier to follow… allowing more homes to be built in rural areas; giving municipalities the flexibility to expand settlement area boundaries at any time; and making planning policies simpler and more flexible while balancing the need to protect employment lands, agriculture and the environment.”
Complete tripe. She doesn't know how these policies will fully impact the environment because her own Government's consultation paper makes it crystal clear:
“natural heritage policies and related definitions remain under consideration by the government. Once proposed policies and definitions are ready for review and input, they will be made available through a separate posting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. This posting (ERO # 019-6813) will be updated with a link to the relevant posting once it is available.”
The Implementation Plan - which is to hand - describes the Government's "approach to maintain existing Greenbelt policies":
"Should the proposed Provincial Planning Statement come into effect, there is the potential for the revocation of A Place to Grow and the changes made to the Provincial Policy Statement policies to affect the implementation of the policies in the Greenbelt Plan. To address this issue, an amendment is being proposed to the Greenbelt Plan that would indicate that the previous policies in A Place to Grow and the Provincial Policy Statement would continue to apply in those cases where the Greenbelt Plan refers to them. This would ensure that there would be no change to how the Greenbelt Plan policies are implemented if the proposed Provincial Planning Statement comes into effect.”
What on earth does all that mean?
What is simple about that?
The Greenbelt Plan contains a million references to the Growth Plan. We are told these will stay in place – even if the Provincial Planning Statement comes into effect.
Who is kidding whom?