By MARY-MARGARET McMAHON
MPP BEACHES-EAST YORK
A year ago, in the Chamber at Queen’s Park during Question Period, I posed a simple question to the Premier. Why won’t this government take climate change seriously? When can Ontarians expect this government to stand up and take a leadership role to safeguard the future of Ontarians?
The answer of course was not satisfactory. I ardently maintained that climate action needed to be tied to infrastructure. Instead of forcing cities, municipalities, Indigenous communities, and climate leaders to take action themselves and attempt to safeguard their towns and homes, this government must create a climate framework for this province by implementing climate strategies to create resilient communities.
As we learned the news that the Doug Ford government was proposing to remove 15 parcels of land from the Greenbelt — some 7,400 acres in all — to build 50,000 homes, I exclaimed that it will be devastating for our environment, leading to more flooding, more expensive food prices, and loss of biodiversity. I vowed that I cannot and will not stand back and watch as this government sells our precious greenspace to developer donors.
In October 2022, I proposed a motion that would establish an all-party climate change committee at Queen’s Park to fight the climate emergency. Unfortunately, the government rejected the idea.
In fall 2022, my office created a monthly Green East community group for Beaches-East York residents to discuss, learn and talk about the climate crisis. All the while, we answered thousands of emails from our constituents who are scared, angry and committed to action.
The legislation that will allow the government to destroy the Greenbelt was included in two bills introduced and passed that fall, Bills 23 and 39. As a member of the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy, in November 2022 I proposed dozens of amendments. Unfortunately, albeit unsurprisingly, the government voted against my amendments and the bills both passed.
On Nov. 26, 2022, I hosted a Save the Greenbelt Rally at East Lynn Park. We had a huge turnout. Ontarians have demonstrated how much they truly treasure and value the Greenbelt by signing petitions and displaying signs.
Along with so many of you, I attended rallies with my colleagues and spoke out. I worked on plans for my Private Members Bill 56. A bill that would help Ontarians mitigate flooding was heartbreakingly rejected by this government later in March 2023.
In December 2022, not merely as Ontario Liberal Critic for Environment, Conservation, and Parks, but as an advocate for truth, I passionately supported a Full and Transparent Investigation into the Greenbelt Purchase. When the report finally came out in August 2023, the Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, found that how the land sites were selected was not a transparent, fair, objective, or fully informed process. It proved that the sale of these parcels of land was done to benefit the few rich friends of this government, to the tune of $8.3 billion!
The Integrity Commissioner echoed this in his report. The first step was Minister Clark resigning. The report showed there is sufficient land for the target of 1.5 million homes without the need to build on the Greenbelt. The government’s own Housing Taskforce even made this clear in February 2022!
The Ford government cannot hide from the facts of their inaction on affordable housing. The government has still only implemented four of the 50 recommendations put forward by its own task force. Newcomers, young people, and families cannot afford to purchase or rent homes in Ontario. The Greenbelt plan will not solve this issue and will only promote sprawl and destroy farmland.
Exactly one year after my first question at Queen’s Park, on Aug. 26, 2023, the long-awaited Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment (PCCIA) was quietly released by the government. In 2020, Ontario launched its first-ever Climate Change Impact Assessment to help better understand where and how climate change is likely to affect communities, critical infrastructure, economies, and the natural environment.
The PCCIA report makes a clear and urgent statement. The government is not doing enough to deal with the climate crisis and adequately prepare our infrastructure and Ontarians for what is to come as a result of the climate emergency.
With the disasters all around us especially this summer, we should be powerfully pushing bold and brave measures to help us mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis immediately! We need environmental leadership, and we needed it yesterday! The destruction of the Greenbelt is a devastating drop in the ocean of this government’s inaction.
Looking forward helps. It helps to focus on where we want to be, what we want to do. My office is hosting a second Save the Greenbelt rally on Oct. 14 at 11 a.m. at East Lynn Park, 1949 Danforth Ave.
I hope to see you there and have your support. I won’t stop fighting to preserve the Greenbelt! Together, we can create a greener Ontario! As a passionate environmentalist, I will keep fighting to prevent the Greenbelt from being carved up. You will have to bulldoze me out of there! Who’s with me?
Please contact my office with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-690-1032.