By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In the wake of Premier Doug Ford’s decision to abort development plans on Ontario’s Greenbelt, various celebration gatherings have been planned by residents across the province as they await the Ontario Progressive Party’s official proposal for the reversal.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, Beaches East-York Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon will be hosting one such gathering. The celebration, which was initially scheduled to be a protest rally prior to the decision reversal, is set to begin at 11 a.m in East Lynn Park (1949 Danforth Ave).
“Well, if they don’t do what they promised, then we’ll turn it back into a rally,” said McMahon. “But for now, it’s a celebration.”
Although strategies surrounding the returning of lands back to the Greenbelt have yet to be put forward by the Ford government, McMahon said that she sees the current state of affairs as a win for Ontario’s climate adaptation and mitigation as well as “a win for food security and the farmers” due to the protection of prime agricultural land.
“Getting rid of farmland anytime – but especially in an affordability crisis – is ridiculous,” she said. “We learned with the pandemic that we need to be supporting local manufacturing, local farmers, local businesses and distributors [by] keeping things local. We need to remember where our food comes from.”
Like Scarborough Southwest NDP MP Doly Begum earlier in September, McMahon credited the saving of the Greenbelt to the “power of the people” as she highlighted that Ontarians have now managed to force their current government into reversing an unpopular decision for the third time since Ford took office.
“I think it gives us a glimmer of hope that we can turn around other atrocities, too – Highway 413, Ontario Place. Many things,” said McMahon.
With trust in Ontario’s government diminishing amongst residents, McMahon told Beach Metro Community News that it is imperative that a keen eye is kept on the handling of the aftermath of the Greenbelt saga, especially after viewing the Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment (PCCIA) report — Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment (PCCIA) report — which was released last month.
“The information was incredibly damning on our lack of emergency preparedness, climate adaptation, and strong climate action. We’re not ready in Ontario,” said McMahon.
On Sept. 26 at Queen’s Park, McMahon questioned the leadership of the Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party as it pertains to climate action as she inquired about why the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks wasn’t an “active participant in the Greenbelt Taskforce”.
“Notably, the previous Minister of Environment was absent from the discourse of the Greenbelt sale – at least publicly – when the destruction of the Greenbelt would directly affect Ontario’s environment,” said McMahon on Sept. 26.
She called for the newly appointed environment minister, Andrea Khanjin, to be involved in the development of legislation which aims to return the Greenbelt lands back to protected status.
The Ontario government has pledged, however, that the party will “not only return the land but [also] ensure that an additional 7,000 acres of land are put into the Greenbelt” as well as setting boundaries for the Greenbelt that is “protected through legislation and not through regulation”, according to Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra.
It is currently unclear when the new Greenbelt legislation will be presented to MPPs at Queen’s Park.
For now, McMahon is urging East Toronto residents to join in the Oct. 14 celebration where they can further discuss Ontario’s commitment to the protection of its environment with other officials such as Beaches East-York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and Toronto-Danforth MP Julie Debrusin. Also in attendance will be representatives from Environmental Defence Canada.
— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.
UPDATE: This event has been cancelled due to rainy weather anticipated on Oct. 14. For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/marymargaretbey/