Demonstrators rally against Greenbelt development in Durham

A large crowd gathered in the east end on Sunday to protest the Ford government's plan to go ahead with its affordable housing plan on the Greenbelt. CityNews' Rob Leth reports.

By John Marchesan and Rob Leth

A rally of people gathered in Pickering calling on the Ford government to stop the development of farmland and other areas of the Greenbelt.

‘Stop Sprawl Durham’ demonstrators showed up outside the office of provincial finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy on Kingston Road, saying the province’s plan will bankrupt communities by building high-density housing where it doesn’t belong and single-family homes that don’t make the best use of the space.

The rally comes days after a scathing report from auditor general Bonnie Lysyk which concluded the process favoured developers with ties to the housing minister’s chief of staff and that the selection of lands removed from the Greenbelt was “biased,” “seriously flawed,” and was “dismissive of effective land-use planning.”

“I’ve never been very political, but this issue has made me incredibly angry because it’s just wrong on every level,” said one protester.

Following the report, Premier Doug Ford admitted that the process of selecting which lands would be removed from the Greenbelt for development was flawed but reiterated that no one received preferential treatment and that his government will not reverse course to build upwards of 50,000 homes on the former Greenbelt lands.

‘Stop Sprawl Durham’ demonstrators

‘Stop Sprawl Durham’ demonstrators gather outside the office of provincial finance minister Peter Bethlenfalvy in Pickering on Aug. 13, 2023. CITYNEWS/Rob Leth

The government has opened up 7,400 acres of the Greenbelt to development while adding about 9,400 acres elsewhere as part of its bid to build 1.5 million homes across the province.

“This is really heartening for me to see this many people here because I’ve been doing climate stuff for a long time and we’re usually super disappointed, but I think we’re at a turning point with people getting it,” said another protester.

The Integrity Commissioner of Ontario is reviewing a request from Ford to look into Housing Minister Steve Clark’s chief of staff, Ryan Amato, while the Ontario Provincial Police are still considering a request to investigate the government’s reallocation of Greenbelt land.

Ontario’s Greenbelt is the largest in the world, with two-million acres running through the Golden Horseshoe. It was created almost 20 years ago by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty.

The Greenbelt contains some of the highest quality class one soil in Ontario that is needed for farming and to produce food.

“Re-consider removing the lands form the Greenbelt, you were elected to represent the interests of regular people, you’re turning your back on us the regular people, and you’re siding with those with money, power and influence in our society,” said Abdullah Mir, co-chair of Stop Sprawl Durham.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today