March 12, 2021

Resisting Doug Ford's Agenda

Since Doug Ford became Ontario’s premier in 2018, he has become one of the province’s most controversial political leaders (at least since Mike Harris). Early on, he scrapped Ontario’s cap-and-trade program only to see it replaced with a federal carbon tax, froze the minimum wage at $14/hour, and cut Toronto’s city council in half during the municipal election campaign. While there was a time early in the pandemic when Ford appeared reasonable, he has since returned to his populist antics which prompted several campaigns to oppose his agenda.

#StopThe413

Map of proposed GTA West Highway a.k.a. Highway 413 (via Environmental Defence)
In early 2018, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals scrapped plans for a GTA West Highway (a.k.a. Highway 413) running from Vaughan to Milton which would have paved hundreds of acres of Greenbelt and prime agricultural land. An expert panel at the time deemed it would not have addressed the GTA’s changing transportation needs. Doug Ford’s “Progressive” Conservatives revived these plans and fast tracked the environmental assessment process in order to get this highway built which would cost at least $6 billion and save drivers only 30 seconds on their commutes. Funds which would have been better spent on public transit and active transportation.

Unfortunately for Mr. Ford, resistance to these plans has come fast and furious. Environmental Defence has revived their campaign, while Leadnow launched a new petition this past Monday which has gotten over 18,000 signatures over the past three days. Municipal councils such as in Mississauga, Vaughan, and now Toronto voted to oppose the highway, while others called for a federal environmental assessment. The Ford government recently admitted the highway was no longer a done deal and that more consultation would be needed.

In addition to signing the Leadnow petition, another place where I encourage Ontarians to voice their opposition to Highway 413 is to submit comments on the Ontario government’s “Growing the size of the Greenbelt” consultation page. Comments are due on Monday, April 19, which I also recommend you send a separate e-mail and/or phone call to your MPP.

Abusing #MZOs

Demolition of the Foundry before an injunction was ordered for this to stop (via Friends of the Foundry)
The Ontario government has the power to override municipal government processes in order to fast track various developments from hospitals to housing using Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO’s). While these were meant to be rarely used – as was the case when the Liberals were in power from 2003 to 2018 – the Ford government issued almost 40 of them including six more this week. Certain MZO’s issued earlier on helped secure some much needed modular housing in Toronto such as at 321 Dovercourt. However, many of them were issued with no public consultation including the Foundry site on Eastern Avenue which was partially demolished despite the City of Toronto’s heritage designation. The Ontario government claimed the deomlition was needed to build affordable housing, but their proposal would have only included it in the smallest of the three proposed towers. The Friends of the Foundry organization have since won an injunction while the City and Queen’s Park continue negotiating the best use of the site.
An Amazon warehouse in northeast Scarborough - Imagine replacing a beautiful wetland with this? (via Sean Marshall)

Another controversial site is found at Lower Duffins Creek in Pickering. The MZO called for the provincially significant wetland to be paved over for a warehouse – which was confirmed will not be for Amazon – and currently goes against Ontario’s Planning Act. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was under duress to approve this; a consequence of the Ford government’s approval of Schedule 6 of Bill 229 which gutted the power of conservation authorities to oppose destructive developments. Worse still, the government recently introduced Bill 257 – specifically Schedule 3 – which would retroactively allow MZO’s to be issued even if they violate the Planning Act; effectively legalizing the one for the Lower Duffins Creek lands and further opening MZO’s to abuse. A lawsuit currently underway could be undermined should this bill become law.

The Ontario government is collecting comments until Saturday, April 3 1 about Schedule 3 of Bill 257 which I urge you to voice your opposition to this abuse of MZO powers. Don’t forget to copy your MPP.

#PaidSickDaysSaveLives

The other main campaign against Doug Ford involves paid sick days. The previous Liberal government approved two paid sick days annually (plus additional unpaid sick days) which were scrapped as soon as the Progressive Conservatives took over. To help limit the spread of COVID-19, public health experts, city councils, labour groups, and others have called for paid sick days; seven of which were called for permanently in the failed Bill 239. Advocated cited a majority of workers (58%) have no paid sick days; a figure which increases for lower income workers. So far, Doug Ford has refused to support this; claiming the federal sickness benefit – which was recently doubled from two to four weeks – would be enough. Unfortunately, this justification doesn’t hold true given the delays in getting approved for this program, whereas paid sick days would have been more flexible.

Looking Ahead

With 447 days until the next Ontario election – scheduled for June 2, 2022 – you can expect even more boneheaded policies and calls to #VoteFordOut2022 become increasingly louder. As his late brother Rob Ford had done for Torontonians, Doug Ford’s destructive policies have encouraged Ontarians to stand up to his agenda. Having an enemy can be effective in sparking civic engagement, but it is something that needs to be maintained even if a more progressive leader were to be elected next June. Until then, let’s stand together regardless of your political affiliation.

 

UPDATE 2021/03/12: The original post indicated the site of Lower Duffins Creek was likely for Amazon based on news reports at the time of publication. However, CBC News released an update shortly after publishing this post confirming this was no longer the case.

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