Doug Ford may be signalling that he’s ready to double down on his controversial Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO), a scheme in which he lets powerful land developers — often big Ford donors, insiders and allies — pave over important and ecologically sensitive lands.
On Wednesday, the Ford government announced that when it hands over land to developers using MZOs, it will make amends by adding other, unspecified, land to the Greenbelt. MPP Sandy Shaw said that’s a bad scheme, and a troubling sign of what’s to come.
“Doug Ford is doing the same thing the Liberals did when they were in office, but tenfold: he’s letting developers have at extremely valuable and environmentally sensitive lands, and pretending to replace it by with less valuable, less ecologically significant land,” said Shaw.
“After three years of cozying up to developers who are also Ford donors, people are extremely concerned that this announcement is a warning sign that Ford is about to gift more extraordinary MZOs so developers can pave over wetlands and precious farmland.”
The Ford government has signed 44 MZOs just since 2019. That’s about double the number of MZOs Ontario had used in the entire 15 years prior. NDP research revealed that the majority of MZOs benefitted loyal Ford donors — and sometimes donations were even made to Ford the week their MZO was granted.
A scheme similar to this announcement was proposed for a recent MZO to allow the destruction of part of Duffins Creek, a provincially-significant wetland. The scheme was rejected by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority as completely inadequate — lands that aren’t environmentally sensitive can’t simply be called a replacement when a wetland is paved over.
The Auditor General also criticized this sort of offsetting scheme in her scathing 2018 audit of the developer-captured Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. She found no scientific basis for the NPCA’s proposed offsetting scheme to allow the destruction of the Thundering Waters provincially significant wetland.
An offsetting scheme was also proposed by a developer for the Ancaster Creek wetland — where a man-made pond was the suggested replacement for an environmentally sensitive natural wetland. The Hamilton Conservation Authority shut it down.
“Ford can’t be trusted when it comes to the Greenbelt or development,” said Shaw. “He’s shown that he’s not here to protect our environment or help people who want to buy a home someday — he’s here to help his own circle of friends rake in cash, no matter the price to the rest of us.”