Seven members of Doug Ford's Greenbelt Council resign over conservation authority changes
Seven members of the Ontario government's Greenbelt Council resigned over the weekend in protest of Premier Doug Ford's moves to limit the power of conservation authorities.
The Greenbelt Council is a government-appointed expert panel that advises the province on issues related to the Greenbelt, a stretch of protected land surrounding the Greater Toronto Area that Ford has promised not to develop. Chair David Crombie, a respected former Progressive Conservative MP and Toronto mayor, resigned Saturday night, with six more members following suit Sunday morning.
In their resignation letters, all seven cited the government's proposed changes to conservation authorities, agencies that oversee key watershed systems, some of which are in Greenbelt lands. Critics say if the bill passes, it would undermine the ability of conservation authorities to ensure development in floodplains happens safely. It could also take away the authorities’ ability to intervene in controversial cases, like that of a development in Pickering, Ont., that would pave over a protected wetland.
The last straw for Crombie came Friday, when the Ford government doubled down on its plans with a set of new amendments that would further chip away at conservation authorities’ power.
One change would allow the government to use a special mechanism called a Ministerial Zoning Order to force conservation authorities to approve developments, even if the agency had concerns about flooding risk. (The Ford government has come under fire in recent months for its increased usage of such orders, which override the local planning process and can’t be appealed.)