EDITORIAL: Why is farmland near GTA more sacred?
A rural road in Chatham-Kent is blocked as a turbine blade is transported to its destination in the former Chatham Township, in this file photo from August 2017. The Ontario Liberals have vilified Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford for his remarks about developing the Greenbelt that surrounds the GTA, but why hasn’t Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed the same worry over the rest of Ontario where some of the best farmland in Canada has been pockmarked with wind farms? File photo/Postmedia Network
The Greenbelt that surrounds Toronto and the GTA became part of the election campaign discussion when it was learned that Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford had assured developers that, if elected, a Ford government would allow part of that protected land to be open for development.
But Ford quickly backtracked when he found the Greenbelt is political holy ground, its protection legislatively enshrined by the McGuinty Liberals in 2005.
The howls of protest against Ford’s misstep were immediate, and the loudest came from Premier Kathleen Wynne. Wynne even promised that a re-elected Liberal government would expand the Greenspace, noting “the point of the Greenbelt is to keep in place the integrity of water systems, the integrity of agricultural land. Making the map look like Swiss cheese … makes it much less viable and really undermines those water protections and agricultural land protections.”
Wynne’s righteous indignation fell on receptive ears in downtown Toronto, but it could be interpreted as hypocrisy in this part of Ontario where the Liberals’ Green Energy Policy has succeeded in planting hundreds of industrial wind turbines on some of the best farmland in Canada.
Especially irritating for rural residents is Wynne’s mantra that the Greenbelt is designed to “keep in place the integrity of water systems, the integrity of agricultural land.” For the past two years, a citizen group in Chatham-Kent has been fighting the Ontario Ministry of Environment over the loss of quality drinking water from private wells they say have been disturbed by the development of nearby wind turbines. So far they have received no satisfaction from the province.
Moreover, Wynne’s concern for the integrity of farmland that skirts the edges of the GTA hasn’t been extended to the province’s traditional farmbelt. The development of wind turbines in Southwestern Ontario has required new service roads to be cut through soybean fields and electrical cables to be routed through cornfields. Concrete has been poured into deep foundations to support the massive turbines. The turbines may be removed after a few decades of activity, but the concrete will be there forever.
Ford was wrong to say he would open up part of the 800,000-hectare Greenbelt to development. Studies show that almost 45,000 hectares of land surrounding the GTA can be developed without hampering the integrity of the Greenbelt.
But he admitted he was wrong and backtracked.
Wynne has never admitted her government’s misstep in continuing with the Green Energy Policy, and even now remains committed to the completion of the final contracts, even though they are not needed by our electrical system, even though a vast majority of the rural community is against the new wind farms, and even though turbines are being planted on land that should be planted with crops.
– Peter Epp