Ford government backtracks on farmland protection, in apparent bait-and-switch offer

Photo by Simon Carr (Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Under the guise of solving the housing crisis, Ontario’s premier Doug Ford is moving to develop over 7,000 acres of prime agriculture land in the province’s Greenbelt around the city of Toronto.

In exchange, the Ford government says it will set aside over 9,000 acres…somewhere else.

MPP for Temiskaming-Cochrane, John Vanthof says the premier’s plan will only add to the already rapid loss of agriculture land in the province, threatening food security. “In 2016, the census showed that we’re losing about 175 acres a day, and the last census (2021) shows that we are losing about 320 acres [a day] of farmland in Ontario,” Vanthof says.

The Ford government has not yet released specific details about where the other land will be, but Vanthof says there is significant concern that the productive value of land being swapped is not a one-to-one ratio.

“[The land being developed is] not just some of the best land, but some of the best environmental conditions for growing crops. That’s why we can grow 200 different crops there. And as the climate changes, it will be protected. It has to be, we have to slow the pace of development down because no farms no food, no future.”

Vanthof adds that there are cities, such as Hamilton, actively working at intensifying housing and limiting urban sprawl, but this proposal flies in the face of that initiative.

For his part, Vanthof has a bill up for debate in December, the Protecting Agricultural Land act, that would create parameters under which farmland could be developed, i.e. for processing of food products.

“We have a housing shortage in Ontario, and we have to deal with that as well. But, you know, along with shelter comes food, and you can’t really trade one off for the other. Once you pave the land over, it’s gone,” Vanthof says.

Check out the full conversation, below:


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