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Thanks to the work of the auditor general and the integrity commissioner, people in Ontario are now very awake to the deceit and corrupt practices involved in the attack on the Greenbelt, city planning and the ability to build homes where we need them.

But less clear is what drove the government to become so captured by the power and influence of the development industry.

I think we can get a lot of insight into how this started by looking at a key aspect of the 2018 election that brought the current government to power.

Premier Doug Ford was elected with the aggressive and pervasive support of Ontario Proud’s online attack machine on Facebook. Elections Ontario reporting after the vote revealed Ontario Proud was not funded by grassroots supporters, as was claimed during the election, but rather by a consortium of suburban sprawl developers, with the biggest donor being Mattamy Homes. In total, developers contributed $500,000 for online attack ads against the incumbent Liberal government and its premier, Kathleen Wynne, many of them viciously misogynist and homophobic.

As a result, these developers grabbed the ear, and the thanks, of the newly elected premier and his government. As the premier himself has said, these people are his friends.

These developers made no secret that they do not like the rules that protect wetlands, forests, farms and the Greenbelt. Nor do they like rules that make them build more houses in smaller spaces or ones that are financially accessible to anyone who is not very rich.

This is because they make vast sums of money buying farmland cheap, getting it rezoned for development and then eventually building expensive low-density sprawl on it.

They also were clear that they do not want to pay for the costs of sewers, roads, water supplies, schools and parks that these developments make necessary.

So for their election work, these developers now had a good friend in the premier's office. A friend who wanted to help them.

What drove Doug Ford's Ontario government to become so captured by the power and influence of the development industry? asks @CanadaGray @envirodefence #HandsOffTheGreenbelt #Onpoli #ClimateCrisis

They also were presented with another opportunity: Housing prices.

Rising housing prices in Ontario had been driven by years of historically low interest rates, foreign and domestic buyers who saw houses as a lucrative and “no lose” investment opportunities, changes to tax laws that killed rental housing construction and governments halting the funding and building of affordable homes, like co-ops. These factors all combined to cause a decade-and-a-half escalation in housing prices to increasingly unaffordable levels.

Then enter the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and rapidly rising interest rates, and we had a situation where homes that were previously expensive suddenly leap out of reach for all except those with very high incomes, an existing high-value property or very wealthy parents.

A long-simmering problem became a crisis and the classic tactic of turning a crisis into an opportunity was not unknown to the billionaire-sprawl developers and their friends in the Ford government.

And so began the loud and repeated proclamations by the premier, his ministers and developers: “Environmental protection, planning rules and the Greenbelt are creating a scarcity of land available to build homes and that is why house prices and rents are so high.”

For the average person who does know the details of how housing supply and prices work, this logic sounds reasonable: if you increase the supply of something, then it should become cheaper. Unfortunately, this is a situation where the simple conclusion is also the wrong one.

First, there was — and is — no shortage of land designated for housing construction.

This is because cities and regions in Ontario are required by law to identify and zone lands sufficient to meet their projected housing needs for decades to come. They are also required to update these plans frequently and to account for any new people who are projected to arrive. Most regions have consistently overestimated these new arrivals and, therefore, also overestimated the amount of land that would be used to build homes, so there were huge land surpluses when the current government was elected.

The other aspect of the misunderstanding is that making more land available won’t mean more homes will be built.

This is because almost nobody seeking a newly built house in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area buys a plot of land, hires an architect and builds their own home. Instead, we all buy a new home or a condo from a large development corporation.

It makes no business sense for these developers to sell any home they build for less than they can extract from the marketplace. Therefore, they put newly constructed homes into the market at a rate that ensures consistent— and they hope — high and escalating prices.

Scarcity fits their business model.

So developers have no interest in making homes more cheaply and anyone looking for a newly built home has to buy from developers, who control the supply.

As our auditor general, integrity commissioner and Housing Affordability Task Force have all shown, none of these facts mattered to the Ford government and their developer friends. And so the attacks on decades of planning progress and the Greenbelt began, and we all got to suffer the results of a government paying back the friends who helped bring it to power.

Massive public backlash, cabinet minister resignations and steaming evidence of the scale of the insider dealing and developer favouritism have now forced the premier to backtrack on the Greenbelt land removals.

This is an incredibly well-earned victory for the people of Ontario, but only the results of deeper probe will help us chart a path back towards an approach to urban planning and environmental protection that focuses on the public interest rather than that of those tied at the hip to the current government.

Tim Gray is the executive director of Environmental Defence. Tim grew up on the shores of Lake Huron and acquired his love of nature there. He has over 25 years of experience developing and implementing environmental policy change efforts.

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how do we publicize the Ontario Pride astroturfing to the general public and decouple their small troll army with actual popular will.? THAT to me is the question.

also. how did they politically assassinate p Brown twice and why? connections to Modi ? harpers influence? must be darkly dirty stuff there.

That is indeed THE question I agree; it's SO frustrating.
Like so many issues now it always seems to come back to "social" media, the ubiquitous underminer of society itself, but there's also this whole male "proud" crap that I see underpinning the entire political right wing now.
Reading some of Denial Smith's comments at the recent petroleum congress in Calgary I think she gives it away. Being a proud cheerleader for the boys all the way and their mouthpiece, she confidently bleats on about how the Liberal climate targets are "unrealistic," the word behind the whole "libtard" label, i.e. people who don't know how the "real world" (meaning the world of business of course) actually works and so have no business being in charge of anything, particularly government. That's obviously the primary domain of men, always has been and always will be. Everyone knows that; it's just "common sense" which of course also underpins the conservative argument that they alone represent the "real" majority.
I just read in Bloomberg Green on the topic of recent strikes that there are more and more women involved than ever before, which can be seen as just another sign of women "rising." This steady shift, this change, may well be the instigator for this world-wide wave of swaggering proud boy sh*t.
The conservative choice for leader being PP with his nasal monotone that brings a sweaty, heroic hockey player answering a question after a game to mind supports this I'd say.
Consider WAR TALK by Arundhati Roy:
"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness---and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling--their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: we be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."
This is exemplified at the recent climate action at the UN by Alexandria Ocacio Cortes:
https://youtu.be/IC6Um0W5ju4
I think for a lot of men (and their cheerleaders) this change is actually monstrous, not only unimaginable but totally unacceptable. Being apoplectic, they're pulling out all the stops to restore order.

As to how Ford became the Ontario Conservative party leader, and P.Brown unceremoniously ejected from that position, it's all to do with back-room dealing. Brown didn't know it was happening, party members didn't know it was happening, the general public didn't know it was happening ... till it happened.
The Why is easier. He was an old-style, "red" Tory ... not a neo-Conservative.
Wynne deserved to lose that election, not because of the reasons it is said she lost, but because of her shoddy treatment of the people of Ontario ... getting no community input into siting of gas plants or wind farms, and then selling off a controlling interest in Ontario Hydro (at bargain-basement prices) -- and at the same time allowing privatization of local hydro companies ... including Toronto Hydro. That, too, was a very quiet ... even secret ... deal.
That little peccadillo is what's given us the continually and outrageously rising cost of electricity, compliments of the successors to Ontario Hydro: Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One, Independent Electricity System Operator, Electrical Safety Authority, Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation.
So now all the decisions are made by the private sector, and costs will continue to rise indefinitely because there is a 9% (minimum) profit built into each system.
Anyone reading their Toronto Hydro Bill will have realized that most of the bill isn't even the actual cost of electricity (which has risen through the roof), but the little imbroglio of profit-taking by various entities, hidden in the "Delivery" line item ...including a minimum Customer Charge of $41.11 per 30-day period, whether or not any electricity at all is used. The overall Delivery charges used to be a fraction of the cost of the electricity itself: now for low-volume users, it's on the order of 333%. Literally.
Stephen Harper used the playbook of Mike Harris, who became Ontario premier the year before Harper became PM. Poilievre is now using the name of Harris's election platform, which he called the Common Sense Revolution. It had nothing to do with common sense, and everything to do with dissing every imaginable identity group ... i.e., running on hatred: hatred of women, the disabled, the poor, public servants, immigrants, "feminists," ... you can see from that short list the essential compatibility with Ontario Proud. They may not be the movers & shakers, though.
Cambridge Analytica / SCL was still in operation. They had an "branch plant" operation on BC's west coast at the time of the 2015 federal election.
The parent group SCL, operating out of Egypt, was involved in a lot of Covid disinformation as well ... so likely the same targetting data used ... for self-destroying FaceBook messages.
There's quite a bit of info about them on Wikipedia.
The short answer is that they're all "friends" ... and friends of the very rich ... who stand to gain everything and lose nothing from extreme right-wing or fascist governments. The military influence is part of the package.

This Ontario Government needs to go. Tired of corruption and the personal interest shown by the Premier of self interest and preservation- not Ontario and the people

This is all very true and an excellent article, but the author is missing one factor: Ford did this because he got away with it all the other times. This isn't exactly the first group of cronies he's paid off; always before most people didn't even notice, or there was a bit of scandal but it subsided fairly quickly. Consider for-profit nursing homes and private health care providers.

Both were already in existence. Your local doctor's office is a private, for profit provider. That happened a long time ago. The hospitals were starved before, too. It became even more visible during Covid, because of the high level of hospital usage by Covid patients. That particular disaster was an "opportunity" for private clinics to lobby for public-insurance-only patients to be sent their way. Before that, it was private-pay only. I expect many private healthcare insurance plans (they've been in existence, and used by corporations and others as benefits for their employees. That's how poor people pay the full shot for dental care, and the wealthy pay a minor percentage. In addition, those corporations also dispensse graduated levels of coverage: the big-wigs get more extensive coverage than the lower-level employees. The residents/voters/taxpayers/service users all pay for it. Nice work if you can get it, huh?