It’s generally a bad idea to fight a war on two fronts, especially when your forces are as depleted as the Liberal Party of Canada’s right now. But Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault might want to open a second one anyways in Ontario, despite the major battle already brewing in Alberta and Saskatchewan over his proposed clean electricity standard and a potential cap on oil and gas emissions.

After all, Premier Doug Ford has made it clear he’s comfortable using any means necessary to defend his government’s $8-billion Greenbelt giveaway and the developers who have benefited so disproportionately from his decisions to date. That began with a belated decision to throw his own housing minister and his chief of staff under the political bus. When that didn’t slow the backlash, Ford tossed his province’s most at-risk teenagers under there as well. Last week, he joined the growing chorus of conservative premiers pushing anti-trans legislation that would force their schools to dime out students who change their pronouns or gender identity. One wonders who he’ll sacrifice next in order to protect his own standing.

Ford can count on his allies in the Postmedia chain to play their part in this shamelessly transparent use of Boris Johnson’s “dead cat strategy.” But Guilbeault, who’s not exactly one to shy away from a fight, will almost surely keep his eye on the bigger picture. He’s already made it clear the entire Greenbelt situation has his full attention and that developers and other financial actors should act accordingly. “If you’re a developer thinking you’ve just struck gold and can start building tomorrow, know that the government could intervene,” he said back in late March. “I’ve spoken to bankers who said that they will have to take a long, hard look at financial viability now that we know there could be delays or that certain projects could even be denied.”

Indeed, according to a briefing note from this March, there are 29 at-risk species that live (or are likely to live) on the 7,400 acres of land opened up for development. Those animals are protected under federal legislation, and their presence could be used to slow or stop development entirely. As federal environment minister, Guilbeault could also demand new studies of potential impacts under the auspices of the Impact Assessment Act that might take years to complete.

The Ford government and its proxies would cry bloody murder about any of this, but polls show the public isn’t on their side right now. The recent auditor general report clearly stated land within the Greenbelt wasn’t needed to meet the province’s target of 1.5 million new homes, and polling suggests the public already understands this. As former Greenbelt Foundation CEO Burkhard Mausberg noted in a recent op-ed, “83 per cent of Ontarians believe there is no need to build housing on the Greenbelt and farmland to solve Ontario’s housing challenges because there is enough land already available in existing towns and cities.” More interesting, perhaps, is that this same poll shows 76 per cent of 2022 Conservative voters agree with that statement.

Even so, Guilbeault will need some covering fire here. Enter new(ish) federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, who should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him on an announcement of new housing supply in the region, one that more than makes up for any potential Greenbelt-related losses. In the process, he can nudge the housing debate away from its current focus on which party wants to see housing get built the fastest and towards which sort of housing we ought to prioritize. Is it the sprawl-oriented supply that conservatives clearly favour, one that just happens to suit their developer donors? Or is it transit-adjacent, purpose-built rentals, urban infill duplexes and other more climate-friendly choices the Liberals ought to be incentivizing?

Here, too, the Liberals have more public support than they might imagine. A new poll from the Task Force for Housing and Climate, a new organization co-chaired by former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and former deputy Conservative Party of Canada leader Lisa Raitt, says 78 per cent of Canadians want new housing to be built in a way that minimizes their carbon footprint. In Ontario, meanwhile, 64 per cent of respondents said it’s important to address the housing affordability crisis in ways that don’t compromise Canada’s climate objectives.

Taking on this fight would require the sort of political bravery the Trudeau Liberals haven’t shown in a while. It would almost certainly undermine what’s been a reasonably productive relationship with the Ford government. And the well-networked club of sprawl-oriented developers in this country would fight like hell to resist any attempt to reverse Ford’s big giveaway. But if the Liberals want to win the electoral war that’s coming in the next two years, they need to start taking some risks — and winning some battles. With housing and climate both certain to play big roles in the next election, there might not be a better place to start than the Greenbelt.

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is he waiting to see just how much rope dugh can wrap around his own neck before he acts?

That's some neck, so it'll be some rope. ;-)

A propos of Alex Botta's comment:
Doug might consider removing bits from his *own* belt line, rather than the Green Belt.

Yeah, I'd say, and what a satisfying and clever tactic for which cons are perfect, absolute sitting ducks. Because they have somehow convinced themselves and the party faithful (in the true meaning of that word in this case as it explains much, firstly being more easily convinced of alternate realities) that as the only ones with "common sense," they are the true majority. I mean, come on.
So the strenuous pretence that the NDP aren't also progressive (irrationally maintained by them in a pose of party tribalism/narcissism that could be indulged in saner political times) has thankfully evaporated due to the ACTUAL common sense of the confidence supply agreement, where numbers do not lie.
Which is also why so much irresponsible media keep hammering on about the agreement, marginalizing themselves increasingly American style by relentlessly backing the wrong horse before an election has even been called.
Same thing with the kids' gender/pronouns thing; when conservatives bleat self-righteously about "parental choice" they're not kidding; the kids DO come second with them.

Don't forget that it was the "Common Sense" revolution that destroyed Ontario for the people in it, along with many aspects of democracy.
One used to be able to walk in to Queen's Park, to the visitors' gallery, and observe it's goings on. I had a child who was interested in that sort of thing at a young age, and after watching federal proceedings on TV, she wanted to know if we could actually go there and "see what it's like." I offered instead a trip to Queen's Park, and was stunned to be met at the front doors by an obnoxious armed guard. Other disturbing contrasts and inconsistencies happened that day, and things got worse when a peaceful, properly arranged demonstration was broken up by baton-wielding and mounted police. It was a thoroughly disgusting show. And Doug Ford is the second Ontario incarnation of Mike Harris's policies, that started with being unwilling to speak to any of the "regular people" and saying, on TV, words to the effect that he was going to talk to "my people," meaning the well-heeled.

This is what we're dealing with, push come to shove.

Decent article, except this line:
"Or is it transit-adjacent, purpose-built rentals, urban infill duplexes and other more climate-friendly choices the Liberals ought to be incentivizing?"
The Liberals shouldn't be INCENTIVIZING that stuff. They and various other levels of government have tried plenty of that; it doesn't work worth a damn.

They should be BUILDING it.


Today in their announcement about housing they kept saying that ALL levels of government are needed, and because it's mostly in the cities of provinces with conservative governments whose jurisdiction it actually IS, they they manage to both slip the noose of having to just dole out boatloads of money for the conservative status quo sprawl to continue AND call the conservative bluff AGAIN on providing housing before their increasingly wary, desperate electorate. Excellent strategy with Trudeau and a tall, imposing and rapid-fire articulate Sean Fraser tag-teaming against a nasty, thoroughly conservative sounding media that only wanted to browbeat Trudeau like he was generally unwanted, even by his own party, an utter disgrace in other words, even implying that his basic competence is compromised by his marital separation.
The media here comes off as ever more rightwing/American.

Amen. And building with a proviso that it *remain*, in perpetuity, rental accommodation -- never "converted" to condos. We already know where *that* one goes.

I'm sure the complexities of law, policy, jurisdiction, political polls, and communication strategies (the latter would be an essential component) of a bold federal Liberal move re: the Greenbelt and an alternative path are being mulled over as we speak.
I like the idea, not just because I think it would ultimately be good for the Liberal cause, but because it is the right thing to do. Godspeed.

It's a sad state of affairs when articles like this and politics feel they need to take on an adversarial approach.

Instead, Trudeau et al could say, "We're more than willing to work with premier Ford to build plenty of housing. And while we're at it we'll include decent commuter rail if that housing is oriented to transit in a significant way." This strategy will put Ford under even more pressure to compromise.

Compromise and consensus-building on such important issues is usually a way to find common ground and help neutralize opposition. And housing will get built in the right locations with a few billion dangled by the feds for both housing and transit. Threats to hold up sprawling subdivisions to protect sensitive species will work to stop the damage and losses, but it will also get conservative hackles up even higher for the next fight, and housing will not be built correctly without respectful federal participation.

The Feds might be justifiably reluctant to dangle bux in front of Ford, given what he accomplished in destroying transit plans they'd contributed to significantly ... (and even "reversing" construction that had already started: fill in the holes and pave them over).
Ford hates all things Toronto that aren't Etobicoke or Scarborough. And he alone always knows better than experts. But then, it's entirely possible that his sole real measure of anything is what's in it for him, personally.

In the news conference yesterday morning with Trudeau, Fraser, and the mayor of London, they talk about the 4 billion announced in 2017 that's been waiting for bids on housing that meets a new standard, one being proximity to transit for one, but the central message was what they called "legalizing housing," so removing zoning barriers, which is what Calgary is grappling with right now. London is the first city to make a bid and so is receiving 75 million and they were all standing in front of a building under construction.

Love it. Federal participation directly with cities. That's the way it should be.

Those of us concerned with the future should do what we can to convince the Federal Liberals that Action, not more Virtue Signalling, is what the people want. There has never been a better time to rethink how a lot of things get built in this country....including housing.
Forty years of neoliberal privatization has brought us to where we are now. Imagining that more of the same is going to get us to a place where decent housing is a right not a privilege, would be this issues definition of insanity.

We need public housing. We need it affordable....close to good transportation....hopefully in mixed communities where a variety of units create the possibility of real community.......places where we can grow up, afford a starter home, raise a family, retire and live out our golden years relatively close to our children and grandchildren.

I know. It's an old fashioned idea. We'd be far happier as a nation, and far less given to foaming at the mouth hatred, if we had it. A lot of what is pushing us now is the isolation, the unaffordability and the utter lonliness of the neoliberal lack of good choices many face.

Together, we could fix that. But not if we rely on 'developers' out to make a bundle. The last few decades should have convinced us that simply leads to increased homelessness, rent gouging and despair.

And I haven't even factored in the growing problems of heat and extreme weather.