"The corruption around this is huge': Greenbelt Promise Caledon rallies in Orangeville

As a group of protesters shook signs and walked up and down Broadway in front of Orangeville’s MPP’s office, passing cars honked in support of their calls for accountability in the ongoing Greenbelt development plan.

Greenbelt Promise Caledon organized the Sept. 8 rally outside the office of Sylvia Jones, MPP for Dufferin-Caledon riding, to coincide with similar “Hands off the Greenbelt” events being organized by Environmental Defence. The rallies were held to bring attention to a special report released from Ontario’s auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, stating Premier Doug Ford’s decision to open up 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land for development was in the best interest of developers and not people.

“Although the government met the requirement of not reducing the total area of the Greenbelt, as required in the Greenbelt Act, 2005, we determined that the way the government assessed and selected lands for removal from and addition to the Greenbelt was not publicly transparent, objective or well-informed, and was inconsistent with the vision, goals and processes of the Greenbelt Plan, as well as previous amendments to the Greenbelt boundary,” the report reads.

One of the Orangeville rally’s organizers, Sharon Sommerville, said they wanted to take advantage of this new information and strike while the iron was hot.

“It's really clear that in addition to doing enormous environmental damage for generations, the corruption around this is huge … we know that they have acted against the interests of Ontarians,” Sommerville said.

Jones’ office did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, Ontario’s housing minister Steve Clark resigned over the Greenbelt deal, following the resignation of his chief of staff, Ryan Amato, in late August.

Susan Radojevic found out about the rally from her neighbour. “She texted me this morning and told me this protest was happening and asked if I would like to come, I said ‘you betcha’,” Radojevic said.

The protest, which started around 12:30 p.m., lasted about an hour.

“The honking of the horns really tells us that there is a big interest in this, that people are not complacent, and they won't take this,” Radojevic said. “It's just not the right decision that was made and it really will impact everything.”

Another rally attendee, Betty de Groot, said everyone was very positive while coming together for a good cause.

“I think it’s really great knowing how much people care about the Greenbelt,” de Groot said.

Sommerville and her team are planning on forming another rally in the coming months and encourage people to sign petitions when they can.

“We will continue to write letters to the editor. We will continue to talk to friends and neighbours to keep this issue alive,” Sommerville said. “Right now, it is about keeping the issue alive and doing public education about why this is so wrong and we're going to continue to do that.”

Rebecca Weston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner