I don’t Really want to be Here

I don’t really want to be here. Where am I actually? In the dark. I’m either crying in the dark or crying out from the dark. Not sure, but I feel alone, crying or crying out, whatever it is. I’m either despondent or angry. But when you’re alone you’re really neither despondent or angry because you’re alone. No emotion matters, doesn’t count, won’t go anywhere because no one else is around to know.

I’m not that alone. A lot of others feel just like me, I know, but none of us is out in the streets protesting Premier Doug Ford and his gaggle of bobbleheads who are riding rough-shod over the environment in a long list of rough-shod actions taken since being elected, actions that seem more and more to be for personal gain of themselves and friends. Why I call them bobble heads is because at the same time they are telling us how concerned they are for the province, they act in self-interest. OK, I guess I’m angry more than despondent having called them bobbleheads. And I know: insulting Mr. Ford and his colleagues is not helpful.

Protesting would be helpful if all of us were there in the street, but we aren’t. We hear the news of Bill 220 and the mass resignations. yet the streets are empty. Well, some people take action. Resigned. Seven people sitting on the government Greenbelt Council, a part of the environmental protection and oversight of the province, resigned publicly in protest over Bill 220 and Schedule 6 and over the ministry over-riding all their decisions, as it turns out, that favour developers who financially contributed to the Progressive Conservative party. But I don’t see any of my neighbours out in the streets abhorred by this.

The Greenbelt Council is an expert panel that guards the vulnerable area called the Greenbelt that services the major urban centres of southern Ontario. The Greenbelt Council is part of a network of environmental agencies established over 70 years ago in recognition that managing the provincial waterways, floodplains and wetlands protected the province from flooding and from destroying the source of freshwater for millions of people. Seventy years ago uncontrolled development lead to disastrous “drought, deforestation, erosion and flooding” and which led to establishing environmental panels and agencies to guard the environmental interests of the citizens, well, actually, their environmental entitlement and rights. (McIntosh) No small matter for the citizenry, but one ditched by this Doug Ford political party in favour of doing whatever Doug Ford and cohorts want done. With absolutely no citizen oversight.

More than half the Greenbelt Council of experts resigned because the latest move by the provincial government in a series of moves begun immediately after assuming office, is the Victory Lap for the Conservative party. The elected Minister of Municipal Affairs, not an expert in water management, is able to override all the councils and committees of environmental experts by using the Minister’s Zoning Order. Originally the design of that order was to deal with highly critical emergency situations where immediate action was required. Now Minister Clark is using this exceptional power, along with new legislation, to override the concerns and decisions of municipal government, environmental protection groups, research bodies, and local communities to authorize whatever development he pleases. He has carte blanche, his decisions independent of everyone but himself. He has assumed all the decision making power for himself alone and is able to disregard all other input.

In fact, it’s been discovered, at least half of the Minister’s sole approvals so far have gone to developers who are contributors to his political party. He’s agreeing for his friends to pave over three wetlands in Vaughn, pave over the Lower Duffin Creek Wetlands, develop the East Humber Wetlands, build over vital farmland in Whitchurch-Stouville and Markham… 50 at least, so far. This measure, use of the Minister’s Zoning Order, originally designed for exceptional emergencies is used as a matter of course. (Gray) Exactly what Mr. Trump did.

Minister Clark was elected with the promise to his constituents to get business investing in Ontario. The only factor he highlighted in his election campaign literature in the sustainability of his community was the creation of jobs through investment. Clearly business investment, that is investment for profit of the business, can be at any cost, even if the investment seriously damages the future water source for millions of Ontarians. Yea! Got to get that hotel built near the fragile river! Go ahead and build it says the minister. It’s good for business he points out. Oh, yes, my friends’ business.

The actions of the provincial Conservative government shows what economics means for them: they cut funds for educational institutions, for long-term care homes ($34 million and a major factor they are so vulnerable to Covid), and for all kinds of social services. One of the first acts was to eliminate safe injection sites. Why, they felt, should Ontarians pay for people who have ruined their own lives with drugs. Doug Ford, apparently a former drug dealer himself, (The Globe & Mail, Globe Investigation.)and his political cohorts call it finding cost efficiencies. They enact all these measures ignoring expert advice and evidence, with what has to be their assumption that they know better. This latest Schedule 6 of Bill 229 overriding all environmental expert boards and agencies is only the latest example.

And it’s increasingly clear that promoting business means making it easier for already wealthy developers to develop more properties without concern for the wishes or interests of local communities or the permanent impacts on the quality of life for future Ontarians.

When I say I don’t want to be here, I mean two things. One, I don’t want to be writing about this.

My focus for the blog is to explore how we might discover our wholeness of spirit and sense our deeper humanity through the way we see life. I’m not practiced and learned in fighting for social justice and democratic values. I believe in them. I support those who are practiced and learned and spend their life working hard to make society better through their skills at research, negotiation, protest, advocacy. I try to do my best for the common good with my limited skills and perspective. But when I see the experts resigning, a last ditch effort clearly, then I feel I have to do something. I have to write this blog at least. And let you know. Start a conversation.

But I’m not good at this, not good at selling myself and my ideas. I write pieces that are far too long for anyone to read especially on a phone. And then, as I’m doing now, writing about something I don’t know. I’m assuming too much for myself. But my default is to write. So I have to write, but this is not what I should be writing about.

I just don’t like it when self-interest, as obviously I’m witnessing with Doug Ford’s leadership. I see him using his majority to sneak in legislature in omnibus bills such as last August,buried in a bill, Mr. Ford legislated himself Covid emergency powers for two whole years. He’s legislated his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to override citizen rights to environmental protection, sneaking it through during Covid, doing it without third reading in the legislature, all kinds of punitive measures…well I don’t like that.

I don’t like people who say one thing and do another. Here’s what Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing claims for himself in a sanitized self-promoting Wikipedia article: “In January 2019, Clark proposed changes to the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan. The changes put an emphasis on transit-oriented development while allowing municipalities and developers to work together to build communities that address local needs and regional priorities, while maintaining protections for the Greenbelt agricultural lands, the agri-food sector, and natural heritage systems.” Sure! Transit oriented development. He wants to put a highway through the Greenbelt; he lets developers build in environmentally sensitive areas without consideration for the access roads. Sure! Work together to build communities; he refuses to listen to the communities or respect their decisions. And what’s the deal he offers for protection of the Greenbelt agricultural lands, but that developers pay cash compensation. He devised a little system where developers pay a financial contribution in exchange for the fact their development has destroyed endangered species. Really. Yes. That’s the brilliant deal. What great foresight of a great minister for municipal affairs.

The second reason for me not really wanting to be here is not just about having to write on this topic outside my skill set, but as well, that I don’t really want to be here in Ontario. I don’t really want to live in a province, live among my collective citizenry who voted in Doug Ford and his cohorts as a majority government. I don’t feel I belong here. Like Crombie, all I feel I can do is throw up my hands in the air and resign. Get out of here. I don’t feel I belong in a place that values as its leadership, over and over, again and again, governments like this one. I don’t really want to be in a province that in turn punishes leadership that advocates progressive policies on the environment and the social contract and elects parties that promote the self-interest of business and decries the expense of education, health, the social safety net and environmental sustainability.

It’s not as if the Progressive Conservative party fooled people to claim office. I live in a province that got exactly the government it elected. While there are others who share my points of view about governance approach, that’s not the governance the people of Ontario elected. They elected a government that offered no policy platform during the election, a party that promised a ‘buck a beer,’ a party that was going to make sure your electric bill didn’t increase even slightly. I live in a province where essentially a few dollars a year extra cost to well-paid people for the hydro sustainability initiatives is worse for them than being on the brink of environmental destruction as we are facing. They voted against sustainable environment initiatives and voted against a minimal increase in hydro costs of a few cents, far less per month than what they spend each day on a their large coffee and glazed doughnut at the drive-in window. Ontarians knew the kind of person and the level of competence of Doug Ford from his days as Toronto Councillor. No surprises for what we got out of this premier. And he was elected anyway, the buck-a-beer premier, in the buck-a-beer province, I guess. Not my province.

Not even David Crombie can fight this. He threw up his hands in despair. Six others followed him with resignations. But then, none of us, none of us ordinary people, hearing about the protest of these hard-working experts acting on our behalf, none of us have made any protest. Well, I haven’t. None of my neighbours are up in arms, angry, chatting up each other about this deplorable situation. Couldn’t care less it seems. Paving over the wetlands will just be another item on the checklist of things not done right. So long as we’re able to carry on today like we did yesterday, then what matter the future. What matter for no-matter-what, the politicians will be honoured. Streets named after them. They’ll ensure that with their sanitized, self-serving Wikipedia profiles, and all the other media they manage. And we let them have their day. Go ahead. I’m not saying anything. Today is just like yesterday for me. I’m fine. Don’t bother me with the future.

Doth I protest too much? Am I too loud, insulting, obnoxious, insulting? I’m not good at this, not good at trusting the long game, at being an eternal optimist, at working patiently and diligently. I just see what I read and it bothers me. Do I take it all too seriously? Is it really not so much a big deal, I’m just ignorant, will take care of itself. Should I not just concentrate on my writing about the inner journey, poetically imagining the adumbrations of this short life? Let the young ones sort it out. I’ll be gone, as will Doug Ford when all this really matters; when it’s way too late. Reg, don’t upset people with your complaint, your abhorence. Let the people who know, the people with some clout carry on. I’m no Uma. For sure. Go back into the dark. Stop. You don’t need to do this.

I’m in the dark because I’m helpless, sick of having to fight politicians speaking so nobly of how they are making a better society when their only strategy is to enact legislation behind our backs, as the conservatives have done. When the conservative policies have gone against the wishes and choices of municipal communities and governments, instead of listening and cooperating with the protesting municipal communities and governments, the conservatives threatened the use of the constitutional not-withstanding clause. Or as now, the conservative government legislates outright power to themselves, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, a man with a general B.A. who’s been in politics from age 22. He does politics well, for himself, quite good at it, but knows nothing about science and sustainability and watersheds, yet won’t listen to people who do. Instead he gives licence to his developer friends to do as they wish, pave over wetlands providing they give financial compensation for destroying endangered species. That’s apparently good business, getting the economy going, protecting jobs. That’s good government, apparently the government we wanted for ourselves. We got what we wanted. I don’t really want to be here. I’m sick of it. Doug Ford won the election fair and square, winning a majority. The fair leader elected as best to govern them, chosen as a fine leader by my fellow citizens. Why would I want to be here?

Help me out because I’m helpless; living in a sophisticated city in a rich country where so many are highly educated, have such a good life, but that same province I live in elected this kind of government, the same kind of government we have elected over and over again. They keep coming back with the same record of gouging our wonderful province’s potential, doing all they can to promote the goals of wealthy friendly developers. That’s it really. Premier Mike Harris sold off the 407 highway for a $3.1 billion fire sale price so he could say he balanced the budget and with that Ontarians gave up an asset to private interest that is now worth $30 billion and making money for a few private investors, friendly investors, instead of year in and year out making money year for the people of Ontario. Acclaimed and well-loved premier by the citizenry. The self-serving politicians keep coming back and running our government, over and over, because we elect them. They keep getting chosen by my fellow citizens. Sure I’ve done well here, well enough. That’s because it’s a rich province with a rich history and I’m benefiting, but what future will Ontario have if we elect a government that pillages the provinces wealth over and over, with no thought or care for the future, a party that despises experts, despises transparency, despises the common good, despises the social safety net, despises any effort for cooperation, discussion, debate, research, thoughtfulness…….I don’t belong here. I don’t really want to be here.

McIntosh, E. Seven Members of Doug Ford’s Greenbelt Council Resign After Conservation Authority Changes. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/12/06/news/seven-members-doug-fords-greenbelt-council-resign-conservation-authority-changes

CBC News. 6 Members of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council join Crombie and resign, citing proposed new rules.https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/david-crombie-ontario-environment-1.5830385

CBC News. Province refuses to kill controversial legislation. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-greenbelt-latest-1.5830891

The Toronto Star. Doug Ford government defends conservation authority changes. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/12/07/doug-ford-government-defends-conservation-authority-changes-in-wake-of-mass-greenbelt-council-resignations.html

inside Ottawa Valley. Candidate Profile: Steve Clark. https://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/8635684-candidate-profile-steve-clark-progressive-conservative-leeds-grenville-thousand-islands-and-rideau-lakes/

Wikipedia. Steve Clark (Politician) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Clark_(politician)

The Globe & Mail. Ontario government under fire over weakening conservation authorities. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-government-under-fire-over-weakening-conservation-authorities/

Upper Canada District School Board. Open Letter to Steve Clark, MPP. http://www.ucdsb.on.ca/u_c_d_s_b_news/archived_news/2018-2019/open_letter_to_steve_clark__m_p_p

CTV News. Former federal cabinet minister leaves Ontario role over proposed environmental legislation. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/former-federal-cabinet-minister-leaves-ontario-role-over-proposed-environment-laws-1.5219000

The Globe & Mail. Globe Investigation: The Ford family’s history with drug dealing. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/globe-investigation-the-ford-familys-history-with-drug-dealing/article12153014/

Sierkieska, A. Worst deal ever? https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/worst-deal-ever-the-407-is-worth-30-b-today-ontario-sold-it-for-31-b-in-1998-181642680.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNhLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFMDmc-C1MKtSQit8fFxL_ZtRAbIRyduAdSRQl852fKQKC7mbI6_Yto83Uyses04_UukJnjRCezu5rcMZZvmsM49_hpciA042FjTSb7hWaUuBxvuIhwPWJYNCfl13h0Nb2NybKMbDnuyQloXtoN2YZFg-wQ4-RVlKPZMV8W7XvXH