Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Bob Fowler. I’m the Secretary of the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance or OPERA in shorthand. We’re a provincial coalition of landowner associations operating since 1994 under a common mandate “to protect, and entrench in law, the rights and responsibilities of private landowners against arbitrary decisions of government”.
In our opinion, its difficult to imagine a government decision more arbitrary than the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt legislation now being proposed and, indeed, scheduled for enactment within the next two weeks. Like the views of most citizens protesting Greenbelt manipulation of private property by regulation without compensation, OPERA’s concerns in this matter, expressed over the past year, have been largely ignored.
Consequently, several weeks ago we announced at a Greenbelt public meeting that a detailed OPERA Discussion Paper would be submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing later this month. And would afterwards be widely circulated across Ontario. We’re now pleased to report that analysis, created at our request by Dr. James White from his extensive land use files and personal field experience, has today been filed with MAH Minister Gerretsen.
A limited number of copies of that comprehensive Paper are available at this meeting tonight and additional copies can be later provided on request. Member organizations of the OPERA coalition are identified in this Paper as is a broad overview of the Greenbelt concept, history, objectives and consequences, both intended and unintended. Accordingly, we will spare you its line-by-line repetition tonight, instead urging our audience to read it carefully even if the Ontario government doesn’t.
In deference to many other speakers at the microphones this evening, our further and very brief remarks focus on only 2 broad concerns. The first of these deals with the failure of any Queen’s Park regime to ever make public the precise total number of acres of private property that the Ontario government has so far “identified” as “provincially significant”. And arranged, by hook or by crook, to have those lands so “designated”, usually without advance knowledge or consent of its legal owners whose assets have thus been encumbered with what amounts to a unilateral government lien.
We speak tonight of almost 2 million acres, much of it privately owned, that government bureaucrats and urban land planners would transfer to state control under Greenbelt legislation. I suggest to you, ladies and gentlemen, those 2 million acres represent a mere fraction of privately owned rural land that’s been placed under provincial government surveillance over the past 25 years in this province. Want more information? Ask your local MPP to get a definitive answer in the Ontario legislature to the question of total private land under provincial “identification” and “designation”.
Our second concern centres on the sheer number, extent and complexity of global, federal and provincial statutes that impact the principle, if not the philosophy, of rural land ownership in Ontario. The United Nations publicly decreed, in 1976, that private ownership of land contributes to social injustice. Precisely the same gospel, incidentally, by which Soviet Russia once slaughtered a whole generation of small landowners. Hence, under a global treaty called the Convention for Biological Diversity that Canada signed in 1992 without public or parliamentary debate, the entire Niagara Escarpment and Long Point Conservation Area and, just 3 weeks ago, the eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay, are now labeled UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Conservation Organization) Biosphere Reserves.
What, we might ask, is a Biosphere Reserve? According to U.N. Agenda 21, they’re chunks of somebody else’s real estate where wildlife and natural topography shall be protected and human habitation and development limited by statute. Are Biosphere Reserve designations in Ontario ever distinguished in advance by legislative debate or public hearings of necessity? Are you kidding? This, after all, is New Age democracy at work!
After U.N. global governance without the consent of the governed, we come to Canada’s very own federal Species at Risk Act. This 1700-page opus fails to mention one prime candidate for species extinction – the rural landowner. Here we find government dictates that recognize the critical importance of our natural world at the sole expense of one species – the rural landowner. Here we find draconian penalties for alleged violation of convoluted regulations primarily targeted on one class of potential offender – the rural landowner.
All this PLUS Ontario’s very own species at risk legislation. Where a government sub-agency threatens up to a $50,000. 00 fine AND a year in the slammer for anyone convicted of approaching a Loggerhead Shrike nest without a permit. Since Shrike habitat includes thorn trees, any unsuspecting Ontario farmer with a nuisance crop of thorn trees may be at considerable risk! And, just in case some landowners might somehow fall through the regulatory cracks, we have in Ontario no end of other government decrees that impact rural land use. Here private property can be “identified” and eventually “designated” as Adjacent, Area of Natural & Scientific Interest, Endangered, Environmental, Escarpment, Heritage, Moraine, Wetlands, Wildlands &, under a new Greenbelt label, Protected Countryside. Are the legal owners of these endlessly regulated assets compensated for loss of equity, income, security, life style, golden retirement or peace of mind? Come on, folks! Queen’s Park is only trying to “serve the public good” here. Which we now know is a purpose and a principle that excludes by definition & certainly by regulation, Ontario citizens who own, or think they own, rural land in this province.
We close with a condensed rendition of a recent speech in Canada’s Parliament:
“The savage expropriation that took place north of Montreal 25 years ago in Mirabel is not only a Quebec issue. All Canadians, especially rural Canadians, Canadian farmers, understand that a person’s home or land is a sacred refuge where families grow, where livelihoods are made, where dreams are pursued, and where a sense of community is developed. The government of Canada should put an end once and for all to a saga which dishonours our country and our government”
Do those remarks apply equally well to the Greenbelt saga in Ontario & the provincial government’s blatant disregard for the lives and property and common law rights of rural landowners? YOU be the judge.