The retiring Mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua, last week (10 November) advised members of York Regional Council to play by the rules and reject any proposals for an advertising campaign against Ford’s Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster) which will allow development on the Greenbelt.
This is the same Maurizio Bevilacqua who voted for the adoption of York Region’s Official Plan, redesignating agricultural land in Vaughan to rural and allowing football, tennis courts and other recreational uses on cropland.
Newmarket’s Mayor, John Taylor, had been pressing for an ad campaign to highlight the many flaws in the Bill. He told members the Province expected Newmarket to deliver 12,000 new units while requiring wastewater and sewage to be sent down to Lake Ontario and not up to Lake Simcoe. He said the new infrastructure could take six years to build. Taylor says:
"We have an allocation for 2,000 housing units left until (the sewage servicing infrastructure) is built. So in six years… we’ve built 2,000 of the 12,000 required homes. And then the last two years of the timeline - you have until 2031 to build – we’re supposed to go build 5,000 homes each year to hit this target when we're building 300 now. The math is so bad it's not even remotely realistic."
"They're gonna follow the rules"
I laughed out loud when I heard Bevilacqua, a former MP, tell his colleagues:
“I'm sure they're going to follow the rules in Queen's Park. There are certain things called committees before laws are enacted and they have to go through a public consultation. And if I'm not mistaken I think there are 444 mayors in the province of Ontario and they all have a say on behalf of council to appear in front of such committees.”
When Bevilacqua urged his colleagues to behave in a “diplomatic” and “refined” way, avoiding "confrontation" and using the levers that were available to them, the deadline had already passed for people wishing to make oral presentations to the Bill Committee.
Consulting the public. Don't blink or you'll miss the opportunity
The Legislature ordered the Bill into Committee on 31 October 2022. The Committee (Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy) decided to hold public hearings in Markham on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 (in-person), in Brampton on Thursday, November 10, 2022 (in-person), and in Toronto on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, and Thursday, November 17, 2022. The Committee’s web page tells us:
“Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill 23 are required to register by 6:00 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, November 3, 2022 (Markham and Brampton) and 6:00 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 (Toronto).
Those who do not wish to make an oral presentation but wish to comment on the bill may send a written submission by 7:00 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, November 17, 2022.”
By Thursday of this week it will all be over.
Many of the old conventions which have regulated proceedings in the Legislature have been thrown overboard by Ford. Giving people adequate time to collect their thoughts and comment on major legislative proposals is just one. The use of the notwithstanding clause is a symptom of a deeper problem – believing an election victory gives the Government a mandate to do whatever they like.
The Doctrine of the Mandate
Bevilacqua believes this too:
“This Conservative government just recently received a majority from the province of Ontario and we collectively need to respect that.
And part of that agenda was housing… Now did they address all the issues that we are concerned about? Probably not. But do they have a mandate to govern? Yes they do.”
In his platform for the 2022 Provincial Election Doug Ford never said he would build on the Greenbelt.
So does the doctrine of the mandate now extend to any and every policy proposal whether or not it is included in the Party Platform?
This is not the way our democracy is supposed to work.
If a political party seeking office wants to do something big, bold and significant it should be in the Manifesto.
Doug Ford was caught on camera in 2018 promising to open-up chunks of the Greenbelt for development and then, when the story got out, he pledged he wouldn’t.
In Bevilacqua’s contorted logic, the fact that Ford “telegraphed his intentions” years ago gives him the mandate to do now what he repudiated then.
Personally, I’m all for Taylor’s ad campaign.
The bigger the better.
Gordon Prentice 15 November 2022
Click "read more" below to read Maurizio Bevilacqua's speech
The debate on Bill 23 at York Regional Council on 10 November 2022
I guess this is kind of a surprise but not really because they've been telegraphing this for years (building on the Greenbelt). I think the first time that the present premier got elected he started talking about this. This we've been four years ago. Right.
I can tell you that in the public… their narrative is a very simple one. Right. We're making changes because we want to create more affordable housing. So their messaging is a lot simpler than the one we're trying to create here. And that creates an issue obviously. Right.
I'm sure they're going to follow the rules in Queen's Park. There are certain things called committees before laws are enacted and they have to go through a public consultation. And if I'm not mistaken I think there are 444 mayors in the province of Ontario and they all have a say on behalf of council to appear in front of such committees. And that's going to show how serious each city and town is about making their point.
I don't know if you're getting the picture. 444. That’s long hearings for a few months and that will give time to also negotiate with the government. And it's done in a refined way. You’re not protesting. You are simply appearing in front of a committee where you will get your 10 minutes, 15 minutes whatever the time allocation is. And you multiply that by the over 400 mayors in the province of Ontario and I think by then the government should get a sense of where people stand.
That’s the refined way to do it. You are adhering to the process as it is plus you're getting your points across.
In reference to ad campaigns and what have you, it's all a question of avoiding “confrontation” and being a little bit more diplomatic by using the levers that you have in government and in the process which I think will really actually (deliver) the same message.
Put this into perspective. Right. we're living in an era where the notwithstanding clause was not going to be adhered to. We know the sort of environment that were in. The issue is: how is that being received by the people? Because, ultimately a reminder obviously to all of us, this Conservative government just recently received a majority from the province of Ontario and we collectively need to respect that.
And part of that agenda was housing… Now did they address all the issues that we are concerned about? Probably not. But do they have a mandate to govern? Yes they do.
So let's use the tools that we are given as I cited earlier and make the case for the things we care about. Affordability of housing, Mr Chair, as you know it is not an easy subject. There are market forces. There are government interventions required. It is not as clean cut as we (would) like it to be and if it was so easy then we probably would have solved the problem already. Right.
So I’ve got to appeal to our own kind of logic that, at the end of the day, you play within the system. But make sure that the messages go through. And I look forward to watching those hearings on TV.