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DoFo’s Greenbelt beatdown – the beat goes on!

Left JAB by John Bell

September 24, 2023

If Doug Ford thought his weasel-words mea culpa, and hasty Titanic-deckchairs cabinet shuffle was going to turn off the heat from the Greenbelt scandal, he was wrong.

Within hours of his apology, his Labour Minister, Monte McNaughton resigned from cabinet; indeed, he’s quitting politics after more than 15 years at Queen’s Park. McNaughton was considered by some to be an echo of the old conservative party, and not one of the increasingly far-right ideologues who now call the Tory party home. At one time his name was at the top of the list of potential leaders – in today’s trucker-loving climate he wouldn’t stand a hope.

Those ideologues are furious at McNaughton today, as his exit undermines their FordNation fantasy. “This is treacherous timing,” one PC party insider told Global News. “To do it the day after the premier has a vulnerable news conference.”

But after 5 years in cabinet with Ford’s collection of crooks and creeps, who can blame him for wanting to get out before he gets more shit on his shoes. The private sector awaits.

That makes the 4th cabinet resignation in a month. We suspect more rats are perched on the gunwales even now.

Risk capital without the risk?

All along, we were assured that it was purely coincidental that Ford’s developer buddies just happened to buy up the very lands that he deregulated just months or weeks later.

But the words of Ford’s “apology” had barely faded away, when he began to hint that those speculators would have to be compensated for the profits they would no longer be able to scrape out of Greenbelt development. 

Quizzed by the media if he intended to pay his pals for (checks notes) nothing, a usually blustering Ford mumbled the following: “We’ll make it public, that’s for sure. The minister is working through those details and they’ll be pubic once we … uh … once we find out.”

Stop the bus!

The Greenbelt lands are environmentally important farms, wetlands and moraines that are held in trust for the people of Ontario. They are the watershed for GTA communities from Hamilton to Oshawa. Concerned over unregulated urban sprawl destroying crucial agricultural land, it was proposed by Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty in 2003, and became reality in 2005.

When Ford broke his explicit election promise to protect the Greenbelt, in essence he stole a valuable asset from all of us.

In return for political favours and support, and probably a few paper bags full of cash, he handed our land over to the same billionaire developers who are largely responsible for our housing crisis. 

Ford and the oligarchs who lined up at that fateful “stag and dough” will be quick to tell you that they are disciples of capitalism’s “free market”. Perhaps they need a refresher course in the concept of “risk capital”.

According to the internet site Investopedia: “Risk capital refers to funds allocated to speculative activity and used for high-risk, high-reward investments. Any money or assets that are exposed to a possible loss in value is considered risk capital, but the term is often reserved for those funds earmarked for highly speculative investments.”

Even if you believe that these developers bought up Greenbelt land on the up-and-up (and if you do, seek help), that means they took a big risk with their capital. As the deal with Ford has unraveled, they still own the lands they bought. They are out nothing – unless you count the bags full of clash which of course never existed. Why should they be compensated for houses they haven’t built, because their speculation – their risk – didn’t pan out?

That’s capitalism, baby.

If Ford wants to proceed with paying off his cronies, it is tantamount to an admission of corruption, that they were promised huge profits before the lands were deregulated.

The good news is that, having beat back Ford’s betrayal, people are not likely to sit still for this shifty shit. Even following his performative “apology” and policy reversal, the prevailing response has been “Great, now what about prosecuting the corrupt scum who pulled this scam in the first place.”

Ford and his pals are not out of the protected woods yet.

Do the wrong thing

Since the usually docile press has turned on him, and his ministers are falling like nine-pins, the list of Ford’s allies grows short.

Even his friends at the National Post are pleading with Ford to take one for the neoliberal team. They write: "It’s tough for any political leader to realize when he has become a liability to his party…. It will be difficult for Ford, whose strengths are optimism and confidence, to admit that he has reached his Dalton McGuinty moment." 

But he can always count on Sun “journalist” and tame stenographer Brian Lilley. He sized up the details of the whole Greenbelt scandal, and the corruption that has cost Tory ministers their jobs. With his usual laser sharp precision, Lilley cuts to the central issue: 

“I asked Wynn [hotel owners in Las Vegas] PR department about the flagrant privacy violations for guests that saw two senior members of the Ontario government lose their jobs. So far, the Wynn has not responded. What happens at the Wynn does not stay in Vegas. Is this standard policy for Wynn?”

I suspect the people at Wynn, maybe the same ones who revealed that those senior government officials shared an “opulent” clandestine massage with a Greenbelt speculator, are too busy laughing to respond to the newshound.

Is that the best you got, Brian?

Meanwhile, Ford’s remaining cabinet ministers fanned out to do damage control and defend the boss, and try to change the channel. One of the most senior and experienced is Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Vic is point man for Ford’s beloved “Ring of Fire” project, the plan to grab the mineral rights from Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and hand them over to mining corporations.

Vic is a Tory A-lister.

Which only makes his confused and confusing defence of Ford even more ­– well – confusing. Fideli told reporters: “His motivations were right. But (pause) doing the right thing isn’t always the right thing to do.”

Wadda what! Breaking his promise and selling out to a band of oligarchs is “doing the right thing”? You call that damage control? Did Vic just throw water on a drowning man? If you were looking for a motto for the whole gang of FordNation grifters, "Do the wrong thing" is it. Thanks Vic.

If these are examples of how Ford and his depleted ranks plan to put this issue to bed, we’re in for an entertaining few months ahead. The question remains, how do we organize our response to his setback and drive him and his whole corporate entourage from power.

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