4. At last, let us address perhaps the best joke of all, Schedule F, the “Open Space Network” (another faddist neologism, “open space”: “open space” is one that is about to be closed in with high-rises and intensification…):
It is a naked irony that what started this entire process – the desire of Concord West residents to retain and protect their traditional greenspace, and avert the planning disaster of building a tripartite hub on this land – is also bypassed de facto, as this map of green spaces that are so glibly called “open” shows no trace, in green, of this very greenspace… Perhaps it has confused this Committee, but not us.
One wonders whether the wording (“open”) should make us laugh or cry. Look at this Schedule F – do you see the greenspace marked in green??
No, because, following the directive of the master planners and bureaucrats in the provincial Ministry of Transportation, the only thing to be saved in that greenspace is that tiny woodlot that looks like a square and is separated from the rest of the greenspace by the hypothetical trajectory of the transitway that may never be…
Nowhere in the proposed Draft is there even a mention that this greenspace is part of the Upper West Don river subwatershed, and yet it is clearly marked as part of “Existing Natural Cover” of the “Terrestrial Natural Heritage System” in the Don River Watershed Plan, 2009 (p. 148). Now read through sections 5.2 and 5.3 of the present Draft, and nothing of this sort is anywhere to be seen – only generalities. And under Parkland Dedication, section 5.4, while cash-in-lieu for parkland is considered, the parkland that is itemized (“Neighbourhood Park, Urban Square or other usable accessible open space” – that euphemism again) does not include what matters to the present residents of the Concord West and Glen Shields communities: the greenspace that is natural heritage of the West Don subwatershed. In other words, let’s destroy what exists because these tame parkland substitutes are now the order of the day.
We’re also told the Concord West greenspace belongs to the Ministry of Infrastructure and is still allocated to the Ministry of Transportation for the eventual transitway station, and thus that the City has no say about the land or its future uses. What, then, to think of the promises made by members of this Committee to the Concord West community and the residents of Glen Shields, and to all Vaughan residents and Ontarians that signed our two petitions, including the one that our MPP Peter Shurman presented at Queen’s Park?
Surely the City can impart its vision to the Province and the Region, and it can negotiate with both in exchange for that greenspace which was once native land, then common land, then Crown land, and now is in the hands of the Government of Ontario – a government that should listen to our needs and aspirations, but did not, and yet managed to lose over 1.1 billion dollars in two ill-advised gas plants. For what is at stake is who really rules this country – the people, its citizens, or special interests that control State bureaucracies and politicians? And equally at stake is the vision that Vaughan has of itself – is it just an urban desert where its river valleys and ravines are filled with industrial garbage, where only money and power matters, and building high-rises with the sky as a limit is the newfound religion, or a real and vibrant City that residents can live in, breathe in and be proud of?
But maybe you hesitate to ask the Province to do the right thing because you are too afraid of the all-powerful and uncontrollable Metrolinx, and of how taking a stance against it could affect your future political careers? Then, shall we remind you that you are here, as members of this Committee and Vaughan Council, to defend and protect the local interests of those who elected you, including protecting them from higher administrative instances that are only too prone to abuse their powers – and not to follow the orders from the Province, or serve the interests of some ideological party-line regarding intensification and false sustainabilities. For, Councillors and Mayor, this proposed “solution” is simply unsustainable as a plan.
Now, in the same Schedule F, do note what it is that the City will obtain from Liberty Development Corp. in exchange for having allowed what was yesterday agricultural land to become a hyper-intensified “place to grow”: see those light green squares in the north of the Concord Floral development and in the middle of it? One is a recreation park for sports; and it abuts, not the natural greenery, but the GO line… Eminently safe, given all the recent railway disasters. As for the other, well, it is a public square of sorts. These are the environmental contributions exacted by the City – but perhaps we have forgotten the proverbial rooftop “parks” on these towers, like the ones Liberty did at Weston Road and Highway #7; these are the future of “greenery”, if it can be called such. Members of this Committee, you are in danger of contributing to a future that will no longer know what is a natural landscape, and of creating an oppressive city where “greenery” is manicured and off-limits to the very public who supposedly should have enjoyed its benefits. This not to mention the total destruction of natural spaces and their inhabitants, a destruction that is the complement of these planning follies.
Lastly, we’re obliged in this context to remind this Committee that Liberty Development Corp. acquired these lands not only from private sellers, the previous owners of Concord Floral (one of which wrote to Concord West on March 7th, 2011, about the alternative plan proposed by the community: “This is ridiculous. All you NIMBY people sicken me, the Concord Floral Lands are untouchable and you guys are screwed!”), but also from the Province (re. the eastward parcels), from its stock of public land – for which, undoubtedly, the City had to give its consent. It is now time to remind the members of this Committee and of Council that they cannot speak from both sides of their mouths at the same time. Their actions, or inactions, as the case may be, will show where they stand, and whether their words were, after all, just loud fanfare, or promises to be fulfilled by meaningful acts, not charades. Whether, after all, Concord West was just to be “screwed” anyway.
In conclusion, there is no equilibrium between interests, nor proper weighing of consequences, in the present Draft. It is a charade that avoided addressing the problems of the 407 transitway, the tripartite hub and the necessary protection of the Concord West greenspace and community. In our view, you have unnecessarily wasted resources to have private and public planners come up with such a short-sighted and unbalanced proposal. You should nix it, and direct your Planning Department to carry out a feasibility study that really encompasses the vision you have committed to. Just as you should not approve the development proposed by Liberty Development Corp. on the Concord Floral lands. It is excessive in density and intensity of occupation, and no plan for those lands should be approved until you have come to terms with the future of the tripartite hub, the trajectory of the transitway, and the protection of the Concord West greenspace, river valley and Bartley Smith Greenway. It is time for you to act meaningfully, instead of just rubber-stamping the destruction of communities and natural landscapes as if it all meant nothing.
Do justice by this land’s Law and people, and by the natural treasures that no one owns and ours alone is the duty to keep and protect. Do justice by the communities of Concord West, Glen Shields and Beverley Glen – as this proposed Draft reflects an idea of a City they do not want. Be true to your own Declaration of Citizen’s Rights and Responsibilities, whose first article reads: “Every citizen has a right to live, work, and play in a municipality that promotes community safety, health, and wellness, while safeguarding the natural environment”. After all, that is exactly what the residents of three Vaughan communities asked of you, and what you promised them. Protect their communities from the depredations of uncontrolled growth, from the ill effects of an ill-conceived hub and excessive vehicular traffic; find alternative solutions that preserve their health and wellness, and safeguard their natural environment.
And be true to the Preamble of Ontario’s Bill of Rights where, in addition to the rights expressed above, it is also stated: “while the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal [the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of the present and future generations], the people should have means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner”. Note that you cannot protect adequately future generations if you do not protect present ones. This GO Centre planning has not been a fair and square process, let alone a democratic one. It has not been timely, since it has taken already 2 decades only to wind up exactly nowhere with the present Draft, which in effect treads over the rights of our communities and the natural environment that we are trying to protect. It will make a mockery of these flowery words in the declarations of rights of the City and the Province, unless you act to show that these are words that have the substance of action and justice. Show that these words are not abstractions to dupe the people, but effective rights with a concrete sense. Remember and honor your promises, and be reminded of the sage words of your present Mayor, reported on October 30, 2013 in the Vaughan Citizen: “In life we only have our word. Beyond that we have nothing else. When you make a commitment, you have to honor that commitment”.
Do the right thing, for that is what you were elected to do: honor your commitment to Vaughan residents and the residents of Concord West, Glen Shields and Beverley-Glen, no matter how many and whose toes you have to step on. For, in life as in politics, that is all that counts.
CWRA, Executive Committee