Greenbelt Land Grab Protest

What do you do between elections if the government is not performing? Hold a protest, a march, a rally are the only civilized options.

Recent revelations about the provincial government’s actions to unprotect large swaths of land from the Greenbelt in order to build housing on that land and the role of bureaucrats, politicians and developers has many people angry and some people in Orillia are planning a protest rally at MPP Jill Dunlop’s constituency office at 575 West Street South (Willow Court Commercial Plaza at the Highway 12 Bypass).

It’s organized by a group called Orillia for Democracy to happen Monday, August 14 from 7 to 8 p.m.

John Winchester

“This rally was born out of the necessity to call out this government, for the corrupt manner in which the Greenbelt lands have been approved for development. And it’s certainly not the first time that Ford and his cabinet have broken promises,” said organizer John Winchester.

The idea it was time to protest came with the release of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt.

“When Bonnie Lysyk’s report was released on Wednesday (last week) and I watched the CP24 coverage of it and she made it very clear the entire process was anything but transparent; with direct ties to Steve Clark, the housing minister’s chief of staff. So the question is, did Steve Clark know what went on, and if so, why did he allow it? And if he didn’t know what went on, then clearly he’s incompetent,” Winchester said.

Orillia for Democracy is not just a Facebook group with more than 400 members. They have organized several rallies, and worked with or supported rallies other groups like Stop Sprawl Orillia, the Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Monday’s rally has a list of speakers including:

  • Jeff Monague (former Chief Beausoleil First Nation)
  • Madeleine Fournier (Stop Sprawl Orillia)
  • Aaron Cayden Hiltz (past candidate Simcoe North Liberal Party)
  • Elizabeth Van Houtte (past candidate Simcoe North NDP)
  • Jacob Kearey Moreland (co-founder, Orillia for Democracy)
  • Margaret Prophet (executive director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition)

Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop is also invited to speak.

“There has not been a rally at Jill’s office where we haven’t invited Jill,” said Winchester.

“We’re not here to support any particular party, we’re here to basically stand up for democracy,” Winchester said. “We have members of the People’s Party of Canada, members of the Conservative Party, the Greens, Liberals and members of the NDP.”

“The whole goal is try to be inclusive.  We’re non-partisan in the sense we don’t just focus on one party. We will criticize any party if it’s justifiable, and all three levels of government.”

With this rally, the intent is to express displeasure and seek change over a matter many people view as backhanded and undemocratic.

“I could care less which party had done this. This is not above board and all people regardless of their political stripes should be ticked off about this because it was not done properly,” said Winchester.

“He (Premier Doug Ford) claimed he was not going to touch the Greenbelt., and he claimed that time and time again. Then last November he said they were going to go ahead with building on the Greenbelt, and Bonnie Lysic’s auditor general report made it very clear the process they went through was anything but transparent. The word corruption cannot be avoided.”

“Even Ford, even Clark are not denying that. They are trying to put out the fire by saying they agree with 14 of 15 recommendations, but the ultimate thing is they are saying, “we’re going to go ahead,””


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