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Former Ajax mayor Steve Parish slams regional council’s decision on development lands

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

As a retired mayor and regional councillor, I have made it a practise to refrain from commenting on current Durham municipal issues. However, I am impelled to make an exception to this rule on the matter of Durham council ‘s recent decision to excessively and unnecessarily expand the amount of land for urbanization.

In making this decision, the majority of regional councillors made the following fundamental mistakes:           

1) They ignored the overwhelming opinion of their constituents that little or no further land was needed despite soliciting their views.                  

2) They ignored the advice of their own professional planning staff, who recommended a much smaller amount of new urban land than ultimately approved.                               

3) They adopted wholesale the highly biased and profit-driven advice of BILD, the local and provincial representative of the development industry.                                                     

4) And in doing this they threw open the door to the elimination of prime agricultural land and the destruction of essential environmental features such as the headwaters of Carruthers Creek.                                                          

Do we need more housing? Yes. Is Durham going to continue to grow? Yes. But the evidence was and is that Durham already had enough designated land to satisfy this growth to 2051.

And the statement by some politicians that all land outside the Greenbelt is just in the queue for future urbanization is simply wrong and terribly short-sighted. Prime farmland and crucial environmental features should be in a separate queue for protection by inclusion in the Greenbelt. Durham politicians who take their instructions from the development industry and not the people who elected them while ignoring their taxpayer-paid professional staff are not worthy of the important positions that they hold.

This is a municipal election year. Ask the incumbent who wants your vote how they voted on sprawl. And ask them to tell you how much campaign funding they get from the development industry. And demand that they show you their financial statement from the 2018 election to verify their answer.

The stakes are very high and we all have a responsibility to shape and enhance the community we call home. A majority of Durham councillors have let us down and need to be replaced by people focused on the public interest and not vested private interests.

Steve Parish is the former, longtime mayor of the Town of Ajax.

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