‘Clueless’ Ford government abandoning agriculture
Feature image Alexis Wright/The Pointer

‘Clueless’ Ford government abandoning agriculture

With 50 percent of Canada’s Class 1 soils, Ontario supports a vibrant agri-food sector which grows over 200 commodities— 65 percent of which are consumed here, generates 720,000 jobs (1 in 10 workers in Ontario) and $46 billion in annual GDP. It is one of the top economic sectors and poised for significant growth in response to climate change, food security and population growth—if properly managed. 

Yet the Premier seemingly ignores all these facts with his musings that our farmland is merely vacant land awaiting development, that what he sees are merely “fields of weeds”, or by his misinformed justification for converting tens of thousands of hectares to urban sprawl because Ontario is a huge province—as the reality is over 90 percent of it is incapable of supporting agriculture.

These musings also ignore the fact that Ontario has lost over 40 percent of its farmland—including 500,000 acres between 2016-2021 or 319 acres a day—primarily from urban sprawl and infrastructure like highways. With about 11 million acres of farmland, this trend means Ontario would lose its remaining farmland within 100 years. While seemingly inconceivable, the Ford government—whether uninformed, careless or ideologically misdirected, is accelerating this loss with constant, dramatic dismantling of our agricultural protection policies— solely on the misinformed premise that we need to convert even more farmland for housing—a position specifically dismissed by its own Housing Task Force and numerous municipal and non-profit sector reports.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Most recently (April 2023), the Government proposed to allow three residential lots to be severed from every farm in Ontario through its review of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and repeal of the Growth Plan for the Golden Horseshoe—a harebrained proposition prompting the agricultural sector to label the government “clueless”. Thankfully, the combined push back from farm and commodity organizations has seemingly forced the government to abandon the three additional lot proposal. However, there is much still at stake as weakening of the PPS and repeal of the Growth Plan further harm the protection of Ontario’s agricultural land.

Indeed, not content with removing land from the Greenbelt including  — unbelievably – some of the last remaining tender fruit lands in Niagara, repealing the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Protection Act (while Vancouver lauds its Agricultural Land Reserve) and severely weakening the Growth Plan’s intensification and density targets back in 2020—which led to another 60,000 acres of farmland in the Greater Toronto Area being approved for urban use over the past year—the proposed repeal of the Growth Plan removes these targets entirely. These targets were expressly designed to protect farmland by directing more growth to existing built up areas and to ensure more efficient use of farmland that had been converted for urban use.

The proposed repeal of the Growth Plan would now allow residential subdivisions throughout the countryside where they have been banned for almost 20 years. It would also abolish the Agricultural System mapping and policies for the region – one of the major recommendations implemented in the Growth Plan, 2017 following its intensive review.

Requirements for municipalities across Ontario to undertake comprehensive analyses to justify urban expansion are being jettisoned. The removal of land use planning authorities from regional governments and downloading of these responsibilities to hundreds of local municipalities will lead to un-coordinated and unrealistically high population and growth forecasting unnecessarily converting even more farmland. 

Amending the time horizon for urban land from “up to” to “at least” 25 years removes any maximum, leading to more unnecessary loss of farmland—locking us in to the government’s regressive pattern of sprawl while usurping the ability of future generations to make their own decisions on urban growth and farmland protection.

Regulating the conversion of farmland to urban use through maximum planning horizons, restricting non-agricultural uses, appropriate growth forecasting and rigorous justification analysis for urban expansion have been the hallmark of Ontario’s farmland protection laws and policies for the last 50 years—while still leading to unsustainable loss of farmland. 

The systematic dismantling of this framework in the face of the irrefutable evidence revealing the need to strengthen, not weaken, farmland protection further demonstrates this government’s failure in understanding and protecting Ontario’s world class farmland and agri-food sector.


Victor Doyle is the former provincial Manager of Planning for Central Ontario and Lead Planner of the Greenbelt Plan

At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you

Submit a correction about this story