Organizing for justice in troubled times

Some think real change is impossible in politics, but I’ve never believed that. With hard work and good timing, breakthroughs can happen.

On September 8, I asked for residents’ help to save the Greenbelt. I noted the disturbing revelations that came from two independent reports which shone a light on disturbing choices benefiting wealthy insiders.

A firestorm of controversy made the Ford government shift. After months of refusal to change course, we got a better answer: the government said it would reverse its choice to remove 15 parcels of Greenbelt land. It was a big win.

In late October, we notched another victory. The Ford government has once again walked back a decision that was poised to benefit insiders. This time, it was about unilateral changes to Ottawa’s urban boundary.

On November 4, 2022, the Ford government overruled a 2020 City Council decision by expanding Ottawa’s municipal boundaries by an additional 654 hectares. Critics alleged this meant urban sprawl at the expense of prime agricultural land.

Thanks to Kate Porter from CBC Ottawa, we also learned that part of Ottawa’s boundary expansion included 1277 Watters Road, prime farmland near Orleans that had recently been purchased by the Verdi Alliance group of concrete companies. The five directors of this company, Porter explained, “donated a combined $12,315 to the Progressive Conservatives in 2021 and 2022.”

People spoke out. Ottawa city councillors (led by Capital Ward’s Shawn Menard) wrote to the auditor general, and I joined MPP Chandra Pasma in doing the same. In the aftermath of the Greenbelt controversy, we insisted a review be taken to scrutinize deals benefitting land speculators with close ties to the government.

And that’s how we got another win in a month that’s been marked with controversy. Under the heat of public pressure, the Ford government reversed course once again. That’s why we can never give up in organizing for justice.

Having said all of that, I am also reminded of our troubled times, often informed by global events. In Israel and Palestine, several weeks of intensive IDF bombings (claiming the lives of over 10,000 Palestinians) in response to the Hamas terror attack on October 7 (that claimed the lives of 1400 Israelis).

I am horrified to think of more innocent civilians who will suffer in the days and weeks to come. As I said in the legislature late last month, I am in contact with residents who are deeply traumatized; some have lost loved ones. I’ve talked to Muslim and Jewish neighbours who don’t feel safe.

So I end by joining those demanding a ceasefire, for the release of all hostages, for a humanitarian aid corridor into Gaza and for the immediate start of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. I made a direct appeal to the prime minister a few weeks ago, and I urge you to do the same.

Join us as we continue to organize for justice in troubled times.

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