Two opportunities to stand up for democracy

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

As your Independent representative at Queen’s Park, I can truly say with pride that last week was one of the most eventful since my election in 2022. I campaigned on the idea of standing up for democracy and the taxpayer, and I got two opportune moments to do just that last week.

I turned on the heat with my March 6th question to Premier Ford regarding the recent appointment of former Haldimand County mayor Ken Hewitt to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). His appointment coincided with recent questioning in the House concerning the appointments to the judicial system. The Premier dubs these appointments as like-minded.

Let me be clear I have no problem with appointing like-minded appointees—every government does it—however, the appointee must possess certain qualifications. What I take issue with is blatant stacking of the OLT to favour developers.  The Ontario government already had the Greenbelt Scandal with which to deal, and now I suspect they stacked the OLT. I’m not comfortable with that, so I asked if the premier could articulate the skills and qualifications required to be considered an appointee to the tribunal.

Ontario’s Attorney General Doug Downey jumped in and responded to my question in place of Premier Ford.  Rather than detail the qualifications of a prospective appointee, Minister Downey got creative and asked me what would disqualify an appointee. I answered his question by emphasizing that I’d expect the prime qualification would be to uphold the mandate of and believe in the function of the OLT. In contrast to someone who believes in the OLT’s mandate, I informed the House, in February 2022 while mayor, Mr. Hewitt called on this government to dissolve the OLT because it was slowing development. He then proposed a city of 40,000 at the Nanticoke industrial park, and then the Premier appointed him the PC candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk.

As if that wasn’t worrying enough, I reminded the Chamber the OLT is a tribunal meant to protect public good, but it seems to have veered from its original mandate. I explained recently there has been news that a developer friend of the Premier’s planned to build a seasonal cottage development on agricultural land at Lowbanks. The developer was to appear before Haldimand County council in January 2024. It is my understanding the developer opted to take his proposal to the OLT bypassing Haldimand County. 

With all that in mind, I told the House I could only conclude the tribunal has been hijacked.  And clearly, I was not alone in that conclusion because in 2022, The Hamilton Spectator reported the OLT ruled in favour of developers 97 per cent of the time.

The week went simmering along when on March 7th, for International Women’s Day, the government denied Independents (including Liberal, the new Green member and me) the ability to speak in the House commemorating the day.  I’m a champion of women and men and a champion of democracy, and the government’s action was counter-democracy.  I had to take a stand, so I joined with other Independent female MPPs in a press conference denouncing the anti-democratic government actions.  And I can report to you we won the day, the government did the right thing, changed their minds, and allowed the Independents to rise to speak to International Women’s Day if they so desired.

You voted for me to speak. And speak I did.  I told the press that this time it was International Women’s Day, next time it could be something else the government prefers not to hear from anyone except themselves. Sadly, from where I sit authoritarian attitudes are alive and well. I campaigned on the idea of standing up for democracy.  And I will continue to shed light on behaviours that contravene the principals of freedom. 

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk