Housing Minister Steve Clark is defending the awards that he, Premier Doug Ford, and PC MPPs Stephen Crawford and Effie Triantafilopoulos accepted from Oakville Mayor Rob Burton this week for their role in helping prevent a golf course from being redeveloped into more than 3,000 housing units, despite the PC’s insistence that Ontario needs more housing supply to counter a mounting affordability crisis.
Clark, Ford and the PC’s two Oakville members appeared at a ceremony Monday to receive “Key to the Town Award plaques” from Mayor Burton, who thanked them “for listening to the people.”
That was a nod to residents groups who won a three-year fight to halt the proposed construction of nine apartment buildings in the heart of Oakville, which would have meant the Glen Abbey Golf Course being redeveloped.
Clark was not eager to discuss the award when asked about it yesterday by Queen’s Park Today, saying it was mostly the doing of Crawford and Triantafilopoulos.
“They’ve done a tremendous job representing their constituency, the mayor and the council,” said Clark. “If you had been [at the awards ceremony], you would have heard my comments that I gave all the credit to the two local MPPs.”
That said, it was Clark who reached out to the owner of the golf course, ClubLink, last year and convinced it to cancel plans to redevelop the course and continue operating it instead. The owner had been ready to fight efforts by the province and the City of Oakville to halt the project at the Ontario Land Tribunal until speaking with Clark.
“I am incredibly thankful to ClubLink for its co-operation,” said Clark in a statement last July announcing the development project was cancelled.
In a statement to Queen’s Park Today, Crawford noted that he campaigned on saving Glen Abbey in the runup to the 2018 election.
“A significant reason to stop development, as the residents clearly stated, [is] this is not an area for growth,” he said, adding that Oakville’s official plan has never zoned the golf course for housing.
The suburb has been among the most vocally opposed to densification recommendations made by Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force, with its city council coming out in opposition to them before the official report was even made public.
“This decision to stop development respects the town’s planning. Affordable housing has already been built in North Oakville since 2018,” said Crawford. “Housing supply is increasing in areas that the town has selected.”
M.A.D. about Millcroft Greens
Glen Abbey is not the only golf course PC MPPs are pushing to save from being turned into new homes.
Triantafilopoulos has tabled six petitions in the legislature since last June calling on the province to intervene and stop a plan for parcels of Millcroft Greens in North Burlington to be converted into about 230 units of housing by reshaping its 18-hole course.
“We call on the city of Burlington, the region of Halton and the province of Ontario to work together to preserve the Millcroft golf course lands as green space for the people of the community and beyond,” she told the chamber.
Triantafilopoulos most recently tabled a petition on the matter last Wednesday, the same day Clark introduced the PC’s new housing Bill 109, which aims to bolster supply but has been roundly criticized for its half-hearted approach.
That day, Queen’s Park Today asked Clark if government MPPs would be instructed to cease such advocacy.
“I’m not going to suggest to you today that we’re going to take away a member’s right to put a petition in the legislature,” the housing minister said. “We’re going to continue to work with our municipal partners on priority projects that they feel are an important part of our changes.”
I was proud to join @fordnation @MayorRobBurton @stcrawford2 @Effie_ONB and @saveglenabbey today to honour the hard work of the municipality, MPPs, and the local community to protect the Glen Abbey golf course, as an important piece of Oakville's cultural heritage. pic.twitter.com/Lzcr4UzNWd
— Steve Clark (@SteveClarkPC) April 5, 2022
The effort to frame Glen Abbey as a cultural heritage site was spearheaded by local residents’ organizations such as We Love Oakville, whose president Doug McKirgan told Queen’s Park Today the local city council had lobbied Clark to save the course, as did the two local MPPs.
“Our MPPs worked very hard, they truly were on the side of the locals,” said McKirgan.
McKirgan argues housing efforts in the city should focus on densification in pre-existing neighbourhoods, rather than paving over irreplaceable green spaces.
This sentiment is echoed by a group calling itself Millcroft Against Development, or M.A.D., which has said it was inspired by the Glen Abbey activism and has been delivering stacks of petitions for Triantafilopoulos to table.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner seemed to agree that Oakville was right to want to protect heritage green spaces but said Clark hasn’t been consistent in his approach.
“Maybe he should get an opposite award for all the ways he’s promoted development on sensitive environmental lands,” he said in response to Queen’s Park Today.
Liberal house leader John Fraser said the situation shows the government’s commitment to housing has been exaggerated.
“I think if you take a look at Bill 109, it is the legislative equivalent of soda crackers. There’s really no nutritional value in that for anyone out there.”
The PCs have also taken heat for rerouting the Bradford Bypass around Silver Lakes Golf and Country Club, which is owned by the parents of Stan Cho, the parliamentary assistant for transportation.