Wilmot is the ‘canary in the coalmine’: NDP Leader Marit Stiles

Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles will be in Wilmot Township on Friday night to host a town hall over the farmland expropriation controversy.

Stiles said the goal of the meeting is to hear from residents in the community and to push for full transparency on what is happening with the possible land expropriation of 770 acres in Wilmot. She said that farmers in Wilmot are being kept in the dark on what is happening and they need to be part of the process.

“This is about Wilmot,” Stiles said. “We are there to listen to Wilmot people, to work with the farmers and the community and get to the bottom of this.”

She alleges that the province is currently in the process of changing the rules so that any land can be expropriated without an environmental assessment. She warns that Wilmot is the “canary in the coal mine” on what is to come if those changes happen.

“We don’t really know why this land is being expropriated…and farmers and people in Wilmot and the whole region are wondering the same thing,” Stiles said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks responded to these allegations: “We are proposing an amendment to provide more certainty to municipalities, provincial ministries and agencies that expropriation is one of the ways they are allowed to acquire property. Proponents would still have to do what they are required to do under other legislation or regulations in order to be able to expropriate, for example under the Expropriations Act.  It would not change the environmental assessment process.”

Last week, Premier Doug Ford said in Kitchener, he was in support of the land assembly by the region. On April 5, the Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region (BESTWR), released a statement in support of the land assembly as well.

Ontario Federation of Agriculture warns that 319 acres of farmland is lost in Ontario every day and has stressed that as one of their main concerns to the NDP leader.

“For every farm that disappears, that’s also somebody’s livelihood, their home, their family and frankly, that’s the food we need to rely on,” Stiles said. “It’s a really important part of our economy, it should not be overlooked and people deserve to be part of the conversation.”

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife introduced a petition in the Ontario legislature on March 27 calling for a pause of any land expropriation in the area of Nafziger Road and Wilmot Centre. Stiles said the government has not addressed the petition yet. Under legislative rules, the government must respond within 24 sitting days of the petition’s presentation.

tractor with sign
A tractor with a large yellow sign reading “no farms no food” outside of Wilmot Township Administration in Baden on March 25 (Josh Goeree/CityNews 570)

Those in attendance at tomorrow’s meeting will include MPP John Vanthof, the NDP agricultural and rural affairs critic, MPP Sandy Shaw, the NDP environment critic, Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife and other community leaders. Stiles said everyone, including MPP Mike Harris Jr. and members of Wilmot council are welcome to come to the event.

The meeting is set to take place at the Wilmot Recreation Complex, 1291 Nafziger Road, Baden, starting at 5 p.m. Those who are looking to attend are asked to RSVP ahead of time. The link can be found here.

Wilmot Mayor Natasha Salonen told CityNews she did receive an invitation to the meeting, but is out of town for a family matter. Ward 2 councillor Kris Wilkinson also said he was invited, but is also out of town this weekend.

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