Sprawling coercion

Vaughan firm threatens to move 2,500 jobs

Today I read an article that was both ridiculous and maddening. The Vaughan equipment distributor Toromont, forced out of their current location by the Subway to Nothing Yet, is threatening to move to Manitoba (MANITOBA??!?!) if they are not permitted to build their new facility on designated greenbelt lands along Hwy. 400 near Bradford.

What we have is a classic case of coercion. It isn’t extortion because it isn’t actually illegal, but I wish there was a stronger word than coercion. The threat is, quite literally, ‘if the government doesn’t let us leapfrog a part of the greenbelt and built on it on lands not designated for employment or anything, we will take our 2500 jobs and leave for Manitoba”.

So why doesn’t the government just give in? In these Tough Economic Times, shouldn’t jobs be the top priority? The simple answer is no.

The problem with allowing this development to proceed is that it requires infrastructure (i.e. water, wastewater pipes) to be constructed out to the site. According to the Star,

servicing that small property with sewer and water would be too expensive without bringing into play about 688 hectares of farmland around it as well as residential development to the west in Bond Head.”

What you must understand is this is a concerted effort by developers who speculated on land in Simcoe County (now protected by Greenbelt legislation) to take a swipe at the Greenbelt Act and get some return on their investment. Now whether you think it is right or wrong that these developers can’t do anything with their property is another issue. But by acquiring Toromont as the main tenant in this development scheme, they are attempting to coerce the provincial government into allowing their plans to go through.

However, if this development is allowed, you can say goodbye to the Greenbelt. This will set a precedent for the future and you can bet that developers will use every bit of it to their advantage. We will be where we were almost 5 years ago, with the future looking like a constant sprawling mess from Lake Ontario to Barrie.

Let’s examine the case a bit further. Toromont’s current distribution site is approximately 11 ha (source: Live Maps) at Jane and Highway 7 in Vaughan, approximately where a new terminus for the Subway to Nothing Yet is planned. Toromont is looking at a parcel of 40 hectares alongside Hwy. 400 near Bradford. According to the Star, a site near a major highway is desired (for easier distribution, one would assume). VP of Toromont says

“If we are unable to move operations to Bradford we would reconsider all our options, including moving part of our operations (including training and northern mine support) to Manitoba.”

A few things:

  1. Why the enormous increase in space required, from 11 to 40 hectares? It is understandable that a business might want space to expand, but 40 hectares is quite large, and by my estimation, quite a bit larger than they actually need.
  2. It occurs to me that this 40-hectare site is not the only site along a major highway in the GTA, which seems to be their only criteria. Surely there is some underused or unused site along the 401, 407, 404, 427 or 400 which is designated for development?
  3. The above point leads me to question– what’s in it for Toromont? If there turns out to be any sort of controversy from this story, especially if it makes it public, what is in it for them besides a damaged public reputation in Ontario? I assume they are getting a great deal on the land from the consortium of developers who own the property surrounding it, maybe even getting it for free. (See above: if Toromont develops 40 ha, 688 additional hectares must be developed).
  4. The last quote presented paints a different picture than sensationalist headlines might. The VP of Toromont says that they would have to reconsider all their options including moving only part of their operations to Manitoba. Does this equal to 2500 jobs? Or is that how many total employees Toromont has at the current site? Seems like some jobs might stay if this development gets shot down.

As you might have been able to tell from reading this, I am totally against whatever case that Toromont and the developers are presenting. It makes absolutely no sense and amounts to coercion. If I were in the decision-makers’ shoes, I would not allow this development to go through at all, however I would suggest some alternative sites and arrange some reasonable tax incentives for the relocation. This is the only reasonable way, and if they still decide to move to Manitoba, well then so be it. It’s  a sacrifice to be made for the sake of future generations.

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