About 100 silent protesters greeted Ontario Premier Doug Ford at the grand opening of the new Markdale Hospital.
In rural Grey County, local citizens were out in full force protesting the recent Greenbelt scandal. Ford was accompanied by Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Sylvia Jones for the ceremony held on Sept. 14.
About an hour before the hospital ribbon-cutting event, the protesters gathered along Highway 10 in front of the new facility with a clear message for the government: “hands off the Greenbelt.”
The protesters carried signs with messages such as: “stop the sprawl”, “keep your Greenbelt promise” and “keep it green.”
The event was dubbed a “silent protest” out of respect for the opening of the new hospital – an event welcomed by the protesters.
“We love the new hospital - and we love the Greenbelt,” an email from organizers stated.
Although called a “silent protest,” many drivers passing by on the busy highway honked their horns in support of the protesters.
“Doug Ford needs to read the room. Tell me the last time there was a rally in either Flesherton or Markdale?” said Mike Marcolongo, executive coordinator of Greenbelt Promise. “This speaks volumes about how angry rural residents are.”
Marcolongo called for MPPs in the Ford government to start talking about the Greenbelt issue. He accused government MPPs of obfuscating and hiding on the issue.
“(Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP) Rick Byers needs to start speaking up on this issue. It’s important to rural Ontarians,” he said.
Grey Highlands resident Dave Meslin organized the protest and was pleased by how it turned out.
“This has really surpassed my expectations for numbers,” he said, adding that he had confirmed attendance by supporters of all four provincial political parties – PC, Liberal, NDP and Green – at the protest. “That’s really important – to see everybody working together.”
In a statement announcing the rally, Meslin said Ontario can build more housing without touching the Greenbelt.
"Multiple studies show that Ontario can easily meet our housing targets without destroying thousands of acres of irreplaceable farmland,” he said. "This entire process seems to be driven by developers who have political connections. We’re just a group of ordinary citizens who care about Ontario’s farmland, agriculture, wetlands and wildlife."
Inside the hospital at the ribbon-cutting event, dignitaries and local leaders did not make any statements about the protest happening outside. Neither Ford nor Jones mentioned the issue in their speeches. Ford didn't take media questions at the event.