Land Over Landings turns down Pickering Civic Award over “gaslighting” from Mayor

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Published May 16, 2023 at 10:15 am

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe’s bid for the City to be a willing host for a future major airport may have crashed and burned last month but the sting of “outrageous untruths” he made about the motivations of anti-airport group Land Over Landings are still lingering, with the organization declining to accept a prestigious honour at Monday evening’s Civic Awards ceremony.

Land Over Landings, which has been fighting the proposed airport in north Pickering since its founding in 2005 – following in the footsteps of People Not Planes, which had been rallying against the plan since the federal government expropriated 18,600 acres of farmland in 1972 – was nominated for the Environmental Award for their work in protecting and preserving agricultural land in the city. But the group issued a statement Monday declining the award.

Calling Ashes’s comments during an April 24 council meeting about the “motivations” of the advocacy organization’s board, and in particular Chair Mary Delaney, and of the existence of Class 1 soil on the lands “classic gaslighting,” the statement declared the only option was to turn down the award.

‘Giving the City’s Environment Award to our organization after denying the core mission of our work would be classic greenwashing. We are honoured to be nominated by community members who see our work to advance prosperity in north Pickering as worthy. But if the Mayor and senior staff do not share this view and are unwilling to correct the official record, how could we, in good conscience, participate in this event?”

“The mayor’s outrageous untruths on April 24, denying, especially, the very existence of Class 1 soil, were classic gaslighting.”

Land Over Landings said in the statement they were “immensely grateful” to the people who have supported their advocacy over the years and nominated them for the award but could not accept the honour.

“The mayor made a number of inflammatory remarks about the motivations of our executive and chair. He repeated untruths about the holders of residential and agricultural leases on the federal lands. He questioned the very nature of the lands’ rare and increasingly endangered Class 1 soil that we have fought for decades to protect. He suggested that Class 1 soil quality was a ‘belief,’ an ‘opinion,’ while accepting without hesitation inaccurate guidance confirming his own opinion.”

Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe

The motion to reverse a 2017 council decision to support a future airport on the lands passed that evening but Delaney and Land Over Landings noted that Ashe’s public comments are now in the public record as “statements of fact.”

“We assumed that an enlightened mayor would apologize, withdraw his aspersions, and retract his false and misleading statements for the public record. He did not. He even failed to reply to letters,” the statement continued. “Land Over Landings built its reputation on integrity and a steadfast adherence to truth and fact-checking. Given the circumstances, our attendance at the civic event, and our acceptance of an Environment award bestowed by the mayor were things we could not agree to.”

The group said they will continue to work with members of Council who are focussed on the “economic and cultural revitalization” of north Pickering through more environmentally friendly avenues, such as proposed Centre of Excellence in Agriculture and Agritourism.

 

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