Recently, Auditor General of Ontario, Bonnie Lysyk, released a Special Report on proposed changes to the Greenbelt and Ontarians are outraged by the findings!
The report confirmed the following:
- There are tens of thousands of acres of land already designated for new housing developments and Greenbelt removals were not needed to meet provincial housing targets.
- Environmental criteria were abandoned when making changes.
- Well-connected developers had Greenbelt land removed and those developers stand to gain over $8 billion as a result.
Source: Environmental Defence
What is the Greenbelt and Why is it Important?
Many of us pass signs stating they are “Entering the Greenbelt” without knowing what the Greenbelt is and why it is so significant.
The Greenbelt is a protected area of land that surrounds the Greater Toronto Area. It encompasses 800,000 hectares of valuable farmland, wetlands, forests, and natural heritage systems – which since 2005, were meant to be permanently protected from urban sprawl.
Not only is the Greenbelt considered a vital ecosystem providing clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and opportunities for outdoor recreation, it is also an important economic asset. The Greenbelt provides a significant amount of Ontario’s agriculture production supporting a diverse range of businesses and communities. In a time of skyrocketing food prices, should we be paving over the local food systems that sustain us?
The Auditor General’s Report highlights that it’s time to reverse provincial changes to the Greenbelt – we already have what we need and considering the significance of the Greenbelt, we must do everything we can to protect it.
While Premier Ford is refusing to go back on the decision to change the Greenbelt – Ontarians are not giving up. News regarding the Greenbelt continues to dominate headlines and Ontarians are flooding the phone lines and email inboxes of the Premier, key Ministers and local MPPs.
Implications for Caledon
And whereas the major Greenbelt take-outs that Bill 23 ear-marked are not in Caledon, we still need to be concerned. The precedent set in removing these lands from the Greenbelt makes it easier and evidently less controversial when smaller or more lands are affected, in other areas. Take a look at Caledon’s protected lands:
This image, courtesy of the Greenbelt.ca website, shows very clearly that much of Caledon is under Greenbelt or other protections. Even our major river branches, many of which start in the Headwaters, have Greenbelt protection corridors that follow them to their Brampton border.
In the long run, with Bill 23, removing 3000 hectares of Greenbelt-designated land, and with our Region succumbing to Provincial pressure to allow the Official Plan to flip 4,450 hectares of Caledon’s out of agricultural zoning, and with Provincial Minister’s Zoning Orders taking over on many development decisions, in our opinion Caledon has good reason to feel insecure about its capacity to truly offer a “Made-in-Caledon” solution.
We have however had a recent win! On Thursday of last week an Amendment of an MZO with respect to the land at the west side of McLaughlin Road, south of Old School Road, as well as lands between McLaughlin Road and Hurontario Street, south of Old School Road was brought up for a Town of Caledon public meeting. This particular MZO expansion included two portions of land designated “Greenbelt.” We have to thank, in large part, Councillor Doug Maskell, who a few months back, had the audacity to ask and receive Council approval for public information meetings, whenever an MZO request interrupted the normal flow of Town-controlled development decisions.
It must be acknowledged that during the meeting on August 24th, who the information providers would be and what the Town could do with that info was a moving target. But by a stroke of brilliant timing and with great gratitude to the multitudes of Ontario citizens who have spoken, rallied, protested, called and emailed all in defence of the Greenbelt, the Province had the last-minute acuity to pull the “Greenbelt” portions of this MZO out of the picture.
News of Caledon’s near-miss with yet another Greenbelt incursion was celebrated nationwide. We feel every municipality in the protected lands of the Greenbelt, the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine should put in place such public meetings in the face of MZOs.
But we should not rest on our laurels, knowing what we know about this government’s lack of respect for protected lands. In our opinion we must acknowledge the once-secure Greenbelt pledge may now just be a developer’s thin brown envelope away from removal.
Help us tell the Premier to keep Hands Off the Greenbelt and save Ontario’s farms, forests and wetlands!
Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.