Greenbelt Reversal & Legislation

Three critical lessons can be learned from the recent Greenbelt debacle:

  1. Ontarians care deeply about their natural spaces
  2. We don’t buy into false trade-offs. We can build housing, create more affordable communities AND NOT pave over our highly precious and limited greenspaces
  3. By speaking with one voice, we can make a difference

Like many others the ECA is pleased to support those MPPs from all parties that will vote for the proposed legislation and see the removed parcels reinstated into the Greenbelt. However, we caution that further work on this legislation is required to fully protect these lands, including the Niagara Escarpment which is a core part of the Greenbelt. The two links below from our partners at Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Steering Committee provide a broad overview of some key shortfalls in the proposed legislation. Beyond their insightful critiques, the ECA is also proposing that the legislation clean up legacy planning mistakes like Castle Glen and Talisman. After five decades, these are no longer deserving of grandfathered protection based inapplicable resort recreational zoning designation by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Both developments would irreparably destroy some of the most visible parts of the brow of the escarpment and sever important ecological corridors. In order to fully address the Greenbelt in totality, this legislation must also address the current and sizeable issues that the Auditor General described in her November 2022 report on the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

Ontario Greenbelt Steering Committee

Environmental Defence

As the last few months have shown, Ontarians are proud of, and care passionately for their Greenbelt and the 2 million acres of protected farm lands, forests, wetlands and waterways.

The Province’s removal of 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt was met with overwhelming public opposition. Data did not support the Government’s false assertions that the land was necessary for solving the housing crisis. The Auditor-General, regional planners, and the government’s own Housing Affordability Task Force concluded that more than enough land has already been  designated in towns and cities to build all the needed housing for decades to come. Destroying important Greenbelt lands had nothing to do with solving Ontario’s housing crisis and instead seemed more focused on creating massive speculative profits for urban sprawl developers well-connected to the provincial government.

Bringing these 7,400 acres of irreplaceable farmland and natural areas back into Greenbelt protection through this proposed Bill will correct this terrible decision by the government that was so against the public interest. We applaud all MPPs who will support the proposed Bill’s speedy passage into law.

As well, we applaud the new process proposed by this Bill for any future changes to the Greenbelt. We fully support requiring any future changes to be accomplished through legislation requiring proper processes, debate, public consultation, and recorded votes by elected officials instead of regulation requiring only Cabinet approval. The Greenbelt should never again be able to be attacked and changed in secret behind closed doors.

However, this Bill does not guarantee Ontario’s Greenbelt is now adequately protected. Other actions of this provincial government threaten many parts of the Greenbelt, specifically the proposals to build new mega highways through the Greenbelt such as Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. As well, land use planning policies found in Bill 23, proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement, the proposed elimination of the Growth Plan, forced urban boundary expansions, and the improper use of MZOs all threaten the Greenbelt and the lands surrounding it. Finally, the Minister’s comments at the press conference earlier today provide no assurances that the Government will not remove lands from the Greenbelt as part of the mandated 10-year review.

The speedy passage of the proposed Bill is a necessary and welcome action that will restore Ontario’s Greenbelt. But it is only the start. We hope MPPs will listen to the vast majority of Ontarians and make Greenbelt protection a priority by undoing other policies that are threatening our beloved and precious Greenbelt that millions of people depend on for groundwater, local food, recreation, biodiversity, natural heritage, and ecological services. The government needs to abandon its many other proposed actions that will harm the Greenbelt. Instead, we urge them to focus on building affordable, sustainable housing within our existing towns and cities and expand the Greenbelt to improve our future resilience and preparedness in an era of global climate change.

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