Toronto, Ontario – The Ontario government gets an overall grade of  “B+” for its efforts to protect and promote Ontario’s 1.8 million acre Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt, according to a report card released today by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. That’s an improvement over last year’s Greenbelt Grade, a “B”.
The report, released on the second anniversary of the Greenbelt, finds the government has done a good job of defending the Greenbelt boundaries, and of greening the Greenbelt by designating provincially-owned land as protected parkland. But, the government is failing to protect sensitive ecological areas in the Greenbelt that are still under threat from highways, roads, sewer pipes, quarries and urban sprawl.
 
“We commend the government for a great effort this year. From defending the Greenbelt’s boundaries in court to designating more parkland, this government has shown it is committed to the Greenbelt,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
 
The report card awards passing grades for a range of Greenbelt issues, including:
–          “Greening the Greenbelt”: designating more than 2,300 acres of provincially-owned land as parkland within the Greenbelt (Grade: A+);
–          “Acting Like You Mean It”: standing up for Greenbelt boundaries when challenged by developers and municipalities (Grade: A);
–          “Structuring for Success”: making sure the Greenbelt receives adequate resources (Grade: B+)
 
“There’s no question the government scores well in really important areas. But, there’s plenty of room for improvement,” said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature. “Proposals for quarries and highways threaten the very essence of the Greenbelt. The government needs to act now to address these problems.”
 
The Ontario government receives poor grades for some critical areas, including:
–          “Where There’s Smoke”: protecting the Top 10 Greenbelt Hotspots, areas under threat from industry and development (Grade: C);
–          “Cutting the Greenbelt to Pieces:” planning for roads, sewers and other infrastructure throughout the Greenbelt (Grade: D)
 
York Region’s shortlist of routes for the York Durham Sewer System (Big Pipe) is of particular concern to the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. All but one of the proposed routes cut through the heart of Bob Hunter Memorial Park, a 500-acre park in Markham. The park, named after one of Canada’s most respected environmental leaders, is a cornerstone of the newly created Greenbelt corridor that links the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario.
 
“Tunneling a giant sewer beneath a park named for one of Canada’s environmental heroes seems like a sick joke,” said Bobbi Hunter, widow of Bob Hunter. “The province must do everything in its power to ensure that York Region makes a much better planning decision and removes this threat to one of our precious pieces of green space.”
 
The report card highlights five areas for improvement for the government in the coming year:
–          expand the Greenbelt into areas such as Simcoe, Northumberland and Wellington Counties and Waterloo Region;
–          support Greenbelt producers – the people who farm nearly 1.2 million of the 1.8 million acres in the Greenbelt;
–          get rid of special privileges for aggregate operations; provide better oversight and better protection of natural areas in the Greenbelt;
–          reform the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and financing of municipal election campaigns;
–          strengthen the mandate of the Conservation Authorities throughout the Greenbelt.
“We lost the finest natural shoreline area left in Oro-Medonte to urban sprawl and the Ontario Municipal Board, simply because the Greenbelt did not extend to Simcoe County,” said Mary O’Farrell-Bowers, Vice-President of the Moon Point Homeowners Association. “Wildlife habitat will continue to be paved up here as long as we leave environmental land use planning to the OMB.”
 
Greenbelt Report Card: 2nd Anniversary Edition is available to download for free on the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance web site – www.greenbelt.ca.
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance: The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 75 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. www.greenbelt.ca. 
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 237; (416) 768-9795
Mary O’Farrell-Bowers, Moon Point Homeowners Association, (705) 345-4609 (cell)