At almost 2 million acres, Ontario’s Greenbelt is the world’s largest protected greenbelt, keeping our farmlands, forests, and wetlands safe and sustainable. But not everyone agrees that the Greenbelt is a good thing and some are putting pressure on the province to shrink it.
Sprawl developers want to turn back the clock and build car-dependent low-density subdivisions rather than building smart walkable communities that use less land. Also, the province has proposed a redundant highway that cuts through an estimated 2,000 acres of prime farmland including a portion of the Greenbelt. Right now is a critical time for Ontarians to take action and tell decision-makers to keep the Greenbelt strong and that their communities need to grow up, not out!
The Greenbelt shouldn’t be considered an obstacle for development and progress. In fact, here are a few reasons why Ontario’s Greenbelt is beneficial to all:
1. LOCAL FOOD IS BETTER FOOD
Home to 5,500 farms, Ontario’s Greenbelt is made up of 43 per cent of farmland and supplies produce to millions of Ontarians. Southern Ontario contains some of the largest stretches of Class 1 farmland left in Canada, meaning these farms are high in productivity and the soil can be used for a wide range of field crops. It is also home to one of the few places in Canada that can grow tender fruits such as peaches, pears and plums. It’s important to protect farmland, because buying local food cuts down the distance between grower and eater allowing people to be more connected to the food they eat.
2. IT PROTECTS NATURE
The Greenbelt encircles the Greater Golden Horseshoe, cooling, oxygenating and hydrating all of its residents. Its forested area alone can store annually the CO2 emission equivalent of 27 million cars driven over one year. Ontario’s Greenbelt is made up of a vast variety of habitats including fields, wetlands, river valleys, lakes and forests. These natural spaces are home to 78 threatened or at-risk species including birds, fish, mammals, and plants. Sprawl and infrastructure such as highways in the Greenbelt would cut through sensitive eco-systems and fracture endangered species’ habitats.
3. IT HELPS US GROW SMARTER
Every year, 100,000 new residents join the Greater Toronto Area alone. These people need homes and workplaces, as well as a transportation network to get around. As the pressure for new development increases, the needs and benefits of the Greenbelt are often lost as sprawl developers believe the only solution is to pave over farms and natural areas for sub-division housing, highways, and industrial use. Smart City planners, on the other hand, see opportunity in what is already available: building complete sustainable communities in existing urban areas by growing upwards through intensification rather than outwards through car-dependent urban sprawl.
4. IT’S GOOD FOR BUSINESS
Ontario’s Greenbelt contributes more than $9 billion in annual revenue to the province’s economy and employs an estimated 161,000 Ontarians – more than the entire fish, forestry, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector in Ontario! These numbers are so high because most Greenbelt-related employment, such as farming, is labour intensive and because the Greenbelt attracts tourism and recreation. In addition, the Greenbelt provides the province about $2.6 billion a year in essential services such as providing us with fresh drinking water and clean air.
5. IT’S JUST GORGEOUS
In addition to providing jobs, fresh local food, habitat for wildlife and clean air, the Greenbelt is loaded with activities for you, your family and friends to enjoy—waterfalls, hiking and cycling trails, ski hills, farms where you can pick fresh fruit and vegetables, the list goes on!
Now’s the time to act before the government makes final decisions in September that will shape the future of our communities, our Greenbelt, and our province. Sign this petition and remind the province that a strong Greenbelt coupled with smart growth is the key to building a future that is best for the environment and our quality-of-life.