From Peterborough to Barrie, Toronto, St. Catharines and Waterloo, hundreds of people are participating in the provincial review of Ontario’s Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment Plan and Places to Grow Plans. Not only has the turnout and level of engagement exceeded expectations but the thoughtful questions and comments from participants show that people want to make these plans work even better.
Recently, I’ve attended several of the provincial town halls. And the majority of comments I’ve heard support the plans’ goals to protect farmland, water and nature by directing growth to urban centres and keeping the boundaries of the Greenbelt intact. Public town halls continue this month. Attend one in your community!
Opinions about the Greenbelt Plan and Places to Grow Plan have come a long way in the last 10 years. There is greater understanding of the goals of these plans and growing acknowledgement that these provincial land use plans are doing a good job of protecting farmland and natural areas.
Recently, Ontario released performance indicators for the Greenbelt. While it’s clear more data needs to be collected, preliminary measures suggest these plans are doing a good job of curbing sprawl and directing growth to urban areas.
But, there is also a growing acknowledgement that we need to do more. We need to grow the Greenbelt and enhance our natural systems so our forests and wetlands can do an even better job at reducing the effects of climate change. We need to do a better job of protecting our water sources. And, many Greater Golden Horseshoe communities in the Growth Plan that were left out of the Greenbelt now want to be included because they’re getting all of the growth and none of the protection. We also need to support the viability of local farming.
Despite strong public support for the Greenbelt, threats remain. In Georgina, the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority may approve a development in a provincially significant wetland. In Halton and York Region, the GTA West – a new 400 series just north of the 407 – is proposed to cut through the Greenbelt. This mega-highway will cost billions of dollars and pave over thousands of acres of prime farmland. And at meetings across the Greenbelt, we’ve heard about proposed developments that will remove lands from the Greenbelt and requests from municipalities to expand urban boundaries into the Greenbelt.
You can help stop these threats to the Greenbelt! Attend a public townhall, sign our petition or send in your comments on how to improve the plans. Tell Ontario we need to maintain existing urban boundaries, protect and enhance natural heritage systems and grow the Greenbelt to extend Greenbelt protection to adjacent natural heritage and agricultural lands.