From Peterborough to Barrie, Toronto, St. Catharines and Waterloo, hundreds of people are participating in the provincial review of the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment Plan and Growth Plan. Not only has the turnout and level of engagement exceeded expectations but the thoughtful questions and comments show that people want to make these plans work even better.
The majority of comments at the provincial townhall consultations are supportive of the intent of the plans, to protect farmland, water and nature and resources by directing growth to our urban centres and keeping the boundaries of the Greenbelt intact. Opinions on the Greenbelt Plan have come a long way in the last 10 years. There is greater understanding of the intent of the plans and there seems to be growing acknowledgement that these provincial plans aren’t intended to solve economic issues but they are doing a good job of preserving farmland and natural areas.
With the release of the performance indicators for the Greenbelt it is evident more data needs to be collected but preliminary measures suggest these conservation plans are doing a good job of curbing sprawl and directing growth to urban areas. While the plans are protecting important land from sprawl there is a growing acknowledgement that we need to do more, we need to make improvements 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. For instance, many Greater Golden Horseshoe communities in the Growth Plan but left out of the Greenbelt want to be included as they are getting all of the growth and none of the protection. We also need to do a better job of restoring our natural areas for healthy forests, and improved water quality. There is also acknowledgement that we need to support the viability of local farming.
Despite strong public support for the Greenbelt, threats still 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, it will cost billions and pave over thousands of acres of prime farmland. At meetings right 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. We need your help to stop these threats to the Greenbelt. Please attend a townhall consultation, sign our petition or send in your comments on how to improve the plans by: maintaining existing urban boundaries, protect and enhance natural heritage systems and grow the Greenbelt to extend Greenbelt protection to adjacent natural heritage and agricultural lands.