Greenbelt stays protected and will grow as long as implementation promises are kept

For Immediate Release: May 18, 2017

Ontario’s Greenbelt stays protected and will grow, as long as implementation promises are kept and oversight is done properly

Toronto, ON -- Today, the Ontario government released the province’s new Greenbelt and Growth Plans. Two years in the making, the changes announced help to lay the groundwork for building a sustainable region, so long as implementation and oversight receive adequate resources.

“Despite intense developer pressure to break apart the Greenbelt and stop the Growth Plan in its tracks, the province appears committed to the Smart Growth principles we require in Ontario. We expect these Plans will spell out a firm ‘no’ to developers looking to build outside current municipal boundaries in the Greenbelt,” said Kevin Thomason of Smart Growth Waterloo Region.

“Over the past two years, we have worked with the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance to help make recommendations to the government promoting the best land use planning tools to protect Ontario’s remaining farmland and threatened natural areas. These updated Plans look to be heading in a positive direction, but ongoing vigilance and leadership will be needed,” Thomason continued.

Positive changes to the Greenbelt Plan include:

  • Minimal corrections to the Greenbelt’s original boundaries, with no land swapping
  • Process to grow the Greenbelt to further protect at risk water supplies
  • Growing the Greenbelt immediately to include Urban River Valleys and Coastal Wetlands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH)

Despite these positives, changes need to go further in some areas.

“While we are disappointed the province has not announced a significant Greenbelt expansion today, we will be looking to the upcoming Grow the Greenbelt consultation, to meaningfully and significantly protect more of Ontario’s at risk natural and agricultural areas,” said Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “Adding these important rural areas into the Greenbelt is the only way to ensure that Ontarian’s food and water sources are safe and protected from urban sprawl pressures - ensuring our health and prosperity for years to come.”

On the negative side, a major step backward occurred in protection for the species at risk on the Greenbelt.

“The updates to these Plans significantly weaken protections for endangered species,” says Dr. Anne Bell of Ontario Nature. “If we can’t safeguard our most vulnerable plants and animals in the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt, then where? Changes to these Plans undermine a community’s ability to prioritize species at risk protection as was otherwise possible in the original Greenbelt Plan.”

In tandem to Greenbelt Plan policies, changes to the provincial Growth Plan are positive, but slow to deliver on the intensification and Smart Growth needed:

  • Province sticks to 60 per cent intensification target and 80/pjh density for population and jobs per hectare, coming into effect in 2031
  • Mapping of the GGH’s Natural Heritage and Agricultural Systems
  • Strong integration of transit hubs and the municipal intensification required
  • Required municipal watershed planning and climate change plans

“With home affordability an issue for so many, it’s essential the province do more to shift growth patterns away from low density, inefficient sprawl that costs taxpayers a fortune to service and maintain. Instead more action is needed to create 21st century communities that are smarter, mixed use, transit served and more affordable,” said Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of Toronto Environmental Alliance. “The goals of these Plans are to ensure Ontario’s housing supply is diverse and more affordable over the coming decades. This will also help to better protect Ontario’s remaining farmland, water supplies and natural areas, which are essential to a strong, resilient economy.”

Despite good policy direction, the next steps the government will take will be crucial to getting both Plans right.

“The success of both Plans really comes down to implementation,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “It’s clear that civil society, municipalities and the development industry all have a role to play in designing and delivering complete communities of the future. Strong leadership by the province on monitoring, education and oversight will be critical.”

In the coming days, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance will release a fulsome review of how the province’s changes stack up in delivering real change and a better quality of life for everyone in the GGH.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a defender of Ontario’s innovative Greenbelt. The Alliance brings together more than 120 environmental and public health organizations, community groups, ratepayer groups and local environmental organizations to ensure the continued protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a beautiful well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.

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For more information or to arrange interviews contact: Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, skohls@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext 232, 416-885-7847 (cell)