Toronto, February 28, 2009 - Ontario's Greenbelt needs to grow if it is to live up to its promise of curbing urban sprawl and protecting significant agricultural lands, water resources and natural heritage systems, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance said today on the fourth anniversary of the Greenbelt's creation. The Greenbelt Alliance released its vision today for Greenbelt expansion, called Greenbelt 2.0, including a detailed map of how the Greenbelt should grow. With the proposed expansion, the Greenbelt would grow by about 60% or 1.2 million acres (480, 000 ha).
"Four years ago, the McGuinty government made history by protecting 1.8 million acres of land; now, the government needs to complete the original plan by ensuring the Greenbelt is expanded to include additional green space under threat from urban sprawl," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, the co-ordinating group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance."
Southern Ontario is currently experiencing problematic 'leap-frog' development, just beyond the current Greenbelt lands. The Greenbelt Alliance's Greenbelt 2.0 map highlights areas for Greenbelt expansion, in particular areas facing significant threats and left out of the original Greenbelt Plan, such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Brantford, Simcoe County, the Port Hope area, and the upper watershed areas of Golden Horseshoe rivers.
"There's a lot of resistance to the province's residential density targets in Simcoe County, and I fear that it will end up being sprawlsville from here to Collingwood," said Claire Malcolmson, Project Coordinator of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. "That won't be good for Lake Simcoe. The Greenbelt expansion would help limit growth to current settlement areas, pushing Simcoe communities to grow using higher densities. And, that's better for the health of the lake.”
Ella Haley of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario worries about the development taking place in Brant County. "Prime farmland in the eastern part of the county is being gobbled up by landbankers with offshore money, and developers who are trying to influence council and get the land rezoned for development. The Galt-Paris moraine, a source of drinking water for Paris, St. George and Brantford, needs to be protected," she said.
There's been little progress on the Greenbelt since the government released draft expansion criteria last August. In addition, the government's much-trumpeted requirement in its Places to Grow Plan that critical natural heritage and agricultural areas be mapped and protected has yet to be fulfilled. "We need the province to work with our local governments to ensure our vital countryside and natural resources are protected similar to other parts of Ontario," said Kevin Thomason of the Grand River Environmental Network.
Despite considerable leap-frogging pressures, and being targeted by the province for more than 50% growth over the next 20 years, Waterloo Region and other areas continue to be excluded from the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance's Greenbelt 2.0 map shows the need and potential for an enhanced network of protected farmlands, wetlands, forests and countryside. This is the sort of work that the province should be doing if it were living up to its responsibilities under the Greenbelt and Places to Grow Acts.
The infrastructure costs that would be required for development in Greenbelt 2.0 areas, such as highway construction, shopping centres and services, would provide a pricey answer to the central Ontario urban growth problem. The Greenbelt expansion offered by the Alliance guarantees enough land for urban development at current proposed densities, and provides a framework for more efficient, planned development.
Jim Robb of the Rouge Duffins Greenspace Coalition applauds the new vision. "The expansion of the Greenbelt within the headwaters of the Rouge, Duffins, Don, Humber, Credit and other Golden Horseshoe rivers will protect irreplaceable watershed, aquifers, forests and foodlands; reduce pollution, traffic and flooding; and strengthen the greenbelt linkages between the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, our drinking water source," he said.
Located between the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and existing Golden Horseshoe communities, the 'whitebelt' is an unprotected area of prime foodland and green space which is still threatened by urban sprawl. As municipalities and the province work to comply with the Greenbelt and Places to Grow policies, it is now clear that less than 35% of the 'whitebelt' should be needed for future development. That means that at least 50% of the current 'whitebelt' should be protected by expanding the Greenbelt, the Greenbelt Alliance says, particularly given the recent movement to local food, increasing farm-gate sales, and new thriving community farmer's markets.
"The people of Ontario overwhelmingly support the Greenbelt. In its current form it is an unfinished masterpiece. Completing the protection of southern Ontario's natural heritage would be the lasting legacy of the McGuinty government," said Dan McDermott, Sierra Club of Canada.
A backgrounder about the Greenbelt 2.0 vision is available to download on the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance web site at www.greenbeltalliance.ca.
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance: The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 80 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)