Photo Credit: Michael Manet
Ontario is fortunate to have a landscape and ecology that sustains us with soil to grow our food, with forests to clean our air, and with rugged wilderness to explore. In the Canadian tradition, the land shapes our childhoods, supports our economy and represents our future. The Greenbelt is part of this heritage, building connections between those who grow our food and act as stewards of the land, and those who live in cities nearby.
I am pleased that the Province’s recent announcement on the Land Use Planning Review recognized the value of compact complete communities and green landscape, with recommendations to protect clean water and agriculture, to contain sprawl, and to grow the Greenbelt.
Protecting invaluable water resources is a core function of the Greenbelt and I commend the Province on adding 28 water systems to the Greenbelt immediately, and for considering wider protections for water supplies. After all, urban river valleys, wetlands and watersheds are natural assets that provide clean drinking water and flood protection.
The Province has responded to farmland under threat, with proposed amendments that support a secure supply of local food, protecting 780,000 jobs in the region and growing the $35 billion contribution agriculture makes to Ontario’s GDP each year. The Greenbelt’s successes should serve as a model in protecting agriculture across the province.
Existing municipal boundaries have the capacity to accommodate growth until 2041 without further expansion. No one can make more land, and we should all applaud the Province on increasing intensification targets by 50% in recognition of this truth. The Province can and should require municipalities to meet their density targets and planning goals.
If fully implemented, the proposed amendments will result in a smarter model of growth in southern Ontario. Complete communities with the necessary jobs, transit, services, local food, and green space for liveable neighbourhoods are the only way to ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable future as we confront climate change together.
Over ten years ago, the Greenbelt was created as a visionary plan to curb inefficient sprawl and ensure the viability of farming on some of Canada’s most valuable agricultural land. Looking back from where we stand now, the Greenbelt has succeeded in protecting water sources, preserving farmland and establishing a legacy for Ontario.