Toronto, May 22, 2007 − Former Ontario Premier William Davis today received the 2007 Friend of the Greenbelt Award for his outstanding work as an environmental visionary determined to protect and enhance the natural heritage and rural land in the Golden Horseshoe.
More than 200 people, including Government of Ontario Cabinet Ministers James Bradley, George Smitherman and Kathleen Wynne, Opposition Leader John Tory, Federal Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and many of Mr. Davis's former colleagues, attended the ceremony at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, last year's Friend of the Greenbelt award winner, presented the award to Mr. Davis. Harmer won a Juno Award this year for her I Love the Escarpment DVD.
Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation Chair Sandy Houston said the award to Mr. Davis for protecting the Niagara Escarpment was long overdue. "It's remarkable to think that the model for protecting natural heritage features, prime agricultural land and limiting urban sprawl was devised in the 1970s, but it took an entire generation to repeat this success," Mr. Houston said.
"I am deeply appreciative of receiving this Award from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation," Mr. Davis said. "I wish to commend the Foundation and its leadership for their continued support and interest in the Greenbelt Policy in the Province of Ontario. I also wish to share this honor with the many individuals and organizations who helped with the passage of this legislation and its execution in subsequent years. The Niagara Escarpment will be a legacy that the ongoing generations of this Province will share for many decades yet to come."
Former Lieutenant Governor Hal Jackman introduced Mr. Davis at the ceremony at which five historic plaques were unveiled to recognize his remarkable accomplishment. The plaques will be installed along the Niagara Escarpment at Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Caledon, Owen Sound, and in the Bruce Peninsula.
Mr. Davis served as Premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985. The inscription on the plaque reads:
The Niagara Escarpment is an important part of Ontario's natural heritage system. Its hills, valleys, waterfalls and woodlands host a myriad of species, some of which are endangered or rare, including 1,000-year-old cedars clinging to its cliffs.
In 1973, Premier Davis and the Government of Ontario took the remarkable step of enacting the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. This led to the establishment of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and the creation of the Niagara Escarpment Plan. As Canada's first environmental land-use document, it protects this unique 725 kilometre landform stretching from Niagara Falls to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
In recognition of its ecological significance, the Niagara Escarpment was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1990 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Niagara Escarpment became a permanent part of Ontario's Greenbelt in 2005.
Concern over protecting the Niagara Escarpment reached its peak in the 1960s, prompting the Ontario government to adopt the conservation principles contained in the ground-breaking Niagara Escarpment Study: Conservation and Recreation Report, better known as the Gertler Report.
"It is widely acknowledged that it was Premier Davis's first bold move to protect the Escarpment that allowed the Oak Ridges Moraine to be designated in 1996 and then the Greenbelt to be created in 2005," said Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Greenbelt Foundation. "Although Premier Davis is often referred to as the father of Ontario's College system, we would like to add 'grandfather of the Greenbelt' to his list of accomplishments."
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is dedicated to promoting and sustaining the Greenbelt as a beneficial and permanent feature, enhancing the quality of life for all residents of Ontario.
"Ontario's Greenbelt has won international awards for its vision and is being studied across the country," said Mausberg. Polls show over 89% of public support for protection of Greenbelt lands by curbing urban sprawl.
The protected land covers 728,000 hectares (1.8 million acres), extends 325 kilometres, and at some points is 80 kilometres wide. To date, the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation has awarded $5 million in grants to organizations working in support of farming, the environment and rural communities in the Greenbelt.
For further information: Diana Crosbie, Crosbie Communications, diana -at- crosbie.on.ca, (416) 360-6625