Since 2005, the Greenbelt Foundation has worked to strengthen and enhance the great success story that is Ontario’s Greenbelt. An economic powerhouse providing over $9.6 billion dollars annually to our economy and nearly 178,000 full-time local jobs, the Greenbelt is one of Ontario’s key assets. It strengthens our communities against climate change and improves our physical and mental health, while protecting over two million acres of critical natural systems and farmland.
The integrity of the Greenbelt is what has made it a global success story and we must ensure that it remains permanently protected."
The Greenbelt is not just land. It is rivers and forests, farmlands and trails that provide millions of Ontarians with clean air and water, a sustainable local food source, and recreational opportunities that directly benefit our health and well-being. It also protects more than 78 species at risk and innumerable iconic natural areas. Through almost two decades of work with communities, we know that the Greenbelt is a source of pride for Ontarians.
The integrity of the Greenbelt is what has made it a global success story and we must ensure that it remains permanently protected. The lands included in the Greenbelt were carefully chosen and have undergone extensive reviews. Greenbelt protection takes a systems approach that recognizes the importance of regional connections in maintaining and enhancing its agricultural, natural and water resources. The connectivity in these systems, once broken, cannot be restored.
Recently, the government proposed changes to the Greenbelt boundaries. While we recognize that Southern Ontario is growing at a rapid rate and all efforts are being made to meet the housing needs of our growing population, our position, which is strongly supported by experts and research, remains that these demands can and must be met by building housing in existing communities without encroaching on Greenbelt lands.
Proposed changes would remove protections and open land within the Greenbelt to development, a dangerous precedent, which will damage valuable water systems and wetlands that supply ground water, reduce flood risks and improve climate resilience for the nearby communities. It will also, for the first time in our history, result in a significant net loss of available farmland within the Greenbelt. Given that Ontario is losing an average of 319 acres of farmland every day, we cannot afford to lose even more of some of Canada’s most fertile and productive land.
The true path to success for Ontario is investing in our communities. We must all work together to strengthen our water systems, our local food system, and meet the needs of our growing province by building housing around existing infrastructure like schools and transit.
The strength of the Greenbelt can be directly tied to the strength of Ontario as a place to live, work and invest, and its permanence is key. We will continue to work with our partners, including the Government of Ontario to ensure that this vital resource continues to sustain us for generations to come.
–Edward McDonnell, Greenbelt Foundation CE0