Tell Premier Ford: Hands Off the Greenbelt!

Premier Ford has promised over and over again to protect the Greenbelt, but his government recently moved ahead with unpopular plans to remove 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt –  including the precious Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve. 

In addition to opening some of our most important forest and farmland to sprawl, this reckless action will create an open season on all farmland because land speculators will now think of the Greenbelt and other protections for agricultural land as just a suggestion.

The Premier's attacks on our Greenbelt came hot on the heels of Bill 23 - which strips other vital environmental protections from woodlands, wetlands and wildlife habitat and greatly reduces the power of our Conservation Authorities – which protect us from floods!

Tell Premier Ford and your Member of Provincial Parliament to repeal Bill 23 and keep their promise to protect the Greenbelt.

To whom it may concern:

I'm writing to you today in support of the Greenbelt, Conservation Authorities and Ontario's wetlands, woodlands and other natural areas.

Firstly, I am writing to state my opposition to the removal of 7,400 acres of land - including the vital Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve - from the Greenbelt.

The land which the government is proposing to strip of protection includes some of the jewels of the Greenbelt.  Most notably, the bulk of it consists of the precious Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve - which is vital habitat in its own right, as well as an indispensable link between the Rouge National Urban Park and the Duffins Creek.

The government claims that the lands removed will be "replaced" by adding land to the Greenbelt.  However, much of the land that will supposedly be added is already protected.  And, even if it weren't already protected, the very possibility of "swapping out" the plots of land targeted for development destroys the permanence and certainty required for any part of the Greenbelt to function properly. 

By permanently setting aside land for farming and natural heritage, the Greenbelt protects land from the intense speculation and development pressure in Southern Ontario. Without this permanent protection, agricultural land would quickly become completely unaffordable to farmers. Even raising the possibility of removing any land from the Greenbelt will create a speculative rush and intense development pressure on all the lands currently within the Greenbelt.

Currently, there is a vast supply of unused greenfield land already open for development within existing municipal boundaries (350 square kilometers as of 2019) and the current round of Official Plans awaiting approval will add 42,000 additional hectares of non-Greenbelt land to that vast stockpile.

Given that we have an extreme shortage of homes in existing neighborhoods, and a long term shortage of materials, equipment and skilled labour, squandering our resources on resource -intensive Greenbelt sprawl will mean fewer homes in the places where they're desperately needed.

Not only is the removal of land from the Greenbelt bad for the health of our province and unlikely to produce any additional housing, it goes against the Premier's word and it goes against Minister Steve Clarke's assertion that "we're not going to entertain any conversations about a land swap" on the Greenbelt. 

In addition to my concerns about the Greenbelt, I am deeply concerned about many of the components of Bill 23 and its associated policy proposals. 

Bill 23 prohibits Conservation Authorities from doing anything to prevent sprawl from causing flooding and erosion – or destroying ecology. It would leave vast swathes of Ontario's most important habitats largely unprotected – and put Ontarians at real risk. 

Proposed policy to allow "pay to slay" destruction of currently protected wetlands and woodlands, and changes to the rules that are used to identify wetlands, will cause the majority of these rare and ecologically crucial areas to be opened to development.

This Bill's attack on regional planning is counterproductive for creating affordable homes – as well as being environmentally disastrous.  Devolving planning decisions to lower-tier municipalities would produce development that is more scattered and thus much more environmentally harmful, but also more uncoordinated and expensive.  

Bill 23 will further the destruction of critical natural areas in a time of climate crisis while also failing to deliver the urban transformation – or the affordable housing – that Ontario needs.

In conclusion, please reverse the removal of land from the Greenbelt and repeal Bill 23.

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