STATEMENT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE GREENBELT STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT
October 16, 2023
Earlier today, the Province introduced the Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act, 2023 that will return 7,400 acres of farmland and natural areas removed from Greenbelt late last year back into the Greenbelt.
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance Steering Committee Members listed below and representing groups across Ontario urge all MPPs to support this legislation and adopt it into law as quickly as possible.
As the last few months have shown, Ontarians are proud of, and care passionately for their Greenbelt and the 2 million acres of protected farm lands, forests, wetlands and waterways.
The Province’s removal of 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt was met with overwhelming public opposition. Data did not support the Government’s false assertions that the land was necessary for solving the housing crisis. The Auditor-General, regional planners, and the government’s own Housing Affordability Task Force concluded that more than enough land has already been designated in towns and cities to build all the needed housing for decades to come. Destroying important Greenbelt lands had nothing to do with solving Ontario’s housing crisis and instead seemed more focussed on creating massive speculative profits for urban sprawl developers well-connected to the provincial government.
Bringing these 7,400 acres of irreplaceable farmland and natural areas back into Greenbelt protection through this proposed Bill will correct this terrible decision by the government that was so against the public interest. We applaud all MPPs who will support the proposed Bill’s speedy passage into law.
As well, we applaud the new process proposed by this Bill for any future changes to the Greenbelt. We fully support requiring any future changes to be accomplished through legislation requiring proper processes, debate, public consultation, and recorded votes by elected officials instead of regulation requiring only Cabinet approval. The Greenbelt should never again be able to be attacked and changed in secret behind closed doors.
However, this Bill does not guarantee Ontario’s Greenbelt is now adequately protected. Other actions of this provincial government threaten many parts of the Greenbelt, specifically the proposals to build new mega highways through the Greenbelt such as Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. As well, land use planning policies found in Bill 23, proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement, the proposed elimination of the Growth Plan, forced urban boundary expansions, and the improper use of MZOs all threaten the Greenbelt and the lands surrounding it. Finally, the Minister’s comments at the press conference earlier today provide no assurances that the Government will not remove lands from the Greenbelt as part of the mandated 10-year review.
The speedy passage of the proposed Bill is a necessary and welcome action that will restore Ontario’s Greenbelt. But it is only the start. We hope MPPs will listen to the vast majority of Ontarians and make Greenbelt protection a priority by undoing other policies that are threatening our beloved and precious Greenbelt that millions of people depend on for groundwater, local food, recreation, biodiversity, natural heritage, and ecological services. The government needs to abandon its many other proposed actions that will harm the Greenbelt. Instead, we urge them to focus on building affordable, sustainable housing within our existing towns and cities and expand the Greenbelt to improve our future resilience and preparedness in an era of global climate change.
Anne Bell (Ontario Nature), Debbie Gordon (Save the Maskinonge), Franz Hartmann (OGA Coordinator), Ian Borsuk (Environment Hamilton), Kevin Thomason (Grand River Environment Network), Margaret Prophet (Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition), Tim Gray (Environmental Defence).