Toronto – Municipalities failing to comply with the provincial government’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe are threatening to undermine the Places to Grow Act, requiring the McGuinty government take significant action to make good on its commitments to rein in poorly planned development, says a new report released today by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
Places to Sprawl: Report on Municipal Conformity with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as provided for under Ontario’s Places to Grow Act reveals that four large upper tier municipalities – Durham Region, York Region, Niagara Region and Simcoe County – have passed, or drafted, official plan amendments that contain growth strategies that directly contradict the intent and spirit of the Places to Grow Act.
“The Region of Durham has completely disregarded the Places to Grow Act.  By inflating employment growth numbers by 25,000 over what was determined for the area in conjunction with the Ontario government, Durham Council is trying to justify the destruction of prime agricultural land and environmentally significant areas. Simply put, Councilors seem intent on paving over what little is left of green space in southern Durham Region,” said Dan McDermott, Director of Sierra Club Ontario, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
“The proposed growth strategy for Simcoe County encourages sprawling leapfrog development by building up the Bradford area just north of Ontario’s world-renowned Greenbelt,” said Claire Malcolmson, Coordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe, a member of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. “We cannot save Lake Simcoe if we pave over massive areas of the watershed, which is what the strategy supports.”
Between 2001 and 2031, the population of Ontario is expected to grow by 3.7 million people. To reduce the environmental impact of this magnitude of growth, and to curb urban sprawl and protect southern Ontario’s fragile natural landscapes and agricultural land, the Ontario government passed the Places to Grow Act in 2005. In the following year, the province adopted the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to regulate growth in the area of southern Ontario in which the Greenbelt is located.
Initially, the province gave all municipalities up to three years to ensure that their growth plans were in compliance with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. That deadline has come and gone and as of July 31, 2009, only six of the 89 affected lower tier municipalities had passed the requisite growth amendments with the vast majority of them waiting on upper tier conformity to provide direction for their growth.  
“With four of the nine upper tier municipalities drafting or passing amendments that do not respect the spirit of the Place to Grow Act and actually threaten continued urban sprawl, the province needs to re-double its growth planning efforts if is truly going to ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable future for the Greater Golden Horseshoe,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.
 The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is calling on all municipalities to conform to the Places to Grow Act and plan for growth in a way that protects our province’s green spaces. The Alliance is also calling on the Ontario Government and an active citizenship to continue to challenge policies that encourage uncontrolled sprawl and damage the health of Ontario’s natural and agricultural spaces.
Places to Sprawl is available to download for free on the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance web site – www.greenbeltalliance.ca.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of more than 80 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe (647) 267-7572 (cell)
Dan McDermott, Sierra Club Ontario (416) 960-6075; (416) 873-3852(cell)