(The Canadian Press)
TORONTO — Municipal leaders from communities in the Ontario Greenbelt are calling on the leaders of the main provincial parties to let voters know where they stand on greenspace.
A letter to the Liberal, Progressive Conservative, NDP and Green leaders asks them to state if they will commit to strengthening the Greenbelt.
The Greenbelt helps protects nearly 730,000 hectares of prime farmland, comprising about 7,000 farms, and greenspace around the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
A poll commissioned by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance indicates residents support strengthening the Greenbelt.
The Angus Reid poll found 70 per cent of Ontarians favour strengthening the Greenbelt to protect greenspace and agricultural land versus 15 per cent who support lessening protections.
Ontario’s Greenbelt policy is to be reviewed in 2015. Greenbelt advocates say the government elected in October will be important to the future of the Greenbelt and say it’s important for voters to know where the parties stand.
“The government we choose in October has a critical role to play in the future of the Greenbelt,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.
“This poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Ontarians want our government to strengthen and not lessen Greenbelt protections,” Smith said.
Ajax Mayor Steve Parish and Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge were among those signing the letters to the provincial party leaders on behalf of the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt group.
The group is a network of 70 elected councillors and mayors who support the Greenbelt as a permanent feature and are committed to ensuring that planning decisions adhere to the Greenbelt Plan.
Agricultural land within the Greenbelt is some of the best in the country, Parish noted.
“It really is an economic issue,” Parish said. “It’s not just a tree-hugger … environmentalist type of issue.”
Farbridge said the Greenbelt area is undergoing tremendous growth and that has to be properly handled.
“How we manage that growth is really going to be important in terms of our quality of life moving forward,” she said.
Meanwhile, a study for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association says the Greenbelt program is helping farmers save energy.
The engineering consulting firm Agviro, Inc. found the Greenbelt Energy Program for Agriculture is conserving enough energy to power 1,788 homes annually.
“Our study showed some really positive results related to energy conservation and energy generation on farms in the Greenbelt,” said Katie Gibb, a spokeswoman for Agviro.