TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (OGA), a coalition of over 120 organizations across Ontario, is pleased by the province’s plans announced today to grow and strengthen the Greenbelt while guiding smart urban growth through strong improvements to Ontario’s Growth Plan.

The OGA praises the province for balancing the need to grow and strengthen the Greenbelt, while steering growth in a more sustainable and climate-friendly direction. However, the OGA urges the province to take further action to close the door on sprawl, which continues to pave over southern Ontario’s prime farmland and sensitive ecosystems.

“Today’s announcement is great news for Ontarians who care about local farms, forests and sustainable communities,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environment Defence. “We’re pleased that the province is showing leadership with new protections for the Greenbelt, including sensitive water supplies and natural heritage systems, while supporting the agricultural sector and protecting farmland.”

“More Ontarians want to live in mixed-use walkable neighbourhoods that are close to amenities like public transit. The stronger intensification targets in the Growth Plan should help slow unnecessary low-density sprawl that is bad for the environment, expensive to provide services to and diminishes quality of life in the Greater Golden Horseshoe,” Gray added. “However, the province must ensure these targets are mandatory. Only then will the Growth Plan create complete communities across the region that are affordable and sustainable.”

The announcements have important implications for growth in communities like Kitchener-Waterloo, which lead the way in building smart growth neighbourhoods at higher intensification rates than other municipalities.

“We value the province’s proposed amendments to the Growth Plan. It shows leadership and a strong commitment to sustainability that reinforces our visionary Regional Official Plan that’s currently reshaping our downtown core areas – building green complete, walkable, mixed-use new neighbourhoods served by rapid public transit, while protecting farmland and our agricultural economy. Although we are very disappointed that there is no commitment to add areas in the Kitchener-Waterloo region to the Greenbelt, the improved Growth Plan will help our work to protect the region’s nature heritage areas,” said Kevin Thomason, member of the Kitchener-Waterloo based, Grand River Environment Network.

The OGA has long called for the province to expand the Greenbelt to better protect at-risk farmland and sensitive natural heritage systems left unprotected in 2005 when the Greenbelt was established. The amendments to the Greenbelt Plan announced today address the need for including these areas as part of the protected Greenbelt.

“The Province has heard the call from Ontarians for a bigger, stronger Greenbelt and we applaud this bold step to protect vulnerable natural and agricultural systems across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. We agree that mapping and protecting these systems will support livable landscapes in the long term. Having seen first-hand how unfettered sprawl can devastate wildlife, watersheds and our ability to mitigate climate change – and conscious of the intense development pressures in southern Ontario – these amendments come not a day too soon. We look forward to working with the government on implementation and watching communities reap the benefits”, said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature.

The OGA will continue to advocate for a strongly protected and enhanced Greenbelt, as well as provide recommendations to further strengthen the Growth Plan, throughout the next phase of the provincial consultation expected to conclude at the end of September.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a defender of Ontario’s innovative Greenbelt. The Alliance brings together more than 120 environmental and public health organizations, community groups, ratepayer groups and local environmental organizations to ensure the continued protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a beautiful well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, 416-356-2587 (cell); 416-323-9521 ext. 247; abraude@environmentaldefence.ca