With the holidays approaching, it’s a good time to look back at successes we achieved together this past year. And what a busy year it was! This month on our blog we’re highlighting recent environmental victories your support made possible. (Check out this blog on our victories safeguarding Canada’s water.) For a detailed list of environmental victories, be sure to visit our 2016 Annual Report. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of recent victories in our work to create more sustainable, livable communities.
VICTORY! PROTECTING PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
For years, we’ve spoken out about the risks of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). These harassing lawsuits aimed at silencing public debate were launched primarily by developers, corporations or others against concerned citizens who spoke out against proposed projects in their communities. This year Ontario residents achieved a major victory when the province passed legislation to end the scourge of SLAPPs. A win for democracy in Ontario, the new law protects free speech and the rights of citizens to voice their concerns. Want to power more victories like this? Donate to Environmental Defence and help make more environmental victories possible!
Another longstanding priority for Environmental Defence came to a successful conclusion when the Ontario government passed Bill 181. The bill reforms the rules for municipal election campaign financing by banning corporate and union donations to municipal election candidates. This important bill will limit corporate influence over municipal planning and bring more transparency and accountability to land-use decision-making.
WORKING TOWARDS A BIGGER, STRONGER GREENBELT
Over a decade ago Environmental Defence helped establish Ontario’s Greenbelt, which protects farmland, forests, rivers and streams from urban sprawl. This past year, with the Greenbelt and Growth Plans under review by the province, we engaged the public and government decision-makers on how to improve and strengthen the Plans. Last spring, we launched the report, From Dumb Growth to Smart Growth: Actions that strengthen the Greenbelt and the Growth Plan. The report included recommendations to strengthen the Greenbelt and encourage Ontario to grow in smarter ways. It also described the benefits of Ontario towns and cities growing up and in, instead of sprawling out.
Growing more compactly encourages more walkable, public transit-friendly, vibrant communities while protecting at risk farmland and forests. Timed to coincide with public consultations on the Greenbelt and Growth Plans, the report helped to educate the public and the Ontario government about how to improve both Plans.
In an important first for Environmental Defence, we co-authored a report with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The report, Farmland at risk: Why land-use planning needs improvement for a healthy agricultural future in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, emphasized that protecting farmland and the agricultural system must be a priority in Ontario’s Greenbelt and Growth Plans.
Following public consultations, a panel led by former Toronto mayor David Crombie released a report with 87 recommendations for improving Ontario’s Greenbelt and Growth Plans. We released a report card grading the recommendations and a checklist of actions the province must take to protect the Greenbelt and stop urban sprawl. And we encouraged over 10,000 Ontarians to make their voices heard and call for a bigger, stronger Greenbelt.
Along with the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, we explained to the Ontario government why an expanded Greenbelt would protect valuable water resources that are under threat from sprawl. These vital water systems supply clean drinking water to millions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
We saw success as proposed changes to Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan include expansion into urban river valleys and coastal wetlands, a commitment to map and potentially protect more vulnerable areas in the future, and new municipal requirements for watershed planning to ensure clean drinking water. None of these positive changes would have happened without you. Thank you for raising your voices to call for a stronger Greenbelt!
RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT THE THREATS OF HIGHWAY 413
This year we also shone a spotlight on the risks of the proposed Highway 413 (also called the GTA West). This redundant highway would run just 15 kilometres north of the underused Highway 407. If built, Highway 413 would pave over 2,000 acres of some of the most productive farmland in Ontario, as well as forests, the Humber River headwaters, and a portion of the Greenbelt. It would encourage more sprawl and worsen traffic.
Through brochures, lawn signs and petitions, we raised awareness about the threats and enabled concerned community members to raise their voices. Together, we helped inform the Ontario government’s decision to suspend work on the highway! This win would not have happened without your support. Thank you for helping to help create more livable, sustainable communities.
While we’re thrilled about these recent victories, we know there’s a lot of work on the horizon.
- Along with concerned citizens, we will continue to speak out against the redundant Highway 413 to ensure the provincial government understands that the highway is unnecessary, and must be cancelled. You can help! Make your voice heard here.
- We’ll work with the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and the public to ensure that the final Greenbelt and Growth Plans expand the Greenbelt, stop sprawl and build stronger sustainable communities.
- We’ll work with municipal leaders and the public to fix the Ontario Municipal Board so that it supports smart growth and protects the environment.
Want to see more victories like the ones described above? Donate to Environmental Defence and help power our work to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy, livable communities.
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