Toronto, Ont. – Today the Ontario government resumed their attack on farms, sustainable cities, nature and affordable healthy living in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). The proposed changes to the Growth Plan include:

  1. Removing all protection for endangered species and their habitats from the impacts of aggregate pits, quarries and way-side pits in natural heritage areas.
  2. Considering the use of inaccurate population projections to guide future growth, even though their own Ministry of Finance has determined that census based projections show that only Peel Region and Toronto are exceeding Growth Plan projections, while every other region is attracting far fewer residents.
  3. Extending the required period for municipalities to plan for growth until 2051, thus facilitating massive urban boundary expansions onto farmland and natural areas.

Instead of investing in recovery from the pandemic, the Ontario government is continuing its hatchet job on sound planning. Unfortunately, much of the damage will be hard, and in some cases impossible, to reverse. Our cities and towns will be poorer, less productive, and more gridlocked, while our farmland, forests and natural areas will shrink at an even faster rate. A massive public debt is being created for the benefit of a few developers.

The Ontario government appears to be stuck in the past, hooked on a 1950s model of development, where wealth and prosperity are created from the conversion of nature into sprawling suburbs. But this model fails to recognize that part of the attractiveness of the Greater Golden Horseshoe is the integration of vibrant urban growth of walkable and sustainable cities and towns, with protected agricultural areas and ample greenspace.

Analysis

    1. Quarries and aggregate operations: The removal of all prohibitions on quarry and gravel pit development in natural heritage areas that contain endangered species further erodes the protection of the rarest and most vulnerable plants and animals in Ontario. These areas also represent the small portion of the GGH that provides homes for other wildlife, flood control and filtering, heat amelioration, air quality enhancement and recreational opportunities for people. Loss of these areas is a direct threat to our quality of life and the ecological underpinnings of the region.

2. Use of flawed population forecast data will potentially result in:

  • The over-designation of land for urban residential uses as part of the land needs assessment and Municipal Planning processes, thereby unnecessarily converting  more farmland, woodlands, wetlands and other natural features into low density development. These areas will be in the tens of thousands of hectares.
  • A likely shortfall in future growth-related revenues such as development charges by municipalities and therefore putting pressure on increasing property taxes for residents to pay for sewers, water lines, roads and public transit serving many fewer people than projected. These shortfalls will be in the billions of dollars across the region
  • The inability for the Region of Peel and the City of Toronto to properly plan for what could be significantly higher population growth than provided for in the current Growth Plan forecasts while every other region plans for people that are not coming.
  1. Extension of Planning Period to 2051: The extension of the required period to designate land for growth to 2051 ensures that these unfounded population projections will be used as a rationale to massively expand urban boundaries now and deliver huge financial benefits to land speculating developers at the expense of the public. This occurs when the urban boundary is expanded to take in surrounding farms and natural areas, resulting in a massive increase in value of that land.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca