Statement by Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence

Lands must now be returned to the Greenbelt and legislation introduced to protect it from future attacks, as well as to protect other farms and forests from speculative developers

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat – Today, the Ontario Auditor General released a report that concludes that the political level of the Ontario government directed its civil service staff to remove land owned by particular developers from the Greenbelt. As a result of those actions, the decision to remove these lands should be revisited.

The Auditor General’s report confirms that lands were removed from the Greenbelt as a favour to particular sprawl developers to enable them to make up to $8.3 billion in windfall profits by building on land meant to be protected forever. Shockingly, this occurred despite clear and abundant evidence that lands in the Greenbelt are not required to meet Ontario’s housing supply needs.

There are 59,000 hectares of land designated for development in the GTHA alone, without including the 3,000 hectares removed from the Greenbelt. If some of the lands were developed at even the modest densities of Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood, only 15,000 hectares would be needed to house the population projected for the region by 2051.

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There are also fixed supplies of materials and labour available for home building. Focusing them on creating low density sprawl means less can be made available to build the communities we need inside of our towns and cities.

Ontarians know that we can build homes in cities and towns where we already have services and where public transit and walkability lead to lower costs and higher quality of life. In fact a new public opinion poll conducted by Environics for the Alliance for a Livable Ontario shows that 83 per cent of Ontario residents want homes built within cities and towns where services exist – and not on the Greenbelt. They also do not find the Ontario government credible on the issue of land supply and housing.

The Ontario government is on the wrong side of the views of almost all Ontarians except for its developer friends. It needs to stop pushing forward senseless environmental destruction and focus on getting homes built where they are needed, and at prices people can afford.

Now that Ontarians can see the full picture of what has occurred with the Greenbelt, immediate actions are necessary. These include:

  • Full investigation of the relationship between the provincial government and development industry by the OPP
  • Lands removed from the Greenbelt must be returned immediately and the Greenbelt boundary legislatively protected
  • The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Reserve Act must be reinstated
  • The Ontario government’s pro-sprawl agenda must be reversed. Homes should be built in existing towns and cities, not on farmland, forests and the Greenbelt
  • The Greenbelt should be expanded to protect much more of southern Ontario’s farmland
  • City and town boundary expansion should only be permitted after it can be proven that there are no more opportunities for building within the existing boundaries
  • The Ontario and the federal governments must get back into the business of directly creating affordable housing

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental 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 request an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence,