Statement by Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager on An Act to amend the Greenbelt Act, 2005…
Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – By introducing legislation to return the 7,400 acres of vital habitat and prime farmland his Ministry wrongly removed from the Greenbelt, Minister Paul Callandra has taken only a modest first first step on the long path that leads out of the government’s sprawl and land speculation scandal.
We are relieved to see that this bill enshrines the Greenbelt’s boundaries in the Greenbelt Act itself, and includes provisions that would reverse the $8.28 billion dollar giveaway of development rights in the Duffins Rouge Agricultural preserve and prevent land speculators from suing the government for undeserved “compensation”.
However, we are concerned that this bill falls short of what will be required to make good on the Premier’s promise never to remove land from the Greenbelt in future, or to restore the public – and investor – certainty that Greenbelt protection is permanent. Restricting the power of the Minister or Cabinet to remove Greenbelt land by regulation alone is a useful step. Yet, given Minister Calandra’s ambiguous comments in the legislature, there is cause for concern that the 10 year annual review process will be manipulated to create a pretext for future attempts to remove Greenbelt land. In order to remedy this omission, and restore damaged public confidence that Greenbelt protection is permanent, this bill must be amended to limit future reviews of Greenbelt boundaries to consider only expansions of the Greenbelt.
Moreover, it is vital to remember that restoring and permanently protecting the Greenbelt itself will be only a first step as the attempt to remove lands from the Greenbelt was part of a larger corrupt and counterproductive push for sprawl that would worsen Ontario’s housing shortage. Government actions include:
- Forced urban boundary expansions in Hamilton, Halton, Waterloo and elsewhere aimed at increasing the amount of farms, forests and wetlands lost to sprawl by more than 100 km2 within the Golden Horseshoe alone
- “Sprawl MZOs” that have forced sprawl outside of existing towns city boundaries
- A plan to remove Growth Plan housing and job density requirements at a time when higher densities are the only way to solve the housing shortage
- A plan to let agricultural landlords anywhere in Ontario evict farmers and convert a farm into three McMansion estates
- Laws that have weakened Conservation Authorities, endangered species protection, and floodplain and wetland protections
- The dismantling of regional land use planning
- Pushing the dangerous “Highway 413” and Bradford by-Pass highway schemes
Just as with the Greenbelt removals, all of these provincial actions involve not just sacrificing the environment – but also diverting scarce construction capacity and public resources away from essential low-cost housing in existing neighborhoods – to subsidize the environmentally destructive sprawl schemes of the government’s “friends”. In the case of Highway 413, those public resources consist of more than $10 billion of taxpayer money and a wide swathe of the Greenbelt itself.
The scandal won’t be over until Highway 413 and all the government’s other sprawl initiatives have been abandoned and reversed.
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