This is a guest blog by Melanie Duckett-Wilson, former Toronto and York Region educator.


As a member of Climate Action Newmarket Aurora and a participant of several organizations like Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and The Alliance for a Liveable Ontario-York Region, I have been speaking up for the environment for quite some time. Since 2018 especially, something has been hinky in Ontario. First, hundreds of clean energy contracts were cancelled with the stroke of a pen. Then, trouble was clearly in the wind when six members of the Greenbelt Council resigned in 2020. You know when you can feel it in your gut, right? 

Hands off the Greenbelt

In 2023, we rallied. Emails, ERO input, mass protests, appeals to the federal government to intervene – it was all or nothing for the Greenbelt and democracy. I stood at local arenas and markets, petition in hand for days. Over 500 signatures strong, but the local MPP wouldn’t take it. It mattered to me and I found it mattered to many so I didn’t give up. So, I found another MPP and it was tabled at Queen’s Park.  Thousands signed similar petitions. We protested outside MPP offices, keeping the faith that the increasing amount of beeping horns, people showing up, and media and political attention would mean a reversal.

We took a deep breath. The land was safe. The Auditor General laid out the broken political process behind the decision to remove land from the Greenbelt and the RCMP opened an investigation to see if there were any illegal deals behind the scenes.

Back at it again?

Alas, the sprawl vs. greenspace scandal seems to be moving forward again – but this time, broken up across many different bills and seemingly minor policy changes. The current barrage of complicated bills and ERO postings can feel overwhelming.  Ordinary citizens rely on independent authorities like the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Ontario Energy Board, Conservation Authorities, the Greenbelt Council and municipal governments to weigh in on complex policy changes and government activities.  When their powers are gradually eroded, it leaves individuals like us with far too much responsibility to wade through an endless stream of decisions and changes and hold elected officials accountable.  

People are already finding it hard to know what to do about climate change but we know emissions in Ontario are going the wrong way and we have to do something, fast. Climate Action Newmarket Aurora recently hosted another town hall with nearly 100 attendees who discussed the climate crisis and Canada’s responsibility to act. The dialogue was rich, realistic and meaningful. I was particularly inspired by the contributions of student volunteers and the local Newmarket Aurora Youth Council. People left feeling they can make a difference by the way they shop, eat, communicate with officials and peacefully protest. When the public is well-informed, we are better able to participate, so this event was very energizing for our smaller organizing group.

When we look at the evidence, one thing is clear: greenspace and agricultural land are still at risk, housing and food security are too. The Premier needs to know that despite the continued ‘whack-a mole’ we face, we will stand up again and again for what Ontarians value most – a future. 

It’s not too much to ask for. I see viable options:

  • Subsidizing freight trucks on the underused 407 instead of building the 413 would free up billions of tax dollars and save Greenbelt lands;
  • Faster, more frequent cross-region transit would give families more time together and create fast, affordable transportation options for those who don’t own a car;
  • Investing in agricultural protection and innovation for future food security; and
  • Changing legislation, by-laws and zoning to encourage developers to build more housing where we want it most: inside existing urban boundaries and close to transit.

A greener, cleaner, safer future. That’s why I do what I do. 

Take Action

It’s time to get your signs and pens back out!

I also encourage you to find a local environmental group and get involved.  If you’re in the Newmarket-Aurora area,  check out  Climate Action Newmarket-Aurora.

On July 13, from 11-1 pm  join the Climate Action Newmarket-Aurora & Mothers Marching at the intersection of Yonge and Mulock, Newmarket (near MPP offices).