Underwhelming Greenbelt expansion proposal from Province

“This announcement offers no new protection for the lands that need it and ignores the need to expand the Greenbelt in key areas,” said Tim Gray from Environmental Defence. “If this government was serious about Greenbelt protection, it would have added lands threatened by sprawl development. And it would have announced a stop to its plans to build the completely unnecessary and expensive Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass which will go right through the Greenbelt.”

Tim Gray, Environmental Defence

On March 24, 2022, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs released a Greenbelt Expansion proposal plan. Following public consultation to expand the Greenbelt to shield more green space from being developed, the province is proposing the addition of 13 urban river valleys to the Greenbelt, a horseshoe-shaped swath of protected farmlands, wetlands and watersheds around Toronto.

The government had initially said it was interested in expending the Greenbelt to include the Paris Galt Moraine, which provides drinking water to Guelph and surrounding municipalities. But in a decision also released on March 24, 2022, the Ministry said it was holding off on adding the moraine to the Greenbelt as “more time is needed to understand how the proposed addition of the Paris Galt Moraine to the Greenbelt may impact the priority to create housing and jobs.”

The 13 river valley areas would only be shielded from development on publicly-owned land, not private property. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance said in a statement that municipalities and conservation authorities already protect most of these public areas against development.

Environmental Defence executive director Tim Gray said the recommended changes won’t protect sensitive forest areas. Mr Gray said the province is not acting on several recommendations brought forward by the public last year. Besides protection for the Paris Galt Moraine, advocates had asked to include Carruthers Creek and Duffins Creek. “I think it shows that they are not serious about meaningful Greenbelt expansion,” Mr Gray said.

“A year ago, when Greenbelt expansion was first announced, 50 groups submitted detailed recommendations to the Province about places that need immediate Greenbelt protection. These include wetlands, moraines, cold water streams and headwater areas across the Greater Golden Horseshoe – vital water features that are vulnerable to land speculation and intense development pressures.” said Anne Bell from Ontario Nature. “Yet the government’s proposal completely ignores those recommendations.”

Read the full submission from the 50 groups.

Media statement, Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (March 24, 2022)

Provincial officials are accepting feedback on the recommended changes and continuing to take suggestions until midnight, April 23, 2022.