Simcoe County needs to be Included in Greenbelt Expansion Proposal
Statement on Province’s Consultation to Expand the Greenbelt
from the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition
Steve Clark, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced this morning that the province is opening a consultation about Greenbelt expansion. Specifically, it was suggested that the Greenbelt be grown over Urban River Valleys and to protect the Paris-Galt Moraine.
The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and allies across the region and province have strongly advocated for the expansion of the Greenbelt since 2017. In fact, over 90 groups including prominent individuals such as David Crombie released a report earlier today which outlines five requirements the provincial government must follow to ensure that Greenbelt expansion improves the environmental and financial health of Ontarians:
-Retain all lands currently protected within the Greenbelt;
-Build on the science and public consultation carried out during the recent boundary expansion review;
-Simultaneously address public health, local food security, water security, climate resilience, biodiversity conservation and economic prosperity;
-Acknowledge that there is more than enough land available to both expand the Greenbelt and build complete communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe;
-Consult meaningfully with Indigenous communities.
While we are encouraged that the province did not take out lands of the existing Greenbelt and is focused on protection of water, Simcoe County has been left out of the discussion at a time when our natural environment and water are increasingly under threat from sprawl and expansion of aggregate operations – two industries that are strongly limited under Greenbelt policies.
Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition says, “In early 2018, we participated in the province’s consultation to expand the Greenbelt into Simcoe County. It was clear then that our aquifers, forests, shorelines and wetlands needed to be off limits to sprawl and aggregate.
“At that time, the province agreed and proposed expansion plans which were ambitious for this area.
“Three years later, the only thing that has changed is that the threats have increased as policies that protect our natural spaces from sprawl and protections for endangered species have weakened considerably.
“We have seen development applications threaten provincially significant wetlands, floodplains, pristine forests all while our local lakes and rivers become increasingly sick.
“We have reports from local Conservation Authorities that predict with a changing climate, we may see sources of water run dry and may not be able to keep up with current demand.
So if this government is truly serious about protecting Ontarians it is time to be genuine with that and ambitiously expand the Greenbelt to stop greed from threatening our water supply with overzealous sprawl.”
The message to the government is clear: our water and environment is a shared heritage and should not be sacrificed to benefit a few; water is core to our identity as Ontarians; the Greenbelt has been successful in protecting landscapes and water for over 15 years; and people care about their communities and want to see them succeed in a way that ensures they continue to be healthy and vibrant into the future. We feel that includes expanding the Greenbelt over landscapes that provide drinking water and help us adapt to climate change.
We look forward to continuing to build a better Simcoe County and working with the government to recognize that if they are true to protecting Ontarians into the future, their Greenbelt expansion needs to grow accordingly.