Photo courtesy of Bill Lishman
Media Release: Ontario Nature
Published March 9, 2017
A new Neptis Foundation report raises the alarm that major loopholes in the Government of Ontario’s proposed Growth Plan would make rural communities a focus of growth, wreaking havoc on the water, nature and communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These changes would allow decades-old style of sprawl in over 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets – including many within the protected Greenbelt. Around 31,200 hectares of farmland, natural habitat and rural areas (equivalent in collective size to Mississauga) would come under threat from low-density, car-dependent development.
“This goes against the spirit and intent of the Province’s Growth Plan and its promotion of complete communities,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “These rural settlement areas were specifically excluded by the Province from the built boundary where growth should not occur because of a lack of servicing.”
The proposed Growth Plan creates a loophole where sprawling greenfield developments could be manipulated to count as intensification. The intent of the Growth Plan is to direct major growth to areas with existing roads, sewers and other major infrastructure in the GGH.
The more than 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets at risk are peppered across the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and throughout the GGH. “The proposed Growth Plan, if not amended before its final release, will permanently transform the character of our rural countryside,” says Debbe Crandall, Policy Advisor for STORM. “This underlying development pressure threatens areas with vulnerable water sources and where we’ve asked the Province to grow the Greenbelt.”
Simcoe County has the largest portion of rural settlement areas under threat. The Neptis Foundation identified that 65% of the draft approved intensification in Simcoe Country are in greenfield areas with 83% for single-family detached housing. “These loopholes open the door to costly and unsustainable communities in need of major infrastructure services,” says Joshua Wise, Greenway Program Manager for Ontario Nature. “Pipes and roads will fragment important natural areas and pave over prime farmland.”
“The Province has chance now to close these loopholes,” says Margaret Prophet, Co-chair of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “It’s an opportunity to invest in creating complete communities that are cost-effective and better for our environment, farmland and families.”
The proposed Growth Plan permits an archaic formula for growth where few developers profit at the expense of our water, nature and communities in the GGH. EcoSpark, STORM, Ontario Nature and Earthroots are leading voices for natural areas protection in the GGH and growing the Greenbelt. The partnership wants the Province to close this loophole before finalizing the Growth Plan.
Read the full Neptis Foundation report.
For media inquiries and to arrange expert interviews, please contact: John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-786-2171
EcoSpark is an environmental charity whose mission is to empower communities to take an active role in protecting and sustaining their local environment. We do this by giving people the tools for education, monitoring and influencing positive change. We have directly worked with over 64,000 people in over 20 watersheds across Southern Ontario. For more information, visit www.ecospark.ca.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.
Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM) is focused on protecting the ecological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Since 1989, STORM has been working at the local and regional levels to ensure that municipalities make good planning decisions to protect its ecological and hydrological functions. For more information, visit www.stormcoalition.org.
Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization that works aggressively to protect wilderness, wildlife and watersheds in Ontario through research, education and action. We achieved effective protection of threatened ecosystems for over 20 years on behalf of our approximately 12,000 supporters in the province. For more information, visit www.earthroots.org.
The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) consists of over 30 community groups from across Simcoe and the province that have agreed in principle that the Greenbelt needs to expand into Simcoe County to ensure our water, natural heritage and farmland is protected. With representation from farmers, naturalists, environmentalists and ratepayer organizations, the SCGC is a balanced voice that believes that the Greenbelt would create a stronger Simcoe County. For more information, visit www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca.
"News of increasing food prices in Canada have helped to temper enthusiasm for 2016. The University of Guelph’s Food Institute estimates the average Canadian household spent an $325 more in 2015. This year, you should expect an additional annual increase of about $345—about the price of 70 bags of milk.
As mentioned in your story, we can avoid the impact of some of these price spikes by buying more locally grown and produced food. However, the continuing pressure to Simcoe’s productive farmland from urban sprawl risks threatening our local food supply.
In Midhurst, almost 2,000 acres of some of the best farmland is at risk of being paved over for 10,000 homes. Other small rural communities such as Everett also risk having their farmland destroyed for needless sprawl.
A recent report by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and Environmental Defence found three-quarters of the best farmland in the Greater Golden Horseshoe — which includes Simcoe — is at risk of being swallowed up by unsustainable growth. This report, authored by some of the brightest planners, agricultural experts and environmentalists, highlights our need to take action now before it is too late.
This is why it makes perfect sense that Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Minister responsible for the Greenbelt Plan, wants to grow the Greenbelt to provide similar protections and long-term certainty for our food security and rural communities.
And he’s not alone.
According to recent Environics polling results, about 96 per cent of respondents in rural communities believe the Greenbelt should be expanded to protect our farmland, water supply, and our natural heritage sites.
With the province’s Greenbelt Plan review underway, let’s take this opportunity to permanently protect the farmland that feeds our communities, the forests that keep our air fresh, and the water systems that filter our drinking water. Let Premier Wynne know that we need to grow the Greenbelt into Simcoe County.
Jim Partridge, president, Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture
Margaret Prophet, co-chairperson, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition"