The Ford government has made a mess of planning. Now, municipal governments have a chance to correct some of that.

Our open letter on the reversal announced by this government to changes made to municipal official plans, outlining our concerns with a lack of accountability and transparency in how the Minister is proceeding.

The Greenbelt scandal is a symptom of a larger problem, of a trend towards a lack of accountability in democratic decision making.

Anyone who follows the news in Ontario will know that this government has been forced into a humiliating retreat in its attempt to give land from the Greenbelt to a select group of well-connected developers.

Screenshot of CBC's coverage of Ontario Premier Doug Ford announcing the reversal to Greenbelt land take-outs. Credit CBC.

This screenshot is from CBC’s coverage of Premier Ford’s announcement of the reversal of the Greenbelt land take-outs.

As you read through the rest of this piece, consider the theatre of this image, with the many MPPs arrayed behind the Premier, and the difference between that nod to collective accountability and the private message from the new Minister to mayors.

See more of CBC’s coverage here.

What is less well known is that another major policy reversal, with many parallels to the Greenbelt scandal, is currently underway, too. For many, this second reversal may be even more impactful than that which deals with the Greenbelt.

At around the same time that Greenbelt lands were being carved up, municipalities across Ontario were sending their Official Plan to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for approval.

Official Plans are the result of years of hard work. Town halls were held and public engagement portals established so that residents could be involved in the process, providing input into how their communities would be shaped over the coming years. Municipal staff, mayors, and councillors worked to incorporate this feedback, representing a dialogue between local government and citizens, into the plans, such that they reflected the priorities of communities they represent. And, finally, these plans were debated and passed by municipal councils, elected by and accountable to their constituents.

The process in Ontario is for these plans, passed by municipalities, to then be sent on to the Ministry for approval. This is in large part due to the role that the provincial government is meant to play in overseeing and coordinating regional planning. So, accordingly, plans were sent to the Ministry. Within short order, however, many of these plans were returned with lines crossed out, words replaced, and whole paragraphs added.

Official Plans Changed Unilaterally

In Hamilton, the Official Plan was changed so that thousands of hectares of farmland meant to remain off limits to development was, instead, opened up for development. (Ryan Amato, Chief of Staff to Minister Clarke and who was central to the Greenbelt scandal, was also involved with this decision.)

Closer to home, Barrie’s Official Plan was edited to water down requirements for affordable housing and increased density, among many other changes that developers wanted but hadn’t been included.

Often the changes made by the Ministry closely follow language used in requests for changes to the plan that were made by third parties, namely developers or their representatives.

Again, well connected developers had what seemed like a preferential connection to the Minister’s office that, in effect, placed their interests above that of the public. The result was the overriding of the processes of public engagement that helped to shape the Official Plans passed by municipalities. Voices of community members, as a consequence, were ignored and shut out.

This is a view of community ownership that sees it as belonging to developers, rather than those who live and work there.

Retreat, or Attempt to Do An End-Run

The retreat from these changes are likely an attempt to stem the deluge of negative responses to the government’s misleading of the public, to their preferential treatment of some of the province’s wealthiest individuals, and to their disregard for due processes and democratic accountability.

On the Ministry’s website, the announcement of the reversal states that they would “wind back provincial changes to official plans and official plan amendments”. In the statement there are two specific exceptions, namely, “in circumstances where construction has begun” or “where doing so would contravene existing provincial legislation and regulation”.

That’s what the Minister is telling the public.

What he’s telling mayors, privately, is very different.

The End-Run

In an email to mayors, recently leaked to Environment Defence, the Minister makes assurances that the province will accept, “changes that the municipality would like to see made to the official plan, based on the modifications that the province had previously made, and which you [the Mayor] support.” (Emphasis added.)

A clipping of the letter, which was leaked to Environmental Defence, that Minister Calandra sent privately to mayors, in which he indicates they may make unilateral changes to Official Plans.

Find the whole letter on Environmental Defence’s website, here.

As with the Greenbelt scandal, decision making authority is being removed from the processes previously established.

Public input and engagement is left out, due and deliberate process is left out, incorporating the expertise of staff is left out. Those with access to mayors, whether inside or outside of established channels, have the advantage.

The informality of this is exactly what characterised the process, or lack thereof, that led to the Greenbelt land take-outs – trips by MPPs and staff together with developers to Las Vegas, invitations to family weddings where manilla envelopes with instructions on which land parcels should be removed from the Greenbelt were passed between developers and members of the government, government members using personal phones and email for correspondence, which makes it difficult for records of communications to be obtained.

Why Due Process is Important, and Conclusion

It seems strange to have to say this, but necessary given the repeated actions of this government – due processes exist for a reason, which is that they are transparent, accountable, and as such provide outcomes that benefit all of society, not just a select few.

The Ministry has it right with its public statement – Official Plans should be reinstated as they were passed by municipal councils.

The Minister, however, does not have it right with his private message to mayors. Even with so-called “strong mayor” powers, mayors do not have the mandate to unilaterally change an Official Plan.

To that end, we are heartened that some mayors of affected communities, including Barrie’s, seem to have come out in favour of fully reinstating the Official Plan as it was developed through the established process.

This is important, we believe, to underline democratic principles of due process, including public participation and accountability.

It is also important as it reaffirms the mandate linked to the passage of the Official Plan, which was that of the previous council. Substantial changes to work done by past councils, or any other government for that matter, without using established processes, is an extremely problematic precedent to set.

We recognize that as time passes changes may be necessary, but this must be done using the processes in place. The Official Plan is updated every 5 years, and processes such as secondary plans can address changes outside of that timeframe. These processes include council, public engagement mechanisms, and ensure that any changes made remain accountable to the public.

Official Plans are among the most important components of planning and building our communities, the places where we live, play, and work. They deserve to be given the highest level of consideration, which includes the best possible process of deliberation.

Adam Ballah

Adam has worked with SCGC since, almost, its conception. He holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from York University, and is deeply interested (and concerned) with intersections between risk, vulnerability, and security when it comes to climate impacts.

Featuring Margaret Atwood and Special Guest, Sarah Harmer

Gather for the
Greenbelt

1

Evening

$90k +

Raised for Organizing

1,000s

Of Citizens Empowered

Learn more

This event is made possible with generous support from our

Sponsors

The Roost Wine Compnay

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Our wines are sustainably farmed, hand-made, small-batch, and minimal intervention.
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Miski Brewing

At Miski Brewing, we are more than just beer makers, we are beer enthusiasts. We pour our passion into every batch, creating unique flavours and experiences that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. We invite you to try our exceptional brews and experience the difference for yourself.

Bacchus Wine Academy

Bacchus Wine Academy offers: Wine tasting sessions. We will work with you to offer a selection of wines to taste and review. Large and small event facilitation. We will help you choose the wine for your event, whether it is an intimate dinner or alumni or corporate event.
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Village Media

Leaders in the expansion of community-based journalism and marketing, focused on building profitable and sustainable local news sites.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Well hidden in the heart of Liberty Village, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen reflects our commitment to providing locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, simply and sumptuously prepared. Bright and industrial, yet relaxing and intimate, the warmth of Mildred’s lingers long after the guests have gone home.
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Pie Wood-Fired Pizza

A world class wood fired pizza joint that never concedes to any compromise on quality and you have a sure bet for a remarkable experience.
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Knightvision Creative Agency

Founded by namesake, Tyler Knight, KnightVision Creative Agency is a full service Video Production, Photography & Marketing company modestly rooted in Orillia, Ontario, Canada.
Barrie Folk

Barrie Folk Society

The Barrie Folk Society is a volunteer organization founded to foster and promote live music in Barrie and the surrounding area through the presentation of concerts in a variety of formats, open stages, educational programs, youth programs, and by supporting other local musical endeavours.

Bass Lake Farms

Bass Lake Farms is a smaller scale family owned and operated farm near Bass Lake in Oro-Medonte. BLF has a few spaces available to trade fresh produce for hands on help to community members looking to access healthy, outdoor physical activities, learn more about ecological food production and to contribute more meaningfully to their local food economy and community.

Sponsors receive branding exposure throughout the event, including in event promotions and public communications.

Elite level sponsors ($2500+) have priority placement throughout.

An Evening to Remember

October 28, 2023

This “Gather for the Greenbelt” event in Barrie, Ontario, features in-person (this is now planned to be a virtual appearance due to a recent health intervention and current process of recovery) storytelling from Margaret Atwood, special guest appearance by Sarah Harmer, as well as Jeff Monague, and poetry from Barrie’s Poet Laureate, Tyneisha Thomas.

Art installation by Rochelle Rubinstein will be featured, as well.

This event is sold out.

If you are unable to attend and would still like to support our efforts, you can make a tax deductible donation here.

Margaret Atwood's Commitment (And Special Extras!)

Margaret Atwood believes the Greenbelt is worth fighting for, and has generously offered $10,000 in support of this work.

She is also offering a signed book to anyone giving $1,000 or more for this event.

What Happens After?

With funds raised through our events we will be embarking on a campaign to protect important green spaces and waters that are under threat.

Engaging in community mapping and incorporating expertise from naturalists and scientists, we will start a conversation about our own local “Greenbelts” places that clean our water, provide habitat for endangered species, help us adapt to climate impacts and keep our communities beautiful and healthy.

We will engage communities across Simcoe County to highlight the special, irreplaceable places that make our communities wonderful places to live and work.

From media relations to mapping, fun community events to educational resources, the funds raised will be focused on how we can work together across the region to protect our natural legacy and leave a bright future for generations yet to come.

In Partnership With

Event: Greenbelt Organizing Meeting

Join us for an in-person organizing session to advocate for protection of the Greenbelt.

This meeting is all about brainstorming and planning local action to protect and preserve our beautiful Greenbelt.

Together, we will discuss ideas, share insights, and develop strategies to make a positive impact on our community.

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and contribute to a greener future. Mark your calendars and spread the word!

No experience necessary – just passion and concern.

Details and registration below! 👇

Details

Date: Tuesday, September 26

Time: 7 – 8:30pm

Location: 91 Doran Road Midhurst, ON L9X 0L5

Registration

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Gather For The Greenbelt

Corporate sponsorship opportunities for the “Gather for the Greenbelt” event in Barrie, Ontario, featuring in-person storytelling from Margaret Atwood, special guests Sarah Harmer, Jeff Monague, and poetry from Barrie’s Poet Laureate, Tyneisha Thomas.

Art installation by Rochelle Rubinstein will be featured, as well.

Read More »

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Letter: The public deserves accountability for the Greenbelt scandel

Below is a letter, made available for publication in local outlets, addressed to local MPPs who supported this government’s land grabs in the Greenbelt.

August 29, 2023 - Simcoe County

Dear MPP Downey, MPP Dunlop and MPP Mulroney,

In December of 2022, you and your cabinet colleagues signed off on removal of 7400 acres of Greenbelt lands.

Thanks to a thorough investigation by the Auditor General the public now knows that the process that led to your approval of Greenbelt takeouts was “biased” and gave “preferential treatment” to a select few developers, some of whom also attended personal events held by their Premier’s family, as well as having been identified as friends by the Premier when asked by the Integrity Commissioner.

We also know that this land grab is likely to result in an increase in asset value for these developers of at least $8 billion.

Moreover, the report stated that environmental standards, if they stood in the way of lands being removed from the Greenbelt, were stripped out of the decision-making process.

The Auditor General also outlined that staff involved were deleting emails and using personal addresses to conduct government business. Deleting records related to government business is quite likely just as illegal now as it was during the gas plant scandal, for which a former chief of staff to the Premier was found guilty.

Now the RCMP is assessing whether it will investigate further and seek criminal charges.

As a coalition of over 45 groups from around Simcoe County, we, and we suspect the rest of your constituents, expect accountability for this betrayal of the public’s trust. Accordingly, we would like you to answer to the following:

  • Your vote to remove these lands went against public feedback submitted via the Environmental Registry, which showed overwhelming opposition to these takeouts. How do you justify this?
  • What did you know about the Greenbelt land grabs before you voted? Did you have knowledge of the process used, and/or of the landowners who would benefit?
  • Why did you support the Greenbelt land grabs when your own Housing Affordability Task Force and Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario determined that there is more than enough land already available to accommodate future housing?
  • Now that you know the process was flawed, do you support the government’s stance to not reconsider the Greenbelt land removals – the 15th recommendation made by the Auditor General?
  • When in opposition, your party argued that cash for access events led to preferential treatment. Given the cash-for-access and preferential treatment likelihood found with the Greenbelt fiasco, and your own continued use of $1000 a ticket events, has your stance on this changed? If not, will you support legislation to end cash for access fundraising and will you commit to no longer host these types of events?


We believe the public is owed answers regarding these questions. We have already sent you an invitation to attend our Public Forum on the Greenbelt, happening September 12 at 7 pm at Grace United Church in Barrie, at which you can answer these questions.

The public has entrusted you with power to make good decisions on their behalf and we expect you to be accountable to that trust. We look forward to your response.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Media Statement: Auditor General on Greenbelt Take-Outs

Local MPPs complicit in $8.3 billion dollar Greenbelt land grab.

August 9, 2023 - Simcoe County

Local MPPs complicit in $8.3 billion dollar Greenbelt land grab

Today’s Auditor General report outlined that the Greenbelt land grabs were a “biased” exercise that gave “certain developers preferential treatment”. Not only were rules changed to allow certain developer lands to be included in the exercise, but environmental oversights were removed as well to ensure the process benefited a select few without any consideration for the integrity of the Greenbelt or the lands it protects.

Local MPPs, specifically Cabinet Ministers Doug Downey, Caroline Mulroney and Jill Dunlop and the rest of the Executive Council, signed off on these Greenbelt removals and this biased exercise, which will see the value of land taken out for developers balloon by at least $8.3 billion. Why did they support these takeouts?

The Premier, along with the rest of his government, have said that this land is needed to build the houses Ontario needs for future demand. The Auditor General refuted this claim, however, confirming what SCGC, along with other environmental organizations, have long said, which is that there was already enough land within urban boundaries. So again we ask, why did our local MPPs support these takeouts.

Do these MPPs and this government take Ontarians for dupes? How can we trust them with the care of our province when they are so clearly willing to lie to the public, to make backroom deals with their rich friends, to sell out to the highest bidder regardless of whether it benefits the rest of us? Beyond the Greenbelt, we’re seeing similar decisions by this government targeting health care and education.

We also see duplicity regarding the need for new highways, such as the Bradford Bypass, for which the government has so far refused to release traffic studies, which it’s exempted from a proper environmental assessment, and which it’s routed around a golf course owned by the father of one of its MPPs.

Based on the evidence that the Auditor General revealed today, it seems clear that this government places the need to take care of their rich friends well above looking after the public’s interest, fiscal responsibility and transparent, honest decision making. This is something that all MPPs need to be accountable for, including those representing ridings in Simcoe County.

There isn’t much that makes Ontarians angrier than elected representatives using government to benefit themselves and enrich their friends. And yet here we are. While people are struggling to make ends meet, an unnecessary, thoroughly biased process aimed at enriching a few was made a top priority. This government promotes itself publicly as “for the people” while behind closed doors it’s only the well connected that get the full benefit of the government’s help and power. We need no further evidence that this government is no longer trustworthy, from the top all the way to our local MPPs.

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Highways are the gateway drug for sprawl and the Bypass is a perfect example.  Developers own over 3000 acres of land around this highway waiting for the greenlight to destroy more farmland and wetlands.

Read More »

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Research: Air Quality Impacts of the Bradford Bypass

The proposed Bradford Bypass highway will negatively impact the air quality of residents, though to what extent and where is more difficult to determine. Our research shows that proponents haven’t thoroughly studied these impacts, and attempts to provide some further information regarding what they might be.

This is a post dealing with the impacts that construction of the Bradford Bypass could have on the surrounding community and, more broadly, on the GTA and Ontario.

To view more content related to the proposed highway visit our Bradford Bypass page.

A rendering of what a Bradford Bypass bridge could look like crossing over the East Holland River. Credit SCGC.

New research by SCGC shows that the negative impacts from construction of the Bradford Bypass could be more wide-spread and severe than what is shown by proponents, specifically in the final Environmental Conditions Report.

Two maps were created to illustrate findings, highlighting additional information regarding where these impacts could be felt, as well as the severity of impacts.

The first map identifies Critical Receptor locations in the Bradford area where the impacts from degraded air quality might be most severe, is shown below. The second incorporates the dispersion distances of common contaminants, and combines that with the CR location’s proximity to each other, weighted by proximity to the highway and contamination dispersion areas, to illustrate where the greatest cause for concern might be.

Critical Receptor Map

Traffic related air pollution (TRAP) is both a well-known risk and emerging concern to public health.

The fact of negative health impacts of TRAP, which can be long lasting, cumulative, and severe, is well established among researchers and public health practitioners, though perhaps less well by the public. As the technology of our vehicles changes, however, and as research methods evolve new concerns regarding negative health impacts continue to emerge.

In the Final Environmental Conditions Report (ECR), prepared by AECON for the Ministry of Transportation, 20 Critical Receptor (CR) locations are identified. These are defined in the ECR as, ‘“retirement homes, hospitals, childcare centres, schools and similar institutional buildings” within the Ministry’s Air Quality Guide.”1See page 208 of the ECR, linked above.

We conducted a desktop review, the method used by AECON in ECR for their assessment of CR locations, and found an additional 11 CR locations that match the types outlined above.

We found a further 20 locations within the study area that we believe, while not strictly within the definition, represent locations where risk of health impacts due to poor air quality is heightened, and should thus also be classified as CRs. These include recreational facilities, such as outdoor sports fields, parks, playgrounds, as well as community and recreation centres.

On the map below AECON/MTO identified CR locations are shown in blue, while locations found by us are shown in orange. A triangle indicates retirement homes, cross schools, star daycare centres, and ellipse recreational facilities.

In total 31 additional CR locations were identified where poor air quality could have an out-sized impact on human health.

Mapping showing where critical receptors for air quality impacts were identified by the MTO and AECON, as well as additional locations identified by research conducted independently by SCGC.

This research discovered an additional 31 locations where degraded air quality due to highway traffic could have an out-sized impact on the health of children and other residents.

Click the map to view a larger size.

While research into the health impacts of short-term, high-intensity exposure to TRAP is still emerging, concerns already exist that strongly indicate a prudent approach, mitigating exposure where and when possible, would be wise.

Health Canada, together with the Sport Information and Resource Centre, provide guidance to this effect,2Understanding Air Quality: A Guiding Document for Sport Organizations while recognizing that better understanding remains necessary to protect the health of sport participants.

What should give more cause for concern regarding sport participation among the youth in areas affected by TRAP is that young cardio-vascular systems are still developing. While this may mean there is more capacity for them to develop out of negative impacts, it also means that potential impacts have out-sized influence on physiological development.

Sport participants, furthermore, are more likely to continue to engage in strenuous exercise, and to the extent they do so in areas impacted by TRAP the likelihood of developing negative health outcomes increases.

This all strongly supports, we believe, the inclusion of recreational and exercise facilities in air quality studies and the impacts TRAP may have on human health.

Select locations are highlighted, below, to show instances of critical receptors that were not included in the Environmental Conditions Report.

Hover over the arrow hotspots for a description of the highlighted location.

Henderson Memorial Park, located at Line 9 and Sideroad 10, is a recreational facility that includes a playground, splash pad, sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, and more.

This facility is a prime example of what we believe should be included in the MTOs Critical Receptor air quality mapping, but which is not.

Bradford Children's Academy offers daycare for infants and children, as well as before and after school care for children up to 10 years old.

Website

Holy Trinity Catholic High School has several hundred students, and is one of two secondary schools in Bradford.

Website

Lions Park is one of the most popular public parks in Bradford, with a ball diamonds, outdoor ice rink, basketball and tennis courts, splash pad, and playground.

Numerous public parks like this, where people, including young children, spend significant amounts of time outdoors were not included in the critical receptor research by MTO and AECON on the impacts of poor air quality resulting from construction of the Bradford Bypass highway.

Traffic Related Air Pollution (TRAP) Map

This map shows areas where that risk may be most profound along the proposed route, though there are caveats that should be understood that may increase the severity of risk.

There are two key elements to the map, dispersal zones indicating the extent at which identified TRAPs are reduced to background levels, and an illustration of Critical Receptor locations identified in our Critical Receptor Map.

Mapping showing where critical receptors for air quality impacts were identified by the MTO and AECON, as well as additional locations identified by research conducted independently by SCGC.

This research discovered an additional 28 locations where degraded air quality due to highway traffic could have an out-sized impact on the health of children and other residents.

Click the map to view a larger size.

As with the identification of Critical Receptor locations on the previous map, this map includes locations where people, including children, spend time outdoors, including, in particular, engaged in strenuous activity like sports.

By combining proximity to each other, as well as to the dispersal zones of pollutants, a heatmap is generated to show where exposure is likely to be most severe. While those living within the darker red areas are more likely to be exposed to TRAP, this does not account for more fluid dynamics of weather patterns, which may alter how pollutants are dispersed.

Another caveat is, while the severity of exposure tends to increase with closer proximity to the highway, ultra-fine particulate matter (UFP) is generally dispersed more broadly than larger size particulate matter. UFP is particularly concerning with regard to its impact on health as it is able to easily translocate within the body, passing through tissue and into organs, including the brain.

As a result, a person may experience a high severity of exposure at distance from the highway, somewhat in contradiction to the closer, proximity based, modelling that the heatmap indicates here.

MTO's Future Modelling Based on Faulty Assumptions

The ECR notes that “there are anticipated improvements in vehicles combustion efficiency, with older models retired from the vehicle fleet. Therefore, the expected impact from emissions in 2051 and 2061 should result in greater reductions than present for in the 2041 scenario.”3ECR June, 2023. Page 345

There are two points that need to be made with respect to this.

False Choice Dilemma

First, this argument, as with the entire approval process for this project, comes very close to exemplifying a false dichotomy in the sense that, almost exclusively, the choices are presented as either build a highway to solve an increase in traffic, or don’t build a highway and suffer the consequences of congestion due to increased traffic.

The air quality modelling, and associated assumptions regarding emissions, only hold if a highway is seen as the only solution to enabling transportation in the Bradford area.

Alternatives, such as stronger policy direction in support of complete communities, along with investment in establishing efficient regional and inter-regional transit, ideally with electrified rail, would accomplish transportation objectives, and improve the quality of life in our communities at a cheaper cost and with less emissions than the old build more roads and highways approach.

While there is a nod towards a “no-build” scenario, this is discounted due to an absence of traffic modelling for the projected time horizon.

From our perspective this betrays a lack of interest in finding answers regarding what the impact of this project may be on the health of those living nearby.

Relatively simple modelling can be done based on available population and uptake of either personal vehicles, whether ICE or EV, or uptake of mass- and active-transit options, such as what would be available with a commitment to building 15-minute communities and inter-city rail.

Ignoring, or Unaware of, the Research?

The second point addresses the claim that improvements in combustion efficiency will result in emissions reductions. A similar claim is made by oil companies operating in Alberta’s tar sands, and is effectively an intensity based argument. 

The math here only works to the extent that the number of vehicles, or the number of barrels of oil, remains the same.

Aggregate emissions may be reduced in this case, but if the number of vehicles grows, which is the business case for building this highway in the first place, then the aggregate amount of emissions also grows.

A reliance on the transition from Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) to Electric Vehicles (EVs) is implied in this argument as well, and it also needs to be addressed because there is a lot of  misinformation regarding how EVs impact the environment.

Even with a reduction in the number of vehicles travelling over this route, which is highly unlikely to the case since the case for building it in the first place is a projected increase in vehicle use, it is likely that UFP emissions will increase.

Electric vehicles, due to their increased weight, cause far higher amounts of UFP to be dispersed into the environment than lighter vehicles, and than tail pipe emissions from an equivalent amount of ICE vehicles.

Graphic from The Guardian, showing amount of ultra fine particulate emissions due to tires and due to tailpipe emissions. Credit The Guardian.

This graph, from The Guardian, shows how much particulate matter tires produce relative to tailpipe exhaust.

Source: Car tyres produce vastly more particle pollution than exhausts, tests show

Much of the UFP comes from the friction between the tire and the road, with particulate, in effect, being rubbed off the tire and cast into the air. There is also evidence particulate matter from tires is a major source of micro-plastics that are increasingly polluting waterways.

Brake dust is another concern, though evidence is somewhat mixed whether this will increase with EVs, which utilize regenerative braking and so don’t engage brake discs as often.

The MTO/AECOM seem to have either simply ignored these findings, or to be unaware of them. Neither of these positions is acceptable given the public health implications.

A Public Health Approach

The myth that more people means more cars and traffic needs to be dispelled. More people in fact generate the opportunity for more efficient and accessible transit options. All that is needed for this to happen is sound policy and political will.

One of the best choices local governments can make to combat climate change is to increase the density of their communities and move people away from cars and towards active and public transportation.

Pursuing this approach not only improves public health outcomes through more active lifestyles, it also solves the tension that arises when the increase in population drives an increased demand for road infrastructure, which in turn negatively impacts the health of residents.

It is increasingly clear that policies that promote increased vehicle traffic should be seen as a last resort, and implemented only where no other options are possible.

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Photo of a highway bridge. Credit Ajai Arif.

The Bradford Bypass – Clearing the Air

There are a lot of misconceptions, myths, and misunderstandings regarding the role that highways and cars play in our economy, and the impact they have on our environment and communities. Many of these are coming to the fore with the Bradford Bypass. Here we address some of them.

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Arial photo of the Holland Marsh, with Lake Simcoe in the distance. Credit Jeff Laidlaw.

Bradford Bypass

The provincial government is proposing a highway that would connect the 404 with the 400. The proposed route passes along the northern edge of Bradford, and through portions of the Holland Marsh.

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Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Press Release

In Simcoe County three of our local MPPs – MPP Dunlop, MPP Downey and MPP Mulroney – are directly responsible, as members of cabinet, for approving the Greenbelt takeouts.

March 21, 2023 - Simcoe County

Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition pleased with federal intervention on Greenbelt development

Barrie – Today, it was announced that the federal government will be doing studies on how development on the largest part of the province’s Greenbelt takeouts, the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, will impact the Rouge National Park and other federal lands. This will likely delay the paving of the largest Greenbelt takeout and we thank the federal government for this intervention.

This is a good start at ensuring Ontario’s, and more specifically the Greater Toronto Area’s environment remains healthy and viable. The Greenbelt was created to be a legacy for our children and future generations, a safeguard for local food production and source water protection – not to be a land bank for well connected developers.

 

Infographic showing the benefits of Ontario's Greenbelt. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

Ontario’s Greenbelt provides billions of dollars worth of value each and every year. This value is directly experienced by millions in the Greater Toronto Golden Horseshoe Area, as well as indirectly by Ontarians elsewhere who visit and benefit from the economic benefits it accrues to the province.

Benefits from development within it, however, are far more narrowly distributed, going, by and large, to already wealthy individuals and their privately held companies.

The Greenbelt is, very much, a legacy to all Ontarians and future generations.

This is a significant win for the public who have been rallying, phoning, messaging and organizing showing their care for the Greenbelt is to be taken seriously, a public that has been completely shut out of this decision. (Comments on the Environmental Registry regarding changes to the Greenbelt were overwhelmingly opposed, but not a single change or modification to Greenbelt takeouts came as a result.)

Locally, our coalition hosted 15 rallies and actions in two weeks across many of Simcoe’s communities and supporters have been continuing to visit MPPs, phone representatives and write emails. Again, this is in line with sentiment across Ontario, with a public that feels betrayed by a government that promised it would not develop on the Greenbelt. In fact, a recent poll by EKOS, commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation, found that 75% of residents across the GTA believe that the Greenbelt should be better protected – better protected, not less. And definitely not used as a piggy bank to enrich wealthy, connected developers.

Our coalition’s mission has always been to ensure clean air, clean water, and a liveable climate provide the foundation for accessible food and housing and a vibrant, dynamic, and sustainable economy. After all, without clean air, water, and a livable climate the rest simply won’t matter.

Our public servants need to be accountable for betraying public trust and making decisions that threaten our shared future.

Map showing locations of highways that the Ford government plans to build, and the impact they would have on the Greenbelt and on farmland. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

There are 3 highways in the pipeline for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area of Ontario. All of them will significantly impact the Greenbelt, as well as prime farmland.

In Simcoe County three of our local MPPs – MPP Dunlop, MPP Downey and MPP Mulroney – are directly responsible, as members of cabinet, for approving the Greenbelt takeouts. And while all MPPs in caucus are accountable, these three, along with their cabinet colleagues, had the final say and final approval. The promise to not touch the Greenbelt was broken intentionally.

And what does this broken promise represent? Not pursuit of more affordable homes, which is how it’s being spun. Study after study makes it crystal clear that there is more than enough land already zoned to meet this demand. This is about exploiting a legitimate housing crisis to enrich a few.

Let’s make no mistake, this announcement is the result of public pressure and community organizing. We will keep pushing with our supporters to protect our communities and public health. Our hope is that this announcement will strengthen the will to hold this government accountable and return due process and decisions made in the public’s interest to the core of what elected office means.

Beyond political stripes, the majority of the public support the Greenbelt and what it provides to all of us, now and into the future. Our hope is that the MPPs that have influence and accountability will see that the decision to open up the Greenbelt to developers was wrongheaded and will take action to reverse their decision. This is what the public wants and as a public servant this is what they agreed to do.

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Photo of a giraffe's head against a clear blue sky. Credit Gary Bendig.

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Friends. Online censorship by unaccountable tech companies, combined with an all-out assault on the Greenbelt by Ontario’s developers/government, make this a perilous time for the future of democracy and the power of the people in Ontario.

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