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.

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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Province Rushing Bradford Bypass

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.

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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.

Letter to the Editor

Freedom of Information requests obtained by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition show that the province is not being upfront regarding the Bradford Bypass.

February 20, 2023 - Simcoe County

Letter to editor response to article “No timeline yet for controversial Bradford Bypass project.”

Can we stop pretending that the province doesn’t have answers about its controversial Bradford Bypass project and instead recognize the misinformation for what it is? In the article quoted, the journalist outlines that the project doesn’t have a timeline yet. That is simply not true. They have a timeline but chose not to share it.

Freedom of Information requests by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition show that the province is working on a timeframe of completion no earlier than 2032. These are documents straight from the MTO. The timeframe was corroborated and reported in The Toronto Star and The Narwhal.

It is shameful that instead of answering council’s questions directly, MTO decided that they’d rather not outline that it could be at least a decade before this highway is ready for use, if it even comes.

To those of us who follow this closely, the misinformation and hiding of facts is par for the course. What else haven’t government officials and consultants been upfront about?

Well for starters, the cost.

Infographic showing how much the cost of the Bradford Bypass has ballooned, and what that money could be spent on instead. Credit Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

In its recent report of government expenditures, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario notes that the government is vastly under-spending in a number of areas.

We believe that these areas, including health, education, and children’s services, are important and that they should be priorities.

The Auditor General reported that this 16 km highway could cost a staggering $2-4 billion – that’s according to MTO’s own calculations. That’s a whopping $125,000,000 per kilometer you and I will pay for the Bypass. That’s using the lower figure. Use the upper end of their estimates (when’s the last time large construction projects come in on budget?) and you get a figure of a quarter billion dollars, yes $250 million, per kilometer that taxpayers are on the hook for.

We have the internal documents that show the government knew of this new cost in 2021, prior to them ramming ahead with it. Even so, there was no effort to inform the public that the project’s price tag had ballooned at least 300 percent from the $800,000 estimate project staff and Minister Caroline Mulroney were touting.

This project is still almost a decade away before it’s completed. How much more of our tax dollars is this government going to waste on it?

What else have they not been upfront about?

The size of the highway.

We knew there was talk about potentially widening the highway to six lanes. But yet again this seems to be part of an effort to minimize impacts and mislead the public. We know that in fact this may be an eight lane highway – double the size.

This means double the loss of Greenbelt, double the loss of wetlands, double the air pollution and double the noise pollution. Again, this was corroborated and reported in the Toronto Star and Narwhal investigations.

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.

So instead of the headline making it sound like there’s no information available, let’s call it for what it is – misinformation,obstruction, and wasteful use of taxpayers money by this government. Because, like us, they know that in a time when people are wanting solutions – better healthcare and good use of public funds – communicating the truth of the matter would just expose this highway as another boondoggle – a gas plant scandal in our own backyard.

The Whale

What Would Roosevelt Think? (Who knows, he's dead.)

This is a cross-post from our new Substack letter, The Whale. For The Whale we have four writers who will be posting respective weeks. Posts will reflect their unique takes on all things environmental, be relatively short and sweet, and usually include links to further reading.

If you’d like to check it out you can find it here, or you can read on through this piece and towards the end there’s an option to subscribe.

The Whale Logo-1(1)

December 14, 2022 - Simcoe County

For all the current antagonism between Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party and environmentalists, you may be surprised to learn that both share roots more interwoven than is commonly known.

– A short essay on conservatism, conservationism, environmentalism and why all of the above are important. –

As a long-time student of nearly everything environmental (I did both my undergrad and graduate degrees in the environmental field) one of the first things I learned was that modern environmentalism has its roots in the conservation movement.

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt.

A key figure of this movement was the 26th President of the United States, Theodor Roosevelt, a Republican, who, while a progressive on that side of the political spectrum, was, nevertheless, not a bleeding heart granola cruncher. (I love crunchy granola, by the way. It’s the worst when it’s soft.) 

Roosevelt, in addition to being rich and a soldier and historian and a writer and a president, was also a naturalist. (The clothed sort as far as I know.) When he was eight he obtained a seal’s skull that washed up in New York, and over the years he gained additional disparate specimens, with which he created what became, in 1867, the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.

There’s a spark of curiosity at play here, an inquisitiveness that drove him to broaden and deepen his understanding of the natural world. This openness to creating new ways of understanding and engaging with the world led to the creation of the U.S. national parks system, the first of its kind in the world.

Photo by Ansel Adams, titled The Teton Range and the Snake River.

Protecting these parks required a process, of course, a method of determining which lands should be protected and the form that protection should take. This process, the identification of something valuable and worthy of protection, is, or at least was, pretty central to conservatism. There is some degree of effort involved with maintaining something over time, after all (everything decays in time, weather worn pyramids and allusion to Ozymandias here) and so the process of deciding whether the value of doing so is worth it is important.

One can quibble, I suppose, about the different types of conservatism, whether traditional or fiscal or social or some other slice of the pie, but the central premise of each is the same as what’s outlined above, that determination of something which it is desirable to maintain, to hold on to and preserve.

For the traditional conservative this may be practices that characterize their culture; for the fiscal conservative it’s likely to be keeping spending low…for Roosevelt his conservatism was exemplified, at least in good part, by his belief that places like Yellowstone National Park are worth keeping.

A detailed pictorial map of Yellowstone National Park, by Henry Wellge.

But here’s the kicker, the good is deemed worthy of protecting based upon some degree of knowledge of it, an understanding of the utility and value of it. At least, it seems to me, it should be based on such.

Conservatism, according to this, is rooted in identifying things that are believed to be important and then, accordingly, the protection or preservation of those things. 

The way that the identification of what is important happens is crucial. It’s the fond to the pan sauce, to borrow something a better chef than me might say. Using a faulty process for this or simply basing it on one’s opinion, which may not be shared by others, is bound to wind up in tension and disagreement. (We’ve all got some weird ideas that set us apart, right? I like to listen to jazz when I’m making dinner but my wife and kids will have nothing to do with it.)

So, the point I’m making is that the process is important in determining the quality of the outcome. And, the quality of the process rests upon the accuracy of the information it uses. Bad information and you wind up with an error riddled outcome – the Windows Vista of reasoning.

To bring this all back to environmentalism, the way we navigate our world as a species is a process of information gathering, analysis, and consequent action. Environmentalism extends this process to the natural world because it is the most basic building block of life, including what we require for our survival as a species.

But the processes we use to determine what to protect and conserve are being broken. Environmental regulations are being cast aside or seen as simply perfunctory. Ecological systems, which are fundamentally interconnected (think of the organs within the body and how they work together to create a greater whole) are seen as dumb components that can be swapped out and replaced. Nature, in other words, is seen as a sort of technology.

The sad irony of this is that, in this province at least, much of the hammer swinging is being done by those who claim the mantle of conservatism, by those who, given the roots of the political ideology they appeal to votes from, should be deeply concerned with identifying that which is valuable for us as a society to hold on to.

There is the old saying, though, that I think indicates what’s happened, and is happening, here in Ontario. Ours is a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. When all you want is power for the sake of power you have no compass any longer. You shift your values to align with whatever you think will get you what you want. That isn’t conservatism, it’s greed and opportunism.

About the Author

Picture of Adam Ballah

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.

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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.

Statement on Province’s Consultation to Expand the Greenbelt

The Province is opening consultations on growing Ontario’s Greenbelt. SCGC, along with 90 other organizations, plus a number of prominent individuals, have released a report in response.

For immediate release:

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:

  1. Retain all lands currently protected within the Greenbelt;
  2. Build on the science and public consultation carried out during the recent boundary expansion review;
  3. Simultaneously address public health, local food security, water security, climate resilience, biodiversity conservation and economic prosperity;
  4. Acknowledge that there is more than enough land available to both expand the Greenbelt and build complete communities in the Greater GoldenHorseshoe;
  5. Consult meaningfully with Indigenous communities.

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. 

At that time, the province agreed and proposed expansion plans 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.”

Map showing where the Greenbelt should be grown to, and where the government is proposing growth, outlined in yellow.
Map showing where the Greenbelt should be grown to, and where the government is proposing growth, outlined in yellow.

The Message to the Government is Clear

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 need to grow accordingly.

How Can You Get Involved?

  1. Submit a comment to the ERO Posting.
  2. Share your concerns on social media.
  3. Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed on developments with growing the Greenbelt and limiting sprawl.

Links to Further Reading

Help us grow the Greenbelt.
Take action to help grow Ontario's Greenbelt and protect our environment for the future.
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Events

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 »
Photo of a field with a sunset in the distance. There's a tree branch overhead near the photography, and a partial treeline on the left in the distance. The field is bright green grass, and the sky is rich yellow, orange, and blue hues. Credit Benjamin Davies.
Letter

Public Letter – Local MPPs Accountable for Greenbelt Scandal

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…

Read More »

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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 19th, 2019

It is becoming a pattern with this government to hear, once again, that Ontario’s most sensitive and valuable environments are being offered to the highest bidder. ‘Open for business’ now also means trading protection for species at risk to anyone willing to pay the price. A strong and prosperous Ontario has a healthy and bountiful natural environment.

By weakening and outright removing protections in exchange for money this government weakens our province and sells our natural heritage out from under us. This move is particularly shocking given the global epidemic of species loss.

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act was already insufficient. This proposal effectively removes the small safety net species at risk had remaining.

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act was already insufficient. This proposal effectively removes the small safety net species at risk had remaining.

Like Bill 66, the process to determine which regulations can be avoided are taken out of the public eye and at the discretion of the Minister. Local habitats could be under threat without any notification or public input opportunities.

The government will establish a second set of rules for those that are able to pay more. Instead of following the rules everyone else has to, sprawl developers, aggregate companies, even our own municipalities can just pay their way out of the process, regardless of whether it undermines Ontario’s environmental integrity.

Yet again we are forced to point out to this government that this proposal is not needed.

In Simcoe County we have a surplus of land available for houses and employment. We do not need to sacrifice our forests, wetlands and shorelines for more.

Who does this benefit?  

Dredging wetlands that prevent flooding or paving over forests that purify our air destroys highly effective, low-cost natural solutions to climate change. The profit gained by developers and the sum paid to the government cannot match the ongoing value these natural ecosystems provide to our province.

Simcoe County has a wealth of globally, provincially, and locally significant wetlands and shorelines.  We are home to Ontario’s largest municipally owned forest system. Our area is also home to over 60 species that are deemed vulnerable, threatened, or endangered.  

Which of these will be the first to be offered up to the highest bidder?

We are particularly concerned with proposals that:

  • Would allow industry, municipalities, and developers to bypass rules and regulations within the Act for a price;
  • Would allow the Minister to avoid consulting with experts for species at risk, even if the suspension of the regulations would, “likely jeopardize the survival of the species in Ontario”;
  • Would allow the Minister to avoid consulting or even notifying the public if they decide to suspend regulations within the Act;
  • Would suspend the protections for locally threatened species as long as the species is “healthy” outside of Ontario. This would lead to extirpation and further jeopardize local ecosystems;
  • New additions to the Species at Risk list would take longer to get protection (from 3 months to a proposed 12 months). At a Minister’s request the committee that adds new species may be asked to re-evaluate the listing, which would only lengthen the time that the species and their habitat would be vulnerable to development and other damaging activities;
  • Would no longer issue stop work order permits on damaging activities for newly listed species or their habitat for up to one year of listing. This means that damaging activities, such as mining, excavation etc., would be allowed to continue, unfettered, as the new species’ habitat and species protections are reviewed by committee.

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About the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition:  www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca: The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a diverse coalition of 35 organizations from across Simcoe County and the province calling on local and provincial leaders to better protect our water resources, green spaces and farmland through smart growth and sustainable policies including expansion of the Greenbelt into Simcoe County. For media inquiries please contact:  Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, SCGC                                                   phone: 705-718-1383 email: margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

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