Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday May 9, 2023
Ontario’s Greenbelt: A Crown Jewel Under Threat
Doug Ford’s ties to Greenbelt developers have been in the spotlight for months, but the actual land that will be lost is often overlooked. About 5,000 acres of prime farmland in Pickering, part of the world’s largest Greenbelt, are expected to be paved over for housing. Victor Doyle, the planner who designed the original Greenbelt map, emphasizes that this area should be preserved, as it not only offers excellent farmland but also supports and protects the adjacent Rouge National Park. Doyle warns that putting housing here will contaminate the watershed that flows into Lake Ontario and harm local wildlife.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has claimed that whatever land is taken from the Greenbelt will be added elsewhere, but Green Party leader Mike Schreiner argues that only five percent of Ontario’s land mass is suitable for growing food. The government has set a deadline for developers, with housing approvals required to be in progress by the end of this year and shovels in the ground by 2025, or the land goes back to the province. The province is also planning on building Highway 413, cutting through farmland and conservation land.
While Ford has claimed that his government has added to the Greenbelt in a land swap to make up for the planned development, much of it is in already protected river valleys, according to Doyle. This small, finite, and fragile landscape is threatened by urbanization, and Doyle emphasizes the need to think hundreds of years into the future and manage this landscape better. The Greenbelt was created almost 20 years ago to protect the environment from urban sprawl, and it is important to ensure that it is not slowly destroyed by “death by a thousand cuts.” (AI)