Greenbelt: Protected lands, (until they are not)

Ontario’s Greenbelt is an aggregation of farmland, wetlands, woodlands and river valleys that surrounds the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area from Niagara-on-the-Lake to just west of Port Hope. The Greenbelt was established in 2005 and was supposed to be protected from development forever. Both the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing have long promised that the Greenbelt would remain intact under their leadership.

Despite this, the provincial government recently announced the removal of 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land. They did so without any public process, transparent criteria for land selection or opportunities for input from landowners, municipalities or the public. While the Ford government maintains it has replaced the lost acres with more land parcels in other areas, critics say the added land is not as ecologically valuable as what is being removed.

Perhaps more troubling than the broken promise is the fact that multiple media outlets have reported that some of the Greenbelt land identified for removal was purchased by developers a mere weeks or months before the changes were made public. Why would a profit oriented developer purchase un-developable land for tens of millions of dollars? The change of status of these lands will result in huge windfall profits for these developers, many of whom have made significant contributions to the Ontario PC party.

If you are unhappy about the Ontario government’s decision to remove greenbelt lands, here is your opportunity to let your MPP know how you feel. Tell them to share any information they have about the removal of land from the greenbelt with the O.P.P. in order to restore public trust in how important environmental decisions are made.  Your letter will be sent to your MPP based on your postal code.

The public has a right to know if any of these developers had advance knowledge of the government’s plans. Environmental Defence and Democracy Watch are calling for an investigation.  Politicians, and public servants who provide confidential information to a third-party, who stands to gain financially from that information, may be in breach of trust under section 122 of the Criminal Code. 

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