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. 

We need you to speak out against Bill 23

David Laing speaking on Bill 23 at the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy on November 10, 2022

Yesterday I had the privilege to present to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy regarding Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act 2022 that is currently in second reading at the Ontario Legislature.

As stated in a previous article this Bill, unless substantially altered, has the potential to inflict massive environmental damage on communities all across this province but especially on those in the greater Toronto area. Below is the text of my opening remarks to the Committee. If you are like me and believe in building communities that are healthy and happy through environmental, social and economic sustainability, then I urge you to let your MPP know that Bill 23 needs a significant overhaul. An easy way to do that is through the David Suzuki Foundation’s letter campaign.

Continue reading “We need you to speak out against Bill 23”

Bill 23, an attack on a Sustainable Brampton

Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act is the Ontario Government’s latest omnibus bill that is being fast tracked through the Provincial legislature. Purportedly designed to reduce red tape and allow developers to build 1.5 Million homes over the next 10 years, this bill proposes sweeping changes to multiple provincial statutes in support of the government’s “Housing Supply Action Plan”.

There are a few positive aspects to Bill 23 including:

Continue reading “Bill 23, an attack on a Sustainable Brampton”

Etobicoke Creek – Have your Say

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is asking for public input as it prepares an update to the watershed plan for the Etobicoke Creek. The last watershed plan was prepared in 2002 and updated in 2010.

The Etobicoke Creek flows for about 35km from northwest to southeast. It starts in southern Caledon, travels through forests, open areas, a dozen or more parks, three golf courses and hectares of residential, commercial and industrial properties. It runs past Main Street in downtown Brampton, past the western end of Toronto Pearson Airport, becomes the boundary line between Toronto and Mississauga. Eventually the creek empties into Lake Ontario along the shores of Etobicoke at the western edge of Toronto.

Second only to the Don River watershed in area, the Etobicoke watershed covers over 200 square kilometres. The watershed is classified as heavily urbanized with almost 60% of the area designated as urban, 28% rural and only 12% as natural. The urban pressure on the watershed has been increasing steadily over the past several decades and watershed health as measured by water quality, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, flood protection and erosion control has continued to decline.

The Etobicoke Creek watershed provides natural habitat for many species of plants and animals including birds, fish, mammals and amphibians. As mentioned it supports dozens of parks, for both active and passive recreational activities and provides much needed areas for overland flood management and protection. Its future depends on the Town of Caledon and the rest of Peel Region growing sustainably, putting as little additional strain as possible on already fragile eco-systems.

Please let the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority know you care about protecting this important natural resource. HAVE YOUR SAY!

BEA to Co-host Provincial Election Debate

Ontario 100 debates on the environment

The Brampton Environmental Alliance (BEA) is teaming with Engage Peel, Human Impact Environment and GreePAC to host an all-candidates debate for the upcoming Provincial election in the riding of Brampton North. The debate will take place virtually on May 17th, 6:30-8:00pm.

GreenPAC is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that runs 100 Debates on the Environment, with the objective to make the environment an issue that no party and no candidate can ignore. GreenPAC works with local groups to co-ordinate and underwrite the costs of hosting an all-candidates debate.

“GreenPAC believes, debates let candidates know that the environment is a top voter priority”, according to GreenPAC Program Coordinator Rizwana Hussain. “They help voters to make the connection between climate change and their other priorities, like health and affordability, and to make an informed choice at the polls.”

The debate will offer local candidates the opportunity to answer questions on the environment and other issues important to voters in the Brampton North riding. Attend the debate by registering through Eventbrite here. If you would like to have your question put to the candidates submit your question here.

Have your say on Brampton’s Parkland Dedication strategy

Etobicoke Creek Trail Conservation Park

An article in last month’s BEA Weekly described the ecosystem services provided by Brampton’s tree canopy and invited residents to offer their opinions on the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan. The City is also interested in public feedback as it works to update its Parkland Dedication by-law by this fall to conform to changes in Provincial regulation. Why is this important and why should you care?

Brampton is under tremendous pressure to accommodate population growth and maintain or increase the availability of affordable housing within its boundary limits. At the same time it strives to maintain, or improve, the quality of life for its residents and to keep Brampton as a city where people want to come to work, live and play.

An effective way to improve life quality for people living in urban settings is by providing easily accessible parkland. Access to the outdoors and communing with nature are critically important to our mental health. Providing parks and natural settings for recreation and exercise is an effective way to promote healthy active living. This is especially true in times of emotional stress, such as dealing with the effects of a global pandemic.

A December 2021 Chinese study, published in the National Library of Medicine concludes, “To achieve the goal of promoting mental wellbeing through urban planning and design during the future pandemics, policymakers and planners are advised to provide more well-maintained and accessible parkland and encourage residents to use them with proper precautions.”

Adequate parkland is an important part of economic, environmental, and social sustainability of any urban centre. In addition to supporting better health outcomes, naturalized outdoor spaces also provide a myriad of eco-system services, including air purification, temperature regulation, water filtration and flood management.

Brampton’s 2040 vision calls for the establishment of an “Eco-Park” to conserve and enhance natural systems within the City while optimizing the balance between environmental conservation on one hand and public accessibility on the other. The concept of the Eco-Park is that it will enhance Brampton’s reputation as a “green city” by evolving the natural heritage system into a network of “Eco Spaces” consisting of, parks, green spaces, green infrastructure streetscapes, utility corridors, and the front and back yards. All these spaces conforming to a set of established principles as defined in the City’s Eco-Parks strategy.

But where does the land come from to support all of these parks and recreational facilities? It turns out that much of it comes from developers through a process called “Parkland Dedication”.

Parkland Dedication is a city by-law under the planning act that requires a portion of land being proposed for development, (or re-development), to be conveyed (given) to the City for parkland. The amount depends on the land’s intended purpose. For commercial or industrial development, 2% of the property must be given to the city to be used for parkland. If the property is to be used for residential purposes, then the greater of 5%, or one hectare for every three-hundred dwelling units must be made available for parkland. This amount is exclusive of valley lands, (floodplain), water courses, buffers or easements.

The by-law also allows the developer to provide cash in lieu of handing over a portion of development project land. The cash in lieu concept is designed for the city to pool funds to buy larger tracts of land to create a smaller number of larger parks rather than having little parkettes associated with each individual development project.

Historically the Parkland Dedication by-law has allowed the city to amass significant parkland. But the approach to parkland dedication is coming under increasing criticism.

First, there is growing pressure from the development industry to cap parkland funding. The arguments are that the cost of cash in lieu of parkland is added to the home purchase price making it less affordable. It also tends to discourage higher density development where the parkland cost can be a significant portion of the overall cost of the development project based on the one hectare per 300 residential unit formula.

The second issue is that the city can sit on the reserve cash for years without finding the right opportunity to buy land suitable for parkland development. Today the reserve exceeds $100M!

The third issue is that parkland is not expanding as fast as the city is growing. Brampton currently provides 6.3 hectares of parkland for every 1,000 residents. That compares favourably to larger cities like Toronto, or Vancouver that have less than half of what we currently enjoy. But, Brampton’s population is expected to grow more than 50% in the next two decades and this growth will see increasing pressure on Brampton’s parks and green spaces unless park space is added at the same rate.

Parkland dedication is a complicated issue that will require complex solutions. The most important thing you can do is to let city staff know you care a proper ratio of parkland to people as the City grows in population and that parkland should be accessible to all by being equitably distributed across the city. Please take a moment to provide your opinion on the City’s park strategy by completing the Park’s Survey.

Provincial Funding Available for Shoreline Cleanup, Naturalization and Restoration Projects

People Against Litter courtesy of OMNI television

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is currently accepting applications for the Great Lakes Local Action Fund to protect and restore Great Lakes’ watersheds including connecting rivers. The Provincial Government has earmarked up to $1.9 million for the second round of funding to support local projects that can demonstrate positive environmental impact on these watersheds. Community based projects must be submitted by March 11, 2022 and address one of the following priorities:

  • Naturalization and restoration
  • Protecting habitat
  • Shoreline cleanup

Applicants must be registered through www.ontario.ca/GetFunding for a “Transfer Payment Ontario” TPO Account. To qualify, the project may be led by one or more of the following:

  • Community-based organizations
  • Environmental non-profits
  • Indigenous communities
  • Small businesses
  • Conservation authorities
  • Municipalities

Eligible expenses can include:

  • Staff salaries
  • Goods including the purchase of plants, trees, shovels, garbage pickers, bags, gloves, boots, etc.
  • Services including web-design, technical design, consultants, etc.
  • Equipment/Capital/Rental
  • Giveaways for volunteers and participants

Travel and hospitality expenses are not eligible for the Great Lakes Local Action Fund.

Click here to access application guidelines and forms. For help contact the Transfer Payment Ontario Customer Service line at (416) 325-6691 or TPONCC@ontario.ca, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST.

City Accepting Grow Green Awards Nominations

The City of Brampton has created a new award program to recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and institutions in the city that have demonstrated environmental leadership and have significantly contributed to the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to create a healthy, sustainable, and resilient Brampton. Nominations will be accepted until February 28th, 2022 and the awards will be handed out during an Earth Day Environmental Festival to be held at Norton Place Park on Saturday April 23rd.

The Climate Change Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to advancing climate change mitigation, adaptation, awareness/knowledge, and or actions.

The Stewardship Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to the advancement of environmental sustainability iniitiatives related to the conservation and/or stewardship of trees, natural heritage systems, water, and/or the reduction of waste.

The Environmental Youth Award will be given to an individual or youth group that has demonstrated exceptional achievement in the advancement of environmental protection, climate change actions, and/or sustainability.

The Environmental Legacy Award will be given to an individual who has provided outstanding personal service and ongoing contributions to advance the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to crate a healthy, resilient and sustainable city.

BEA Meeting Wednesday December 8, 2021 6:15pm

The next meeting of the Brampton Environmental Alliance will be held virtually on Wednesday December 8th. Informal networking at 6:15pm. The meeting starts at 6:30pm sharp! Click the Register button for your free ticket.

Presentations

Dianne Saxe

Keynote presentation by Dr. Dianne Saxe. Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers and was the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, until the Conservative Government rolled that position under the Office of the Auditor General in 2019. Dianne is running as a member of Provincial Parliament candidate for the Green Party of Ontario (University Rosedale riding) in next year’s Provincial election. Dianne is an articulate defender of the environment and a champion of the new green economy. The BEA is thrilled Dianne has agreed to share her passion and environmental knowledge with BEA meeting participants.

Tooba Shakeel – LEAF newsletter

Spotlight presentation by Tooba Shakeel. Tooba is a Senior Coordinator of Sustainable Neighbourhoods Program (SNAP) at Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). She is an ISA Certified Arborist, an EcoDistrict Accredited Professional and a Board member of LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) a Toronto-based not-for-profit group dedicated to urban forest protection. Thanks to Tooba for agreeing to share information about CVC programs in Brampton including the Fletcher’s Creek SNAP!

After the main meeting, those who wish to become more involved in the BEA can join one of the three working groups described below. Sign up to join one of the three working groups here.

Working Groups

  • Events
    This group coordinates events for members and assists with events for residents – BEA Collaboration event, Brampton Earth Day event
  • Education and Resources
    This group arranges talks on environmental topics, using the One Planet principles of focus: Land and Nature, Culture and Community, Travel and Transport as they relate to Brampton. The group also helps connect members to needed resources and expertise on financing and various environmental topics
  • Advocacy
    This group helps coordinate and amplify community advocacy campaigns and environmental initiatives under the three One Planet principles above.

Open Letter to Mayor Brown and Members of Brampton Council Regarding Grow Green Initiatives

We the undersigned are members of the Brampton Environmental Alliance, an advocacy not-for-profit organization representing individuals and organizations in Brampton and the Region of Peel, with the vision for Brampton to be a sustainable community, one that is healthy and resilient economically, socially, and environmentally. As our City continues to grow, we must demonstrate and maintain our commitment to grow green.   

Continue reading “Open Letter to Mayor Brown and Members of Brampton Council Regarding Grow Green Initiatives”