Ontario’s Greenbelt is a 1.8 million acres of permanently protected farmland, wetlands, watersheds and green spaces that surround Greater Golden Horseshoe. The Greenbelt covers the area of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment (see map). It includes portions of several regions of Ontario including York, Peel, Simcoe County, Peterborough, Durham, Halton, Hamilton and Niagara.
The Greenbelt was created by a legislation passed by the Government of Ontario in 2005 under Premier Dalton McGuinty. The purpose of the Greenbelt was to preserve and protect the natural environment, fight climate change and put a limit on the development.
The Greenbelt Act, 2005 is the legislative document that provides the province the authority to create the Greenbelt Area. This act is in conformity with other planning acts, such as the Provincial Policy Statement.
The Greenbelt Plan 2005, was created under this Act. It includes specific policies/directions that municipalities must follow, which work to limit development within the greenbelt area.
The Greenbelt is the largest area of protected space in the world. The Greenbelt Plan has been given several awards including the following:
There varying opinions on this issue:
Proponents argue that the greenbelt has helped the GTA to reduce sprawl, protect the natural environment and provide access to more food for the region.
Proponents of the greenbelt, including Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmat, have argued that the greenbelt is playing a role in increasing densities in the GTA. Higher densities and lower sprawl help in reducing the cost required in maintaining roads and sewerage system. This in turn translates into lessening the cost burden on municipalities.
Opponents state that the greenbelt has restricted the amount of land that is available for development and this has in turn impacted the affordability of the housing market. They state that the region is bringing in 4 million new inhabitants by 2031 and there isn’t enough space to accommodate this excess of population. Proponents question this assumption state that the region has over 1500 sq.km to accommodate for future growth.
Opponents also claim that the value of existing property on the greenbelt has gone down considerably and farmers who own properties on the greenbelt suffer because of this legislation.
The Greenbelt Act 2005, was up for review after 10 years in 2015. Several advisory panels and public consultations sessions were conducted by the provincial government to comment on any changes to the plan. To read the review of the advisory panel of six experts chaired by Former Toronto Mayor, David Crombie, click here (link)
The provincial government is currently reviewing the legislation and is going to release the proposed amendments to the legislation which will be up for public input in winter 2016. To participate in this conversations keep an eye out for the news on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.
A great organization to get involved in if you care about the Greenbelt is the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
Proponents of the Greenbelt
Opponents of the Greenbelt
Seemal Saif is a city builder. She loves making maps and conducting data driver analysis to guide policy on cities. She has worked in cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. She has an undergraduate from McGill University in Finance/Economics and completed her Master's(M.D.P) from University of Waterloo focusing on Urban Planning. Her day job at the Planning and Economic Development Branch at the Region of York allows her to combine her interest in planning and economics.