Environmental alliance gives Ontario B+ for greenbelt protection
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance has given the Ontario government an overall grade of B+ for its efforts to protect and promote the 1.8-million-acre Golden Horseshoe greenbelt, up from last year's greenbelt grade of B. The Alliance's report card, released on the second anniversary of the greenbelt, finds the government has done a good job of defending the greenbelt boundaries, and of greening the greenbelt by designating provincially-owned land as protected parkland.
But the government is failing to protect sensitive ecological areas in the greenbelt that are still under threat from highways, roads, sewer pipes, quarries and urban sprawl.
"We commend the government for a great effort this year. From defending the Greenbelt's boundaries in court to designating more parkland, this government has shown it is committed to the Greenbelt," said Dr Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
The report card awards the government passing grades for a range of Greenbelt issues, including: A+ for "Greening the Greenbelt" (designating more than 2,300 acres of provincially-owned land as parkland within the Greenbelt); A for "Acting Like You Mean It" (standing up for greenbelt boundaries when challenged by developers and municipalities); B+ for "Structuring for Success" (making sure the Greenbelt receives adequate resources).
The province receives poor grades in some critical areas, however: C for "Where There's Smoke" (protecting the top ten greenbelt "hotspots," areas under threat from industry and development); and D for "Cutting the Greenbelt to Pieces" (planning for roads, sewers and other infrastructure throughout the greenbelt).
Of particular concern to the Alliance is York Region's short list of routes for the York Durham sewer system (the "Big Pipe"). All but one of the proposed routes cut through a 500-acre park in Markham named after Bob Hunter, one of Canada's most respected environmental leaders. The park is a cornerstone of a newly-created greenbelt corridor linking the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario.
The report card singles out five areas for improvement in the coming year. The Alliance calls on the government to:
*expand the Greenbelt into areas such as Simcoe, Northumberland and Wellington Counties and Waterloo Region;
*support greenbelt agricultural producers, who farm nearly 1.2 million of the 1.8 million acres in the greenbelt;
*get rid of special privileges for aggregate operations; provide better oversight and better protection of natural areas in the greenbelt;
*reform the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and financing of municipal election campaigns; and
*strengthen the mandate of the conservation authorities throughout the greenbelt.
The Greenbelt Report Card: 2nd Anniversary Edition may be viewed on the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance Web site, www.greenbelt.ca. Co-ordinated by Environmental Defence, the Greenbelt Alliance is a coalition of more than 75 organizations dedicated to protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe greenbelt.