GREENBELT PROTECTION ACT, 2004 /
LOI DE 2004 SUR LA PROTECTION
DE LA CEINTURE DE VERDURE

Mr Gerretsen moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 27, An Act to establish a greenbelt study area and to amend the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001 / Projet de loi 27, Loi établissant une zone d'étude de la ceinture de verdure et modifiant la Loi de 2001 sur la conservation de la moraine d'Oak Ridges.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bruce Crozier): Mr Gerretsen?

Hon John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, minister responsible for seniors): I am very pleased today to commence, and I guess finalize today as well, the third reading of this very significant bill. Perhaps to give the people who may be watching, and certainly those of us here today, a better understanding as to what this is all about, I will commence by reading the preamble of the bill, which I think sets out the purpose of the act and what the government is trying to accomplish here. It states:

"The government of Ontario recognizes that in order to protect environmentally sensitive land and farmland and contain urban sprawl, there is an immediate need to study an area in the part of Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe.

"The government recognizes that clear limits must be set on development in order to protect this valuable resource as a greenbelt for the long term.

"The government recognizes that good planning for environmental and agricultural protection and sustainable development will result in economic benefits to the residents of the Golden Horseshoe area.

"The government recognizes the environmental and agricultural significance of this area and its importance as a source of food, water, natural heritage systems, green space and recreation, resulting in an enhanced quality of life.

"The government recognizes that it is important to continue to protect the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges moraine and to protect a broader greenbelt area."

Therefore, the government wishes to enact a bill that we know as Bill 27, An Act to establish a greenbelt study area and to amend the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001.

Speaker, in the 40 minutes or so that we have left, I will be sharing my time with my parliamentary assistant, Maria Van Bommel, the member from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, who has shepherded this bill through committee and who has attended the various public meetings that have been held by the legislative committee and some of the public meetings that we've held on the greenbelt as well.

By containing sprawl, encouraging growth management and creating a permanent greenbelt, our government will enhance our quality of life. The lands on the outer ridge of the developed areas of the Golden Horseshoe are the most threatened in Ontario today. This proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, is a significant step in the right direction and is real, positive change. This act would provide for a time out for the discussion of important issues and factors that must be taken into account when proposing greenbelt protection.

Some of the most pressing issues concern agriculture in the Golden Horseshoe. We need to ensure that truly key rural and agricultural lands are protected. We need the help of our farmers, because, after all, when farmers are supported and farm operations remain viable, farmland is protected. That's what Ontarians want and it is what farmers have always wanted. But once farmland is lost to urban development, it is gone for good.

The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act has achieved so much in so little time. Why is that? It is the way this government does business. It's because this government talks, discusses, consults, listens and acts. Ontarians are smart and they know what's important in their lives. They have much to say and much to contribute in the process of government. We've had the privilege to listen to Ontarians in the course of the legislative processes of the proposed act. The public have come to our standing committee to offer their concerns, ideas and support, and they have gone out to the meetings of the Greenbelt Task Force around the Golden Horseshoe.

I must say that the Greenbelt Task Force, which has been chaired by Mayor Robert MacIsaac of Burlington, with 12 other individuals from a variety of different backgrounds -- agriculture, the development industry, housing, the building industry, the aggregate community, planning and the environmental community -- have had meetings on almost a weekly basis to develop the criteria that are necessary to actually put this greenbelt protection area in place.

As well, the standing committee on general government sat to discuss this proposed act with Ontarians for four days in four different localities in the Golden Horseshoe area. The committee heard from a number of stakeholders representing municipalities, the farming community, the environment, the aggregate industry and home builders. The committee continued its work, spending another three days going through clause-by-clause of this bill right here at Queen's Park to ensure that we got it right.

We have heard what the public and our stakeholders had to say and we have proposed amendments to the bill in response to that. Some of these amendments have expanded the definition of urban settlement areas to better reflect the various local circumstances in municipalities around the Golden Horseshoe. Now, for example, urban settlement areas in all official plans will be included. This will eliminate the potential for confusion over what type of official plan is affected. In addition, development in the late stages of approval at the municipal level would be allowed to continue through the normal municipal planning processes. For example, developments with draft approval could proceed to final approval without delay.

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Bill 27 will now clear up confusion as to what are considered urban and rural uses of lands. Aggregates, forestry and conservation uses are now clearly identified as rural uses in the proposed bill. These uses will be discussed further as we proceed with planning for an approach to permanent greenbelt protection that will come out of this act.

Responding to the concerns of the environment, we have added additional protection to the Niagara Escarpment in areas slated for greenbelt protection. New urban expansions on the escarpment will be prohibited. In addition, the government will have the power to stay hearings on such matters if necessary.

We heard from members of the opposition parties making motions for changes as well. Members of the official opposition, for example, would have liked landowners to be compensated for loss of profits they may have seen if their land was available for development. Mr Speaker, we cannot compensate people for speculating on what lands might have been developed. Agricultural land will retain its value as agricultural land and can be sold as such and used as such. The opposition should understand that these exact same provisions, such as compensation not being offered to landowners, are included in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act of 2001, when the opposition party that now complains about the lack of those provisions was in power. They used exactly the same provisions that we have in this act here.

On the other hand, the third party advocated freezing sewer, water and highway infrastructure projects in the moratorium. What has to be understood is that this is a short-term bill. It expires on December 15 of this year, when hopefully the permanent greenbelt protection area will be in place, and it's certainly our aim and plan to make sure that will happen by that date.

Interjection.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Concerns about major infrastructure projects cannot be dealt with in this extremely limited piece of legislation, as the member of the third party well knows, Speaker. They are, in fact, best dealt with through our other government initiatives, such as the growth management strategy and the GTA transportation strategy, which are currently being worked on by the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal and the Minister of Transportation. Highways and other infrastructure projects, as we all know, are extremely important, but they must be dealt with through other government initiatives that are more appropriate. The growth management and transportation strategy initiatives will ensure that these topics are covered thoroughly, more thoroughly than could be done in an interim piece of legislation about protecting green space.

The third party also advocated extending the greenbelt study area to include Simcoe county, Kitchener-Waterloo and beyond. Simcoe county's concerns, and planning for areas beyond the greenbelt study area, will be dealt with through the growth management strategy, because, were we to grow, how to service that growth is an issue in Simcoe, and we totally realize that. Our ministry staff continues to work with officials in Simcoe to determine how to manage growth and protect the environment.

The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, is about fulfilling our promise, as contained in our election material for the last election, to protect green space. In our platform, we said that we will link the Oak Ridges moraine to the Niagara Escarpment and will protect the Niagara tender fruit and grape lands, and we are taking steps to do that with this bill.

As we move forward, however, using the time out this bill affords us, we must gather information about one of the more complex issues facing us, and that is how to protect farmland in the Golden Horseshoe. Permanent greenbelt protection would extend to include the farmland that feeds us. In central Ontario, farmland makes up almost 45% of the area's 9.2 million acres. Some of the best, most productive agricultural lands lie within the Golden Horseshoe. Prime agricultural areas are therefore located where development pressures are the greatest. A myriad of urban uses have consumed some of Ontario's best prime agricultural land, and some members of the official opposition ask that key agricultural lands, where development pressures exist, be exempted from our moratorium. They asked that municipalities, where growth management studies have been initiated, be allowed to take steps to allow development on that land. We are doing the right thing by taking a time out now to study how agricultural lands will be protected for the long run. Ontario's agricultural land is some of the best farmland in North America. We cannot afford to pave it over with asphalt and concrete.

Agriculture creates jobs, generates revenue and benefits the environment. It employs more than 600,000 people, directly or indirectly, in Ontario alone. It removes carbon dioxide from the air and provides linkages that wildlife species need to survive in urbanizing areas. It provides sources of fresh produce for Ontarians and it helps to buffer natural green space from urban areas.

The issue of food security and the benefits of supplying food to an increasing population should never be underestimated. This point was made by a member of the public at the Greenbelt Task Force meeting in Burlington just this last Wednesday night.

Some of the best agricultural land in the Golden Horseshoe is in the Niagara area. The Niagara area's good tender fruit and good grape lands have long been regarded as a nationally unique agricultural resource. Half of Niagara's land base is farmed. But economic development activities have brought prosperity to the region as well, and these activities have also brought non-farm development and urbanization pressures. This land, and other key agricultural lands in the Golden Horseshoe, simply must be protected.

Only 5% of Canada's total land base is classified as prime agricultural land, and more than 50% of the best soil in Canada is in Ontario. These lands are a finite resource. Once lost through conversion to non-farm uses, they can never be replaced. Long-term viability requires careful management and protection from other land uses.

The province has many options available to protect farmland. The provincial policy statement under the Planning Act outlines the province's policy and gives direction on the protection of agricultural resources of the province, for example. Other existing pieces of legislation contribute to the protection of farmlands and farm uses. The Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1998, and the Nutrient Management Act are but two, to cite some examples.

But as with much of the legislation designed to protect our environment, these exist in isolation. Farmers understand that examining single issues in isolation is no way to understand the challenges of farming. Farmers have used the voices this government gave them over the course of our discussions on greenbelt protection. They have told us they need something more. They told us at the standing committee meetings and at the meetings of the Greenbelt Task Force that agriculture is suffering. More and more farm operations are losing their viability. The costs of running farm operations are far outpacing revenues. This, as farmers are well aware, is linked not to one single issue, but to a number of issues. They range from BSE, or mad cow disease, to drought, to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

Yes, farmers do have concerns about permanent greenbelt protection. We knew that they would. That is why we have two members of our agricultural community, including a representative from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, sitting on the Greenbelt Task Force. It is why this government, under the leadership of the Minister of Agriculture, Steve Peters, has struck an agricultural advisory team, on the recommendation of the task force. This team will look at these issues and issues of farm viability that affect farmers across the province. As a matter of fact, former federal Minister of Agriculture, Lyle Vanclief, and Bob Bedggood, past president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, have agreed to provide the government with advice as the government develops its growth management plan.

The team will comment on issues that affect agriculture, such as the identification of prime agricultural land and land use planning policies. They will also suggest strategies to strengthen agriculture in protected areas. The team will ensure that Ontario's growth management strategy addresses the concerns of agricultural stakeholders and will help to ensure the agricultural community's continued strength.

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But agricultural land in the Golden Horseshoe is at a crossroads. It is valuable for the fresh quality food it produces, but farmland has become a valuable commodity in the Golden Horseshoe due to the population growth. People are moving here and, if and when they come, where will they live? If we continue to build and develop as we have for the last decade, they will live on our farmland in sprawl.

The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act will give us the time to develop an approach for protection of the green space and the time to identify prime agricultural land for protection, because protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive land and farmland within the Golden Horseshoe will enhance our quality of life. That's real, positive change.

It's with great pleasure that I now turn the floor over, as I mentioned before, to my parliamentary assistant -- oh, you're giving me the sign that we'll go in rotation. She will be speaking later on this bill as well, Speaker. Thank you very much for your attention.

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker: Yes, it's whoever stands up.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): I thought we had made an agreement that each party would use up its time in terms of people's plans to be here or not. Is your parliamentary assistant here?

The Deputy Speaker: All the member for Toronto-Danforth has to do is sit down. The member for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Mrs Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): I am proud to speak today in support of Bill 27, the proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, as an important piece of legislation. The reason is clear: We know that protecting green space will improve the quality of life for the people who choose to live in the Golden Horseshoe. Protecting green space is one part of protecting the health of the land we live on. The health of this land affects the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. Protecting green space means a high quality of life. But this protection is only a part of the equation. Quality of life also depends on things like encouraging good development and investing our infrastructure dollars strategically.

We are taking steps, through a number of growth management initiatives, to look at the big picture. Water source protection is a key initiative that will help ensure a supply of clean water for people in the Golden Horseshoe and across the entire province of Ontario. A GTA transportation strategy will help free the Golden Horseshoe from paralyzing gridlock, and it will free commuters and those who drive for a living from traffic jams that take away time from family and add needlessly to environmental pollution. The waste management plan will help to protect the environment by encouraging practices and setting standards for the diversion of waste from landfills.

This government is working on further defining and protecting natural heritage systems across the province. This includes creating more parks and public open spaces through a number of different ways. Work has begun to support agriculture and agri-food industry that will protect our high quality of food supply and enshrine the wise use of prime agricultural lands in the GTA.

But the initiative that is most complementary to greenbelt protection is this government's growth management plan, now in development. This government understands. We get it. The establishment of a permanently protected greenbelt in the Golden Horseshoe will tell us where we cannot grow, and the growth management plan will tell us where we can grow. We must be ready to grow, because we are expecting another 3.5 million people to be living in the Golden Horseshoe by the year 2031. The way we plan for that growth now is key. It is key to the quality of life in the Golden Horseshoe for us now and for future generations.

We need a time out for discussion. That is why we need the proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004. We need the time out that this legislation provides so that we can provide the proper consultation and discussion needed.

The proposed act would prevent land that is now designated for rural uses from being redesignated to urban uses. Urban uses, without good planning, can mean sprawl. The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act of 2004 would maintain the status quo to give us time to plan properly.

This time out is crucial because lands on the outer edges of the Golden Horseshoe are some of the most threatened in our province today, and we need the time to consider the many elements of growth, particularly in the Golden Horseshoe. These are things that this government has already identified through the many initiatives that I have outlined.

This government's members -- my friends and colleagues -- are not the only group of dedicated Ontarians that recognizes the complexity of the job we have before us. The Greenbelt Task Force was struck by this government in February to consult with stakeholders and the public on greenbelt protection in the Golden Horseshoe. The task force consulted for over a month in May and June.

Before heading out to talk to the people of this province, however, this task force put their own thoughts and ideas on paper. These dedicated and knowledgeable individuals understand, as the government understands, that many elements of growth in the Golden Horseshoe are interrelated and interdependent.

We understand that there are many issues to discuss. The government is taking steps to address issues where there is more pressing need, but the task force has helped us by bringing issues and items together in the context of protecting green space in the in the Golden Horseshoe. Their discussion paper has given us and the people of Ontario a head start on what we must think about and what we should discuss.

The Golden Horseshoe task force discussion paper outlines what the task force calls the "layers of the greenbelt." These layers, or broad topics, that the task force has identified as particularly important for consideration made up the framework for that consultation.

While this government will await the task force's final recommendations this summer, I want to take a moment to discuss what the task force calls the "layers of a greenbelt."

The first layer is environmental protection. The task force has discussed approaches to environmental protection that include the identification of a natural heritage system in the Golden Horseshoe, including major natural features and functions, such as the Oak Ridges moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. They also include the consideration of regional features and functions and the identification of public parks, open spaces, waterway links and the connections between those features and functions; and, finally, the identification of sensitive areas and less sensitive areas within the greenbelt.

These considerations would be key to the protection of source water in the Golden Horseshoe. We all know how important clean water is to the quality of life for all Ontarians. For the agricultural community, it is particularly key to their business.

Agricultural protection is the second layer that the task force has discussed and identified. Agricultural protection would include, as they have explained, stopping further urban expansion on tender fruit and grape lands in Niagara and the Holland Marsh; stopping further non-farm-related severances on agricultural land; and developing a criteria for identifying additional viable agricultural areas for permanent protection in a greenbelt.

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But viability in agriculture is more than just protection of farmland. This government understands that farmers have serious concerns about maintaining viable farm operations. We also understand that many issues related to farm viability are outside the mandate of the Greenbelt Task Force. Many of these agricultural issues have roots far beyond the boundaries of our jurisdiction. Subsidies and trade regulations are dealt with at national and international levels. But farmers deserve to have these issues addressed, as the task force requested, in a more holistic manner.

Our government has committed to this. As noted by Minister Gerretsen, we have formed an agricultural advisory team to look at those broader issues concerning the farm community, not only in the proposed greenbelt area but also across all of Ontario. It will enjoy the support of our staff of experts at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and my colleague Minister Peters because these issues, and the farmers who live with them every day, deserve respect and understanding.

The task force understands that agriculture needs special attention. They know also that those needs are interrelated with yet another layer of discussion. That layer helps them to get their wares to market. Transportation and infrastructure is the next layer, on which we keenly await the task force's recommendations. The task force suggested principles to consider in their discussion when looking at things like highways and other infrastructure that may be required in the greenbelt. They include special recognition, such as not seeing the greenbelt as a land reserve for future infrastructure needs, and recognizing that the Golden Horseshoe is the fastest-growing region in Canada and infrastructure will be needed to support that growth.

Also included are methods that could be used to minimize the cost of new infrastructure, including looking first at alternatives that maximize the capacity of our existing infrastructure. They also include minimizing social, economic and environmental impacts, respecting natural features, preserving open space, seeking creative approaches to design, and controlling growth through planning tools.

While we await the task force's recommendations, we will be working closely with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal in determining an approach to the greenbelt in those areas. Current initiatives on transportation in the GTA and growth management will figure prominently in any proposed approach.

Away from the gridlock, in rural areas in the Golden Horseshoe, we have some different choices to make. The task force understands that some of the building blocks of our cities' construction industry and aggregates are located within the Golden Horseshoe. Over the course of the consultation, they asked that resource extraction be considered, provided it is done with due care and attention. Proposed approaches include the identification of high potential aggregate areas and their protection from incompatible land use, and a more rigorous approach to rehabilitation of depleted sites to uses that would support or enhance the objectives of greenbelt protection.

They added that aggregate extraction licensing procedures should reflect those approaches. We heard that during the presentations to the standing committee. The task force recognizes that rehabilitation of such sites can render some of them compatible with the objectives of the greenbelt. Some examples in existence today include a restored pit now used for grape growing and another that is now a healthy wetlands area. These are the types of places where people want to be.

The task force understands that Ontarians' enjoyment of the greenbelt is another key to its success. The task force has also discussed culture, recreation and tourism opportunities in the greenbelt area, but they understand that they must be compatible with other greenbelt objectives and priorities. These include things such as the recognition and promotion of cultural sites, districts and landscapes that are important to community identity, history and character; a network of protected open spaces, such as provincial and municipal parks and conservation areas, which people can enjoy; a system of trails on public and private lands, where expressly permitted by the landowners; and tourism destinations that support and depend on farms, natural areas and rural communities.

The layers identified by the task force show us the many issues that must be considered in determining the scope, content and implementation of the greenbelt. So we eagerly await the task force's final recommendations.

Once these layers have been defined more clearly, we will need to decide on how to implement and administer the greenbelt. This approach will be no small feat. It will need to take into account the provincial plans that already exist in the area; namely, the parkway belt west plan, the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan and the Niagara Escarpment plan.

It is clear that a permanent greenbelt is a complex task, and this is one of a number of tasks that must be completed to achieve our growth management strategy -- a strategy that will maintain and enhance the quality of life in the Golden Horseshoe. The government understands this, the task force understands this and the proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, is what this government's plan for growth in the Golden Horseshoe needs to be effective.

Our proposed act will give us the time to develop a clear and comprehensive plan for permanent greenbelt protection. It will give us the time to discuss the recommendations of the task force, which they will be delivering to us in July. Given the complex layers to consider, the need for time is obvious. It will give us the time to determine where the most environmentally sensitive areas are. It will give us the time to determine where our most productive and viable agricultural lands lie. Then we will know where we can grow.

Once green space is lost to development and sprawl, we cannot get it back. Ontarians want strong communities and a stronger economy. Our goal is to determine where growth makes sense and what we need to do to protect and ensure a quality of life that is second to none. The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, is the first step this government is taking to achieve that goal -- and that's real, positive change.

I want to add my thanks to those of the minister to the members of the Greenbelt Task Force and to all those who have worked and participated in the greenbelt consultations. This not only reflects our government's commitment to public input; it adds priceless value to the decision-making process of this assembly.

I am proud to be part of a government that understands the importance of protecting a greenbelt and green space for Ontarians, because it improves the quality of life for all of us, and a high quality of life is what we were elected to deliver.

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After eight long years of increasing sprawl under the Tories, we are taking decisive steps toward making real, positive change by introducing legislation that is the first step to permanent greenbelt protection. By containing sprawl and encouraging growth management, we will protect our environment and enhance our quality of life. Permanent greenbelt protection is one of the ways we can manage growth responsibly. Managing growth is critical to guiding important and positive development in Ontario. We have the opportunity with the proposed greenbelt legislation to do just that.

The lands on the outer edge of the Golden Horseshoe's developed areas are the most threatened, as I said earlier. Current population growth trends in the Golden Horseshoe point to strong, consistent growth. This trend is expected to continue into the future, from 7.5 million people in 2001 to an expected growth to 11 million people by 2031.

Ontario is a place where people want to be, and we welcome growth, but population and economic growth must be planned and managed responsibly. Growth provides more choice about where to live and where to work. It also generates investment, income, tax revenue for municipalities, innovation and higher property values. Poorly planned development, however, can result in increased air and water pollution and the loss of green space and agricultural land. Poorly planned development can encourage over-reliance on the private automobile, traffic congestion and inefficient infrastructure investment. It can also encourage sacrificing important agricultural land and Ontario's food supply.

The government must guide the future development of the Golden Horseshoe to ensure it stays a healthy and prosperous region, with growth that is managed wisely. We will not ignore this challenge. Our government is taking the critical steps to manage that growth and development in a responsible manner. It would be irresponsible for our government not to give careful consideration to the potential effects of sprawl without ensuring a plan is in place for carefully managed growth. But there are many factors that need to be examined. These factors are all interrelated and will require careful consideration before we can propose an approach to permanent greenbelt protection in the Golden Horseshoe.

When discussing greenbelt protection, we must talk about permanent environmental protection. Ontarians understand, and we understand, that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Together they mean a high quality of life for all Ontarians. We must talk about the protection and sustainability of agricultural lands. Protecting particularly sensitive areas, such as the Niagara tender fruit and grape lands, and making them viable over the long term, must be an important consideration. Many of us have specific interests in the protection of culture, tourism and recreation opportunities in the region. These things must also be discussed. And last, but certainly not least, providing for infrastructure, transportation and the future resource needs of the region must be examined.

The greenbelt study area is a foundation for both our provincial and national economies. Our economy is vital not only to Ontarians, but to Canada as a whole. We must be able to move through the Golden Horseshoe to ensure our economy stays healthy.

It is home to scores of significant natural heritage features such as wetlands and kettle lakes. These features are part of the habitats of rare, sensitive and threatened animals and plants. The government has the means -- the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan and the Niagara Escarpment plan -- to protect the environment in parts of the Golden Horseshoe. These plans are explicitly directed toward the protection and enhancement of these significant natural features. For example, the Oak Ridges moraine is an essential source of Ontario's drinking water. It provides a recharge zone for groundwater and its aquifers that provide clean drinking water for over 250,000 residents in central Ontario.

Source protection is a critical element of our government's comprehensive strategy to protect Ontario's drinking water, and our government is moving forward quickly to protect our sources of drinking water. But the Golden Horseshoe needs a coordinated approach. As the land in the Golden Horseshoe is identified as a region, any plan to protect it should be regional in scope. But how to achieve this is the question.

We could use the models provided by the Oak Ridges moraine conservation plan or the Niagara Escarpment plan. These plans are based on natural heritage systems and compatible rural land uses. Such natural systems can provide the framework for developing legislation that protects and enhances the health, diversity, abundance and connectivity of natural heritage features and functions.

A water resource system-based framework could protect and, where necessary, improve or restore a clean and abundant water supply, and healthy, functioning aquifers. Environmental protection, outdoor education, recreational opportunities, tourism benefits, public access and natural heritage appreciation within the proposed greenbelt would all be achieved.

The proposed Greenbelt Protection Act will allow us the time we need to discuss all those issues. It will allow us the time to seek out and provide the balance we need. We must discuss how to manage a greenbelt in the future, for the generations of Ontarians to come. The Greenbelt Protection Act provides for a time out in the greenbelt area and in the Golden Horseshoe.

The bill also includes a moratorium. The proposed moratorium would stop new urban development on key rural and agricultural lands within the greenbelt study area. The moratorium is a time out that we need for discussion.

We need to talk about it. We need to go through the issues that all of us have, not only as Ontarians but as residents of the greenbelt area. So I am again very proud to speak in support of Bill 27, the Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004.

Ms Churley: I want to acknowledge the graciousness of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, who agreed to change the rotation a little bit, so I could -- we cooperate from time to time -- speak before them.

Mr Dave Levac (Brant): You do.

Ms Churley: I do, I do, from time to time.

I have a lot to say about this bill, so I'll just get on with it. We made an agreement some time ago that we would get this through in a certain amount of time. We're sticking to that agreement, of course. Today is the final day of third reading debate.

I represented New Democrats on the committee and put forward a number of amendments which I very much hoped would be accepted, and they weren't. I'm sad to say that the Minister of Municipal Affairs -- sorry, I got a note and got distracted here for a second -- said earlier in his speech that this is an "extremely limited piece of legislation." I wrote that down because I think that his explanation for what he meant by "extremely limited" legislation would be different from what I took from it. I think what he was trying to say is that this is just one small piece in bigger legislation that's going to come forward, bigger plans for preserving green space.

But how I took it fits right into the theme of what I have to say about this legislation, and that is that it's an extremely limited piece of legislation. It doesn't do what the minister and the parliamentary assistant and, I'm sure, other Liberals have been told the bill will actually do. It will not do it.

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I tried to point that out in committee. And it's not just me. The Conservatives are opposing the bill, and they're opposing it for a whole different set of reasons. They didn't support my amendments either, and I understood why they didn't, because they came at it from another perspective. The Liberals are trying to have it both ways. They're trying to be green and say, "We are trying to conserve and preserve, and this is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that does that." But it doesn't.

I'm going to read some quotes from other experts, certainly people who have more expertise than I do about the problems with this bill and why, because the amendments were not accepted, this piece of legislation is simply not going to work. When I first heard that there was going to be a greenbelt -- and to viewers out there and people who may read these remarks, I don't know if most people understand what "greenbelt" legislation means. It sounds fairly dry, but I would say to people that they should really take notice and pay attention to what's going on here, because there are a lot of pretty words said here today by the minister and Liberal members. It sounds really good unless you look into the implications of the omissions from this bill.

The minister, I think, made a point of singling me out -- I was the member from the third party who was on the committee -- and almost, I think, tried to make me look foolish by saying, "She actually proposed that we expand the greenbelt. We can't do that." He made it sound as though that was a foolish thing to suggest. Well, I've got to say that when the government first introduced the greenbelt, I was quite enthusiastic about it. You know, Mr Speaker, that I have been known to stand up and support, even with the previous government, the Conservatives -- it was few and far between, but if government brings in good legislation, I will criticize the parts of it that I think need to be, but I will also applaud it if I think it's good legislation. I was prepared to do that with this, but it isn't good legislation. I tried my best to fix the holes, because it's like Swiss cheese right now, there are so many holes in it. But it didn't happen.

I was aware -- we were all aware -- of the government's green reputation that it tried to build when it was in opposition, especially around the Oak Ridges moraine. Mr Mike Colle made quite a fuss at the time about the government's position on the Oak Ridges moraine and fought very hard to urge and push the government to bring in legislation on that. In the election campaign, they promised that they would stop, halt in their tracks, the 6,000 new homes that the previous government was going to allow. Then after the election came one of the first, if not the first, significant broken promises by the new Liberal government. "Oh, we looked into it, our legal people," as though they didn't have legal people -- how many lawyers were in that party and still are? I don't think you're a lawyer, Mr Speaker -- thank goodness, eh? -- but there were lawyers in that party who should have known.

I can tell you, just as the Liberals knew there was a deficit but ignored it during the campaign for practical reasons, they knew that there were legal problems involved in stopping the building of those homes on the Oak Ridges moraine, but went ahead and made the promise, then couldn't deliver. They got into pretty deep trouble over that. At least there was enough guilt out of that, and the desire to show that they truly are green, that they came forward with a plan for greenbelt legislation. But what happened is a far cry from what we were promised.

There are a number of problems with the bill, which I will get into in a few minutes, but because the minister in particular pointed out some of the things I said about expanding it, because it's way too small, I think I'm going to read you some quotes from experts who came before the committee to tell us, the committee, and the government in particular, what was wrong and what they had to do fix the bill. And they didn't listen.

Here is a quote, and it's a fairly lengthy one. It encapsulates fairly well the nub of the problem with what we've referred to as leapfrog development, which I'll go into in a few minutes. Although there are many other problems associated with the gaps in this bill, I think the leapfrog aspect of development is one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, with the bill.

Here's what Dr Rick Smith from Environmental Defence Canada had to say. First he talked about the significance if the greenbelt is done right. I'm going to start quoting. He says:

"Done poorly, this greenbelt has the potential to contribute to leapfrog development, a concept that is so well understood, it actually has a name. Why would we repeat the problem that we know can occur with leapfrog development? Done poorly, the greenbelt could be carved up by roads and eaten away over time. It could be as stillborn and unsuccessful an initiative as the ill-fated parkway belt -- a chunk of land that was supposed to be a greenbelt and regrettably is now known as the 407. They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing twice and expecting a different outcome the second time around. We certainly don't want to repeat the parkway belt experience, and we have some common-sense amendments to propose to you today to help the committee make sure that this greenbelt is done right.

"The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance members believe that in order to be successful, the greenbelt must be planned according to the following principles:

"We should think big and not small." So it's not just me, Minister, saying that these amendments should have been made; I'm quoting the experts here now. "The greenbelt must link the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges moraine and the Algonquin Park-Adirondack state park axis" -- I'm having trouble reading here; I need my glasses -- "as a unified natural heritage system. This protection plan has been discussed for years by scientists. It has come to be known as NOAH." We heard a lot about NOAH. Those on the committee will remember this. It was completely ignored, but we heard about it. "Connecting these four existing protected areas will form the greenbelt's backbone and support steps to reverse the fragmentation of natural areas, the loss of biodiversity.... The last thing Ontario needs is another isolated island of green."

He goes on to say, finally:

"The good news is that Ontario doesn't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to planning these sorts of ambitious corridors of protected habitats. It's being done in the Pacific northwest.... It's being done in Florida.... There are initiatives ongoing in Ontario that it would be a shame if this greenbelt didn't connect with. We have hard-working groups connecting with the MNR in eastern Ontario," and he goes on to talk about all of these groups who are working there.

What Dr Smith is saying here is that the bill needed to be amended to make the belt bigger, the study area bigger, and to make all those connections; otherwise, it doesn't work. What he was saying is, if it's done poorly, which it is, then it could make things worse. And that's what happened. That's what the bill does, in essence, because of the potential -- not potential; they're buying up the land in Simcoe right now. Highways are still going to be allowed to go ahead, right in the heart of the study area, the greenbelt area. What he is saying is that it could in fact create a worse problem than we have now.

I am going to read to you as well from another expert. I'm sure many people here are familiar with Dr Mark Winfield. He is now with the Pembina Institute. He came forward and talked at length about the problem of not taking off the table for the time being the whole series of 400-series highway extensions in the Golden Horseshoe region. He talks about the implications of that and the problems with keeping the highways until we decide what it is we want to do in the greenbelt. I want to come back again to the leapfrogging and what he says about that. Dr Winfield says:

"Significant development pressures are also emerging in the areas immediately beyond the greenbelt study area to be established by Bill 27. These potential developments highlight the possibility for leapfrog low-density urbanization in response to the greenbelt initiative." Listen to this quote carefully. That's why this is so important. He says: "Such development patterns would defeat the underlying purposes of the greenbelt initiative of containing urban sprawl in the region."

I have just quoted two of the experts in this area, who did an enormous amount of work and know the history of what happens when we don't protect the land and make it a bigger area, but there were many more who came forward and told the government they needed to make amendments.

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I based most of my amendments on the advice we got from the experts who came forward to tell us that this bill would not work unless it was expanded and unless infrastructure and highways were included in the moratorium. The only amendment the government listened to at all, and the minister referred to it, was the Niagara Escarpment, because it was left out. I put forward an amendment -- I've now brought forward a private member's bill to cover it -- as well as the government, to include the Niagara Escarpment in the protection. But it only went half as far. Under the government's amendment, and I don't know if the minister is aware of this but I pointed it out in committee, it doesn't get the same protection as the Oak Ridges moraine gets from the previous government.

My amendment actually gave that full protection. The government went halfway there, but didn't give it -- they said they were worried about lawsuits. That's the reason they didn't do it.

I wanted to tell you, Minister, why it was important that you should have instructed your members, because we know how committees work. They all sat there, and I think some of them were sympathetic to --

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Not our members.

Ms Churley: Oh, yes. They all sat there and voted, one by one, against every amendment I made and could not give any reasonable explanations as to why they are opposing them.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: That's belittling them.

Ms Churley: Oh, the minister says they weren't told what to do. They would have, because --

Interjections.

Ms Churley: Oh, they're getting antsy back there. If they really cared about it and if they really wanted to be able to go out and say, "We are bringing in comprehensive legislation that is actually going to protect green space and agricultural land," they would have supported my amendments, the NDP amendments, or they would have brought them forward themselves. They didn't.

Let's talk about why this is important, because it is very important. In Toronto and many other parts of Ontario it is now the first smog day, not June 21, that marks the arrival of summer. We know that a large part of this smog is created by congested highways, the by-product of urban sprawl. We know that urban sprawl is gobbling up green space in southern Ontario at an unprecedented rate.

According to the Neptis Foundation, at the current rate an additional 260,000 acres of rural land will be urbanized by 2031, almost double the size of the city of Toronto. Try to imagine that. About 92% of the land is Ontario's best farmland. That's why this legislation is so important, and why I'm so angry that it is so inadequate. Sprawling patterns of growth unnecessarily destroy green space and farmland, pollute rivers, streams and other waterways and force us to continue to be overly dependent on motor vehicles, which in turn fuel air pollution and global climate change. What a vicious circle we are in here.

A few more facts about why we need stronger legislation here: The Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario is growing by more than 115,000 people a year. In 15 years, it will be the largest urban region in North America, behind only New York and Los Angeles. The greater Toronto area has approved or developed 128,000 acres since 1989, a rate of 9,100 acres per year. In comparison, the city of Portland, Oregon, set an urban growth boundary in 1980 and has consumed land at only 1,700 acres per year. So it can be done.

Passenger cars and trucks account for nearly half of personal greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global climate change. Vehicles in Ontario contribute about 40% of the pollutants that cause smog.

The Ontario Medical Association estimates that 1,900 people die prematurely every year in Ontario because of air pollution. The Toronto Board of Trade estimates that gridlock costs the greater Toronto area $2 billion per year in truck and delivery vehicle delays. So this isn't just about the environment and our health; it's about our economy too. By 2031 the hours of delay on a typical weekday experienced by auto drivers around the greater Toronto area are projected to rise -- are you ready for this number? -- by 300%. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has identified habitat loss as the leading reason for the rapid decline of species diversity in southern Ontario.

As I said, when the greenbelt proposal was first announced, because of all these issues and problems, we expressed some enthusiasm for it. But my enthusiasm has completely waned because the bill in its current form -- obviously the Liberals have a majority, and they're going to pass it and pretend they're actually protecting green space here. The Liberals are proposing a greenbelt so full of holes that it more resembles Swiss cheese than a protected natural area.

The government purports the greenbelt act to be a cornerstone in its plan to prevent urban sprawl from usurping the Golden Horseshoe. The act institutes a year-long pause on urban development in the region as the task force completes the plan that is supposed to establish a permanent greenbelt.

I presented to the general government committee a number of amendments that would have rectified many of the holes and problems in the bill so that it could actually achieve its purported purpose, but all the Liberal members rejected them -- every single one of them.

I'm going to talk a bit about leapfrog. There are a few areas I'm going to touch on in particular in this, although there are many problems. As I said, the act in its current form is not only ineffectual in stopping urban sprawl, but it actually encourages it because it sets the stage, has set the stage already, in that this bill is before us. Again I'll refer to leapfrog development. The greenbelt area is too small in size. Developers can, and are, just hopping over the area to build on the fringes rather than concentrate construction of new units in existing settled areas. Construction of low-density housing will continue.

Simcoe is an area we talk most about, have heard most about and will continue to hear about when it comes to this leapfrog development. Because it's not included in this greenbelt moratorium, developers are already up there buying the land, planning to build. Another amendment that the Liberal members of the committee did not accept -- the minister, I think, was somewhat trying to ridicule me earlier by saying, "She suggested that we put a moratorium on infrastructure and highway construction during this short moratorium." He said that's not necessary. Well, I'm saying to him and the Liberal government, the evidence is already there. We're repeating the same mistake over again if we allow this to happen.

You construct the roads, you build the infrastructure and the development comes. Once the infrastructure is there -- you've got the big pipe in King City, which I'm going to get to in a few minutes. No matter what happens after -- you may decide and talk about the other processes coming later -- if you've got the big pipe, you've got the infrastructure and you've got the highways, what do you think is going to happen? It's going to get developed. It doesn't take rocket science to figure that out. That's what's going to happen, and it's happening already.

I want to quote Jane Jacobs in her essay "The Greening of the City," which was published recently -- I don't know if anybody saw it -- in the New York Times magazine about a month ago. It uses a great vegetable simile to describe the sprawl that continues to grow before us. She writes, "Look at them: monocultural housing tracts, erected on ever-larger scales, like so many endless fields of cabbage." That's Jane Jacobs -- very expressive.

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I said in committee, and I'll say again now, that this was the acid test of the Liberal government's commitment to the greenbelt. This bill, in its current form, does not succeed in protecting against urban sprawl in some of Ontario's most environmentally sensitive areas. Today is your last chance. We could have it go to committee of the whole and expand the scope of the study area to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive areas.

In the committee debate, the government members claimed that leapfrog development in bordering areas will be addressed in a growth management initiative being prepared by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal. However, this separate plan, I can assure you -- and I said why earlier -- will be of little relevance and use, as developers are already buying up the land in the Simcoe area as we speak. I pointed that out in the committee as well.

My concerns were echoed, as I mentioned, by Dr Mark Winfield, Dr Smith and others. They wanted to expand it. There were 10 hot spots that were brought forward as problematic and that should be included. None of them was included. Every single recommendation made by experts who came in to tell us why the bill would not work without it was ignored.

The goals of establishing a viable greenbelt and promoting sustainable development in the region are also being undermined because infrastructure expansion is not subject to this development moratorium. Infrastructure planning needs to take its direction from the greenbelt plan, not vice versa, if sprawl is to be contained.

The minister is shaking his head. It's true; it's not just me saying this. The experts will tell you that. They came to the committee and told your members that. It's very clear; it's not like we're reinventing the wheel here. The evidence is all there, and you're just repeating the mistake. This is not going to work.

I mentioned the Niagara Escarpment, and I just want to mention again that I have a private member's bill before the House because my amendment was not accepted.

Also on the Niagara Escarpment -- I've raised this several times in the House, and the government says they can do nothing about it: the first year-round town since the 1970s, when Niagara Escarpment protection was established under the then-Conservative government. Every successive government since has built on that. But this Liberal government is not doing anything to stop this year-round town, Castle Glen, from being built on the Niagara Escarpment. It's absurd. It's a beautiful area, and the minister could still step in and declare the provincial interest and stop it. But they've done nothing. I will continue to press to have my private member's bill on that passed.

The bill's failure to protect environmentally sensitive areas and prime agricultural areas from sprawl also points to the government's fleeting commitment to establish a real, viable greenbelt and to put into practice smart growth principles. It could have achieved its purported purpose in my amendment to expand the study area so that it matched the central Smart Growth area that was put in place under the Conservative government. In its current form, it does not offer much-needed protection to some of southern Ontario's most environmentally sensitive areas. Development on these lands is already in the hopper, and you are completely missing the boat here.

There are a couple of other areas I want to go into. The big pipe: I mentioned it today in response to the Minister of the Environment's bragging that she did in a press conference today on a white paper on continuing with source water protection. I just had a couple of minutes to respond today, but one of the things I talked to her about, Minister and Liberal members who are here and listening attentively -- I say that sarcastically --

Hon Mr Gerretsen: We're listening.

Interjection: I'm listening, Marilyn.

Ms Churley: Oh, good, some of them are listening. Late last week -- I got their attention then.

The big pipe: Do you know about the big pipe? It's a sewer works expansion project that's been around for a long time, which will connect King City to the York-Durham sewer system. It received a draft certificate of approval from the Ministry of the Environment, from your government.

Interjection: What's that got to do with the greenbelt?

Ms Churley: It lies on class 1 agricultural land on the moraine. That's what it has to do with the greenbelt. See, she didn't even know. That's what it's got to do with it. It lies on class 1 agricultural land on the moraine, at the headwaters of the Humber River.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: It's a pipe.

Ms Churley: Yes, and why do you think they're building the pipe? To allow more development. They don't get it. It's scary.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Yes, we get it.

Ms Churley: No, you don't. The majority of King City residents and councillors, in opposing the big pipe, fighting against it -- they've been fighting against it for almost a decade. Most of the present councillors were elected on an anti-pipe platform.

This is going to get big. This is going to get really big. It's going to become your Oak Ridges moraine. The big pipe will flood Oak Ridges moraine with sprawl and threaten the environmentally sensitive headwaters of the Humber River. That's how it has something to do with source protection, which is why I raised it today.

Build the infrastructure and developers follow. Again, that's common knowledge. Therefore, we know what's going to happen. All those areas where you're going to allow infrastructure to be developed while you work out this plan, we now know, will be developed. These residents and councillors are very correct in their fear that this massive sewer expansion is being constructed for the purpose of inviting intense development into this natural heritage area.

The big pipe breaks the principle of protecting water at its source. Despite the minister's announcement today pertaining to source protection, a draft certificate of approval has been granted for a project that will impair the Humber watershed, a source of Toronto's drinking water. Development will threaten sensitive areas and "the `King's Crown' natural heritage system, a conservation biology plan designed by local residents using the best available science."

You used to go after the previous government for not paying attention to the best available science. The best available science here is telling you that this is going to be a problem, and you're not listening. Federal and provincial staff scientists all agree that if the YDSS service corridor is further extended to villages such as King City, base flows to rivers flowing into the city of Toronto will be further disrupted.

I'm going to quote Councillor Jane Underhill, because she deserves to be quoted for her fight against this pipe. I'm sure you're familiar with her; she has tirelessly fought against the extension since the idea was first proposed, for purposes of protecting the moraine and the environmental health of downstream populations. This is what she says: "While it has many local dimensions, the big-pipe fight also has regional environmental implications. Source waters will be damaged by the big pipe; instead, source waters could be protected through development of waste water treatment systems that keep the water in the Humber watershed. We need to respect source waters at source, rather than exporting them far and wide through big-pipe systems."

STORM, the Save the Oak Ridges Moraine coalition, explains this in detail. They talk about all the problems with building this big pipe: "Experts have confirmed that the waterworks will not beget significant improvements to drinking water quality."

But there is an opportunity to stop this. Let me tell you, there's going to be a huge public outcry and you're going to be forced to. So you might as well just do it now. And I will be part of that fight, I guarantee you. You will not hear the last of this one. Just like the Tories had to eventually back down on the Oak Ridges moraine, you're going to have to back down on this one, so why don't you just do it now? Save us a lot of time, money and trouble.

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Great Lakes United, a very respected body, an international coalition of Great Lakes groups -- they're involved in trying to stop this big pipe. They've called on Premier Dalton McGuinty to honour his government's commitment to protect the Oak Ridges moraine by cancelling the certificates of approval for this. Then the Minister of the Environment, under the Ontario Water Resources Act, can intervene in the decision-making process or overrule this decision. So I'm asking again: Just do it. Get on with it.

Before I close, I want to talk about some other things that are happening here. There was a very interesting few moments in the committee hearings where I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to this aspect of the bill that I'm going to outline to you now -- and I'd listen carefully to this. This is a foreshadowing of things to come, I think I'll title it.

The Duffins Rouge agricultural preserve: I assume, Minister, you're well aware of what that is. That's the sensitive area within the belt itself that is at threat from development in the Duffins Rouge agricultural preserve in Pickering. Duffins Rouge is a 7,400-acre agricultural preserve that was promised 100% protection by the former and current Liberal provincial government. In 1999, farmers were granted agricultural easements with the understanding that the lands would remain rural. The city of Pickering recently commissioned a growth management study, I understand paid for by the developers --

Interjection.

Ms Churley: You admit that? That's an interesting fact -- calling for development in the Duffins Rouge agricultural preserve. I understand that there was a meeting last night and there's going to be a meeting next week to decide if the growth management study is accepted.

The threat to this agricultural preserve, in particular the possibility that the government will lift the protection it currently receives, was the topic of discussion at a recent edition of Studio 2 on TVO. Susanna Kelley from TVO -- I must say, people have been paying a whole lot of attention to this issue. I know that Ms Kelley was, under the previous government, following very closely the Oak Ridges moraine and other development issues, and she's continuing her commitment to that. So you and your government are being watched on this, Minister. I'm very pleased that there is a journalist keeping a close eye so that these things are not going on behind closed doors in secret. You know they shouldn't be.

She, on TVO, recently talked a bit about what happened at committee. I was sitting there and I was kind of confused about an amendment that the Conservatives made. The Liberals were just, carte blanche, turning down -- as was I -- Conservative amendments. All of a sudden, Mr Wayne Arthurs, who's the MPP for the area --

Hon Mr Gerretsen: You can't name a member here.

Ms Churley: Sure I can. He's a member of the committee. He doesn't want me to name him. Why not?

He made an amendment to the amendment that the Tories made. I didn't catch on for a second. I'm wondering, "What's going on here?", but it's all straightened out now, thanks to some research.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Did the amendment pass?

Ms Churley: No, it didn't pass, but listen to this. This is what was said on TVO by Susanna Kelley. She said, "Well, there is something called the agricultural preserve land. A lot of it is owned by farmers, but there is a great deal of interest on the part of some developers and builders to build there. It was -- there was a ministerial zoning order put on it by the Conservative government that it would be protected in perpetuity. But Mr Wayne Arthurs, the MPP for the area, is in favour of opening up that agricultural preserve, or parts of it, for development."

Hon Mr Gerretsen: He has been very consistent.

Ms Churley: Yes, he has been very consistent, and he continues to be consistent.

"So he has been fighting for this for quite a long time." Of course, he used to be mayor before he got elected here. The conversation went on to say that, "While he was mayor of Pickering" -- Ms Kelley talked about the growth management study that was done for the city and paid for by developers and builders, and, as she said, surprise, surprise, it recommends opening up the agricultural preserve. Did you know that, Minister, that that's the recommendation?

The hearings will continue, the talks in the area, but Mr Arthurs, when he tried to move this amendment that would exempt it in the committee -- I was taken by surprise. I didn't quite know what he was up to, but it turns out that he's still working --

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Did the amendment pass?

Ms Churley: No. He was voted down -- you're right -- by the Liberal members on the committee. But it shows that he's still trying to do that.

Ms Kelley went on to say in this show that she was trying to get to the bottom of this too. She said she talked to the people in the Premier's office about this and said, "Are you aware that Mr Arthurs has been doing this?" Two of them said to her, "We don't want to talk to you." One said, "Go talk to Mr Gerretsen," the municipal affairs minister. Another said, "Go talk to our PR people." PR people?

Ms Kelley says, "`I just want to know if you're aware that Mr Arthurs is doing this.' A third one finally said to me, `Well, I'm not surprised.' And when I said to him, `Can you give me a guarantee that you will, as you promised in your campaign, protect this land in perpetuity?' they said, `Well, it depends.' And I said, `On what?' And they said, `Well, the Greenbelt Task Force recommends or what the -- David Caplan's infrastructure initiative recommends later.'"

She says, "I also found out that in the Greenbelt Task Force, guess what's been sent to every member of the task force this week?" Mr Paikin says, "Tell us." She says, "The growth management plan done for the city of Pickering, and the developers and builders have been showing up as well at the public consultations on this."

This is quite revealing.

Interjection.

Ms Churley: The minister is chat-chat-chatting away over there. I think he's getting nervous because all of this has been revealed now, thanks to the research and investigative journalism by Ms Kelley from TVO.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want the member to know that I'm not nervous and I'm listening to every word she's saying.

The Deputy Speaker: That's not a point of order.

Ms Churley: You might want to get up on this, because the other thing that Ms Kelley pointed out -- she looked into Mr Arthurs's campaign contributions. You know how we used to go after the Conservatives for all the money they got from developers and then they come in here and try to get in bed with the developers? We found out that over a third of Mr Arthurs's campaign contributions were from developers or builders who have an interest in developing that preserve, including 23 contributions of $1,000 each from numbered companies and companies related to one address at 27 Buggy Lane. Did you know about that, Minister -- Buggy Lane? Everybody up there is familiar with that address. That's the golf course that's owned by one of the builders.

Mr Arthurs, according to Ms Kelley, was asked about this, and he said, "I don't see a conflict of interest here." I can only imagine that the former mayor received these big campaign donations as the mayor was quite in favour -- the developers and the builders did this study. We'll be watching this very closely.

In closing --

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Are you voting for this bill or not?

Ms Churley: Well, I'm going to hold you in suspense on this because -- we'll see; we're going to delay the vote, because I have to tell you quite honestly that I'm having a lot of trouble supporting this bill. I really am. The fact that a bill is coming forward that purports to improve the situation and is actually in some ways going to make it worse -- it's pretty hard to support.

On the other hand, I know what the government will do if I don't: every chance, say, "Oh, Ms Churley, the great environmentalist, didn't support the greenbelt legislation." They're selling it out there as though it's this great piece of environmental legislation when in fact it isn't.

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It's like when Michael Prue in committee voted against -- here is what happened -- the retroactivity of the cancellation of the private school tax credit. He voted against it. You know, everybody here knows, we are against credits, taxpayers' money going to help people pay for private schools. We felt the money should go, and still do, into the public school system. Michael Prue, the member for Beaches-East York, on principle, in committee, voted against it simply because he didn't think the retroactivity piece of it was fair, and neither do I. But every time a member of the Liberal Party has an opportunity to go after us -- because they are on the defensive all the time now -- they throw out, without being fair --

Mrs Liz Sandals (Guelph-Wellington): Who's being defensive now?

Ms Churley: Listen to them, Mr Speaker. They are running so scared, let me tell you.

They don't point out that what he was really voting against was the retroactivity.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: Are you nervous, Marilyn?

Ms Churley: Well, I certainly don't want my own principles to be used against me.

In closing, it was --

Interjection.

Ms Churley: You believe in dinging people retroactively. You believe, these Liberals believe, in dinging people retroactively. That's what they passed, that's what they have said. They certainly did. They took some money away from people who, in good faith, paid this money. They don't care about these people.

Interjections.

Ms Churley: Listen: "Yap, yap, yap, yap."

So, in closing, this is bad legislation. It does not achieve what it said it was going to do. The government refused to accept the amendments and don't even take it seriously. But they will be sorry, because this is going to come back to haunt them. The leapfrog development, the big pipe, the agricultural preserve, the highways, the infrastructure that's allowed to be built: All these things are going to come back to haunt you. You are sitting pretty today, you think it sounds like you are doing a good thing, but just as the Oak Ridges moraine got the previous government, this is going to get you.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): As we know, this proposed Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004, is obviously proposing a permanent Golden Horseshoe greenbelt. We have been hearing during this afternoon's debate and previous debate that this bill, Bill 27, would create a greenbelt study area in the Golden Horseshoe area, including Oak Ridges, the Niagara Escarpment, the Niagara tender fruit lands, and would also establish a moratorium, temporarily preventing new urban uses in portions of that study area.

We should know that this is not enough for a number of groups in the province of Ontario, and it is seen by some, as was mentioned earlier, to be limited.

I will make mention of a much broader proposal by a newly formed greenbelt alliance and Earthroots. Earthroots, along with other members of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance -- a fairly recent amalgamation, as I understand -- is proposing the implementation of what they refer to as NOAH. NOAH refers to the Niagara Escarpment to the Oak Ridges moraine north to Algonquin Park and a much broader area also including and heading south across the border to the Adirondack State Park heritage system.

Earthroots contends that the GTA population is projected to increase to six million people by 2021, and they feel that we must act to ensure an environmentally and economically healthy future for this area. Having said that, I think we should all pause in this House to consider that figure: six million people by the year 2021; six million people living in what I consider a relatively small area in North America. Six million people -- from my perspective, there is something inherently wrong with this picture. That is too many people. However, the projections are there. This government is taking a step to deal with what I consider quite a daunting population figure. Earthroots uses these kinds of population projections to underline the need to protect natural spaces by creating a very large greenbelt area through urban planning controls. The option they envision is that we will be facing a smoggy, traffic-congested megalopolis, sprawling from Lake Erie in my area to Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe.

I also want to mention another initiative I was involved in previously. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the merits of a very positive initiative that began in January 2000 with the creation of what is known as the Great Lakes Heritage Coast. The Great Lakes Heritage Coast was identified as a signature site by the previous government.

I know the parliamentary assistant for MNR is present, who will be forging ahead and perhaps carrying on the work of a former parliamentary assistant. Not only Ted Chudleigh, but I had a great deal of involvement with the Great Lakes Heritage Coast, a project that seemed almost, I wouldn't say too broad, but too long in scope, stretching, as the parliamentary assistant would know, from the Pigeon River up on the Minnesota border, south of Thunder Bay, across the north shore of Lake Superior, continuing down Manitoulin Island, which was latterly added to the planning area for the coast, stretching down Georgian Bay to the Severn River. It's a project of the Ministry of Natural Resources, one of a number of signature sites.

Interjection.

Mr Barrett: I'm not arguing against that. I'm actually addressing much of my remarks to the good work done by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The Great Lakes Heritage Coast is one of 10 signature sites, as I recall: the Nipigon Basin, a very broad area to the north of Thunder Bay, and having spent time on Lake Nipigon, I consider it in a sense one of the Great Lakes; the Kawartha Highlands, a signature site much further to the south, and many will know of some of the recent controversy around the Kawartha Highlands signature site; and there is an additional signature site that was announced latterly -- that would be St Williams crown forest, which I am very proud to have been involved in. That actually is in my area, down on Lake Erie.

Progress to date with respect to the heritage coast: It was launched in January 2000, MNR established a director position and four staff were assigned to this project. Considerable work was down initially in marketing, with brochures, computer disks, posters and pens. There were some Group of Seven paintings that were reproduced, as I understand, and distributed very broadly from one end to the other.

Over the course of that project and up to the fall of 2003, the team responsible for this planning initiative, the heritage coast, prepared a strategy for the protection and sustainable use of the area. It was a document titled Setting Sail. It culminated three years of public input, interministerial direction, and of course MNR working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and certainly working with the Ministry of Transportation -- very important with respect to signage, for example, something that's very important when you're attempting to pull together a project like this, but also to try to communicate to people -- tourists, for example -- just what's going on. Setting Sail forms a blueprint for an initiative that I feel can result in not only a world-class tourist destination, but a natural heritage destination. It's said the coast would rival areas such as the Cape Breton highlands. It does really have the potential to put Ontario on the world stage as a place to visit and to take a look at Ontario's fresh water and, by and large, unspoiled coast. I say that having, in my younger days, travelled in over 50 countries, I suppose. The northern forest to me is equivalent to the Himalayas or equivalent to what I saw in the Amazon, for example. It's something. Many people don't get up there and we don't realize what we have when you look at it from a global perspective.

1720

A bit of bad news: The document was never released. The election came along. So we have a timing issue there. The project has not been implemented and I look to the present parliamentary assistant, who knows the north very well and knows this project very well, to continue to serve as a champion for what is a very, very large planning project, not unlike what we're debating here today.

The goals of the greenbelt legislation, the goals of groups like Earthroots, for example, seem laudable. I guess when you look at southern Ontario, you've got a little different kettle of fish here compared to the heritage coast, where much of our work involved crown land. In the south we're dealing with private land, we're dealing with landowners -- farmers, for example -- the owners, the stewards of the land. Farmers, in my view -- and this government would know this -- cannot be ignored, farmers must not be ignored. The members of the province's Greenbelt Task Force are taking heed, and certainly must take heed, of the voices of farmers -- voices that were heard recently at a public meeting in St Catharines. Most of those voices addressed the fact that the province has imposed a development freeze on the Golden Horseshoe during the study and throughout the various stages of this legislative process. They are worried.

They're worried the bill's implementation will hinder their rights, limit their rights, by freezing development on their lands, and their concern is that there is no indication of compensation. Farmers are concerned that the government is seen as protecting the environment. They're concerned that it may well have forgotten about protecting farming and protecting farmers.

Farmers already are in a situation where they see their present-day opportunities being threatened economically. I think that goes without saying, whether it's as a result of soaring energy prices, the beef border closure, poor growing conditions which continue yet again in much of Ontario with what has been a cold and certainly a very wet spring, and higher taxes. Again, this government, in a sense, has frozen their assets without compensation. What opportunity does that offer to farm families? The average age of a farmer is what I consider alarmingly high. How do we encourage the next generation to take a look at the family farm when farm debt is growing faster than growing crops or growing livestock? The issue in many quarters in the agricultural community is the perception of lack of adequate government support and, worse yet, the perception in some of the direction of this legislation, the spectre of government intrusion. How do we save farmers?

How do we keep them on an even keel without allowing them, with confidence, to plan on continuing to make a living by farming and, on retirement, to be able to have that guarantee that they can enjoy the financial fruit of their labour?

Agricultural lands are a valuable resource. They're privately owned, and the majority of generations of families have this perception. If younger members of the farm community see this perception under threat, they will have less desire to take over the business when they balance off some of the restrictions that are being discussed in this legislation with the opportunities that they know have to be there for them to hang on to the farm.

The answer is not to put in place legislation that removes further opportunity for farmers. If the government does decide to tie the hands of farmers even further, surely there must be compensation, and regrettably I see no sign of that in this legislation.

I wish to quote the words of Dr Riina Bray, a physician, chair of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. They have an environmental health committee. She is quoted as stating, "Ensuring a well-protected ecosystem subsequently impacts on the physical, social and psychological well-being of our population, from the very young to the elderly, surely, if we are to expect our farmers to sacrifice land opportunities for these vital societal benefits, society must be expected to shoulder some of the economic burden."

For that reason, I join the OFA, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, requesting -- and I think the OFA is demanding -- compensation for any loss of farmers' equity and, with that, demanding a clear statement from the minister, from the government, that the long-term viability of farm operations is ensured so that future generations would have confidence to stick with it.

It's in this context of essentially a government-private sector partnership that I wish to speak a minute or two and to highlight what I consider a very ambitious, farmer-driven conservation plan. It is taking shape in my riding, in Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, as a pilot project. I know it's seriously being considered in Prince Edward Island. It originated in the province of Manitoba. The program goes by the moniker ALUS, which stands for Alternate Land Use Services. The ALUS program, headed up in my riding by our local Norfolk Land Stewardship Council, not only protects and enhances natural areas but also further encourages environmental partnership between rural and urban, a partnership that includes all stakeholders: government, of course; landowners -- in this case, farmers; and conservationists.

The thinking behind this program holds that good stewardship of the environment is not only a personal responsibility; it's a public value. It is a value based on, in this case, payments to farmers for rendering ecological services that provide environmental benefit to society as a whole. Under this farmer-driven plan, a variety of performance incentives or reward options, if you will, are included: property tax credits, conservation agreements. These are all proposed to encourage farmers to develop and maintain these ecological services which would create markets for public resources like clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat. This also presents an opportunity to nurture the environmental ethic that is inherent within the agricultural community and also to communicate the good things that farmers are doing for the environment and our natural world in the province of Ontario.

The partnership that this program offers is voluntary; it's participatory. It's building on existing programs like the environmental farm plan, but it recognizes the distinct nature, the contributions of many other conservation initiatives on our landscape. It further recognizes that while protecting existing ecological values of the landscape, it's vitally important also to reward those stewards of the land.

1730

Payments for ecological services would create markets, as I indicated, markets for public resources; many resources that currently exist on private land, and I think of wildlife habitats alone. Because no markets currently exist for public resources on private lands, farmers are essentially forced to maximize production, albeit on occasion government-subsidized, from private resources such as livestock, crops and the soil itself.

Under ALUS, the Alternate Land Use Services program, farmers in rural communities would benefit from a new source of income, obviously, and Canadians would diminish the need for further environmental legislation, somewhat similar to the kind we're discussing today. I've mentioned that farmers have to be considered when it comes to government land protection plans, and that's why I feel this ALUS program does have potential.

As I've said, this farmer-driven conservation concept was developed by farmers, initially in Manitoba, promoted by grassroots rural organizations, again in co-operation with governments, conservation groups, anyone who is really interested in planning and attempting to enhance a sustainable environment in our great province. The real winning part of this concept is that it's run by those who are most affected.

ALUS: Again, the plan is administered, controlled and directed through rural communities, through farm organizations, through institutions used by the farming community in their home area. This is the first time that all aspects of a major conservation program, including the wildlife habitat component, would be administered and delivered by farmers.

Further, ALUS is not restricted to conservation cover, wetland or wildlife. It's much broader in scope than many previous programs, the set-aside programs that have been developed in the past. It goes further than that. It has a goal to build on social and economic prosperity in rural Ontario while at the same time building on a healthier natural environment. Under these principles, it is innovative in the way that, to date, these programs have been developed in this province, by integrating environmental concerns -- not only concerns, but opportunities -- into the mainstream of farm communities.

There are benefits, there are advantages, and I'll list a few, of the ALUS program. It would reposition the agricultural role with respect to the environment from a reactive position -- almost a circle-the-wagons position in some quarters -- to something more proactive, developing a predictable revenue stream that would serve as yet another economic pillar for our farm communities.

ALUS is seen as reducing the occurrence and the need for financial crisis management, something all too common. Every several years a need arises -- certainly since I've been a member of this Legislature -- in the province of Ontario.

ALUS is seen as reducing government and public reliance on environmental regulations. It's seen as increasing farmer control of the emerging environmental agenda, as it targets private land. ALUS is seen as converting environmental risk to a business opportunity for farmers. It's seen as coordinating conservation initiatives at the farm gate and as building the business infrastructure, the capability to deliver these kinds of environmental or ecological services, on a profitable basis.

It's seen as addressing the financial imbalance with respect to the global marketplace. Certainly we cannot win the subsidy war in comparison to the United States or Europe. The ALUS concept, I will point out, has been checked out; it's fully accessible to our trading partners, the World Trade Organization.

ALUS has potential to provide a modicum of security for farmers who are considering retirement or succession of the farm to the next generation. As I mentioned earlier, it is felt there is a great deal of merit in this program to serve as common ground between rural and urban Ontario. Where Bill 27, as we're discussing, simply freezes development, ALUS is a program that offers the financial incentive for people to go out and plant trees; set aside marginal land and rather than grow corn, allow those cattails to come up in that corner of the field; and set aside habitat, something very important with respect to wildlife -- all with government compensation paying, as I've indicated, for environmental benefits that accrue to all in Ontario, to the public at large. It's an example of what can be done to protect the environment while ensuring that farmers are not left behind, tied to land that may well lose its value due to restrictive government legislation.

This ALUS program, as I said, is happening right now in Norfolk county, down in my area. A proposed pilot project is there, down in the tobacco country, an area that needs a bit of direction from government at this point. It certainly needs some direction from our present provincial government.

With respect to this program, 37 different organizations have contributed their logo and 10 have shelled out $45,000 for a survey, and I'm happy to say that MNR is continuing to fund the pilot project. I know $20,000 was put forward by the previous government in 2003. It's the kind of farmer-driven program that should be considered for expansion. As we see this government ploughing ahead with restrictive legislation that seems to penalize farmers in some quarters, I just want to make the very important point that when government gets involved in this kind of legislation, you have to be cognizant of the fact that we're dealing with private land.

Since the introduction of Bill 27, farmers have worked hard to make their voices heard. However, we do have the perception that this is an urban-based government that sometimes has trouble hearing the voice of rural Ontario over the noise of the gridlock traffic within the Golden Horseshoe area.

I have much more that I could talk about. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, to name one organization, has put a great deal of thought into this. I ask people to consider the very broad proposal put forward through NOAH.

Just to wrap up, I'm calling for a much more inclusive approach. We, on behalf of our children and grandchildren, should be very concerned at the spectre of six million people in this part of Ontario. I'm calling on this government to take a second look and maybe see the bigger picture beyond the Golden Horseshoe, beyond simple development freezes and the inherent leapfrogging that we see occurring, and will occur. Take a second look. Take a look at a broader, province-wide conservation and compensation program that will not only maintain a program but would enhance Ontario's natural legacy for centuries to come.

1740

Mr Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): I'm pleased to rise on third reading of Bill 27. I know my colleague from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke also wants to comment.

First, I think the opposition parties' point is clear. We advocate a more comprehensive approach, as my colleague from Haldimand-Norfolk talked about, a greater consultative approach, one that addresses the issues as a whole in the province, as opposed to the piecemeal approach that leaves a lot of questions unanswered that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has brought forward. I know there are promises of a growth management strategy from public infrastructure renewal shortly, but I've not heard an apt explanation and a simple explanation of why this particular area has been severed off, leaving so many questions unanswered.

Well, you know what? The reality is that this Bill 27 is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to the spectacular flip-flop that Premier Dalton McGuinty did on the Oak Ridges moraine, a flip-flop of proportions that would make Greg Louganis proud. I think the minister probably remembers -- he may have had nightmares for some time about it -- that giant chipmunk that followed him around after Oak Ridges with the "l" word that I cannot repeat in the Legislature.

Hon Mr Gerretsen: I've got a picture with the chipmunk.

Mr Hudak: He has a picture of the chipmunk, and I remember what that picture would have said, that "l" word that I cannot say but that rhymes with "pants on fire." They were not happy, the giant chipmunk and his friends, about the Premier's spectacular flip-flop on the Oak Ridges moraine. Hence Bill 27, born in this Legislature without great thought for the policy implications.

The minister earlier on in his remarks said, "Well, it's a time out." It's not a time out, sir, I say with all due respect -- a time out perhaps in the sense that some planning amendments or some bylaws may be frozen at the municipal level, but markets continue. The housing market continues apace. The pressures have simply been moved elsewhere, and we brought evidence forward at committee and in this House about the significant spikes in land prices that are occurring across this province of Ontario, which make affordable housing a challenge. My colleague the member for Toronto-Danforth talked about the leapfrog impact as well. Those pressures continue.

It certainly is no time out for farmers who face a loss of equity and significant encumbrances to their economic viability, and no time out for municipalities that seek to grow, that have pressures to improve their infrastructure, the services they offer to the local taxpayers, and the pressure that puts on their tax rates as a result. There is no time out for that.

Farmers for a second: I asked the minister today for a simple guarantee that the concerns of farmers would be addressed at this committee when it comes forward with its recommendations, that there would be funds behind it, some dollars to back it up and put money where the mouth of the committee and the minister is, and instead I received a juvenile retort, which I think shows unfortunate disdain for the concerns of farmers that have been brought forward in this debate. It was, frankly, beneath the dignity of the way the minister usually conducts himself in the Legislature.

Art Smith from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association said, "It is not enough just to save the land; there must be compensation.... It must be remembered that farmers choose to farm, and while it is often a lifestyle choice, they must be able to make money doing so. If not, the banks will take over."

Heather Konefat, director of planning and development for the town of Caledon, said that the model must acknowledge that in order to protect farmland, you also have to assist the farmer. Opportunities for secondary uses in agri-tourism on the farm must be provided for. This model must provide support for the farmer as well as protection of prime agricultural areas.

Amendments that this opposition brought forward to the committee were voted down one by one, by my observation, in what appeared to be a whipped vote from the government members on the committee, and farmers and municipalities are now still without answers to their very valid concerns.

Ray Duc, the chairman of the Grape Growers of Ontario, suggests that the key to preserving the land is to preserve the growers who are already keeping it green. He goes on to say that an injection of support will be required from both the provincial and federal governments -- reasonable arguments made by Ray Duc of the grape growers and other commodity groups affected by the greenbelt legislation, and even those outside of the greenbelt that are worried about incursions into their areas. Yet seven months or so after this bill was introduced, not a single answer, nor even concern or a guarantee expressed by the minister today that the farmers' concerns will be remedied or at least seriously addressed.

Municipalities: The township of Brock, during the consultation, said: "For a municipality which has seen little sustained investment by the development community over the past few years, the potential value of development of these uses will be welcomed by council," referring to projects that are already approved or in the process of being approved: a gravel pit, a golf course and an office facility, just to name a few. Potentially one of those, through an amendment, may go forward, but the other two are definitely in jeopardy.

"The imposition," Brock says, "of Bill 27 as it affects these applications will result in a potential loss of investment by the development community, loss of taxation revenue, particularly commercial assessment, thereby assisting to relieve the residential tax burden and loss of employment opportunities for residents, both during construction and once completed." The township of King furthers those arguments.

The mayor of Lincoln, Bill Hodgson, passionately asked the committee to support farmers and municipalities that will now be constrained from their growth, from reaching their aspirations as a community.

Whitchurch-Stouffville had some very strong comments. They have said, "The specific fear that exists of the establishment of a firm urban boundary is it's an arbitrary line." There's no physiographic nature. There's no consistency in this line, other than borne out of politics consistent with their campaign promise that they tried to get out the door after being chased by the giant chipmunk -- but the land areas that they have chosen are otherwise arbitrary.

"Because municipalities are so reliant on the property tax base to raise our revenues to fund local programs and services, we could be faced with spiralling tax increases." Whitchurch-Stouffville goes on to say, "If rural areas are to be forever green for the benefit of the urban population to the south, they should be financially rewarded by the outlying communities."

So if the greenbelt area is to be a jewel, a treasure -- and hopefully it will become that at the end of the day -- for the province as a whole, not simply those who happen to live in it, part of the cost should be born by the province as a whole to help these municipalities, to help continue their growth, whether it's through the CRF or other measures. Yet still no answer or even genuine concern or a plan that have I heard brought forward from the government.

Third, they've slammed the brakes on important infrastructure investments. The mid-peninsula corridor stands out as one. The minister today in his remarks said, "These should be better addressed under other initiatives." They're asking us to have faith, to trust that eventually answers will come forward.

Well, far be it from me to say, but we don't always trust what Dalton McGuinty and his cabinet ministers have to say. I think it's a fair request from municipalities, farmers and businesses, that these answers should have come forward apace with this legislation, or beforehand. The cart is so far ahead of the horse it's going to lap it.

So why did these answers come forward at the same time? I expect that the growth management strategy will try to address these issues at the same time. But you have had, Minister, six or seven months since you introduced this legislation -- and still no answers for the farmers, municipalities, businesses, for those people depending on the infrastructure investment. I think it's fair that those answers come forward before you ask us to vote for third and final reading of this bill.

I know my colleague from Renfrew is looking forward to addressing this legislation, but in a nutshell, I think it's irresponsible. It's irresponsible of this government to bring this bill forward because of the harm that it's causing without bringing forward a more comprehensive approach that answers the questions that I have earlier addressed for farmers, municipalities, small businesses and local taxpayers.

The minister said, "Well, we're going to work with Simcoe to manage the growth," in response to question period today. But if they had addressed this in a comprehensive manner, they could address that same question as they addressed those caught up in the greenbelt area. At the end of the day, this is a half measure, accomplishing little, but imposing significant hardship. It has delayed projects, businesses, jobs and infrastructure. It's harming farmers and causing price spikes on available land.

I believe this is symptomatic of the leadership of Premier McGuinty: a wandering focus, an incomplete policy vision, paleness, baldness, weak-kneed, grasping, bumper-sticker sloganeering, rather than a well-thought-out vision of growth management in the province of Ontario. This pallid and incomplete growth management plan should be rejected by this Legislature.

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The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity once again to speak to Bill 27.

Interjections.

Mr Yakabuski: Sorry about that.

One of the problems with this bill, and it has many of them, is that again -- and we've seen it in so many pieces of legislation that this new government has brought in, whether it be the Oak Ridges moraine or the Adams mine -- what we see here at work is the Big Brother syndrome: We know better.

We saw that in the budget, where the Premier has gotten up repeatedly and said, "We know that some of these measures are not popular, but we're doing the right thing. We're doing what's best for you. We're doing what's best for the people of the province of Ontario."

One of the problems the people have with that is that they would like to have some input into what is best for the people of Ontario, and Bill 27 is no exception. One of the things I'm most concerned about -- again, I talk about the Big Brother syndrome -- is the lack of respect for private property rights in this bill.

It would appear that the government has a great deal of concern -- and rightfully so. I support them on that. We do need to protect our green space in the province of Ontario. But what they exhibit or purport to exhibit is a great deal of concern for farmland; they show little regard for farmers.

If you're in a situation where you own farm property and you've decided you're going to retain that -- you decided a couple years ago that you're going to farm for another five years and you're within the scope of this bill or the geographic area that it encompasses. You decided a few years back you're going to farm for a few more years because your children do not want to farm. They've moved on to other careers. You've watched your neighbours sell their land at very lucrative prices to people who are developing land in other ways and now you're shut out because the government is going to say, "No, you can't do that. We're going to be preserving that land. You can't sell that. The developers can't develop it, so you can't sell it. You can't make that capital gain on your investment in order to support your family and have a good retirement yourself."

That's one of the cruxes of the problems in the legislation. But again, I say it's all about the Big Brother syndrome, Adams mine, where they just went in and took the feet right out from the under the legal rights of people to have any kind of redress with regard to the government's decisions.

The big picture is, what is the next step? That's my biggest fear. The people in my riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke have a strong organization of 1,700 members called the Renfrew County Private Landowners Association. They're concerned about private property rights. They're concerned about governments who want to come in and tell them what to do on their property. Day in, day out, they're the best managers of the land that exists, but the government's going to come in and tell them how to manage their property. They resent that because this land has been in their families for generations, some of it the original lots that were given to their ancestors when they came to this country. They have a great deal of pride in the property, a great deal of pride in the land. This is where they started. This is what they were given as their first stake, and they consider it to be their real legacy in this country.

So when governments start coming in and telling them how they're going to conduct themselves on their own land, they feel very, very cheated, because they've been the marvellous stewards of that land for decades and centuries. Now the government says, "We know better than you do what to do with this land."

We see it in a number of other pieces of legislation that this government has brought in. I look at the Minister of Natural Resources and say, why did you not stand up and bring back that spring bear hunt? We're already having problems as a result of that failure to reinstitute the spring bear hunt. We're having animals being attacked by bears. We're having conflicts between humans and bears. I'm very hopeful that this year we don't have a bad berry crop, because if we do, we're going to have some serious issues with regard to bear-human conflicts.

Bill 27 is the typical approach of this government. Right from day one on October 2, they have taken the attitude that they've got all the answers, and the people really don't. The people really don't understand what's in their own best interests, so we the government are going to make all those decisions for you.

I tell you, that is not the right way to do it, but it permeates everything that they do. It goes right to their budget. The Premier promised no tax cuts. The Premier promised balanced budgets. The Premier promised a referendum, if he was going to raise taxes, but he's decided now that he knows better. The people don't. We're going to go ahead without it.

The Deputy Speaker: According to the motion passed earlier today, I'm to interrupt the proceedings now. Mr Gerretsen has moved third reading of Bill 27, An Act to establish a greenbelt study area and to amend the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker: The appropriate paper has been filed by the chief government whip. The vote is deferred.

It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:45 of the clock this evening.

The House adjourned at 1758.

Evening meeting reported in volume B.


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