Media release

Greenbelt must be larger to make urban sprawl smaller

Taskforce must recommend enlarged Study Area and stop highways

(For Immediate Release: May 12th, 2004 - Toronto) As the government’s Greenbelt Taskforce prepares to initiate a public consultation process for the Golden Horseshoe, Earthroots says that the Province must expand its study area to include surrounding regions such as “South Simcoe” including Barrie and Kitchener-Waterloo.

“While we applaud the McGuinty government’s commitment to creating a Greenbelt around the GTA, we believe that the current Greenbelt study area must be expanded to achieve the Province’s goals of reducing sprawl in southern Ontario”, said Josh Matlow, Earthroots Campaign Director. Earthroots has concerns that the current Greenbelt Study Area may unintentionally promote unbridled leapfrog development.

Earthroots suggests that the Province increase the Greenbelt study area to resemble the Central Ontario Smart Growth Zone and create programs, along with a trust fund, to support easements for farmers and new revenue for municipalities.

“The government should truly balance growth demands with a focus on transit and the environment. This plan must also ensure that farmers and municipalities receive the support they need for it to be successful”, said Matlow.

Earthroots suggests that the Ontario government:

Ø Protect wilderness and water connections and migration corridors between Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario throughout the region’s parks and rivers. This will better protect our region’s natural systems and wildlife habitat.

Ø Expand and make more efficient the GO transit network for southern Ontario between Toronto, St.Catharines, Barrie, and Kitchener-Waterloo which connects to a larger network including Ottawa and Windsor

Ø Create functional incentive programs supporting farmers in the Study Area including consideration of establishing a trust to provide farmers with financial compensation when needed. Between 1976 and 1996 the GTA lost 150,000 acres of prime farmland to urban sprawl (an area almost the size of the City of Toronto).

Ø Create incentive financial programs for municipalities, such as a share of the provincial gas tax, so that they do not rely so much on promoting sprawl in order to collect additional revenues from property taxes.

Ø Stop the construction of new highways through the Greenbelt Study Area initiated by the previous government. New highways may not be houses but they are certainly another form of development. These highways directly contribute to environmental degradation while providing key infrastructure for future sprawling development.

These highways include:

Ø 427 extension which is already encouraging leapfrog development north of the current Greenbelt Study Area in Alliston, Beeton, Bond Head, and Barrie

Ø Mid Penninsula which might impact the Niagara Escarpment and encourage sprawl onto the Fruit Belt

Ø 404 Northwards extension which promotes urban sprawl north of Newmarket

Ø Red Hill Expressway which will redirect creeks and blow the largest hole into the face of the Niagara Escarpment ever seen.

The McGuinty platform states that his government will protect 600,000 acres of green space within the proposed Greenbelt and another million acres around surrounding communities. Increasing the size of the current Greenbelt Study Area will achieve the fulfillment of this promise.

“The Taskforce’s vision must go further than the current Greenbelt study area”, said Matlow, “their vision should extend beyond the short-term and piecemeal solutions of the past and offer Ontarians a clear picture of what our province will look like one hundred years into the future”.

For more information, please contact:

Josh Matlow, Earthroots Campaign Director at (416) 599-0152 ext.14, (416) 809-5674 (cell.)