On October 16, 2023, the Ontario government introduced legislation that, if passed, would restore all properties that were redesignated or removed from the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine areas in late 2022. If passed, this legislation would also enhance protections for the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine areas by ensuring any future boundary changes can only be made through a public and transparent process that would require the approval of the legislature. The Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act, 2023 would also restore protections previously provided by the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act.
“We are following through on our commitment to fully restore these lands and provide enhanced protections to the Greenbelt moving forward,” said Paul Calandra, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “At the same time, we remain focused and committed to tackling Ontario’s housing supply crisis and working with our municipal partners to achieve our shared housing targets. We know there’s more work to be done.”
At the same time that it restores all properties that were redesignated or removed, the government is proposing to keep the 9,400 acres (3,800 hectares) in the Greenbelt that were added in 2022. These include lands in the Paris Galt Moraine and in Urban River Valley areas across the Greater Toronto Area.
Restoring the protections and policies of the Greenbelt Act in its entirety includes the need for a review every 10 years, as was mandated by the previous government when the legislation was originally introduced and passed. Moving forward, this review will be led by impartial, nonpartisan experts in conservation, agriculture and environmentalism, and will include engagement with Indigenous communities and municipalities. Once final, the experts’ recommendations will be provided to the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environment for consultation to ensure that the review process was fair and guided by the recent recommendations to improve process.
Ontario will ensure the public and municipalities are informed about the timing and process to pass the proposed legislation. The government is engaging directly with Indigenous communities and consulting the public, municipalities and stakeholders on the proposal to add lands back to the Greenbelt.
The proposed legislation has been well received. The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) applauds the Ontario government for introducing new legislation that would reverse the government’s earlier decision to remove protection for Greenbelt land for residential development. The association admits the housing affordability crisis is critical for Ontarians, but states that the most successful approaches do not come at the expense of green spaces or thoughtful climate action.
The OAA regulates the practice of architecture in the public interest. It asserts opening up the Greenbelt was by no means “required” in order to provide more housing. In its November 2022 submission related to Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, the Association offered several other strategies to improve access to quality housing. It also explored ways for architects to play a role in creating healthy, affordable, functional, and beautiful homes in which people could live.
“Gently intensifying the density of existing urban and suburban areas, especially those near transit infrastructure, should be given greater consideration,” says Settimo Vilardi, a Windsor architect and the president of the OAA’s governing Council. “There are so many opportunities to create housing in already-vibrant neighbourhoods that optimize land use, leverage existing infrastructure and amenities, and promote vibrant and inclusive complete communities.”
In related news, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) branch that probes corruption and political crimes has launched a criminal investigation into Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s $8.28 billion land swap controversy.
“Following a referral from the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP ‘O’ Division’s Sensitive and International Investigations (SII) unit has now launched an investigation into allegations associated to the decision from the province of Ontario to open parts of the Greenbelt for development,” the RCMP said in a statement on October 17.