New bill could open Green­belt to de­vel­op­ment, crit­ics say

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - SHAWN JEF­FORDS

TORONTO — Op­po­si­tion politi­cians and en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates are raising con­cerns about new leg­is­la­tion from the On­tario gov­ern­ment that they say opens the door to de­vel­op­ment in a pro­tected green space around Toronto.

Crit­ics say the om­nibus leg­is­la­tion aimed at cut­ting red tape for busi­nesses con­tains clauses that could let mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties over­ride rules that pro­tect the Green­belt.

The 7,200-square-kilo­me­tre area that bor­ders the Greater Golden Horse­shoe area was es­tab­lished in 2005 to pro­tect en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive land from ur­ban de­vel­op­ment.

Premier Doug Ford gen­er­ated con­tro­versy dur­ing the spring elec­tion cam­paign when he ini­tially pledged to open parts of the area to build hous­ing — a prom­ise he back­tracked on af­ter fac­ing in­tense crit­i­cism.

Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Minister Todd Smith says the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment has promised not to al­low de­vel­op­ment in the Green­belt and will keep that com­mit­ment.

But NDP leg­is­la­tor Catherine Fife says the leg­is­la­tion con­tains vague lan­guage that could al­low for de­vel­op­ment in the area and Green party Leader Mike Schreiner says the bill puts es­tab­lished pro­tec­tions at risk.

“De­spite ex­plic­itly promis­ing to leave the Green­belt in­tact, the Ford gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a bill yesterday that opens the Green­belt to de­vel­op­ment,” said Schreiner. “And not only the Green­belt, it threat­ens hard fought for and val­ued pro­tec­tions for Clean Wa­ter, Great Lakes, Lake Sim­coe and the Oak Ridges Mo­raine.”

Fife said the “opaque” word­ing of the leg­is­la­tion was con­cern­ing.

“It leaves ques­tions for peo­ple who are try­ing to main­tain the law,” she said. “I don’t think this premier will be happy un­til he’s paved over par­adise and put up a park­ing lot.”

The gov­ern­ment said, how­ever, that the leg­is­la­tion tabled on Thurs­day would only ap­ply to mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment of in­dus­trial land.

“We’ve made it very, very clear as the new gov­ern­ment of On­tario that we are go­ing to pro­tect the Green­belt,” Smith said on Fri­day. “What this does though is give us the op­por­tu­nity, in other ar­eas, to en­sure that when busi­ness wants to lo­cate in On­tario ... that we have the tools to help them lo­cate here quicker.”

Un­der the pro­posed law, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties work­ing on a spe­cific pro­ject — like at­tract­ing a ma­jor em­ployer to the re­gion — can pass a by-law to re­quest pro­vin­cial ap­proval to over­ride cer­tain reg­u­la­tions. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would have to pro­vide a case to the gov­ern­ment to war­rant the over­ride.

“The gov­ern­ment would re­view the pro­posal and con­sider, among other things, whether there would be any im­pacts on pub­lic in­ter­ests such as the en­vi­ron­ment or pub­lic health and safety,” said Praveen Sen­thi­nathan, a spokesman for the min­istry of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs. “The min­istry of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs and hous­ing would work with partner min­istries to con­sider po­ten­tial im­pacts on mat­ters of pro­vin­cial in­ter­est, in­clud­ing pro­tect­ing the Green­belt.”

Ad­vo­cacy group En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence said the new leg­is­la­tion meant the cur­rent process to iden­tify ap­pro­pri­ate places for new de­vel­op­ment will be side­lined.

“The Green­belt is the an­chor of smart land-use in south­ern On­tario,” said Tim Gray. “Open­ing it to de­vel­op­ment will set free ram­pant land spec­u­la­tion by de­vel­op­ers, re­sult­ing in a loss of farm­land and the dis­rup­tion of farm com­mu­ni­ties.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.