Ontario May Strip Protections from Toronto Greenbelt

A proposed bill would open nearly 2 million acres of protected land to commercial and industrial development.

1 minute read

January 4, 2019, 6:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden

Ontario, Canada

NormanEinstein / Wikimedia Commons

TVO reporter John Michael McGrath sounds the alarm on a proposal to deregulate development in the environmentally protected Toronto Greenbelt. The Greenbelt was created in 2005 and is considered a landmark achievement for smart growth in Canada, as well as being popular with Ontario voters.

In May, then-candidate and now Premier Doug Ford suggested that he would open the Greenbelt to affordable housing development. But the actual legislation proposed—the sweeping Bill 66, to be debated in the Ontario Legislature next year—takes a different tack. "The intent is to attract major employers to the province and allow them to speed through municipal-planning approvals for such developments as factories and office parks — the changes are not intended to speed the development of housing," McGrath notes.

The bill would allow municipalities to create "open for business" zoning bylaws where commercial projects could bypass major provincial environmental and planning legislation. Projects could be exempted not only from laws designed to curb sprawl, like the Metrolinx Act, the Places to Grow Act, and the Greenbelt Act, but also from laws governing clean water and waste—including the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Protection Act, and Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. It will be debated when Ontario's legislative session resumes in February 2019.

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