Protecting Ontario's Greenbelt
March 22, 2023
The Greenbelt is a vital part of Ontario’s ecosystem that protects thousands of acres of wetlands, forests, and watersheds. It’s also home to several farms, located on some of Canada’s best agricultural land. When protecting our climate, we need to be consistent across orders of government. The developments to the greenbelt proposed by the province of Ontario fundamentally conflict with federal direction and legislation such as: species at risk legislation, impact assessment legislation, and infringes on Rouge National Urban Park.
Recently, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, launched an impact assessment study to examine the potential effects of the proposed developments on the integrity of the Park and on the Park’s management objectives. This includes protecting biodiversity, natural resources, and natural processes; ecological connectivity throughout the Park and with adjacent natural areas; maintaining important working relationships with Indigenous communities; and supporting a vibrant park and farming community.
The park was first established in April of 2015 following the transfer of lands from Transport Canada to Parks Canada and in June 2019, Bill C-18 amended the Rouge National Urban Park Act to ensure the park will have the strongest possible ecological protections. Since then, it has become the largest urban park spanning five municipalities across the GTA and is home to 42 at-risk species including the bank swallow, the red-headed woodpecker and the monarch butterfly.
The Impact Assessment Act was passed by the Federal Government in 2019, to provide environmental protections, as well as the need for proper consultation with Indigenous and First Nations Peoples including Metis and Inuit. I can remember speaking in favour of this legislation
The Ontario government, alongside Alberta and Saskatchewan, have launched a Supreme Court Challenge to the Impact Assessment Act. The Ontario government is waiting for the results of the challenge before moving ahead with any development applications near the park. While usually a development plan must be tabled before the federal government can move forward with an impact assessment, the study on Rouge National Urban Park can move forward because the park falls under federal jurisdiction.
The other area of concern is the proposed Highway 413, which falls under provincial jurisdiction. So far, no development plans have been submitted, so the federal government is unable to respond through the federal Impact Assessment Act. As soon as the province tables plans, the minister can initiate an Impact Assessment, pending the decision coming from the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act.
For more information about Impact Assessments, please see: Basics of Impact Assessments - Canada.ca
Canadians are already feeling the impacts of climate change, which is why since 2015, our government has protected over 290,000 km2 of land as part of our historic commitments and investments in Nature Conservation. As we continue our path to net zero emissions, now more than ever, its important we protect areas such as the greenbelt.