By Kelly Snider
Ontario is proposing to expand the Greenbelt for the first time since it was created in 2005.
“What we said when we implemented the Greenbelt was that for future generations, the Greenbelt can only get bigger, it can never get smaller,” said Kevin Flynn, MPP for Oakville and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment.
Flynn said right now the Greenbelt covers 1.8 million acres in southern Ontario.
The government is planning on adding urban river valleys to the Greenbelt, including the Don and Humber in Toronto and the Credit in Mississauga.
One of the biggest additions, Flynn said, is the 400-hectare Glenorchy Conservation Area in Oakville.
“I think Oakville is excited to have a protected green space within its urban envelope,” said Flynn. “This area is larger than Central Park and Oakville has been able to establish itself now as a gateway to the green belt.”
“The Greenbelt is the largest protected green space in the entire world and people do come and visit to see what’s in the Greenbelt. It’s been given an economic and tourist perspective.”
Josh Garfinkel, senior campaigner for Grassroots, an environmental organization in Toronto, said they’re very happy the provincial government is exploring the option of expansion.
“We think it’s an important thing to expand upon Ontario’s Greenbelt,” said Garkfinkel.
“While there’s been a lot of success stories with the Greenbelt being created, there are certain areas that really need to be added to the Greenbelt. This is an opportunity we’re seeing to include those important areas.”
Garfinkel said although he applauds the creation of the Greenbelt, he believes the Ontario government still needs to do more to protect the environment.
“There’s certainly a lot of good initiatives undertaken over the past decade in Ontario, but what we’re seeing is a lack of political will or a lack of funds to enforce the legislation.”
Listen here to find out more about Garfinkel’s opinion on the Ontario government and environment:
Flynn said there are future plans to help protect the environment, and one example is zoning certain areas that has land with wildlife, that they believe should be preserved.
“Often we will protect a portion of the land, and we will allow another portion of the land to go to development. We’re taking a balance approached in that regard.”
This expansion is not a done deal, yet, but there should be a decision in the new year.