Newsletter: September 2023
SEPTEMBER 28, 2023 –
Greetings everyone, and happy autumn.
It’s an especially happy one for many residents of Ontario — and that’s who this special newsletter will particularly interest. But if you’re a fan of clean air and water, protecting farmlands and feeding people, this is great news no matter where you live.
As you may know, the government of Ontario recently reversed its incredibly unpopular, and simply corrupt, cuts to the world’s biggest Greenbelt. As someone who’s spent the last 20 years deep in the Greenbelt, from working on the initial campaign to make it policy, to leading the Greenbelt Foundation for 12 years, to writing the definitive book about it, it means a great deal to me. I’m proud to say that I’ve been called “Mr. Greenbelt” more than once.
To start, thanks.
I have a lot to say about this, so I hope you have a couple of minutes. And I want to start with thanks.
I’d be remiss not to mention my deep gratitude to the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner for taking this so seriously, doing their job and doing it well and speaking truth to power. But most of all, I want to say a huge thank you to all of Small Change Fund’s donors, volunteers and organizers. Grassroots campaigning isn’t glamorous work. It’s standing in the rain, making phone calls and being relentless and often unpopular. But it works like almost nothing else. Because of you, we saved 7,400 acres of the country’s finest farmland and environmentally sensitive land from development. Forever.
So much more than land on a housing map.
What the government forgot, but the people never did, is that the Greenbelt is so much more than just acreage in a land use management plan. It’s one of the world’s best sustainability models – a model that protects species, wetlands and farmlands. It provides a living for thousands of people within and around. And while building houses creates a short-term economic spike, the land gives eternal value. The Greenbelt is also about being with family, friends and nature: about hiking, biking, canoeing and affordable tourism. You just get up there and go. Anyone.
The Greenbelt was always forever in peoples’ minds.
It’s always had massive public support. Polling by the Greenbelt Foundation showed that the Greenbelt was the most recognized environmental initiative in the province. What’s more, in the campaign to save it, we were helped with uniform support from all major media outlets. Whether in op-eds, columns or editorials, it was a choir singing in perfect unison: Save the Greenbelt. This victory belongs to almost everyone.
The straw that broke the government’s back.
The sad truth is, this was only one battle of many in our fight to protect Ontario’s greenspaces. This provincial government has made one harmful and underhanded planning and environmental decision after another. We continue to fight unnecessary and unwanted urban boundary expansions. Conservation Authorities remain neutered. And we’re still fighting against pointless, expensive highways that traverse the Greenbelt and threaten its species.
But right now, let’s celebrate and be grateful for this victory. There will always be another battle but it’s equally important to savour the wins.
So, thank you, Mr. Ford. You thought you were politically immortal. But as it turns out, it’s the Greenbelt that is now politically immortal. No other premier in my lifetime, maybe even my kids’ lifetimes, will ever touch the Greenbelt again.
That is perhaps the greatest victory of all.
P.S. On October 6th, our partners No Clearcuts Kingston are hosting a Night at the Tannery in support of their upcoming hearing at the Ontario Land Tribunal. And you can support Stop the Hallman Pit by attending their October 30th Ontario Land Tribunal hearing virtually. Let’s win more battles!