The Greenbelt

This month at Regional Council, members had before us a motion for Council to request the Province to develop a process allowing municipalities to access site-specific, strategically located employment lands – for employment use – only along the 400 series highways.

The focus of the motion – more employment lands – is a worthwhile, arguably necessary objective, certainly in affected municipalities.  It would foster employment growth, bringing more jobs to the region.  And it would generate more taxes, thus relieving some of the burden on the residential tax base.

There is a problem, however, with the proposed action – these lands are part of the Greenbelt and as such they are protected.

I have never supported opening-up the Greenbelt – even in such a targeted way as proposed.  In my opinion, if you open the door just a little a bit, it will be tough to keep it closed.

Do I believe that we need to look at ways that we can reduce residential tax rates? Absolutely, especially in the smaller municipalities, but I don’t support opening-up the Greenbelt as the way of doing that.  I believe that all levels of government need to work together to identify workable solutions to the municipal infrastructure funding crisis.  While collecting only 9 cents out of every tax dollar, municipalities are responsible for 60% of infrastructure costs.  As a consequence, right now, municipalities across the country are facing a $150 billion infrastructure deficit.   

Do we need do something? Do we need to figure out how to address this disconnect between infrastructure costs and tax revenues? Yes! but paving over our environmentally protected Greenbelt lands is not the answer.

We need to continue to ensure that our Greenbelt lands stay protected. I was very happy to hear Minister Clark stand up in the House and say that, “I can tell the members of the House and every head of council and every councillor in every community across Ontario that if you’re going to give us a request to develop property within the greenbelt, we have one short answer: No.”

It is unfortunate that the motion passed 15-5 (with Mayor’s Quirk, Taylor and Myself and Regional Councillors Hamilton and Heath opposed).  I will keep everyone informed as to how this issue progresses.

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