The Greenbelt


The Greenbelt around Toronto refers to a protected area of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds, located in Southern Ontario, Canada. It is the world’s largest Greenbelt, covering approximately 2 million acres of land. The Greenbelt was created in 2005 to protect vulnerable greenspaces and agricultural land from urban sprawl.

The Greenbelt is designed to preserve and enhance the region’s natural environment , promote sustainable agriculture, and support local communities. It helps to protect important ecological features, such as watersheds and wildlife habitats, and provides opportunities for outdoor recreation and tourism.

The Greenbelt is governed by the Greenbelt Council, which is responsible for overseeing its implementation and ensuring its long-term protection. The Council works closely with various stakeholders, including government agencies, environmental organizations, and local communities, to manage and maintain the Greenbelt.;


Recently “The Ford government removed approximately 2,995 hectares of land from the Greenbelt in December — while adding more land elsewhere — to build 50,000 homes. The government said the changes were part of its plan to build 1.5 million new homes in the next decade.” [1]

In order to achieve that new-homes goal, the government developed targets for many of the major urban areas in Ontario [2]. For Markham, where I live, that target was 44,000 units.

The removal of 2,995 hectares of land from the Greenbelt to build 50,000 home has resulted in some controversy. An auditor’s report, addressing the question of whether removing land from the Greenbelt to build the 50,000 homes was necessary, determined that the “greenbelt changes [were] not necessary to achieve government housing targets”:

  • The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Housing Ministry) had already allocated the entirety of the 1.5-million-unit housing target to municipalities in October 2022—one month before the government’s proposal to remove land from the Greenbelt.
  • The government and the Housing Ministry did not have evidence that removing land from the Greenbelt was needed to meet the government’s housing goals.
  • Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force determined that a shortage of land was not the cause of the province’s housing challenges and that the Greenbelt and other environmentally sensitive areas must be protected.
  • Chief Planners in the regions of Durham, Hamilton and York—which are home to all 15 sites removed from the Greenbelt—told us that Greenbelt land was not needed to meet the housing targets assigned to them by the Housing Ministry and that there is sufficient land outside the Greenbelt in their regions that is already or easily serviced.
  • The Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario, a group of senior municipal planning leaders from across Ontario, stated it does not support the removal of lands from the Greenbelt as a necessary step to address Ontario’s housing needs.

In Ward 1 of Markham (there are eight wards in Markham), where I live, there are development plans for some 45,310 units. The following map shows the location and size of each site.


It appears that within our ward alone, the whole of Markham’s housing targets will be met. If the Greenbelt lands are not required in order to meet the 1.5 million units goal, then why remove them?


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