Skip to main content

Farmland politics: The undeniable power of the Greenbelt

The Greenbelt isn't just about farms; it's about securing our food, preserving our environment, and bridging the urban-rural gap – an imperative we can't afford to compromise
Doug Ford greenbelt controversy

It's inspiring to see farmland management taking the forefront in today's headlines, emerging as a significant political issue in Canada's largest province – a truly fascinating development.

In a world where we grapple with the huge challenge of feeding a growing population amid increasing urbanization and environmental pressures, preserving farmland close to cities has become more important than ever. Amid recent political controversies at Queen's Park, the Greenbelt stands out as a beacon of hope – a policy firmly opposed to relentless urban sprawl. It not only preserves nearby agriculture but also bolsters our food security. 

A bit of history: In 2005, led by Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal government took a momentous step by passing legislation to establish the world's largest Greenbelt. It encompassed the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and nearly one million acres of prime farmland. Today, it blankets over two million acres of fertile land. Over the years, its effectiveness in protecting farmland has been consistently proven. A study by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs underscores the undeniable power of the Greenbelt in safeguarding prime agricultural land.

READ: Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land 

The findings of this study released a few years ago are both enlightening and profound. From 2005 to 2019, only 32 hectares of prime agricultural land were lost within the Greenbelt's protective embrace. This seemingly small figure takes on immense significance when compared to the staggering loss of 11,172 hectares of prime agricultural land outside the Greenbelt during the same period. The data unequivocally reaffirms the Greenbelt's core mission: the protection of agricultural land and the preservation of natural features.

 Regardless of any narrative spun by the Ford government regarding land protection and any alleged compromises involving prime farmland, one unassailable truth remains – the Greenbelt should remain inviolate, without exception or compromise. 

Other urban centers in Canada have paid a steep price for unchecked urban sprawl. Take the example of the island of Montreal, where some of Quebec's most fertile agricultural land now lies beneath asphalt and concrete. Ontario cannot afford to repeat such a blunder.

READ: Canada saw decline in fresh fruit, vegetable availability in 2022 

Preserving the Greenbelt isn't just about resisting urban renewal and development; it's about finding space in the real estate sector. Today, we can expand residential areas while simultaneously safeguarding our capacity for food production and farming. 

Well-planned public transportation and communication networks can facilitate urban development while keeping the Greenbelt intact. Preserving the Greenbelt also offers urbanites the prospect of agricultural proximity.

Preserving is not just about food security; it's very much about education and our collective awareness of food production. The stark rural-urban divide in Canada has led to misguided policies detrimental to farmers. This disconnect is exacerbated by the fact that 98.4% of Canadians don't live on farms, according to Statistics Canada. Allowing urbanites to at least glimpse farmland is vital for fostering a connection between Canadians and farming. For many Ontarians, driving through the Greenbelt may be their sole opportunity to witness a working farm.

READ: Farmland is getting expensive, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

And let's be honest. Preserving our biodiversity, especially near or within urban centers, can only benefit our collective mental health. Seeing green is a necessity, as suggested by numerous studies over the years. 

In essence, the Greenbelt policy was not just a commendable idea; it was an imperative. It ensures the protection of green spaces near Canada's most urbanized region. It is essential for food security, education, awareness and the well-being of our society. These vital aspects should never be open to sacrifice.

More Blog Posts in This Series

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds