Feds’ study of the Greenbelt could put Ford’s development plan on hold for years

Although Premier Doug Ford may not be amused, the government of Canada is announcing a study looking at the impacts of some of the new development proposed on the Greenbelt near Rouge Park.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault Minister of Environment and Climate Change has requested that the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada conduct the study in collaboration with Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“Our government is extremely proud of creating Rouge National Urban Park, as a key piece of our work to protect nature, build healthy communities, and make sure people in Canada’s largest urban centre have access to an ecologically healthy green space,” he said, in a press release. “The participation of the public and Indigenous communities in this study is crucial and most welcome.”

According to a press release, the main concern is Rouge Park, the largest urban park in Canada and one of the best protected urban parks in the world, and its connection to the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve. The same agricultural preserve that Premier Ford decided to open up for housing development to the tune of some 4,700 acres according to Environmental Defence.

The Toronto-based environmental organization explained that the ecological integrity of the park, federally listed endangered species, indigenous rights, farming and action on climate change are at risk following Ontario’s decision to remove land from the agricultural preserve and the Greenbelt.

“Premier Ford left Minister Guilbeault with no choice but to act to protect key ecological, cultural and economic values within and surrounding Rouge National Park. The province’s reckless actions require a thorough evaluation and then federal action to protect values of national and international significance,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence.

Over the next three months, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will work with Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to determine and draft the terms and scope for how this study will be undertaken. The proposed approach will be provided to the Minister by the end of June 2023 with a goal to complete the study as soon as possible.

This could, as some suggest, slow down the development process for a Ford government that has made demands of development companies to have shovels in the ground by 2025 on these new projects to meet its goal of building 1.5 million new homes in the province over the next decade.

“There are no good reasons for the provincial government to have broken their promise to protect the Greenbelt. Nowhere is this more true than for the farms, forests and wetlands of DRAP. Fortunately, these lands could now have a protected future instead of being bulldozed for car-dependent sprawl,” Gray added.

The study, according to a press release, will involve “working with Indigenous groups and interested parties to collect data. The information will be accessible to the public and there will be opportunities for the public and Indigenous communities to provide feedback.”

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