No matter how you slice it, Ontario’s Ford government took liberties with the rules when it decided to re-draw the boundaries of Toronto’s Greenbelt. (You can read the auditor general’s report about how many liberties, here).
A staunch supporter of farmland preservation, Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says that there’s no doubt that the Greenbelt concessions have led to a net loss of productive farmland in the province. The question now is how to move forward.
“We (OFA) talked a lot about the importance of agricultural systems, and in the auditor general’s report, it highlighted some of those similar findings,” Brekveld says. While not every lobbying effort results in a win, as this Greenbelt development shows, Brekveld says that she thinks some good can come of the food and ag systems discussion that was included in the AG’s report.
“When I reviewed the auditor general’s report, I saw some of the things that were said echoed in there… again, government heard us on the three lot severance issue. We will continue to be that trusted voice that will say, you know, this, this makes sense, and when things don’t make sense, we’re going to be there and say, you know, we can do better,” she says.
Brekveld adds that bringing the conversation forward about agriculture systems, keeping areas and blocks of land in farm production, and the importance of farmland are all points she hopes are more widely discussed because of this report and going forward.
“There are some housing needs in rural Ontario, as well. But we have to have significant thought and meaningful thought about where we put houses and where we protect farmland,” Brekveld says. “It’s five per cent of the landscape. And we can’t ignore that (farmland is) a precious and a limited resource and a non-renewable resource. If we put it into housing, once it’s in houses, it doesn’t go out.”