This spring will be remembered as the season of land use deliberations in Ontario. Four significant land use plans are under review and the process could have significant implications for Ontario farmers.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently announced a review of four provincial land use plans – The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan.
The four provincial land use plans under review are intended to manage growth, protect agricultural lands and the natural environment, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support economic development in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt. Through the review process, public consultations will be held to evaluate the plans, consider expansion of the Greenbelt, build transit friendly communities and support economic development.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) participated in an active consultation and advisory role 10 years ago when the first plans were implemented and will be actively involved in the review process. The OFA’s position remains that farmland preservation is critical. With the average loss of 350 acres per day of agricultural land in Ontario, it’s never been more important to address policies to protect this prime resource.
But along with preserving farmland we also need policies to ensure that farmland can be worked sustainably. The OFA encourages the government, policy makers and parties involved in the land use review to consider farmland from our perspective. Preserving farmland, our most strategic resource, preserves the tools necessary for sustainable farming and ensures a local food source.
We will be taking our messages directly to government, providing insight, suggestions and a fair evaluation of the four land use plans. The OFA believes consistency across all four land use plans is vital. We need to see the implementation of fixed urban boundaries and higher urban density requirements as a key element in preserving farmland in areas surrounding the protected land.
The OFA will be engaged in the upcoming public consultation period and encourages all OFA members in the greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges regions to submit feedback on these land use plans. The 90-day public consultation period will include 12 regional town hall meetings and commenting through the Environmental Registry.
The OFA’s own vice president, Keith Currie, has been appointed to the expert advisory panel for this land use plan review. Currie is one of six members on the panel, including former federal cabinet minister and former mayor of Toronto, David Crombie.
We are encouraged to see the government undertake such a thorough review of these four plans. And we look forward to participating in such an important consultation process because of the significant implications for Ontario agriculture.
Mark Reusser is an executive Member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture