Ontario Wants to Expand the Greenbelt to Slow Toronto’s Urban Sprawl

Flying into Pearson, it’s always incredible to witness Toronto’s urban sprawl. For as far as the eye can see, there is the kind of urban planning Green Day used to write protest songs about.

Indeed, city has expanded so rapidly over the last decade that it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Wasaga Beach be considered part of the GTA in a few years. And it’s taking quite the toll on the environment.

Urbanization has resulted in decreased water quality, deteriorating farmland, and deforestation, caused mostly by people being priced out of the GTA and moving to surrounding counties.

Now, the province is looking to curb growth that would harm the environment by researching alternative land development strategies. That strategy starts with expanding the Greenbelt, an 810,000-hectare area enveloping the city that provides permanent protection to some of the region’s most important green spaces.

The Ontario government is currently studying seven areas covering around 345,000 hectares that could be added to the Greenbelt.



Ontario hopes an expanded Greenbelt, together the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (‘the Growth Plan’), the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, will ensure more environmentally conscious development in the country’s most populous region. Together, this area stretches as far north as Muskoka, west to Waterloo, to the southern tip of Niagara, and almost as far east as Belleville.

  • Expanding the Greenbelt would yield three objectives:
  • – To give permanent protection to the natural heritage and water resource systems that sustain ecological and human health
  • – To protect against the loss and fragmentation of the agricultural land base and support agriculture as the predominant land use
  • – To provide for a diverse range of economic and social activities associated with rural communities, agriculture, tourism, recreation and resource uses

One question remains, of course: what is the province going to do with all the humans? (Some politicians want to see Canada reach a population of 100 million by 2100, after all).

Rather than slowing growth, the government will seek to more consciously distribute growth among “settlement areas.” These are “built up areas with a mix of land uses where development is concentrated and where lands are designated in an official plan for development over the long term.”

You know, the kind of long-term planning that would have avoided retroactive measures like this in the first place.

While it may be a little late, the fact that Ontario is prioritizing expanded green spaces and sustainable development is encouraging.