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‘Hands off the Greenbelt’ rallies planned in Newmarket, Richmond Hill
Sept. 12, 2023

Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental advocacy organization, and other groups in Ontario are organizing a series of ‘Hands off the Greenbelt’ rallies throughout the province this month.

Beginning Sept. 8 until Sept. 23, local activists, unions, coalitions and other groups will demonstrate “to emphasize the urgency for protecting Ontario’s forests, farms and wetlands.”

Incensed by the provincial government's handling of Bill 23, the “More Homes Built Faster Act” and the removal of 7,400 acres of protected Greenbelt land for development, organizers hope the rallies will raise awareness and stand against what they call "attacks on Ontario's environment."

At a news conference this summer, Premier Doug Ford said building on Greenbelt land was necessary to meet the “unprecedented growth” and need for affordable housing, a problem he said was created by the federal government.

“Last year alone, Ontario grew by more than 500,000 people,” said Ford. “To put that into perspective, the federal government brought 1.1 million people into our country. Six hundred thousand people landed everywhere else, but guess what, eventually they’re going to end up in Ontario.”

Bill 23 proposes to solve this problem by building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.

In the auditor general’s August 2023 'Special Report on Changes to the Greenbelt’ document, Bonnie Lysyk wrote: “There was sufficient land for the target of 1.5 million homes to be built without the need to build on the Greenbelt.”

On its webpage, Environmental Defence wrote: “Bill 23, and associated policy changes, will create a process for selling off conservation lands without oversight, stripping conservation authority powers that protect us from floods and removing protections from woodlands, wetlands and wildlife habitat … these changes will create less affordable housing -- not more -- as developers fight for scarce workers, infrastructure and planning staff in a race to build million-dollar McMansions on wetlands and farmland -- far from existing transit and infrastructure.”

The organization urges the public to take action by attending rallies and signing petitions at Information on the rallies in York Region are listed below:

A ‘Climate and Greenbelt March’ will be held in Newmarket on Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the intersection of Yonge Street and Mulock Drive. “The event will include a march to MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s office to deliver letters and petition the government to take better action to stop climate change.”

A ‘Return Greenbelt Land Rally' organized by Livable Richmond Hill will take place on Sept. 23 from 1-3 p.m. at Richmond Green Sports Centre and Park, 1300 Elgin Mills Rd E., Richmond Hill.