23, 2004: Greenbelt Task Force Discussion Paper,
Planning Act Reform and Implementation Tools, Ontario Municipal
Board Reform, Provincial Policy Statement Draft Policies,
Drinking Water Source Protection Act, Nutrient Management
Act, Growing Strong Rural Communities Consultation Paper,
Safe Drinking Water Act – all these provincial government
initiatives have the potential to reinvent our countryside.
No doubt, every project is well intentioned: urban sprawl
needs stopping, large livestock farms need to document their
stewardship of our environment, studying the population decline
in rural communities is elemental, and confidence in our drinking
water needs to be restored.
But, will this wave of new rules and regulations create a
more viable and dynamic countryside? I fear not.
One, the draft Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning
Act limits permitted land uses in rural areas to resource-based
activities. In prime agricultural areas the permitted uses
are even narrower: agriculture, adding value to what is produced
on a farm and home businesses. These cannot maintain a vibrant
countryside economy. The production of raw materials –
food, fibre, gravel, lumber -- has become technology work
and attracts a shrinking share of consumer dollars. A countryside
limited to resource-based enterprises will continue to lose
relevance to the larger economy.
Two, designating good farmland for agriculture in government
documents will not guarantee that farming will thrive. Up
to 85% of farm families are already involved in economic activities
other than primary food production. A growing number of these
enterprises have no relation to agriculture, but do contribute
to the viability of the farm and a reasonable standard of
living for these families. Farm families have already identified
what it takes to keep the countryside economy vibrant as resource-based
sectors decline in significance. We need to allow a full range
of economic activities on our farmsteads and rural properties.
A family on a one hundred acre farm should be able to earn
a reasonable family income from activities on the property.
Farming enterprises are a contribution to family income –
often a small contribution.
Three, none of the proposed rules and regulations recognize
the public good and environmental services that society reaps
from well-managed farms and the stewardship of rural lands.
Our countryside needs a new deal from the millions who value
local food, wild life, verdant landscapes, fresh air and clean
water. Government intrusion needs a guiding principle: public
goods that the public wants and needs must be paid for by
This wave of rules and regulations designed to create a greenbelt,
protect farmland and safeguard drinking water can only succeed
if it also makes the Ontario countryside a great spot to live
and a rewarding place to work.
Bill 27, Greenbelt Protection Act, 2004 can be found at:
The Greenbelt Task Force Discussion Paper can be found at:
Planning reform consultation and discussion papers can be
found at: www.mah.gov.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_17365_1.html
Proposed legislation to protect drinking water sources can
be found at: www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/news/2004/062301mb.htm
The Nutrient Management Act and supporting documents can
be found at: www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/agops/index.html
The consultation paper on Growing Strong Rural communities
can be found at: www.mah.gov.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_17601_1.html
The Safe Drinking Water Act and supporting documents can
be found at: www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/water/sdwa/dwsr.htm#tech
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