LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Of the color of peach fuzz and places to grow
Ontario's Minister for Public Infrastructure Renewal sets up losing battle with urban expansion

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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September 3, 2004: In yet another provincial government discussion paper, almost all the lands between the Greater Toronto Area and the Niagara Escarpment and between the Greater Toronto Area and the Oak Ridges Moraine are the colour of peach fuzz. The map legends identify the peach fuzz as future growth areas -- cities, in reality.

Back in July, David Caplan, Minister for Public Infrastructure Renewal, confirmed at the public consultation in Kitchener, that he did not support permanent boundaries for cities.. Our cities, according to the discussion paper, “Places to Grow Better Choices. Brighter Future,” will continue to roll onto the best farmland that wraps around them. Caplan’s vision of our future suggests that the proposed Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt and stronger growth management polices for municipalities can slow urban sprawl but cannot alter the pattern. Farmland WILL be paved over!

Does Caplan understand how no permanent boundaries will impact cities?

Cities will build sewer pipes two or three or four times bigger than necessary; will design for five-lane roads rather than two, to accommodate “future growth.” — a guarantee that more growth onto farmland becomes an economic necessity to finance the infrastructure. The lobbying of speculators, who WILL continue to buy up the land in the urban shadow, will steadily erode planning policies designed to protect farmland.

Does Caplan understand how no permanent boundaries will impact agriculture?

Farmers will stop investing in their soil to build its productive capacity. They will likely mine the soil rather than replenish the nutrients and organic matter consumed by production agriculture. Farmers will be less likely to invest in modern technology, especially buildings, fixed equipment and perennial crops. With the possibility of selling out to a developer perched on the horizon, there is no point in developing an enterprise with the next generation in mind. Livestock which requires higher levels of investment in fixed facilities and equipment, will fade. The result? The soil improvement capabilities of manure will be lost to the lands in the urban shadow. With no long-term future for the entrepreneurs involved, farm input suppliers and the infrastructure of agriculture will also fade. Over time, farmers themselves will shift their thinking from that of entrepreneur to that of landowner, accepting the golden handshake that comes with one last crop of houses.

Agriculture and its most basic resource, farmland, deserves better than to be treated as a holding zone until something else comes along. The business of farming is too important to Ontario to accept Caplan’s peach fuzz growth concept.

If our provincial, urban-centered leadership is not willing to break the pattern of sprawl on farmland; it’s time for a new approach. Let’s propose permanent boundaries for farming.

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The discussion paper, “Places to Grow: Better Choices. Brighter Future,” can be accessed at www.placestogrow.pir.gov.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_2_20438_1.html Note maps 4, 5 and 6.

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