Let’s Talk Green Belt


PARRY SOUND MUSKOKA – Climate groups in Parry Sound Muskoka had an opportunity to sit down face to face with MPP Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, on January 19 following an unsuccessful attempt to do so in December. The meeting was cordial and covered a wide range of issues related to Bill 23 and its climate implications.

The four representatives from Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), Almaguin Climate Action (ACA), and Climate Action Parry Sound (CAPS) reminded the Minister, that they represent constituents from all over the riding. They raised concerns about Bill 23’s impact on delivery of municipal Climate Action Plans; the importance of “protecting what protects us” through preservation of wetland systems, forest ecosystems, natural infrastructure; and the importance of shoreline site control protections to the future of our lakes and our drinking water.

They spoke about food security and the Greenbelt “offset”; the inadequacy of the “80% of market value” equation to determine “affordability”; and the appalling climate and economic choice of expanding gas plants and infrastructure in the riding and across Ontario.

The group also left Smith with a list of questions to which they have requested answers; and a list of solutions which will address the housing crisis and the climate crisis together, without reverting to urban and rural sprawl and highways.

Smith heard the group out and said he would take the concerns back to Queen’s Park for discussion by the Caucus and suggested a future meeting with the climate groups.

Sue McKenzie, on behalf of CAM, ACA, CAPS


“What We Remember”

Graydon’s comments/my responses in brackets -Linda


In power elected by a substantial majority (18% of eligible voters not exactly landslide)

Has not heard from any municipalities expressing with concerns for loss of development fees (this is NOT true. We have had confirmation of Mayors reaching out)

Re developers fees will not be charged for affordable housing defined in bill as 80% of market value. He says they don’t define current market value as $1 M (If a builder is putting up a new subdivision with homes that would be 800K to 1M define market value) He simply denied this was problematic

Offsets will allow then to build/reconstruct wetlands so you will never know (Scientists are vehement in criticism of offsets some of which are in lands already protected)

No protected lands will go unprotected. They will be covered by other assessments. Intent of OWES is to get rid of duplication.  (Not true according to local scientists as well as ED Ontario Nature and others)

Greenbelt opening has been blown out of proportion. Only a fraction of a percent of land will be opened. (Just the beginning as we well know)

Agrees site plan approvals removed from municipalities is a problem and “an easy fix”. More housing bills coming that will address that

Invited us to protest on Fridays on the sidewalk outside the office. Linda told him the building owner was rude to us.


Here are some additional comments by Graydon:

– there is no debate about Climate Change and all in the Gov’t understand it’s challenges.

– Gov’t elected partially based on promises of more housing.

-Bill 23 brought happiness to some, consternation to others.

In response to the question of Why open the greenbelt ? Graydon said – Communities wanted more space, just ask the mayor of Ajax. (Sue: Matthew from ED was puzzled to hear Ajax mayor referred to. He is the most environmentally aware of all the Mayors according to Matthew.  He said Pickering should have been the one to have pointed out.  Do you suppose Graydon made a mistake? Both municipalities are very close to each other.)

-Gov’t trying to incentivize building of all types. Reducing development fees helps this.

-Robust env. regulations still exist and are duplicated in other acts.

-‘not all wetlands are equal’.

-offsetting could create new ones.

– happy to meet with us😏

Sue’s Notes:

  • acknowledged flooding and need to take action
  • no one in gov’t doubts that Climate Change is happening
  • recognize the broader issue and pressing matters as well as homes for people
  • more Bills coming up – OBC? -can get comments in
  • Bill 23 caused happiness for some people, consternation for others
  • Greenbelt conversation has been genericized
  • People don’t realize how big it is taking out less than .3 of 1%
  • Need to find clarity on what market value is defined
  • Expert appointments to wetlands task force
  • Know there is concern around OWES
  • “Everything that should be protected will be protected!”
  • In Caucus meeting discussions what you say informs my position
  • Species at risk can’t be ignored but was removed because of some duplication
  • More to come on “offsetting”


Thursday, January 19, 2023 10-11 am at the Bracebridge Constituency Office

Presented to MPP Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry at the meeting between he and the Parry Sound Muskoka riding climate groups: Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), Almaguin Climate Action (ACA) and Climate Action Parry Sound (CAPS).

Follow-up questions for which we respectfully request answers.  Please share with the Premier and the Caucus.

  • What do you see as the biggest climate issue the Bill will impact? How will the bill seek to address solutions to the climate emergency instead of adding to the problem? 
  • Will you withdraw the changes to the Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System (OWES) in order to protect these critical ecosystem infrastructures acting as carbon sequestering sinks, providing clean water and offering protections from flooding and drought?
  • Will your government revise Bill 23 to reinstate site plan approvals for builds in all areas of the province?
  • We request that you and your government apply the following suggestions which address the climate imperative and also provide solutions to the housing crisis in Ontario when implementing your housing agenda.

Your government could:

  • Build hundreds of thousands of modest, affordable homes for everyday working families that were limited to 900 – 1200 square feet with 2-3 bedrooms and one or 1 1/2 bathrooms
  • Build these homes into existing neighbourhoods with existing infrastructure: public transit, schools, water, sewers, community centres, village squares and 15-minute, walkable services and active transportation networks
  •  Use mixed housing models of rentals, multiplexes, low-rise small apartment and shared seniors housing built into existing neighbourhoods
  • Require all housing be heated and cooled with non-fossil fuel air- or ground-source heat pumps
  • Require legitimate and tested green building standards for materials for construction of homes and insure carbon zero buildings within the decade, an achievable standard around the world.
  • Create EV infrastructure and electrify local municipal services, including transportation, building heating and cooling
  • Require local smart green grids transitioning every community to renewable sources of energy
  • Set boundaries around urban areas, including town and village centres in Muskoka, Parry Sound, and Almaguin to prevent the clearcutting of forested areas that clean our air, protect the farmlands that feed us and wetlands that provide flood protection and essential biodiversity.
  • Mandate building “in” instead of “out”
  • Require that existing draft subdivision approvals be built in a timely fashion using low carbon materials and non-fossil fuel heating, quickly increasing a much-needed supply of housing in the District while reducing GHG emissions from the housing sector.
  • Cancel current and future rural subdivision (sprawl) approvals (approximately 400 in Muskoka now) which create sprawl – already an alarming feature of new development in Parry Sound Muskoka

Sue McKenzie, CAM, Linda Mathers, CAM, Kevin Logie, CAPS, Stephen Todoroff, ACA

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