For decades, unchecked urban sprawl has paved over Canada’s best remaining farmland and sensitive natural areas. Inefficient land use has compromised ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabit them, polluted water supplies, and has cost taxpayers billions in unnecessary infrastructure costs.

The Solution

We need a strong leadership that understands the importance of growing smarter. Directing growth to existing urban areas improves the protection of farms, nature and water. It also saves taxpayers from paying for expensive sprawl, lowers our carbon pollution, and reduces congestion. This allows us to create communities with better access to services like public transit, recreation and shopping. By growing smarter, we all win.

Permanently protect vital farmland and water sources by growing the Greenbelt

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Support smarter growth in cities and towns

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It’s possible. We can build housing, fight gridlock AND expand the Greenbelt

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Breaking News

What is the Speech from the Throne and why is it important?

Our next big opportunity to secure commitments to a Green and Just Recovery in Canada is in the Speech from the Throne on September 23....

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Why building more highways won't make your commute any better

Think back to the last time you were stuck in traffic on a highway. Did you imagine how much faster you could go with a...

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Good news for a change for endangered species and sensitive ecosystems

2020 will be one for the books. Watching a nightly newscast is like watching a movie trailer about a dystopian future, though it’s actually our...

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You may have never heard of a Minister’s Zoning Order and that used to be ok - but not anymore

The Ontario government is using a tool to speed up controversial developments by eliminating expert analysis and public input. It’s called a Minister's Zoning Order....

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You can help protect Ontario’s farmland, nature and water and support smart growth. By signing petitions, getting involved with a local residents group, you can make your voice heard to create positive change.

Timeline of our success


Highway 413 is cancelled

The province of Ontario cancelled the $6 billion dollar GTA West highway saving thousands of acres of prime farmland and the largest remaining forested area in Vaughan. Building unnecessary highways encourages people to drive, increasing gridlock and carbon pollution.


Undemocratic Ontario Municipal Board is Replaced

For 30 years, Environmental Defence has been calling for OMB reform. Finally, the OMB has been replaced with the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). The new rules promise to level the playing field for citizen participation and empower municipal decision making in land-use planning.


Greenbelt Expands by 10,000 Acres

After years of campaigning by Environmental Defence and our partners, the province adds more than 10,000 acres of land to the Greenbelt by protecting 21 Urban River Valleys, Coastal Wetlands and 4 new land parcels in Halton, Niagara, Simcoe.


New Greenbelt and Growth Plans announced

The province of Ontario concludes the 2 years of public consultation on the 4 land use plans; Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Esarpment and Growth Plans. This results in a strengthened Greenbelt and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) with a focus on smarter more compact growth, with focus on complete communities, intregrated transit, action on climate change and greater watershed and water protection in the GGH.


SLAPP Suits banned

The Province of Ontario takes action on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, a long standing issue for Environmental Defence and ENGO and NGO’s across the Province.


Municipal Election Reform

Ontario allows municipalities to use ranked ballots in elections if they wish to.


Election Campaign Finance Reform

When Municipal election campaigns are funded heavily by development corporations, the councillors elected can be biased, resulting in questionable city development planning. Ontario ends corporate and union donations to municipal elected officials in 2016.


Stop the 413

The proposed 413 (GTA West) mega highway would cut through the Greenbelt, impact  multiple crossings of the Humber and Credit Rivers and destroy farmland, forests and wetlands. Our campaign to stop it has caused the province to put the project on hold while its future is considered.


Greenbelt review

Ontario is reviewing its Greenbelt and Growth Plans. We called for halting infrastructure projects on protected Greenbelt lands, freezing urban boundary expansion and increasing incentives to ensure municipalities meet targets to increase the density and livability of existing settled areas.


The Greenbelt Grows Again - Mississauga Expands the Greenbelt

Mississauga city council voted unanimously to designate over 800 acres of land along the Credit River as an Urban River Valley, thus protecting this natural heritage area by joining it to Ontario’s Greenbelt.


Industry and NGOs launch the world’s first voluntary aggregate standard

We helped develop and launch the Cornerstone Standards Council, a not-for-profit organization that has created world-class voluntary certification standards for responsibly sourced sand,  stone and gravel, and help resolve conflicts between industry, First Nations and community and environmental groups.


Greenbelt grows - Glenorchy Conservation Area

Located in North Oakville, the Glenorchy Conservation Area protects 650 acres of environmentally sensitive lands and natural heritage systems including Sixteen Mile Creek. Becoming part of the Greenbelt protects its hills, forests, creeks, and wetlands from sprawl and development.


Establishment of Rouge National Park

Since 2012, Environmental Defence has been involved in advocating for a strongly protected Rouge Watershed and Rouge National Urban Park as part of Ontario's Greenbelt. In 2013, we led the legal team review of the proposed national park legislation and continue to be a strong voice advocating for the need to greatly improve the Rouge National Park Act and enlarge the size of the park.  


Helped to establish Ontario’s Greenbelt

Our efforts to protect farmland, natural heritage lands and vulnerable source waters resulted in the establishment of Ontario’s Greenbelt in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Since then, we’ve worked to strengthen and grow the Greenbelt, protect more at risk land and change the direction of city growth in the region.


 Founded the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance

Made up of over 100 groups, the Ontario Greenbelt  Alliance is the watchdog and protector of Ontario’s Greenbelt. Alliance members are united by the shared belief that a strong economy and a beautiful, well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.

"Environmental Defence has been a strong ally and resource for us as we work to protect greenspace, remaining farmland and the Greenbelt in York Region, while advocating for an end to urban sprawl and reducing unbearable traffic gridlock."

-Sony Rai, Founder, Sustainable Vaughan, Ontario.


At Environmental Defence, we educate the public about a host of environmental issues, work with business and government leaders to advise on policy decisions and mobilize Canadians to create the cleaner, greener more prosperous country we’re striving for. Meet the team who works on creating livable communities.

Tim Gray

Executive Director

Stephanie Kohls

Communications Director

Kieran Alkerton

Senior Engagement Coordinator

Join The Community

Change happens when people like you express your concern and make your voice heard. Join our email community to receive updates about Environmental Defence’s work and find ways you can help our efforts to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.