Op-Ed: Ontario's Greenbelt Helps a Just Recovery

Improving resilience through better planning.

This op-ed was published October 2nd, on behalf of the organizations and individuals supporting the Just Recovery Simcoe initiative.

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition advocates for the expansion of the Greenbelt, both as a way to protect Simcoe County’s forests, water, and farmland, and as a way to ensure growth and development happens in a way that builds healthy communities that are sustainable in the long run.

One of the key reasons we do this, which has become even more crucial over the course of the past year, is that we know that the way we utilize our resources has a strong impact on our capacity to respond to disasters, which are becoming more frequent.

How and where we build our communities are key components of our resource use and, consequently, our ability to respond to disasters.

For example, consider someone who is retired and living in an area where the nearest grocery store requires driving for several minutes.

This circumstance isn’t unusual in Simcoe County. Now consider what the options are for this individual if they lose access to their vehicle or roads are closed. How do they continue to access food in a safe and reliable way? 

A bird's eye view of a parking lot. Relying on cars to access food and other basic amenities exposes us to risk in the event roads aren't accessible, or some other unforeseen event happens that makes using a car not possible.

And what about their proximity to a doctor? Again, is a car required to access safe and reliable healthcare?

While these are concerns that feature prominently for seniors, they are also indicative of equity issues, with those who are less able to afford a car being forced to carry a greater burden relative to those with a higher income.

These same problems also exist for youth and those with disabilities. But these are the kinds of communities we continue to build as we sprawl into green spaces and farm fields – communities that are unaffordable for many and only useful and accessible to a small portion of the population, not everyone. 

For this reason, we are proud to be a part of Just Recovery Simcoe, an alliance between 40 groups and businesses from across Simcoe County proposing solutions that focus on increasing the health of people, our communities and nature. 

We want our communities to be healthy, accessible and affordable for everyone. 

We want government money to be spent efficiently in ways that benefit the health and wellbeing of people first and not subsidizing profits for a few. 

We want governments to cherish and protect nature, so that current and future generations can live in a healthy and beautiful world just as we did.  

These ideas are not new and many communities around the world are putting them into action. 

We can too. 

COVID has exposed our obligation to take care of each other and our natural world. 

We can no longer continue to ignore the plight of people, communities and nature.  We can work towards a better future and a stronger Simcoe County.

Just Recovery Simcoe is an alliance of 40+ groups from across Simcoe County and beyond.  Their core belief is that a healthy community is one that is equitable, environmentally friendly, and one that seeks to provide healthy places to live and work for all.  JustRecoverySimcoe.ca 

Help create a just and sustainable future.

If you’d like to be a part of this initiative, or have comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.