Green Leader Mike Schreiner pledges to expand Greenbelt into 'bluebelt'

Green Leader Mike Schreiner pledges to expand Greenbelt into 'bluebelt'

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner says it's time to expand Ontario's Greenbelt to include a number of ecologically important watersheds known collectively as the 'bluebelt.'

The province has already considered some parts of the bluebelt for protection, but during a campaign stop in Guelph, Schreiner said a Green government would think bigger. 

"We want to expand the Greenbelt to include the bluebelt, and not just the bluebelt study area," he said, adding the plan should "include the Grand River watershed, the Paris-Galt Moraine — which we're on right now — as well as the watershed in Simcoe County, particularly the Nottawasaga watershed."

The proposed expansion would mean protections for critical sources of drinking water for many southwestern Ontario communities, he said. 

Established in 2005, the Greenbelt is a large swath of land that envelopes the Golden Horseshoe area. It is protected by law from many kinds of development. 

Generally speaking, the bluebelt is a stretch of watersheds that stretches along the edge of the Greenbelt. The plan endorsed by Schreiner would protect vulnerable water sources in the GTHA, the Bruce Peninsula, Brant County, Simcoe County, Northumberland County and Waterloo region. 

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Schreiner made the announcement on Friday in Guelph, where he hopes to secure his party's first-ever seat at Queen's Park. 

The Greenbelt unexpectedly became an issue on the campaign trail after Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford was caught on tape saying he would open up a "big chunk" of the Greenbelt for development – a suggestion he abandoned after blowback from political rivals and advocates.

"The people have spoken — we won't touch the Greenbelt. Very simple. That's it, the people have spoken. I'm going to listen to them. They don't want me to touch the Greenbelt, we won't touch the Greenbelt," Ford said in a statement. 

As Ford dealt with the fallout from his comments, the Liberals pledged to expand the Greenbelt should they form government after the June 7 election. 

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said her plan would include Waterloo and Paris-Galt Moraine, Orangeville Moraine, Oro Moraine, the Nottawasaga River corridor as well as some wetlands and small moraines in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.

"We're thrilled that the Green Party has decided to follow in our footsteps," the party said in a statement to CBC News. 

"The Ontario Liberals created the Greenbelt to preserve the integrity of our water systems and our farm land. It's the largest permanently protected Greenbelt of its kind in the world."