The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP) in Pickering, is an integral part of Ontario’s Greenbelt. The DRAP, adjacent to the Rouge National Urban Park, protects precious prime agricultural lands and provides essential habitat for several species also found in Rouge Park, some already endangered. In addition, DRAP provides valuable and increasingly vital ecosystem services for neighbouring communities.
This past May, Durham Region expanded its urban boundary by 9,071 acres which can accommodate enough growth out to 2051 without building housing on the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP).
Why is the Duffins Rouge Ag Preserve important?
DRAP is the largest of the Greenbelt carveouts at 4,700 acres.
DRAP includes prime agricultural land, woodlots, wetlands, meadows, and recreation areas.
DRAP farmland is mostly Class 1 soil, the most productive and rarest class of soil in Canada.
DRAP is a significant wildlife migration corridor providing vital habitat for several threatened and endangered species and supporting biodiversity and wildlife resilience in Rouge National Urban Park.
DRAP is a core part of an increasingly fragmented local agricultural system that includes farms in the Rouge National Urban Park and beyond.
DRAP is integral to the long-term health of the Petticoat Creek and Duffins Creek watersheds and helps mitigate downstream flooding.
DRAP has very limited existing infrastructure because development was not previously contemplated.
DRAP developments will require significant investments in sewer/water pipes, roads, and transit infrastructure that will cost untold millions/billions and will take decades to plan and install. Taxpayers are responsible for the lifecycle costs of that community infrastructure.
THE STATE OF DRAP PROTECTION - NOVEMBER 2023
PART I - THE MISSING PROTECTIONS
The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP), is one of the 15 Greenbelt parcels that were removed from the Greenbelt in November 2022 by Premier Ford. Of the 7,400 acres removed from the Greenbelt, the 4,700-acre DRAP is comprised of largely prime agricultural and extensive natural heritage lands located in north Pickering, nestled between Duffins Creek and the Rouge National Urban Park.
Despite significant public outrage, it was only after the release of the scathing Auditor General of Ontario’s Report and the Integrity Commissioners Report that on September 21, 2023, Premier Ford announced that he would return the 15 Greenbelt carveouts back to the Greenbelt. Specifically, he stated:
“As a first step to earn back your trust, I’ll be reversing the changes we made and won’t make any changes to the Greenbelt in the future”
Further Bill 136 Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act, 2023, states that the return of the 15 sites would:
"Provide for a concurrent amendment to the Greenbelt Plan's land use schedules to restore the same protections to lands that they had before the 2022 amendment".
However, a review of legislation relevant to Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve shows that only TWO of the original FOUR layers of protection - the Greenbelt Plan 2023 and the DRAPA were restored, while the Ontario Regulation 154/03 / Minister’s Zoning Order and the Central Pickering Development Plan have NOT been restored.
Again, the Ford government has NOT kept its promise to Ontarians. These two protections – the CPDP and Ontario Regulation 154/03 / Minister’s Zoning Order - must be returned to the DRAP to fulfill his promise and the stated purpose of Bill 136!
Given the above, to fully restore the DRAP to its original state prior to November 2022 we request the following:
1) Immediate reinstatement of the Central Pickering Development Plan
As noted in the Central Pickering Development Plan, the CPDP establishes a comprehensive vision for Central Pickering – one that guides the development of a sustainable urban community in Seaton integrated with a thriving agricultural community in the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve and an extensive Natural Heritage System. Central Pickering Development Plan
The CPDP is guided by eight goals and related objectives and policies to achieve the vision and to celebrate the natural and cultural heritage resources of the extensive Natural Heritage System of this land. SEE Seaton NHS FINAL Oct 2008.
2) Immediate reinstatement of Ontario Reg 154 /03 / Minister’s Zoning Order
Ontario Regulation 154/03 / Minister’s Zoning Order was enacted on November 17, 2003 and applies to the DRAP. It is a zoning regulation that limits land uses and every erection, location and use of buildings or structures on the DRAP to agriculture and conservation uses. The MZO establishes development standards for accessory buildings, structures and uses, agricultural uses, agricultural related business uses and residential dwellings on existing lots.
PART II – REMOVE FUTURE RISK TO THE EASEMENTS
While Stop Sprawl Durham is in full support of the New Act regarding the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve easements and covenants ERO 019-7735 to protect the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve in perpetuity, in light of the history as it relates to the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve easements, there is one crucial amendment that we fully support.
LET’S NOT ALLOW HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF
As detailed in this Ministry of Natural Resources October 31, 2005 Backgrounder, conservation easements held under the Conservation Land Act protected the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve land for agricultural uses in perpetuity. However there have now been two situations where these easements were arbitrary removed by the whim of the politicians of the day.
First, as detailed in this Ministry of Natural Resources October 31, 2005 Backgrounder, in March 2005, without consulting the province, the then Town of Pickering, who held the conservation easements at the time, removed the easements on two-thirds of the DRAP properties. In response, in October 2005, the Ontario government introduced Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act, 2005 (DRAPA) that reinstated the conservation easements ensuring that the then Town of Pickering honoured agreements to permanently set aside the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve for agricultural uses.
More recently however, the Ford Government’s 2022 Greenbelt Scandal resulted in all four layers of protection being stripped from the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, including the 2005 DRAPA, opening the DRAP’s 4,700 acres of Prime Agricultural and Natural Heritage lands to the whims of the developers.
PROPOSAL FOR UPHOLDING DRAP EASEMENT INTEGRITY
In keeping with the Ontario Farmland Trust ERO-019-7735 New Act regarding the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve easements and covenants Submission, Stop Sprawl Durham is in full support of the OFT’s proposal as outlined in their submission:
“As part of the ongoing commitment to safeguard the DRAP lands and uphold the integrity of the subject farmland conservation easements, OFT is proposing that our organization be instated as the holder of the DRAP conservation easement agreements. With nearly two decades of experience in farmland conservation easement agreements and a deep-rooted mission to protect and preserve Ontario's farmland, OFT is uniquely positioned to ensure the long-term protection and monitoring of these agreements. By deepening our collaboration, the government and OFT can jointly advance our shared objectives. Such a partnership would have positive results over issues that the public cares deeply about, underscoring the proactive steps taken by the administration."
As such Stop Sprawl Durham has requested that the following amendment be made to the New Act regarding the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Easements and Covenants, 2023 as follows:
That the Ontario Farmland Trust be instated as the holder of the DRAP conservation easement agreements.
The Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve - 4,700 acres of Prime Agriculatural and Natural Heritage land must be protected in perpetuity – now is the time to legislate the PERMANENT protection of these lands.
RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Op-Ed - Ottawa has an obligation to protect the Greenbelt, Toronto Star, David Crombie
Council Motion - City of Toronto - "On March 29, Toronto City Council passed a motion saying the province’s move to allow housing on the DRAP lands threaten to destroy the natural and agricultural heritage system that governments have protected over the last 50 years."
Letter - Toronto and Region Conservation Authority responds to planned repeal of the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act, November 16, 2022
Letter - Parks Canada Letter to Government of Ontario, November 29, 2022
Submission - To Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy Re: Bill 39: Better Municipal Governance Act by Green Durham Association
2005 Media Article - Province acts to protect farmland, Toronto Star, November 1, 2005
Pickering lobbying the Province - Former Pickering Mayor, Dave Ryan's letters to Queen's Park - 2019 and 2022
Pickering lobbying the Province - Current Pickering Mayor, Kevin Ashe's letter to Queen's Park - 2022