Is Burlington's rural-urban boundary at risk?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

February 17th, 2017



The GTA benchmark price for various types of housing sold last month hit $705,900 up 22.6% from a year earlier and a 60.8% surge from five years earlier.

Wendell Cox, an Illinois based urban policy consultant who is a senior fellow at the Winnipeg based Frontier Centre for Public policy said that the provincial government “needs to relax restrictions on the Greenbelt – protected land on the fringes of the GTA”

Cox added: “When you have a boiling pot and you put a lid on it, the pressure only gets worse. Unless land use policies are reformed to allow for sufficient supply in the urban fringe prices will continue to go up”

These 600 people did not want a highway through the Escarpment - and the Minister of Transportation just might be hearing what we have to say.

These 600 people did not want a highway through the Escarpment.

The urban fringe supply they are talking about is our escarpment – and at some point there will be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Regional government to allow development north of the Dundas QEW border that is the current urban-rural Burlington boundary.

The province just might decide to tell the Region that the dividing line is going to move.

Recall the attempt to ram a highway through the escarpment a number of years ago.

NGTA No-highway-here1-285x300The province sprung that one on the city with little notice. A tremendous effort by the No Highway group brought it a halt – as much because the province began to question their own thinking – the drive was coming from the provincial Ministry of Transportation that saw serious traffic congestion with trucks needing to get to the American border.

President Donald Trump just might solve that problem for us. However the plans to construct a new bridge river the Detroit River ensure that there will be even more traffic heading out of Ontario. At the rate Trump is babbling away he might well be gone before any bridge is completed.

None of this of course changes what can happen to Burlington’s rural area.

The city needs to have a clear defined and well-presented public opinion which calls for some leadership at both the Regional and municipal levels.


It used to be public land – now it is privately owned and will remain that way for a long long time – probably forever. Mayor Goldring’s gift to the city.

City council had no problem selling off a chunk of waterfront land between Market and St. Paul streets along Lakeshore Road when the only pressure that existed was from a couple of property owners that saw an opportunity to make an offer for the land that existed in a city document. That small patch of land put an end to a really solid Waterfront Trail.

To add insult to injury – the city got very little in the way of cold hard cash – the bulk of the money went to the Ministry of Natural Resources that owned much of the land.

If the people of Burlington want to maintain what they have – they will have to be forever vigilant. And look for leadership that will be vigilant as well.

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7 comments to Is Burlington’s rural-urban boundary at risk?

  • Monte

    Urban boundaries must be left alone and green space preserved. If anything, green space should be increased.

    We must also do more than just “save” agriculture land. Saving it so far leads to saving it for Developers. Most Developers have little, or no, imagination so when they see and open, clear field it appears to them to be well suited for homes and not producing food.

    We must develop food producing land into producing food and processing it on site. Our food production far away and then importing it is simply not sustainable. Papers have been written on this concept, so won’t be presented here, however the “saved” land around Pickering is an example to be followed. They are not finished, but are heading in the correct direction.

    Local Councils and elected representatives must start listening to the very folks that elected them and not the lobby groups backed by Developers, who only are interested in their own financial gains.

  • David Fenton

    Absolutely agree with James, market forces always, always find solutions. You tinker with the order at your peril.

    One of the places I live is in London UK the house is located about the same difference as St Catharines is to Toronto and yet I can catch a commuter train every 30mins and it takes 40mins for the journey.
    You have to invest in light rapid transit, then people will commute.

  • James

    Easing the restrictions on the Greenbelt and expanding the urban boundary is a Band-Aid fix, and one that will only solve the “problem” on a short term basis. Once those lands are (theoretically) developed, we’re right back to where we are now, but minus green space and minus prime agricultural land. While that may allow a period of 10 to 20 years of breathing room, the problem isn’t going away, and in fact would only be worse.

    The bigger question is why must all growth and immigration be accounted for within the GTA and Greater Golden Horseshoe? Canada is a big country, with gobs of smaller communities outside the GTA and outside of Ontario that would be much better suited to accommodate growing populations. Obviously there would be a need for job creation, infrastructure, and housing outside the GTA to make this happen, but why isn’t our Government looking at ways to spread out the growth in that manner?

    Maybe by keeping GTA housing costs as high as they’re becoming, some of that growth outside the GTA will occur naturally when people realize they can’t afford to live here, and start searching out those smaller, less expensive communities. The greenbelt would remain intact. The stresses to intensify the GTA would relax. Traffic would improve, or at least not significantly worsen. With that population growth outside of the GTA comes job growth, relieving the pressure on the GTA to be the major employment market in Ontario. Would that be such a bad thing?

    I say leave the urban boundaries alone and let the pressure build. Maybe it has to get worse before it gets better, but sooner or later people will realize there’s much more to Canada than just the GTA, and when they do, maybe things will eventually find a balance again.

  • Steve

    Please keep the green belt intact

  • Hope

    NO We cannot let that happen !!!!
    As a resident of rural North Burlington it’s time to find new leadership for 2018 .
    Any ideas

  • Chris Ariens

    Wendell Cox is well-known as a shill for urban sprawl and an opponent to smart growth and anything that isn’t built around the automobile. He is, effectively the antithesis to Toderian, so many readers will naturally gravitate to his ideas.

    Opening up the urban fringe and paving the escarpment is not going to relieve the pressure, in fact it will massively increase the pressure on our existing transportation infrastructure, plus add a much larger burden of new spread out roads and pipes.

    Once gone, our rural North will be lost forever.

    Wait until the bill comes for all the crazy growth up in Milton – house prices are not significantly cheaper there, traffic congestion is as bad as here and I don’t think we’ll be seeing the region boasting about its credit rating and tax policy for much longer as a result.

  • This is not a complicated one.

    If you expand the population of Canada via immigration. AND do not accommodate for the needs of that expanded population in terms of energy, housing and transportation. THEN you will get a disaster.

    This disaster is already underway with housing prices causing an unsustainable bubble. The prices will march up using an ever greater share of disposable income until BOOM the population can no longer sustain it.

    The ONLY way to save the green belt is to make very appealing UBRAN areas that are filled with greenery park space and localize amenities. This will make urban living more attractive.

    Creating a high density, traffic chocked, grey belt slum area – which is the current direction – can not save the green belt. The solution is not to stuff people into a higher density format – it’s to ensure that that the amenity density is so high that people prefer the higher density.

    That’s the problem. The entire focus of government is not creating high value urban areas – it’s just corking the rules to force construction of ever higher density new units – that no one would prefer to live in. Thus the price pressure on nicer places E.G. single family homes is endless and relentless.