Hospitals belong in our communities, not the Greenbelt

Written by Claire Malcolmson- Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and has a Masters Degree in Planning.

The Mayor of King Township, Steve Pellegrini, has been pushing publicly for a hospital to be built on Ontario’s Greenbelt. This is wrong for healthcare, wrong for King, wrong for the Greenbelt — and it’s illegal.

Someone needs to point out to Pellegrini, and the public, that provincial regulations do not allow a hospital to be built on Ontario’s Greenbelt. True, Premier Doug Ford has taken steps to destroy the Greenbelt by swapping land in and out — he’s on video actually lying before the last election promising he “won’t touch” the protected area.

But even after Ford’s lies, the rules still stand: provincial policy does not allow politicians to grab Greenbelt land for a hospital just because they feel like it’s a good idea. The only way it could happen would be for Ford’s Municipal Affairs Minister, Steve Clark to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) and command that the rules be ignored.

Here’s where the law stands: Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan allows for the extension of some infrastructure, but a hospital is not listed as infrastructure in public policy. It falls under the definition of a public service facility or institution.

Ontario’s highest ranking planning policy, the 2020 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), includes health and educational facilities among public service facilities. But it also says clearly that these facilities belong in community hubs, close to infrastructure, transit and transportation — not in green space that is now unserviced and would have to be paved. 

Whoever is behind the push for this hospital in this green location needs to justify how its location is in conformity with provincial law. That’s hard to do, unless the plan is to build more subdivisions on the landowner’s property, and make the hospital part of a “settlement area” as the rules require for building hospitals.

Why not put a new hospital where people actually live and work already, instead of allowing a select group of developers to pave Ontario’s Greenbelt and add to sprawl?

There ought to be public conversations about the right place to put a hospital — not shadowy advocacy or edicts based on Premier Ford’s broken promise to protect the Greenbelt. King does need a hospital, but not on the Greenbelt where Ford, Clark and their developer friends think it should go. Mayor Pellegrini should know this and say so.

Environmental Registry of Ontario posting showing the Greenbelt removal in question at the
border between King and Newmarket, York Region, Ontario.