Then I came across this article in the Toronto Star.
Drive up 400 could get worse
Province lets Barrie annex swathes of farmland, critics fear moves will kill plans to contain sprawl
Jun 05, 2009 04:30 AM
URBAN AFFAIRS REPORTER
The province yesterday announced it would allow Barrie to annex thousands of hectares of agricultural land from Innisfil for future growth. It also launched a study for a massive employment zone on either side of Highway 400 in the Town of Innisfil.
If approved, critics say, these moves would kill efforts to contain growth and would bring suburban sprawl to the area stretching from Bradford West Gwillimbury to Barrie, an area that is now mostly thousands of hectares of farmland, located north of the protected greenbelt that caps the outer edges of the GTA. That would put massive pressure on Highway 400, the main north-south route in the region.
Highway 400 is a north/south route leading into and out of Toronto. It is traveled to reach the various communities located outside of the city and it has become, and is becoming, awfully crowded. There are several reasons why we should be concerned.
The first is peak oil. Former CICB economist Jeff Rubin talks about it here in a Toronto Star article about his book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. I don't know how real this is. It may be a bunch of alarmist Chicken Little speculations capitalizing on worst case scenarios. But it is a real possibility and we should, as a food producing nation, be prepared for it.
What peak oil means is higher oil prices which means higher fuel costs and thus transportation costs as well as a general increase in any petroleum based product. When the price of oil goes up then so does the price of food which is what happed when gas rose to above a $1 a litre and it looks like it will happen again.
The other problem is urban sprawl. From the linked Toronto Star article about former Toronto mayor John Sewell's new book, The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto's Sprawl.
"The Toronto urbanized area," Sewell writes, "had more than tripled, from 193 square miles in the 1950s to 656 square miles by the end of the 1990s, but the population had only doubled. Residential density in the former City of Toronto in the 1990s, built up mostly by the start of the Second World War, was 7,000 units per square mile; in the rest of the Metro Toronto (including the outer suburbs of North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough which were built largely between 1950 and 1985), it was 3,300 units per square mile. The population comparison was similar: 20,000 residents per square mile in the former city; 8,000 in the rest of Metro; and 4,700 in the developed portion of the fringes."
Sewell also quotes a 1995 study that showed "that in the former City of Toronto there are an average of 49 residents and jobs per urbanized acre, and in Metro Toronto as a whole, 23. In the fringes the ratio was much lower: Mississauga, 14; Brampton, 16; Markham, 13; Vaughan, 9; and Richmond Hill, 9."
But what the board didn't look at was the cost of suburban job creation. As Sewell documents, it is enormous. In addition to the loss of much of Canada's finest farmland, the price in pollution and health is disturbing. According to Sewell, each year about 1,700 people in the Toronto area die prematurely because of "poor air quality."
One of the major causes is vehicular emissions. Even so, getting people out of their cars won't be so easy.
The densities of sprawl communities are too low to justify public transit, which in turn encourages the car dependency on which they were based in the first place. That's why there are 1.5 metres of road per resident in the city core, 5.5 in the outer suburbs.
In this way, Sewell points out, "low-density development has imposed much higher capital and operating costs than more compact development ... in the order of $1 billion per year in the GTA, or more than $1,000 per family per year for those living in the fringes."
Toronto and the surrounding area is situated on some of the most fertile land in the country. This also includes the Niagara Region, home to some of Canada's finest wine producers.
The Ontario Farm Animal Council sponsored a forum in Guelph, Ontario that was held in March of 2009. It was stated at this forum that Ontario could be an "agricultural leader". Canada is a net exporter of food with Ontario exporting 50% of its pork products to the United States. Ontario is home to 1/3 of Canada's population but less than 2% of Ontario's population are farmers yet are able to feed a lot of people. And with Ontario's rich soil the province can invest in agriculture to feed a growing world population to help fill the void being left by the dwindling manufacturing sector. What can undermine Ontario's agricultural position, the OFAC realizes, is urban sprawl.
With the advent of peak oil, communities around the world will have to become more dependent on home grown produce. Imported foods will become luxuries. What position will Canada be in if we have paved over much of the nation's arable land to build communities to accommodate the unnecessary mass importation of people the nation didn't need to fill jobs that don't exist? To add salt to the wound, peak oil will compel individuals to move closer to their jobs and to urban centers leaving the suburban communities they moved to because of cheap fuel and housing depopulated, laying waste to the land that could have been used for agricultural production.
The city of Barrie's growth was fueled by cheap gas and housing as well as "white flight". Now the city has reached its limits and is seeking to annex neighbouring lands. Toronto's satellite city of Brampton also owes it growth to cheap gas and housing but also to mass immigration primarily from south Asia. Both cities are cultural waste lands home to traffic problems, over population, and are both pushing urban sprawl onto farmlands. And a lot of this is caused by mass immigration. Sacrificing Canada's biodiversity and agricultural potential for cultural diversity and Liberal party votes is not worth it. In the end, at least in Brampton's case, all the Canada will gain is another unlivable suburban slum.
Canada's environmentalists need to address mass immigration as one of the most impending threats to Canada's environment. It is people who drive cars, over consume, drink water out of plastic bottle, produce garbage. Indeed Canadians are one of the most wasteful people in the world. I don't know why environmentalists don't oppose mass immigration more vocally since much of it is unnecessary.