The Ontario Greenbelt: Shifting the Scales of the Sustainability Fix?

S. Macdonald, Roger Keil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The government of Ontario, Canada, has passed legislation to protect large parts of the southern portions of the province from most development. An extensive plan for a Greenbelt that surrounds the Greater Toronto Area and other regional growth centers was introduced. This article looks at the new policy as a spatial strategy that shifts the scales of environmental and growth management policy in Ontario. The legislation also sets the framework for a state spatial project; that is, a set of changes in how the regional state internally operates. The current Greenbelt legislation is a new step in a longer term development by which governments in Ontario have attempted to regulate the relationships between cities and regions, town and hinterland. Overlapping strongly with what is usually called the Toronto bioregion between the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine, and Lake Ontario, the Greenbelt reorganizes space in southern Ontario in ways that would further ecosystem policies and practices in the area. Theoretically guided by newer debates on rescaling and regionalism, and based on close reading of the planning and policy documents on the Greenbelt as well as a series of expert interviews, we argue that the current Greenbelt legislation is an act of up-scaling traditional urban-regional regulation in southern Ontario, which we shall call extended metropolitanization. Such rescaling recasts traditional political conflicts in new terms. We conclude that extended metropolitanization in southern Ontario has been a process that has brought nature, the state, and governance together into a new regional sustainability fix.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-145
JournalThe Professional Geographer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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