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'We're not going away': Newmarket environmentalists rallying this weekend

Environmentalists to protest Greenbelt decisions outside Newmarket-Aurora MPP's constituency office Aug. 19
A sign at an previous environmental rally pointing out premier Doug Ford going back on his word by opening up the greenbelt for development.

Environmentalists will rally outside MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s office Saturday in Newmarket in protest of development on the Greenbelt.

The rally scheduled for Aug. 19 invites the public to attend outside the Newmarket-Aurora MPP’s constituency office to raise awareness and petition regarding the province’s Greenbelt removal decisions.

Organizers will also be gathering signatures to ask the province to reverse its 2022 decision to open up Greenbelt lands for housing development, including just west of Newmarket.

The rally comes in the wake of an auditor general’s report blasting the Doug Ford government for its Greenbelt decision. Newmarket resident Melanie Duckett-Wilson said the hope is efforts like this can get the government to accept the one auditor general recommendation it has so far refused to: re-evaluate that 2022 decision.

“This is to rally support and let the government know we’re not happy with that response,” Duckett-Wilson said.

The report from the auditor general highlighted that the Greenbelt decision was more based on choices from politicians at the behest of developers, rather than public servants with expertise. It also raised that there is enough land to reach its housing targets without using the Greenbelt, among other issues. 

Duckett-Wilson is organizing the rally, promoting it through advocacy group Environmental Defence. She said her efforts to connect with her MPP on the issue have not worked, with Gallagher Murphy continuing to reaffirm the government's position on the issue. 

“I’ve sent emails to reach out to our local MPP and have conversations about this, and that’s never happened,” she said, adding that though she understands they are busy, there do seem to be many with concerns about this issue.

NewmarketToday did not receive a reply from Dawn Gallagher Murphy’s constituency office before publication time. 

The province has maintained the position that developing on the Greenbelt is necessary to address housing affordability, despite the auditor general report noting that the land is not necessary for housing targets.

Duckett-Wilson said the rally will be informal, not necessarily with speeches. Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather.

She further said the rally will help keep this issue in people’s minds.

“We’re not going away,” she said. “This is not an issue that is going to go away and will come around at the ballot boxes. Keep it front and centre for the voters and electorate out there, that their voice does matter.” 

The rally will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the consistency office at 16635 Yonge St.