Municipal Leaders for Better Communities has evolved out of the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt network which was founded in 2004 by City Councillors Glenn De Baeremaeker (Toronto), Erin Shapero (Markham) and Allan Elgar (Oakville). At the time all three were elected on anti-sprawl platforms to municipal councils, with particular interest in protecting Ontario’s remaining natural heritage and preserving farmland and agricultural communities for generations to come. Later that year, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish joined as a fourth co-Chair of the group.
In 2004, the four co-Chairs strongly advocated for the creation of a large and robust Greenbelt. Their leadership along with others in the environmental community culminated in the creation of Ontario’s Greenbelt by the Province of Ontario in 2005. It was and still is the largest Greenbelt in the world spanning 1.8 million acres from Cobourg to Niagara and north to include the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine and Protected Countryside.
In 2006, co-Chair and Oakville Mayor Rob Burton was added to the group when Councillor Allan Elgar stepped aside. In 2010, Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge was added as a co-Chair when Councillor Erin Shapero retired from politics.
The co-Chairs ideas soon caught the interest of other municipal officials who also wanted to join the group. As the group grew, it became a source of information sharing, networking and sharing best practice across the Greenbelt and Places to Grow areas.
Today, 14 years later, the vision to support a strong protected greenbelt has evolved into advancing efforts to create the low carbon, livable, resilient and competitive communities Ontarians desire.