The Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt 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 a large and significant 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 including the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine and Protected Countryside.
In 2006, co-Chair Oakville Mayor Rob Burton was added to the group, as Councillor Allan Elgar stepped aside. In 2010, Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge was added as a co-Chair as Councillor Erin Shapero retired from politics. Today in 2014, the four current co-Chairs are: Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish and City of Toronto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker.
The co-Chairs ideas soon caught the interest of other municipal officials, who also wanted to join the group. As the group grew, it also became a source of information sharing, networking and best practice sharing across the Greenbelt and Places to Grow areas.
Today, 10 years later, the co-Chairs have changed but their vision for a strong protected greenbelt landscape which supports agricultural viability and provides natural heritage protection remains.