Residents fear Caledon’s new council approved Official Plan could pave paradise 
Feature Image Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Residents fear Caledon’s new council approved Official Plan could pave paradise 

Forks of the Credit Provincial Park provides an oasis from the maddening crowds, less than 70 kilometres outside the dense urban jungle that is downtown Toronto.

Regardless of the season, the beaten down dirt paths that get lost through 700 acres of forest, riverbanks and lakes, allow hikers to leave their problems at the car. Minutes into your walk, you are swallowed into the sounds of nature.

But all of that could change with a looming application from aggregate giant Canadian Building Materials, which plans to build an 800-acre blasting quarry that would nearly border the park. If it is built, the sounds of birds and wind and bugs and water would be consumed by the constant thunder of chemical explosion and rock blasted into dust.

Currently the Town of Caledon is operating under an interim control bylaw (ICBL) that puts aggregate operations on pause, giving staff necessary time to update its extremely feeble aggregate policies. But before the work on the aggregate review is even complete, last week, council went ahead and approved a new Official Plan for the entire municipality, one that is slated to govern growth up to 2051. The plan will go to council today (March 26) for final ratification. 

“An official plan provides Council’s policies on how land in the municipality should be used. It is prepared with input from the community, in conformity with Provincial and Regional requirements, to ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific vision and needs of the community,” the staff report recommending the approval of the new OP highlights. 

But many residents felt as if their concerns, which represent the needs of the community, had fallen on deaf ears.

At a public information meeting held March 5, residents, many of whom have been lifelong members of the Caledon community and have watched the Town and wider Region of Peel evolve, were concerned with the plan’s emphasis on Caledon’s swelling urban systems, while subsequently neglecting the Town’s rural routes. Those worries were expressed again on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the urban focused natural environment policies became the policies for the entire plan and the focus on protection and preservation of the natural environment areas was lost at that point in time,” Jane Thompson, a resident of Caledon and Environmental Lawyer with 30 years of experience, said.

While the municipality is expected to grow rapidly, with population estimates increasing from 80,000 in 2021 to 300,000 in 2051, current residents are cautioning their elected representatives the value of protecting Caledon’s vital natural features. 

One of these residents is Ian Sinclair.


Ian Sinclair (right) has been a long time resident of Caledon and an advocate for environmental protections.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)

The relationship Sinclair — who formerly served on council as both an area and regional councillor for Ward 1 (northwest Caledon) — has had with the Town has transpired much longer than his political tenure. Sinclair moved to Caledon in 1975 with the anticipation of raising his children amongst the vast greenscapes. Two years later, he solidified his roots in the Town by building his own home and operating a landscape and design business. With an educational background in environmental studies (both a bachelor’s and a master’s) and a certificate in conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation, serving as a community representative with a passion for environmental justice as a municipal politician seemed to be a perfect fit.

After serving as a councillor from 1994 to 2004, and again from 2018 to 2022, Sinclair still stands as a staunch advocate for environmental responsibility across the Town.

At the public information meeting, Sinclair stood in front of council, some of which he previously served alongside, asking for one thing: to approve Sections B (Managing Growth and Change), C (Town-wide Policies), F (Urban System), and G (Implementation), while taking more time to develop Sections D (Natural Environment System, Parks and Open Space), and E (Rural System). 

Council did not entertain the possibility. On Tuesday, by recommendation of staff, council unanimously voted to adopt the new Official Plan for the Town of Caledon.

“A simple delay of six months could have made everybody so much happier,” Andrew McCammon, executive director of the Ontario Headwaters Institute told The Pointer after the decision Tuesday. While McCammon himself is not a resident of Caledon, he understands the importance of the protection of Caledon’s natural systems which will have dramatic impacts on downstream ecosystems. 

One of the main concerns that Sinclair brought to council is the seeming transition from an ecosystem approach to a landscape features approach. The Town of Caledon was one of the first municipalities to adopt an ecosystem approach in 1994 when it came to assessing development. The type of strategy is one that integrates the management of land, water and living resources to promote conservation and equitable and sustainable development. 

“This approach must emphasize that development not only protect and steward ecosystems but also strive to enhance and restore ecosystems in an appropriate manner,” the former OP reads.

But the new OP uses a framework that looks at natural and landscape features individually.

“The notion of linkages between the features becomes a tack on to be optionally considered. The landscape Ecology approach is administratively convenient as through application of the definitions provides certainty to development application outcomes,” Sinclair wrote to The Pointer in a statement.

On Tuesday staff refuted that the new plan eliminated the ecosystem approach.

“The plan is based on a systems approach to planning ecosystems, water resource systems and natural heritage systems going forward. And I'm very confident and comfortable with the plan that has been put together,” Nick MacDonald, president of Meridian Planning Consultants who aided on the development of the OP, told council. “I do not believe there is any lesser standard of protection being applied to the stream and valley corridors in the Town of Caledon.”

The difference is that the new plan uses a two tiered system for natural features and supporting features. While there will not be equal protections across all areas, both tiers require a no negative impact test.

But when Mayor Annette Groves asked if that meant there were enhanced protections under the plan, Burke said he could not go as far to say such. While more land will be protected under this tiered approach, the level of protection for some of these lands will be lesser. Regardless, he argued that it is a net improvement.

“We've updated the policies to conform to provincial plans, and then the regional Official Plan. I'm not gonna deny that the current policies in the current plan are quite robust,” he said. “But it's a net improvement over what we have now."

The answer was enough to convince councillors, but did not satisfy residents.

“There was a lot of discussion about a single property owner potentially being compensated for his sprinkler system and his fence. And yet nobody's going to be compensated if biodiversity plummets, if water quality diminishes, if all the brook trout are extirpated regionally. There's just nobody home,” McCammon told The Pointer. “Their pecuniary interests on private property do not extend to the common good.”


Over 75 percent of Caledon’s land mass is encompassed by the Greenbelt.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


As a major rural centre located almost entirely within the Greenbelt, Caledon has a great deal of responsibility to protect natural resources for future generations. Ninety four percent of Peel’s farmland is located within Caledon. But consequentially, the majority of the prime farmland located within the municipality’s borders is designated as part of the “white belt” under provincial legislation, meaning it has some protection, but also has the potential to be grabbed up by developers, serving as a buffer between the Greenbelt and the dense urban areas of Peel’s southern municipalities.

The Town of Caledon also lies within the headwaters of the Credit River. Seven percent of the Credit River watershed is wetlands which host some of the richest biodiversity in the area. Unchecked development in these areas will have irreparable impacts on water quality, but also decrease species diversity and put homes at risk of flooding and other disasters.

“Protecting only the core is not to protect the system. What makes a system a system is the functionality. In looking at the significance of value and stream corridors, the reason why you look at them as if you want to know where nature goes, you follow the water. And the water supports wetlands. It supports woodlands, it supports habitat and fisheries. It is the linkages and the corridors that make a system a system,” Jane Thompson, a Caledon resident and environmental lawyer with over 30 years of experience, said. “So by protecting valley and stream corridors, you're protecting the integrity of the system.”

Under the Provincial Planning Statement, municipalities have the responsibility to protect and improve aquatic resources, but many residents felt this responsibility was being handed off by staff to other players like conservation authorities.

“I think we need to make it clear that this official plan has been brought forward for consideration by council because we have addressed the many comments we received from the Region of Peel around the natural environment from the conservation authorities, and the Niagara Escarpment Commission. And we're comfortable that this plan is ready to be approved. In other words, there are no significant concerns outstanding from in terms of agency comments,” Burke stressed.

But given the slash of mandate for conservation authorities that has trickled through various provincial legislation over the past five years, McCammon said the municipality needs to take more of a leadership role. 

In December 2020, the PCs rammed through Bill 229 and the controversial Schedule 6, which made a number of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, without any public consultation. The Bill allows developers to make an appeal directly to the Province should a conservation authority deny an application to build in a risky area. Under Schedule 6, Queen’s Park can issue a veto to force a conservation authority to issue a building permit, even if the science says the results could be catastrophic.

These changes were further enhanced when Bill 23 was rammed through the legislature in late 2022. That Bill removed the requirement for permits for development within lands regulated by conservation authorities under the Planning Act. They also lost the power to regulate or refuse permits based on “pollution or conservation of land”, while large swaths of protected land were open for development as the Bill removed regulations that prevent land managed by conservation authorities from being sold off for development. It also removes the ability of these bodies to work with municipalities on watershed planning, which includes making sure wetlands and wildlife habitats remain untouched and that people are protected from flooding events. The regulations “gag” conservation authorities, Environmental Defence said when the legislation was released, by not allowing them to share information with municipalities as part of the land use approvals process. 

“That mandate is still there. Whether or not the municipalities contract that conservation authorities to provide advice, because their official responsibility of this commenter on official planning has been removed,” McCammon said. “The councillors have no ambition whatsoever to understand the complexity of moving forward at a time when CVC does not have a watershed plan.”


Protecting the headwaters is vitally important as these systems make their way out to Lake Ontario.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


McCammon told The Pointer he felt staff did not give a full picture of the plan, rather congratulating themselves for a job well done and evading the concerns of residents. Multiple times both Burke and MacDonald said they were proud of the plan and it was a good plan. MacDonald said that with anything, there is always more work to be done and areas for improvement but that this plan set Caledon up well.

McCammon disagrees.

Following the meeting, he composed an email to the Town of Caledon, once again asking council to reconsider their decision and consider taking more time to evaluate and develop the natural heritage and rural features portions. 

“We again urge you to defer the rural aspects of the draft official plan until a more robust review has been pursued, one that might take into account an updated Credit watershed plan, the completion of the work of the task force on aggregates, and that would seek more input from the community,” he wrote.

No resident has yet given the indication that they might, under the Planning Act, appeal the new official plan to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Recognizing this as a possibility, Groves asked staff if they were confident that the plan could be upheld in a legal challenge. The response was yes.

But the response staff gave was the same when asked if they felt their aggregate policies could be upheld through a legal challenge, which is currently unfolding at the OLT for the extension of the ICBL. Later this year, Caledon will find how this plays out.

The vote on council was unanimous and one councillor, Mario Russo, commented on how the process of updating the Official Plan is a balancing act between what one side of the spectrum (typically the development community) and the other side (typically residents) want. In this case, both sides had complaints. Russo said this is how he knows they have found a good balance.

“One of the things that I've noticed when I was listening to all the delegates is that neither are entirely happy with everything that's being put forward. Coming from the private sector, that tends to be actually a good business kind of decision in the sense of, there's always ways of improving things. But we're trying to find that balance,” he said. “So that's where I'm comfortable.”

The Official Plan will be ratified at the Council meeting on March 26.



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_

At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories to ensure every resident of Brampton, Mississauga and Niagara has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you

Submit a correction about this story