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The Narwhal and Toronto Star earn Michener nomination for Greenbelt reporting

The Michener Awards Foundation praised The Narwhal, Toronto Star and other media outlets for ‘inspiring’ work in 2023

The Narwhal has earned its first ever nomination for the Michener Award, considered to be Canada’s highest honour in journalism, for its reporting with the Toronto Star on the Ontario Greenbelt scandal.

The reporting by Emma McIntosh from The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau — along with the Toronto Star and journalists Brendan Kennedy, Noor Javed, Sheila Wang and Charlie Pinkerton — triggered a series of investigations by provincial watchdogs that eventually forced the Ontario government to backtrack on a decision to carve out portions of a protected area for new development projects.

Emma is now recounting the saga in Paydirt, a new podcast miniseries featured on The Big Story.

“The Narwhal and the Star stayed on this story for a year because we felt strongly that the truth mattered and the public had the right to know what its government was doing,” said Emma, after hearing about the nomination. “It was an enormous effort powered by so many people in both newsrooms, and it’s immensely humbling to see that collaborative work recognized.”

The Narwhal’s reporting on the Greenbelt and other topics is made possible thanks to the support of over 6,000 members.

Emma and our colleagues at the Star first broke the story in the fall of 2022, exposing how the Doug Ford government was removing protections on parcels of Greenbelt land that had recently been purchased by well-connected developers. It started when they dug into property records to identify the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s decision.

In a news release, the Michener Awards Foundation noted how the reporting was praised by Ontario’s auditor general, who said it “greatly contributed to public awareness, and ultimately to the provincial government reversing its unsupportable decision to remove specific lands from the Greenbelt.”

The nomination comes only days after Emma and her colleagues won a National Newspaper Award for their dogged reporting on the topic.

We’re investigating Ontario’s environmental cuts
The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism.
We’re investigating Ontario’s environmental cuts
The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism.

The Canadian Press, CBC/Radio-Canada, The Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette are the other finalists for the Michener Award this year.

“Each submission revealed an immense amount of passion, dedication and hard work by newsrooms and journalists,” said chief judge Katherine Sedgwick. “These finalists are outstanding examples of public-service journalism.”

Margo Goodhand, president of the Michener Awards Foundation, noted how all the finalists made a “profound impact on their communities” at a time when the industry continues to be ravaged by layoffs and budget cuts.

“In a challenging year for Canadian journalism, these are inspiring bodies of work,” Goodhand said.

The winner will be announced at a Rideau Hall ceremony in Ottawa on June 14, hosted by Governor General Mary Simon.

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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