“The first one that comes to mind is definitely the Greenbelt just because I love it.”

That’s what Emma McIntosh said she looked forward to covering most, when she joined The Narwhal’s newly minted Ontario bureau back in 2021. Little did she know that this relentless coverage would go on to win Canada’s most prestigious journalism prize.

Yes, you read that right. Those cheers you might have heard? They came from our staff across the country celebrating The Narwhal’s historic Michener Award at the Governor General’s residence in Rideau Hall on Friday evening.

Together with the Toronto Star, our dogged reporting on Ontario’s Greenbelt was recognized for its massive public impact — journalism that helped lead the provincial government to reverse its controversial cuts to the protected area.

“When Doug Ford announced last fall, amid mass public outrage, that he was reversing his decision on the Greenbelt … no one was more shocked than us,” Star reporter Noor Javed said at the Michener ceremony. “It reminded us that good investigative journalism can still wake up a public that seems more and more detached from the work that we do. And it reminded us that together, the media and an engaged public can be a powerful force for change.”

It’s hard to express just how much goes into covering a story as big as this one. It’s a lot — especially for a smaller organization like The Narwhal. Our Ontario bureau — reporters Emma McIntosh and Fatima Syed, and bureau chief Denise Balkissoon (that’s me!) — put in more than a year of hard work on this project, with a heavy dose of support from managing editor Mike De Souza and senior editor Elaine Anselmi. Creative director Shawn Parkinson helped bring the coverage to life with compelling digital presentations, while freelancer Christopher Katsarov Luna contributed countless photos. Director of audience Arik Ligeti and audience engagement editor Karan Saxena supported the work — and many other Narwhals also contributed their time and expertise.

And of course, our friends at The Toronto Star came to the table with an impressive team of journalists, editors and researchers, including Noor Javed, Sheila Wang, Charlie Pinkerton, Brendan Kennedy, Robert Benzie, David Bruser, Jesse McLean, Rick Sznajder and Astrid Lange.

We do this work because we believe in the power of journalism to hold power to account. And I can’t think of a better example than our reporting on the Greenbelt scandal: it was thrilling to witness our reporting help galvanize everyone from farmers to suburbanites who simply wanted to protect their community’s environmental future.

This incredible real-world impact? It’s thanks to the members who make The Narwhal’s journalism possible — and free for all to read.

We need to add 300 new members by the end of June to meet our budget. Already, more than 175 readers have stepped up to give what they can each month or year — will you join them?

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Become a member, today!

Even before the political scandal, Emma was such a nerd about the Greenbelt.

She warned us herself: “At this point, I think people in my life are starting to get annoyed by me because every time I go on a road trip and see a sign that says, ‘Welcome to the Greenbelt,’ I yell, ‘Shout out to the Greenbelt!’ I don’t know how much longer I can do that without losing all my friends and family. But I’m still excited to write about it.”

Photo of Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh
Reporter Emma McIntosh, who has always been a Greenbelt nerd, has been following the story for years. She and the Toronto Star’s crack team of journalists first shone light on the developers set to benefit from Premier Doug Ford’s Greenbelt swap in 2022. That swap was reversed once the details became public, thanks to the Starwhal’s dogged coverage. Photo: Ryan Wilkes / The Narwhal

It’s a good thing her loved ones — and readers of The Narwhal — kept their faith in this work. A few years and dozens of stories later, we’re here celebrating both a Michener and a restored Greenbelt. And it was Emma’s love for the natural world — one shared by people across Ontario who spoke out against the province’s actions — that helped us arrive at this moment of real change.

Thanks for joining us on this journey. If you believe in the power of journalism to make a difference, will you sign up as a member today? Our small-but-mighty independent newsroom needs readers like you to support us so we can keep holding our politicians accountable.

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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