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The thrill of galvanizing people

Our Greenbelt reporting is up for the most prestigious journalism award. A pod of members just like you helped us get it done. Will you join us?
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Emma McIntosh, Denise Balkissoon and Fatima Syed smile and sit on outdoor wooden steps


This Friday, a group of Narwhals are headed to Ottawa, where they’ll get dolled up for dinner at the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall. For the very first time, The Narwhal is a finalist for the Michener Award, Canada’s most prestigious journalism prize. 

The Michener jury recognizes journalism that “results in positive change for the public good,” and that’s the impact we really want to have: on you, and on the natural world we all love. 

The stories that earned us this honour centre around Ontario’s Greenbelt, the ring of protected farmland, forests and waterways encircling the Greater Toronto Area. In fall 2022, the provincial government announced it was opening 3,000 hectares of the environmentally sensitive land to development. Along with a team at the Toronto Star, Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh started investigating, uncovering that many of the landowners in question had longstanding ties to Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative party.

The plan to cut into the Greenbelt triggered a year of fast-paced reporting by journalists across Ontario — with The Narwhal and the Star in the lead. Our stories inspired Ontarians to make their concern for the Greenbelt known, loudly. And in September last year — on the second birthday of The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau — Premier Ford announced he was reversing the decision to allow development on the land. Protections were reinstated. 

This type of incredible real-world impact is 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 80 readers have stepped up to give what they can each month or year — and it would mean so much to us if you could join them

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I’ll help The Narwhal hold politicians to account!
Throughout 2023, The Narwhal revealed what was going on behind the scenes of the Greenbelt decision, and more. We showed that the opening of the lands had led to a predicted rush of real estate deals, that the premier’s office seemed more involved in the choice of lands than it was saying — and how the government’s development policies increased environmental risks across southern Ontario and beyond.

We also broke down what two provincial watchdogs found in their probes of the scandal, both prompted by The Narwhal and the Star’s dogged reporting. Former auditor general Bonnie Lysyk specifically thanked our small newsroom when she presented her findings.
An illustration of a black board with items pinned to it connected by string: a map of Ontario's Greenbelt, a calendar with Nov. 4, 2022 circled, a bulldozer, a closeup map and other items

For journalists, awards help us know we’re on the right track and that our work is getting noticed. This year, the National Newspaper Awards and the Digital Publishing Awards have already recognized our Greenbelt reporting, which is humbling. And on Wednesday, we’re up for the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s prestigious Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism. Believe me, if we win the Michener on Friday, you’ll hear cheers across the country from the whole pod of Narwhals, so many of whom pitched in to make these stories happen.

But we don’t do this work for awards — we do it because we believe journalism can inspire people to hold power to account. 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 kind of journalism is critical. And our small-but-mighty independent newsroom needs readers like you to support us so we can keep holding politicians accountable. If you believe in what we do, will you sign up as a member today?

Take care and thanks for helping us make a difference,

Denise Balkissoon
Ontario bureau chief
Headshot of Denise Balkissoon

P.S. Do you want us to keep up our accountability journalism in Ontario and across Canada? We need to add 220 more members this month — will you support us by donating whatever you can afford?

 
I’ll champion investigative journalism!
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