Bill 23 would rewrite the script on development
I’m writing this in the hopes that I can inspire people to join me in standing up against the extremely destructive Bill 23 (the “More Homes Built Faster Act”) proposed by Premier Doug Ford last month, slipped sneakily onto the table just after municipal elections and at a time when councils are in transition and less able to organize collective responses against the Bill.
Without mincing words, Bill 23 is the most atrocious and disgusting attempt I have seen by this or any other provincial government to erase huge swathes of legislation put in place to protect Ontarians. The Bill would completely rewrite the script in terms of how development goes ahead in this province, handing the majority of the power to developers and taking it away from citizens and municipalities, while at the same time axing development charges and shifting costs from developers onto ordinary people.
Outside of the development community there is little to no support from any organizations for Bill 23, no matter what interests they represent.
Environmental groups strongly oppose it, as the Bill will pave over 7,400 acres of greenbelt and all but erase the power of conservation authorities anywhere in the province to ensure that development is done in a manner that protects vital natural resources, habitat and farmlands and safeguards against increasing flood risks.
Greenbelts were established around urban centres across the globe for very good reasons – they are vital to providing clean water, flood control and ecosystem services on which cities depend. The last time Ford tried to chip away at the greenbelt the public pushed back hard, and we need to do it again; if anything the need to protect these lands is even more apparent now, as the climate and ecological emergency accelerates and threatens our health, safety and stability.
Municipalities are also very concerned about Bill 23. The Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) described in a statement the profound negative impacts the Bill is likely to have at a local level, as it reduces municipalities’ ability to consult with the public and develop in a way that is appropriate for their constituency, and it shifts costs from developers to municipalities, which will inevitably need to recover the costs through a rise in municipal taxes. Despite the transition period councils are in, many of them, including our neighbours in Collingwood, have organized a response in opposition to the Bill, and we must urge Clearview Council to do the same.
Perhaps most ironically, housing associations and affordable housing charities are also speaking out against the Bill because it appears that it will actually exacerbate the affordable housing crisis by limiting affordable housing requirements in new developments to a maximum five per cent. This will make it much harder for municipalities to address the housing needs of their citizens through the provision of affordable housing options. For example, Ottawa was looking to pass a bylaw requiring that a minimum 10 per cent of new rental units available near transit stations be offered as affordable housing, but this would not be permitted under Bill 23.
So yes, there will be more homes, but who will be able to afford them?
To solve the housing crisis requires creative urban densification projects and well-planned, well-connected communities with an adequate provision for affordable housing and greenspace, not more poorly- planned, hastily-built, disconnected sprawl.
Bill 23 is nothing but a sweeping attempt by the Ford government to take the power to influence local development away from local people and put it into the hands of the provincial government and the developers whose interests they have long favoured over those of citizens. It is a slap in the face of our children when they most need us to stand up and protect them against accelerating damage to their planet and their futures, and I for one am so devastatingly tired of my children’s futures being hung out to dry by the ill-conceived decisions of adults who are at best short-sighted and at worst downright corrupt.
So please, I would urge everyone who is concerned about the dire implications Bill 23 will have on the future of our province to write a letter expressing opposition to:
- Your local MPP. For most readers that is Brian.Saunderson@pc.ola.org (Clearview) or Sylvia.Jones@pc.ola. org (Mulmur).
- Minister Steve Clark (Municipal Affairs and Housing) Steve.Clark@ pc.ola.org.
- Minister Graydon Smith (Natural Resources and Forestry) Graydon. Smith@pc.ola.org.
There are many letters already prepared by organizations (e.g., Ontario Nature, The David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence and others) and available on the internet that can be personalized and sent directly to the above parties in a matter of minutes, if you don’t really know where to begin.
I would also urge people to write to the Mayor and to your councillor to voice your concerns and to request the preparation of a formal Council response to the Bill.
The consultation period has been intentionally rushed by the Ford government to reduce opposition so time is of the essence, but we as citizens have just one power, and that is the power to speak out and insist that we be heard. People often feel helpless, thinking that writing a letter or making a phone call makes little difference. While it’s correct that just one letter can be easily ignored, thousands of letters flooding in from thousands of people can be a game changer, and we urgently need to change this game!