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Several groups unite to oppose provincial Bill 23

December 1, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

With increasing public opposition to the proposed provincial Bill 23, several groups are coming together in a united front to ask for changes in the legislation.

The Bill, called the More Homes Built Faster Act, calls for the building of 1.5 million more homes in Ontario over the next decade. This is partly in response to the federal government’s plan to bring in several hundred thousand immigrants per year, as well as to address the current housing shortage in the province.

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Barrie District Labour Council, Redwood Park Communities, the Ontario Farmland Trust, Couchiching Jubilee House, and Orillia Wetland Watchers, united during a press conference held at the Simcoe County Federation of Teachers Headquarters in Barrie on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

The group says changes are necessary to the legislation that will allow development on Greenbelt lands as well as wetlands in the province. The legislation will also eliminate most development charges and reduce the Conservation Authority’s input on the development of sensitive land and concern for wildlife habitat.

Conservation Authorities around the province have already released statements regarding their concern about proposed changes in the Bill.

“Because Bill 23 has an impact beyond just housing – it has environmental impacts – it’s forced a lot of groups locally and provincially to band together because we’re all on the same side when it comes to preserving agriculture, housing support, and environmental concerns,” explained Margaret Prophet, executive director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “The Bill, as it stands, should not pass. It’s just too destructive and has very few benefits. The Bill either needs to be completely amended

to ensure those destructive policies don’t make it any further or scrapped and rewritten from the start.”

If passed, the Bill will allow building on current Greenbelt lands and also lowers the number of required ‘affordable housing’ units.

“The government has really tried to say environmentalists don’t want houses,” Ms. Prophet said. “That’s not what we’re saying at all. We know if you want to be environmentally friendly and socially responsible you need to put housing where jobs exist and where people can get to work without necessarily having a car.”

The group is concerned about changes that will reduce the impact of Conservation Authorities and allow building on sensitive lands.

“The Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine were there before the Greenbelt, and the Greenbelt was put around those places because they realized those significant features that provide drinking water need more of a buffer. The Greenbelt was used as a buffer to connect the systems of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment and the farmland that is surrounding it. There were layers of protection around something you knew had to be protected.”

One concern, Ms. Prophet said, is that protected lands are only those that are public land, while private land does not have the same protection from development even if it is in a sensitive area.

“It used to be you would look at wetlands like a puzzle – all these piece that all worked together,” Ms. Prophet said. “Wetlands are not a monolith, they have different aspects to them that make it all work. Now they’re going to take away that idea that it’s a complex system and a wetland will be evaluated on its own. You can’t factor in if there’s an endangered species in there and how significant the wetland is. There are a lot of consequences to this Bill that have nothing to do with housing.”

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