Environmentalists throughout the region planning protest of Bill 23

April 13, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It needs to be thoroughly understood that Bill 23 has nothing to do with creating affordable housing.

Doug Ford’s own Housing Task Force, charged to recommend the most efficient and cost-effective method of building affordable housing, came out against using the Green Belt for any of it. They concluded without question that building affordable housing has nothing to do with land use outside urban areas. 

These are the facts: Doug Ford’s own task force denied the need and questioned using the Green Belt for any new development, asking why 7,400 acres are being rezoned. Indeed, many builders themselves are questioning destroying this land for large homes.

Do Ontarians understand the cost of Doug Ford’s Bill 23? In addition, to the irreparable environmental costs, Bill 23 removes any power the municipalities might have for new developments being built. It also removes their ability to deny permission to build where there are dangers to the environment or to existing housing and infrastructure and also not charge development fees. 

Development fees help cover the costs of future growth, and without them, municipal planning becomes much less certain. 

Environmental Defence is a government-based watchdog that has advised, in the strongest terms, against Bill 23, not only from the view of the irreparable destruction it will cause against the Green Belt but also to describe succinctly how there is plenty of land for affordable housing, plenty to create two million homes within the boundaries of cities across southern Ontario, already known and proposed.

In support of Environmental Defence’s Yours to Protect Weekend, Apr. 21 to 23, a demonstration to object to the Ford government’s anti-environmental policies is being held. The protest focuses specifically on the development of the Green Belt, Highway 413 and the removal of developers’ obligation to pay for roads and sewer infrastructure, which will now be paid for by the municipal taxpayer.

Participants from all environmental groups, individuals, and everyone who considers themselves part of the environmental community or simply a supporter, along with the Dufferin–Caledon Greens, are joining a march on Apr. 21 at 2:00 p.m. It takes place at the parking lot beside 229 Broadway Ave., across from the Shell gas station. Those marching will proceed down Broadway to the constituency office of MPP Sylvia Jones and end in front of the Orangeville Town Hall. Everyone is welcome to join this march along the way or for the whole way to understand and bring attention to how Bill 23 impacts so many Ontarians.

For Friday, Apr. 21, it is hoped as well that the students of Orangeville’s schools will use their after-school time to revisit the Friday for Future, originated by Greta Thunberg that attracted tens of thousands of people to call for the protection of the environment on a huge scale, protecting the planet’s future for our children.

In a time when scientists, economists and environmentalists are anxiously calling for speedy reform and the turning of the energy-based tide, Doug Ford’s Bill 23 flies in the face of all that and threatens the environment and places a huge economic thrust on taxpayers in favour of letting developers off the hook.

Erin is an example of development gone mad and the cost to current residents, where a massive subdivision is being built, and a huge sewage treatment plant is planned, in itself an environmental disaster. People already living in the area are forced to link their homes to the “big pipe” at a huge expense for them. So huge, in fact, that many homes that have been lived in by the same family for generations are being given up in the face of the excessive cost.

Environmentalist Laura Campbell said of the situation in Erin, “It’s pretty far outside of any urban area. Creating this doesn’t make sense.”

She added, “It is very easy to connect the attacks being made on the province, changes being made around policies against wetlands. If you think about it, all these things are being just made to get housing started. We know we have enough land for infill development. Hamilton had plans to build 88,000 units and the province said no. We have enough land to be near transit hubs. This is what makes for good development.”

She commented further, “Orangeville has buildings that are 6 storeys but they’re out of sight. There could be more of those. Everybody knows we cannot continue to build as we have been building. We need food security and there is no such thing as not really productive farmland. That is not reality; that land can become the most productive healthy land, given the right treatment.”

As Ms. Campbell, who is also the owner of Pia’s restaurant, noted, there is only a small area close to urban centres where we can grow food. If we want to consider the next seven generations, as she maintains, we cannot take away the land that feeds people.

“We need to re-invigorate the fight for this planet,” she affirmed, “It is just going to get worse; one of these decisions gets made and all of our green standards – there were some standards in place but those have been removed. Municipalities have plans for net zero by 2050; things are bad when you remove those plans.”

Ms. Campbell calls the provincial Conservatives the “elected developer lobby” and urged the revival of regulatory policies that have recently been eliminated. 

Our job now is to remind our leaders that we are here and we are watching, to remind people how much this will cost our children if we do not work against it. 

Please join the march on Friday, Apr. 21 on Broadway between Orangeville Town Hall and the office of Sylvia Jones. Begins at 2:00 p.m. at 229 Broadway.

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