Community members gathered in the cold rain outside MPP Mike Harris’ office Saturday during the Santa Claus parade to protest Bill 23 and encourage bystanders to sign a petition against the provincial legislation.
Bill 23, The More Homes Built Faster Act, received royal assent last week, but Ontarians of all stripes are still upset about it and continue to seek to have the bill repealed.
Art Timmerman was one of the present protestors. He decided to brave the rain because he disagrees with Bill 23.
“Particularly the part of Bill 23 to do with wetlands and the protection for wetlands that would be lost with that bill,” he said.
Timmerman was joined by another protestor Jeff Leader. “I just think it’s the wrong direction for the province to go. It creates more of a dichotomy in society between the rich and the poor. We’re not going to see affordable housing going down this path. And I’m worried about the ecocide. Bill 23 and Bill 39 erode our democracy,” he said.
Neil and Linda Lackey also joined the protest. “I am deeply concerned because it’s not just Greenbelt, it’s farmland,” said Neil. “And that means food security is at risk.”
Bill 23 has an impact on many pieces of legislation at once. It takes away planning authority from upper-tier municipalities, among other major changes such as what conservation authorities are allowed to protect, and the legal planning process for decisions about where development can go.
Through Bill 23, the government also plans to remove 7,400 acres of protected land in the Greenbelt to allow development, after stating publicly that he wouldn’t touch the protected area. The Ford government also faces scrutiny following reports companies with ties to the party recently purchased land in the Greenbelt that is slated to be opened up for residential development.
Last week, Mike Schriener, the MPP for Guelph and leader of the Green Party of Ontario, filed a complaint with the provincial Integrity Commissioner.
“The people of Ontario are rightfully suspicious of the timing of the sale of certain protected Greenbelt lands that will now be open for development, and the ties these land speculators have to the PC party,” he said in a statement.
A recent Mainstreet Research poll found that 55 per cent of respondents strongly disapprove of Bill 23, and 12 per cent somewhat disapprove of the bill, including Progressive Conservative voters. The Chiefs of Ontario met yesterday (Wednesday) to call for a repeal of the bill after passing a resolution in November condemning the bill, “due to its clear violation of First Nations’ constitutionally protected, inherent and Treaty rights and its inevitable adverse environmental impacts on First Nations customary and ancestral territories.”
Kevin Eby, Kevin Thomason and Mark Reusser, the team that helped push the region of Waterloo to develop an official plan that included gentle density and walkable neighbourhoods, submitted comments to the province questioning the basis for the bill, also in November.
For its part, the province expressed on the Environmental Registry that the bill is to address the housing crisis. “Ontario needs more housing, and we need it now. That’s why the Ontario government is taking bold and transformative action to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.
The province believes the bill addresses the missing middle of the housing market, streamlines municipal planning responsibilities, and stimulates higher density around transit among other issues.
“These changes are providing a solid foundation to address Ontario’s housing supply crisis over the long term and will be supplemented by continued action in the future.”
The comment period for the Environmental Registry of Ontario for the bill is open until December 9.