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LETTER: MPP's response to Bill 23 criticism 'deeply flawed'

'Purpose of designating the land as protected was to preserve valuable agricultural land which helps ensure food security for local regions,' says letter writer
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Simcoe North MPP, Jill Dunlop.

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is in response to 'LETTER: Dunlop says 'heartbreaking reality' spawned Bill 23,' published Dec. 22. 

I read with great interest the response you provided to our papers about Bill 23. It was well written, and pretty convincing, but it was deeply, deeply flawed.

No doubt there is a housing crisis and it is a crisis that has been several years in the making. It is an issue of affordability. The price of a single family home is beyond the reach of most families. 

However, even more than the high purchase cost, it is the increasing interest rates which will put reasonable monthly mortgage payments further out of reach. While most families cannot afford a single family home, Bill 23 will permit developers to gobble up irreplaceable farmland to build more single family home subdivisions.

We don't need more of that type of housing out in the Greenbelt area, but rather must build multi-unit dwellings inside already identified urban settlement areas. Your own government report on affordable housing categorically stated we don't need more land to solve the housing crisis; rather we need densification.

Generally, construction does mean more jobs, particularly a demand for skilled tradespeople. However, you have ignored the fact there is a massive skilled labour shortage!

And equally important, there is a supply line shortage, particularly for cement. Projects are already on hold because of the lack of supplies or labour. Simply passing Bill 23 and declaring the Greenbelt is now open for business and development will not ensure houses will be built expeditiously, but what it has done is cost the people of this province the preservation of the forest, wetlands and farmland they deserve and desire.

And, they have said so to your government loudly and repeatedly; from municipal governments, environmentalists, farmers to affordable housing advocates, all have voiced opposition to Bill 23.

You claim that the government wants to build up communities and "help them grow in ways that make sense," but how can they when the municipalities have been stripped from much input into local planning and have been deprived of development charges that would not only provide for necessary services like roads and sewers, but also for parks, recreation centres, libraries etc.? Such facilities are often the glue that holds communities together.

Furthermore, you argue that by relieving developers of these development charges, it would reduce the cost of building a home, making it more affordable. The truth is, there is nothing in the Bill that requires developers to pass on any savings at all. In a buyer's marker, builders can charge whatever the market will bear.

Ironically, homeowners, whether they are already part of  the existing communities or new to them, will face significantly increasing taxes and therefore monthly costs,  to provide for the services that normally development charges would pay for.

Giving away parts of the Greenbelt for development, completely ignores the vitally important role of it that prompted the original need for protection. The purpose of designating the land as protected was to preserve valuable agricultural land which helps ensure food security for local regions, to protect water quality and prevent flooding; to preserve habitat, and provide continuous reaches of habitat necessary to protect species, as well as provide greenspace for public enjoyment.

Suggesting that your government is expanding the Greenbelt demonstrates that you have no appreciation for the unique qualities of these lands. Swapping out one parcel of land in the GTA and adding the same ( or more) acreage elsewhere assumes that the two pieces of land are the same; but they are most definitely not.

If the additional new land is worthy of protection, and by all accounts it is, it should be added to the Greenbelt without taking away already deeignated lands. What a wonderful legacy that would be to the people of Ontario; something of which you could truly be proud. Your government has made a commitment to climate and greening which apparently is nothing more than lip-service. Clearly, this solely profit-driven legislation shows that. 

Your response was smooth, a great piece of "spin" but completely misleading. Bill 23 will do little if anything to address the housing crisis that Ontario faces, at the cost of land and waters which will provide valuable service to all of us for generations to come.

Ontario needs multi-unit dwellings located inside existing urban settle areas, close to transportation hubs which will help reduce the need for cars, and highways. As our MPP and a cabinet minister, I deeply request you use your influence to have this legislation recalled.

Janet Campbell