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What is it about the global climate crisis that this provincial government doesn’t get? They have fought against the carbon tax, cancelled contracts with renewable energy suppliers in Ontario, and now are pitting the need for more housing against green spaces in the province.
The More Homes Built Faster Act, Bill 23 should concern all of us in Ontario, for a multitude of reasons. The anti-environmental and anti-democratic implications of this omnibus bill should alarm us all. It aims to further dismantle the conservation authorities, undercut the wetlands evaluation system, poach critical Greenbelt lands for development, and destroy much of the power and resources of regional and local planning authorities.
No one can argue against the need for more affordable housing, but this bill ensures that whatever housing is built is at the expense of local planning and critical farmland, forests and wetlands. Some 7,400 acres of Greenbelt are slated for sale to developers.
As Premier Ford said a few years ago: “The people have spoken. We won’t touch the Greenbelt.” What has changed? Once the green spaces are gone, they are gone for good. Green spaces are a natural buffer against the worst effects of climate change, sequestering carbon, mitigating flooding, cleansing ground water of pollution, feeding us and our children. They are precious, and sprawl hurts us all.
As the government’s Housing Affordability Task Force stated in its 2022 report, we don’t need to sacrifice environmental protection to build more housing. Within the existing municipal settlement boundaries there exists an ample supply of land already open for development. We need to build more intensively, siting new homes where jobs, transit and services already exist.
The costs to service new urban sprawl are much greater than servicing existing urban areas. Not only is Bill 23 environmentally disastrous, it doesn’t make economic sense — except to the development industry.
Already environmentalists, farmers, urban planners, labour leaders, and health-care workers are rallying against Bill 23. On environmental, democratic and economic grounds, we need to protest this disastrous legislation.