The “More Homes Built Faster Act,” otherwise known as Bill 23, passed in late November despite province-wide protests. One could argue it could also be called the “More Greenbelt Destroyed Faster Act.”
Bill 23, intended to quicken the rate of housing development in Ontario, damages precious environmental land, weakens conservation authorities, and hurts municipalities. The bill is part of the Progressive Conservative governmentʼs plan to build 1.5 million homes in the next decade.
Climate Justice Niagara was one of hundreds of groups who signed petitions and encouraged members to advocate for an end to this bill, a bill known to be more favourable to developers than municipalities or the environment.
Bill 23 opens up 7,400 acres of formerly protected Greenbelt land, which surrounds much of the land in this diocese. Since the Progressive Conservatives formed government in 2018, eight large parcels of that land have already been bought. Some opponents to Bill 23 are already asking the auditor general to probe these purchases.
While many municipalities made local decisions to stop this kind of sprawl by freezing urban boundaries, Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has overridden those moves. Hamilton, Guelph, and Niagara, are all municipalities within the Diocese of Niagara that have voted to freeze urban boundaries.
The bill not only takes away environmental protections, according to municipal leaders, but will also put the cost of development on the backs of taxpayers, remove heritage conservation, and erode public accountability. Mayors across the province have joined forces to consider next steps.
Diane-Laure Arjaliès, an associate professor at Ivey Business School in London, ON, told Global News in an interview that Bill 23 carries dire consequences for the environment, such as “major impacts in terms of flooding, in terms of extreme weather events.” These environmental concerns stem from the destruction of crucial wetlands, farmlands, and forests.
Bill 23 would limit the power of conservation authorities to make good decisions in the face of climate crisis. For example, it would require conservation authorities to identify conservation lands that could be used for residential subdivisions, with the province now deciding whether or not to sell such lands for development or protect them from development. It would also forbid conservation authorities from considering “pollution” or “conservation of land” in decision-making.
Climate Justice Niagara and Bishop Susan Bell have both emphasized the need for advocacy with local MPPs, Steven Clark, the Minister of Housing responsible for the bill ([email protected]), and Premier Doug Ford (416-325-1941).
As we advocate for change, we are reminded of our baptismal covenant: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the earth?” Let our powerful reply lead us to action: “I will, with God’s help.”