It is not news that there is huge public opposition to Doug Ford`s recent attacks on our environment. But can anything be done to stop the changes that will come about by the passage of legislation like Bills 23 and 39?
The short answer is yes.
“Government wants us to believe it is all done but each and every one of these decisions can be reversed,” claimed Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager for Environmental Defence at a well attended webinar held January 25th.
Pothen’s organization hosted the event – Bill 23 and the Greenbelt – What`s Next?
Speakers presented useful and up-to-date information.
Laura Bowman is a staff lawyer from Ecojustice. Her organization together with Environmental Defence has asked for a judicial review of Minister Clark`s decision to expand the urban area as set out in the City of Hamilton’s Official Plan (OP). https://ecojustice.ca/pressrelease/environmental-groups-taking-provincial-government-to-court-over-attack-on-hamiltons-official-plan/
The Minister made his decision just a few days after the municipal elections. He had
“posted something on the Environmental Registry saying he was making a decision about Hamilton’s OP. But there was no indication that he was considering a huge expansion to the urban boundary and no rationale provided,” noted Ms. Bowman. The decision document that followed the phony consultation gave no details.
I am not a lawyer, but Ecojustice’s argument that the Minister’s decision did not comply with various acts and policy statements seems sound.
To expand the Hamilton urban boundary the Minister needs to have supporting assessment. Incredibly he didn`t. The Ford government continues to force boundary changes in other municipalities.
Another speaker, Franz Hartmann, Coordinator for the Alliance for a Livable Ontario, made the case that to move ahead Doug Ford needs the support of municipalities.
“The fight is going to city halls,” Hartmann asserted.
Many, I would guess most, municipalities, are not happy. Changes to development charge polices will place a huge financial burden on local governments and their citizens.
Alliance for a Livable Ontario has produced a draft motion that advocates and activists should forward to friendly local councillors.
The motion calls for the repeal of both Bill 23 and 39 and a rollback of changes to the Greenbelt Act. As well, municipalities need to gather information. For example:
“How much land and housing units have already been approved? There are a lot of places to build in existing areas,” Hartmann notes. This is well known, of course, but needs to be documented.
Another speaker, Kim Bradshaw of Stop Spread Halton, reported on what the newly founded group Greenbelt Guardians is doing. Their catchphrase is If you see Something, Say Something.
To that end they have created Regional Response Teams to protect land extracted from the Greenbelt and land added unnecessarily during urban boundary expansions.
Surveillance is their primary focus. Changes or signs of pending destruction are to be documented and reported.
Let`s not lose sight of the fact that, in addition to the changes to the Greenbelt, 37,000 additional acres have been added to urban boundaries.
“That`s farmland, that`s natural area that is going to be destroyed and we need to prevent that any way we can,“ says Ms. Bradshaw.
Environmental Defence`s Pothen characterized the government’s strategy this way:
“What they are telling their MPPs, is that we just need rip off the band aid all at once in this honeymoon period after the election.“
And then the hope is that Ontarians will forget.
But there are already three Investigations ongoing. “The cloud of stink and rot will linger,” Pothen believes.
Remember Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act is not implemented yet. Changes to regional official plans, the Wetland Evaluation overhauls, and Bill 39 can all be stopped.
Consider Bill 39. This legislation includes the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Repeal Act. It will cancel an act from 2005 that was intended to keep land undeveloped. Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has indicated his government may look at federal tools like Species-at-Risk legislation to stop such projects.
The Ford government is well aware of the opposition to their measures but has calculated that the public will just accept them because they are passed. So we can`t give up the fight. Here are some resources and links you can check out.
Resources and Events
*You can find Environmental Defence at https://environmentaldefence.ca/
*Changes to maps and Official Plans can be found at https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-6216#decision-details
*Alliance for a Livable Ontario is at https://www.liveableontario.ca/
*The Land Between, a grassroots non-governmental organization, has materials on the consequences of the legislation and what you can do at https://www.thelandbetween.ca/bill23-stealingourlegacy/#Solidarity
*A Welcome Back Doug Party is planned for Sat. February 25th.. Ford “has abandoned any progress towards an equitable, sustainable, livable Ontario and we’re not gonna take it anymore.” https://www.welcomebackdoug.com/
*The webinar Bill 23 and the Greenbelt – What`s Next? runs about an hour and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_j49m11Q7w
Stop Sprawl Halton’s website is at https://www.stopsprawlhalton.org/
Port Rowan’s Bob Wood is a SCAN! member who worked many years in social justice and municipal politics.
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