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Ontario Nature

"With Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, the Government of Ontario is proposing sweeping changes to the province’s natural heritage and land use planning legislation and policy. This omnibus bill would amend many laws (e.g., the Planning Act, the Conservation Authorities Act), removing and weakening environmental protections and cutting out the public from meaningful involvement in land use planning and decisions affecting their communities (refer to Schedule 2 and Schedule 9 – ERO# 019-6141 and ERO# 019-6163).

Ontarians of all political stripes should be deeply concerned by proposed legislative or regulatory changes that would:

  1. Remove requirements regarding public meetings on certain planning matters.

  2. Remove your right to appeal planning decisions (e.g., Official Plans, zoning by-laws, minor variances).

  3. Remove the power of conservation authorities (CAs) to regulate or prohibit development that negatively impacts wetlands, rivers or streams.

  4. Prohibit CAs from entering into agreements with municipalities to provide expert review of planning applications.

  5. Limit CAs right to appeal land use planning decisions.

  6. Require CAs to identify conservation authority owned or controlled lands that could support housing development.

  7. Eliminate the role of seven regional municipalities (Simcoe, Durham, Halton, Peel, Niagara, Waterloo and York) in planning matters, thereby compromising coordinated efforts to protect farmland and natural areas, determine optimal locations for development and infrastructure, and efficiently deliver municipal services.

At the same time, intensifying but separate from Bill 23, the government is proposing several significant policy changes that would exacerbate the profound and devastating impacts of the bill on Ontario’s natural heritage:

  1. A drastic overhaul the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, ensuring that very few wetlands would be deemed provincially significant in the future and that many if not most existing Provincially Significant Wetlands would be vulnerable to losing that designation, leaving them open to destruction. (ERO# 019-6160)

  2. Replacement of the Provincial Policy Statement, which provides strong protections for Ontario’s farmland and natural heritage with a new planning policy instrument that would remove or streamline existing policies to facilitate development. (ERO# 019-6177)

  3. Creation of a natural heritage offsetting policy that could lead to widespread and extremely risky tradeoffs, where existing natural areas are sacrificed on the highly questionable premise that they can be recreated or restored elsewhere. Greasing the wheels of destruction would be a “pay to slay” natural heritage compensation fund, which would allow developers to destroy wetlands, woodlands and other wildlife habitats as long as they pay into the fund. (ERO# 019-6161)

The provincial government frames all the above changes as addressing the housing crisis, obscuring the fact that Bill 23 satisfies first and foremost the interests of developers, delivered on a silver platter. You can read more in our blog: Bill 23 – What You Need to Know.

As Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force explained in its 2022 report, we do not need to sacrifice environmental protection to address the housing crisis. That’s because the shortage of land for housing is a myth:

But a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts. … Most of the solution must come from densification. Greenbelts and other environmentally sensitive areas must be protected, and farms provide food and food security.” (Housing Affordability Task Force report, p.10)

Please join Ontario Nature in opposing the changes proposed and demanding that 1) all amendments likely to weaken the protection of farmland and natural heritage be withdrawn; and 2) the role of the public, CAs and regional municipalities in environmental planning and decision-making be retained and upheld."

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