Farmers Forum staff
TORONTO — On Nov. 28, the Ontario government passed what appears to be a developers’ dream of a housing bill in hopes of getting 1.5 million new houses built in 10 years to ease what it recognizes as a housing shortage. But farm groups and family advocates are not happy.
Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act) will freeze or exempt developers from fees but also remove decisions related to building houses from municipal councils and individuals. Critics argue that while the bill might get houses built more quickly, it takes away all power from local communities in local planning decisions and severely limits their rights of appeal. In other words, You live there, it affects your life, but you won’t get a say in what and how much gets built around you.
The bill will also remove 7,400 acres from Toronto’s Greenbelt to get about 50,000 houses built. The Greenbelt was approved in 2005 to protect area farmland.
The bill is a double-edged sword for farmers, as a retiring farmer at the edge of a city stands to profit handsomely with a change of protected property status.
OFA director Jackie Kelly-Pemberton said that Bill 23 is bad news as it accelerates the loss of farmland by removing local control of development, including any oversight by conservation authorities.
The pro-family Real Women of Canada has also blasted Bill 23 for appearing to be an attack on the rights of the public and the family.
“Local communities by way of the elected officials on their city councils, collectively are supposed to decide the nature of the community,” Real Women states. “They, however, will no longer have a say in local development applications or have any input respecting site plan control. As well, their local councillors will no longer be accountable for development decisions. Instead, unelected, and unaccountable, bureaucrats at Queen’s Park will make decisions affecting communities in which they do not live.”
Critics argue that since the bill centralizes control among the bureaucrats and the Ontario government, it also increases possibilities of corruption.