Pickering, Ajax © Joe Mabel
The Government of Ontario is misusing Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) to fast-track development on natural areas and farmland.
While Ontarians grapple with the social and economic impacts of a global pandemic, the Government of Ontario is quietly setting the stage for development projects to proceed without public consultation or the right to appeal. Our focus should be on enhancing community resilience to climate change and potential future pandemics. To do so we must enable and support public participation in determining the future of our farmlands, forests, wetlands and other natural areas.
A Growing Threat to Natural Areas and Farmland
MZOs are a tool that the Government of Ontario is using with unprecedented frequency to fast-track development. Conservation and agricultural organizations are united in their opposition to this misuse of MZOs which sidestep community consultation and local planning processes. Expediting this sort of short-sighted development while keeping Ontarians in the dark does not serve the public interest. At risk are the many benefits provided by farmland and natural heritage features and areas:
- flood control
- local food
- water purification
- carbon sequestration
- biodiversity conservation
- recreational opportunities
- and much more
The government is now proposing to allow MZOs to override legal and policy protections for farmland and natural heritage features and areas across Ontario. Schedule 3 of Bill 257 would amend the Planning Act so that both existing and future MZOs would no longer have to be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).
If these changes go forward, lands currently protected under the PPS would become vulnerable to residential, commercial and industrial development at the whim of the Minister (Municipal Affairs and Housing), without public consultation, opportunity for appeal or recourse to the courts. 120 organizations endorsed a letter to Minister Clark asking him to withdraw the proposed changes.
What We Are Doing
- Taking the provincial government to court
- Applying pressure on the provincial government and municipal councils
- Collaborating with other organizations, including members of the Nature Network and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and several farm organizations
- Holding the government to account when it pursues environmental deregulation and skirts the democratic process
- Supporting grassroots opposition to unwelcome MZOs
- Raising awareness
What You Can Do
- Watch our video to learn the basics about MZOs
- Sign our Action Alert asking the Government of Ontario to remove Schedule 3 from Bill 257
- Call or write to your MPP, letting them know that protecting the environment will be a key election issue for you in 2022
- Donate to support our MZO campaign
Grassroots Opposition Matters
Despite the provincial government’s determination to push through MZOs, grassroots resistance is paying off at the local level.
- In February 2021, after facing criticism from residents and environmental groups, Ramara Township decided to withdraw its request for an MZO that threatened a Provincially Significant Wetland
- In early March 2021, following several months of heated protests organized by local groups, Stratford City Council voted nine to two to ask the Province to roll back an MZO intended to pave the way for a glass factory on prime farmland
- Also in March 2021, Pickering Council voted unanimously to ask the provincial government to revoke an MZO that would allow the destruction of a provincially significant wetland
We are grateful for our many members and supporters who are helping the grassroots resistance. That opposition was bolstered by our Nature Network of 150-plus member groups.