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© Lora Denis
Snip, snip, snip. That’s how my supervisor, Anne Bell, described the recent tangle of legislation and policy proposals dumped on Ontarians in October and November of 2022. It was my second day at my new job as Ontario Nature’s Conservation Policy and Planning Manager.
What’s being snipped is the thoughtfully interwoven web of protections for our wetlands, woodlands and farmland that has been developed over decades. Years of hard work – by governments of all three stripes – is being rapidly unraveled under the guise of “more homes built faster.” Yes, housing problems need to be solved, and existing legislation and policies can be improved, yet ramming poorly designed policies through isn’t the wisest way to do it.
Ontario Nature advocates for a wise approach to complex problems like land use planning. That’s what gave us future-conscious planning like the Greenbelt and conservation authorities. Wise approaches follow science, respond to the inevitable impacts of climate change, pay attention to lessons from other jurisdictions, and take input from experts, affected parties, and the public.
If you’ve noticed that what’s happening in Ontario is the exact opposite approach, you’re not alone. The same week that the city of Abbotsford, B.C. marked a year since its catastrophic flooding, our government pushed through legislation that handcuffs conservation authorities – Ontario’s unique system of watershed guardians. Last December, while world leaders met in Montreal to discuss the importance of intact natural landscapes in buffering the worst impacts of the climate change and biodiversity crises, Ontario systematically picked apart its own safeguards for those same natural assets.
It’s frustrating to see Ontario become so regressive. Before joining Ontario Nature, I worked on conservation policies and actions for a certain provincial public service for two decades. I’ve seen from the inside how solid advice from experts is heeded or ignored by political leaders, who are often influenced by outside voices. It could be disheartening to see wise counsel be ignored.
I am now heartened to see what happens on the outside. Ontarians care. They won’t be bullied or bamboozled. They are using their voices, loudly. They mobilize to support calls to action from organizations like Ontario Nature. More than 14,000 Ontarians signed on to our recent Action Alert opposing Bill 23.
Despite last month’s disappointing news that the Government of Ontario ignored thousands of voices and passed Bill 23, people are not standing down. They are asking what they can do. Protests are still happening. A new cross-sectoral coalition of hundreds of individuals and groups formed in response to the government’s actions. My favourite author, Margaret Atwood, is writing a blue streak. Some of the countries that came to COP15 don’t let their citizens organize and speak up. We are fortunate to have that right, and we’re acting on that.
Because of the complexity of the web of protections the government is trying to unravel, we anticipate more policy proposals from the province, and from municipalities. We are monitoring the Environmental Registry of Ontario closely. You can follow your municipality’s planning processes. Stay informed about what’s happening and how you can use your voice by becoming an Advocate for Nature if you haven’t already. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for regular updates on how you speak up for nature in Ontario.
Great work Ontario Nature!
How do we stop this…NOW! It cannot wait till the next election. I cry to think of this and the devastating effects of everything that this government is doing and our local representative will not stand up for the people.
This government doesn’t ever mention CLIMATE CHANGE…I don’t think they even know how to spell it! This makes me so angry! The ignorance is bad enough but the lies to get elected!!!
I cannot believe that the Ford government has passed Bill 123. This demonstrates the total lack of commitment to the environment. UNACCEPTABLE!
Write to your MPP. If they send a scripted response, write again.
Dear Stephen Lecce:
Thank you for your assistants scripted response. I guess I sent one first. So I’m sending you a second written by me. It makes no sense to build on protected land. The land was set aside for a reason. It’s called the Greenbelt for a reason. You would think in this day and age with all the hype on climate change, the Conservative government would head the call to do more and preserve. But this is not the case.
The parcels of land that were purchased by greedy developers were purchased with the up front knowledge that one day, you can build. Nobody buys land for millions of dollars to hold on to and “preserve”. That being said, the encroachment on the Greenbelt will have negative effects in the future. First of all, it sets a very bad precedent that protected land can be re-designated anytime one feels like it. Profit being the motive. Putting 50,000 homes on the Greenbelt will not make a dent into the so called call for 1.5 million homes. That equates to 3.3 % of the needed homes. Yet putting those homes in the Greenbelt puts neighbouring houses in peril of flooding due to overloading of storm water systems from more intense rainfall events seen more often due to climate change.
Taxes for the surrounding home owners have to go up now that all the “up front developer fees” have been lifted. Someone has to cover those costs. And looking at a few of the areas that are to re-designated shows that these areas are not going to be “cheap” housing. These look like $1,000,000 plus homes. So how many down and out people have that kind of money?
While the govt has said that it will add lands to the Greenbelt (lands that are not environmental sensitive or protect water quality or rare habitats), may I suggest that only fully developed lands be incorporated into the Greenbelt, preferably urban and estate lots. The municipality would be required to remove all structures on the land and return it to a natural state. The local Conservation Authority can oversee this activity. It is critical that developed lands be returned to nature if we are to protect the environment for future generations. In this way, the province will remove wasteful single family and estate lots and replace them with more environmentally friendly multi-unit (condos, apartments, townhouses) housing and low income housing where the housing need is most urgent.
Lest we speak about the damage to the non human inhabitants and natural environment?
Mr. Ford has passed this terrible piece of legislation. I will try my best to sway municipal council to slow him down until perhaps one day the people of Ontario open their eyes and see what a destructive party this is to the environment and vote him out.
Regressive is putting it mildly. This premier has no understanding of our natural systems and their importance going forward. We must do whatever we can to stop these destructive conservative initiatives.
I, too, am appalled by our Premier’s lack of integrity. To promise one thing, then do another, seems to be the norm these days. I am very disappointed with him and definitely will not be voting for him ever again. We have to stop this invasion of our wetlands & moraine.
I am grateful for the work you are doing. Don’t give up.
I am totally fed up and disgusted at Premier Ford’s approach to the housing dilemma. Destroying our wetlands, etc. isn’t the way.
Please keep the plan to have sensitive areas set aside to be the green belt that we need to allow areas for recharging aquafers so we have ground water to keep the trees and shrubs healthy and not to mention drinking water.
We have communicated in my role as Advocacy Coordinator on Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Club Board of Directors.
That role & exchange should continue for next 2 yrs as Board nominees were elected Jan 23/23 but feel free to send me ongoing updates in a personal citizen context as well.
I can separate the potential conflicts😏.
Like you I have (2011 last employ) significant Federal & Provincial Public Service employ; 24 yrs Parks Can. as Sr. Park Warden & A/Park Ecologist & 3 yrs OMNRF Centre For Northern Forest Ecosystems/ Northern Mammal Ecology- [Woodland Caribou] ‘ contract Project Biologist , & 8+ yrs as a Consulting Design Engineering Env.Supervisor/Natural Science Lead- now Retired.
Keith D. Wade
Such unbelievable and short sighted policies. Terrible!
I’m glad to see Ontario Nature standing up to this bullying Conservative government and Premier.. I hope that it motivates all your readers to vote in the next provincial election to elect a caring, intelligent government that cares for our environment and the people of Ontario.
Thank you Ontario Nature for your strong opposition to environmental, biodiversity, species at risk, and democratic attacks. This province belongs to the people of Ontario and Canada, not to any government or special for profit interests. What is happening is embarrassing, and wrong!
When will the First Nations Peoples of Ontario challenge provincial and federal governments in defence of their treaty rights, and constitutional provisions?
It pains me when there are huge plots of land that were allotted for development years ago that didn’t involve the Green Belt or the Oak Ridges Moraine. Why is it so necessary now? Why do we need another highway going nowhere? I’m a small ‘C’ conservative with non partisan objectives. Doug Ford to me has become nothing more than Trump Lite North. I just don’t know who would replace him.
Even though this is an up-hill battle, I too strongly believe in protection of our precious, yet dwindling, wetlands and once “protected” Greenbelt.Ford and his cronies have b-st’d in the past, and will keep doing so.
Please, let’s keep up the “good fight”and stop this disastrous Bill 23.
Heartbreaking and frustrating. Are the mayors of Ontario municipalities helping to destroy Bill 23 with actions they can take. Like not providing the infrastructure that the development would need. One mayor who knows local politics chided Mr. Clark who has been telling lies about the ins and outs of development, where there is no need to destroy the Greenbelt. Has there been a poll on the conservative MPPs as to their stand on this matter and have they been outed. Mr Cho who represents my area doesn’t care if people live on the street in North York ~ he refused to release a large number of housing units that were stored in a TTC parking lot!!! So he is not help. You can publish my name and my comments if you want.
Thank you ONTARIO NATURE for trying to protect our environment and forcing the Government to
be accountable for their actions.
Letter to the Editor 19 January, 2023
Regarding Bill 23
Prior Mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion, at 101 yrs of age, has just stated that Mr. Ford’s plans to ‘open up our GREENBELT’ in Bill 23, are “brave and necessary”. The word ‘necessary’ usually refers to situations that are nearing a ‘last resort’ or that imply ‘imminent consequences’. Neither of these situations apply here. It has been repeatedly pointed out that there are already parcels of land available for housing; “There is a mountain of evidence to show that we have tens of thousands of hectares of land within existing urban boundaries throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe that are already within boundaries zoned for development,” (Toronto Star Jan.19, 2023)
As for the word ‘brave’, there is a fine line between what is ‘brave’ and what is ‘foolhardy’, the difference is seen at once, by some, but only much later by others.
I must question how ‘Developers’ managed to purchase ‘Protected Green Belt lands’ and why a ‘Developer’ would make such a purchase?
With these other ‘parcels of land’ available for development, there is no ‘necessity’ at this time to destroy any of our precious and ‘protected’ Greenbelt and there is nothing ‘brave’ about needless destruction!!!.
Hard to comment without sounding pessimistic. The elephant in the room is the fact that there’s too many people on the planet, and pressure on landscapes everywhere will only increase especially with degrading environmental conditions. That being said, it’s unbelievable that our politicians can’t see beyond the next election (which can’t come to soon). Here’s hoping that new ‘attention’ to Indigenous People will force a change in the criminal behavior of our current politicos; maybe naive optimism on my part….Cheers Kal.
Hopefully, the Auditor General, Integrity Commissioner and federal government all throw a wrench into Premier Ford’s foolish plans for developing the Greenbelt. It ain’t over till it’s over, Doug!
What is being done to move forward in further protest? And how can we (me) help?
Thank you for your question. You can join the Alliance for a Livable Future (an Alliance of people and groups representing hundreds of thousands of Ontarians from many different sectors) to learn about upcoming events and protests against Bill 23, the Greenbelt land grab, and more. You could also join a protest in your community (follow us on social media @ontarionature where we amplify protests/events from other environmental groups) or contact your MPP. Lastly, please help us spread the word about this issue! The more people we reach, the better.
We are monitoring the Environmental Registry of Ontario closely. We will post updates via our Advocate for Nature email list (ontarionature.org/take-action/advocate-for-nature/) and social media, so stay tuned.
– ON Melina
I am extremely saddened that bill 23 was passed. Everyone I talk to is in opposition to highways and houses being built in the green belt it’s beyond words.
I am extremely saddened that bill 123 was passed. Everyone I talk to is in opposition to highways and houses being built in the green belt it’s beyond words.