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EDITORIAL: Bill 23: A housing plan built on corruption (Dec. 2022)

December 13th, 2022 · No Comments

Back in 2018, Doug Ford spoke his truth and it was caught on camera. The reaction to that video was so swift and forceful that the premier was forced to make a promise: he would never touch the Greenbelt, he said. If we’ve learned anything about Doug Ford since then, it’s that saying one thing and doing another is standard practice, and promises are meant to be broken. In breaking his promise on the Greenbelt, Ford is inflicting incomparable damage on this province that extends from the land to our trust in democratic systems.

Current plans to pave the Greenbelt come under the auspices of solving the housing crisis. Announced by housing minister, Steve Clarke, Bill 23 is tagged as the More Homes Built Faster Act. Never mind the fact that Ontario’s own Housing Affordability Task Force reported last February with the following clear and concise conclusion: a shortage of land isn’t the problem. 

Despite this, more than 7000 acres of formerly protected land will be sacrificed to construct 50,000 new homes. The developers who bought the land back in 2018 will cash in while the province’s ability to combat climate change, manage watersheds, and protect wildlife will be greatly diminished. 

Bill 23 does so much more than allow for homes to be built where they shouldn’t. Bill 3, the Strong Mayor Act, and Bill 39, the Better Municipal Governance Act, are companion laws to Bill 23. They allow the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to adopt bylaws with the support of just one third of a council vote. This runs afoul of the fundamental tenet that legislation and bylaws should only be adopted by a 50 per cent plus majority and strips citizens of effective representation; it’s an affront to democracy in the name of a crisis.

Under the auspices of building more homes faster, provincial conservation authorities will lose their powers to comment on projects and be locked out of the process. Ford and his cronies will move as fast as they can to lay pavement—both for houses and the highway that no one wants but them. 

Bill 23 also deprives municipalities of development fees needed to finance growth. According to a recent staff report, Toronto will lose $230 million a year due to Bill 23. That’s a 20 per cent reduction over current rates. That’s less money for sewers, roads, and new green spaces.

Ostensibly, Bill 23 is about giving us more roofs over our heads that we can afford. Yet the province has dropped the “affordable” requirement for new developments to a maximum of five per cent. Compare that to the Westbank redevelopment of Mirvish Village at Bathurst and Bloor where the affordable component will be 40 per cent. We can thank the federal government for that one.

Wealthy developers, meanwhile, will get wealthier. After Ford’s first mention of the Greenbelt back in 2018, a group of them purchased $278 million worth of Ontario farmland—but they didn’t need to justify their purpose with any claims about growing food. 

The Ontario government should be answering questions about how it selected the choice 11 parcels of Greenbelt to be “liberated” for development. But they won’t, instead Premier Ford will keep hiding behind his majority. 

Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner spoke about Bill 23 and said, “this all smells,” and it does—in fact it stinks, of corruption and greed at its worst.


Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion