Ottawa/Queen's Park




Dear Premier Ford and Minister Clark,

This Open Letter was written and sent to you yesterday (November 28) before Bill 23 was passed in the legislature.

It is not too late to reconsider this wrong-headed effort to build 1.5 million homes in Ontario over the next ten years – a great idea but a disastrous way to go about it.

Please read this appeal and act immediately to repeal Bill 23.

It is undeniable that Ontario is facing a housing crisis which will be more extreme each year that Canada admits around half a million immigrants and refugees. These newcomers are needed to power our economy, but obviously they all need homes.

However, based on what we read from reliable, professional sources and media commentators, it is clear to us that Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, will not achieve its objective.

And what’s more, experts assert that there is plenty of land available for development without destroying parts of our precious Greenbelt. Simply put, urban intensification is a better solution than urban sprawl.

But what’s even more important is that building more housing does not necessarily result in more affordable housing, unless affordable housing for low income earners is a targeted policy objective of the government.

A Globe and Mail editorial bluntly made the case against Bill 23:

“Stripping municipal voters of effective representation, removing once and for all the barrier to development in the Greenbelt, sidelining Conservation Authorities, transferring more infrastructure costs from developers to municipal taxpayers, and encouraging endless sprawl are not what any reasonable person had in mind when they called for a fix to the nation’s housing shortage.”

And this, of course, comes from a respected newspaper that cannot by any means be written off as left wing and radical.

We agree with the Globe and also the Canadian Environmental Law Association that has tabled many well-researched analyses, and has summed up the needs as follows:

  • The need to preserve the essential roles of conservation authorities and upper-tier municipalities in good planning and environmental protection,
  • The need for robust citizen engagement,
  • The need for an affordable equitable quality housing supply.

In our view, the emphasis of Bill 23 on car-dependent, single-family homes deep in suburban areas is misguided. This plan will simply encourage sprawl to a massive degree, making the GTA north of Toronto desperately dependent on cars. Part of your ‘solution’, the building of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, will exacerbate this problem.

Mr. Ford, in 2018 you backed away from a plan to open up the Greenbelt for developers.

You were quoted:  “The people have spoken, we won’t touch the Greenbelt.”

How do you justify your reversal of policy, given that the housing crisis, an obvious excuse, has been building for years?

Mr. Clark, you too professed to be firmly against opening up the Greenbelt to development.

“One short answer,” you said, “No.”

Gentlemen, thanks to Bill 23 your honesty and integrity are in question! And this will inevitably have political consequences.

What Ontario needs now is honest, transparent dialogue – a willingness by the government to listen to ordinary citizens and expert opinion. We urge you to put this bill on hold and immediately begin a robust consultation. 

In particular, we ask that you:

  • withdraw Bill 23 until this process unfolds,
  • renew your commitment to prohibit any development anywhere on the Greenbelt,
  • put the plans for Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass on hold,
  • reverse the decision to burden local governments with additional infrastructure costs from housing development,
  • reinstate the power of Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities to question,
  • and, if need be, halt developments that negatively impact their lands and the environment.

This is a long list because Bill 23 presents so many serious problems, as exhaustively documented by respected environmental experts. Please listen.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Craig, Owen Sound, and friends

(Editor's note: the original letter sent to the Premier and his Ministers included more than a dozen signatures.)




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