The state government is in the process of ratifying Bill 23, a law to build more homes faster. This is an omnibus bill primarily concerned with expediting or withdrawing legal proceedings to make more residential land available. Unfortunately, it’s done at the expense of the environment and the democratic process.
Some of the main features of the bill are:
- Exempt land developers from development costs and make local governments bear the costs.
- Removes powers of conservation agencies to grant or withhold permits to build in regulated areas.
- Denies the right of individuals and civil society to appeal to the Ontario Land Court.
As a citizen of Ontario, we are facing the most anti-environmental government policy continuation since the global climate crisis became a major international issue. This is expressed in Bill 23 by rendering the Conservation Authority (CA) ineffective. CA has become a leading advocate for special environments for species survival and human protection. Contamination protection has been withdrawn. Areas of their land must be submitted for sale. CA budgets are frozen.
Why would the state government want to interfere with CA’s work? Not because there isn’t enough land to build a house on. All Golden Horseshoe municipalities have updated their official plans to incorporate thousands of acres of green space into their city boundaries. The government’s actions suggest that it doesn’t want to put restrictions on where it can build, but it also wants to put environmentalists in their place.
The opposite is true as far as their favorite business sector, land developers, is concerned. Withdrawal of planning powers from local governments and the new incapacity of CAs makes it easier and faster for CAs to approve plans and increase their wealth. With Bill 23 making all types of land available for construction, this strongly suggests that the government is in favor of costly, boring and carbon-polluting urban sprawl. I’m here.
The state government’s anti-environmental agenda is a classic example of this government’s authoritarianism. We have not consulted Bill 23 with the key affected stakeholders, including the Ontario Municipal Association, the provincial metropolitan mayors’ group, and Nature Ontario. Total disregard for citizen environmental groups.
Even though these measures were barely mentioned in recent elections, the government is rushing the bill through the parliamentary process, addressing complex issues such as the relationship between housing expansion and responding to the climate crisis. You haven’t given us enough time to consider. As long as the policy always favors land developers, I believe it’s fine, so why bother?
When governments consistently act in these ways, it becomes clear that this is their view of how to govern. They expect and demand that everyone follow their decisions because they think they know perfectly well what is best for the state. Democracy no longer exists in this scenario.