Bill 23, an attack on a Sustainable Brampton

Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act is the Ontario Government’s latest omnibus bill that is being fast tracked through the Provincial legislature. Purportedly designed to reduce red tape and allow developers to build 1.5 Million homes over the next 10 years, this bill proposes sweeping changes to multiple provincial statutes in support of the government’s “Housing Supply Action Plan”.

There are a few positive aspects to Bill 23 including:

  • Increasing the non-resident speculation tax rate from 20 to 25 percent;
  • Building more density near transit;
  • Doubling maximum fines for unethical builders and vendors of new homes who unfairly cancel projects or terminate purchase agreements;
  • Allowing existing homes to be sub-divided into three additional units or two units if there is a separate residence on the same property.

On the other hand Bill 23, if passed as it stands today, will:

  • encourage suburban sprawl;
  • burden existing property tax owners with much of the cost of servicing new homes;
  • reduce developers’ responsibility for reserving parkland and building recreational amenities in underserviced areas;
  • have devastating environmental repercussions related to climate change, species at risk, and loss of natural habitat.

Rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands do not naturally conform to municipal boundaries. Currently, Conservation Authorities have jurisdiction over entire watersheds and are largely responsible for ensuring the protection of ecological function of habitat within those watersheds. Bill 23 proposes to restrict Conservation Authority powers that go beyond threats directly related to flooding and erosion. Things like water quality, habitat protection, protection of biodiversity and species at risk would be removed from their mandate. It would leave much of Ontario’s environmentally sensitive lands unprotected. For Brampton, this would include wetland areas along Heart Lake Road which is now ranked seventh in importance on the Province’s significant wetland list.

The proposed legislation would also remove current restrictions on the sale of lands currently owned by Conservation Authorities. In Brampton this could mean portions of the Claireville or Heart Lake Conservation Area could be sold for development.

Not only would Conservation Authorities be unable to protect wetlands and other sensitive habitat from being destroyed by development, this bill would actually prohibit them from providing consultation or advice to municipalities, like Brampton, as they consider the ecological impact of land use approvals. Brampton would need to hire its own staff of ecologists, hydrologists and other scientists to replicate the expertise currently being provided by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority.

This solution would be inefficient, expensive and potentially unaffordable to many smaller jurisdictions such as Orangeville where most of the source water for the Credit River comes from. Effectively, ecological impact would be relegated to the “back burner” as a priority, even more so than it is today. With multiple jurisdictions handling the environmental impact of their planning applications in different ways, it’s easy to see that dramatic environmental degradation would result.

Currently municipal governments charge developers a levy for each approved project. These fees are designed to help pay for infrastructure projects including land services, (water, waste water, storm water), building recreational facilities, connecting roads and trails and other amenities that improve the quality of life for a community. Often it takes many development projects over several years for municipalities like Brampton to accumulate sufficient funds for large projects such as the bigger community recreation facilities or to buy up land to create connected parkland.

Brampton’s 2040 Vision includes an interconnected eco-park that would serve as a nature corridor allowing bio-diversity to flourish. Possibilities for this eco-park would include the now decommissioned Brampton Orangeville rail line, or a trail along the Credit River connecting to existing trails in Mississauga and Caledon, or a trail connection from Claireville to Albion Hills along the West Humber watershed. Under Bill 23, municipalities would be required to spend 60% of the collected development charges each year, limiting their ability to fund these projects.

Perhaps more importantly, developers would be exempt from paying these fees on developments that include social housing. What this would mean is that there would be no motivation to provide recreational or naturalized amenities to vulnerable populations who arguably need it the most.

Perhaps the worst part of Bill 23 is that it doesn’t impose higher density requirements as a general rule. What this means is that single family homes on larger lots will be the development project of choice in many instances. This urban-sprawl type development all but guarantees higher property taxes for existing residents and accelerated environmental degradation. It also means Ontario will not be able to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets as mandated by Canada’s climate plan.

And, if all of this news isn’t bad enough on the environmental front, this past Friday, the Ontario government announced it would be releasing 7,400 acres of Greenbelt land for development including areas in Peel Region that are currently protected. This is something the Conservative government promised it would not do. Greenbelt lands were supposed to be sacrosanct, protected in perpetuity. This reversal sets a dangerous precedent, effectively threatening the future of the entire Greenbelt.

What can you do?

1) Sign this Action Letter by Environmental Defence opposing Bill 23 (60 second action): https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/116359/action/1?ea.tracking.id=eblast&ea.url.id=6126168&forwarded=true

2) Flood your MPP’s offices with calls and emails to oppose Bill 23 and taking away protected greenbelt lands. Use this rapid tool to find your MPP and contact information: https://www.ola.org/en/members#findtrouver

3) Send a written submission opposing Bill 23 to the Standing Committee by 7PM ET Thurs Nov 17/22 to:
https://www.ola.org/en/apply-committees

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