We need you to speak out against Bill 23

David Laing speaking on Bill 23 at the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy on November 10, 2022

Yesterday I had the privilege to present to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy regarding Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act 2022 that is currently in second reading at the Ontario Legislature.

As stated in a previous article this Bill, unless substantially altered, has the potential to inflict massive environmental damage on communities all across this province but especially on those in the greater Toronto area. Below is the text of my opening remarks to the Committee. If you are like me and believe in building communities that are healthy and happy through environmental, social and economic sustainability, then I urge you to let your MPP know that Bill 23 needs a significant overhaul. An easy way to do that is through the David Suzuki Foundation’s letter campaign.

“Chair and members of Committee, thanks for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.

My name is David Laing. I’m here representing the Brampton Environmental Alliance or BEA. The BEA is a not-for-profit organization. I’m the President, a volunteer position. I’m not paid to be here.

The purpose of the BEA is to help Brampton along its path to be a sustainable community. A sustainable community is a place that is healthy and resilient, economically, environmentally, and socially, a place where people want to live and work both now and in the future.

Beyond basic needs of food, clean air, water, a livable climate, safety, job opportunities and affordable shelter, people want a community that is vibrant, aesthetically pleasing, with opportunities for health and happiness. Nature and easy access to natural surroundings is a big component of human health and happiness

Jane Goodall, the famous primate ethnologist, once said, “Let us recognize that the health of people, animals, and the environment are connected. Let us show respect for each other, for the other sentient animals and for Mother Nature.”

Achieving health and happiness is all about balance and therein lies the problem with Bill 23. Bill 23 is not environmentally or socially balanced, especially when placed in the context of other Provincial government actions such as:

  • backtracking on the promise not to touch the greenbelt,
  • plans to re-carbonize Ontario’s electricity grid through gas plant expansions,
  • cancelling renewable energy projects,
  • spending millions fighting the federal government’s carbon pricing model even though many economists, including Canada’s own eco-fiscal commission recognize carbon taxation as an effective and inexpensive approach to reducing carbon pollution.
  • opting for a nuclear, notwithstanding clause tool to fend off legitimate strike action.

Under this bill, parkland will be compromised, natural habitat such as forests and wetlands will be compromised, watershed water quality will be compromised, farmland and food security will be compromised, species at risk will be compromised, housing standards will be compromised, all so this government can say it is cutting red tape, taking bold action to provide more affordable homes. It’s not balanced when the only people who seem to be happy with this Bill are the developers and construction companies.

Yes, we need to add more people into the Canadian economy, yes we need to find affordable places for everyone to live, but we must do it sustainably maintaining balance, economically, socially and environmentally.

And there are options to the development free-for-all that this bill would create. Land use management experts, far smarter than I say we can accommodate the population growth for decades to come, staying within existing urban boundaries and without having to sacrifice greenbelt or environmentally sensitive areas.

It would take a little more density and resetting expectations to counteract the demand for urban/suburban sprawl type development that is not realistic, not affordable, and not sustainable.

It would take challenging developers who have been sitting on large tracts of land, sometimes for decades. In many cases it’s developer delay rather than municipal or conservation authority red tape. I’ve been told that Brampton alone has over 13,000 permits waiting to be pulled by developers. I assume that means the projects are all ready to go except the developer is waiting for the right market timing

Let’s modify Bill 23 to challenge developers, builders, municipalities, conservation authorities and other stakeholders to be more creative with the land, to encourage the creation of livable cities and compact connected communities, that will generate higher revenues per hectare at a lower servicing cost per hectare and facilitate smaller commutes, more greenspace, lots of recreational activities, and healthier, happier people.

I implore you, to please bring Bill 23 into social, environmental, and economic balance by:

  • Allowing Conservation Authorities to continue to be an integral part of the development review process
  • Committing to protecting municipal Green Development Standards that are at risk due to changes to the Site Plan process
  • Committing to a policy statement that ensures there is no loss of wetlands in Ontario
  • Providing resources to municipalities to address staffing gaps due to the downloading of natural heritage roles from the Conservation Authorities and Province.

Thank you.”

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