Rally against Ford government’s Bill 23 taking place in Peterborough on Saturday

Opposition continues to build against proposed housing construction legislation that includes stripping away environmental protections

Ontario's Greenbelt includes two million acres of protected land including farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. (Photo: Greenbelt Foundation website)
Ontario's Greenbelt includes two million acres of protected land including farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes. (Photo: Greenbelt Foundation website)

Opposition continues to build against the Ford government’s proposed legislation aimed at speeding up housing construction, with a protest rally in Peterborough planned for Saturday morning (November 26).

Saturday’s “Rally against Bill 23” will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the intersection of Lansdowne and Park streets.

Bill 23, also called the More Homes Built Faster Act, proposes sweeping changes that include restricting the powers of conservation authorities to prevent development on environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, reducing the fees developers pay to municipalities (including development charges, parkland dedication fees, and community benefit charges), restricting the planning role of upper-tier municipalities, and allowing the provincial government to override municipal planning decisions.

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The proposed legislation was introduced on October 25, the day after municipal elections in Ontario, and will likely pass before many newly sworn-in municipal councils have had an opportunity to review its impacts.

Since the legislation was introduced, the Ford government has also announced plans to allow 50,000 new homes in parts of the province’s protected Greenbelt, breaking past promises to protect the lands, and introduced new legislation that would allow the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto to propose or amend certain municipal by-laws related to prescribed provincial priorities with just a third of council votes.

While the Ford government claims the measures are needed to address the province’s housing crisis and to meet its goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next decade, the proposals have resulted in opposition from a wide range of groups such as conservation authorities, environmental organizations including the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and Ontario Nature, planning experts, housing advocates, and the Association of Ontario Municipalities as well as individual municipalities.

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“Locally, groups such as OPIRG-Peterborough, For Our Grandchildren, and Reimagine Peterborough are raising their voices against Bill 23 and its implications,” reads a media release from rally organizer Mary Ellen Abberger. “The changes to provincial policies and legislation that are proposed in Bill 23 do very little to support affordable housing, while seriously undermining Indigenous and public participation rights, environmental protections, and municipal finances and planning capabilities.”

According to organizers, the purpose of Saturday’s rally “is to raise awareness of the threats imposed on our rights, our communities, and our natural heritage if Bill 23 is passed, and to help concerned citizens find ways to engage with this issue in an informed and productive way.”

“The rally also aims to highlight the interconnections between environmental and housing rights issues. We hope to educate and spread information about Bill 23 as widely as possible, as it is a bill that will affect a wide range of sectors and communities across the province.”

In addition to the morning rally against Bill 23, another rally on housing rights and affordable housing is also planned for 1 p.m. at Confederation Park in downtown Peterborough.