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Community Members outside the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Building on Water Steet in Peterborough on November 16th, 2022. Photo credit: David King.

Community Members, Activist Groups Speak Out Against Bill 23 at Rally at Ministry of Natural Resources Office

Written by
David King
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November 21, 2022
Community Members, Activist Groups Speak Out Against Bill 23 at Rally at Ministry of Natural Resources Office
Community Members outside the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Building on Water Steet in Peterborough on November 16th, 2022. Photo credit: David King.

The courtyard of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry office was crowded with protestors on November 17th, as community members and environmental activists rallied to repeal Bill 23. The More Homes Built Faster Act threatens the Greenbelt with the proposed development of homes with the impetus of supporting immigration demands. Critics and conservation groups have spoken out against the Bill, with community members citing it as an incentivizing measure that will line the pockets of development companies.

The Bill is an assemblage of other acts and regulations that affect a variety of pre-existing policies and plans for housing, especially at the municipal level. Presented as a streamlined solution to build more homes faster, it does little to address issues like affordable housing or urban sprawl, and further contributes to unsustainable urbanization practices. Many view this move by the province as an encroachment on municipal power, restricting municipalities to a top-down model of governance that would allow the provincial government to have more sway at the cost of municipal autonomy. 

Activists and organizers braved the cold to speak out against the Act, and present the myriad of potential issues this Bill’s passage poses, including environmental concerns for watersheds, protected lands, and exacerbating housing affordability in communities experiencing their respective housing crises. Ian Attridge, a professor of environmental law at Trent University, was a keynote speaker at the rally, explained the situation while expressing the potential consequences of this bill. 

“Protection will be removed from the Greenbelt, undermining the permanence of the whole Greenbelt plan and causing costly sprawl, [with a] low tide of urban boundaries,” Attridge said before shedding light on the “loss of expert input to the fatality upon development applications of natural heritage and pollution.” 

City of Peterborough Town Ward Councillor Joy Lachica was present as well. Lachica noted that the Ford government is using current negotiations with CUPE as a smokescreen for this Bill's passage. “We believe in sustainability. We believe in building and nurturing and protecting our green spaces more than anything else,” she told the crowd.

The rally then opened the floor for public comments from community members. Activists spoke on solutions, with a focus on developing rent-geared-to-income housing, reducing urban sprawl, and increasing the walkability of cities to reduce vehicle reliance. Many also spoke on how this Bill reveals its profit incentivizing for housing development companies, and how that threatens protected lands with little public consultation. 

One speaker in particular made a point of describing how Bill 23 will eliminate municipal green building standards, citing how “what is good for affordability can also be good for mitigating climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Community member Robert Gibson went on to present how Bill 23 undermines international agreements in regards to addressing the ongoing climate crisis, and how it contradicts Canada's commitment to the 2015 Paris accord.

"We are outraged at the lack of consultation, as this [bill] violates multiple treaty agreements and endangers unceded land," said Cathy Mitchell of Sacred Water Circle, a local non-profit initiative that utilizes partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous volunteers and Indigenous teachings to advocate for water's recognition as a sacred resource. Mitchell went on to emphasize how the provincial government sought no input from citizens, especially from Indigenous communities affected by this Bill. 

Another protest is being organized by community groups on Saturday Nov. 26 from 10am to noon, at Lansdowne and Park streets, with parking at Morrow Park.

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