There are significant, long lasting and extremely harmful environmental changes being considered and enacted by the provincial government. One thing is clear: now is the time to be alert and take action.
We owe a huge thanks to volunteer advocates in our community like the Grand River Environment Network (GREN) and 50×30 WR who are mobilizing the fight against Bill 23 and the Greenbelt changes. Environmental and professional organizations have also come out strongly against changes to the Greenbelt that would sacrifice pristine natural areas. While the government argues these changes will encourage more homes to be built, architects, urban designers and affordable housing advocates alike have said it will create more unaffordable and unsustainable sprawl.
Our community is a prime example of the harm that these changes can cause.
Through our Regional level of government, our three cities and four townships have done an exceptional job coordinating the growth of Waterloo Region. Fifty years of careful planning have helped to preserve farmland and intensify development in urban areas, where services and infrastructure exist.
All of that flies out the window with Bill 23, which will allow development in those areas we have preserved for farmland.
Bill 23 removes the ability for our area municipalities to plan together, encourages sprawl, and simultaneously limits the ability to pay for that sprawl through development charges. Property taxes will go up here and all over Ontario as a result. Decades of collaborative work and planning are being tossed aside.
Bill 23 also takes aim at conservation authorities. Unique to Ontario, agencies like the Grand River Conservation Authority take a watershed approach to protecting our waterways, in partnership with the municipalities and landowners along the length of the whole river. Under Bill 23, municipalities will not be able to consult their conservation authority on development applications to keep our essential environmental services preserved and to ensure that new homes are not built on floodplains.
What can you do?
Join hands with local organizations like:
- the Grand River Environmental Network (good info on the Regional Official Plan that is at risk)
- Hold the Line WR (includes an easy link to email provincial ministers and local MPPs) and
- 50 x 30 Waterloo Region (their website has lots of info, including videos of experts talking about Bill 23 & the Greenbelt)
Let’s speak up about these changes, attend rallies, get a lawn sign – whatever works for you. You can voice your concerns without having to become an expert – these organizations make it easy.
Finally, let’s all give our community a Christmas present by submitting a comment in support of our newly created Regional Official Plan, the product of much community consultation, before Jan 4, 2023. It is now at risk of being rejected by the province because of Bill 23.
The decisions we make today will affect our community for decades to come. Let’s pay attention to them.