CommunityFeature

Greenbelt protest takes aim at provincial government

The provincial government’s Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, has been trumpeted in some circles as a way to lower the cost of housing, speed up the development approval process and increase supply to over one million new homes in 10 years and give a significant boost to the housing construction sector.

However, protesters who came out in force in the rain and gusty winds on Dec. 3 to take over a corner of Warden and Highway 7, organized by community activist Shanta Sundarason and supported by Markham city councillors, don’t see the bill in those favourable terms.

The bill proposes to open up for development select areas of the Greenbelt, a huge swath of protected land arching around the west end of Lake Ontario established in 2005 by the then-Liberal government.

While the government has indeed proposed to open up approximately 7400 acres — some of which are in York Region, it has also promised to add 9400 acres in other areas.

That’s not good enough, said the protesters, who claim that the bill itself is a “broken promise” that will do nothing to create affordable housing, bulldoze sensitive land and cause increased local taxes that will be required to cover the loss of development charges usually paid to the municipalities.

This last item is of particular concern to politicians as well as taxpayers among the protesters, and so they let their displeasure at the proposed law be known and demanded it be repealed.

The protest, one of a number around the province, comes after the City of Markham formally protested the bill in a letter presented to the province in late November. In it, the City of Markham asked for a halt to the passage of the bill or at least extensive changes, including an extended consultation process. The letter also extended specific concerns to changes to the Development Charges Act, the Heritage Act, the Greenbelt Act and the Conservation Authorities Act — all of which would be affected by Bill 23.

Ward 4 Councillor Karen Rea was one of the Markham officials in attendance. In addition to the above-noted concerns around loss of revenue for municipalities, she also expressed concerns about the perceived degradation of the democratic process, the environment and a failure to provide new rentals or affordable housing.

While the bill is still in the early processes of adoption, it is clear from the protesters in Markham and other areas that the fight might be a longer and more bitter one than the provincial government would like to see.

 

Photo: Councillor Karen Rea joined the many protesters on Dec. 3. She expressed her concerns about the perceived degradation of the democratic process, the environment and a failure to provide new rentals or affordable housing.

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