Grassroots organizers are holding rallies throughout the province, and a Stratford group are taking part, as opposition to Bill 23 ramps up.
Organized locally through the Perth County Sustainability Hub, with other local environmental and civic groups taking part, participants will rally at the office of Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae on Friday from 11 a.m. to Noon.
Perth County Sustainability Hub spokesperson Sharon Collingwood said Bill 23 has urban and rural residents united in opposition.
"The bill is an attack on cities and farmland and people understand that," she told StratfordToday.
The provincial Conservative government's controversial 'More Homes Built Faster' bill proposes removing protected Greenbelt land to build at least 50,000 new homes – contradicting pledges to avoid development of the protected lands.
Housing Minister Steve Clark announced earlier this month that the government is launching a 30-day consultation on removing about 7,400 acres in 15 different areas from the Greenbelt, which was created to protect environmentally sensitive regions from development.
Although Stratford is not part of the Greenbelt, which includes farmlands, wetlands, forests and watersheds, mainly in the Golden Horseshoe area, Collingwood said local residents see this as the tip of the iceberg in impacting rural land, particularly farmland.
"It's big news. Our local citizens groups are staying in touch on this and working together. We have people coming from London, Kincardine and Goderich."
Featured guest speaker at the rally is Sunil Puri, president of Local 351 of the National Farmers’ Union.
A second rally organized by the eco-team at Stratford District Secondary School is planned for Market Square, starting at around 3:30 p.m.
In addition to environmental impacts, the bill has caught the eye of the Association of Ontario Municipalities, which said the legislation would cost local municipal governments $5.1-billion over the next nine years in lost development charges. The bill would shift those billions in infrastructure charges currently covered by developers onto the backs of municipalities.
The government has targeted building 1.5 million homes in 10 years to help alleviate a housing shortage.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said last year he would not cut the protected area or do a land swap.
"I want to be clear: We will not in any way entertain any proposals that will move lands in the Greenbelt, or open the Greenbelt lands to any kind of development," he was quoted as saying.
The government is now proposing to add 9,400 acres to the Greenbelt elsewhere – including a portion of the Paris Galt Moraine and 13 urban river valleys in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – so when factoring in the land that would be removed, the Greenbelt would grow in size by 2,000 acres, Clark said.
"It's just such a betrayal," Collingwood said, noting Doug Ford said in 2018 that the Conservatives would not touch the Greenbelt.
"The people have spoken. I'm going to listen to them, they don't want me to touch the Greenbelt, we won't touch the Greenbelt," Ford was quoted as saying.
"We know politicians break promises, but a commitment to the planet is a completely different thing, it's reprehensible," Collingwood said.
Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development.
More information is available at this link: https://perthcountysustainability.ca/bill-23/rally-on-november-25/.
- With files from Canadian Press