Dozens of locals came together on Saturday, November 26 to protest Bill 23 – the More Homes Built Faster Act, which is part of the Ontario government’s plan to build 1.5 million new homes by 2031. The protest took place in front of MPP Nolan Quinn’s constituency office at 120 Second Street West from 1 to 3pm.
Jacqueline Milner, environmentalist and former Green Party candidate, and Warren Brownlee, a retired schoolteacher, organized the protest – one of many that took place at MPP offices across the province this weekend.
“The rally has been organized to get people from the community together to let our MPP know that we’re concerned about Bill 23. We’re concerned about our farmlands, our wetlands… those are the portions of Bill 23 that we don’t like. We’re concerned for our families, our grandchildren, the children of the future. That’s why we’re here,” explained Milner.
In attendance were city councilors Elaine MacDonald and Sarah Good. John Towndrow, Chair and Secretary of Transition Cornwall+, was also present.
“It’s a pretty good turnout for an issue like this in Cornwall. Being a highly conservative riding when you have this kind of pushback it says something.” noted Towndrow.
Both Sarah Good and Elaine MacDonald took the megaphone that day to speak to the crowd about their disapproval of Bill 23 and the repercussions they believe it will have for the City of Cornwall and the province.
“I think that Bill 23 has been framed by the Ford government as being ‘BOLD’ but bold just means reckless and shortsighted,” said Good, “This Bill removes our municipality’s ability to have oversight over green building standards and build a stock of housing that’s going to be sustainable for the future. I think this is unfortunately a way for them to line their pockets and gain control over something they really shouldn’t have control over.”
Councilor Elaine MacDonald shared similar concerns that the Progressive Conservative government is pushing new bills as ‘good news’ while they continuously pass on costs to municipalities and taxpayers. This is the case with the changes to development fees proposed as part of Bill 23.
“This doesn’t mean that its going to be cheaper for us to put in sewer lines and sidewalks and roads when there’s a new development. It means that the cost is not going to be the responsibility of the developer, it’s going to be the individual taxpayer,” said MacDonald.
“Of course, we can’t not mention the conservation authorities,” she added, “They were instituted after Hurricane Hazel (you know the devastation that rocked in Ontario), but the fact is that our conservation authorities are in the front lines protecting our water and precious resources and what they’re [the Ford government] doing is weakening the power of conservation authorities. This is a sorry bill for Ontario.”
Despite the backlash that the government has faced in recent weeks, Bill 23 was passed on Monday, November 28.
Already, the Green Party is calling for the government to repeal this bill, saying that, “Pushing this destructive piece of legislation through, despite widespread public opposition, and without meaningful consultation from the public, including Indigenous groups, is a dereliction of duty and inexcusable.”
In response to the passing of the bill, grassroots organizers across Ontario are now planning for a weekend of action on December 3 and 4.