Despite challenging weather conditions, concerned residents and community group members protested Bill 23 at MPP Will Bouma’s constituency office on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Protestors came to express their concerns with the provincial government’s seemingly risky proposals. A November 17 press release says residents spoke out about the province’s proposal to open up the Greenbelt for development. As well as troubling changes to the Planning Act that could put drinking water at risk, result in the unnecessary loss of wetlands, farmland and greenspace and significantly weaken conservation authorities.
Some of the protestors were from community grassroots groups including Brant for Nature, Better Brant, Langford Conservancy, Brant Land Trust, Greenbelt West Coalition and the Brant Tree Coalition.
“We have significant concerns about the ongoing actions by the provincial government that pander to a handful of developers while acting completely against the public’s best interest,” said Joan Faux, one of the rally organizers. “The potential loss of precious farmland and wetlands, carving into the Greenbelt for development and decimating the Grand River Conservation Authority and all Conservation Authorities across the province, is needlessly putting our children’s future at risk.”
According to the release, the rally is part of a collective effort of community groups across the province who share concerns about these recent provincial government actions.
“Rather than focusing on creating more sought after mid- and high-density ‘missing middle’ housing within urban boundaries that [are] already designated for development, Premier Doug Ford prefers to break his promise not to touch the Greenbelt, and pave over our precious farmland and wetlands leading to outdated, unsustainable expensive sprawl instead,” said Faux. “We need to protect our drinking water, our farmland and natural habitat as much as possible. We need more walkable communities, more affordable and more variety of housing types, enhanced public transit.”
Faux added that all of this is being put at risk by the current changes proposed by the Ford government.
Pop-up rallies were also held at Conservative MPP Offices in Fergus and Elmira the same day, attended by dozens of people who voiced similar concerns and anger about the provincial plans and the dismal environmental record of the provincial government.
Municipalities across Ontario have been expressing serious concerns about the provincial actions as well, with the Regions of York, Niagara and Waterloo, Prince Edward County and the cities of Waterloo, Collingwood, and Burlington each approving motions against Bill 23.
“The ecological systems that literally support our communities and our quality of life need to be protected,” said Mary-Lou Knechtel of the Brant Land Trust. “Residents of Brantford and Brant County are letting us know they are very upset by these plans and proposals that put ecological systems at risk, announced in a way that gives us very little time to react.”
Rally participants marched along Nelson Street and Clarence Street to the cheers and tooting horns of people supporting the many signs with messages such as, “Stop Bill 23,” “Protect Farmland,” “Protect Conservation Authorities,” and “Keep the Greenbelt Promise.”
More pop-up rallies and other initiatives are being planned to help ensure the people of Ontario are made aware of the serious issues and that our future is at stake.