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LETTER: Bill 23 rings environmental 'alarm bells'

'Hiding these provisions within an omnibus bill is such a sly way of passing legislation,' says letter writer
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MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at andrew@midlandtoday.ca Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is a letter to the editor and an open letter to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.
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Dear Ms. Dunlop, Mr. Piccini, Mr. Clark,

I am writing today to be part of the public consultation and to voice my concerns and opposition to parts of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.

We all recognize the need for more housing as our population continues to grow. Providing it was a plank in every party’s platform and this act represents the current government’s attempt to fulfil their promise about this issue and I can appreciate that. However, some of the provisions ring alarm bells for those of us concerned about fragile environments. Specifically:

  • Changing the wetland evaluation system and redefining what provincially significant wetlands are. If the new legislation is approved, many wetlands no longer meet provincially significant wetland status. The degradation of wetlands has cumulative impacts on the watershed; green infrastructure will be weakened, native plants and animals will be displaced, migration and breeding grounds will be disrupted, climate change resiliency in the watershed will be reduced. As a resident in Orillia, the already noticeable degradation of Lake Simcoe and its fragile surroundings are close to my (and hopefully yours, Ms. Dunlop’s) heart, but this will affect many towns across the province. Certainly, it will have a negative impact in your areas, Mr. Piccini and Mr. Clark.
  • Gagging the role of conservation authorities. Conservation authorities will be prohibited from entering into agreements with municipalities to comment on natural heritage, and select aspects of stormwater management reviews. And, they will no longer be able to rule against any development permit if it is on environmentally protected land or in wetlands. This is going to result in significant environmental loss, and the poor folks’ homes that are built there will pay the price. Additionally, while conservation authorities will be able to comment on natural hazards for new developments under the Planning Act, there is a proposal to exempt developments that have Planning Act approvals from natural hazard permits.

I also worry that these responsibilities will potentially be downloaded to municipalities, who have neither financial/staffing capacity nor expertise in water resources engineering, environmental planning and regulatory compliance.

Finally, hiding these provisions within an omnibus bill is such a sly way of passing legislation. (All parties seem to do it, but that does not make it anything but bad practice.) As is saying that the government is increasing the amount of protected land in the proposed swap, when it is a fact that those additional lands are already protected.

As my representative, Ms. Dunlop, and all of you as cabinet ministers, I ask that you bring these concerns to light and have the legislation revisited.

Janet Campbell
Orillia

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