OrilliaMatters received the following letter from from Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition regarding Bill 66 and the government’s argument that it’s needed to increase land available for employment. We welcome letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication).
There has been a lot of controversy recently regarding Premier Doug Ford’s proposed Bill 66, also called “An Act to Restore Ontario’s Competitiveness." On the surface, it is presented as a way to increase employment. We fully support this goal.
In Simcoe County, more local jobs would reduce the need to commute, helping people spend more quality time in their communities and with their families, which strengthens the fabric of our society.
While we fully support the goal of a healthy and prosperous Ontario, Schedule 10 of Bill 66 reads as if it were written in a backroom at Queen's Park by developers. Rather than support the health and future prosperity of Ontario, Bill 66 effectively wipes out decades of progress made in protecting water, farmland, natural heritage, and in prudent land-use planning meant precisely to ensure that our province is able to meet the demands of a growing economy far into the future.
How does Bill 66 fail so badly?
Schedule 10 includes policies that remove protections under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the Clean Water Act, the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine Acts, and the Places to Grow Act. It also removes basic principles of democratic decision making by allowing municipalities to approve development without either public notice or possibility of appeal. This, the government says, is needed to remove barriers to development to free up land on which to build for employment purposes.
This rationale doesn’t cut it.
Simcoe County has a surplus of land zoned for employment - so much that 130,000 new jobs can be accommodated. Indeed, the amount of land zoned for employment has gone up since 2010, to 122 per cent of what it was. Simcoe County’s own land budget analysis states that there is enough supply to meet demand.
If it isn’t needed for employment then what is the real reason for Bill 66?
This may have been revealed by MPP Will Bouma, who said he was excited about Bill 66 because “it will make it easier for people to get into homes." This slip of the tongue reminds us of the backroom video, leaked during the election, of (now Premier) Ford promising developers he would open up the Greenbelt.
There’s a good reason why many municipalities across Ontario have already rejected Bill 66: they know Ontarians are wealthy because of our healthy environment - our ability to rely on our healthy, locally grown food, clean water for drinking and recreation, and fresh air. An Ontario that sacrifices these assets is made poorer. Municipalities in Simcoe County have to step up and refuse to use Bill 66.
Adam Ballah and Margaret Prophet
Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition