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'Not listening': Over 100 protest Bill 23 at MPP Dunlop's office

'Before, I was just writing letters; now I'm coming out,' said a resident on the recent passage of controversial Bill 23. 'I'll go to more, as many rallies as I need to'

About 100 residents picketed in front of Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop’s office Friday afternoon, days after the provincial government passed a controversial housing bill that will open up sections of Ontario’s Greenbelt to development.

Despite speaking against developing Greenbelt lands in 2018, Dunlop voted in favour of Bill 23 earlier this week.

"Everyone in Ontario should be able to find a home that is right for them, but too many people are struggling with the rising cost of living and with finding housing that meets their family’s needs. Ontario needs more housing, and we need it now," Dunlop told OrilliaMatters in a statement. "Bill 23 ... takes bold action to advance our plan to address the housing crisis by building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years."

"It would help cities, towns and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all Ontarians – from single family homes to townhomes and mid-rise apartments."

Though asked, Dunlop did not state why her position on developing Greenbelt lands has changed since 2018.

As local dignitaries and residents gave addresses at Friday’s protest, the crowd shouted “Where’s Jill?” numerous times in frustration.

Friday’s protesters added their voices to a plethora of residents, conservation authorities, and elected officials across Ontario who are concerned about the More Homes Built Faster Act and its implications for municipalities, affordable housing, and the environment.

Resident MJ Pollak argued homes should be built within cities, and not on undeveloped land.

“We don’t need homes out in the middle of fields that need roads paved out to them, hydro and sewers taken out to them, at a great cost to the municipality,” she told OrilliaMatters. “We need homes in cities and towns … we don’t need big, monster, single family homes out in the middle of fields.”

Pollak said Bill 23’s passage on Monday has only emboldened her to speak out further against it.

“Before, I was just writing letters; now I'm coming out,” she said. “I'll go to more, as many rallies as I need to.”

Former Beausoleil First Nation Chief Jeff Monague encouraged citizens to speak out against Bill 23.

“This is something that we have experienced as (Indigenous) people for a long, long time, what you're feeling right now,” he said. “The governments are not listening to us, (and) you should be really, really doing something about that. Why do you elect people that don't even show up for debate, will not show up and listen to you?”

City of Orillia officials recently stated the city could lose millions in development charges (DC) over the next decade through changes proposed in Bill 23, as it brings DC exemptions for various types of developments, as well as the removal of DC-eligible services, such as growth studies, land costs, and social housing.

“Reduced DC revenue will make it more challenging to fund growth-related infrastructure improvements, and that challenge will likely transfer a larger portion of growth-related infrastructure improvements from developers and new buyers to existing taxpayers,” said John Henry, the city's CFO/treasurer, at the time.

Local naturalist Bob Bowles, additionally, has expressed concern over how Bill 23 changes the process for evaluating and protecting wetlands, as well as downloading that responsibility onto municipalities when it has historically been a provincial responsibility.

Councillors Janet-Lynne Durnford and Jay Fallis were on hand at Friday’s protest and vehemently spoke against the bill.

“You all know the threats to the environment that Bill 23 poses, but it is also a threat to democracy,” Durnford said. “This bill takes away municipal planning, zoning and fee collection, tax collection authorities from municipalities. It essentially … puts (municipalities) in the position of subsidizing rich developers, and that is shameful.”

“The Ford government wants you to believe that this is a pro housing bill,” she said. “This is not a pro housing bill; this is a sprawl bill.”

Fallis called the bill “absolutely absurd” and said he will bring forward a motion to the next council meeting asking his fellow councillors for support.

“As a councillor, I believe it is my role to stay as neutral as possible (on provincial matters),” Fallis said.

“However, Bill 23 is absolutely the exception; I feel an obligation to speak out. Every day this bill continues to exist, it hurts every one of us. To know that the wetlands, the Greenbelt, all of our province is up for grabs to the highest bidder is absolutely absurd," said Fallis.

“Council is going to be considering a letter to be sent to the provincial government asking them to overturn Bill 23.”


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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