Adam: Why isn’t Doug Ford listening to municipalities? | Rare Techy


The prime minister wants to increase housing – everyone agrees on the goal. But Bill 23 has caused huge concerns among local governments in Ontario.

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Would Premier Doug Ford listen for a moment? Hear the legions of concerned citizens across the province who have raised fears about the government’s controversial housing law being imposed on Ontario cities?

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There are complaints that Bill 23 violates municipal planning, imposes huge costs on municipalities, destroys wetlands and prevents affordable housing, but Ford isn’t listening. He controls the Ontario legislature and uses his majority to become increasingly autocratic.

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But being prime minister doesn’t mean he’s always right or knows best. Unfortunately, his “my way or the highway” attitude led him to rely on a clause that conflicted with provincial educators despite this. Instead of ending the strike, Ford’s overreach united Ontario workers, forcing him to climb down humiliatingly. It’s the same attitude that led to the decision to give the mayors of Ottawa and Toronto superpowers that no one asked for so they could veto council decisions. And it’s the same attitude that’s driving Bill 23, the Homes Built Faster Act, which aims to build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.

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Now Ford may or may not be around in another 10 years. But that’s not the point. The point is that Ford – and it really is Ford – is making seismic changes to municipal planning in Ontario without consultation. Sure, he is an elected leader, but he behaves undemocratically again and again and that should be alarming. We expect our drivers to listen and adjust – but apparently not Ford.

The prime minister wants to increase badly needed housing, and there isn’t a soul in the province who disagrees with that hope. But instead of listening, consulting and building consensus, Ford intends to dismantle municipal planning as we know it. And he does it no matter what anyone says. An association representing Ontario’s 444 municipalities has complained that it was not given an opportunity to make representations to the committee examining the bill. It worries about the long-term financial impact on cities. “Preliminary analysis shows costs for Ontario’s 29 largest municipalities could reach $1 billion annually between 2023 and 2031,” the association says.

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But Ford doesn’t want to hear it.

City of Ottawa staff say in their analysis that Bill 23 could cause a multi-million dollar revenue shortfall and potentially lead to the creation of new communities without making them livable.

But don’t think it’s just some woke urban poisoners complaining. More than 30 Eastern Ontario mayors, many of them from townships, have written to Ford asking him to hit the pause button because they have significant concerns. The signatories, including the chairmen of nature conservation authorities, fear that the law will reduce the authorities’ ability to protect wetlands, as developers will be given a free hand to develop in protected natural areas. The changes also put a huge strain on their ability to function.

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“We may not pay this price in 10 or 15 years. But there is no doubt that this legislation will lead to houses being built in dangerous areas,” says Carl Bickerdike, CAO of the South Nation Conservation Authority. “I don’t see how this bill is going to work for Eastern Ontario. They’re offloading responsibilities to municipalities,” adds South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis. “I don’t think people understand what an attack on the democratic process under the planning act,” agrees Mississippi Valley Sally McIntyre, Director General of the Nature Conservancy.

Newly elected Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has been silent on the growing tide of opposition, saying council needs to gather more information before taking any action. But Sutcliffe has already done a thorough analysis of the staff and that should be enough. The legislation could be breached at any time and Sutcliffe should speak out before it’s too late, if only for the record.

Mohammed Adam is an Ottawa journalist and commentator. Contact him at

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