Groups are rallying across the province against the Ford government’s Bill 23 | Rare Techy


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Critics say that if Bill 23 becomes law, it would leave just one of the 100 wetlands in the Bay of Quinte region under protection.

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A number of protesters gathered outside Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith’s office early Thursday morning to voice their opposition to Bill 23.

Protesters sign petition forms and letters outside MPP Todd Smith’s office in Prince Edward County on Thursday. ALEX FILIPE

Titled the Building More Homes Faster Act of 2022, Bill 23 is described by the Ford government as part of a long-term strategy to increase housing supply and provide affordable housing options. It aims to remove 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt area, replacing it with 7,400 acres of Urban River Valley sites and an additional 2,000 acres of Paris Galt Moraine Lands.

The bill also seeks to reduce the role of conservation agencies by imposing new restrictions on what they are allowed to comment on, particularly on floods and other natural hazards.

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“If this bill goes through, no affordable housing will be built … we have to fill. There’s a lot of vacant land in municipalities that can [be made into] affordable housing,” said Lori Borthwick, a member of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and president of the Ontario Bay of Quinte Green Party. “This is a real gift to developers of high-end housing on our remaining wetlands, farmland and green space.”

Protesters opposed the Ontario Bill 23 rally outside MPP Todd Smith’s office in Prince Edward County on Thursday. ALEX FILIPE

The bill also makes changes to the Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System (OWES), the official procedure for determining important wetlands and their boundaries. OWES uses four categories to evaluate wetlands, biological, social, hydrologic, and special features. Under Bill 23, OWES would add new guidance related to wetland reassessments and updating assessed wetland boundary mapping, making changes to better recognize the professional opinion of wetland assessors and the role of local decision makers and other housekeeping tasks to ensure consistency. .

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“According to Quinte Conservation, there are 100 provincially significant wetlands [in the region] right now,” said Amy Bodman, president of Prince Edward County Naturalists. “Based on the new OWES rating, we get one.”

“Our wetlands are an important part of our natural infrastructure,” Bodman continued. “They protect our coastlines and recharge groundwater aquifers. Not only that, but they also remove pollutants from it.

Protesters opposed the Ontario Bill 23 rally outside MPP Todd Smith’s office in Prince Edward County on Thursday. ALEX FILIPE

On November 24, the period for commenting on the draft’s main legislative changes ended. However, the comment period for the proposed changes to the Greenbelt Plan and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan ends on December 4, 2022.

“I hope [MPP Todd Smith] is strongly in favor of it being a hard sell in our area because we have a lot of people who are quite upset about it,” Borthwick said. “We need biodiversity. We want to protect 30 percent of the land by 2030 and we’re going in the opposite direction.

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