Waterloo Region residents are fighting the Doug Ford government to keep housing off protected Greenbelt lands | Rare Techy
WATERLOO REGION – Colleen Cooper agrees that Ontario is in a housing crisis and needs to build more homes that people can afford.
But he thinks building on protected, undeveloped land is the wrong way to go about it. That’s why Cooper and her husband, David Cooper, are doing something they’ve never done before.
They are collecting signatures for a political petition that condemns the proposed legislation by the Progressive Conservative government.
“We’re going to (collect signatures) wherever they want us to go,” said David, attending Waterloo Public Square to collect blank petitions to be distributed by the provincial Green Party.
On Saturday, the Green Party called on residents to help petition against the bill, known as Bill 23. The petitions were made available to the public at four locations in the region and other locations across Ontario.
In Waterloo, about a dozen people responded, including some with no political allegiance or activist experience.
“The more I read about it, the more pity I see,” Colleen said. “I see threats to our wetlands. I see threats to our farmland. And I see threats to our environment. As a grandmother, I do that to my grandchildren.
This is also the first time that Arlene Reesor and her husband, Denis Taylor, have submitted a petition for signatures.
“We feel very passionately about the green belt,” Reesor said. Their son farmed and the couple lived near Markham, which is closer to the Greenbelt, a conservation land that stretches across southern Ontario.
“Maintaining agricultural land is very important,” Reesor said.
This area has been hit hard by the housing crisis. Brand-new home prices have risen 59 percent since 2016, the second-highest increase nationwide. New detached homes are now priced at a million dollars or more, out of reach for many.
In its broader plan to build 1.5 million homes over 10 years, Premier Doug Ford’s government is seeking to open up parts of the protected Greenbelt to housing while promising to expand protected land elsewhere. In addition, the government proposes to limit the contribution of nature conservation authorities and take other planning measures to build more houses.
“Our government is delivering on our commitment to Ontarians by cutting delays and red tape to build more homes faster,” Municipalities Minister Steve Clark said in announcing the plan.
The proposed changes to the Green Belt would not directly affect this area. There is only a small part of the Greenbelt in the southeast corner of the area near the Hamilton border. It would remain unaffected.
But local critics don’t want the preserve to open the door to development. They claim that there are other ways to build houses.
“The province is just making ridiculous decisions,” Rachelle Clinch said. He blames the housing shortage on speculation by developers and says there are sites ready to build affordable homes.
“This is about people at the top who are just making a profit,” Clinch said.