Two local climate groups will host a travelling protest across our area on Friday, to fight Bill 23.
Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) and Almaguin Climate Action are calling on Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Graydon Smith, to “fight like hell” to have the bill rescinded.
The “More Homes Built Faster Act,” which was passed by the province in November, has been decried by critics for removing many requirements on how and where developers can build, including on natural areas and lands prone to flooding, as well as who they consult.
“This bill needs to be pulled, and that’s going to be our message,” says Sue Mackenzie, co-founder of CAM. “We have the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry [in our riding] and we’re calling on him to protect the natural resources in Muskoka and across Ontario. That’s what his responsibility is, and we really don’t think that he has fought this bill the way he should, for Muskoka.”
Under the new law, Mackenzie says municipalities have their hands tied on enforcing requirements on developers and charging development fees. Since those charges are needed to build infrastructure which supports those developments, she says the fees will likely be passed down to the taxpayer.
The province says the bill is required to reach its goal of building 1.5-million homes in 10 years, and in turn address the affordable housing shortage. However, Mackenzie says it does very little to help those who need it.
“Think about who it is that is going to be able to buy a standalone house in a suburb of Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, or Huntsville,” says Mackenzie. “Developers don’t build houses to give them away, they build them to make as much profit as they can.”
Mackenzie notes that all of Muskoka’s municipalities, including the District of Muskoka, have passed climate emergency resolutions to limit greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. She adds that Smith, in his time as Mayor of Bracebridge, voted in favour of those resolutions at both the town and district levels.
“I’m devastated that he would be able to put aside what he purported to believe in as far as protecting our environment and taking really serious climate action,” says Mackenzie. “I really am devastated by the fact that I haven’t even seen that he’s spoken up, and we want him to go back and fight like hell to get this bill rescinded. It has to be rescinded. It’s just a devastating bill for Ontario and our future.”
The protest starts from the Sundridge Post Office at 9:30 a.m. Friday, going to the Burk’s Falls Post Office at 10:15, Huntsville Town Hall at 11:15, Bracebridge Memorial Park at 12:20, and closing with a walk to Smith’s constituency office to hand-deliver their letters. Mackenzie urges residents in the riding to contact Smith however they can to voice their concerns with Bill 23.
“It can be one sentence, it doesn’t have to be a long letter, you don’t have to know a huge amount about this issue,” says Mackenzie. “Of course, we’d like them to put their body out there and come join us, and actually let Graydon know in person. But have your voice be heard, because if you don’t, you will be living with what is coming down the tubes.”
While he will not be at his office to receive the letters, Smith says he’s happy to hear constituents voice their concerns, and is open to meeting with the two groups.