Have you heard about Bill 66, or have you been hearing the phrase “Open for Business”? Our current Conservative Government is heralding this bill as the answer to increasing jobs and bringing businesses to Ontario. However, the complexities within the bill will actually allow for large businesses and developers to legally destroy the remaining protected Greenbelt and pollute waterways, by eliminating the bylaws and legislature enacted to protect the land
The legislation of Bill 66 will allow developers to attack valuable Greenbelt lands and waterways through changes to the current Provincial Planning Act. Without the protection of respective By-laws and appropriate legislation green spaces and farmland are prime areas for development, thus worsening urban sprawl. As Niagara citizens we see the expansion of big box stores, fast food chains, and subdivisions creeping their way into the countryside. At the same time a plethora of vacant storefronts, abandoned, and demolished buildings already plague our urban centres. There should be mandatory infilling and redevelopment of these spaces, before we lose an acre more to urban sprawl. The unfortunate reality is big business is not going to bother paying for multilevel architectural designs, or custom retrofits, when it is cheaper to clear some land and plop a box down. These companies are not going to forgo profits to do the honourable thing. We definitely don’t need the elimination and reduction of legislation that comes with Bill 66. Instead we need stronger legislation that will force (or “legally guide”) developers to build with an environmentally sustainable future in mind.
Given the current global state, people are becoming actively mindful, conscientious, or at least aware of their ecological footprint. It seems unnecessary to explain why the model of urban sprawl is unsustainable. Why would we support a bill which will encourage sprawl at a time when we are supposed to be concerned with climate change and reducing the amount we drive? Cities within the Niagara Region are already spread out, and it is extremely difficult not to hop in your automobile to complete some aspect of your daily life. Building more peripheral businesses and subdivisions places more dependence on our gas guzzling automobiles. Bill 66 will encourage the wrong type of development in terms of combating climate change.
One of the most frightening aspects of Bill 66 is that it will further the lack of transparency between the government and the public. According to ontarionature.org this bill and the “open for business” planning by-laws will eliminate processes of public notice and involvement when passing certain by-laws. The new by-laws will also overrule the existing by-laws and Official Plans of the cities facing the developments. Citizens will even lose the ability to appeal against developments in their area. Let’s not forget Bill 66 will apply to all 414 municipalities across the province.
So many of us enjoy hiking with our dogs, camping, and having nature escapes at our fingertips. We value the rural areas and farmland Niagara’s unique climate provides. We can’t forget how these pastimes and food systems are intrinsically connected to the lands Bill 66 will be jeopardizing. Let’s force development and large business to expand and grow with social and environmental integrity, in a way that protects our farms, forest, and waterways. Please take the time to oppose Bill 66 by February 19, or please take the time to conduct a little research and form your own opinion.
Bill 66 can be read on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s website by googling “ola.org” and “Bill 66”. While a succinct breakdown of the concerning points within Bill 66 can be found on Ontario Nature’s website, ontarionature.org. A quick google search of “Bill 66 what you need to know” will lead you to their exact webpage that provides a simple link to a prewritten letter of opposition to your local MPP. Personalized letters/e-mails of opposition to your local representative (MPP) are also encouraged.