Bill 23 and Proposed Changes to Greenbelt
Bill 23 and Proposed Changes to Greenbelt: Bruce Trail Conservancy urges province to pause and consult
Bill 23, the proposed provincial More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, aims to increase housing supply through major changes to planning and conservation legislation.
The changes outlined in Bill 23 could result in permanent loss of connectivity of the Bruce Trail and the conservation corridor containing it. This is a serious concern for the Bruce Trail Conservancy and all those who enjoy the iconic 900 km Bruce Trail.
What is Bill 23?
On October 25, the Ontario provincial government proposed Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022. Its broad goals are to build 1.5 million homes by 2031 through major changes to planning and conservation legislation. The proposed Bill is being fast-tracked through the approval process and is currently at the second of three readings.
Included in the legislation are changes to the regulatory responsibilities of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities under the Conservation Authorities Act. These changes are intended to support faster and less costly approvals, streamline conservation authority processes, and help make conservation land available for housing.
In a related initiative, on November 4, the Ontario provincial government announced proposed changes to Greenbelt acreage, removing or redesignating areas of currently protected land to facilitate the development of 50,000 homes of the 1.5 million homes to be built via Bill 23.
Official Statement from the Bruce Trail Conservancy on the Proposed Bill 23Amidst the climate crisis, and at a time when people and communities need more greenspace, our hope is the Province will pause on Bill 23 and meaningfully engage with conservation authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that environmental protections remain in place, that the conservation authorities’ critical role in protecting watersheds and positive environmental outcomes is retained, and that continuity for the Bruce Trail conservation corridor is preserved.
The Bruce Trail Conservancy agrees that there is a housing supply and accessibility issue in Ontario that needs to be addressed. The Bruce Trail Conservancy supports the government’s commitment to reducing barriers to housing for all, and we are optimistic there can be a balance between the growing needs of communities and positive conservation outcomes.
Conservation authorities own approximately 147,000 hectares of land which are made up of important natural systems and biodiversity such as wetlands, forests, moraines, and ecologically sensitive lands. Conservation authorities’ watershed-based approach is recognized globally. Their expertise helps protect communities from the flooding impacts of climate change, right now.
Conservation authority lands also offer trails and other outdoor amenities that contribute to community wellbeing, including vital continuity for our iconic public footpath, the Bruce Trail.
We are honoured to work on land held and cared for by seven conservation authorities, representing 46 conservation areas along the Bruce Trail. Of the 70.2% of the 900 km Bruce Trail that is secured on permanently protected land, 25% or 146 km crosses conservation authority lands. The changes in Bill 23 could result in the permanent loss of the Bruce Trail and the conservation corridor containing it. This is a serious concern for the Bruce Trail Conservancy and all those who enjoy the iconic 900 km Bruce Trail.
We are proud to work in partnership with Ontario’s conservation authorities who share our commitment to fulfil the BTC’s mission, Preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever. Bill 23 needs to be re-examined to ensure a healthy environment for future generations.