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Environmental groups to rally against Bill 23 in Cambridge

Dec. 3 protest against Bill 23 will be at Cambridge City Hall at noon, led by the Greenbelt West Coalition
A few dozen protesters made up of environmentally focused groups and private citizens recently marched through Downtown Fergus to oppose Bill 23.

Anger over Bill 23 will return to Cambridge in force next week as the Greenbelt West Coalition hosts a rally at Cambridge City Hall to urge premier Doug Ford to keep his promise and protect the Greenbelt. 

The Dec. 3 event will hit the Dickson Street civic square at noon to drum up support to oppose the bill and the threat it poses to wetlands and the Greenbelt.

It is one of several pop-up rallies planned across southern Ontario over the weekend.

Opposition to the controversial legislation continues to grow a day after the province passed third reading of Bill 23 at Queen's Park; a move that clears the way for developers to bypass environmental restrictions, heritage considerations, development charges and local official plans to build more homes faster.

“Bill 23 was not introduced for the benefit of you and me. If it was, then Ontario would have subjected it to a proper consultation process instead of rushing the Bill through the legislature before municipal councils could even be sworn in to respond,” said Greenbelt West Coalition in a Facebook post. 

The coalition points out that Ford promised to “not touch the Greenbelt” and to find alternatives to building more housing. In a 2018 clip Ford talks about the Greenbelt, saying he would listen to the people and not think about touching it.

Four years later and priorities have changed, particularly the need for more affordable housing, which Municipal Affairs and housing minister Steve Clark said prompted the need for an omnibus bill that makes it easier for developers to build and reach the province's goal of 1.5 million new homes in 10 years. 

“If we are truly going to build affordable housing in this province, if all the mayors and councillors who said during their municipal election want to incent more housing opportunity in their communities, this is a way that the government has very clearly said we wanted to investigate," said Clark. 

In a fight across the Greenbelt area, a coalition of environmental groups and other stakeholders have organized rallies to remind Ford of his promise to the people and to protect the Greenbelt.

A recent rally in Peterborough saw over 150 people come out in support of the conservation and protection of the environment and put people over housing. 

The newly passed legislation will see a decreased role of conservation authorities like the Grand River Conservation Authority, which oversees the conservation and preservation of local wetlands and the Grand River. The Ford government wants conservation authorities to refocus their efforts onto their core mandates of flood mitigation and natural hazard protection.

With the reduced roles of the conservation authorities, this will remove factors such as pollution and conservation of the land when considering development permissions in certain areas, the Greenbelt West Coalition says. 

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Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
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