Niagara-on-the-Lake council’s failure to condemn the passage of Ontario’s Bill 23 is disappointing.
While it may be true that neither the Greenbelt nor farmland in Niagara-on-the-Lake are directly threatened by the legislation, there are times – and this is one of them – when we must take a stand on principle.
The fact that the Doug Ford government has passed legislation that will allow developers to forego paying development fees to municipalities provided they dedicate five per cent of their projects to building affordable housing should have elicited a strong response from our elected representatives on NOTL council.
Taxes in NOTL are high already without adding onto tax bills the costs to install the municipal infrastructure and services required by new developments.
Council should have objected equally strongly to the provisions of the bill that have weakened our local conservation authorities’ ability to protect our natural heritage, from wetlands to watersheds.
The greenspace and natural heritage that surrounds us is very much part of what makes NOTL a great place to live, work and visit, in addition to being so important to the local economy.
As for the provisions of Bill 23 that put heritage properties at risk of demolition if they are not designated as protected under the Ontario Heritage Act within the next two years, council should be front and centre in protesting this travesty.
It should be doing so with all the means at its disposal. The very essence of our town is at risk if the new law is not changed.
A conciliatory approach is typically not effective when it comes to making a bully back down.
It may delay the inevitable confrontation, but it is unlikely to prevent it.
If council and residents truly want to see Bill 23 withdrawn or changed, we have to protest its implementation with vigour and resoluteness.
And we need to do it in a way that makes Premier Ford reconsider his government’s actions.