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Large crowd protests province’s Bill 23 outside Sylvia Jones’ office

Written By Zachary Roman

Residents of Dufferin and Caledon came together in protest against the Provincial Government's Bill 23 last Friday.

Despite protests across the Province, the bill was passed Monday, Nov. 28.

Around 1 p.m. on Nov. 25, people began to gather at Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones' office in Orangeville with signs that had messages like, “Save the Greenbelt” and “Bill 23, a direct assault on Canadian democracy.”

Crowds then demonstrated for a little over an hour on all four corners of Broadway and First Street. The peaceful protest did not block traffic and organizers said its goal was to raise awareness about the impacts Bill 23 will have on Ontario.

John MacRae, co-chair of EcoCaledon, a local non-profit with a mandate to improve the environment within the Town of Caledon, was at the protest collecting signatures on a petition to withdraw Bill 23 because he and other EcoCaledon members believe it needs sweeping changes.

“It's OK to have a plan to help build houses, but you want to do it right,” said MacRae. “Bill 23 is going to cause sprawl… Bill 23 also takes away the development charges that pay for…community centres and those kinds of things.”

Development charges are fees collected from developers that help pay for the cost of municipal services or impacted infrastructure such as roads and transit due to growth. A Town of Caledon presentation on Bill 23 noted that under the Bill, development charges could no longer be used to fund studies like Official Plans and environmental assessments, nor could they be used to purchase land for growth-related infrastructure.

MacRae said the Province put extra things into Bill 23 that will “get favours to their developer friends” and that developers can still make money even if they build more sustainably.

He said it makes no sense to take land out of the Greenbelt, something Bill 23 will do, even if it's replaced with other land. MacRae said it took many years of hard work to put Greenbelt land aside, and environmentalists have said Greenbelt land is irreplaceable.

Vicki Clare, a Caledon resident who said she came out to the protest because the Province is doing exactly the opposite of what it should be doing, which is reducing sprawl, reducing pollution, and reducing the amount of cars on the road, said Bill 23 only makes sense to those who are greedy and already have millions of dollars in their pockets.

“It just aids more development, we don't need that,” said Clare. “I'm worried about people's grandchildren and children, and I worry about all the wildlife and biodiversity.”

Ward 6 Councillor Cosimo Napoli attended last Friday's protest because he was concerned about Bill 23. He said it was a bit premature for the Province to be trying to push the bill through.

“We need to review it and it has to make sense. When it gets passed, we all have to be on board with the changes that they want to implement,” said Napoli. “The bill itself, there's quite a few issues in here that are of concern. Development charges… they want to cut some and reduce others. That's really critical. If we cannot collect the development charges that we should be collecting when there's development, that's going to throw the burden onto residents… that's going to equate to higher taxes for everybody.”

Napoli said Bill 23 is too vague and that he wanted more detail added to the Bill before it was passed. He wanted the Bill to be paused until it's clear who's going to be paying for the infrastructure to support development.

Dan O'Reilly, a Caledon resident who assisted EcoCaledon in the planning of the protest, said he was very happy with the turnout at the protest, especially considering the poor weather conditions of the day.

He said he was also happy to see residents of Dufferin and Caledon coming together for a common cause.

Post date: 2022-12-01 11:30:35
Post date GMT: 2022-12-01 16:30:35
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