Statement Regarding the Impact of Bill 23 on Students in Ontario
Statement Regarding the Impact of Bill 23 on Students in Ontario

The Canadian Federation of Students is proud to endorse the following statement submitted by Local 47, the University of Western Ontario Society of Graduate Students. This statement is in regards to Bill 23 presented at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and actions that we as students can take right now. The Federation encourages everyone to sign the petition and share it widely with students!

Impacts of Bill 23 on Students in Ontario

The bottom line:

- Doug Ford’s government is putting people and biodiversity in Ontario at risk while failing to take action on climate change;
- Land use planning rules are being changed in ways that exacerbate already-elevated risk of flooding in Ontario;

- First Nations’ sovereignty was violated by Ontario’s government failing to consult about Bill 23;

- Students’ taxes and rent are expected to increase majorly in the coming years as a result of changes to development charges;

- Ontario is facing a housing supply and affordability crisis that is expected to get worse under the provincial government’s current course of action.

The Canadian Federation of Students stands against Bill 23: “More Homes Built Faster Act” that gained royal ascent and became law on November 28, 2022. We recognize that the single greatest cause of biodiversity decline is the conversion of habitat to development in Ontario and globally. Southern Ontario houses some of the most significant species biodiversity and arable soil in all of Canada that is being increasingly put at risk by land uses for development. The Federation is deeply concerned about the implications of Bill 23, Bill 109 and associated legislation for climate change adaptation, food insecurity and democratic institutions in Ontario. The purpose of this statement is to share information with CFS membership about changes being made under Bill 23 and related legislation.

On the surface, the omnibus Bill 23 appears to address Ontario’s housing crisis by removing processes that result in some development taking longer. In reality, Bill 23 significantly limits the role of Ontario’s conservation authorities, municipal governments, and the public in reviewing and approving new developments that risk negative impacts to habitat, biodiversity, farmland and climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Ontario is facing a serious shortage of new housing, but let there be no mistake: creating more affordable housing does not require destruction of irreplaceable farmland and habitats in the Greenbelt, sprawl beyond urban growth boundaries, or eliminating processes that incorporate environmental oversight and climate change forecasting into growth planning. 

New students arriving in Ontario to study at university may have trouble finding an affordable place to live. Many social problems facing our communities, such as rising rates of homelessness, addictions, and petty crime, are interconnected with this lack of available affordable housing. More housing, specifically medium and high-density, affordable units built upwards inside of existing urban areas, and not on the edge of the city, are required to meet housing needs of students and vulnerable populations. At the same time, it is imperative that governments continue to prioritize conservation of farmland and natural resources and maintain public and expert consultation processes supporting new development approvals.

Conservation authorities and environmental protections are not barriers to growth. Rather, conservation authorities are essential partners for balancing development pressure with protections of Ontario’s watersheds and natural heritage. Conservation authorities provide technical advice to municipal governments to support reviews of development plans. Bill 23 capped funding to conservation authorities, opened up all conservation authority lands for development, and limited the scope of feedback provided by conservation authorities to flooding and natural hazard mitigation. 

Furthermore, Bill 23 allows the provincial government to override municipal governments’ decision-making authority over development approvals. Municipal governments will no longer be authorized to enforce green standards in site plan control to require new buildings to be designed sustainably, meaning municipalities will be limited in how they can manage growth while meeting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions set out in climate change plans. 

Bill 23 amends the Land Tribunal Act to add constraints on the right of individuals or bodies in Ontario to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal about reviewing planned development. Simultaneously, Bill 109 amends six statutes, including the Planning Act, Development Charges Act, and the City of Toronto Act. Under Bill 109, development charge fees that were historically paid by developers to cover costs of infrastructure needed to support growth (e.g., roads, sewers) are now being pocketed by developers. As a result, municipal government will be forced to cut spending on infrastructure and services, and will likely need to raise property taxes, which in turn will lead to increases in rent.

Expert reviews of Bill 23 suggest that the changes will result in environmental disasters, leading to fast-tracked developments in areas at risk of severe flooding. This will ultimately result in a high cost for municipal governments and taxpayers left to cover expensive maintenance associated with sprawling development as well as future disaster mitigation. The current provincial government has already made numerous legislative changes to erode environmental protections and recently made additional changes that would weaken the evaluation and conservation of wetlands while offloading responsibility to municipalities, many of which will lack resources provided by conservation authorities. Meanwhile, the government is failing to fulfill its obligations to reduce carbon emissions, curb plastic pollution, and conserve Species at Risk of extinction in Ontario. These changes, and lack of government accountability for protecting the environment, are occurring with little public awareness or engagement. 

We call on our representatives in the Ontario provincial government to speak up for repeal of Bill 23 and Bill 109. Here’s how students in Ontario and across Canada can take action:

  1. Get informed. Review summaries of ongoing legislated changes in Ontario:

          - The Narwhal: Summary of Bill 23

          - Media Release from Conservation Ontario responding to Bill 23 

          - Statement from the Association of Ontario Municipalities

          - Environmental Defence: The impacts of weakening wetland protection in Ontario

          - Office of the Auditor General of Ontario: Annual Report Shows Need for Better Government Planning with Increased Transparency and Evidence-Based Decision-Making

          - Office of the Auditor General of Ontario: Report on Social and Affordable Housing

  1. Sign petitions calling for Bill 23 and Bill 109 to be repealed. Links to consultations, surveys and petitions are compiled here!
  2. Follow the hashtags #HandsOffTheGreenbelt and #RepealBill23 on Twitter and Instagram
  3. Write to your Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and urge them to speak up against Bill 23, for reasons described in this letter and by the sources listed above.
  4. Write to your federal Member of Parliament (MP) and ask them about a) the current status of the Ontario government’s appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada to withhold their cabinet mandate letters, and b) how Canada will respond to the international conflicts posed by Ontario’s failure to consult with First Nations.
  5. Educate your community. Talk about this with your peers, family, and friends. Share your concerns on social media. Consider attending or organizing a demonstration on campus. Many people are unaware of the changes that are being pushed through quickly and without media focus.

Get involved with local community and regional organizations that work on building climate change resiliency and advocate for stronger environmental protections. Information about upcoming rallies across Ontario is compiled by Environmental Defence.