Bill 39 is fundamentally undemocratic

We have just made a written submission on Bill 39, the Better Municipal Governance Act, or as it is being labelled here, the Minority Rule Act. Along with many organizations across the province, we protest against the autocratic tendencies of this Progressive Conservative Provincial Government, culminating in Bill 39, which would allow approval of by-laws with just one third of Council votes using so called "strong mayor" powers. Bill 39 is not democratic and must be withdrawn. 

Bill 39 must be seen against the backdrop of Ministerial decrees on November 4, 2022, unilaterally overruling municipal decisions on urban boundary expansion in both Ottawa and Hamilton, as well as opening consultation on developing the greenbelt of the Greater Toronto Area in favour of major donors to the ruling Progressive Conservative party. Every time we expand the urban boundary we reduce and restrict the greenspace in rural Ottawa which we need to fight climate change and biodiversity loss. The Report of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force is clear: “But a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts.” As the Progressive Conservative government unilaterally expanded Hamilton’s urban boundary and opened consultations on developing Toronto’s greenbelt, they ignored the advice of the Housing Affordability Task Force which they commissioned. There is no justifiable basis for these undemocratic, unilateral amendments.

Very limited consultation was offered for the “More Homes, Built Faster Act” in the immediate aftermath of the municipal elections when councils were not running at full capacity. Introduced the day after Ontario’s municipal elections, with the deadline for written submissions closing on November 17, this allowed new councillors inaugurated on November 15 only 48 hours to respond. Beyond municipalities, the public consultation period was incredibly short for such complex legislation. There was no option for Ottawans to attend a legislative hearing, as the four days of tabled public hearings were all in the Greater Toronto Area. Indeed, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario was prevented from testifying before the Committee and a former mayor of Toronto was evicted from the hearing room. All this is unworthy of a democracy and undermines its basic principles.

Furthermore, the “More Homes, Built Faster Act” unilaterally overrides the right of municipalities to make local decisions on land use planning. This legislation overrides or dismantles hard-fought gains for both environmental protection and affordability for our most vulnerable residents. These local decisions taken away from Ottawa include new ‘green standards’ for buildings, protection against renovictions, the rate of very affordable housing required in developments, collection and spending of development charges, the extent of our urban boundary, and the very look and feel of our neighbourhoods with the restriction of site planning review. The “More Homes, Built Faster Act” represents a huge shift of power to Toronto; overriding such a swathe of municipal decision-making powers undermines our democratic principles.

See our written submission below.

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