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Ontario Farmland Trust slams province's passing of Bill 23

'The passing of this act is a regression of our current planning processes,' says executive director
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“Extremely disappointing” are the words Ontario Farmland Trust’s (OFT) executive director, Martin Straathof, uses to summarize the recently passed Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022.

Despite all the briefs, demonstrations, letters and submissions from many groups and citizens of Ontario urging the government to drop Bill 23 as many argued it will be ineffective at dealing with housing affordability, the Ontario government decided to pass the legislation. OFT was among these groups and provided eight written submissions on the issues, as well as signing onto an inter-agency letter, citing the threat this bill poses to farmland.

The controversial Bill 23 will significantly reduce protections for farmland in provincial land use planning allowing for sprawling development instead of sustainable communities. The bill was passed on Nov. 28, 2022, despite the public comment period still being open.

We know that the rate of farmland loss in Ontario has increased dramatically since the 2016 Census of Agriculture, from 175 acres to 319 acres of farmland being lost every single day. In the past 35 years, Ontario has already lost nearly 20 per cent of its farmland.

With the increased rate of farmland loss, Ontario’s 11.8 million acres of farmland in production today will be gone within the next 100 years.

“The passing of this act is a regression of our current planning processes. What we need are creative and innovative solutions to balance the intersecting needs of farmland protection and housing development,” Martin said. “The Ontario Farmland Trust is now calling on developers to do their part and work with us to develop these solutions so that the outcomes benefit society as a whole.”

He added that opening Ontario’s farmland up for development should encourage more people to permanently protect their farms with OFT.

The fight to preserve farmland, natural areas, and the Greenbelt does not stop here.

During the Bill 23 consultation period there was a substantial support calling for farmland protection, natural area conservation, and securing a healthy future for Ontarians. Martin described this as truly inspiring and noted that this kind of collective action does have the power to make a difference.

That is why the Ontario Farmland Trust encourages people to not stop here. Here are four ways that you can help:

  1. Reach out to Ontario Farmland Trust and other conservation groups to see how you can support their work
  2. Call your MPP and let them know you disagree with Bill 23
  3. Join a local rally in support of farmland and natural habitat
  4. Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers and encourage them to join in these activities

Please, continue to add your voice to the opposition of Bill 23, continue to support real affordable housing initiatives, and continue to support our farmland and natural areas.

OFT is here to support farmers who wish to ensure that their farmland remains farmland, forever. Our farmland easement agreements are legally binding agreements that run with the title of the land in perpetuity. Farmland conservation easements are the strongest tool available to protect farmland, ensuring that any future non-agricultural use remains prohibited because of the permanent easement on title. If you want more information about our easements, click here.

As Frank Shaw, OFT volunteer and former board member, puts it, “Provincial protection is lost but land trusts can offer registered protection for the land and water we love. We must press on and be champions.”