A Change of Heart

On May 24th I made an announcement that I intended to not run for re-election in Halton Hills. It was a difficult decision and making the public statement was hard to do because for me the job of councillor is the best job I could possibly have. It has given me the opportunity to help shape my Halton Hills and make it a better community for everyone.

When I was first elected 25 years ago, Georgetown had 2 sheets of ice at Memorial and Alcott, a swimming pool at GDHS and the outdoor pool. Our softball and hardball diamonds were all out at the fairgrounds.

Our only trail was the 1km rail trail between WIldwood Rd and John Street. There were zero bike facilities.

Soccer was growing rapidly and desperately needed new fields

But a lot has been accomplished since then.

My first task as a new councillor in 1998 was to chair the Facility Needs Study Committee. It was out of this work that a decision was made to build a new ice surface at Alcott and build the Gellert leisure pool. As a member of the fundraising team, I helped raise $2 million to fund these two facilities.

I was also the co-lead with Barb Baron procuring needed materials and funding to build the Old Seed House Garden. I have continued to be involved with the Friends of the Old Seed House Garden to this day and am exceptionally proud of this gem of park in the centre of Georgetown.

As Chair of the Trails and Cycling committees, I promoted the development of the Hungry Hollow Trail network which has taken almost 2 decades to complete but is finally at the finish line. This is one of the best recreational features in the town and one that is enjoyed by people of all ages.

In the past few years climate change has become an issue that should be of concern for every person and certainly every municipal leader. Our Town has become a recognized leader in taking action on this challenging issue. But there is more to be done as we plan for the new housing developments that are coming to our Vision Georgetown lands. Negotiations are underway with the developers to design a low carbon heating and cooling system for these new homes. This will not only reduce the carbon foot print of these homes, it will also reduce operating costs for the life of the homes. This is but one of many ways we are working to bring down the carbon footprint of our town. In my role as Chair of the Low Carbon Transition Committee I have had the opportunity to help direct many initiatives.

People have often expressed to me that they love Georgetown because of all the amenities and because they like the small town feel. Part of that feel can be attributed to the fact that our town is surrounded by farmland and Greenbelt. This situation is not guaranteed to last because Georgetown is in the Greater Toronto Area and developers and speculators have purchased the land south of the 10th Side Road with the expectation that all that beautiful productive farmland can be destroyed by development.

Imagine what Georgetown will feel like once the town sprawls southward to the meet the industrial area that is spreading northward from Steeles Avenue. What will happen to the small town feel then?

Stop Sprawl Halton was created by residents who saw this threat and chose to participate in the Official Plan process under the auspices of Halton Region. These residents wanted to save the farmland and instead grow our community through inclusionary zoning and intensification along our transportation corridors.

Stop Sprawl Halton was successful in swinging the votes at Halton Region so that growth out to the year 2041 will be accommodated within existing urban boundaries. However, beginning in the next term of council the process will be reopened in order to determine how Halton will grow to the year 2051. Stop Sprawl Halton will continue to participate in the process with the goal of stopping sprawl for an additional 10 years, thus protecting Georgetown from blending into Brampton and Milton.

What Changed?

When I announced my retirement my intention was to continue working with Stop Sprawl Halton to advocate for an end to sprawl. However, many people wrote to me and phoned me and talked to me on the street – all expressing the hope that I would reconsider my decision as they felt that my voice at Regional Council would be important in achieving the goal of stopping sprawl in Halton and Halton Hills.

After much discussion with friends and community leaders, I decided to reconsider my retirement decision. The truth was that I was not in retirement-mode as I continued to sign up for educational webinars on community building. With all of this in mind, I decided to submit my nomination papers and launch a run for re-election for Regional Councillor Wards 3 and 4 Halton Hills.

I made this decision because I think my experience at the Region means that the issues of preventing sprawl, supporting farmers, food security and protecting the natural heritage system from destruction caused development will be voiced. And if re-elected I can continue to provide leadership locally in the development of trails and other recreational facilities in Halton Hills as well as leading climate change initiatives.

Hey Halton! The Big Land Grab is Afoot

And we are all going to pay the price

Halton Hills Farmland Harvest

In the depths of the Pandemic when our attention is otherwise diverted, major decisions are being made by Regional Councils all across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Municipalities from Niagara to Orillia and Waterloo to Peterborough have been ordered by the Province to get out their maps and marker pens and show how they will accommodate growth to the year 2051 and to deliver their plans July 1, 2022. In the case of Halton Region that is 332,000 more people.

This is an ill-timed, nonsensical exercise foisted on municipalities that are struggling to cope with the greatest crisis we have faced in our lifetime – the Covid19 pandemic. While the 4th wave rages on, Regional managers are struggling to reassign resources to vital services such as vaccination clinics,  ambulance services and Long Term Care Facilities. Should they also have this additional monumental task to perform in an abbreviated timeframe?

Early in 2021, in light of the pandemic, Halton Regional Council passed a motion to ask the Province for more time. They received a terse reply -No, there can be no delay. And so the process marches on in Halton and in Peel and York and Durham and all across the Greater Golden Horseshoe when all of the municipalities are struggling with too much on their platters.

You can be forgiven for not knowing about this or for not understanding what is at stake. The Regions have advertised their planning processes and hosted virtual meetings to present the plans. But let’s face it; this is not real public engagement. Looking at maps for a few seconds on your computer screen does not allow you to study and understand what you are being shown. To then be asked a polling question about the best growth scenario after a whirlwind tour of the options is unfair to the audience and is pretty much useless information. It means that the biggest planning exercise any municipality has ever undertaken in this province is flying under the radar.

Why should you care about the outcome of these planning exercises?

The plans must show where and how new growth will be housed. In the case of Halton, the plan will allocate 332,000 new people to the local municipalities and then show what housing form they will live in, ie single family dwellings, townhouses, or apartments. Where exactly will those homes be built?

There is no doubt that simply pushing the urban boundary out into the cornfields is the easiest thing to do. It is a blank slate that can be filled up any way you want without bothering existing residents. Politically this is the safe solution and it is the solution we have always chosen. It has been going on since the end of WW2.

However, it is also true that the land we have sown with housing foundations used to be productive farmland. Mississauga was totally farmland. Ditto Brampton, North Oakville and Milton and Georgetown. People shake their heads and say this is crazy to sacrifice the very best farmland in the province.

Ontario is losing on average 175 acres of prime agricultural land every day. At a time when food production around the world is under tremendous stress due to unpredictable weather, wouldn’t it be wise to protect Ontario’s food production capacity? The Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Farmland Trust are raising red flags. They see what is happening and they are alarmed. Maybe we should be too.

The truth of the matter is that the prime farmland has also largely been bought by speculators who have been waiting to have their purchased land brought into the urban area. Once this happens, the value of their land goes up tenfold. You can be sure they are lobbying hard to see their investments pay off.

The requirement to plan 30 years into the future is fraught with risk. How will we live? Where is our food coming from? How will be travel? Where will we work? How big is the average family? Planning this far into the future serves only one purpose and that is to bring as much land as possible into the urban area as soon as possible in order to lock in business plans of speculators. There is no other purpose to it.

It is up to municipal councils to decide if they will give in to the pressure by developers and the Province to open up their urban boundaries or choose to accommodate growth within the current urban area.

It is unacceptable to be making such a consequential decision in the midst of a pandemic when there is no reason to do so. This decision will in no way affect the amount of housing that is available for another 10 years or more into the future. But if one must choose, then choose conservatively. Choose based on prudence and caution. Choose the zero boundary expansion option and save the valuable farmland for the future.

The City of Hamilton Councillors recently debated this exact same dilemma at two marathon meetings. The meetings were flooded by citizen-led delegations who believed that farmland was valuable and sprawling car-dependent suburbs were bad on many levels. In the end Hamilton voted 13-3 to save 3,300 acres of farmland from destruction and to embrace gentle density across the city. The citizens expressed many reasons for holding the line, not the least of which was the fact that sprawl costs more to service and drives up land taxes. They also wanted better transit and more affordable housing, both of which are more likely to happen if sprawl is rejected.

The rejection of sprawl by the City of Hamilton was remarkable and was achieved by the tenacity of citizens who believed the city and its people would have a better future if they chose to build and invest within their current urban boundaries. If citizens of Halton hope to achieve the same enlightened result they will need to speak up by contacting their councillors, by requesting lawn signs or signing a petition or make a donation to the cause or to speak at the council meeting. Check out StopSprawlHalton.org for details on how you can influence the outcome of the vote at Regional Council on February 9th. There are 5,000 acres of beautiful, productive farmland that need your help to be spared from the bulldozers.

And Save the date for the Rally/Fundraiser on January 18th 7pm. Great speakers and musicians supporting the cause.

A Sprawling Disaster – Doug Ford’s Plan for Ontario

By Councillor Jane Fogal, Town of Halton Hills and Halton Region

The Ford Government, through a rapid fire series of decisions and legislation has successfully rewritten the rules for municipal planning in a manner that is very favourable to developers and very unfavourable to municipalities that are trying to build healthy, complete communities and address climate change.  

Since 2005 municipalities in Ontario have been obliged to conform to the Places to Grow Act. This Act sought to reign in sprawl by requiring municipalities to meet intensification goals when planning to accommodate growth. Also development on new urban areas, generally farmland, was required to meet higher density targets as well.

The Greenbelt Act was also approved to ensure greenspace and natural areas remain intact to protect the ecological function of the land.

Over the past 15 years, Ontarians also saw enormous investments by Metrolinx in GO Transit and additional funding for municipal transit systems which benefitted from intensification.

The Green Energy Act and Cap and Trade provided incentives for green energy production and funding for transit and energy efficiencies.

The Province shifted funding away from new higher order highways. In the case of the GTA West highway, the cancellation came after an expert panel found that transportation goals could be reached through other interventions such as creating subsidized truck lanes on highway 407 or introducing congestion pricing.  These alternatives could be achieved in a much shorter timeframe, would cost less and be more effective, all without the environmental damage or increased greenhouse gas emissions.

AND THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED.

 The Conservatives, led by Doug Ford, won the provincial election in June 2018. Although changes to municipal planning and weakening of environmental protections were not part of the Ford election platform they have become a major focus both before and during the pandemic.

The Cap and Trade system and Green Energy Act were cancelled and green projects under construction were ordered to be dismantled. Incentives for Electric Vehicles and energy retrofits were cancelled.

REVIVING THE GTA WEST/ HIGHWAY 413

Shortly after taking power, Premier Ford announced the revival of the GTA West 400 series highway (413) with the launch of a fast-tracked Environmental Assessment. Reviving the 413 was not included in Ford’s platform and was a surprise to most people. There was no consideration given to the alternative solutions recommended in the expert panel report. However, there is no doubt that major landowners along the GTA West corridor will reap benefits as it is normal for land along a 400 series highway to be rezoned for development. Although the construction of the highway alone will have significant negative impacts due to destruction of sensitive environmental areas and farmland, the anticipated adjacent development will do far more harm in the long run. This will result in sprawl along the length of the new highway.

AMENDMENT #1 TO THE PLACES TO GROW ACT AND THE PROVINCIAL POLICY STATEMENT

The Places to Grow Act and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) work together to help municipalities build complete healthy communities. The Ford government has changed a number of important legislated requirements  through the introduction of Amendment #1 and amendments to the PPS.

Changes that will promote sprawl include

  •  Amendment #1 stipulates minimum population growth goals but removed maximums meaning that developers can push for greater population increases.
  • Density goals have been reduced meaning there can be more single family dwellings ie sprawl.
  • ‘Market Demand’ was explicitly added as justification for planning the housing mix. Since we know there is a demand for single family dwellings, the developers will argue for it based on the market. Expect more sprawl.
  • The planning horizon has been moved out to 2051. This means that today’s municipal councils must approve plans to accommodate population growth to 2051. It pushes designating rural land now to provide housing up to 30 years into the future. The net result is that developers who have speculated on future development lands don’t have to wait 20 years to get permission to build. They get permission for all of the land required for 30 years of housing development now. 
  • The deadline for municipalities to approve their 30 year plan is summer 2022, conveniently before the next provincial election. Should Ford lose the election, it doesn’t matter. The land will have been approved for development and cancelling approved land has never been done before. 
  • Public input into planning for the next 30 years is scheduled to happen during the pandemic when it is impossible to hold in-person public meetings or workshops.

CONSEQUENCES

We are living in a time when Climate Change is causing weather related events such as massive destructive hurricanes, frightening wild fires, famine, property damage, floods, massive loss of species, etc. etc.

Due to this emergency cities around the world are working hard at reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by holding the line on sprawl, creating complete healthier communities, reducing car dependence and protecting farmland.

Ontario is moving in the opposite direction, purposely encouraging sprawl, making people more dependent on cars and commuting for hours each day, making transit less effective, building new highways that will encourage more driving, devoting more space to parked cars and less to greenspace for people, paving over ecological areas that support our water resources.

There is only one logical explanation for this massive failure to lead Ontario in a positive healthy direction – greed. Just follow the money. The developers want to make more money and Doug Ford has made it much easier for them to do that.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

#1 Municipalities should refuse to meet the timetable set out to be compliant with the Places to Grow Act. There is no reason to rush to identify lands that won’t be available for 10 more years at a minimum.  Planning anything this big should wait until after the pandemic and should be after the next provincial election. The people of Ontario deserve an opportunity to understand what is being proposed and an opportunity to say how their communities will grow.

#2 Municipalities should refuse to open up their urban boundaries at this time. Although makings the boundaries permanently fixed is the best solution, they are always open to review by future councils. Developers won’t like that so they will appeal the decision. The appeal process will take months to sort out by which time the election will have taken place and perhaps sanity will return with a new government.

#3 People can lobby their MPP’s and tell them that this is not what they voted for. Protests such as we saw regarding the 413 highway actually work. The uproar over Ford telling developers he would open up the Greenbelt for development blew up and he walked that idea back.

#4 To address the problem of affordability which Ford said was the impetus for the planning act changes, municipalities should demand that all subdivision plans include 10% affordable units that will be available for the municipality to purchase. The municipality can then require that these units be built to the highest energy efficiency level. Upon purchase the municipality would rent the affordable units at rates to pay for the carrying costs. The cost of the added energy upgrades would be offset by the reduced energy costs. The net result would be a guaranteed increase in rental properties and increased energy efficiency in the housing stock. It would also contribute to achieving a complete community with a mix of housing types and affordability.

CONCLUSION

The priorities of the current government have resulted in fundamental changes to how Ontario evolves. Unfortunately this is out of step with the circumstances and challenges we are facing today. The Climate Change emergency gets worse by the day and cannot be ignored by any level of government.

The solutions to our problems exist but to use those solutions there must be a will to act in the best interests of all the people. We need the government to change course and do the right things. Incentivizing sprawl and car culture is no longer acceptable.

Now is the time to push back and call for the government to stop enriching developers and start tackling affordable housing, greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of significant wetlands and habitats and the loss of some of the best agricultural lands in Canada.

There is a Market for Sprawl But is There an Appetite for it?

The Ford Government has rewritten the book on municipal land use planning to specifically plan for sprawl. The rule is that municipalities must redesignate agricultural land to urban uses to satisfy a hypothetical demand for single family dwellings to the year 2051. And it must be done this year.

Planners have been hired to determine what the hypothetical demand for single family dwellings is for each municipality. The methodology is to look at what has been built over the last 30 years and project it forward.

In other words, if your municipality has been busy sprawling for 30 years, then you should simply repeat the process.

The following charts illustrate what Halton must plan for if it is to satisfy the Province’s dictum to plan for the Single Family Dwelling Market. According to Halton Region’s Land Needs Assessment report authored by Hemson Consulting, to satisfy The Market , nearly 60% of all new builds must be single family dwellings for the next 30 years.

To deliberately plan for the Single Family Dwelling Market denies that the world has changed since sprawl started in the 1950’s

To continue with the mistakes of the past is the essence of bad planning.

It is planning for what we don’t want instead of what we do want. It is planning for car-dependent neighbourhoods devoid of community services. Certainly there is a market for this but the downside is that we will be unable to address climate change in any meaningful way and in the process will sterilize 8,100 acres of prime agricultural land in Halton alone.

This is a waste of an essential resource that is significant for all of Canada – our class 1,2 and 3 farmland in the GTHA. Less than 5% of all the land in Canada is suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. Converting it to housing is a travesty. We know food security is going to become increasing important as wacky weather makes growing food more precarious throughout the world. We can certainly expect food -nationalism to become a thing.

Food production and processing is one of the GTHA’s major economic drivers and yet we fail to understand the value of the land base in this important industry which employs 860,000 people.

There are only two ways to stop this terrible plan and that is to push back via requests to the Ford Government to extend the deadline for compliance and to approve either firm urban boundaries or modest increases based on higher density mixed use neighbourhoods. Contact your local and regional councillors to urge them to fight back against bad planning.

Is Highway 413 the Answer? An Expert Panel Discussion

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The purpose of this expert panel is to bring together differing points of view and explore insights into the problem of congestion in the GTA. Each of the panelists will bring their expertise to the discussion and explore the pros and cons of the proposed GTA-West/Hwy 413 as an appropriate solution. Panelist will also answer questions from the audience.

This virtual expert panel discussion on the pros and cons of Highway 413, is hosted by CFUW Georgetown and Halton Hills Public Library Thursday March 25th at 7pm.  Register here. 

Rebecca Stewart, Environmental Assessment Engineering Analyst with Credit Valley Conservation.

 Rebecca Stewart is an Environmental Assessment Engineering Analyst with Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC). In Rebecca’s 6 years with CVC, she has been a part of a team that reviews Municipal Class Environmental Assessments (EA) inclusive of the Terms of Reference, Request for Proposal’s and detailed designs for Municipal Partners within CVC’s jurisdiction. She is passionate and committed to a future of innovation in sustainable and economical approaches to infrastructure development and aiding in creating thriving communities.


Susan Lloyd Swail, MES RPP Smart Growth Consultant promoting sustainable community planning and preservation of farmland and natural areas

Registered Professional Planner, researcher, smart growth consultant at Lloyd Swail Consulting

As a former Deputy Mayor/Municipal Councillor Susan is always eager to engage in discussions about creating healthy communities. Susan has a Masters degree in planning specializing in facilitation and sustainable land use planning policy. She was written or contributed to policy submissions, numerous reports, media articles, and blogs on smart growth. From her early days as a community activist stopping the big pipe, she has advocated for farmland preservation, sustainable community planning and protection of our natural areas for future generations.  Susan has presented to numerous groups, at conferences, served on Boards of non-profit organizations and led community mobilization efforts to stop the 413 (2015-2018)  fix the OMB, stop Bill 66.

Peter Miasek President of Transport Action Ontario which advocates for integrated public transportation 

Peter Miasek is a chemist by training, and worked for over 30 years with a large Canadian oil company in the fields of research, chemicals and environment. 

Peter is active in advocacy on sustainable transportation, land use planning, drinking water protection and energy planning.  He is President of Transport Action Ontario, a non-government organization advocating for integrated public transportation across the province.  He is also a director of his local ratepayer group in Markham, vice chair of Markham’s Cycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and sits on various other committees in the Greater Toronto area.


Jason Brass, Owner Terra Cotta Foods Co, past Franchise owner of two Boston Pizzas

Jason began his professional career at Menu Foods Ltd., a large-scale pet food
manufacturing company based in Streetsville, Ontario. Jason then became the owner/operator of two Boston Pizza franchises.

After seven years of running the restaurants, Jason had the urge to get back into the
food manufacturing business and purchased the
Terra Cotta Cookie Co., in Georgetown, Ontario.

Now known as Terra Cotta Foods Ltd., the company has grown
beyond cookies and now manufactures a wide variety of snack goods under the
Terra Cotta banner, as well as for Private Label and Co-Pack customers.

Jason sat on the Board of Directors for the Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce from
2014 to 2019, with his last year as Vice-Chair.

PLANNING FOR ‘THE MARKET’ – IT ISN’T WHAT YOU THINK

In ‘A Sprawling Disaster’, published in the Oakville News on February 21 2021, it was illustrated how the policy changes made to Ontario’s municipal planning regime by the current Provincial Government were designed to produce sprawl.

One of the most troubling changes introduced by the Ford Government was the new requirement to plan for ‘The Market’. Developers tell us ‘The Market” is for single family dwellings. Satisfying ‘The Market’ requires more highly productive farmland be converted to urban sprawl. This change is a powerful needle in the sides of municipalities that are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Without saying it, once again Doug Ford is actively thwarting our chances of successfully addressing the Climate Change crisis.

Since 2006, municipal planning has followed Provincial policies that required them to limit sprawl and encourage higher density housing. What is obvious now is that when single family dwellings are limited, a new market is created for other higher density housing forms. In other words, how we plan, in fact, creates the market.

A drive through newly built communities provides proof that there is a market for townhouses when the supply of single family dwellings is constrained.  You can see thousands of townhouses and low rises built in the last 15 years, all purchased and occupied. The market for medium density was created by Provincial Policy which deliberately focused on intensification and limited sprawl.

The whole point of planning is to make what you want to see happen, actually happen. It is crazy to plan for sprawl if you don’t want sprawl. But that is what municipalities are being asked to do in Ontario and it is just wrong.

The fact that developers have convinced the current Provincial Government to stimulate the single family dwelling market is extremely concerning. This policy change puts developer profits ahead of our need for energy efficient communities, protection of the best farmland in the province and the desire to build, healthier, transit-friendly, mixed-use communities.

Selling the idea of building more single family dwellings to the public is framed as a means to reduce the escalating cost of housing.  But will that really happen?  

In fact, simply rezoning land for housing in no way obliges the builders to speed up building houses. The developers can sit on land as long as they like and will build at a rate that suits their business model. They certainly are not in the business of providing affordable housing.  In Halton the anticipated rate of housing starts over the past 5 years was not met indicating that planners have in fact over-estimated the land required. It is likely that the updated Land Needs Assessment with its new focus on ‘The Market’ has further over-estimated land needs, a also made worse by inaccuracies due to the extended time horizon.

Land use planning is one of the most powerful tools we have to help us meet our Climate Change goal to be Net-Zero by 2050. This is a serious goal that we should all be paying attention to. With the planning horizon extended to 2051 we really only have one crack at it.

At the same time we should contemplate the value of class 1 farmland and its ability to ensure our food security in future decades verses continued low density development. In Halton the new OP could take 8,100 acres into the urban area. Multiply that by all of the municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and it is a devastating blow to our agricultural industry.

Halton Regional Council understands what is at stake and passed a motion unanimously at its February 17th council meeting, instructing its planners to hold off submitting Halton’s updated Official Plan until in-person public engagement can be hosted.

The motion is in recognition that the pandemic is diverting the public’s attention to personal issues.  Halton may miss the deadline set by the Province but so be it.  The principle is the belief that the public has a right to understand the implications of a plan that stretches 30 years into the future while potentially killing agriculture in the GGH and thwarting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

 Planning for growth to the year 2051 is happening right now in all municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  Now is the time to find out what your planning department is recommending.  If you live outside of Halton, consider calling your councillors and ask them to follow Halton’s lead.  Let them know that it is reasonable to delay such significant decisions until the community can focus on the implications and express their views.  

Likewise, it is reasonable to expect the Provincial Government to show flexibility on their deadline because the public has a right to informed participation.

FORD’S VISION 2051 PLAN– THE TRAFFIC IS GOING TO GET WORSE!

What it the worst thing about living in the Greater Toronto- Hamilton-Niagara Region?

Many people would say it is the ever increasing traffic with more stop lights and longer commute times. The time it takes to get to destinations keeps growing. Highways are widening but congestion doesn’t go away. It just gets worse.

We have been on this path since the 1950s when the car became the driving force in how we planned our growing communities. People stopped walking to get their services, planners switched from building complete communities to sprawling subdivisions where it was assumed everyone would drive to the services. Zoning purposely segregated uses and shopping areas were designed to accommodate masses of parked cars.

In the early 2020’s the Climate Crisis sparked a change in priorities. In response, the Ontario Government introduced the Places to Grow Act requiring municipalities to reign in sprawl and direct more growth into existing urban areas. The results of that change in policy can be seen in recently built developments. There are more townhouses, more low-rise buildings and much smaller lots for single family dwellings.

However, in 2020, the Ford Government reversed course by amending the Places to Grow Act. Instead of reigning in sprawl it now requires that municipalities plan for a continuous increase in sprawl out to 2051 using the current market as its guide.

Why would the province require municipalities to project 30 years into the future?  The simple answer boils down to profit and certainty.

Comprehensive Reviews of Official Plans are time consuming and expensive for developers. One of the more vexing issues for developers is the uncertainly they face at each 10 year comprehensive review when expanding urban boundaries are considered. They have stockpiled thousands of acres of farmland and want their landholdings to be amongst those chosen for rezoning to urban uses. Millions of dollars hang in the balance.

But what if the uncertainty and expenses were cut in half?

That is exactly what pushing the timeframe out did. Instead of reviewing official plans once every ten years, the process will happen once every 20 years.  This is a tremendous savings for developers while locking in their business plans for 20 years. It is very clear that development interests got the ear of the  Ford Government.

It is a very good deal for developers and a very bad deal for Ontarians.

Land use planning is one of the most powerful tools we have to help us meet our Climate Change goal to be Net-Zero by 2050. This is a serious goal that we should all be paying attention to. With the planning horizon extended to 2051 we really only have one crack at it.

We have the opportunity to build compact, mixed-use communities with convenient public transit, safe, connected bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian friendly neighbourhoods with access to services within at 20 minute walk.

The public should be pushing back on this agenda but they have been left in the dark thanks to pandemic issues.  One thing is certain, without a public outcry, the traffic is going to get much worse.

Halton Regional Council understands what is at stake and passed a motion unanimously at its February 17th council meeting, instructing its planners to hold off submitting Halton’s updated Official Plan until in-person public engagement has been hosted. Halton may miss the deadline set by the Province but so be it.  The public has a right to understand the significant implications of a plan that stretches 30 years into the future. 

 Planning for growth to the year 2051 is happening right now in all municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  Now is the time to find out what your planning department is recommending.  Consider calling your councillors and ask them to follow Halton’s lead.  Let them know that it is reasonable to delay making decisions that set in stone the future of your community.

Likewise, it is reasonable to expect the Provincial Government to show flexibility on their deadline because the public has a right to informed participation.

Halton Region’s Motion to Delay the Official Plan Submission to the Province

Do we want the GTHA to look like this from Niagara to Oshawa?

In response to the very consequential changes to Land Use Planning in Ontario that will result in more sprawl, Halton Regional Council passed the following motion to delay the Official Plan Review until proper public consultation can occur. The changes require planning to accommodate population growth to the year 2051. During the pandemic, the public is rightly distracted from local political processes and decision making. It is unacceptable that the process must continue in order to meet the Provincial deadline. 

I am proud of the fact that this motion passed unanimously at the Town of Halton Hills and Halton Region. 

Moved by: Councillor Jane Fogal

Seconded by:  Chair Gary Carr

WHEREAS the Province of Ontario has mandated Halton Region to conduct a municipal comprehensive review (MCR) of its Official Plan whereby decisions must be made as to how all of the population and employment growth is to be accommodated in the local municipalities for the years 2031 to 2051;

AND WHEREAS since June 2019 the Province has amended a number of Provincial Statutes and policies that impact how municipalities plan for growth including the following:

  • The Provincial Policy Statement,
  • A Place to Grow: The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe,
  • The Development Charges Act,
  • The Planning Act,
  • The Environmental Assessment Act, and
  • The Conservation Authorities Act;

AND WHEREAS these significant Provincial changes include:

  • reduced density targets in new greenfield development from 80 persons and jobs per hectare to 50 persons and jobs per hectare,
  • reduced intensification targets from 60% beyond 2031 to 50%,
  • setting minimum population and employment growth forecasts that can be exceeded subject to Provincial approval,
  • extended the planning horizon from 2041 to the year 2051,
  • introduced market demand as a consideration in determining the housing mix, and
  • revisions to how municipalities fund growth;

AND WHEREAS these Provincial changes signal an abrupt shift from the emphasis on creating compact and complete communities to a planning regime that facilitates lower density and car dependent communities;

AND WHEREAS Halton Hills, Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Region have all declared climate change emergencies and must consider the role of land use planning in their strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions;

AND WHEREAS these Provincial changes create pressure to convert more class 1, 2 and 3 farmland in Halton to urban uses than would otherwise be necessary which is contrary to Halton’s Official Plan and its 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, which both have as a goal to protect a permanent agricultural system in Halton;

AND WHEREAS ensuring that Ontarians have access to healthy safe food in the future requires thoughtful consideration of the long term impact of converting thousands of acres of prime agricultural lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to urban uses;

AND WHEREAS in 2016 Halton Regional Council directed the Regional Chair to write to the Premier of Ontario expressing support for creating a provincial permanent agricultural system;

AND WHEREAS the change of the planning horizon to 2051 by the Province means that future municipal councils and the public will have little power to change decisions where they will grow after 2031 to the 2051 planning horizon;

AND WHEREAS in the rural areas internet service is often poor, making it difficult for rural residents to participate in Zoom calls;

AND WHEREAS Halton Region has adopted a public engagement charter that is based on transparency, notification and participation;

AND WHEREAS the current pandemic is making effective, in person public consultation impossible at a time when robust, informed public consultation is needed more than ever.

AND WHEREAS the nature of work has evolved in response to the pandemic which may cause long term changes to the assumptions underlying the province’s Land Needs Assessment.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Regional Council direct the Regional Chair to write to request the Province to allow the Region to delay its final report on its Official Plan Review until proper, in person, informed consultation with the public has been conducted on the growth concepts and the preferred growth concept;

AND FURTHER THAT the Province be requested to make ROPA 48, being the scoped Regional Official Plan Amendment which identifies non-discretionary components of a Regional Urban Structure that support local plans and priorities inside the current urban boundaries, exempt from the requirement for in-person consultation with the public;

AND FURTHER THAT the Province be requested to suspend the timetable for municipal conformity to the Growth Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement to ensure that the public can fully participate in the process of planning their communities for the growth planning period covering 2031 to 2051;

AND FURTHER THAT the Province suspend the deadlines it has set for conformity until the Land Needs Assessment Framework can be revisited to adjust to the significant changes to the nature of work that are reducing office space and parking space needs.

AND FURTHER THAT this resolution be circulated to Premier Doug Ford, the Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Halton’s Local Municipalities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the leaders of the Provincial opposition parties, Halton’s MPP’s, and the Greater Golden Horseshoe municipalities.

Alternatives to Highway 413

Is the proposed Hwy. 413 necessary for the future of the Greater Toronto Area? | The Star

Below are my comments that appear in the Wheels section of the Toronto Star March 13, 2021. Click on the link for the article.

The 413 represents old school thinking. New highways, minus a toll, lead to induced congestion. It is time to get off that merry-go-round and invest in smarter solutions. For the same $6B the GTA could have a first class regional rail system that would take 3 times as many vehicles off the roads. Tools like congestion pricing and a dedicated subsidized truck lane on the 407 would immediately improve freight delivery. Congestion can be solved without paving over farmland, wetlands, carving a swath through the Greenbelt and incentivizing sprawl. The GTA deserves better.

Town of Halton Hills and Halton Regional Councillor Jane Fogal janefogal@haltonhills.ca 905 877 5806

Converting Agriculture to Sprawl: The Destructive Impacts of Ford’s Planning Requirements

Although Agriculture is a major industry in Ontario it is facing one of its greatest challenges from the Ford Government.

In 2020, The Ford Government changed the rules that municipalities must follow in order to bring their Official Plans into conformity with its revised Provincial Policy Statement and Places to Grow Act. There are two very consequential changes that municipalities must now conform to. The first is the new requirement to take The Market for single family dwellings into account when calculating land needs to accommodate growth. The second is the requirement to project these land needs until the year 2051.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

The Market for single family dwellings requires a lot more land than medium or high density to house the same number of people. When municipalities calculate how to accommodate the growth that has been assigned to them, they will be forced to convert more farmland to urban uses which will mean more sprawl.

Using the Market is a basis for calculating land needs and then projecting it 30 years into the future, will cause tens of thousand of acres of productive agricultural land to be designated for urban uses. The actually buildings won’t start to appear for at least 10 years but the farmers will know what the future holds and will stop making any further investments in these lands.

Like all Regions and Single Tier municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Region of Halton is in the midst of a Comprehensive Review of its Official Plan. All Official Plans must be in conformity with the new planning regulations by July 1 2022. Halton is currently inviting public input into 4 very different land use concepts each of which would bring the OP into conformity with provincial policies. Concept 4 would see 8,100 acres of prime agricultural land converted to urban uses.

That is 81 traditional Ontario farms in Halton alone.

In Hamilton the planners are recommending 8,500 acres of farmland be converted.

In these two municipalities alone, that is 166 traditional farms that will potentially be lost to growth. What happens when we add up the land conversions contemplated for Niagara and Waterloo Region, Orillia, Peterborough, Clarington ,York, Peel, and Durham?

Without the Ford Government’s changes to the Provincial Policy Statement and he Places to Grow Act, there would still be some farmland lost to urban uses but it would be much less.

In effect we are trading valuable agricultural land for sprawl.

In my view, the people of Ontario are not aware of these changes or their many implications. With a pandemic the public’s attention is diverted to personal issues. Even if the public was paying attention, there is no opportunity to host in-person pubic consultations to help people understand the implications.

In response, at its February 17th council meeting Halton Regional Council directed its staff to delay submission of the updated Official Plan to the Province until we can properly engage the public in this very important planning exercise. . If this means missing the July 1st deadline, so be it.

I would encourage other Municipalities to look at the Halton motion and take the time to engage with their residents.

The Halton Motion can be found in the minutes of the February 17 Council Meeting accessed at Halton – Council Committee Documents (Agendas, Minutes and Video) The motion is at the end of the agenda. You can also view the delegations at the beginning of the meeting. View Meeting – OnBase Agenda Online (halton.ca) Although most delegates were speaking in favour of the motion, you will also find a representative of the developers who said the Region was not calculating enough land for residential uses Yes, 81 farms was not enough!

For the general public, it would be a good time to take a look at what is happening in your municipality.