Mike Schreiner, the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, was in Huntsville Tuesday for a town hall at the Active Living Centre to talk about his opposition to Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.
As part of the meeting, Schreiner was part of two meetings with municipal leaders in Parry Sound and Muskoka. That includes mayors and councillors from Gravenhurst, Georgian Bay, Muskoka Lakes, Burks Falls, Perry, Armour, Sundridge, Huntsville, Bracebridge, and Lake of Bays. An informal working group was formed as a result of the meetings.
“The concerns and needs of rural municipalities are very different than (Greater Toronto Area) municipalities,” says Schreiner.
He explains the biggest concern he’s heard about the bill from a rural Ontario perspective are the changes to the province’s wetland management system, the need for integrated watershed management, and the loss of control when it comes to site plan approval and shoreline protection.
Mayor of Bracebridge Rick Maloney says he appreciated the invite by Schreiner.
“Quite frankly, the site plan review in a large urban municipality is totally different than what we would look at from a site plan review in Muskoka,” he explains. “We have checkboxes that we’ve used to ensure the project that’s being proposed meets our goals with ensuring we protect the environment and Bill 23 strips some of that away from municipalities, which is obviously a concern,” says Maloney. He explains that includes making sure the environment, shorelines, and wetlands are protected. “That site plan review was the municipal chance to take a look at what is being presented and see how that fits in with our goals, our climate action plan,” he adds.
While Maloney was part of the afternoon meeting, Mayor of Lake of Bays Terry Glover joined the morning group.
“I’m hearing from my constituents, certainly a lot of concern, about wetlands and environmental protection,” says Glover.
His concerns about the bill also centre on site plan approval. “That’s one of the few controls we have protecting our wetlands and creeks,” says Glover. He adds that development can’t be done “willy nilly” because “that’s where you have problems.”
However, he doesn’t believe the bill is targeting waterfront properties. Glover says he thinks most of the new developments will need to be connected to water and sewer which “only a small portion” of Baysville has. “Hopefully they will lay off the waterfront,” he says.
The idea of the informal group is for municipal leaders to share their concerns with Schreiner, notably about Bill 23, and for him to bring those concerns and ideas to Queen’s Park. “That’s a really positive outcome from our conversation,” he says.
“People say usually I punch well above my weight,” adds Schreiner. He credits the “fantastic team” around him and his ability to listen to those who bring forward “good ideas.”
“If I can amplify those good ideas and alternatives to Bill 23 then I’m going to work with folks to make that happen,” adds Schreiner.
Glover says protecting the environment is vital. “We need to keep this beautiful place we call home safe and sustainable,” he says.