Statement by Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager on Ontario Government’s Commitment to Reverse Forced Boundary Expansions in Hamilton, Halton, Waterloo and other Ontario Municipalities

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – The provincial government will take another modest step to try to end its sprawl and land speculation scandal if it follows through on Minister Calandra’s promise to reverse the reduced density targets and forced boundary expansions that it imposed on Hamilton, Halton, Ottawa, Waterloo and other Ontario municipalities. Reversing forced boundary expansions and the Ontario Government’s loosening of Official Plan intensification targets will make it easier for municipalities to deliver the compact, low-cost family housing in existing neighborhoods that is required to fix the housing shortage.

However, we are concerned that Minister Calandra appears to be continuing to frame the forced boundary expansion scandal as one of “process”. The heart of the scandal is that the government insisted on extending settlement boundaries in regions where it knew expansion was unnecessary and would actually make it harder to increase housing production and fix the housing shortage. Municipal authorities and the Provincial government knew there was already so much farmland and wildlife habitat designated for development within settlement boundaries before 2022 (more than 350 km2 in the GTHA alone) that sprawling even further would require that construction happen at inefficient and car-dependent low densities. The Government would not have had to resort to inappropriate interventions in the process if it weren’t for the absence of any appropriate, evidence-based justification for these expansions.

The Ontario Government’s two recent reversals, canceling Greenbelt removals and now reversing forced boundary expansions, are only the first two steps on a long road. These two steps simply reverse actions taken as a part of a much larger corrupt and counterproductive push for sprawl that would worsen Ontario’s housing shortage. The government actions that form this scandal include: 

  • “Sprawl MZOs” that have forced sprawl outside of existing towns city boundaries
  • The reduction of Growth Plan housing and job density requirements – and a plan to remove them altogether- at a time when higher densities are the only way to solve the housing shortage
  • A plan to let agricultural landlords anywhere in Ontario evict farmers and convert a farm into three McMansion estates
  • Laws that have weakened Conservation Authorities, endangered species protection, and floodplain and wetland protections; forced urban boundary expansions in Hamilton, Halton, Waterloo and elsewhere aimed at increasing the amount of farms, forests and wetlands  lost to sprawl by more than 100 km2 within the Golden Horseshoe alone
  • The dismantling of regional land use planning, 
  • Pushing the dangerous Highway 413 and Bradford by-Pass highway schemes

Unless the dismantling of regional planning and recent sprawl-inducing changes to the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe are reversed, and unless plans to repeal the Growth Plan altogether are abandoned, there’s a very real risk that these boundary expansions themselves may re-emerge in a new form.

Just as with the Greenbelt removals and forced boundary expansions, all of these provincial actions involve more than just sacrificing the environment. They  also divert scarce construction capacity and public resources away from essential low-cost housing in existing neighborhoods in order to subsidize the environmentally destructive sprawl schemes of the government’s “friends”. In the case of Highway 413, those public resources consist of more than $10 billion of taxpayer money and a wide swathe of the Greenbelt itself.  

The scandal won’t be over until Highway 413 and all the government’s other sprawl initiatives have been abandoned and reversed.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Carolyn Townend, Environmental Defence,