Statement by Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager, on reports of forthcoming legislation to reinstate forced boundary expansions and circumvent expropriation & land use rules

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – Environmental Defence is concerned by recent reports in the Narwhal that the Ontario government is contemplating a new bill that would throw gasoline on the government’s smoldering sprawl and real estate scandal. Ironically referred to as the “Get It Done Act”, this rumoured new bill would actually make it more difficult for Ontario municipalities to fix the affordable housing shortage and GTA traffic gridlock.

The potential new law would reignite the Ontario government’s sprawl and land speculation scandal in three main ways:

  • The bill being considered would backtrack on last year’s reversal of the corrupt settlement boundary expansions that were imposed on Golden Horseshoe regions in 2022. While the government did not reverse unnecessary expansions approved by regional governments, the reversals that were made received praise from both housing supply and environmental advocates as a modest and necessary step in curbing sprawl and addressing the real estate scandal.
  • The so-called “special building zones” reported on by the Narwhal appear calculated to let the provincial government take over local decision-making power in order to accelerate hand-picked projects. This would let the province  force municipalities to divert infrastructure and resources away from building more labour and cost-efficient housing in existing neighbourhoods in order to prioritize sprawl subdivisions.
  • Finally, the bill is designed to prevent landowners who aren’t in on the Highway 413 scheme from legally challenging the seizure of their land. This appears to be designed to help the Ontario government move quickly to destroy habitats, waterways and Indigenous sites that fall within federal jurisdiction, in the event that delays in introducing an updated  federal Impact Assessment Act creates a temporary gap in federal environmental protections. While the federal government has clear jurisdiction to review the Highway 413 project, a recent court decision means the impact assessment that is currently protecting the affected swathe of farms, forests, and wetlands must be transitioned to a revised Impact Assessment Act. If the federal government fails to introduce the new Act before the old one becomes invalid, there could be a temporary gap in protection.

News of this potential bill should be a wake-up call for Ontarians that this government has still not learned its lesson. It remains fixated on finding new ways to divert scarce construction labour, equipment and infrastructure to low-density sprawl at the expense of efficient and compact family homes within existing settlement areas. To maintain its pretext for subsidizing sprawl with Highway 413, it is also willfully disregarding the mounting evidence that it would be much cheaper and faster to subsidize trucks to use the nearby 407 to free up commuter space on the 401.

Despite all the successes of the past year, Ontarians will need to keep up the pressure to prevent the government from returning to its old, sprawling ways. 

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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

Carolyn Townend, Environmental Defence