Challenging undemocratic changes to Hamilton’s boundaries

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On November 4, 2022, the Ontario government announced it was changing Hamilton’s official plan to expand the city’s boundary by 2,200 hectares, encroaching into farmland and wild spaces that are part of the Greenbelt.

Changes to Hamilton’s boundary are just one example of the provincial government’s attack on the Greenbelt under the guise of improving housing affordability.

Around the same time the boundary change was made, the government introduced Bill 23, that strips conservation authorities of their power and limits municipalities’ ability to levy fees on developers to fund essential infrastructure. And a short time later, the Ontario government announced it was removing parts of the Greenbelt from protection.

This forms part of a wider agenda by the Ford government to sell off parts of the Greenbelt and slash environmental oversight.

Expanding Hamilton’s boundaries will not increase the affordable housing supply for people in Hamilton. The proposed legislation would facilitate car-centered developments and high-cost housing, instead of affordable, sustainable homes.

Hamilton’s official plan was prepared by the city’s planning staff and approved by its council, after extensive consultation to make sure that residents had easy access to local services like transit, schools, community centers and parks. The plan would not only have benefited city residents and local farmers, but it was an essential strategy in protecting the local environment and fighting climate change. It ensured Hamilton would continue to be surrounded by a greenbelt.

The Ontario government is ignoring the voices of the people of Hamilton who wanted to build an inclusive, sustainable city that benefits all who live there.

On December 5, 2022, Ecojustice filed a notice of application with the Ontario Divisional Court on behalf of Environmental Defence, seeking a judicial review of Ontario’s unilateral changes to Hamilton’s official plan. In January 2023, we served the provincial government with notice of legal action.

Ecojustice argues that the Ontario government is trampling on local democracy while opening up environmentally sensitive areas for destruction. Instead of sustainable, transit-friendly homes, the people of Hamilton will be subject to greater urban sprawl and the loss of nature and farmland.

In a time of massive biodiversity loss, widespread pollution and a climate emergency, sustainable growth is essential for local communities and protecting natural heritage for future generations.

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