Bill 23, or the More Homes Built Faster Act is a sweeping bill that includes some helpful solutions to increase housing supply in Ontario. Park People strongly supports increasing affordable and accessible housing supply in the province.
However, it is unquestionable that Bill 23 will have a devastating impact on Ontario parks, people, communities, and nature. Increasing the supply of housing must be part of comprehensive efforts to build sustainable and liveable communities. We encourage you to join Park People and defend parks in the province of Ontario.
Bill 23 will drastically diminish park budgets and reduce the amount of parkland created to support new growth, which will devastate access to quality parks and nature in Ontario.
Today, developers in the province of Ontario are required to invest in public services in the communities where they build. The municipal tools to secure these investments are: Development Charges, Parkland Dedication Fees, and Community Benefit Charges. These investments flow to municipalities and are used to pay for essential services like parks.
Here are some of the proposed changes to these charges under Bill 23:
How will cities make up for these revenue losses to provide Ontarians with access to quality parks? Ontario’s municipalities are already struggling to keep up with rising land and construction costs to meet the park needs of our growing population. In our 2022 Canadian City Parks Report 69% of cities reported that acquiring/expanding parkland to meet growth needs is a challenge. With Bill 23, the province downloads these expenses onto existing municipal park budgets, without any compensation or new support.
Bill 23 will mean fewer quality parks, with dire consequences for people, communities, and nature across the province. Research shows that our newcomer and equity-deserving communities are often the least well served by quality green spaces. Reducing park budgets will have the greatest impact on the communities that need parks most.
Without quality parks, where will kids go to play with friends? Where will people living in high rises go to spend quality time outdoors, with others in their community? Where will families go to get out into nature and experience its benefits for their health and well-being?
86% of Canadians live in cities and this number is only expected to rise. Yes, we need to provide housing for people in our growing cities. But housing must be created in the context of sustainable and livable cities where people and the rest of nature thrive.
Too often, green spaces are dismissed as ‘nice to have’ infrastructure rather than essential for our physical and mental health. COVID brought the importance of parks into sharp relief. In our 2022 Canadian City Parks Report, over 90% of urban dwellers said parks benefited their mental health and physical health in the past year.
Because parks are essential, park budgets cannot be discretionary– they must be recognized as essential investments for livable, equitable, sustainable, and thriving cities in Ontario.
As Parks Canada recently shared: “There is growing awareness of the importance of urban parks as essential places for conservation, recreation, learning, and mental and physical wellbeing.” The belief that “expanding access to and protection of nature in urban centres pays real dividends” underpins the federal government’s recent investments in urban nature.
We all know we need more investment in parks, not less. Parks are essential and Bill 23 will have a devastating impact on access to green spaces in Ontario’s cities.
Bill 23 is being pushed through the legislature and there is little time to act.
We’ve highlighted the devastating impact of Bill 23 on city parks, it also includes measures to pave over portions of the Greenbelt and strip the ability of Conservation Authorities to protect environmentally sensitive spaces. These are also pressing issues that must be addressed.
Parks and Recreation Ontario has put together a Toolkit you can use to make your voice heard on the importance of parks for thriving communities.