Densest housing centre in the Western Hemisphere, second only to the Dharavi slums of Mumbai?

Dharavi slums

Subject: Request that you pause federal funding for the YNSE until a deal is made public

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the resident and ratepayer groups in York Region and elsewhere in the GTA, listed below, I respectfully request that your government pause payment to the Government of Ontario of your government’s 40% portion of funding for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE) until such time that the Government of Ontario makes public the details of a financial deal it made sometime in 2021-2022 with the owner of lands on either side of Highway 407 at Yonge Street, and until such time that the Government of Ontario meets all conditions and guarantees for funding set forth by your government.

Federation of Citizens Associations Comments on Bill 109

FCA Concerns regarding Bill 109 – More Homes for Everybody Act, 2022

The Federation of Citizens Associations (FCA) of Ottawa represents 70 community groups in the City of Ottawa. Our members are actively involved in many of the City of Ottawa’s public consultations on planning issues – most recently regarding the development of the City of Ottawa’s new Official Plan. As well, we have followed the progress of the Ontario Task Force on Housing Affordability and provided comments on the Task Force recommendations to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing. We now find ourselves responding to Bill 109 – the More Homes for Everybody Act, 2022, which is the government’s response to the Task Force’s recommendations. We wish to bring to your attention 3 major concerns regarding this proposed legislation.

413 will facilitate massive, destructive sprawl

Holland Marsh over Bradford - aerial view

The proposed Highway 413 will facilitate massive, destructive urban sprawl unless it is stopped.

There is increasing opposition from many individuals and organizations who are gravely concerned about the impacts of this proposed highway. Those concerned include public health, municipal, business, agricultural, environmental and community groups.

Highway 413 alone would be devastating. It would slice through the Greenbelt and destroy over 800 hectares of class 1 and 2 farmland, impact 220 wetlands covering 130 hectares, impact or remove 680 hectares of wildlife habitat including forest, wetland and meadows and create crossings of 85 rivers and streams – including the Humber and Credit River Valleys. Over 1000 hectares of land identified as important for wildlife movement will be removed or intersected.*

Ontario Task Force on Housing Affordability – Letter from FCA

The Federation of Citizens Associations (FCA), representing 74 community groups in the City of Ottawa, and its members are often involved in planning matters, as it affects the neighbourhoods our residents live in and the taxes they pay. These are not trivial matters. Planning decisions have quality-of-life implications for our residents as well as for practical issues such as parking, parkland, municipal services, and taxes. While we can appreciate the goal of the Ontario Task Force on Housing Affordability to facilitate the development of affordable housing in Ontario, we have serious concerns regarding some of the 55 recommendations that the Task Force makes.

Specifically, our concerns are:

The section of the Task Force report Focus on getting more homes built proposes development “as of right” of residential housing up to 4 units and up to 4 storeys on a single residential lot (rec. #3) and multi-tenant housing province-wide (rec. #6). These recommendations fail to recognize that such open-ended language ignores the need to balance such development with appropriate infrastructure, including not only hard services but greenspace, tree canopy, access to services, etc. The object should be to build communities, not just houses. As the City of Ottawa in its response to the Task Force recommendations rightly notes, permitting 4 dwellings units and up to 4 storeys on every residential lot may be appropriate in some instances but not in others. Simply put: one size does not fit all. The FCA opposes these recommendations.

Conservation and the importance of community involvement

Petrie Building, 1882, Guelph, Ontario

While much of what lies ahead in 2021 remains unclear, a path yet to be designed, one thing seems clear to me: the importance of community, the opportunity to gather together and experience that sense of feeling part of a greater whole. For many, 2020 has provided time to regroup, to focus our minds on, and to protect, what is truly important.

Many people interact with heritage on a community level. What we as a society value, what we choose to share and protect, how we serve as stewards and the stories and traditions that we choose to carry forward. Concepts of identity and public history have been shaped over time by the intersection of community and heritage. That community response derives from our individual relationship with heritage.

Ontario short-lines under threat

Barrie Collingwood Railway

There has been lots of Ontario short-line railway news in the past few weeks. Most importantly, the Huron Central Railway has received 6 months temporary funding to June, 2021 to allow governments more time to negotiate capital funding.

Meanwhile, CN has announced it is putting the Algoma Central Railway up for sale, although few details have been provided. The Town of Orangeville has announced the pending closure of the Orangeville-Brampton Railway in December, 2021. This line currently serves many local industries, supporting hundreds of jobs. The section of this line linking Brampton and Streetsville also has potential for future rail transit use and Transport Action Ontario will be urging Metrolinx to acquire the line. Read our letter. The Barrie-Collingwood line is also in danger of abandonment and removal. Transport Action Ontario has written to local stakeholders pointing out the benefits of continued operation.

Draft Northern Ontario Transportation Plan released

Highway 129 Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation released Connecting the North: A draft transportation plan for Northern Ontario on December 10, 2020.  Transport Action Ontario has reviewed it in detail. Transportation Action believes that it is too highway-centric and needs more emphasis on passenger and rail freight.

In particular, it provides no concrete timeline for fulfilling the government’s promise to restore passenger rail service between Toronto, North Bay and Cochrane.  

Read Transportation Action’s full review

Dominion Foundry – Stop the demolition!

Dominion Foundry

The Dominion Foundry complex in the West Don Lands, a listed heritage site, is in imminent danger of demolition. We need your help to pressure the Province to stop the demolition and start talking about adaptive reuse of at least part of the site.

On January 14, a demolition crew arrived at the site to raze the Foundry buildings. Because these are provincial lands, no demolition permit was required and no notice was given to the City, the community or to heritage advocates. 

To add insult to injury, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing chose the first day of the emergency provincial lockdown to quietly move in demolition equipment.

Minister’s Zoning Orders – City of Toronto

373 Front Street E. rendering of proposed building

Only about two weeks ago, FoNTRA expressed to you its serious concerns about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) but has received no response to its reasoned arguments. FoNTRA is, therefore, more than surprised and disappointed to learn that, in the meantime, you have issued new MZOs for three sites in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto – without any public consultation, without any involvement of the City Planning Department, without securing any community benefits to support an adequate infrastructure, and without even any notification of local politicians.

Notwithstanding some ingenuous views voiced in the local media – see, for example, Alex Bozikovic in The Globe and Mail of 28 October 2020 – that is no way to run a democratic and intelligent planning system. Just because a move is legal does not make it ethical or fair. In the earlier letter, FoNTRA has outlined in some detail the evolution of MZOs, as intended by successive governments of all political stripes on the advice of several expert panels.

Minister’s Zoning Orders

Construction in Toronto

In recent months, FoNTRA has become concerned about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) and believes that the sudden launch of a flotilla of MZOs undermines the legitimacy of the statutory planning system. By stripping provisions for notices, public meetings, and rights of appeal from the zoning process, in our view, MZOs do not do so much as cutting red tape as purging ordinary citizens from the democratic planning process.

FoNTRA, respectfully, asks the government to confine the use of MZOs to extraordinary situations arising from the pandemic and to swiftly discard the recent wide- spread and undemocratic “enhanced” approach of backroom deals without notice, without public consultation, and without the right of appeal.