These have been difficult and confusing times for all, but it seems that we are beginning to see the end at last. Towns and cities are now attempting to assume some semblance of normality, restricted by social distancing, and changed behaviour regarding work and home.
The events of the past (over) one year once again reinforce the critical role of residents’ associations at the local level, and federations of residents associations, especially at the provincial level, to address policy issues. The mantra “municipalities are a creature of the province” is regularly demonstrated in legislation introduced and passed by the provincial government “under cover of COVID.” COVID, as they say, “consumes all the oxygen in the room,” resulting in even less public attention than usual being paid to legislative and program changes, some positive, but many with long term negative implications for such areas as cultural heritage, urban sprawl, and climate change.
The government passed legislation exempting Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) from complying with the Government’s own Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS covers a myriad of policy areas from cultural heritage to environment.
They even allowed the MZO authority to be applied retroactively. They issued an MZO for a proposed Amazon warehouse on a Provincially significant wetland site in Pickering which would have been protected by the PPS. Thankfully, Amazon pulled out after Amazon found that the site violated Amazon’s own sustainability policy.
In another MZO example the Province issued an MZO for the heritage designated Dominion Foundry site to allow development without public consultation and approval of the City of Toronto. Based on “the need for affordable housing” but without any affordable housing agreement in place. After extensive community opposition the demolition was paused at least temporarily.
So what has FUN been doing about these issues?
- We have submitted briefs to consultations (where these were provided) and comments to the Environmental Register;
- We have written letters to the Premier, the Ministers and MPPs and municipalities, regarding new legislation and programs impacting on land use and communities, (e.g. the GTA West Highway (413) and the reduced powers of conservation authorities);
- We addressed the Standing Committee considering Bill 245, The Land Tribunals Act;
- We have communicated and promoted action locally through eNewsletters to our members, and we have made our website a resource about these matters.
We have also, where possible, worked in concert with other not-for-profit organizations such as Environmental Defence, Nature Canada, David Suzuki Foundation taking advantage of their skills, expertise, and good reputation.
The above is external activity, but internally there has been lots of activity also. The web site has been upgraded and expanded.
Looking forward, we have plans to expand our website content and communiqués to our members. To do so will require funds. Your donations over above the membership fee would be most appreciated.
During the past year the Executive has met monthly and we have initiated an outreach campaign to residents’ associations across the province. We want to increase our network of urban neighbourhoods, locating additional organizations and increasing communication.
FUN’s niche is proving to be critical important and a major opportunity. However, it is also a major challenge for an organization whose raison d’être is to link organizations which tend to be focussed on their own issues, and relies for support on people who are already locally engaged in resident association activities. We need everyone’s ideas and help to do so. It is very much a work in progress and we look for ideas and help from all.