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Doug Ford’s More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23) and the future of the Greater Toronto Region.  

November 7, 2022

Mark Winfield 

Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change 

York University  


The Ford government’s More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23), introduced last week, is extraordinary in scope, dealing with virtually every dimension of planning and development in the region. The proposed changes could define the future of the region for decades to come. A Toronto law firm, trying to explain the changes, summarized the situation by suggesting forgetting “everything you thought you knew about planning” in Ontario.  

As broad as the scope of Bill 23 is, the Ford government is now going further. It was announced at the end of last week that the province would allow the development of 3000 hectares of Greenbelt, and compel the City of Hamilton to authorize the paving of a further 2200 hectares of farmland for development.  

The Ford government’s moves around planning and development in the GTHA can be seen as a culmination of its previous behaviour.  The government has demonstrated an extraordinary level of responsiveness to the development industry, and aggressively marginalized local governments and the public in decision-making processes.  Bill 23 effectively takes what the province had been doing incrementally through MZOs and other forms of overrides of local planning decisions, and generalizes it into a top-down approach to planning and development without precedent in the province’s history.   

Missing from all of this is any overall vision for the future of the region. The province’s approach seems likely to create a sprawling and dysfunctional megalopolis, where uncontrolled development destroys any meaningful urban form and outstrips the required infrastructures.  That problem would be reinforced by Bill 23’s proposed limits on development changes and other tools used by municipalities to provide the infrastructures needed to support development.  

The government and its development industry allies are justifying their approach through a narrative of a housing affordability crisis rooted in lack of supply, attributed to ‘red tape’ and local opposition to development. That narrative became so dominant that it emerged as a kind of social media ‘echo chamber’ from which differing viewpoints and analyses were excluded.  

The reality is that issues around housing and development in the region are far more complicated than a need to simply build more and faster. The region is already in the midst of a massive development boom. The construction industry is working at capacity, and the narrative of the impossibility of building anything is undercut by the observed reality of the level of development taking place in the region. In fact, Toronto is reported as having the largest number of active construction cranes in North America.  

What is emerging as a major problem is what is being built, and where and how it is happening. The development boom has done nothing to address issues of affordability, especially at the lower end of the income scale. Indeed, there have been significant losses of existing affordable rental housing. Bill 23 would reinforce that problem by constraining the ability of municipalities to require developers to replace rental housing lost to development.     

Outwards sprawl onto prime agricultural and natural heritage lands is continuing. That problem will be accelerated by Bill 23 and the government’s related initiatives, particularly in Hamilton and around the Greenbelt.  

The development patterns that have emerged are doing a poor job of mixing land uses and creating ‘complete’ communities as envisioned in the Growth Plan for the region. Instead, there has been an overwhelming focus on single-use residential development.  The result has been deepening traffic congestion and the overwhelming of transit services and other infrastructures.  

A changing climate means there needs to be an increased focus on the roles of Conservation Authorities in dealing with flooding and other extreme weather risks, and on municipal efforts to strengthen building and community resiliency and energy efficiency. Bill 23 would undermine these efforts.

Dealing with these challenges will require vastly more evidence-based and locally contextualized responses than the sledgehammer approach being taken by the Ford government. Rather, the province’s approach seems likely to make the region’s problems worse than ever.  

Ultimately, Bill 23 represents a vision of the region whose primary goal is to maximize the development industry’s return on investment. What the region really needs is a vision for an affordable, liveable and sustainable future. The tabling of Bill 23 could be a start to that conversation. It cannot be its end.