When Hazel McCallion speaks...

When Hazel McCallion ran the City of Mississauga, Ont. from 1978 to 2014, and she spoke, people generally listened. You don’t get to become Canada’s longest-serving mayor, credited with largely building an entire city, without carrying a little weight.

Now, in a different though equally important capacity, as ex-officio advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, she’s speaking out on the province’s proposed Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt Plan.

Add to her voice that of the mayors of Markham, Richmond Hill, Whitby, Milton, Hamilton and other cities, and that of the chairs of the Peel, York and Durham regions, and you have a thundering chorus ringing throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) that Wynne cannot possibly ignore.

At issue is the province’s proposed land use policies for the Golden Horseshoe. There is “overwhelming consensus” among the GTHA leaders that the province is going “too far, too fast” with its intensification policies.

The result, or at least among the most notable for homebuyers, is ill-planned development with the end product being seriously eroding housing affordability.

McCallion says the growing lack of affordability in the GTHA is of concern and will have a domino effect, negatively impacting the GTHA’s ability to attract economic growth and thus its financial capacity to support needed transit and infrastructure improvements.

“Intensification requires infrastructure and service capacity, or having the necessary funds to build it,” says McCallion. “Lands in the Greenbelt with infrastructure must be reviewed so that the millions of dollars of infrastructure investments made by municipalities and the province don’t get wasted.”

Following a summit last September, the GTHA mayors and chairs recently produced a 28-page report detailing their concerns and recommendations for managing growth, building complete communities, curbing sprawl and protecting the natural environment in the Golden Horseshoe. The central challenge is how to accomplish these goals, while accommodating an anticipated increase in population of four million people over the next 25 years.

Among the highlights:

  • Transportation Master Plans and servicing infrastructure mapping and considerations are incomplete and insufficient to support the proposed density target and intensification number.
  • A lack of consideration to the financial and economic implications of the proposed growth plans for municipalities and regions, and how the plans will be financed.
  • Lack of an open and transparent review process with clear criteria to review Greenbelt lands and boundary adjustments.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) has been relaying similar messages and concerns for years.

“With its proposed changes to the Growth Plan and Greenbelt Plans, it’s clear the government of Ontario is not concerned about the price of housing in the GTA,” BILD President Bryan Tuckey wrote in a recent column in New Home Guide.

Finally, there is now another large, important voice.

Let’s see if Wynne is listening. If not, Ontario voters and rate payers may be the next ones to chime in.

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