STOP the SPRAWL: the growth taking place and what is in the works adds to the climate emergency

By Staff

May 5th, 2022



The provincial election that began officially yesterday is about climate change.

Your life and the quality of the life you live in the next three to five years is going to be decided on who you elect on June 2nd.

Stop the Sprawl a group working across the province is doing there best to set out the issues and give you a chance to take part in this vital exercise.   Send them your thoughts: Stop Sprawl Halton –

On April 14th 2022, Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act hurriedly received royal assent a scant two weeks after it was introduced. Bill 109 formalized a provision that would allow the Minister to refer Official Plan Amendments to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) if the Minister is not satisfied with the submission.

Beausoleil, the structure on the left in this rendering was approved at the Ontario Land Tribunal level – city council was not in love with this one.

This is an unacceptable shift from the long-standing process whereby provincial and municipal planning staff work collaboratively to achieve consensus on Official Plan submissions. Simply pitching submissions to an arbitrator that allows a single individual the authority to accept or deny Official Plans converts municipal planning to an adversarial process that will unnecessarily cost municipal taxpayers millions of dollars.
Official Plans and local autonomy threatened

In November 2021, Hamilton City Council voted to accommodate all expected future growth within its current urban boundaries, rather than sprawling outward onto precious farmland, woods and wetlands because the mandated market-driven housing mix CAN be accommodated.

It is unacceptable, therefore, that Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark stated in the legislature that Hamilton’s refusal to expand its urban boundaries was unacceptable to the Ford government, and that he was considering referral of the matter to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) for a decision. Hamilton’s approved plan was in compliance with all provincial policies.

In February 2022, Halton Regional Council also directed their staff to prepare an Official Plan with no urban expansion for the next 20 years, recognizing they have enough vacant land within the current urban boundary to accommodate all mandated growth to 2041. Halton also elected to delay approving its plan for accommodating growth to 2051 until the province reveals its response to the Affordable Housing Task Force Report. Halton fully intends to be compliant with Provincial legislation once the new rules are known.

Many other municipal councils are still completing their Official Plans. Will their deliberations be subject to the Minister’s whims too?

Referral to the OLT: double jeopardy for Councils and taxpayers

The problem in the Region of Halton is the same problem Hamilton is fighting.

The threat of referral to the OLT, with its significant price tag, will surely influence decision- making as councils struggle with the cost of a potential OLT court case. Councils understand that there is always the threat of going to the OLT to defend their decisions from challenges from land speculators. But they should not have the province also threatening the same challenge. What, in effect has happened is that the challenges expected from speculators will now be paid for by the people of Ontario via the Province’s intervention.

It is an affront to democracy to reject the planning decisions made by elected councils, when they have followed provincial legislation and made their decisions following due process, consistent with local priorities.

Ontario’s Stop Sprawl Coalition calls on the Province of Ontario to repeal sections of Bill 109 that deal with referrals to the OLT.

We have a climate emergency: plan for it!

The climate has changed – the sudden floods in 2014 caused this flooding in Burlington

Ontario’s Stop Sprawl Coalition supports:

• Ending exclusionary zoning to allow for gentle density in existing neighbourhoods
• Growth through sustainable, more efficient use of land
• Ending sprawl as a means of accommodating new population
• Designing complete, walkable, transit-supportive mixed-use communities
• Saving farming, not just farmland
• Rethinking employment areas for efficiency of land use
• Protection of natural assets, including watersheds, water sources, sensitive lands and biodiversity
• Broad community consultation including Indigenous voices

The Places to Grow Act (PGA) was introduced in the Province of Ontario in 2005. This provincial legislation provided new guidance for how municipalities accommodate growth. It was introduced specifically to address the alarming loss of prime agricultural farmland in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) and the negative consequences of sprawl such as increased commute times, traffic congestion on provincial highways, loss of productivity, increased greenhouse gas emissions and the unsustainable increasing costs to the taxpayers for servicing sprawling growth.

The PGA for the first time forced all municipalities in the GGH to reduce their reliance on converting farmland to subdivisions and introduced mandatory intensification targets within built- up areas of the communities.

The Ford government updated the legislation in 2019 by walking back the intensification targets and by introducing a goal that would effectively require municipalities to approve more sprawl to accommodate growth. The key new requirement was to accommodate the future market for single family dwellings.

Since late last year, Stop Sprawl organizations have sprung up across the GGH in response to these changes which move the province in a backward direction. Municipalities have other priorities that will be thwarted if they simply comply by approving sprawl.

How we must grow during climate breakdown

The Green space we have left. In Burlington the Escarpment is protected – will a second term PC government keep that protection in place.

Ontario’s remaining green spaces are precious. They mitigate climate change and provide future food security. We applaud municipal councils that have chosen to accommodate growth within their existing urban areas and are diligently working on policies that will increase the supply of single-family dwellings without an urban expansion. They have chosen to grow by focusing intensification along higher order transit corridors and in commercial nodes. They have chosen to provide more opportunities for affordable housing to be built near services. They have chosen to plan for growing vibrant walkable, less car-dependent neighbourhoods. They have chosen to grow in a more financially viable way in contrast to accepting the escalating cost of growth through continuing expansion of their urban boundaries.

Stop Sprawl Ontario supports sustainable growth that integrates responsible land management , more efficient use of land, and focuses on creating walkable, livable, healthy communities for all residents in harmony with nature.

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9 comments to STOP the SPRAWL: the growth taking place and what is in the works adds to the climate emergency

  • Tom Muir


    I gave up on Ford a long time ago. He has politicized and subverted pretty much everything I value in public health, education and schools in Covid mandates, the planning and control of development and growth of our cities, and how he spends our budget money to further his agenda to effectively take over and finance the details of direction and control.

    I want to see self-determination and democracy for people in deciding what we do and how we do it. Ford is intent on taking that away, and all I can do is not vote for him, and tell why.

    If the other Parties want to take that on with similar thinking that we have to grow whatever it takes, they will fail as well because any design and scale thought will tell you it won’t work.

    Ted raises another example of the expected outcomes of his agenda to subvert development.
    I have described the factual basis of my concerns here before but I guess you have forgotten this. Sometimes it was in our back and forth, but you are here again asking me the same thing.

    The Provincial Growth Plan, Provincial Planning Statement, Bill 108, Bill 109, and other associated policies, and uses of power, are in fact a dagger in the heart of planning. In Burlington and Halton, it has destroyed planning itself. Everything proposed now takes years to get through the process to OLT.

    It substitutes a central dictatorial control over development, with fabricated numbers, that tells the Regional and Local governments what they have to do , and for how many people. It also provides a legal process that allows any development application, if the City doesn’t want to approve it, to be appealed to a Tribunal that decides based on their interpretation of the Growth Plan.

    As a result, Burlington has 2 Official Plans that are effectively zombie plans – one is an old one that is in force and effect, but obsolete; and a second, approved OP, that is effectively dead in a mass appeal of it at OLT. The result is that planning itself is confused with the Growth Plan and is subverted.

    The Growth Plan, and supporting policies, and open and free resort to OLT, are the instruments of this oppression of citizen rights (they have no meaningful rights at OLT) and the subversion of planning the actual development process and form.

    What other Growth Plan would tell the Region and City that it has to spend the next 30 years effectively doubling their population, adding all the accoutrements of life for the life support of 500,000 people? It’s telling us that we have to focus our community to serve this goal without exception, so it will become the most important thing we have to do, regardless, or else.

    Ignoring the climate change emergency the City declared long ago is just accelerating and will have profound impacts over this same 30 year period that we are supposed to be doubling our population. Covid will still be here in unknown form. This disconnect is madness, borne of power and greed.

    So in short form, this is the essence of this discussion and crisis of self determination in our future. We can’t have an unthinkable and obedient devotion to perpetual growth in population and everything else that will be consumed, and really anything else satisfactory or healthy.

    The path that Ford is ordering us to follow leads into and furthers supply change breakdown, soaring prices of land, construction materials, housing, rent food, fuel, and so on, and will only worsen the problems all Parties talk about.

    What makes anyone think we can just go back to the past and ignore it all in favour of Commandant Ford’s commanding commitment to the impossibility of the Growth Plan?

    It won’t get my vote.

  • Ted Gamble

    If the readers have not reviewed the proposed enormous hi rise development proposed for Oval Court by Branthaven (Appleby GO) you should. About 40 storeys and 3000 units. As I recall about 70% of the units are about 600 SF or less. Just who would occupy these vertical tiny homes & where will they work, play & find health services. Ridership for the GO trains is 10% of what it was? Do we really think this will change much. If you think we have traffic gridlock now just wait. I prefer the tax paying pork plant to this.

  • Alfred


    Instead of giving up on Ford, please tell us how the Liberals or NDP or whoever else, how their housing policies differ from his. Now is the time to vote. This much intensification is insane. But I`m not hearing anything else from the other parties that puts a smile on my face. Please advise.

  • Tom Muir

    Right on Ted. Trying to force the Halton population to grow to a million in 20 years, essentially doubling in 25 years, is what Ford is trying to do with his dictatorship central planning policy and the OLT.

    How you add 500,000 people without thinking about feasibility and constraints and consequences we will increasingly feel is not even asked about. I just heard him campaign to build 150,000 houses a year for 10 years without telling us how.

    Ted suggests a lot fewer built here, based on reason, not unthinking greed, and more somewhere else, could bring us closer to a a more sane understanding of what adding 500,000 people and doubling will bring down on our heads.

    We will be electing a dictator if we return Ford to office.

  • Ted Gamble

    Bob perhaps somewhere else than Burlington or the GTA for that matter. Canada has vast amounts of open land.

    • Bob

      There’s a few problems with that. The obvious being that it is selfish. It’s OK for you to live here but keep it private and don’t allow anyone else. Second, we have no choice in the matter as intensification has been mandated by the provincial government and immigration numbers are set by the federal government. Thinking we can vote out Ford and stop growth by voting Liberal is a fallacy as it was Kathleen Wynns Liberals that set the stage for intensity with their urban growth centres.
      So my point is still, we only have two ways to grow. Up or out (we will all end up underground but let’s not rush that) so people can’t have it both ways. You have to pick a side or the government will make the decision for us.

  • Bob

    So we don’t want sprawl and we don’t want to go up. Just where are people to live? Are we going down now instead?

  • Alfred


    I agree with you fully. Usually the ones that make the most noise, are the ones who live in a house with a yard but are happy to deny others that same right and privilege. They don`t want high rise tenements or houses built. It`s an all about me attitude.

  • Phil Waggett

    Stopping sprawl on its face seems like a desirable objective in theory. But it ignores two realities. First, why are we encouraging massive population growth in the GTA? In significant part, this is a result of federal immigration policies which don’t plan for the impact of these populations on housing, health care and education. Secondly, why should people be content to settle for a high-rise shoebox to raise their families in. I hardly think these tenements provide an excellent quality of life to families. Or doesn’t that matter?