The reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Photo by Guido Klinge on Unsplash
Last week, one of our Farms.com writers—it was me—and the rest of the Canadian media, wrote about the demise of Bill-97. However, the Bill remains alive… it’s just that the ag focus it brought may indeed be dead.
Initially proposed by Ontario provincial Housing Minister Steve Clark, Bill-97 is the latest legislative amendment to the Housing Supply Action Plan, and contained ways to increase housing supply in the province—all part of Ontario’s targeted goal to construct 1.5 million new homes by 2031.
The main area of concern regarding Bill-97 was that if passed, it would allow a farm owner to sever their farm into three lots for children or workers to build homes upon—helping Ontario meet that housing target.
However, the ag community felt that if Bill-97 was to pass, and it allowed the severing of farm property into lots, it would fragment the farmland and make it more difficult for farmers to do their jobs.
It was also feared that it would limit the growth of farms, drive the price of farmland up, lead to conflict between farmers and neighbours such as over noise and smells, and permanently take valuable land out of food production.
And so, on May 31, 2023, Bill-97 as it was written, was halted in its process to create more housing.
It was not, however, killed.
The ERO (Environmental Registry of Ontario) period was extended, but the government hasn’t actually abandoned Bill-97. The ERO is the place where the public may take part in government decision-making that might affect the environment.
At this time, Bill-97 is being looked at to see how it can be amended. It’s still alive, but the next time it is presented, it will look different—more than likely without the hot-button topic of farm lot severing involved.
Thanks to Sandra Bray, who wrote to us from the traditional lands of the Anishnawbe, the Neutral, and the Haudenosaunee First Nations, and provided some insight.
She noted that on June 5, 2023, Ontario Minister of Agriculture Lisa Thompson was “refusing to answer if the severances have been cancelled” and said that the Minister was stating “that no decisions will be made until the ERO consultation is complete in August.”
Bray suggested that to ensure the rural severance proposal is completely withdrawn, which would help ensure Ontario’s countryside remained intact and viable for future generations of farmers, that the public needs to submit a comment to the ERO.
Keep it civil, and even if it’s just a few sentences, make your voice heard: https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-6813.