Comment: Provincial land use changes could affect Ontario farms

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Ontario’s provincial policy statement is currently under review. It directs land-use planning and guides municipal development for all of Ontario.

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is focusing on the provincial policy statement review during our annual stewardship and policy committee series. CFFO members across the province are weighing in, online or in person, to guide our organization’s recommendations to government.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the proposed changes will increase housing supply and create jobs while also “protecting the environment and resources including farmland, natural resources… and water.”

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The government posted several questions for Ontarians, including:

  • Do the proposed policies strike the right balance? Why or why not?
  • How do these policies take into consideration the views of Ontario communities?
  • Are there any other policy changes that are needed to support key priorities for housing, job creation, and streamlining of development approvals?

CFFO is pleased to see that government has prioritized protections for Ontario’s prime agricultural and specialty crop areas. Furthermore, we’re happy to see that the proposal encourages municipalities to protect the agri-food system — the geographical continuity and economic connections of Ontario’s agri-food network.

A close reading of the proposed policies, however, suggests that the top priority is supporting aggregates, mining, and housing development. We worry that today’s concerns about population growth and development pressures have outweighed the long-term need to protect our farmland and food supply.

CFFO members from the eastern part of the province kicked off our stewardship and policy committee meetings in Peterborough. Conversation turned to larger philosophical questions about land stewardship and where support for farmland protection can intersect with support for development.

We look forward to continuing the discussion, as we prepare our response to the provincial policy statement review.

Brenda Dyack is executive director/acting director of research and policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

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