Earlier this year, Ontario overwrote Waterloo Region’s municipal plan, along with the plans of several other municipalities, to open up more farmland for development. While regional council moved to accommodate the new requirements, the move was still met by opposition from organizations within the region.   

“Our Greenbelt has absolutely nothing to with building affordable housing in this province,” Marit Stiles, leader of the provincial opposition, said.

“I want to say there’s no question that Ontarians are staring down the barrel of affordability and housing crisis right now. But that’s what the people of Kitchener and Waterloo knew about and they planned for it.”  

On July 29, several community organizations and members gathered at the Bandshell at Waterloo Park to protest increasing sprawl in the province. This included members of the provincial NDP, the Green Party, Hold the Line Waterloo Region, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Grand River Environmental Network among others.   

Acer Bonaparte, one of the leaders of ACORN Waterloo Region, said rallies where multiple organizations come together to show their support for a cause are important to show opposition.    

“Our enemies are very connected under one message and one person right now Doug Ford, and when you’re dealing with things like housing and sprawl, and all that stuff, it’s interconnected because the issues do overlap,” Bonaparte said.   

The changes to the country line could potentially impact the region’s aquifers, upon which Waterloo residents depend for their water supply.   

“There’s a reason that we have a line around this region—it is because of our aquifer, and you didn’t you should never gamble with source water protection,” Catherine Fife, MPP for Waterloo, said.  

Maribel Jagorin, an organizer with ACORN and resident of 267 Traynor Ave. Facing renoviction, shared the impacts of unfair evictions on resident. The process of avoiding evictions is exhausting for residents and Jagorin said they know they will not be allowed to move back in after renovations.   

“These attempts of kicking us out of our homes are intimidating and exhausting. It’s a nightmare,” Jagorin said.

“Doug Ford is making life harder for renters, as the Ontario government has struck down rental replacement by laws in cities such as Ottawa, which makes it hard for cities to regulate rent evictions, practices, such as buy outs or Cash for Keys, illegal eviction notices,” she said.  

Speakers and attendees both expressed that the proposed sprawl is unsustainable.   

“There is a huge cost to sprawl—we all know this,” Fife said.   

The costs of sprawl to the municipality to service new developments is greater than those within existing boundaries.   

“[Our] government has taken away the ability for cities to pay for this. So, at a time when our funding is cut, they’re promoting our kind of development that increases cost to local taxpayers and municipalities,” Aislinn Clancy, councillor of ward 10 in Kitchener, said.    

“I think we need to remind this government that we can’t eat money,” she said.  

Sam Nabi, co-organizer with Hold the Line, said this is the first time that the countryside line is being expanded without an appropriate amount being afforded protection elsewhere.   

“It’s unaffordable, it’s unacceptable, it’s undemocratic. There was no consultation,” Nabi said.   

“Locally, we went through an extensive process of making sure that citizens’ voices were part of that plan. And then it got to the Minister of housings office, and they just took a Sharpie and made their own boundary,” he said.   

Debbie Chapman, councilor for ward 9 in Kitchener, said there is a lot of land within the existing countryside lines for development, without sprawling into farmland.    

“If [Ford] cared about affordability, he would listen to municipalities call to commit more funding to affordable housing and homelessness…If Ford cared about affordability, the inclusionary zoning bylaw guidelines would be more aggressive,” Chapman said.  

The current guidelines proposed in Bill 23, the More Houses Built Faster Act, include requirements for five per cent of new units to be affordable. However, Chapman said, what is affordable in comparison to other units may not actually be affordable for regular people.   

“[An] affordable rate of 80 per cent of market value—which works out to about $1,500 rent per month for one bedroom unit [is] not affordable for the majority that people that are looking for housing,” Chapman said.   

“Enough is enough. Everyone deserves a stable place to call home a place they can afford. It’s not about profit. It’s about housing,” she said.   

Bonaparte said continuing to show support through rallies such as this one is important to reaching organizations’ and residents’ goals. He said rallies help maintain hope for the future. 

“I know a lot of people the reason they don’t go to stuff like this is they think there’s no hope and it’s pointless and we won’t ever get anything done. But it’s not true—time and time again, stuff like this gets things done,” Bonaparte said.