On November 9th, Hamilton City Council will vote on whether to stop urban sprawl or expand city limits to prime farmland. Hamilton is Ground Zero for the Ford government’s proliferation agenda. When Canada loses its best farmland in Ontario, all Canadians suffer.
Less than five percent of Canada’s land area is arable land. Amazingly, only 0.5 percent of this land is prime arable land that is climate change resilient. Southern Ontario and the Hamilton region in particular are full of this black gold.
The Whitebelt is the best farmland between the Hamilton city limits and the Greenbelt. But unlike the green belt, these 3,300 acres of prime farmland aren’t protected and, if Doug Ford has his way, they’ll be re-zoned for development and lost forever.
In the past, planning and zoning changes were carried out with a climate lens. Then, in August 2020, the Ford government dropped the lens and instead focused on making building large single-family homes a priority. This created a pseudo-demand for land and calls from developers to expand Hamilton’s city limits to include important farmland.
Make no mistake, this expansion of the city limits is not being done to appease Hamiltonians. It has nothing to do with keeping tall towers out of the city because those decisions were made a long time ago. It has nothing to do with building affordable, LEED-certified, energy-efficient living space. And it certainly has nothing to do with retrofitting old warehouses or schools to create more living space with a lower carbon footprint.
Instead, this is the deliberate destruction of prime farmland that allows developers to sell McMansions built on large lots. The construction of these subdivisions has nothing to do with satisfying the existing need for affordable housing, but has to do with profit maximization, as the builders set the prices that bring the greatest profit with the least effort.
These villas require new infrastructure, including a whole slew of new streets, sewers, and large outlets with huge parking lots, to serve their new owners. All of this will lead to increased traffic; Heat islands, noise, air and water pollution; increased flooding; and finally, more urban sprawl, which will exponentially increase the area’s carbon footprint.
Instead, the city council should focus its efforts on stepping up and building a housing mix across Hamilton. That might look like four-story maisonettes known as the “missing midsize” houses, in locations that once housed large box stores and their huge parking lots; Secondary apartments in alleys and gardens; additional constructions on top of existing malls or shopping malls; and converting closed warehouses and schools into affordable housing.
In March, Ward 9 City Council Brad Clark successfully endorsed a call to city officials to conduct a poll asking Hamiltonians to choose between staff-recommended extension of the city limits or absolutely no extension of the current city limits was supported by Stop Sprawl HamOnt (SSHO).
The answer was predominantly “no”, with 90.5 percent of the respondents choosing to keep the existing city limits. Unsatisfied with the result, nine developers created Facebook ads under the nickname “Hamilton Needs Housing”. They intended to be revealed to the public prior to the Hamilton General Issues Meeting on Jan.
Hamilton Needs Housing is a coordinated action funded by the following development companies: Cardi Construction Limited, Artstone Holdings Limited, Corpveil Holdings Limited, Marz Homes, Melrose Investments Inc., Multi-Area Developments Inc., New Horizon Development Group, Paletta International Corporation, and DeSozio Homes.
They also delivered brochures to the houses claiming Hamilton must expand the city limits to save farmland and encouraged the Hamiltonians to call on the city council to support the city expansion.
In response, the public launched their own campaign: #SharpieShenanigans. Hamilton citizens used Sharpies to write the truth on the brochures before mailing them back to the developers. This ended the crusade of the developers of fake news.
On November 9th, Hamilton City Council will vote to either support the expansion of the city limits or prevent expansion beyond the current city limits and protect prime farmland.
This vote should be a call to action for all Canadians because the loss of this farmland will affect not only Hamilton but Ontario as well. Ontario is losing farmland at the rate of 175 acres a day. That means over 50,000 acres are at stake in southern Ontario this year.
Increased food prices due to the effects of extreme weather conditions in Florida and California, combined with the high cost of transportation, should encourage all levels of government to encourage production in the southern Ontario farm belt. Food security and food sovereignty should take precedence over developer gains.
Ontario has not yet reached its full agricultural potential and does not currently produce enough food to support itself. However, a recent study co-authored by McMaster University economics professor Atif Kubursi examines how the province could strengthen its food system. Ontario could increase farm profitability and improve health outcomes for consumers while reducing the carbon footprint of local products and creating 3,400 new jobs across the province. Realizing the full agricultural potential would ensure sustainable food security and food sovereignty. But we have to keep the farmland we have for this to work.
Kubursi’s report found that Ontario agriculture is currently $ 11.5 billion annually and that farmers, along with their suppliers, spend $ 29.3 billion annually, which is $ 4.4 billion in tax revenue for municipalities -, provincial and federal governments combined. Improving food self-sufficiency in Ontario would only add to those impressive numbers, but that won’t happen when Ford paves over farmland.
Michelle Tom, co-founder of Stop Sprawl HamOnt, sees it this way:
“Hamilton could be the breadbasket for Ontario and the country. We need the Canadians to tell the Hamilton Council to stop this land grab and recognize that food security is national security. Local grassroots people can mobilize against developers, but we all need Canadians on board. “
To add your vote to the list of Canadians urging Hamilton city council to freeze the city limits, click here. Your letter will be sent to Hamilton City Councilors, Premier Doug Ford, Councilor Clark, MPP Donna Skelly (representing Flamborough-Glanbrook) and NDP environmental critic MPP Sandy Shaw.