Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark’s constituency office is about to play host to an exorcism and the members of Repeal 23 Coalition hope the rest of the province takes note.
In a press release, the Coalition notes that “the fight against Bill 23 has seen a massive mobilization across the province, with over 85 events so far,” and they will be “taking the power of the people” to Brockville tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in an attempt to “exorcise the devil of greed and corruption governing Clark and Premier Ford’s policies towards housing and the environment by making noise and raising their voices in song.”
Bill 23, also called the More Homes Built Faster Act, is an omnibus piece of provincial housing legislation that aims to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years by “streamlining” dozens of established laws, making sweeping changes to environmental protections.
Once they chase away the devil, protestors will stay to hear speeches from Eastern Ontario social and environmental justice advocates.
“Clark and Ford’s unholy bargain with greed is destroying the foundations of care and creation that everyone in Ontario depends on,” remarks Jeremy Milloy, Lead, Integrity of Creation and Climate Change with the Providence Centre in Kingston. “We are calling on anyone in Eastern Ontario who can make it to Brockville Saturday to be part of a joyous uprising in support of protecting nature and creating a dignified home for every single person in this province.”
Milloy is one of the Kingston organizers of tomorrow’s event, dubbed “The Devil Is In the Details: Bill 23 Protest,” and, keeping true to the group’s values, to save on emission footprints he and the group’s allies are providing a chartered bus from Kingston to Brockville free of charge.
Milloy says that “people are really fired up about this.”
“We are specifically standing up to defend our communities and defend nature against the actions of this provincial government… [which] are motivated by a devil of greed and corruption,” he shared, “and we’re going to bring that story to life at our protest where we will have a devil of greed and corruption threatening homes and families. We will dramatize how people standing up and working together can protect our affordable housing, our local planning, our wetlands, our wildlife, our nature the Greenbelt, and stand and protect those things against a government that, right now, seems to be tearing the province apart, dividing it up and selling it off to benefit a few very wealthy people and basically stealing the collective wealth that Ontarians have built together over generations.”
Milloy states that regular citizens have proven in the very recent past that protests work, citing the CUPE job action that took place late last year “and the government’s attempt to use the notwithstanding clause to put everyday working people through the wringer to prove a point, I believe, about who runs the province.”
“We can reduce or eliminate the harm that this government intends to do to ordinary Ontarians if we come together and stand up and take care of each other, and we’re going to keep doing that,” he says. He believes that big movements such as a general strike could occur and “would be a really powerful statement… I know that people around Ontario are planning huge protests in February for Queens Park in Toronto. The legislature comes back in session to welcome Mr. Ford and his government back. And so that is an opportunity for a really huge mobilization across the province.”
But he says it is important to remember that momentum doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it builds “supportive things like our public health care, supportive things like our nurses, our education workers, our teachers, our conservation authorities, our affordable housing, our wetlands, our nature, all of these things are on the chopping block right now… a large thing is amazing, and I hope we do it, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of small things and medium-sized things to build up to a big thing,” he notes.
Milloy encourages people, “First of all, to come out on Saturday, and also just look for opportunities; educate your neighbours, advocate to policymakers, participate in action, and look for ways to get involved because what’s happening in Ontario is going to dramatically impact your quality of life for the rest of your life.”
Minister Clark hasn’t been sent a direct invitation to the event, however, Milloy says he hopes he might come anyway. “I think he knows we’re coming… the last time I reached out to him directly was when he was supposed to come here for the opening ceremonies for the Waaban Crossing. But, if you remember, he chose to duck out that day instead of seeing people’s reactions to the policies of his government and the impact they’re having on our lives.”
Though Clark isn’t expected, says Milloy he hopes he will be surprised by the Minister. “His government’s strategy appears to be to disrupt lives as much as possible from where they’re comfortable and then always hide and ignore the consequences and the democratic rights of the people to speak to our representatives about how we feel about the policy. So you know, this government has shown an enormous amount of secrecy and cowardice in that regard, and I expect that to continue. If Minister Clark wants to prove me wrong and show up we would love for him to be there and we would love to connect with him and talk about the impact his policies are having on the watershed of Eastern Ontario, on Kingston’s climate action plan, on the opportunities to build affordable housing… We would love to talk to him about all these things, but I certainly don’t expect that.”
The bus is nearly fully booked says Milloy, but he encourages everyone who wishes to attend to meet at the Memorial Centre parking lot at departure time (10:30 a.m.) to arrange ride shares to the event if seats fill up.