Environmental group files for judicial review after Ontario orders Hamilton to expand urban boundary

Hamilton city council decided to not expand the city's urban boundary by 1,310 hectares. The provincial government ordered the city to expand the boundary by 2,200 hectares. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)
Hamilton city council decided to not expand the city's urban boundary by 1,310 hectares. The provincial government ordered the city to expand the boundary by 2,200 hectares. (Patrick Morrell/CBC - image credit)

Environmental Defence Canada has served Ontario's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the City of Hamilton with a notice of application for a judicial review after the province ordered the city to expand its urban boundary.

The province's move to expand the boundary by 2,200 hectares — the size of about 356 Scotiabank Arenas — came despite a 2021 city council decision and massive showing of public support to hold the boundary.

The 12-page notice of application, obtained by CBC Hamilton, was filed in Toronto on Dec. 5.

The application from the environmental advocacy groups states the province "unreasonably ignored the requirements" in the Planning Act and Places to Grow Act.

"The Minister ... failed to explain in a transparent, justifiable, or intelligible matter how the decision was consistent with or conformed to the plain language and intent of the applicable plans and policies," reads the document.

The claims haven't been tested in court and CBC Hamilton contacted the province and the city for comment.

The province has said expanding the urban boundary is necessary to ensure enough homes for everyone as the population in Hamilton and Ontario continue to grow.

The application from Environmental Defence Canada states it wants an order to thwart the province's plan and have it reconsidered as well as a declaration that the ministry broke the law.

Phil Pothen, Environmental Defence's Ontario Environment program manager, told CBC Hamilton the group is preparing affidavits but said it will be "some time" before they wind up in court.

"We're at a tipping point where each little chunk of land we use could be something that pushes a species out of existence, threatens our food security ... this is a real problem for Ontarians of all stripes," he said.

This also comes after the province announced a plan to build at least 50,000 new homes on more than a dozen tracts of land now in the Greenbelt, while adding roughly 2,000 acres of protected land elsewhere.

Not everyone is against the province's plan to expand the urban boundary. The Hamilton-based West End Home Builders' Association (WEHBA) previously said in a statement it "fully supports" the decision to expand.

That said, Lilly Noble from Stop Sprawl HamOnt said the city and its residents worked hard to form a plan to create more density and the province should respect that.

"Yes, there's a housing shortage, but that doesn't mean the province can bulldoze through local democracy," Noble said in an emailed statement on Monday.