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Opinion: Detractors of Ford’s plan must offer alternative solutions to Ontario’s housing crisis 


In an effort to address Ontario’s housing affordability crisis, the Ford government recently passed a bill meant to spur homebuilding around the province. The government is also considering allowing development on certain Greenbelt lands surrounding the GTA.

Whatever your view on the government’s latest moves, everyone agrees there’s a problem. Ontario’s housing shortage is so painfully obvious that it’s just that—painful. Ask anyone looking to rent or buy their first home. At its root, it’s an issue of supply and demand; too few homes for too many would-be buyers and renters. When demand outpaces supply, prices rise. 

If you prefer numbers, consider that in the 1970s roughly one home (on average) was built annually for every 1.2 new Ontarians compared to 2.4 new Ontarians in the most recent decade. In other words, the rate of new homes compared to new Ontarians is half what it was in the 1970s. Similarly, GTA rental vacancy rates averaged almost 3 percent in the 2000s but fell to less than 1.5 percent during the 2010s. No matter how you slice it, there aren’t enough homes to accommodate current and anticipated Ontarians. This is bad news for renters, buyers, and anyone looking to put down roots in Ontario. It’s also bad news for the economy, social cohesion, and the very idea of Ontario as an upwardly mobile society.

Which takes us back to the Ford government’s latest piece of housing legislation has passed—the More Homes Built Faster Act—and aims to markedly reduce both the number of regulatory hurdles homebuilders face and limit the power of local governments to block housing development. 

The sweeping legislation allows up to three housing units “as-of-right” (that is, without rezoning) on single-family parcels provincewide, spares non-profit housing from development charges, refocuses the role of the Ontario Land Tribunal, curbs the power of conservation authorities, and exempts projects under 10 units from site plan approval (a major step in the development approval process). Time will tell whether these changes are sufficient, and indeed some argue they don’t go far enough. Regardless, the legislation represents a massive change to the way Ontario approves housing.

Unsurprisingly, these moves have come under fire from some municipal governments and city planners. By removing significant steps in the approvals process, or by exempting some homes from development fees, the province has diminished the power of city hall to shape growth and the revenue it can raise from it. 

The Ford government’s other recent housing decision—to remove some lands from the Greenbelt while expanding it elsewhere—has also drawn the ire of conservationists, many of whom already opposed any reduction of conservation authority power over housing approvals.

Of course, some of these concerns may be valid, especially concerns about transparency; proper scrutiny of any government decision is necessary. However, Ontario’s housing crisis requires an appropriate response. If detractors feel the More Homes Built Faster Act does harm to local planning processes, they must also recognize the harm done by housing scarcity. If this legislation is insufficient or inappropriate, what alternatives do they offer to close the gap between supply and demand? 

So far, it’s mostly radio silence.   

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The government’s new legislation, while imperfect, is a good step towards more housing development, which is key to increased affordability. However, if its reforms fall short and no one offers a viable alternative, Ontario will not achieve its housing targets, which all parties support. Rhetoric is easy. Without credible policy commitments, however, we won’t get meaningfully different outcomes.

Time will tell how this all plays out, but the important thing is progress. Ontario is long passed the stage of debating whether or not to change the way communities plan for and approve housing. Changes are overdue, and the Ford government has made some serious proposals. Any objectors to these proposals must offer constructive alternatives. In other words, they should explain how else Ontario can close the growing gap between the number of homes we need and the number available. Because unless that happens, housing in the province will remain out of reach for too many. 

Malcolm Jolley: Mass-produced doesn’t always mean mediocre: Two great bargain wine buys for the holidays


Two bottles of wine passed across my table this autumn got me thinking about critical mass and wine. One cost $26.95 and was made just over 50 kilometres as the crow flies from my home, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The other cost $18.95 and was made just to the south of Florence in the hills of the Chianti Classico. Each in its own way shows how size can matter, in a good way.

The 2020 Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay is a fine and fancy white wine, with racy acidity tempered by core fruit and a touch of wood spice. It’s drawn from a single vineyard by the Four Mile Creek, which holds a place of pride for a winery. 

The 2018 Clemente VII Chianti Classico is a well and solidly-made, food-friendly red wine, with dark cherry and Mediterranean scrub notes. It’s from the biggest co-operative winery in the prestigious DOCG region. By the account of an American importer, the Castelli del Grevepesa makes 15 percent of all the wine in Chianti Classico, and this wine, named after a 16th-century Medici Pope, is one of its most popular brands.

One of my favourite themes to write about over the years is how winemaking and the tastes of wine drinkers are susceptible to fashion and trends. If you stick around long enough some of them go and come back. (Is it just me or is oak creeping back into more and more whites?) But one selling point that’s always on trend is a small, boutique, or craft winery.

If there is an area of commerce in which a lack of supply drives a greater surplus of demand than wine, then I don’t know it. This dynamic is the only way to explain how a 750-millilitre bottle of liquid that contains somewhere between 88 and 85 percent water can fetch four figures or more. The smaller the production of the winery that makes wine grapes grown in the smallest possible location, the better will be the wine.

Of course, wine like anything else is regularly—indeed, mostly—made on economies of scale. Walmart makes more money than Holt Renfrew. It’s just that the big producers don’t often brag about it. It’s hard to describe a wine as particularly special if there are a few million bottles of it made every year.

Apart from the taste, and the reasonable price, what I liked about both the Inniskillin Montague Chardonnay and the Grevespesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico is that their producers are proud to be big players and happy to tell you so to your face…or the next best thing, which these days is a Zoom call. I found this out when I talked to a representative from each winery recently.

Nicholas Gizuk was in the process of completing his second harvest as Inniskillin’s head winemaker when I spoke to him last month. Before that, he served as assistant winemaker to Bruce Nicholson at the Niagara winery for three years and spent another six years working in the cellar prior to that. In a typical year he’ll oversee the winemaking from 6,000 tons of grapes sourced from all over the Peninsula.

Half-jokingly, the South African vintner Mark Kent once told me, “Never trust a winemaker who doesn’t make cheap wine, because that’s where the mistakes go.” I am not implying that Nick Gizuk makes cheap wine or mistakes, but I do think that a winemaker who is responsible for more than a few barrels brings a certain breadth of experience and perspective to all of their wines, and maybe especially the rarer ones, which sometimes do not get made in disappointing years.

“It’s nice to work with vines that are 30 or 40 years old,” Gizuk told me, explaining that beyond his own experience he draws on the institutional memory of the winery that’s nearly 50 years old—ancient by Canadian standards—and growers that have worked with Inniskillin since the 1980s and ’90s.

“We’re a small winery and a big winery at the same time,” he added, underlying the point that Iniskillin’s bigger brands set the foundation, and give him and his team the freedom to take particular care with the boutique products like the Montague.

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Paulo Nevini is the export manager for Castelli del Grevespesa and began our conversation by repeating the co-operative’s mantra and creed: “We are the largest family of Chianti Classico.”

When I complimented him on the 2018 Grevespesa Clement VII and its competitive price of $19 a bottle (in Ontario), he smiled and said, “You have to remember we are always a competitive winery, and we are always researching new techniques and looking for a higher quality of winemaking.”

Grevespesa’s history, like many of Europe’s co-operatives, can be divided into two parts. Originally they were set up to set a floor for the price growers got for their crops; a way for small landowners to combine forces to negotiate with buyers. Once the floor was set, then the emphasis was on production. The more you grew the more money you made since the co-operative guaranteed the sale.

That model only worked if consumers were willing to buy the wines the co-operatives made, and by the 1990s consumers shifted away from quantity towards quality, drinking less of the more expensive wines. The smart co-operatives saw the writing on the wall and pivoted to hiring expert winemakers and viticulturists and pooling their capital into state-of-the-art facilities.

Nevini also explained that because the holdings of Grevespesa are spread far and wide across the Chianti Classico territory they can blend and source wine from disparate sites. For instance, using more grapes from cooler, high-altitude sites after a hot summer. A bigger winery really does have more tricks up its sleeves and can maintain a high quality-to-price ratio, even in difficult years.