Provincial Government Relations
Time to Engage
Several times in the past 3 and a half years the provincial government has made moves to reduce the power of local governments and to move that power to Queen’s Park.
Reforms to the Ontario Municipal Board were reversed and it (now called the Ontario Land Tribunal) is still as powerful as ever. Unaccountable bureaucrats continue to override local decisions and our provincially-approved Official Plan. Even decisions that are not appealed are twisted by fear of OLT appeals. The legal costs are significant and development approvals are massively delayed by the appeals process.
The government also stripped the conservation authorities, including the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, of much of their power to regulate new development. Protection of our creeks, rivers and associated green spaces has been significantly weakened in Markham.
Further, the province has vastly increased the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to fast track developments with no local oversight or public consultation. This tool, rarely used since being introduced in the 1940s, has been used over 40 times by the current government. And most recently they have introduced a new tool, the Minister’s Consent Order, which will allow the province to approve land severances, again without significant local input.
The provincial Transit Oriented Community proposal for Langstaff (Yonge Street and the 407) would be the second most dense neighbourhood in the world, second only to a slum in India.
And most of the recommendations in the report of the recent Housing Affordability Task Force (which had no municipal representation) are extreme and would remove the ability of local governments to properly address the unique needs of their communities. While the government has not yet implemented most of the recommendations, they have promised that eventually they will.
At every opportunity Reid has stood up for local authority against the over-reach of our provincial government. Reid has supported a number of letters sent by Council to the provincial government opposing their decisions. Of course, it is not clear that our provincial government is listening.
Reid voted against MZOs where there was no obvious urgent need to approve developments. Reid did vote in favour of an MZO required by the Mon Sheong Foundation to build a new non-profit long-term care facility in a timely manner – the sort of thing that MZOs were designed for.
Reid recently supported a Council motion asking the province to abolish the Ontario Land Tribunal.
Reid agrees that the development approval process is slow and cumbersome. But a piecemeal dismantling of regulations is not the way to proceed. The province should initiate a thorough objective review of the development management system across the province. The objective would be to simplify the approval process while continuing to protect the environment and build complete communities with all the amenities required for people of all ages.