BACKGROUND TO JULY 13, 2020 MEDIA RELEASE
Weakening/Removing Environmental Assessment Requirements
Numerous regressive or problematic changes to the Environmental Assessment Act in Bill 97 would:
- restrict application of the Act to just certain projects designated by Cabinet regulations,;
- constrain the public’s ability to request “bump-up” (or “elevation”) of contentious projects to more robust EAA requirements; and
- replace currently approved Class EAs with as-yet unknown regulatory requirements.
Moreover, the bill fails to implement long overdue reforms that address systemic problems within the current EAA program.
While CELA supports some of the proposed EAA amendments, such as imposing expiry dates on EA approvals and requiring landfill proponents to provide proof of local municipal support for their projects, the bill would fundamentally weaken Ontario EA requirements and should be withdrawn.
See also: Preliminary Analysis of Schedule 6 of Bill 197 – Proposed Amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act Preliminary-Analysis-Schedule6-Bill 197-(July 10, 2020)
Changes to Laws Governing Planning and Development
In proposed changes to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Act, the province would establish a Provincial Land and Development Facilitator, to advise and make recommendations on growth, land use and other matters, including Provincial interests.
This new position places increasing emphasis on the interests of the development industry as opposed to local communities and residents. The move follows the recent elimination of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a provincial agency, which was specifically established to give legal assistance to citizens on the planning process.
In addition, proposed changes to Planning Act would enhance provisions that already give the Minister unilateral power to issue zoning orders. The revised order-making power would allow the Minister to reach deeply into the planning process at the level of the details of a specific project and site, thereby overruling decisions by municipal council and planning staff.
Although the proposal states that the new power will be exercised in relation to “site plan control and inclusionary zoning,” the last few months have seen a dramatic increase in the use of Minister’s zoning orders in favour of the development industry.
In proposed changes to the Building Code Act, regulation-making authority is moved from the Lieutenant Governor in Council to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, constraining the involvement of the Legislature.
A key missed opportunity here is to reinstate Building Code requirements (removed by this government shortly after taking office in 2018) for electric vehicle charging stations during new construction. Instead, greater power is vested in the Minister with as-yet unknown implications for regulation making.
In a similar vein, proposed changes to the Drainage Act would delegate new and additional discretion for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to make regulations related to public notice and approvals procedures for drainage works. Too much is left to future regulations with no detail on how/when this new discretion to make regulations would be used.
Changes are proposed for the Expropriations Act that would limit procedural fairness for private landowners affected by the construction of public highways. These new discretionary processes would replace procedural fairness rights guaranteed by the Statutory Powers and Procedure Act.
In a positive move, proposed changes to the Development Charges Act would restore measures to include capital costs of key community services such as public libraries and long-term care. These proposed services had been eliminated many years ago, over the objections of environmentalists, planners and municipal finance officials, who argued “growth should pay for growth” so we don’t subsidize sprawl from existing municipal coffers.
CELA supports this proposal and our review will address whether to include additional services to reflect the goals of ensuring healthy sustainable communities as they grow.
CELA’s detailed review of Bill 197 will be posted to our website soon.
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For more information please contact:
- Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel email@example.com (regarding changes to the Development Charges Act)
- Richard Lindgren, CELA Counsel 613-385-1686 (regarding changes to the Environmental Assessment Act)
- Ramani Nadarajah, CELA Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org (regarding changes to the Planning Act, Ministerial Zoning Orders)
- Anastasia Lintner, CELA Counsel, email@example.com (regarding changes to the Drainage Act)
- Kerrie Blaise, CELA Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org (regarding changes to the Building Code Act)