Bill 23 was passed by the Ontario legislature this week. What happens next?
Blog post by Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director
In late October, the Ontario government introduced Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 in the Legislature. It was passed by the legislature on third reading on November 28 after several amendments were reported out from the Standing Committee (see below). Numerous associated notices for public comment were posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) and Ontario Regulatory Registry (ORR) the same day. Subsequently, three additional notices were posted relating to the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Together, the proposed legislative amendments and associated policy and regulatory changes are an extensive and alarming package; one of the most extensive such sets of changes that CELA has seen in decades.
The bill was sent to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy for review in early November. CELA appeared at Standing Committee on November 17th, and our Executive Director, Theresa McClenaghan presented an oral statement. CELA subsequently submitted written comments to the Standing Committee for their consideration, as well as submitting comments in response to several of the ERO and ORR postings. A significant amendment made by the Standing Committee, and approved by the legislature, was the decision to restore third party rights of appeal.
All of CELA’s comments address four primary areas of concern:
- The need for climate-safe communities;
- The need to preserve the essential roles of conservation authorities and upper-tier municipalities in protecting water and natural heritage;
- The need for robust community engagement;
- The need for affordable, equitable quality housing supply.
Bill 23 was passed in the Ontario Legislature despite significant criticism from many sectors, and CELA has been fielding calls asking “what’s next?”. As a result of its passage, what is the legal effect? Do the changes within that Bill take effect immediately?
The answer is that it depends. Some of the schedules in the Bill will take effect immediately now that the Bill has received Royal Assent, and some will be delayed. CELA is in the process of preparing a chart that will be posted on our Bill 23 landing page in the next few days to help you see which is which, and if the effective date is delayed, what needs to happen first.
For example, some of the Schedules say that certain sections of that Act will take effect upon “a date to be named by the Lieutenant Governor.” Under our constitutional arrangements, she will do so upon receipt of advice from the government (a cabinet decision) that it is ready to have those sections proclaimed.
Other schedules say that certain sections of an Act will take effect after something else happens, or the later date of two things happening. Bill 23 specifically refers to the dates that other legislation, previously passed or amended, take effect as the controlling factor (we will include these as well in our summary chart of effective dates).
Commonly, proclamation of specific sections awaits the development of implementing policy or regulations that will give more shape and specifics as to how that new provision of the law will work in practice. Several of the postings by government as part of the Bill 23 housing package are seeking public input in terms of those related policies and regulations. Accordingly it is VERY important that people continue to provide comments on all of those Environmental Registry of Ontario postings by the specified deadlines. As a reminder, we have resources to help you with choosing and commenting on these postings.
Another eventuality occurs when a section is never proclaimed at any point down the road. If many years pass without proclamation of a new piece of legislation, or an amendment to an existing one, then that change ceases to have effect and a Gazette notice will list those statutes or sections as having no force. This sometimes happens when implementation or development or regulation or policy is more complex than anticipated, or if government realizes that there are unintended consequences that need to be considered. This happened a number of years ago with legislation dealing with “full cost pricing” of water and sewer systems; in the end that law was taken off the books without ever having taken effect. Alternatively, sometimes governments realize that a change that they passed in law, but did not take effect, is not framed as effectively or usefully as they wish, and then they can pass another amendment, changing the first one before it ever takes effect.
This last example has happened several times in relation to Conservation Authorities Act over the past few years, where there are several sections not yet in force, and some of those are being further amended by Bill 23; many of them to take effect on a date to be proclaimed.
All of which is to say that it is worthwhile remaining engaged on the issues you care about under Bill 23 and the related policies, and continuing to express your views, whether that be on wetlands, conservation authorities, green standards, architectural heritage or any other aspect of the Bill 23 proposals.