The Ford government has introduced Bill 66, an omnibus bill which, as currently written, includes a clause that overrides legislation that ensure your water and environment are protected and preserved for your children and grandchildren.
The language of the Bill seems clear, but the government, including MPPs representing our area, have been making statements contrary to what the Bill entails.
It is important that the public has clarity about the impacts this legislation might have. Here we outline key issues impacted by Bill 66 under headings indicating talking points you may have heard from Ford government reps:
Talking Point: Cutting 'Red Tape'
Red Tape Exists for a Reason
The Clean Water Act is the direct result of deaths that happened due to contaminated drinking water in Walkerton, Ontario.
In his 2002 report on the matter, Justice O'Connor determined the "Red Tape Commission" of the Mike Harris government, and its obsession with cutting regulations, was in large part responsible. (More on this...)
In another recent example of the consequences of cutting red tape, 47 people died when a train barrelled into the centre of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and exploded.
Cutting by Creating More?
Conservative MPPs have defended the provisions in the bill by saying it doesn't give the Minister powers they don't already have, and that technicalities in the bill, such as a geographic initiative feature in the Great Lakes Protection Act that isn't currently in use, render perceived threats meaningless since there's nothing to which it will apply.
If this is the case - if these provisions effect no new change - why bring such provisions into law?
This contradicts the stated intent of Bill 66 to eliminate needless regulations and reduce regulatory duplication.
Bill 66 Doesn't Threaten the Greenbelt
The following provisions do not apply to an open-for-business planning by-law:
6. Section 39 of the Clean Water Act, 2006.
7. Section 20 of the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015.
8. Section 7 of the Greenbelt Act, 2005.
9. Section 6 of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008.
Section 7, along with the respective sections 39, 20, and 6 of the other acts, simply states that the decisions under the Planning Act must conform to each respective act.
Stating, as schedule 10 does, that these sections do not apply means decisions made in accordance with Bill 66 and under the Planning Act can be made without regard to the Clean Water Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Greenbelt Act, and the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.
It's Needed to Create Jobs
Jobs for a day? Jobs for a month?
There is very little clarity regarding the type of jobs required under this legislation. Is the job criteria met, for example, by a job that lasts one day, one month, or one year?
Near record high employment.
Employment is high. Bill 66 has been introduced at a time when Ontario's unemployment rate is hovering near an 18-year low.
Jobs and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand.
Clean water supports jobs, whether by providing them directly in tourism and recreation or by supporting a high quality of life that attracts families to live and work in Ontario.
Making Ontario Attractive to Business.
Planning for jobs is also about supporting a quality of life that is attractive to high demand labour, including those with skills in creative industries. This means planning for complete communities, which is not planning in the piece-meal approach advanced by this Bill.
Employment Lands Are Needed
Simcoe County's stock of employment lands, or land that is designated under the Places to Grow Act for development for accommodating employment, is 122% of what is was in 2010.
In its land budget analysis, both in 2010 and most recently in 2017, Simcoe County was deemed to have amply supply to meet demand.
Municipalities Want It
Many municipalities are already saying it goes too far.
Mayors from Guelph, Barrie, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, among others, have already said Bill 66 goes too far.
When did they say they want it?
No consultation process with municipalities regarding this Bill has been made public.
Municipalities Won't Make Decisions Unilaterally
Doug Downey has been quoted saying that municipalities will not be able to make decisions under Bill 66 unilaterally.
No public notice required.
Section 10 of Bill 66 states:
"(11) No notice or hearing is required prior to the passing of an open-for-business planning by-law, but the municipality shall give notice of the by-law,
(a) within three days of the passing thereof to the Minister in the prescribed manner; and
(b) within 30 days of the passing thereof to any persons or public bodies the municipality considers proper in such manner as the municipality considers proper.
Accountability means being transparent to the public.
What Mr. Downey says is true only in the strictest sense. A municipality can only make decisions under Bill 66 with the approval of the Minister.
It is also true, however, that Bill 66 allows municipalities to make decisions without the knowledge or well-informed approval of its citizens.