Earthroots' Queen's Park deputation on Bill 26-The Stronger
Deputation presented by Josh Matlow
Chair and to the committee members for allowing me the opportunity
to speak to you today.
as you may know, is an Ontario-based environmental organization.
Founded in 1986 with a mandate to protect wilderness, wildlife,
and watersheds through research, education, and action.
has been involved in preserving greenspace in southern Ontario
for many years. Our organization and its members have been actively
engaged in working to protect the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak
Ridges Moraine. As a result, we have taken a keen interest in
all of the government’s recent initiatives aimed at curbing
urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area and throughout the Golden
through Earthroots’ experience with our campaign to protect
the Oak Ridges Moraine, our group has been an outspoken critic
of how the Ontario Municipal Board, and the land-use planning
process in general, has operated in this province. Therefore,
we are encouraged by the reforms to the Planning Act that the
government has laid out in Bill 26- The Stronger Communities Act
. We are cautiously optimistic that, in tandem with other measures
that the Province is taking and others that we hope to see, Bill
26 will help to curb sprawl, thereby protecting ecologically sensitive
greenspace areas and wildlife corridors from urban development.
2- Planning Matters “Consistent with” Provincial Policy
is pleased that section 2 of the Bill amends the Planning Act
to ensure that all planning decisions made in Ontario must be
consistent with Provincial policy instead of merely making reference
to it. Without this change, municipal councils, the Ontario Municipal
Board, and other decision making bodies could nullify the efforts
of the province to control sprawl and protect much needed natural
While we applaud
this initiative, our friends at the Pembina Institute have stated,
and we agree, that it is imperative that Bill 26 be put in place
after the government adopts the revised Provincial Policy Statement
(PPS). If Bill 26 were to become law before the new PPS is adopted,
planning decisions would have to be consistent with the current
PPS, which does not entirely espouse the principles of sustainable
development, and greenspace protection that the current government
claims to support.
3&4 OMB Reforms
is encouraged by the reforms to the OMB appeals process included
in Bill 26. First, the extension of the time period given to municipalities
to make a decision on a planning matter before the applicant can
appeal the decision to the OMB is a sound decision. Currently,
developers are able to appeal to the OMB, and in some cases, before
a municipal council even has a chance to review the merits of
the applicant’s proposal. There are cases such as some high
profile developments in Richmond Hill and in the Yonge and Eglinton
area of Toronto, where developers have, in my opinion, purposefully
gone to the OMB before the municipality has had an opportunity
to make a decision, because they believed their permit would be
rubberstamped. I would ask each committee member to take a look
at the very sound recommendations that FONTRA, the Federation
of North Toronto Ratepayers Association has made on how to reform
the OMB. I would also direct members to read through legislature
hansard and read speeches on this subject by your colleague Mike
Colle, MPP for Eglinton- Lawrence. I would be happy to provide
these documents to you. These are prime examples of how the OMB
has been used by some developers to usurp local democracy. We
are glad that this Bill will give municipal councils the time
that they need to make informed decisions on how their communities
will grow in the future.
right to appeal to the Board would be stripped in situations where
an applicant is requesting an alteration to the boundary of an
urban settlement area or wishes to create a new urban settlement
area. In most cases where that could conceivably arise, this is
a good reform. There have been far too many instances where planning
has been done by developers with the consent of the Ontario Municipal
Board. This reform would eliminate their right to appeal a municipality’s
decision not to extend their boundaries and encroach on greenspace
or agricultural land. Earthroots is, of course, strongly in favour
of this consequence of this reform.
have been many decisions by municipalities to encroach on greenspace
and agricultural lands. I have concerns about what the consequences
are of this reform in cases such as these. I have been told that
there is Ministry staff available to answer questions. I will
read out the exact portion of the Bill for you that and then I
would appreciate it if staff would answer the following question
after the conclusion of my deputation
of the Bill states that:
or public body may not appeal to the Ontario Municipal board in
respect of all or any part of a requested amendment if the amendment
or part of the amendment proposes to alter all or any part of
the boundary of an urban settlement area in a municipality or
to establish a new urban settlement area in a municipality”.
amendment restrict the right of an individual or citizen’s
group to appeal to the OMB in a situation where a municipality
adopted an amendment to their official plan that expanded their
urban settlement area, or if a citizen’s group put forward
an amendment to appeal their municipality’s current urban
boundary on the basis that it was originally adopted as a result
of a poor planning decision?
Let me tell
you why I asked. According to the Toronto Star, one-third of the
total land that is designated ‘urban’ in the GTA has
yet to be developed. If some of the proposals that the Liberal
government are trying to put in place right now are an indication
of a shift towards more sustainable land-use practices including
urban infill, brownfield development, and building communities
at a higher density in general, then I would argue that a lot
of that land that I mentioned, that is as yet undeveloped, is
not necessary for commercial or residential development. Let us
leave it as greenspace for now. I am worried that the public’s
right to enact these changes will be lost with this Bill.
reason why I posed this question is that I am concerned that the
Act is too focused on the Ontario Municipal Board, and does not
address the impact that decisions made at the municipal level
have on sprawl. There are certainly many development proposals
that are antithetical to the principles of sustainable community
building that never get to the Ontario Municipal Board because
they are approved by the municipality.
a share of Provincial and Federal gas tax money, the majority
of the revenue raised by municipalities will still come from property
taxes. As a result, unless a drastically different arrangement
is worked out and a genuine New Deal for Ontario’s cities
is initiated now, many municipal governments will still find it
in their best interest to opt for expanding their communities
to balance their budgets.
in this province, for many years, have contributed significantly
to municipal politicians’ campaign coffers. By doing this,
and having the financial means to do this, developers have been
in an advantaged position to have an undue amount of influence
on decisions made at councils on decisions regarding urban planning.
When an appeal
is taken to the OMB, developers have the financial ability to
hire the best experts and lawyers and are not overly concerned
about work days spent in the proceedings.
This is, however,
a very different scenario for private citizens and community groups
fighting an appeal at the OMB. Most are not in a position to hire
expensive experts and lawyers or take days or weeks off work.
The Province must do something to make this process more equitable.
of Provincial Interest
In this context,
I would like to move on to the last section of the Bill Matters
of Provincial Interest. Bill 26 allows the Minister to advise
the Ontario Municipal Board that a matter before them is likely
to be adverse to the Provincial interest. In those cases, the
Board’s decision is not final and the decision rests with
the Lieutenant Governor in Council. While Earthroots agrees with
this amendment to the Planning Act, we feel that this right should
be extended. Given that there is a great deal of development that
is adverse to the Provincial interest which never comes before
the OMB, we feel that it is essential for the Minister to have
the same privilege in planning matters before a municipal council
or other planning body while they operate under the status quo.
be election finance reform. If the Province can contribute towards
restraining the influence of developers over many municipal councils,
I believe that it will find that more councils will operate and
make decisions in the long-term interest of the people of Ontario,
rather than the short-term financial interests of some developers.
restoring integrity to the planning process through municipal
electoral reform, I believe that the manner in which OMB members
are selected must be reformed as well. OMB members should merit
their appointment because of their expertise in the issues that
they will be given the privilege to deliberate over. Really it
should be simply about what they know rather than who they know
with respect to how they are selected.
I want to thank the committee very much for taking on this honorable
and timely task to make our municipalities, provincial government
and the OMB work for the people of Ontario.