Monday 12 February 1996
Land Use Planning and Protection Act, 1995, Bill 20, Mr Leach / Loi de 1995 sur la protection et
l'aménagement de territoire, projet de loi 20, M Leach
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon Al Leach, Minister
Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association
Tom Stricker, president
Peter Langer, past president
Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition
Dr David McQueen, co-chair
Dorothy Izzard, past co-chair
Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association
Patrick Meany, president
Patrick Daly, first vice-president
City of Mississauga Planning and Building Department
John Calvert, director of policy planning
Diane Horner, planner
Scarborough Housing Work Group
Doug Hum, chairperson
City of Scarborough
Frank Faubert, mayor
Judy McLeod, director, strategic planning and legislation, planning and buildings department
Frank Weinstock, director, property standards and bylaw enforcement
Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations
Neal Ballosingh, tenant organizer
Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities
David Brown, vice-president
Save the Rouge Valley System
Stephen Marshall, chair
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
Baird, John R. (Nepean PC); parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour
Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre ND)
Chudleigh, Ted (Halton North / -Nord PC)
*Churley, Marilyn (Riverdale ND)
Duncan, Dwight (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
*Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
*Hoy, Pat (Essex-Kent L)
Lalonde, Jean-Marc (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
Murdoch, Bill (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Ouellette, Jerry J. (Oshawa PC)
Tascona, Joseph (Simcoe Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Conway, Sean (Renfrew North / -Nord L) for Mr Lalonde
Froese, Tom (St Catharines-Brock PC) for Mr Baird
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Gerretsen, John (Kingston and The Islands / Kingston et Les Îles L) for Mr Duncan
Hampton, Howard (Rainy River ND) for Mr Christopherson
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Hastings, John (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC) for Mr Murdoch
Pettit, Trevor (Hamilton Mountain PC) for Mr Maves
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
Colle, Mike (Oakwood L)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0906 in committee room 2.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning, everyone. The hearing of the standing committee on resources development into Bill 20 will now commence the first of our three weeks. For the edification of those speaking to us here in Toronto, the hearing times have been determined based on the number of people who inquired prior to the deadline of February 5 and made representations to speak to the committee. Accordingly, to accommodate everyone here in Toronto, the speaking time will be 25 minutes.
First off this morning, though, there will be a requirement to adopt the subcommittee report. You've all had an opportunity to read it this morning, if you didn't get a copy on Friday. Do we have a motion to adopt the subcommittee report? Barb Fisher.
All in favour? Carried.
MINISTER OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING
The Chair: The second order of business: It's our pleasure to welcome Minister Al Leach, who will make up to 30 minutes' worth of comments, to be followed by responses from each of the two parties. Good morning, Minister.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm very pleased to open this committee's public hearings on Bill 20, the Land Use Planning and Protection Act. I'm also pleased to hear that everyone who's asked to appear before you has been scheduled and nobody's been turned away.
I'd like to take a few minutes to set the stage for your discussions over the next couple of weeks. I'd like to begin with a general picture -- the purpose of the bill, the philosophy behind it -- and then I'll touch briefly on the three main components of the bill: the part that deals with the planning process, the part that deals with apartments in houses, and the part that deals with development charges.
First, the big picture: This bill was introduced to honour a commitment made in the Common Sense Revolution, a commitment to remove barriers to economic growth that have killed jobs and kept Ontario back. Before June 8, municipalities, developers and other interested parties told us the planning system wasn't working, that it was stifling economic activity. They said getting through the approval process took too long and cost too much. They also said that it kept too much planning power at Queen's Park, away from local governments that best understand local conditions.
Bill 163, the former government's planning reform bill, was supposed to let municipalities make decisions, but municipalities told us it didn't. They said changes needed to be made.
The bill you are considering here, the Land Use Planning and Protection Act, fixes these problems. It does three important things:
First, it creates a system that's faster, cheaper and more understandable, a system that's guided by clear, concise policies, policies that deal with issues that really should be under the jurisdiction of the province.
Second, it lets municipalities make local planning decisions. They are the people who best understand local circumstances.
Third, it protects the environment while clearing away obstacles to growth.
Let me just touch on some of the highlights. First, this legislation means planning decisions will no longer have to "be consistent with" provincial policy statements. Instead, they will once again have to "have regard to" provincial policies.
Let me explain why we're doing this. When decisions have to be consistent with provincial policies, it leaves very little room for municipalities to interpret provincial policies and take into account local circumstances.
Does this mean we don't think provincial policies are important? Of course not. Years of experience show that planners and decision-makers, and that includes the Ontario Municipal Board, understand the "have regard to" provision. They do take provincial policies seriously. But at the same time, we think local decision-makers must have discretion and flexibility. Kenora is not the same as Cornwall, and downtown Toronto is not the same as Grey county. Local decision-makers need to be able to meet their own community needs.
Another provision gives counties more powers to approve subdivisions. That also improves local flexibility. Regional governments already have these powers. There's no reason for the province to duplicate work already being done at the county level, and frankly, we can no longer afford duplication of any sort.
As I said a moment ago, it takes far too long to get a decision under the present system. This legislation shortens time frames for processing applications; it cuts many time frames almost in half.
Let me just mention a couple of other legislative changes that will make the system more efficient.
One change will make the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing the only provincial ministry that can appeal a planning decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. The province will speak with one voice on planning matters. This will avoid the absurd situation of two or three ministries appearing at the OMB, all taking different positions and all being funded by the taxpayer.
Another will allow the province to exempt municipalities from the need to get approval of their official plans and amendments. We can also authorize upper-tier municipalities that have approval authority for local official plans and amendments to exempt those local decisions.
I see this simple process as a sign of our commitment to municipal accountability. We will soon release, for consultation, options for implementing this "exemption" provision.
There is one other legislative change to the planning process I'd like to mention. We are making a few changes designed to streamline the Ontario Heritage Act, which is administered by the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. These minor changes will simplify and speed up land use decisions under the Ontario Heritage Act. They respond to a number of long-standing complaints by municipalities and other stakeholders.
With respect to the broader review of the Ontario Heritage Act being done by the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, we recognize that significant changes to the legislation are needed. I know that my colleague, the Honourable Marilyn Mushinski, is very hopeful that she will be able to address this important issue when the legislative agenda allows.
Ladies and gentlemen, this legislation sets out the nuts and bolts of how planning decisions will be made. But ultimately, planning is driven by values and it's through provincial policy, not legislation, that the government communicates its values.
So even though it isn't part of the legislation, the policy statement released for consultation in January is an important part of Ontario's planning process. It sets out our vision of the sort of results that we would like to see on the ground. The proposed policy statement is about half as long as the existing statements. It would let municipalities make local decisions that reflect local needs while protecting the environment. For example, wetlands will continue to be protected. In a significant wetland south or east of the Canadian Shield or in the habitat of endangered or threatened species, development is not permitted.
Other natural heritage features and areas will also be protected. In these areas, development will be permitted only if it will cause no negative effects. We want these natural features protected for their long-term environmental, economic and social benefits.
The proposed policy statement addresses urban sprawl. It suggests new growth should go into existing developed areas wherever possible. It restricts development on the fringe of urban settlements. For example, very-low-density rural residential development is not appropriate in fringe areas that may be needed for urban expansion.
The proposed policy statement also asks municipalities to ensure that development is cost-effective and won't require high costs to service.
We've also heard lots of complaints from rural areas that economic development was being shut down by the previous government's policies. We believe that some development in rural areas is desirable, as long as it's cost-effective. For example, some commercial or industrial development in a rural area may support the rural economy without harming nearby urban areas.
The policy statement has been released to all major groups interested in planning. It is available from my ministry and on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. Although the consultation on policy statements is separate from these hearings, I expect you will hear presenters talk about the policy statement and the legislation together. As part of our extensive consultation process, we will certainly take into account any comments we receive at these hearings.
I would also like to mention some changes we are making to the way we do business. Again, this is not actually part of the legislation you'll be considering, but you are considering the whole planning system, and the planning process only works as well as the administrative systems that make it go.
That's why we are making administrative improvements. These will streamline planning review and approval, reduce costs and make the system more locally responsive. For example, provincial agencies will review fewer site-specific applications such as subdivision plans and some official plan amendments. This will begin in April for regional municipalities and, over time, in other municipalities. This will strengthen local decision-making and it will enable regions to further streamline the development approval process.
While ministries will no longer review these applications, they will provide access to information, training and expertise where it's needed. Regions should be able to review applications they approve without additional costs by making use of in-house expertise and peer review.
Let me mention one other administrative improvement we are proposing. One of the most frequent complaints I've heard about the planning system is the need for municipalities to deal with several different ministries at the same time, and we're fixing that.
Where the provincial government is the approval authority, provincial reviews will be coordinated through new one-window procedures. This one-window planning service will give municipal, private and public sector clients one-stop access for provincial input, review and appeal services. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be the main contact for municipal staff on planning matters and this will mean faster decisions.
By this April 1, some parts of the province, including regional municipalities, will have access to a one-window service that includes the major ministries with an interest in land-use planning. As the ministry develops its capacity to provide planning services on behalf of other ministries, this one-window service will be expanded across the province.
I'd like to turn for a moment to another part of Bill 20, the part that deals with apartments in houses. I believe that municipalities have the expertise to decide what kind of housing is best for their communities. We are restoring authority to municipalities to decide where new apartments in houses are to be allowed, what type of houses they are to be allowed in and what planning standards will apply.
The wellbeing of tenants and homeowners is important to the government. Municipalities have asked for improved ability to register units and inspect them for safety. By giving them this power, Bill 20 will enhance the safety of people living in apartments in houses.
Bill 20 contains provisions that will grandfather apartments in houses that have existed legally before the introduction of this bill. Tenants will still have the right to complain about unsafe conditions and owners can legally upgrade.
The new section of the fire code that sets requirements for houses with two residential units continues to apply. Owners of such units have until this July 14 to comply with those requirements.
Another part of this bill deals with the Development Charges Act. Development charges add to the high cost of housing. In fact, the Urban Development Institute says development charges now add $15,000 to $20,000 to the cost of an average single-family home in the greater Toronto area. We intend to take a good look at the Development Charges Act over the coming year.
The idea will be to finance public infrastructure for growth in as fair a way as possible. We also want to reduce the cost of new housing and business construction, and we want to make sure development charges don't deter development. We'll consider and review ideas and input from all stakeholders. We intend to introduce a new Development Charges Act this fall. Bill 20 includes interim measures to allow us to get on with this review.
Some municipalities have development charges bylaws that will expire soon. Bill 20 lets municipalities extend these bylaws. In the meantime, municipalities can lower their charges, but they can't bring in new ones or increase their existing charges. Any increases after November 16, when the bill was given first reading, need special approval. This might be given, for example, where a major development is ready to go but can't go ahead without a new or area-specific development charges bylaw.
Bill 20 will also make municipalities more accountable for development charges revenues and expenditures. The way it is now, treasurers must present a summary report of development charges accounts to council each year. This bill goes further. It proposes that treasurers include in that report all revenues and expenditures related to each service covered by their bylaw. Also, treasurers must send me a copy of the report within 60 days of it going to council.
I'd like to sum up by repeating a few points I made in December when this bill received second reading.
One very important goal of this bill is to streamline the planning process. A streamlined process will mean faster decisions. That will cut the cost of development. Construction will be able to proceed, creating jobs and economic activity. Developers won't have to sit on valuable land, paying high carrying costs while waiting years for a decision.
At the same time, planning and development decisions will be made by those closest to the community. We will stop looking over their shoulders. We will let them get on with the job of making the right decisions for their communities. Provincial interests will be protected by the policy statement and through early involvement by provincial staff in developing municipal planning documents. The revised policy statement recognizes the diversity and the needs of municipalities. It will ensure that good development projects can move quickly.
Over the next couple of weeks, this committee will hear from many people and organizations. Some may express concerns about environmental protection. I can assure you that we are not backing off environmental protection. As the Premier has said, we can have the toughest environmental regulations in North America, but why does it have to take three years to say yes or no? Bill 20 will change that.
Bill 20 will put in place a system that delivers good planning, good decisions, in an efficient, cost-effective way.
I'd also like to point out that the parliamentary assistant for Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ernie Hardeman, will have carriage of the legislation as it goes through committee, so that all the members are aware of that.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. As mentioned previously, the two opposition parties will each have up to 30 minutes to respond. We'll start with the official opposition.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Just so I'm clear on it, are we allowed to ask the minister questions at this stage? Is that what you're suggesting? That's the way we worked it on the Bill 26 committee.
The Chair: That's certainly within the purview of your 30 minutes.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you. I have a number of questions. I concur that one of the problems with the whole planning area has always been the question of timing as to how long it takes to get whatever is before a council approved. It hasn't got that much to do with the actual time limits that are set out in the act, but is more from a practical viewpoint as to how long it actually takes for a council to react, a planning staff to react, the various ministries to react etc. Anything that can improve that system, having built in and made sure the safeguards are still there to ensure that the general public has its say, is certainly something we can support.
The question I have, though, is that in your Common Sense Revolution, if I recall the document correctly, you said that you were going to scrap Bill 163 outright. It almost seems to me as if you've taken the Liberal position that was taken during the campaign that we're going to make some changes to Bill 163 rather than scrap it outright. Would you agree that you're not really scrapping the entire bill, but you're just making some changes to things that you felt weren't workable?
Hon Mr Leach: No, our position has been that we always intended to scrap those portions of Bill 163 that didn't work, and that's what we've done. We've taken a look at all of the pieces that we were convinced could be improved or changed and we have scrapped those portions, as we said we would.
Mr Gerretsen: I take it then that the statement that was contained in the Common Sense Revolution that Bill 163 would be scrapped should have said that some sections of 163 would be scrapped. There was an error in that particular document.
Hon Mr Leach: I wouldn't concur with that. I think we're doing exactly what we said we were going to do.
Mr Gerretsen: Let me ask you this. Bill 163 hasn't been in operation that long, and in dealing with the whole notion that decisions have to be consistent with provincial policy or have regard to provincial policy, has the ministry actually conducted any studies of any applications that have come in since Bill 163 has been proclaimed where that has been a problem? From your own comments in your speech here, you indicated that really the OMB quite understands what provincial policies are intended to do in the whole planning process, etc, and I'm trying to get to the idea of, has it actually been a problem since 163 has been in effect?
Hon Mr Leach: It's irrelevant really, because it's a total change in philosophy. We believe that decisions on planning should be made as close to people as they possibly can. The closer to local municipalities you can get where basic decisions are made, the better the decisions will be. "Be consistent with" is a top-down, Queen's Park approach that says, "You'll do as we tell you." "Have regard to," in my view, says, "Municipalities, you're responsible for the planning decisions in your area, but please have regard to the total provincial picture." It's a substantial change in philosophy.
Mr Gerretsen: How can you ask a municipality that's mainly concerned about how it's going to govern within its own jurisdiction to have regard for the entire provincial scene, as you just stated?
Hon Mr Leach: We put out a policy statement that outlines the important issues that the province is concerned with. As I mentioned, municipalities are not the same around the province. I think that Kenora is a whole lot different from Kingston and that duly elected municipal councils or regional councils or county councils are those that are elected to carry out that planning function, and they should do that, but they should do that having regard to the overall provincial scene.
Mr Gerretsen: Just so that I understand it correctly, they have to take the overall provincial scene into account, but if they then want to disregard it because of their own local situation, they can do so in their planning documents.
Hon Mr Leach: They have to have regard to it, but we want them to take local conditions into consideration. We think local conditions are important. We think there are key provincial areas that we want all municipalities to have regard to. It has worked well in the past and I believe it'll work very well in the future.
Mr Gerretsen: Can you outline some of these key areas that every municipality ought to have regard to?
Hon Mr Leach: They're in the policy statements. The policy statements have been put out for consultation.
Mr Gerretsen: In other words, those statements aren't complete as yet, they're out for consultation and they could change from time to time. Is that what you're suggesting?
Hon Mr Leach: Obviously it's kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. Do you have the legislation? You have to have the legislation so that you can determine what the policy statements are going to be. We've drafted a policy statement and we sent it out in January for all of the stakeholders to have an opportunity to review and comment back on. Those comments are due by March 4. I think that gives everybody an opportunity to review the legislation in conjunction with the policy statements so that they can make informed decisions on where we want to go.
Mr Gerretsen: All right, and let's say those policy statements get adopted and municipalities have regard to those. What happens in the future, though? Is the suggestion that the province can at any time unilaterally change some of these provincial policy statements without any input from the general public or municipalities?
Hon Mr Leach: Obviously, provincial policy statements can be revised at any time, but they would not be revised unless there was consultation with the public and the stakeholders involved, just as we're doing at the present time.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm curious with respect to a comment that's on page 4, about the sixth paragraph or so, where you say:
"We also heard lots of complaints from rural areas that economic development was being shut down by the previous government's policies. We believe that some development in rural areas is desirable, as long as it is cost-effective.
"For example, some commercial or industrial development in a rural area may support the rural economy without harming nearby urban areas."
I assume that we're not just talking about the potential of harming urban areas, but also the potential of harming agricultural areas. Is that just an oversight? I'm curious why that statement is in there the way it is.
Hon Mr Leach: It takes both into consideration. Obviously, you're not going to allow development in an urban area that has detrimental effect on prime agricultural land, but you also wouldn't want to allow commercial or industrial development in a rural area if it was going to have a detrimental effect on a nearby urban area that perhaps already has serviced lands etc, etc.
Mr Gerretsen: The next question deals with two paragraphs just below that where you say:
"I'd also like to mention some changes we are making to the way we do business. Again, this is not actually part of the legislation you'll be considering. But you are considering the whole planning system."
I guess what I'm getting to is that it reminds me a little bit of the Bill 26 debate, to the extent that a lot of people liked the title to it and what they perceived to be the thrust of the legislation. It's the same thing here that there seems to be -- I'm sure that the development industry, for example, thinks it's a great idea to sort of get things moving along etc and yet those particular process items are not really dealt with in the legislation at all. If you felt so strongly about it, why wouldn't you include that in the legislation?
Hon Mr Leach: There are a couple of instances that I think you're referring to here; one is the one-window approach to government, and the other is the exemption. I think that one window is something municipalities at all levels would encourage. One of the largest complaints we've had is having to go from ministry to ministry trying to find out what the overall government policy is going to be. What we're saying is that it will be one agency's responsibility, one ministry's responsibility to make sure that the provincial government has its act in order.
Mr Gerretsen: I can see that and certainly the one-window approach I think is of benefit to all, to the extent that everybody will know who the key player is and who in effect you go to if something isn't working out. But how about the actual time periods it takes to approve various processes? I know we've got time periods of 30 days being cut back to 20 days and that sort of thing, but that's not the real problem.
From a practical viewpoint, no developer will take his council to the OMB because it hasn't reacted to something immediately. They will usually want to play ball for a certain period of time, because they don't want to jeopardize the council's attitude towards their development. The same thing when something comes within the ministry. I know from past experience it has sometimes taken three to six to nine months to get, let's say, a subdivision approved.
What plans or processes are you putting into place within the ministry so that people will know where they stand quicker than they currently do? Sometimes it seems to the general public and to those people who are interested in a particular development that these files sit on people's desks for months and months and months and nothing happens to them, and you better not complain about it too much or else it may even take a longer period of time. What I'm getting at is, what's happening within the ministry to ensure that those processes will actually move along at the rate at which business would do its business?
Hon Mr Leach: What we're doing is we're coordinating the activities of the other ministries. This has been a large part of the problem, as you've pointed out, of getting a subdivision approved, taking six, seven, eight, nine months, sometimes even longer, because of having to approach different parts of the provincial government, and files sitting on one ministry's desk until they are convinced that another ministry has looked at it. The responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be to coordinate the activities of other ministries to ensure that doesn't happen. The whole thrust is to streamline the process and eliminate those unnecessary delays.
Mr Gerretsen: What I'm asking you is, what administrative procedures have you put into place within the ministry itself whereby in effect the other ministries will have to react or make comment on particular proposals a lot quicker than they have for generations in the past?
Hon Mr Leach: There is a deputy ministers' committee that has been established to develop the protocol of how various ministries will respond to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. That process is in place at the present time and is being further developed.
Mr Gerretsen: Are you prepared to share that process with the Legislature and the general public? When people deal with government, their main complaint is that it takes too long for people to react to things.
Hon Mr Leach: Obviously, we are. The whole process is so that the municipalities, the general public, all other agencies in government know what the process is. When the deputies' committee has its protocol established -- they're in the process of doing that at the present time -- it will certainly be shared with all of the stakeholders, all of the players, all of the municipalities and all other agencies of government.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a couple of other comments. I don't know how much time I've got left. Dealing with the housing situation, the basement apartments etc, they were certainly a major problem across the province and a very difficult thing to deal with. I think the last government dealt with it in a realistic way. We have thousands of these units, and you're either going to put people out in the street or you're going to legitimize them at some point in time.
I find it very strange for a party that is very much in favour of private property rights, as certainly your party has been over the years and in your Common Sense Revolution, that now you would allow municipalities to once again step in and tell a man or a woman whose home has always been regarded as their castle -- and under the current law they can do with it what they want as far as establishing a second unit in the building is concerned -- you're now basically saying, "If your municipality feels that it's not appropriate to have basement apartments or second units in large buildings," for example, "it can outlaw them," not the existing units but any new units. Doesn't that run contrary to the notion that a person should be able to do with their own property what they want?
Hon Mr Leach: What we're doing is putting the authority, the autonomy and responsibility to the municipalities, where we believe they belong. I don't think that Queen's Park should sit here and say that in the city of Timmins second units are allowed as a right without taking into consideration any effect on the community, without taking into consideration any effect on your neighbours or any inconvenience they might face, but just as a right you can do that.
It has been proposed that a minor variance be taken all the way to the OMB, yet you seem to be going to the other end of the spectrum by saying, as a right, you should be able to build a second unit on a house without taking into consideration what kind of havoc you could be creating for your neighbours.
Mr Gerretsen: No, Minister, I'm not saying anything at all. I'm just questioning you as to your whole party's philosophy. In this particular case, you seem to be limiting a person's right to do what they want with their property when over the years I've heard nothing but statements about how government should get off people's backs. It seems to me that you're allowing at least municipal government to get on people's backs again as far as their own housing is concerned.
Hon Mr Leach: I think municipalities are the right level of jurisdiction to make those decisions. I know in the city of Toronto, for example, they've been very, very liberal in their approach to second units. That's small-l liberal.
Mr Gerretsen: The other question I have deals with the Ontario Municipal Board and the question of appealing decisions relating to minor variances. Although I suppose in principle it would sound like the right thing to do, there are also situations, particularly in smaller municipalities where, as a result of personality conflicts or whatever, someone other than a municipal council ought to be the final arbiter, as it were, to decide these matters.
By eliminating minor variances from the OMB completely, you in effect are denying, it seems to me, situations where there could be these kinds of personality conflicts or whatever. You're not allowing somebody else to make the final decision when for whatever reason the council and the individual who's applying, or the people who are opposed to it, cannot agree to an equitable solution.
Hon Mr Leach: Municipal councils, local councils, are duly elected by the population to carry out their responsibilities. I think they do that quite well. Just by the very nature of the term itself, minor variance, if a duly elected local council doesn't have the right to make a decision on a minor variance, then I don't know what else they could be responsible for if they're not perceived to be responsible enough to deal with that type of issue. It seems to me we give them far larger responsibilities to deal with.
Mr Gerretsen: Let me suggest to you what I think the real problem is in that regard, particularly where you've got a minor variance of a six-inch overhang of a building or a side yard requirement or whatever. The problem has not been the fact that the final arbiter is the OMB; the problem, in my view, has been the fact that once the matter was referred to the OMB, it would normally take -- and I realize the time periods have been speeded up over the last little while, but it would simply take too long to get that matter resolved.
It seems to me that one of the things you may want to consider is to set up a small group within the OMB that could be dealing with minor variances in a very quick and expedient fashion. I realize full well you don't need the same length of preparation time for all the parties involved if you've got a major development or whatever, a subdivision, that has been referred to the OMB, or you've got a situation where really quite often it's one neighbour against another and for whatever reason they're appealing.
Of course this would never come out verbally, but for those people who have been involved in these situations, we've all seen it happen where really the reasons why appeals are being launched in these minor variance situations have very little to do with what's actually being proposed. It seems to me if those matters could be dealt with quickly -- all right, initially by council, but there are situations, I'm suggesting to you, Minister, where the council, for whatever reason, personal or otherwise, may not do the right thing.
We all make mistakes, and it seems to me to have a final arbiter in case like that which is totally removed from the situation but which can react quickly to a particular request -- and it may still refuse it or accept it etc -- if that matter could be handled more quickly by the OMB, I think that would resolve the problem, and I'd like you to take a look at that.
Finally, the Development Charges Act. I find it rather interesting that you're taking a look at the Development Charges Act and presumably there will be changes coming within the next six months to a year. I know this has been an ongoing area of great interest and with a great variety of opinion between the development industry and municipal councils as to what should be included in these charges.
I'm just curious, if you're doing this review already at this time, why you found it necessary to not allow municipalities to impose more stringent fees or more stringent charges than they currently have within their own development charges bylaw, which seems to run counter to the whole notion that you've been talking about for the last six months about giving municipalities more power, more authority, more freedom to act. Yet in this particular area you felt, "They can pass whatever they have and extend it, but they certainly can't impose any further charges," which in a particular municipal situation may very well be justified. Doesn't this sort of run contrary to what you've been preaching on this issue?
Hon Mr Leach: No. It's a temporary situation while we're reviewing the Development Charges Act. There is an opportunity for any municipality that feels that it has a justifiable reason for increasing its cost to make an application for approval and we would deal with it on a one-off basis. I think it's appropriate that we hold existing procedures in place -- and by the way, as you're well aware, creating a development charges bylaw is a very expensive process.
What we wanted to ensure was that municipalities didn't embark on a very expensive process under one set of rules when there was a review going on that may change those rules. As a result of many of the municipal bylaws reaching a point where they were going to expire, we wanted to give them an opportunity to extend the bylaws that they have. They can reduce costs if they wish or extend their existing requirements, or, if there's a very special need, they can make a request for that special need to be dealt with, which I think is a very fair and appropriate way to go.
Mr Gerretsen: But of course you realize, if it's not paid through the Development Charges Act, whatever the costs are that the municipality incurs by this, it would have to come out of the general taxpayers revenue fund from a municipality.
Hon Mr Leach: That may well be the case. What we're planning to do is review the Development Charges Act to try and reach consensus between developers and municipalities and all of the other stakeholders as to what's appropriate, what is fair, what is the most equitable way to deal with new development and the charges that apply to them. The Development Charges Act has been in place for in excess of five years, and I think a review after five years is an appropriate way to go.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Gerretsen. That's your 30 minutes. We now move to the third party.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Thank you for joining us this morning, Minister. I have a number of questions and, I can assure you, some comments. I just want to start by asking you, given that the Sewell reforms and the new planning bill haven't had an opportunity to show any results as yet, who did you listen to, who did you consult with during your campaign and otherwise across the province, given that the act had no opportunity whatsoever to prove itself, to see where amendments might be needed etc? Why did you need to scrap the whole thing?
Hon Mr Leach: Because it's a basic difference in philosophy. We don't think that the planning process should be controlled by Queen's Park. The term "be consistent with" says, in my opinion, in our opinion, "Do as you're told by Queen's Park." We believe that municipalities should have the autonomy to make decisions on development that best suit local needs but keeping the basic philosophy of the province in mind, "having regard to" the overall picture.
It was a matter of a basic difference in philosophy. I think the consultation that was done by the Sewell commission was excellent.
Ms Churley: But I submit to you, Mr Minister, that one of the major issues which kept cropping up over and over again during that consultation was that "shall have regard for" wasn't working, and I submit to you that the reason why this government determined to go ahead with "shall be consistent with" is just the opposite of what you're saying.
You're talking about philosophy here, and that's all very nice, but this wasn't necessarily the NDP philosophy. This was agreed to. There was of course some objection in some corners precisely because the opposite was happening in many areas, and that is, there was such confusion. And I submit to you that there will be more delay and more frequency and length of OMB hearings because of this, because if the province is to step out as much as possible, which we agree needs to be done, then don't you think that the clearer provincial policy is, within that context, the more consistency you're going to have and therefore fewer OMB hearings, the less confusion?
Hon Mr Leach: No, I don't agree at all, and I don't agree that there was consensus on the --
Ms Churley: Oh, no, I didn't say there was consensus.
Hon Mr Leach: Or anywhere near it.
Ms Churley: Certainly there's obviously some disagreement in this room at the moment.
Hon Mr Leach: There were very strong views on the "be consistent with" because it is just perceived to be a ham-hammered approach by Queen's Park to control the development throughout Ontario, and as I mentioned earlier, our communities are totally different. The situation that applies in Sudbury would not necessarily apply in downtown Toronto.
Ms Churley: Well, absolutely.
Hon Mr Leach: What we want to do is to ensure that those communities have control of their destinies as far as development occurs, having regard to what the overall provincial picture is.
Ms Churley: I don't think there's any disagreement that the provincial policy needs to have the flexibility for different communities to adapt to that kind of overall view from the province. I don't think there was ever any question of that, that the provincial policy would absolutely nail down, every step of the way, the planning process for communities. That's a ridiculous suggestion, that anybody was suggesting that.
Hon Mr Leach: Well, a lot of people have suggested that that's the case, that the provincial policy statements that exist are very complex, are very detailed, and, along with having to be consistent with those policy statements, gave the municipalities little or no flexibility to deal with local issues.
Ms Churley: I just want to ask you what you meant when you spoke to the Canadian Bar Association when you said the policies themselves are weighted too heavily towards protecting the environment.
Hon Mr Leach: We felt, I think, that the protection of the environment is extremely important, and the policy statement that we have out for consultation and the legislation we're proposing strongly protect the environment. But I do believe that it was tipped a little too heavily in favour of the environment and didn't take into consideration the economic realities of continuing to develop the province in a timely fashion and an appropriate fashion.
Ms Churley: Why then would you, if you were concerned about protecting the environment -- for instance, in significant wetlands, you've changed the map. Why would you take out much of eastern Ontario, which has one of the highest, or the highest, percentage of wetland resources remaining? Why would you eliminate that?
Hon Mr Leach: The Canadian Shield area is looked upon by most as being the most appropriate line across Ontario. There's a major difference in wetlands on the Shield and north of the Shield from those south and west of the Shield.
Ms Churley: So you decided that the wetlands in eastern Ontario therefore aren't as important to preserve.
Hon Mr Leach: No. You can't undertake any development that would have a negative effect on a wetland. You still have to show that any actions that you're proposing to take will not adversely affect the wetland in question.
Ms Churley: How would one have to show that? Whom would they have to show it to, since it's not on the map?
Hon Mr Leach: You would have to demonstrate that there is no negative effect.
Ms Churley: I see. Why would you eliminate the policies that sound pretty motherhood to me, especially when words are used like "promote" the most efficient modes of transportation and "reduce" the need for the private automobile by giving "priority" to energy-efficient, low-polluting travel such as walking, bicycling and public transit? Why would you take that out of the policy statements when it's really motherhood? It's not saying one has to; it's talking about promoting it.
Hon Mr Leach: In the policy statement that's out for consultation at the present time there's still a policy statement on transportation that talks about --
Ms Churley: Well, all I know is that in this particular one it was taken out. Perhaps you can find it for me in your grey book, because I haven't --
Hon Mr Leach: There is, in transportation in the policy statement, which of course isn't part of these deliberations, but it's going to be intermingled with it, I'm sure.
Ms Churley: Perhaps I can move on, and if it's found, you can tell me where it is. Again, I'd like to ask the question on elimination of the policy --
Hon Mr Leach: It's on page 4 of the policy statement, just for your information.
Ms Churley: Can you read it? Does it read the way my question was posed?
Hon Mr Leach: "Transportation systems will be provided which are safe, environmentally sensitive, and energy efficient and which optimize the use of transportation infrastructure and services.
"Transportation corridors and infrastructure corridors: Corridors and rights of way for significant transportation and infrastructure uses will be protected."
Ms Churley: The same thing -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the elimination of the policy to conserve energy, resources and building materials and in the transport of those materials by, where feasible, reusing, recycling and renovating. Do I understand that is in your policy statement?
Hon Mr Leach: It's very difficult to do that in land use policy.
Ms Churley: So is it in there or not?
Hon Mr Leach: In the existing policies?
Ms Churley: Yes.
Hon Mr Leach: In the proposed policy statements? No, it's not.
Ms Churley: So you did take that out. Why did you take it out?
Hon Mr Leach: Well, because it's very difficult to control. We felt that the policy statements that are existing in the existing Bill 163 are too restrictive. When they're there in conjunction with the "be consistent with," they're too detailed; there's very little flexibility for anybody to deal with them. We wanted to provide as much flexibility as we possibly can while still protecting those environmentally sensitive areas.
Ms Churley: I don't know who would have talked you into removing that. It just seems to make perfect sense that in this time of resource consumption -- when we know that Canada is one of the highest energy users in the world, why you would take out a policy that would promote energy conservation just doesn't make any sense to me.
Hon Mr Leach: Energy conservation doesn't necessarily fall hand in hand with land use planning. We just felt that the complexity of the policy statements that were in place under Bill 163 was far too restrictive when it was taken into consideration with "to be consistent with." It just didn't give anybody any flexibility to deal with many issues.
Ms Churley: I would suggest to you that that's one of the problems with government in the past. Government attitude towards environmental considerations, separating environmental considerations out of planning as a whole, is partly why we're in the mess we are today in terms of some environmental problems that we have. Our government tried, and it's very difficult to do, to get all ministries and all stages wherever possible to look at the environment, that it has to become a component of planning and possibly every other area where we do things. I'm really disappointed to see that your government is moving away from that concept. You say, "Well, it doesn't fit in with development." Development and the environment are so incredibly linked in so many ways that to separate it out is sure to cause serious damage to the environment.
Hon Mr Leach: No, under Bill 20 there's absolutely no move away from environmental protection. The environmental protection aspects of Bill 20 are still extremely strong.
Ms Churley: Mr Minister, I'm glad you're being told that and it may be nice for you to believe that, but --
Hon Mr Leach: I know that.
Ms Churley: -- you're wrong. When you look through your new proposed bill, the environmental protections that were set after the Sewell consultation -- as you know, there was extensive consultation across the province, and perhaps for the first time the environmental point of view was taken into account. I know that some municipalities and some developers didn't like that.
Hon Mr Leach: And land owners.
Ms Churley: And in some cases land owners.
Hon Mr Leach: And private citizens.
Ms Churley: And there were some compromises made about that. But, Mr Minister, you have taken almost every single environmental protection aspect of that bill out and have filled it in with weasel words about environmental protection, but there's practically no environmental protection left in this bill. I personally find it really shocking. You gut most of the natural heritage policies. You're gutting policies to curb urban sprawl. There's a weakening of agricultural land policies. This is a bill that -- it's a planning regime where practically anything goes. It's full of environmental double-speak. There's lots of nice language about environmental protection but there's nothing in it to back it up.
Another concern that I have is a real concern about public consultation. I'd just like your comments. Do you personally feel that people are going to have enough time to respond to proposals that are out there under your new bill?
Hon Mr Leach: Yes, I do. The policy statement has been out since early January for consultation and comments by all concerned.
Ms Churley: I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. Sorry to interrupt. The public notice and appeal periods are reduced to 20 days for notice of an official plan and for filing an appeal of an approval decision. So if you add a weekend into that and if you have slow postal service and maybe holidays, people could be left literally with just two weeks to review complex documents. I really have concerns about --
Hon Mr Leach: It's just a matter of filing the appeal. Usually, anybody who's involved in a development that's going through the municipal process or going on to the OMB or has a chance to go on to the OMB is involved enough that they're following the process. We strongly feel that the time frames in Bill 163 are far too long. I guess the number one complaint that we've heard from most involved, the municipalities and developers, is that the process to get through to get a decision made is twice as long as it should be. We're proposing that the time frames that are there now be cut just about in half, almost in half.
Ms Churley: I'd like to ask you a couple of questions around the Development Charges Act. My colleague from the Liberal Party touched on that. I would agree that there are some problems with that act. My concern here is that the development in suburban areas can cost a lot beyond hard services, and I'm sure this is a concern of yours as well, that somebody eventually has to pay for those services, and the possibility of taxpayers having to pick up the tab at the end of the day. Yes, we'd have cheaper housing. It will cost the developer less, it will cost the buyer less, but at the end of the day, somebody has to pay for it. I'm concerned that it could mean fairly substantial property tax hikes. I'm sure that's a concern of yours as well, and I'm just wondering if you have any ideas how to deal with that.
Hon Mr Leach: What we want to do is review the act. That's what we're proposing. The act has been in place for in excess of five years; I think it's appropriate that we look at it. I think there's going to be substantial debate as to what the most appropriate development charges process is. We'd like to ensure that all of the stakeholders have an opportunity, now that the bill's been there five years, to comment to us, to say: Does this work? Is there a better way to do it? What's an appropriate charge? We'll take all of that into consideration and write a new act.
Ms Churley: So you yourself don't have any really pre-conceived ideas at this point about what should be in it, what should be eliminated?
Hon Mr Leach: No, I'm open to discussion. My personal view is that we may have gone a little to the extreme in some cases on charges for soft services but, generally, I'm open to comment from all of the stakeholders, and whatever is deemed to be the most appropriate procedure is what we'll implement.
Ms Churley: My colleague has disappeared; I thought he had some questions. I'll keep going until he arrives back.
The basement apartment issue, when we introduced our position on it, was controversial; I know that. One of the reasons I fear it is controversial is that there are certain municipalities that choose to eliminate the possibility of basement apartments for reasons that aren't very community-oriented, I suppose, and I'm sure you know what I mean: the ability to keep poor people out, to have the kind of neighbourhood that is not attractive to poor people. I'm really concerned about that, and that of course leads to the fear that -- one of the reasons why we changed the law around that was a very clear indication that there were a lot of illegal basement apartments, that people do it anyway, especially these days.
Often people need some help to pay their mortgage. It's a way of the private sector. It seems to me to go along well with the Tory agenda. It's a way that the private sector can create affordable housing without it costing the government anything at all. One can then feel assured that the basement apartments in existence are legal and up to safety and fire standards. I'm afraid we're going to go back to a situation where there will be more danger with illegal basement apartments. Some communities will disallow it for reasons that I think you and I would both object to.
Hon Mr Leach: We're not proposing to eliminate basement apartments, we just feel that municipalities should have the right to approve one. To have the sole right to go in and build a second unit in your home without any consideration to neighbours, community or anything else, just go and build it without taking any of that into consideration, is not the right way to go. There's nothing in this legislation that stops basement apartments. All we're saying is that local municipalities should have the right to approve it. Earlier, our colleague from the Liberal Party was talking about taking minor adjustments to the OMB. You know, you take a minor adjustment all the way through to the OMB, yet we expect to give individuals the right to build a basement apartment that could create all kinds of difficulties for neighbours, for the community or whatever, without even having to say good morning. I just think that if you want to put a second unit in your home, you should apply for approval of the municipality to do that. The city of Toronto, for example, as I mentioned earlier, has had a very liberal approach to second units for many years and I'm sure they will continue to.
Ms Churley: Coming back to environmental protection, because it's a major concern of mine, "have regard to" as opposed to "being consistent with," what if municipalities do ignore a fairly major policy statement from the government that could be detrimental, and you can see clearly it could be detrimental, to the municipality? What would you do?
Hon Mr Leach: We have the right to appeal if we're of the opinion that the municipalities completely ignored the policy statement and ignored the provincial position. We have a right to appeal to the OMB any municipal decision.
Ms Churley: Can I just ask you what role the Minister of the Environment played in drafting this legislation?
Hon Mr Leach: All of the ministries had an active part in this legislation.
Ms Churley: This legislation impacts significantly on the environment. Can you be specific about what you see as environmental protection in this bill? What would you say if you were asked, what's the most important environmental protection --
Hon Mr Leach: This bill isn't proposing changes to the way that we protect the environment.
Ms Churley: It absolutely is. It waters it down considerably.
Hon Mr Leach: I maintain that there are still very strong environmental protection aspects in this legislation.
Ms Churley: Like what?
Hon Mr Leach: On public notice. We still have the same protection of wetlands.
Ms Churley: No, you don't. You're misled if you think that, by staff. You don't have the same protection. All of that protection has been watered down, and you will hear more and more of that as we progress. I'd like to ask you --
Hon Mr Leach: We're still saying that you can't do anything with wetlands or any of the other environmental aspects if it has any detrimental effect on the issue at hand, whether it's a woodlot or whether it's a wetland or anything else. If it has a detrimental effect, then you cannot do anything with that.
Ms Churley: I will say that it'll be proven to you and to this committee over the course of these hearings that the environmental protection aspects of our bill have been significantly watered down, that it's going to have some very serious implications in terms of protecting the environment. If you're convinced of that, are you willing to reinstate some of the environmental protection aspects that have been taken out.
Hon Mr Leach: I guess one of the things that we've taken out is the word "all" in "all uses of wetlands," because if you eliminate all uses of wetlands, nothing can happen at all, whereas if you keep the "any uses" aspect in, it gives you the right to keep anything that would be detrimental to a wetland out, but some existing uses may be acceptable. There have been uses of wetlands, for grazing cattle or whatever, for years. By having the word "all uses" you have to stop all of that, and we just didn't think that was appropriate.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I want to ask you about the one-window approval authority. And I apologize, I wasn't here for some of this. I was here for most of it.
What is going to happen, let's say, where you've got a development proposal that involves development near significant natural environment features and the Ministry of Natural Resources, let's say, raises an objection, but it's the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that I take from this has the final say?
Hon Mr Leach: We're there to coordinate provincial positions, not dominate them. This is very similar to what your party wanted to bring in on one-window shopping on Bill 163, and apparently it didn't get it. It's a coordinating function rather than a control function. If there are important environmental issues or agricultural issues, all of the expertise from those various agencies would be brought forward to the OMB, but we would like to go with one coordinated provincial position rather than having three or four provincial agencies presenting different positions to the OMB, all at the taxpayers' expense, dragging on the process far longer than should occur.
Mr Hampton: You're saying it's strictly a coordinating function, so therefore if the Ministry of Natural Resources, let's say, has a significant objection, if it feels fundamentally that the development proposal will have a negative impact on those natural environment features, the Ministry of Natural Resources would itself be able to make public its criticisms and its opposition?
Hon Mr Leach: As I said, we want to coordinate the provincial position, we want to show leadership on it. There is a provision to exempt any agency and allow it to go to the OMB if we choose to, but I think it's important as a province and as a group of ministries that we take all of the positions of the various ministries into consideration and form a position before you go to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mr Hampton: That's what I'm trying to determine here. What does "coordinate" mean? It means one thing if the Ministry of Municipal Affairs makes public the views of, let's say, MOEE or the Ministry of Natural Resources on a particular development proposal. In other words, if MNR's objections, its concerns, its criticisms are made public, I guess I could accept that definition of "coordination," but if it means that MNR's views, the ecologists, the biologists, the people the province hires to look after the natural environment, to know about these things -- if it means they can't voice their views, if it means that MNR's position doesn't get heard, then I think "coordination" here is being used in a way that most of us would object to.
Hon Mr Leach: There's absolutely no intent to stifle any of the ministries on any of the issues, regardless of what it is. It's a matter of coordinating so that we're all singing out of the same hymnbook. There have been many documented incidences where various ministries have gone to the OMB with positions without having any idea what the other ministries of the province are doing. What we think is that there should be a coordinating effort to make sure that we all know what's going on before we go and extend an OMB process for perhaps months or even years because we didn't even take the time to coordinate our own position.
Mr Hampton: I think you're glossing over a significant problem here.
Hon Mr Leach: I've been there. I was a provincial --
Mr Hampton: Yes, I've been there too, and I saw instances where, for example, the Ministry of Finance thought something was an excellent idea, because the economists in the Ministry of Finance rarely ever lift their heads above Bloor Street. Then when it got out to the folks in OMAFRA or it got out to the folks in MNR or MOEE who know something about what happens north of Bloor Street, the roof caved in.
Hon Mr Leach: That's exactly what we want to do. We want to ensure, if somebody comes forward with a proposal, that we involve all of the other ministries of the province to make sure that they do have input, so that somebody doesn't show up at the OMB without another ministry such as MNR even knowing that there's a position being put forward.
Mr Hampton: So let me ask you the question again. Will we see in the future, under this legislation and the associated policies, ministries like the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Environment and Energy being able to make their views public, their experts being called, being available, being able to take positions in opposition to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing?
Hon Mr Leach: Obviously, we're going to rely on the expertise that's in all of the ministries that you mentioned in formulating a provincial position. I would hope and I'm sure that the expertise of all of the ministries that you mentioned will be called upon at OMB hearings. What we're trying to do is to ensure that we go into an OMB hearing with all ministries of the province knowing what the position of the others are, and that hasn't been the case in the past.
Mr Hampton: And if they don't all agree? Who prevails?
Hon Mr Leach: We should work out a provincial position on any issue before we get scrapping at an OMB because we didn't know what the other guy was thinking. Certainly we should be able to work out our provincial position between ministries before we go and create great expense for the taxpayer on prolonging OMB hearings because we can't agree with each other.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Hampton. That's the 30 minutes for the third party. Thank you again, Minister, for making yourself available this morning. With that, we will move on to hearing presentations from individuals and groups.
GREATER TORONTO HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: We're slightly ahead of schedule, but it's my understanding that the representatives of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association are with us already. Good morning. Again just as a reminder, you have 25 minutes available to you. You can devote as much of that time as you want to a presentation and the balance will be divided equally among the three parties for questions.
Mr Tom Stricker: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Good morning, members of the committee. For the record, my name is Tom Stricker and I'm here today in my capacity as president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association. Joining me is Peter Langer, past president of the association.
The GTHBA is the voice of the residential construction and renovation industry in the greater Toronto area. We represent roughly 850 member companies involved in every aspect of residential development and building.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the association, and we are immensely proud of our history of advocacy on behalf of the new home buyer.
Today, we're here to talk about Bill 20 specifically, but I would like to start by speaking briefly about the economy in general and the relationship between planning policy and economic development.
Peter will then speak to the details of the bill and offer some constructive suggestions for further improvement.
Just before we turn it over to you for questions, I will conclude with some comments about the development charges aspect of the bill.
On the economy, I think it's fair to say that the people of this province have experienced some very difficult economic times over the last several years.
While it's encouraging to learn that the export sector of our economy is rebounding nicely, the domestic sector has yet to show any significant signs of emerging from the depths of the recession.
The development and building industry operates primarily within the domestic economy. It uses locally manufactured products and materials, it employs local tradespeople, and the final products are purchased by local consumers. It is by far the largest industry within the domestic economy and has the potential of generating hundreds of thousands of person-years of employment every year.
You would think that in the context of the challenging economic circumstances we find ourselves in, the public and the media would embrace anyone who would be willing to take a risk in the name of job creation. Amazingly, however, an attitude continues to persist in certain vociferous circles that development is inherently bad and that it should be prevented wherever possible, or at least taxed and regulated to the point where there are no profits left at the end of the day to reinvest. As a result of both circumstance and attitude, this industry has been devastated. I honestly can't figure out this mentality, especially today.
We know that the population of the greater Toronto area is expected to grow to more than six million people over the next 25 to 30 years. The intent of Bill 20 is to ensure that we can efficiently manage that growth while balancing the interests of the industry, consumer and public at large. And that's what planning policy is all about. The government has taken a bold step forward in the name of job creation with Bill 20. We embrace that leadership.
At this point, I'd like to turn it over to Peter to talk about some specifics.
Mr Peter Langer: Thank you, Tom, and good morning. The Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association has been active on the issue of planning reform since the establishment of the Commission on Planning and Development Reform roughly five years ago. From the initial draft through to the commission's final report and on to the consultation process on Bill 163, we have been active participants and we've been offering a very consistent message: The process needs to be streamlined and the inherent costs need to be reduced.
Over the course of your hearings, you are likely to hear a lot of concerns raised by certain what I would call selfish interest groups about how Bill 20 will destroy the environment and undermine the social fabric of the province. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Bill 163 destroyed the balance between economic and environmental interests that were reflected in the previous planning laws, while adding layers of confusing prescriptive policy and unnecessary guidelines. Here are the guidelines that were dreamed up for Bill 163. Does this look like streamlining and efficiency to you? It's well over 600 pages of -- well, it makes great bedtime reading.
Despite the spin that was put on the Bill 163 package by the commission and dutifully reported by much of the media, there never was a broad consensus of support for that legislation. In fact, after beating our heads against the wall for three years trying to convince the previous government how its proposals would dramatically increase the cost of development in this province while severely restricting consumer choice, we stood together in September 1994 with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Urban Development Institute, the Canadian Institute of Public Real Estate Companies, the Ontario Home Builders' Association, the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Trade, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Bar Association in opposing Bill 163. Indeed, if there was any broad consensus, it was a consensus against those measures.
The reason that we support Bill 20 is that it restores the balance between economic and environmental interests and restores integrity to the process. It will allow for good projects to go ahead in a timely fashion to meet the needs of future generations.
Please don't be misled by the scaremongering critics who will tell you that these changes will lead to air pollution, groundwater contamination, higher property taxes, urban sprawl and all the other myths that have been perpetrated in the last number of years, because while Bill 20 streamlines the process and balances competing interests, there is still lots of legislation and policy left intact to ensure that public interests are protected.
Don't forget, as was discussed previously, that all the other ministries will still be involved. We will still have provincial policy statements -- they will be shorter and simpler, as we understand -- and we will have public meetings on official plans, official plan amendments and zoning bylaws.
Finally, we have the local councils themselves, who are faced with the daily task of balancing the interests of proposed developments with the interests of their existing residents.
Quickly, I'd like to run through what we specifically like about Bill 20:
Enthusiastically, we support the replacement of the words "be consistent with," with "have regard to." The "be consistent with" clause, read in conjunction with the reams of policy and guidelines generated under Bill 163, was going to have the immediate effect of dramatically and arbitrarily restricting the supply of land available for development, while driving up prices in the process.
We wholeheartedly support the elimination of the requirement to hold a public meeting on a plan of subdivision. The public has always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy under Bill 20 the opportunity to provide input at the official plan and zoning bylaw stages of the process.
We support the streamlining provisions in the bill in terms of the shortened time frames proposed for various development approvals. There simply has not been enough discipline in the system up until now and we cannot afford that any longer.
There are a couple of concerns that we have that we'd like to table with you today.
First, one of the problems of Bill 163 that remains with Bill 20 is the issue of appeals from minor variances. Prior to Bill 163, committee of adjustment decisions could be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. This appeal provided proponents with an impartial forum where planning issues could be argued and objective decisions reached. The first reading version of Bill 163 eliminated appeals to the board, however, by the time the bill was passed, the right to appeal minor variances had been restored.
Under Bill 20, we seem to be caught somewhere in the middle. In cases where there is no committee of adjustment, the decisions of municipal councils are final and not subject to review. Where there is a committee of adjustment which does not include a representative of council, council can review the decision or direct the board to hear the matter on a fee-for-service basis.
This seems to be an attempt by the government to have its cake and eat it too, that is, to streamline things at the OMB while appearing to provide for a reasonable right of appeal. To the extent that the backlog at the board will be reduced, there will be an offsetting logjam, we fear, at council, so we may not have gained very much.
Our main concern, however, lies in the fact that we are being denied the opportunity to get a fair and impartial review of decisions and are faced with a situation where politics can prevail over planning, with local councillors sitting as both judge and jury. This is a serious concern of many of our members, particularly those involved in redeveloping and revitalizing existing neighbourhoods. We would recommend that the ability to appeal to the board be preserved.
One of the other problems that remains relates to the cutting of trees on private property. Bill 163 amended the Municipal Act to give municipalities the power to regulate the cutting of trees on private property, and this has not been dealt with under Bill 20. This kind of arbitrary power is inappropriate and creates the potential for abuse. In the extreme, it creates an incentive for land owners to cut down trees before they reach maturity, as defined in local bylaws. This provision is counterproductive and we hope that you will recommend its elimination.
Those are my comments at this point. I'd like to turn it back to Tom.
Mr Stricker: I'd like to conclude with a brief word about the development charges provision of Bill 20. The vast majority of local development charges bylaws in this area were set to expire in November 1996. Bill 20 prevents municipalities from increasing their current development charges while providing them with the power to extend their existing bylaws indefinitely pending a fundamental review of the act. I guess they can lower them, too, but I don't hear too many of them talking about that.
The industry supports the fundamental review of development charges, particularly the emphasis on higher degrees of accountability. The Development Charges Act was put in place in the midst of an unprecedented growth boom. I don't need to tell you how much times have changed. Accordingly, it is appropriate to look at the act. We accept the premise that new growth should pay for basic, necessary services. However, let's be clear: It is home buyers who pay development charges, and as the voice of the new home buyer, we want to make it clear that new home buyers should not pay more than their fair share.
We look forward to participating in the review process.
That concludes our comments today. We have kept our remarks fairly general, knowing that the Ontario Home Builders' Association and the Urban Development Institute will be providing more detailed and technical comments later this week. Thank you for hearing us. We would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: We have four minutes for each caucus for questions. We will begin with the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: I've got a question about the Development Charges Act. I assume, since you people are in the private development business, that you're free-enterprisers who believe in the market system that prevails or seems to be sort of the foundation of our North American society.
Why are you so concerned that municipalities would in effect make the charges that they could charge under this act even more onerous in a time when there seems to be very little development going on? Wouldn't you think -- and I assume that you people deal with municipalities on an ongoing basis-that most municipalities want to see growth in their community rather than the community next door, that if any municipality had very onerous charges under the act, they would probably do the right thing and decrease them in any event if they wanted to have any development take place in their municipalities?
Mr Langer: That would be rational thinking. Unfortunately --
Mr Gerretsen: You're saying local councillors are not rational, is that it?
Mr Langer: They may be rational in their own minds in some cases, and it's not a problem that's common in every municipality, and certainly some municipalities have recently reduced development charges and many municipalities don't have them at all. But in some municipalities, yes, there is an anti-growth, anti-development attitude that is prevalent at council and it may be a reflection of the attitudes of their existing constituents and those charges have not been reduced and in fact were increased not too long ago. It is used as a tool to slow down the pace of development.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess I'm always somewhat concerned about the inconsistency in a lot of the development industry's approach to this. On the one hand they're saying, "Government, get off our backs," but on the other hand they're saying, "We really don't trust the local municipalities and we need your help here to protect us from the local councils." It always seems to me that there's an inconsistency there, particularly when with most of these councils, the kind of business that you're in, you're working with them on a daily basis -- maybe not with the councils directly, but certainly with the people who work for the municipalities. Do you have any comments on that?
Mr Stricker: I can comment on that. There are certain developers who want DCAs to be softer than what they are presently. There are some with the softs, as they are now, and then there are the hard services. We're all over the map on it. We're not going to deny that. But what we do say is that they are being used as a tool to prohibit development. In a lot of cases the money is being wasted. There are some funds that have overspent what they budgeted, and in fact if anybody stopped the clock right now, they'd be bankrupt.
So what we're saying is that municipal taxpayers, our future ones and the ones existing, can only afford so much and they have to pay the cost of operating those facilities, so everybody has to take a look at it again and see, do we put all these fancy rec centres in, do we put these art galleries and theatres and all the other things in that have been dreamed up over the last 10 years, or do you put it back to the municipal taxpayer -- who all vote; our guy doesn't vote at that point in time -- and let him decide whether that's a worthy thing for his community? That's what we'd like to see, that "necessary" be defined.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a very quick question. Would you agree with me that the main problem with respect to minor variances to the OMB is the time delay it takes for the OMB to deal with relatively minor matters and that they are different from major developments that obviously require a longer time for the OMB to deal with?
Mr Langer: I think I heard a reasonable suggestion a little bit earlier and I think the suggestion came from you. Certainly, time is one of our biggest concerns in the process at every single stage of the way. We think there should be a method that you can get an impartial hearing on the minor variance issue, and the suggestion of a special group within the OMB to provide that hearing in a timely fashion is a very reasonable one.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for your presentation. Could you tell me how you define "certain selfish interest groups"? What's your definition of a "selfish interest group"?
Mr Langer: I think these are groups that are probably in a minority that have a particular interest. Maybe their interest is they just want to stop development. There are some we've heard from who would perhaps like to get on their bicycles and pedal backwards in time. They're not realistic and they're not in the interests of the broader community. That's how I would define them.
Ms Churley: Would you consider the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association a special-interest group?
Mr Stricker: Let me answer that. Let me jump right in here.
I guess in a way we represent new home buyers. They don't have a lot to say right now; they're still living in rental apartments or with Mom and Dad or something. I guess we represent them. If there's something wrong with that, you know --
Ms Churley: No, would you consider it a special-interest group?
Mr Stricker: Yes.
Ms Churley: Yes, you would. A selfish one, or more there for the good of society?
Mr Stricker: No, we protect the guy who doesn't vote.
Ms Churley: For what?
Mr Stricker: We look out for the guy who doesn't vote right now, within that jurisdiction that you're speaking to, when it comes to planning.
Ms Churley: I know it sounds facetious, but I think it's a legitimate question, because this special-interest group thing has really gotten out of hand. It seems as though anybody who doesn't agree with you any more is called a selfish special-interest group, but you yourself, you're above it all, pure. I think we have to be really careful with that. I'd just like to comment that I have concerns about that kind of polarization of different points of view and different areas of expertise.
Mr Langer: Maybe we would be better to just talk about interest groups without any designation of "selfish" or "special."
Ms Churley: Perhaps that would be better.
Mr Langer: "Special" is not one that we invented. "Special" is one that has been used for political, ideological purposes for a long time.
Ms Churley: I just think that it lessens the validity of the debate, because environmentalists who have expertise in the area have really legitimate, important things to say and I think it's unfair --
Mr Langer: You're absolutely right, and it wasn't used specifically with environmentalists. There are legitimate environmental concerns. Our industry has often been cast as being somewhat anti-environmental, and I can assure you nothing is further from the truth. I don't know anybody who is anti-environment.
Ms Churley: I do, but anyway, I think my colleague wants to pick up from here. Thank you.
Mr Hampton: I've read a fair amount of material on this from different sides. In your submission here, you say, "We enthusiastically support the replacement of the words `be consistent with'" and support going back to "have regard to." You take the view that this will speed things up. Some of the other reports I've read suggest that we're going to be headed back to protracted, site-specific battles each time a development application comes along, because you don't have any certainty upfront.
They're saying "be consistent with" gives you a pretty clear guideline of the test you have to meet. "Have regard to" doesn't tell you a lot about anything. Therefore, what's going to happen is, with "be consistent with," you know what you have to do upfront and you do that upfront planning, and that should result in less delay, less time.
I've read those. I've read them over a couple of times. I think the idea with those was --
The Chair: You've had your four minutes. Perhaps I could ask for a quick response.
Mr Hampton: I think the idea with those was to be helpful and to give people some real guidelines. You think that going back to the old standard will actually result in less protracted hearings and disputes?
Mr Langer: Not necessarily in itself. The "have regard to" regime existed for a long time and there is a body of cases that give it very clear definition. There may have been some rare examples of its abuse, but I think it was a system that generally worked. The "be consistent with," together with the policy statements and all of this stuff, was leading us into a regime that was going to be terribly confusing, very time-consuming and very expensive. That's really where the nub of the problem lies. We also agree that there should be some flexibility in considering these things at the local level. Every community has its own different attributes, and the policies should be read within that context.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Good morning and thank you for the presentation. I just wanted to go back quickly to the appeal of minor variances. You suggested in your presentation that the policy seems to be somewhat wanting to have the cake and eat it too, that in areas where there are no members of council on the committee of adjustment, the council would be the final appeal; in areas where members of council are on the committee, there would be no appeal.
I just wanted to ask, in the first scenario of the two, where no members of council are on the committee of adjustment, would you see that as an appropriate appeal mechanism as opposed to putting it to the OMB and taking a lot of time and money on all applications? Would locally elected officials be an appropriate appeal mechanism if they were not involved in the original decision?
Mr Stricker: I think the applicant or the objector, depending on who's debating the item, is too close to the council and generally they'll know them. They can't distance themselves or be, I think, fairminded generally. They'll favour one or the other. I think they should consider it perhaps, and if they can't come to an agreement, it can go to OMB. That could be considered. But we still feel that OMB has a more impartial view and is not familiar with either the applicant or the objector. Quite frankly, they could play hockey together or be friends, and that's the problem.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): I want to come back to one particular point that my colleague Mr Hampton had raised. At the outset, I would have to say I'm pleased to see that you've recognized the importance of balance between the economics and environmental interest that we're trying to achieve in this bill. As proponents of a potential development application, do you have any concern that the change in wording from "be consistent with" to "have regard to" would compromise the type of environmental considerations that you would consider in a normal planning application?
Mr Langer: Would going from "be consistent with" to "have regard to" compromise environmental concerns?
Mr Smith: Yes, if we were to change that.
Mr Langer: No. There are lots of standards, some more clear than others. There's lots of legislation that requires environmental consideration for those few people who may not have the environment at the top of their mind. I think the protection is there and it's adequate. This does bring a balance back into the system, though, so that the planning system cannot be abused by those who would cloak themselves in the guise of environmental protection while their real agenda is to just stop development.
Mr Smith: One last quick question. On page 4 you alluded to your support for the streamlining provisions of the bill. In any way do you feel the time frames that have been established compromise the ability of a municipality to respond to them adequately?
Mr Langer: I don't think so. There is probably some concern and there may have to be some re-engineering at some of the municipalities in order to accommodate those time frames, but I think that's fairly positive. It creates a little bit of tension in the system, some discipline. It does force decisions in a more timely manner, and clear decisions, so you know where you can go from there. One of the big problems we've been having is applications have been sitting around and moving here and moving there, and time and time and time goes by. It's one of the significant differences that we have between our system here and in the United States, for instance, where we are losing a lot of employment opportunities. It's inherently costly to take five or six years to get a major subdivision approved.
The Chair: Thank you very much again, gentlemen, for taking the time to make presentations and answer questions here today.
The Chair: We're going to change positions here. Apparently, the next group had some confusion as to the starting time. Fortunately, we have the subsequent presenter, Mr Karl Jaffary, and I see you have an associate as well, Katherine Latimer. Thank you very much for saving us the inconvenience of a break. Good morning. We have 25 minutes, to be divided as you see fit between presentation and questions.
Mr Karl Jaffary: Good morning and thank you very much, Mr Chairman. I have distributed a letter with the substance of my remarks, so I'll take you through that fairly briefly and then be happy to answer questions.
The first thing I wanted to say was a very, very strong congratulations to the government and to the ministry for bringing this legislation forward. I'm just surprised that such an amount of detailed work could be done as quickly as it was done. In very general terms, I find the recommendations to be extremely good. We're happy with the bill. I'm happy with the bill. I'm going to suggest a couple of things that I think could make it a little better but, overall, pass it and I'll be saying hurray. It's a lot of good moves in the right direction. That's the general thrust and the most important thing I wanted to say.
I think Bill 163 went off the track in a number of places, and rather than just restoring what it was before, you have not only got it back on track but introduced some very significant improvements. The direct appeal from a failure to pass an official plan going directly to the board rather than going to the ministry seems to me to be highly desirable, and there is a number of other instances like that which I'm very supportive of.
I have said that there are a couple of things that might be improved, and the first area I want to discuss is the committee of adjustment appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. Committee of adjustment appeals to the municipal board at the moment number about 14% of the board's work in caseload number and only 5% in terms of the time the board sits hearing. I get those figures from the chair of the board. I'm concerned that for that amount of time-saving, really, all appeal rights will be lost, and in some circumstances all appeal rights could be lost. If a member of a municipal council is appointed to the committee of adjustment, that means there's no appeal. Municipalities, as we speak, are thinking about appointing members who will never attend any of the meetings, and that will mean there will be no appeal right and they won't have to worry about it. That seems to me to be unfortunate.
On the other hand, the whole municipal council hearing an appeal is in some cases going to be quite workable. I think largely here of smaller municipalities and rural municipalities. I have no problem about the municipality taking that function on to itself when it wants to. I think, however, that trying to ask a municipal council in a large municipality to conduct appeals is not going to be workable. You won't be able to comply with the rules of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act appeal. An appeal from a committee of adjustment on a major density matter can take a full day, can easily take several days. When you get a council like the city of Toronto, with 16 members used to operating in a forum not unlike your own where people can wander in and out, but unable to do that on an appeal -- everybody would have to be there for all of it -- you're either going to be putting the council under a great deal of strain or trying to ask appellants to move their cases forward more quickly than perhaps is appropriate.
I like that idea in the bill of councils being able to refer the matter to the OMB and of councils having to pay for it if they refer it to the OMB. That seemed to me perfectly sensible. If it's the council that has passed this bylaw that is difficult to live with, perhaps it's the council that should pay for the hearing. I was taught many years ago by the city solicitor in Toronto that the purpose of the zoning bylaw was to make sure that no one could actually build anything without getting council's specific approval. If a municipality uses the zoning bylaw that way and that gives rise to appeals, perhaps the costs of the appeal should be borne by the municipality. But my suggestion is that the municipal council should either hear the appeal or it should refer it to the OMB at its own cost, but it should do one of those two things. The option of having a member of council be a member of the committee of adjustment, with no appeals, seems to me inappropriate.
Even Bill 163 talked about eliminating appeals from committees of adjustment, and a number of people in the municipal bar said, "That just means that instead of going to the committee of adjustment, we'll all have to apply for a zoning change." There is some concern about that. You get an appeal from a zoning change, and the expeditious and useful work that committees of adjustment now do, it seems to me, should not be sacrificed and have people seeking zoning bylaw changes that will be more complex and more time-consuming, if that can be avoided. But I think we do need to give a right of appeal.
The second area I want to discuss with you is the time that is frequently consumed in fulfilling the conditions of subdivision approval, and I think time that need not always be spent. In some municipalities, particularly regional municipalities, it is a practice on the part of the regional municipality of being unprepared to even address the fulfilling of conditions of approval until all the other conditions by the area municipalities have been fulfilled, and the area municipalities' conditions will often involve the posting of security for the construction of underground works and things of that sort.
A client for whom I regularly appear has had millions and millions and millions of dollars in letters of credit posted with local municipalities in circumstances where he cannot get the regional municipality to even address the drafting of the agreement that will be a condition of final registration. Here's the regional municipality really getting in the way, and I suppose I should be addressing them rather than you. I quite agree with the thought that municipalities should be masters in their own houses, but the regional municipalities have not been helpful in moving registrations along quickly.
School boards have caused even worse problems from time to time. A very usual condition of a draft approval will be that the developer enter into agreements with the school board relating to the school sites that have been designated on the plan. What the agreement is is usually a difficulty in arriving at an option price and evaluation, and the process can go on for months and months and months.
With the OMB's backlog of work, you try to meet with the school board. If you then think you aren't getting anywhere with an agreement and you want to appeal that condition to the board, you look at another eight months to a year of delay, so you are pushed hard to deal with the school board, although very frequently, something that said that the developer will not build anything else on those sites for 10 years and if they can't come to an agreement the school board will expropriate the sites would be totally fair to all parties. I think everyone would rather do an agreement than have an expropriation. But it is difficult if you are leaving this power of controlling the timing in the hands of any body, and the school board has been in some cases as remiss in being concerned about the speed at which approvals come as has been the regional municipality.
In trying to think of a solution to any of that as far as your bill is concerned and trying to think as well of your desire to keep local autonomy strong, the only suggestions I can come up with would involve giving the minister some right to issue discretionary directions as to how conditions should be fulfilled. One of the few, if I can put it that way, positive things we saw with the last government's administration of the Planning Act was the appointment of the provincial facilitator, who most of us found to be doing a useful and helpful job in moving things forward, obviously a job of facilitation and attempting to arrange meetings.
It seemed to me that that experience is something you might be able to build on a little. If you got to a situation where the minister had the right to issue directions, the minister might come up with a standard form of agreement on school sites and direct that people either follow that agreement or move forward somewhat more expeditiously on their negotiations. You could certainly get a ministerial direction to regional governments that once a plan of subdivision had been approved, with conditions, it should immediately begin work on drawing the agreements that would satisfy the conditions.
It's that kind of thing I'm thinking of. I suggest no major change in the legislation to deal with that kind of thing except perhaps the possibility of ministerial direction with an aim to more rapid fulfilment of conditions. Those are my remarks. I will end as I began, with congratulations for the bill. If there are any questions or anything I can help with further, I'd be delighted to do that.
Ms Churley: I liked your comment about your old sparring partner, John Sewell. I just wanted to ask you, with the very short time, a general question. A major reason why our party, when in government, went -- and we didn't go out looking for trouble, believe it or not. There was obviously a need for planning reform. We heard from all kinds of sources, including municipalities, that there were substantive problems, and we responded to that.
Obviously, there was not an overall consensus; there are people who prefer this mode. But there were problems in the past that resulted in very bad, piecemeal planning -- and I think you would agree with that -- including the Toronto area, as we well know. That is my concern, and that is why I have concerns. I think we're going in a negative direction here. We disagree.
Do you have concerns? For instance, in the past there has been, because of bad planning, contaminated water in areas because of inconsistent planning. That's one of the reasons I believe that consistent overall provincial policy, of course with flexibility built in for different areas, is important, to try to avoid that kind of urban sprawl and contamination of water and other problems which result from piecemeal planning. Can you comment on that?
Mr Jaffary: As I recall, the terms of reference of the Sewell commission were to do two things: one was to streamline the system and the second was to essentially look at municipal conflict of interest. This was a period when you had various local councillors being accused of being involved in goodness knows what. Those were the reasons the government felt a need to act.
Ms Churley: No, no. There were more than that.
Mr Jaffary: That was what the terms of reference said. I certainly think provincial policy is an important tool and provincial policy statements are a good thing to have. They're often useful, and I think the board has dealt with them quite effectively. I know that the Ontario Municipal Board feels, and I feel, that when it confronts an environmental problem it deals with it very effectively. The difficulty always seemed to me to be environmental problems that had slipped past and that nobody had properly identified when the approvals were taking place. What Bill 163 essentially did was give that responsibility to the local government. I would have thought the local government always had that responsibility; it just hasn't always behaved with it perfectly, and I suppose it never does.
The question of the shape of this region is something now on the government's plate. Clearly, consistency of local plans with regional government plans is an important issue, and we now finally have a regional plan in the region of York, and that's useful. But what the shape of regional government even will be, I don't know. I quite believe there should be planning at a regional level.
I remember being taught at law school that the proper area for planning is the area next-largest from the area at which the planners have most recently failed. So you keep looking at bigger and bigger areas until you get to province-wide planning, and then you go back to neighbourhood planning. All of these are very important things to do, and it's important for the planners at each level to know what their responsibilities are. Certainly something like contaminated water is a very important consideration.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Welcome. It seems to me that through the course of the next few weeks we're going to be debating the question of "shall have regard to" or "shall be consistent with" with certain presenters. Do you feel there's a negative impact towards environmental concerns by reverting to the process that had been used for a very long time where it relates to "with regard to" as opposed to "be consistent with"?
Mr Jaffary: I think not in the slightest. The words "have regard to" came from, I believe, the British Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. That act calls for development plans, and actions are to have regard to development plans. But those plans do not have the force of law in the same way that an Ontario official plan does. We have official plans that have the force of law, and of course everyone must be totally consistent with them; you can't pass a bylaw or do a public work otherwise.
Provincial policy statements have caused a problem, because if you have a policy statement saying "protect agricultural land" and you have a policy statement saying "foster low-cost housing," and somebody proposes low-cost housing on agricultural land, what do you do?
What you do when you have a rule of "have regard to" is essentially leave it with the decision-maker, the local council or ultimately the municipal board, to weigh these things in context and come up with a proper solution.
If what you say is "be consistent with," and then if you say "always be consistent with the environmental one rather than anything else," you will find situations that the drafters of the policy statement never intended that will be standing in your way.
It is my belief that the phrase "have regard to" has been a workable phrase. I have watched both elected officials and Ontario Municipal Board members wrestle with it, and I can think of no case where I have seen important public policy swept out the door or badly disregarded. I think it gives the test that is the most workable test.
Mrs Fisher: My second question to that: You referred in your presentation a little bit to minor variances in committee of adjustment and then to council vis-à-vis the question of whether or not it should be appealed to the municipal board.
Mr Jaffary: Yes.
Mrs Fisher: Where there's not a member of council on the committee of adjustment, a decision can be made. It's done, and there's no appeal process. Where you go to a situation of council, you raise the flag of the possibility of the demand on time, if you will, at a council level, as opposed to the minimized demand of the full load of the OMB. Would you think it could be appropriate to have a committee of council, as opposed to all of council?
Mr Jaffary: There is a section in the Municipal Act that says that when councils are required to have a hearing, those can be held by a committee of council that then reports to the full council. I must say I haven't addressed whether this particular legislation ties in with this and gives that right, but I would find that a perfectly acceptable way for council to handle it.
I was speaking to one of the mediators on staff at the municipal board who was talking about going to smaller municipalities and how welcome it is, when he goes, that he says, "I'm from the municipal board" and everyone -- ratepayers, councillors -- think of him as an impartial person who can now resolve this matter. You do get into situations where the council is not viewed by some of those before it as being impartial, but I have to come down by saying either the council should conduct an appeal, and if the council is totally impartial, then you do a rezoning and go to the OMB, and I think doing it with a committee is quite acceptable, or it should go to something like the OMB. I think the OMB is all we really have.
Mr Gerretsen: In dealing with this whole issue of "being consistent with" and "having regard to," would you not agree, though, that the bottom line on it is that councils can basically disregard provincial policy? They can take a look at it and then disregard it and have their local situation in effect decide the issue.
Mr Jaffary: The question I then ask is, who's to stop us? If the local municipality decides to ignore provincial policy, what do you do about it? Do you go to the courts and try and argue before a judge that this is unlawful because they've disregarded policy? That is not usually a good thing to bring up. The courts are not much into these policy matters.
Or do you go to the municipal board, and who is it who goes? Almost all the situations I've run into that have been held up after the fact as being situations of bad planning, bad environmental planning, whatever, have been situations where everybody at the local level was in agreement and the matter sailed through without any objection. I venture that it will sail through without objection as easily with "be consistent with" as it will "having regard to." What you really want is some series of tests that will let anyone who finally comes to adjudicate on the matter decide it fairly, and I think that will almost always be a balancing case.
Mr Gerretsen: In dealing with the other issue, the committee of adjustment appeal to the OMB, would you agree with me that from a practical viewpoint the amount of time that it takes to get a minor variance matter heard by the OMB takes about as long as to have a zoning matter heard by the OMB? I'm not talking about the hearing time. I'm talking about the time between the appeal going in and the matter actually being heard by the OMB.
Mr Jaffary: That would be the case for a major one. What the board has been doing in the last few years is scheduling a number of hearings at one-hour intervals on ones that it thinks can be resolved quickly, and the time limits are dropping quite dramatically. The board is able to get some of those on quite quickly, but delay time in getting to the board continues to be a difficulty. I wish there was something we could do about that, but I don't have an answer for you.
It's not so much the time getting to the board that's the difference with the rezoning; it's that if you apply to the municipality for a rezoning, you often go through a six -- to eight-month process -- in the city of Toronto, a minimum of a year -- before the staff reports on your rezoning. If you apply to the committee of adjustment, you're before the committee in a matter of three weeks and it's that time you're saving.
Mr Gerretsen: You've raised a very interesting point there, not only with respect to the length of time that it takes the municipality to react to a development plan but also quite often the time that it takes the province to react to a subdivision plan. Would you agree with me that the time periods as proposed in the bill to a certain extent are almost immaterial and that what you're really dealing with is, from an administrative viewpoint, the length of time that a municipality or a ministry wants to deal with the matter, which the legislation itself really doesn't address, that it's more the administrative practices at the two levels?
Mr Jaffary: That's true and the legislation can really only give you a backstop.
Mr Gerretsen: Right.
Mr Jaffary: What an applicant will frequently do is make his application -- subdivision, official plan change, whatever it is -- give the municipality as much time as possible to consider the matter. Then, if you think you're going to get turned down or something else, you file your appeal.
Often, the original work of putting the material in has been done by the landowner without a lot of advice. By the time a lawyer or a professional planner comes into it and finds he's being turned down, he also finds that the original application was probably not put together wonderfully. What you have to do is start again, still knowing you're going to get turned down, but at least on the second application you can then file a proper appeal.
The time limits there can be important to you, but most of the delay is generally administrative delay in the amount of time it takes to process these things. Certainly a subdivision and a rezoning take a good deal more time than a minor variance.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Jaffary. We appreciate your taking time to make a presentation before the committee today.
SAVE THE OAK RIDGES MORAINE COALITION
The Chair: Our next group is Save the Oak Ridges Moraine. Everyone has their handout. Good morning. Welcome to the committee. We have 25 minutes to be disposed of as you see fit. It may be divided between presentation and questions.
Dr David McQueen: We're very grateful for this opportunity to appear before you. Let me identify the two of us. We may have some reinforcements coming in during the period of the presentation. I'll tell you about them if that happens.
My name is David McQueen. I'm an emeritus professor of economics at York University and co-chair of the STORM Coalition. STORM is an acronym for Save the Oak Ridges Moraine. On my left is Dorothy Izzard, past chair of STORM and a long-time member. She will be speaking to some of the points that we wish very briefly to raise with you. The matters that are before you, which basically are land use planning in Ontario, have been some of the most thoroughly studied and consulted-about matters in this province in the last several years.
We had, first of all, a major consideration of what planning is all about in the Watershed and Regeneration reports of the Crombie Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Waterfront. Then of course we had the Sewell commission's very extensive hearings, again with a great deal of public consultation. The Sewell report, as you know, led on to Bill 163, and there again, the hearings on that bill were protracted, detailed and afforded a maximum opportunity for everyone interested in land-use planning, including ordinary citizens and developers and municipalities, and anybody else who wished to be heard had ample opportunity to do so.
We are, I'm afraid, very struck by the speed with which this accumulation of very serious research and investigation and consultation into the Ontario planning situation is effectively overturned, much of it by Bill 20.
I'd just like, by way of a brief introduction here, to read you a few passages from the concluding section of the Crombie commission's report entitled Regeneration:
"We are responsible for the consequences of our own actions -- to ourselves and to other people, to other generations, and to other species. The ethic that justifies moving in, using up, throwing away, and moving on is no longer acceptable....
"Our current path is unsustainable. Both our economy and our environment are under stress; we are sacrificing the future to mask the reality of the present. It is the commission's view that, done effectively and imaginatively, the process of regeneration will not only contribute to the husbanding of our resources for economic recovery, but will also give us places where unique features are enhanced rather than homogenized and where `development' and `conservation' become kindred ideas that bring us together."
That's one of the key messages we'd like to convey to you this morning. We do not believe that there is a set, pitched battle between economic development and the environment. The difference is only between well-planned economic development, in relation to land use and environmental considerations, and badly planned.
This is one of the principal things we'd like to say to you: Consider again how much went into these previous reports on planning in Ontario and what justification there can be for overthrowing, as this bill does, largely by omission, by subtraction, so much of the work that has gone before.
A very key part of this revision is that the wording "be consistent with," which briefly resided in the Ontario Planning Act, has been removed and we're returned to a very ambiguous set of words -- "shall have regard to." We hardly know, and I don't think anybody quite knows, what "having regard to" really means in terms of the actions which municipalities take in areas where there are provincial planning policies in effect.
The Sewell commission looked at this very closely and determined that you'd had regard to provincial policies if you hadn't simply dismissed them out of hand. "Be consistent with" is much more powerful. It means that the message which the province is sending through its policy statements is meaningful; it means that people have to do something about it. "Have regard to" has no force of that kind at all, so far as we can see.
On items 4, 5 and 6 of our brief, of which I believe you all have copies, I'd like to turn matters over to Dorothy Izzard.
Mrs Dorothy Izzard: The matter of municipalities no longer needing to do a comprehensive land use plan is very worrying. It means there is no broad framework in which to plan. Instead, planning can much more easily be done on an ad hoc, piecemeal basis, which is not planning at all.
We are also concerned that in item after item in Bill 20 the notices for appeals for almost any kind of public participation have been shortened, the number of days cut from 90 to 60, cut from 50 to 20 in item after item. This I know is meant to streamline a process, but is it eliminating the kind of public consultation which could make eventual decisions much more firm? Is it adding to the problem?
The public consultation as referred to in item 6 -- I'm going to get a little personal here. I've never been a member of any political party. I have at election time looked to leadership qualities, philosophy and local support. Therefore, I have studied before going to the polling booth and it's always been my impression that the Conservative Party, particularly provincially, has stood for defending property rights. I am a property owner, doing it the hard way. My husband and I, temporarily working in another province, invested in Ontario, purchased a home which is now 50 years old, paid off a mortgage. I am an ordinary homeowner and I am sure there are hundreds of thousands like me in Ontario.
Does this mean that according to section 44, my neighbour can apply for a severance and receive it without my having any official information? Does it mean that my neighbour on the other side can apply for a subdivision without any notice to me? Is this really protecting the ordinary citizen who does have property rights? Just a question.
While I'm asking questions, we have the provincial policy statement. It's been well distributed, but it says that it is intended that these policies come into effect when Bill 20, the Land Use Planning and Protection Act, is proclaimed. Is there to be public consultation? If so, will it make any difference if these are to come into effect? We are not speaking to them today. We were given no such direction. But we have grave concerns about a policy statement coming into effect the minute Bill 20 is proclaimed. Perhaps that's a question you can answer for me.
Dr McQueen: I'll just pass on to item 7. As long as I've ever been concerned with planning matters in Ontario -- this is not an exclusive statement, but there have been three ministries which have had built into their mandates major responsibilities in the area of land use planning. These are the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Energy and Environment.
Under the single-window approach which is proposed in Bill 20 in the interests of streamlining processes -- by the way, I would like to mention that we are by no means opposed to reducing the length and complexity and expense of many of the procedures that have been in effect in Ontario during this time. Nevertheless, it seems to us very odd that under Bill 20 only the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be allowed to make appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board on such matters. What's going to be the role of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment and Energy? They do have mandates which impinge very clearly on matters of land use planning. How are they going to be inputting into this overall process?
I'd widen that. I'd say the question arises not just in relation to appeals to the OMB but in relation to the whole land use planning policy that is to be implemented. We would greatly appreciate some clarity on that point.
We do expect to be making further public representations about Bill 20 and the proposed provincial policy statements as time goes on. These things have come at us very rapidly. They are very long, they are very complex and we intend to use more time to get to the bottom of things and find out more of the detail of what is proposed. I'll hand you back to Dorothy at this point.
Mrs Izzard: If you thought I had created a diversion away from the issue of the environment, that is not so. Every land use decision in Ontario affects the environment, the economy and the lives of the people of Ontario.
The issue is not the economy versus the environment. The two go together. In fact, I think we are neglecting some great opportunities for ecotourism in Ontario. It is a matter of whether jobs and prosperity will flourish best in a context of good land use planning with a long-term plan, a comprehensive plan with a vision.
Dr McQueen: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. We're open for questions and answers at this point, at your discretion.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you for a most interesting presentation and also for having concern for a natural resource such as the Oak Ridges moraine. It's certainly a very impressive piece of geography here in the province of Ontario.
Let me first assure you that this government is very committed to the environment. We're bringing in some tough standards, for everything from landfill sites on, to ensure that the environment is protected, standards that were not in place with the previous government. We're not about to bend on protection of the environment.
I also agree with your comment that we do not have to have a battle between economic development and environmental protection. They must work together. They have to go together. I fully agree with you and indeed with your comment about ecotourism. I just noticed recently the top 10 countries in the world for tourism. Canada did not rate into those top 10, and with what we have here, we certainly should have been. It's an area we can take advantage of and not do any harm to our environment.
My first question relates to undue haste. There are 12 days of hearings. The hearings have been advertised and we're receiving every individual -- group, person -- who applied, as I understand it. I'm wondering how much more time we should be giving after we've advertised and we're going to listen to all groups. Do you have any comments on that?
Dr McQueen: I think one of the comments we have relates not just to time but also to the complexity and detail of this bill. Given that, more time certainly, and given also the fact that it goes in such an opposite direction in many respects from these massive, well-consulted-about documents put out by the Crombie commission and by the Sewell commission. I think just on the grounds of the mass of material that's here, a longer period of hearings would have been appropriate. I must say we appreciate the first part of your remarks, Mr Galt.
Mr Galt: Thank you. The second question relates to property rights, relates to good planning, investment for future generations. I'm concerned about wetlands. We're going to protect wetlands and also the adjoining lands around them.
There are a lot of land owners, particularly farmers, who are extremely upset with the legislation in Bill 163. They were never told, they were not consulted and the land was literally taken from them with no compensation. They feel it was very unfair of the government to do that when they had paid for these lands.
Yes, we should be protecting those lands; there's no question. Maybe somebody should be prepared to pay those farmers for those lands and take them over as a park or controlled lands by the province, a municipality or groups such as your own. How would you feel if you were a farmer owning some wetlands or adjoining lands and they were taken from you, if you were never told you have no future rights to those lands?
Dr McQueen: Mr Galt, are you saying it is possible in this province for the government to expropriate land and give no compensation whatsoever?
Mr Galt: That is what has happened, sir.
Dr McQueen: It has certainly not come to our notice. Dorothy, do you know --
Mr Galt: It has to the farmers, let me assure you.
Mrs Izzard: I have been, until very recently, owner of a farm in an area that does include grade 3 -- that's not the word -- wetlands. There was absolutely no indication that would ever be taken from me.
Mr Galt: Not taken in ownership but taken in rights to use.
Mrs Izzard: That's something quite different.
Mr Galt: That was what I was referring to: rights to use, not by title.
Mr Gerretsen: Just following up on that last question, although you didn't raise it in your comments: When we're talking about the right to use property, if that's what Mr Galt is talking about, in effect, this act also is now telling homeowners that they can no longer use that property in order to build a second unit within their house. So there's definitely a total inconsistency by the government here as far as that's concerned. What's good for one is not necessarily good for the other. That seems to be the approach that's being taken here.
I'd like your opinion as to what you feel this notion of "having regard to" rather than "being consistent with" provincial policies means. The way I read that is that a municipality basically has to take it into account, but then if it totally wants to discount whatever the provincial policy states, it can do so without any impunity at all. Is that your understanding?
Dr McQueen: Nobody's studied this matter of the wording here more thoroughly than did the Sewell commission. I would just like to read you a brief excerpt of what they say in their final report about it:
"The current section 3" -- that's before the revision -- "states that all planning authorities `shall have regard to policies.' Courts have interpreted this to mean only that a decision-making body cannot dismiss a policy out of hand. This status might be appropriate for very detailed policies, which include the ways in which policies will be implemented, but it is much too weak a status for policies that are more general in nature and do not include details of implementation."
There's further prose here which I think you might find interesting.
Certainly, in all the appeals and other things with which our organization was concerned, it was never clear to us, nor indeed to the Ontario Municipal Board, just what the hell it did mean.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes. I'd just like to make one very quick comment with respect to the subdivision that may be built on the property immediately next to you if the property is properly zoned without a public hearing. I think what's happened here is that the ministry, as it did in Bill 26, listened very carefully to what the Association of Municipalities of Ontario had to say over the last number of years and basically said, "Well, I guess we're going to give them what they want." But the one thing they totally forgot is the rights and the opinions of the general public out there, which may be quite a bit different from the opinions their own municipality may hold at any given time. Do you have any comments on that?
Dr McQueen: I not only agree with you, I have here the fact sheet -- media kit issued by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. One of the statements here is:
"Introduction: A coalition of municipal leaders, planners and developers, the people who actually use the land use planning system, say the current system hurts Ontario's competitive position." It goes on from there.
Mr Gerretsen: That's right.
Dr McQueen: This leaves us completely out.
Mr Gerretsen: About 99.9% of the rest of the people are the general public who are saddled with whatever development occurs as a result of that coalition.
Dr McQueen: I think everybody deserves a hearing on land use matters.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes. Thank you.
Mrs Izzard: Particularly when it's a local matter.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much. Before I move to my colleague, who I understand has a series of questions, I just want to answer a couple of your questions very quickly so you know the answers.
Public meeting requirements are removed for subdivision plans and the persons who will be entitled to notice that an application has been made with -- be left to set out in regulation, which of course can be changed. So that there will be some regulations on that.
But overall public notice and appeals periods are reduced now to 20 days. That means of course that decision-makers will be less well informed as to community information and concerns. So overall there's just shortened time frames and less accessibility for the public, including you, as a land owner, to have a say in what happens.
Mrs Izzard: Yes.
Mr Hampton: I want to go to your point number 7, "Unclear roles of natural resource and Environment ministries." You both, I take it from your comments, have had some experience in terms of dealing with the Oak Ridges moraine.
Mrs Izzard: Yes, indeed.
Mr Hampton: What has been the role, historically, of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment and Energy staff? What do their biologists and ecologists do in terms of evaluating proposals and so on and so forth?
Mrs Izzard: We have counted on them very much in terms of assessment, in terms of hydrogeological studies, assessment of the vulnerability of sensitive lands, the identification of natural heritage areas that must be protected. We have found both ministries very supportive and MNR particularly, locally in each of its local offices, extremely helpful in regard to the Oak Ridges moraine.
Dr McQueen: I can speak to that too. I know on a couple of hassles we had the expertise provided by the field staff of MNR. It was absolutely indispensable. They have the scientific knowledge and it would be very difficult for us to find it anywhere else.
Mr Hampton: What are your worst fears then in number 7, if we go to a single-window approach where Municipal Affairs and Housing makes the final decision or has control over what happens?
Mrs Izzard: Simply, from my point of view first, that environmental aspects will be second rate, and will be somewhat neglected.
Dr McQueen: I don't think we're necessarily against the single-window approach as such, but we'd like to be much firmer on exactly how MNR and MOEE feed into the decision-making process here and I don't think that's clear at all at this stage.
Mr Hampton: and where MNR and MOEE have real concerns about the development proposal -- do you have a suggestion as to what the process ought to be so that those concerns can be made public?
Dr McQueen: How would you like to leave that question with us? That's something we'd like to discuss and perhaps come back with some ideas about it. It needs some thinking through.
Mr Hampton: I might ask you to think about something else. MNR has about 4,500 employees now. Within the next 15 months, I understand 2,000 of those employees are to go out the door. Perhaps you could give us some indication of your views of how well equipped MNR would then be to protect some of these sensitive environmental, natural environment issues and how well equipped MNR and MOEE will be to even comment or do the analysis?
Mrs Izzard: Clearly, they would be operating at less than 50% of their present ability. We would be losing. Ontario would be losing and the environment would be losing.
The Chair: Thank you all and thank you for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate the opportunity to ask questions.
Members of the committee, that concludes the agenda items for this morning. This committee stands recessed until 1 o'clock.
The committee recessed from 1140 to 1302.
ONTARIO SEPARATE SCHOOL TRUSTEES' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Good afternoon, all. Continuing with our hearing on Bill 20, the planning act, the first group this afternoon is the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Mr Patrick Meany: Mr Chairman and members of the standing committee, my name is Patrick Meany; I'm president of the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association and a trustee of the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board. With me are Patrick Daly, our first vice-president, who is also a chairman of the Hamilton-Wentworth RCSS Board; Patrick Slack, our executive director; our deputy executive director, Earl McCabe; and Ed Gera, planner for one of our member boards, Hamilton-Wentworth.
The Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association represents 53 Roman Catholic separate school boards from all regions of Ontario. These boards provide Catholic education programs and services to nearly 600,000 students.
The Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association has reviewed the policy statements published by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Bill 20. In the context of the Land Use Planning and Protection Act, the legislation known as Bill 20, OSSTA wishes to provide this committee with the following observations and recommendations.
Under the Education Act, RSO 1990, school boards have the authority to select and acquire by purchase, lease or expropriation school sites within their area of jurisdiction. School boards are required by the Education Act to "provide instruction and adequate accommodation during each school year for the pupils who have a right to attend a school under the jurisdiction of the board," subsection 170(6). This obligation is not a matter of discretion.
Each school board provides this ministry with a multi-year capital expenditure forecast which outlines the board's capital projects. Most boards rely heavily on ministry money to finance their capital projects. In most cases, funding of these projects comes after residential projects are built and occupied; in some cases, this may be more than 10 years later. Meanwhile, the board must accommodate new students in portables or bus them out of the area.
Policies and acts pertaining to land use have a direct impact on the operations of school boards. The proposed streamlining of the planning process would result in an increase in residential development that would only intensify this problem. School boards would be constantly trying to catch up, even more than now, to meet the pace of development. What is necessary is improved cooperation and coordination among the various ministries, local governments and school boards.
In the past, school boards in most jurisdictions have had input in various stages of the planning process -- official plans, amendments, zoning bylaws and plans of subdivision. Urban and rural municipalities have consulted boards on matters that pertain to education. Cooperation between these two local elected bodies and their administrations has been to the community's benefit.
More recently, this pattern of consultation and cooperation has been broken. In some cases, school board have not been consulted on zoning bylaw amendments that increase the need for school facilities by increasing residential densities. In other cases, plans of subdivision have been approved over the objections of school boards. This occurs because the existing act makes reference only to "school sites" and ignores the fact that educational facilities will not be constructed for a number of years. The school servicing the area quickly becomes overcrowded and is unable to accommodate the additional pupils.
This is a disturbing trend which must be stopped. What accounts for the trend? Part of the explanation is in the appetite for land development by municipalities. The other part of the explanation is found in the fact that the Planning Act has relatively few references to educational matters. For example, an official plan must have regard "to the equitable distribution of educational, health and other social facilities." An official plan must have regard "to relevant social, economic and environmental matters." It is clear that the legislation intends the provision of education to be part of the planning process.
Since 1977, the Planning Act has been reviewed by two commissions and the present Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Both commissions have expressed the need for the Planning Act to address "issues of an educational nature," in particular, sites and school facilities. We have given some detail on this on pages 3 and 4 of our brief, with relevant quotations, including one from the government of Ontario, agreeing with the recommendations of the Planning Act Review Committee.
There exist provisions in the Planning Act for the dedication of land for parks, 5% or cash in lieu, and for widening of highways. Bill 20 will allow for the conveyance of land for public transit rights of way, in clause 24(2)(d) -- all of this at no cost to the municipality or provincial agencies.
School boards, however, are treated differently. School sites are designated at the official plan stage -- secondary plans. The municipality, by designating land for school purposes, has fulfilled the requirements of the Planning Act and proceeds to approve plans of subdivision in the area. Often, the land has not been purchased by the school board because the Ministry of Education and Training has not approved the purchase of land nor the construction of a facility to accommodate the growth. The result is that the existing facilities are overcrowded, with play areas occupied by portable classrooms. As more areas are developed, the problem increases. Elementary school pupils are transported, at great expense to the board -- and the taxpayer, of course -- to schools removed from the neighbourhood where the children reside. It is worthy of note, and a concern, that some students living in urban areas have received their total elementary education in a facility located miles away from their homes.
The problem is twofold:
(a) The approving authority approves plans of subdivision based only on the fact that land has been designated for school purposes. The act is silent regarding the adequacy of school facilities.
(b) The Ministry of Education and Training has not allocated funds to purchase the land and construct a school to service the area.
The only direct reference to school boards in the existing act occurs in section 51, which provides:
"In considering a draft plan of subdivision, regard shall be had, among other matters, to the health, safety, convenience and welfare of the present and future inhabitants of the local municipalities and to the following,
"(a) the effect of development of the proposed subdivision on matters of provincial interest as referred to in section 2;
"(b) whether the proposed subdivision is premature or in the public interest;...
"(j) The adequacy of school sites."
Note that clauses (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i) and (k) do not apply to school boards.
The flaw in the current approach to land use planning is that the process concentrates on the provision of hard services, such as water, storm and sanitary sewers, roads etc. When hard services are available, development usually proceeds. The provision of soft or human services, such as education facilities, are not usually given the same weight.
The position of the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association is that land development is premature where social infrastructure -- the soft services -- is not available.
I would ask Mr Daly to continue from here.
Mr Patrick Daly: This submission summarizes the changes to the act and provincial policies. The reform -- Bill 20 -- proposes to streamline the approval process for official plans, their amendments, zoning bylaws and plans of subdivision. In certain cases the consultation period is reduced from 180 days to 90 days, as outlined in subsections 22(8), (9) and (10). The decision regarding plans of subdivision can also be made simultaneously with the decisions regarding official plan amendments.
This streamlining of the process will make it more difficult for school boards to respond. School boards will not have sufficient time to review the application and comment on it. We go on to explain reasons for that.
Local municipalities must also take into account the concerns of school boards in approving official plans and their amendments, plans of subdivision and zoning bylaws. Our brief outlines how the interests of school boards can be safeguarded through clear and concise provincial policies and changes to Bill 20.
Regarding consultation, the existing act and Bill 20 give the approving authorities the power to consult with the public bodies that they feel may have an interest in the application. They are therefore an integral part of the planning process. Local school boards are required by law to provide education to students generated from new development or redevelopment, so it is also logical that any planning issues or proposals affecting residents or future residents of an area require their input.
Municipalities circulate official plans and their amendments, zoning bylaws and plans of subdivision to their departments, that is, traffic, roads, building, engineering, parks and recreation. It should also be mandatory that school boards be consulted on all planning matters. It is through this process that school boards will have the necessary input.
Therefore, OSSTA recommends that the following amendments to the sections of the Planning Act and Bill 20 be revised to require that school boards be consulted on all planning issues; namely, subsections 17(21) and (34), subsection 34(15) and subsection 51(23).
When blocks of land are developed or redeveloped, school boards are not necessarily asked for comments. Traditionally, school boards have never been consulted regarding a development under site plan control. However, certain design changes to the layout of the complex could assist school boards in providing better and safer service to the children of ratepayers. We go on in our brief to outline one specific example of a town house development where, had school boards been consulted, it would have been a much safer transportation means for students and would have made the process much simpler.
In this regard, therefore, OSSTA recommends that school boards be consulted on all residential developments under site plan control.
When reviewing plans of subdivision, the approving authority should take into account the adequacy of school sites and facilities. As interpreted by some authorities, the current Planning Act provides that where land is designated for a school site, the requirements of the act have been met. The plans of subdivision are then approved and development proceeds. What must be considered, however, is whether the school board owns the land or whether a neighbourhood school will be constructed and operational when the area is completely developed.
School boards have argued that the availability of school sites and facilities should be taken into account when reviewing plans. The approving authority has the power to stage developments so that growth is orderly and controlled. However, local municipalities do not consider the availability of school facilities when developing their staging plans since they are of the opinion that they have no real legislative obligation to do so.
The focal point of urban neighbourhood plans is the elementary school and parkland. The act has made provision for parklands to be dedicated or cash-in-lieu payments to be made by the applicant as a condition of subdivision approval. Development cannot proceed until that condition has been met. School boards do not have such power, but in lieu of this authority the adequacy of facilities as well as sites should be a part of the condition when reviewing a plan of subdivision.
If the existing school facilities are inadequate or do not exist, a review of the plan of subdivision should take into account the ability of the local school board to provide the necessary educational services.
When former commercial or industrial areas are redeveloped for residential use, that is, intensification, existing schools which service the area could experience overcrowding. Although the site may be adequate, the facilities might require upgrading and expansion in order to accommodate the growth from the redevelopment.
OSSTA therefore recommends that clause 51(24)(j) of the Planning Act be amended to add the words "and facilities" after the phrase "the adequacy of school sites."
Subsection 51.1(4), determination of value: Although land is designated for school purposes at the secondary plan stage, the Ministry of Education and Training will only fund site purchases after a significant portion of the neighbourhood is developed. The price paid by school boards has ranged from market value to highest and best use. It is not in the public interest for a developer to use the planning process to upzone a required school site and create value which then must be purchased by a school board at the newly inflated price. If a formula for the purchase of school land was part of the act, then the purchase of property would be made easier for all parties. The province, which as you know funds a majority of the purchases, would reduce its costs by paying a more equitable price for the land.
In this regard our association recommends that where a school board acquires the land zoned for school use, notwithstanding the provisions of any other act, it is entitled to acquire the land at its value determined as of the day before the day of the draft approval of the plan of subdivision or as of the day before the day of the passing of the bylaw, as the case may be.
The 5% dedication of land for parks or cash in lieu is based upon the total area of the plan of subdivision. It does not take into account the possibility that a portion of the plan could be designated for school purposes. The act is unclear as to whether or not lands designated for public use should be included in the calculations for the 5% dedication or the cash. Clarification is required so that applicants, public bodies and municipalities are aware of how the calculations are done.
Mr Meany: Thank you, Patrick. That concludes our formal presentation, and we are prepared to try to answer questions.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Just two quick questions. First, on page 8 of your submission, Mr Meany and colleagues, do I take it that you really mean to suggest there that before any plan of subdivision is finally approved, there now ought to be some serious consideration of the adequacy of existing school facilities in the immediate area affected?
Mr Meany: The intensification part?
Mr Conway: That's right.
Mr Meany: Yes. There may be something there already, but it may not be adequate because of the additional numbers coming in.
Mr Conway: In areas of suburban growth is it your view that the same ought to apply there?
Mr Meany: Yes, because it's no good having land there, even if you could buy it, if you haven't got a building on it. As you know, boards don't always have the money to buy that -- our boards especially.
Mr Conway: You realize that under the existing capital plan, that that recommendation is mischievous, to say the least, where the interests of the Ontario Ministry of Finance are concerned.
Mr Meany: You're using the word "mischievous" in quotes, I take it?
Mr Conway: Mm-hmm.
Mr Meany: It sounds pretty good to me, but it's certain we're for our own interests and for the interests of children. We have been worried, indeed way back, that children are moving into an area -- I've done this myself with young children, and that's a long time ago -- under the assumption that in an orderly, civilized country there would be a school, that education is as important as, say, the park. They're both important, but it's at least as important as the park. We're dealing with human beings. You go in there and, as I found, there wasn't a school. You're looking for a bus and sometimes it's hard to get buses too, and the rest of it is just a mess.
Mr Conway: We had a distinguished member of the upper Canadian bar here this morning, Mr Jaffary by name, quite knowledgeable in not only matters of municipal law but of municipal politics. In his letter to the committee, at the bottom of page 3, he stated that school boards are almost as good as regional municipalities in their indifference to the time pressures that developers often face in bringing a plan of subdivision to some kind of fruition. Do you feel the school boards with which you have some acquaintance are guilty of the charge?
Mr Meany: Not guilty, my lord. I think we all know that school boards move as quickly as they can. They have planners. Mr Gera can answer anything that's too complicated or technical for me, but we have good planners and we act in cooperation as much as possible with the municipality and the sister board. We know in advance what we're likely to have in the way of kids. The variation that actually occurs is not significant. Moving as fast as we can but without cooperation from those whose interests are otherwise, it's impossible to get the service.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's extremely helpful. I know when I sat on Toronto city council, I experienced at first hand what you're talking about. In our haste sometimes, particularly to develop good development, affordable housing, our school board was often before us: "Now, slow down. There's no plan for a school in this location." So I understand precisely what you're talking about and how on many occasions, in that haste, the school board and the needs of the children and schools are forgotten.
There are a couple of areas that you have quite clearly indicated are problematic for school boards. I'd like to talk about the one on page 6 of your document, where you express concern about time frame. It's my understanding that what this bill will do is restrict public involvement overall. For instance, the public notice and appeal periods are reduced to 20 days for notice of an official plan and for filing an appeal of an approval decision. If you add in weekends and perhaps slow postal service and maybe holidays sometimes that come in there, people could be left with literally a couple of weeks to review what is often a very complex document and to prepare submissions.
I think you mentioned government review periods are shortened. Review and approval of an official plan is now 90 days instead of the 150 days in Bill 163, which was shortened from the previous bill. The public meeting requirements are removed for a subdivision plan, and in regard to the persons who will be entitled to notice that an application has been made, that will be left to regulation, which can be changed frequently.
So I have some real concerns about public consultation here. I'm wondering -- you proposed a very specific amendment here -- if you could comment a little further on the implications to you if that time frame is shortened. What would happen?
Mr Meany: As far as the details of shortening the period are concerned, if we needed that, Mr Gera would be glad to do it because he has to wrestle with that. But, in general, what's happening is that in the pursuit of one public good we're doing public harm with this act in another area. That sums it up and we're asking that the committee make appropriate recommendations that would take into account the public good in the matter of children and with education as well.
Ms Churley: I can assure you that we will be looking to make some amendments in that area, which I hope the government party will accept. Thank you again for coming down. You can count on my support in these areas that you brought up today.
Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): Good afternoon, gentlemen. You mentioned earlier about the streamlining, how it will affect you. But on the whole do you agree or not agree that the new time lines will expedite the approval system even further?
Mr Meany: This is what I meant by pursuing one public good, but it should be done in a coordinated manner. It's like an army moving forward to attack something and leaving the artillery behind. The whole army will fail. If you don't have education, if you don't have kids properly educated and a place to educate them, it's a hurt to society as a whole. It's not really a political matter. I hope that the committee will see fit to make the necessary amendments to make the thing work right.
Mr Pettit: So you agree that it will expedite the system further.
Mr Meany: It will expedite part.
Mr Pettit: It's just that it'll be a little bit too quick for the boards themselves.
Mr Meany: A long bit too quick.
Mr Pettit: Is there any way that the boards themselves can streamline their system?
Mr Meany: Our systems are streamlined, as I explained in answering Ms Churley. But we have operate within a framework of legislation that requires us to deal with the municipality and with the various ministries, and that framework is so set up that it's impossible to go any faster than we're doing now.
Mr Hardeman: In your presentation you refer to the fact that we should not only address the need for the school site but the adequacy of the school in the area where development would be approved. Recognizing the problem we have with the development charges and whether they should or should not be allowed to apply to the school board, how were you proposing to deal with the issue of if the school site or the school facility was not adequate in the area, should we prohibit the development or should we look at other means of funding a school site?
Mr Daly: I'm not so sure that we're suggesting prohibiting, although in some cases that might be appropriate. What we're saying is that there has to be a better staging of the development, taking into consideration the adequacy of sites and facilities, not let the entire development proceed at once where there are no school facilities. If there was proper consultation with boards and the development were to be staged in over a reasonable period of time, then perhaps that would solve the issue. In some cases, if the ministry were not forthcoming with funds to build the necessary schools, it might be necessary to delay the development.
The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We appreciate your taking the time to come down before us this afternoon and make your presentation.
Has everyone noticed there is a gap in our agenda this afternoon, a group that cancelled at the last minute? I'm wondering whether the presenter scheduled to appear after that, Susan Smith, by any chance is in attendance yet. Seeing no indication, unless anyone has any other suggestions, shall we take a recess?
We'll take a brief recess until 1:50, at which time we'll hear from Ms Smith and subsequent presenters.
The committee recessed from 1329 to 1349.
The Chair: Seeing a quorum, we shall reconvene. Our next presenter is Susan Smith. Good afternoon.
Ms Susan Smith: Good afternoon. I have a cold, so please bear with me; I'll speak as loudly as I can.
I thank the clerk of the standing committee on resources development and the committee members for the opportunity to speak with you about Bill 20 and the most grave concerns I have about the bill and draft omnibus Provincial Policy Statement to replace what currently exists.
The majority government has been afforded the right to govern until early fall in the year 2000. However resilient the Ontario economy has been as experienced in my lifetime over the past 40 years, the changes this government is proposing to make to the Planning Act, as amended by the 35th Legislative Assembly at the end of 1994, seriously begs questions of this government's good faith to even aspire to attempt the responsible management of Ontario's economy.
I will address process, some specifics of Bill 20, and some specifics about the proposed policy statement.
I appreciate that the process here today permits this committee, with all the substitutions and interested people, to have due regard to what is presented to you by myself and others, that is, that you shall "look at" the information brought forward in this public consultation. That may be all one can expect of this process, but I'm here to tell you that I expect a great deal more. It's not acceptable to mirror the process at the local level, with proposed changes to no longer require a municipality's official plan to be consistent with provincial policy interests as set out in provincial policy statements.
I feel you ought to address the limitations inherent in the committee's title, as it is limiting to not make articulate distinction between renewable and non-renewable resource. Managing non-renewable resource is the greatest challenge facing anyone who manages Ontario's economy.
The goal of "promoting economic growth," you will be told by many, is a laudable one. "Boosting economic growth to create jobs" does not sound to have a vulnerable or questionable premise. The reason I quote the explicit language used in the government's communiqué press release of November 29, 1995, when Mr Eves pronounced the 1995 Fiscal and Economic Statement, is to demonstrate where the contradictions internal to the press release or "spin" on the political document seriously undermine your efforts.
Erik Peters, the Provincial Auditor, wrote of Bill 163: "Recent changes to the Planning Act contained in Bill 163 established specific roles and responsibilities for the province and municipalities, helping to eliminate the inconsistencies and unnecessary duplication in planning decisions."
On November 29, 1995, Eves announced the government is "adopting a single set of financial reporting standards, standards set by PSAAB," but then you are giving municipalities -- and I quote again from the government's document -- "more flexibility" as well as "fewer rules" by combining northern transportation assistance, municipal roads and unconditional grants into a single block fund. This appears to contradict the position that the government party took in opposition with respect to separating the accounting of capital dollars from strictly operating funds transferred to the municipality partners. Why and how do you need to keep a second set of books?
The government's zeal to pass Bill 26 expressed an enthusiasm to delete what is now in place in policy of provincial interest. That was articulated extremely well when it accompanied Bill 163. Commissioner Eva Ligeti voiced realistic dismay about the Ministry of Finance having regulatory exemption from the Environmental Bill of Rights legislation and from the registry. We already know this has happened. As well, it makes no sense to remove funding for energy standards development programming, which is directed at conservation and monitoring measures. It is irresponsible to not require permits in lands subject to the Public Lands Act.
I have briefly sketched the context, Bill 26, in which I examined Bill 20 -- very briefly.
Your process contrasts sharply with the almost four-year public consultation process started by the previous government in 1991 in order to refurbish the Planning Act. Your couple of weeks' consultation contrasts with years of repeated public input, including August 1994, when the municipality of London, as well as other members of the region's public, informed the standing committee examining Bill 163 about their experiences to that date with the local Vision 96 process to proactively engage in creating a new official plan.
I approach this Bill 20 and policy statement as one who has run for office in a large urban municipality, which acquired, through Bill 75, a much larger footprint. I refer you to the page at the back showing the "footprint" in the new ward boundaries, which do not recognize natural features for communities of interest. That's what I point out, that the footprint's significance is by no means one-dimensional. London has underground water flow all over the entire region, so any significant geomorphological feature, like a moraine, has dramatic impact -- also on the ability to service and to retrofit. For instance, London cannot be retrofitted with a subway for transit support.
The London experience is of substantial significance to your deliberations, which is why I am mystified about why London was not chosen to be scheduled for an earlier date on your provincial tour. The London hearing is the day immediately preceding your first of two days set aside for clause-by-clause amendments. The day you do the amendments is the day that all members of the committee will have access to what's presented.
I can only hope that these 24 to 48 hours will be enough time for you to understand how this Bill 20 and its many inadequacies, not the very least of which is the policy statement, are sabotaging the potential of a sterling and visionary public participation paradigm called Vision 96. This public consultation process came about due to the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs' creative approach, the most significant aspect of which was the priority ordering of the goals and objectives to be attained by the Vision 96 process, to culminate in an official plan for the enlarged upper-tier municipality. These objectives and goals are contained in the August 3, 1993, schedule of a regulation set out by the minister for Bill 75. I'm sorry I don't have a copy appended; it would inform your understanding of Bill 163. Significant issues informing the economics of urban and rural form were addressed in the objectives, as were issues pertaining to the regional economy.
The London region is surrounded by great non-renewable resource of first-class soil on remaining farm land. There is currently an official plan amendment before the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- and that's also appended in your document -- for a development proposal that "eclipses in size any other development proposal in that community over the last six years." As of January 26, 1996, the municipal planning official in the municipality feels the proponent is caught in a "legislative net" designed more for regional municipalities such as Toronto and Ottawa than small cities. However, the municipal official's read on this is: "The development will go through. It's only common sense that it will go through."
The proponent is an experienced developer who has developed more than 10 large neighbourhoods in the community in the last 30 years, who feels the community's economic outlook still looks promising. Others in the community, frankly, take note of the proponent's confidence and enthusiasm as there was a layoff from two factories involving more than 500 full-time employees the same day the proponent announced her $140-million, 515-lot residential development project. The development totals 163 acres on two sites. One site abuts one of her earlier neighbourhood developments, and the other abuts the city limits with a right-of-way access to the land under cultivation.
Building could be completed in five years, according to the planner-consultant. I'll add that the planner-consultant is someone who can't practice a trade in London at the moment because there are certain controls with respect to the community deciding land uses for the future, at least 20 years.
The Home Builders' Association is on record that the project will create and keep numerous jobs as the local housing market is, in their subjective opinion, "good."
As she has had family members farming the land, she's very confident about getting the necessary proposals and is certain the land will be farmed until the homes are built. The province's approval is needed to make changes making the land residential. If it may only be a temporary catch that the province's approval is needed, and only a temporary catch that these two sites are prime agricultural land, I am completely confident to therefore ask you to amend the definitions section of the policy statement to remove from the definition of the word "development," "or works subject to the Drainage Act." I'm asking you to consider as a committee removing that.
I'm supportive of two-unit residential development receiving favoured or priority consideration over family homes. This tool to make most forms of infrastructure cost-effective and efficient -- such as transit, some utilities, and I would also add perhaps schools -- ought not be deleted from the much touted and downloaded toolbox. Considerable technical time was spent by the Alternative Development Standards Advisory Committee to devise and prepare guidelines that all community public and private stakeholders found acceptable.
As a stakeholder who reported to the Ontario Environment Network, I was appointed to a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and a Ministry of Housing committee which examined alternative development standards. This committee met throughout 1993 and 1994 and produced a guidelines document by March 1995, which was presented to the interministerial committee.
Municipal utilities and provincial associations of infrastructure providers, as well as the Urban Development Institute and the Ontario Home Builders' Association, were represented on this committee. I bring this to your attention to advise anecdotally of an interest expressed during development standards discussions of broader issues of land use planning with respect to land dedication for institutional uses in plans of subdivision submitted for approvals. Therefore, the relevance is more applicable to those proposed capital projects -- for instance, in London, for the public board of education for new schools -- scheduled for completion dates of 2001 through 2003 and beyond. There are two developments there known as Summerside and Killaly.
There were open discussions about institutional land dedications and the "opportunity" for "creative" ecology education projects like artificial wetlands to make use of the wet spots that are inappropriate for drainage even for residential purposes. The inclusion of areas prone to even conservative water retention are not at all appropriate for a school campus accommodating junior panel students. There is a school campus in the St Thomas, Elgin separate school board, originally in Yarmouth county, that had been agricultural land and that had been drained with the use of a Drainage Act application where water retention ponding was examined two years ago by members of the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority. It was observed that opportunities for creative orientation activities with first-year students, as well as opportunities for training competitive rowing teams, may be future advantages of these structures on school campuses.
Now some quick comments on the policy statement itself, as it was circulated to me for written input, from the customer services representative from the minister's office at 777 Bay Street, on the 17th floor.
Under section III, Policies, section 1, "Efficient, cost-effective development -- developing strong communities," in the section "In areas where growth is to occur: 1.1.1...promoted by" I would like you to amend (b) by adding the word "organized," so it would read "strengthening the role of organized rural areas as the focus of growth for rural, resource, and resource-based recreational activities."
I would like all of section 1.1.1(c) removed.
I would like 1.1.1(e) amended so that you remove the last line, which reads "based on housing market areas; and".
In section 1.1.2, "Land requirements will be based on a range of land uses and densities which," in part (a) I would like to replace the word "avoid" with "prohibit." I would like 1.1.2(e) removed.
In section 2, Resources, 2.1, Agricultural Policies, I would like you to remove 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3 and 2.1.5.
I will also comment that intervenor funding must be restored and natural heritage protection needs to be returned to the protection of provincial interest in the Provincial Policy Statement, and what is suggested through the process of Bill 20 and the attending statement is not acceptable.
In the definitions section of the policy statement, in "residential infilling" I don't like the 100-metre separation. I don't think it should be that far apart and I'm suggesting that you change it. I am not prepared to suggest more than a 25% reduction, but I am suggesting that you change that to never exceed 75 metres.
Under "redevelopment," I have concerns that it only refers to residential development. In the city of London, we have a public secondary school, Beal Secondary School, which is redeveloping on land. The infrastructure that's in place that it makes use of is extremely valuable, and it doesn't make sense to exclude other kinds of development other than residential from the definition of "redevelopment."
With respect to "natural heritage features and areas," I'm questioning why you want to qualify "wetlands" with "significant." The city of London's history is that 20,000 years ago it was under 2,000 feet of water. Two transcontinental glaciers that were coming across the continent very slowly bumped into each other in London and left moraines, left riverine corridors and vistas that have been part of human heritage history for a good period of time. Five hundred years ago, the Neutral Indians were living in a temperate climate at the far north end of the Carolinian ecosystem that was a veritable garden of Eden -- and a forest of Eden. I feel any wetland is significant in this area.
London can never be retrofitted with public transit, like a subway, to make it cost-efficient. It has to have the land that is left planned extremely carefully. The extensive loss of wetland in southern Ontario is exactly that. Any wetland is significant, and I would like the word "significant" as a qualifier removed from that part of the definition.
In the "multi-modal transportation system" definition, I would like the wording changed so it actually integrates the components in the most sustainable configuration, not simply to list them. It's not even alphabetical; I have no idea why the listing was like that.
Under "established standards and procedures," under "access standard," I would like you just to reverse the order so that it reads "ensure safe pedestrian and vehicular movement," not "vehicular and pedestrian."
Under the definition of "development," again, remove references to "works subject to the Drainage Act."
As I travelled along one form of infrastructure on the Bloor line to get here today, I imagined what David Crombie's vision for enhancing and restoring significant and natural features in the Don Valley could have been.
I do not support the authority of the minister to restructure municipalities and issue regulations to inform any restructuring on the basis of this draft policy statement. The statement has no merit for replacing policy amendments put in place under Bill 163.
Incompetent planning over time expands exponentially the costs to taxpayers. The absence of competent planning for rural Ontario is evidenced in what this statement proposes in the bill for wayside pits and quarries policy, with the possible consequence of destabilizing or even polluting potential rechargeable groundwater supply. What kind of genius wants to build and develop in an area with no potable water supply? I guess someone determined to be enterprising with other people's money.
I grieve the implications and future results of these retrograde changes proposed. By comparison, it is merely discouraging to think of all the expertise, time and energy from public consultation -- and you'll hear about that from the person who follows me -- that is wasted by this Bill 20. Badly planned development is bad for sustained security, bad for the environment, bad for communities, bad for individuals and bad for the economy.
My greatest concern is reserved for changes proposed to the Development Charges Act to seriously restrict the levels of service provision developers can be asked to contribute. Under the proposed changes, they won't be required to pay their fair share. It's absurd for a government whose hallmark is claimed to be competent public fiscal management to propose changes that will lead to urban sprawl and unsustainable rural settlement -- precisely the types of development that will require expensive and unnecessary public infrastructure costs. Bill 20 has the potential to seriously impair a municipality's ability to effectively manage local costs.
With the devolution, empowerment or disentanglement of services on an almost daily basis -- I exaggerate; not a daily basis, but perhaps a weekly basis -- how prescient could I have been to request a new development charges bylaw for London for 1995 -- I was requesting it in 1994 -- to reflect the existence of the London airport, knowing it would be devolved to the municipal authorities' shared responsibility. I hear David Collenette, the Minister of National Defence, is considering proposing the same for armouries in our communities across the nation. There's nothing in this to give us the tools to be able to pay for what we have to manage in our communities.
This policy statement seriously risks longer-term prosperity by compromising non-renewable resources, and I cannot fathom the rationale. I do not accept or understand the government jettisoning so much articulate and considered policy and at the same time stepping so far back from protecting provincial financial interests. I will be throwing my support behind any organization or coalition of organizations that advocates skilled management of the Ontario economy through competent planning.
I thank you very much for your time.
Mr Hampton: It's obvious when you read through the bill and when you read the policy statements that will be appended that what is happening here is not minor fine-tuning; there's some pretty drastic stuff happening. You obviously participated in the four-year consultation period and so on that happened with the previous bill, Bill 163. Generally, what do you think this will do to planning, especially planning outside the greater Toronto area?
Ms Smith: I can be corrected by other people, but my reading of this is that what happens here is that it's very open-ended and interpretive. What's being downloaded is -- it's not a shopping list; it's pick or choose. The opportunity is there for the municipality to not use what was previously in place but to pick another way of doing it. I don't think the opportunity should be there for municipalities to choose another way of doing this.
The Drainage Act -- it doesn't take a genius to find farm land, and we're really picking the wrong people to say that these are somebody's livelihood and their financial future. It doesn't take a genius to find farm land. You know, it's already graded; it's drained; it's graded. That's the easiest route to development, and it doesn't make sense. It's not cost-efficient for the public.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation. I found it very technical, and I think it has particular application to the policy statement debate we'll probably have throughout the next three weeks.
As somebody who represents a predominantly rural riding, I'm most interested in your suggestion that a number of the subsections in the resources sections be removed. I wonder if you can share with the committee in a little broader context your rationale for removing those agricultural policies.
Ms Smith: My rationale is because what is in place now is acceptable, and this isn't acceptable. It's too interpretive. I think farm land should be treated as industrial land. Farm land should be industrial land. A farm retirement lot -- well, maybe, but maybe not. People who are in a position to be doing that often don't occupy the same residential housing 12 months of the year. These don't make any sense to me. What particularly doesn't make sense is that in 2.1.3, you articulate a planning horizon of no more than 20 years. That's nuts. I don't mean you personally. But this policy doesn't make sense. A planning horizon for farm land of 20 years? I don't understand that.
Mr Smith: For all those individuals who are routinely involved in providing land use planning for agricultural or predominantly agricultural communities, maybe you can share with us how you might improve upon a policy framework to provide some guidance.
Ms Smith: I think that's done by the conservation authorities. Is that unacceptable?
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): You've spent a bit of time on agriculture, and I have some concerns about that as well. In the Provincial Policy Statement on page 3, item (g) reads, "planning so that sensitive land uses and major facilities such as airports, transportation corridors," and they go on to name some other aspects, but agriculture is not specifically named there. Do you think it should be added into that section?
Ms Smith: Frankly, my perspective for a long time has been that agriculture pre-existing should be recognized as a pre-existing land use, so any other subsequent use should have to accommodate the fact that it's technically an industrial use. So I agree with that. The way I would suggest amending (g) is -- I don't like the words "sensitive land use." I don't find "sensitive" is all that articulate about the issues that are being specifically addressed. It's not that the land itself is necessarily sensitive. It might be polluted. So it's a sensitivity. I think it's the issue of compatibilities, contiguous functions, and functions that don't work together at all. Obviously I would add agriculture if you are recognizing sewage treatment facilities or waste management systems and aggregate activities. As a pre-existing land use, if you're going to recognize aggregate, freeze the resource, sterilize the land and give that a priority, then obviously I feel agriculture should fall into that category. Have I come close to answering the question?
Mr Hoy: That's fine, thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Smith, for taking the time to come and make a presentation before us today.
The Chair: Our next presenter is John Sewell. Good afternoon, Mr Sewell. At the risk of repeating myself, you have 25 minutes to dispose of as you see fit.
Mr John Sewell: I have a few remarks to make which I hope will only take 10 or 15 minutes so that we have a bit of a chance to have some discussion.
As you may know, I was the chair of the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario that in fact established the existing planning legislation, so I have something of a personal interest in the kinds of things that are found in Bill 20. I want to restrict my remarks to just one set of concerns in Bill 20 that I think are the most serious that should be addressed, and they're the ones that have to do with the whole practice of planning in Ontario. I think there are four proposals in the bill that seriously undermine the practice of planning in Ontario and I'm hoping you would agree to change them.
The first one is the change in respect to the treatment of policy. As you know, the existing words say that decisions will "be consistent with" provincial policy, and that means decisions by municipalities, by the Ontario Municipal Board, and the change is to say that decisions will "have regard to" policy. This is a matter our commission dealt with for a long time. We worried about that. What should the words be? What should the relationship be between decisions that municipalities make and provincial policy?
We thought the key there was trying to ensure some degree of certainty so that people who were making applications, such as developers, would have some certainty how their application was going to be dealt with. If you had a policy that said development would not happen within particular significant natural features but it could happen in other places, the developer would know this was not a significant natural feature and therefore he's going to be fine to propose a development here, whereas if you have a policy that says it's just going to have regard to it, it means there is no certainty for the developer, because our interpretation of the words, looking at legal precedents, says "have regard to" means this: "Oh, this is the policy? Thanks, very much. We've seen it. Okay, now let's get on with our decision."
Changing the words back to "have regard to" is a real step towards uncertainty in the planning process and we think that's very bad. It's particularly bad for the 80% of municipalities in Ontario with a population of less than 5,000 and not having the resources to do an awful lot of planning. We think that's a very bad change and it does not help in terms of creating good planning for anyone in Ontario. I'll come back to that because I have an example, a real-life example that I'd like to tell you about once I've made my four points.
The second change we think is a real step away from good planning in Ontario is that relating to what should be in official plans. Subsection 8(1) of the bill deletes any requirement for the minister to set down regulations as to what will be in an official plan. This is a matter of great concern to a lot of people, not only to the development industry but to citizens in the environmental movement, because they want to have some sense that an official plan is going to be comprehensive enough to actually address the big problems, because if the official plan doesn't address those big problems, they're going to be addressed in every single application that comes through.
My feeling is that the minister should set down the requirements of what an official plan should address to ensure that the council has addressed the big questions so people will know how they're resolved. Not resolving them means a municipality can have anything it wants in an official plan or nothing in an official plan, and again that really harms people who are trying to get things done in municipalities. There is no certainty. What do you do? How does the municipality stand on this? You don't know. We think that's a change that should not be made. It will not help anyone not to have some statement that says, "Here are the issues that should be addressed in an official plan." Removing that requirement from the bill is, in my view, a real step backward.
I might say just on that point there is a comparable kind of change I think made in section 4 of the bill, but I should point out the language is gobbledegook. You really should get somebody to read the bill. It does not make sense right now. You can't tell what it means. Section 4 really needs a lawyer to look at it. At the moment it's gobbledegook.
A third change I'd like to suggest is in section 13. That has to do with the time frame in which a municipality should make a decision about an official plan.
One of the significant changes our commission recommended was that the time frame for municipal decision-making should be prescribed very clearly, so in the current legislation a municipality is required to make a decision on a rezoning application within three months. We thought, "That's pretty straightforward; after all, a rezoning is a change within an official plan, so you're really only dealing with questions of detail," and we found wide support for that. We also suggested that applications to change the official plan should be dealt with in six months.
Why the difference? Because official plans are much more serious documents, dealing with really big issues: Where is this municipality going? What areas should it develop in? What kind of density should it have? Where should the uses be? Very big questions, and we thought, the thing about an official plan is that it should have some permanence. It shouldn't be changing every day. If it is, it's not much of a plan. So we said six months to change official plans.
This legislation, in section 13 -- and I note the section there; it's 22(7)(c) -- suggests that the time frame in which a municipality will be expected to change an official plan will be no different than a zoning bylaw.
My feeling is that treating an official plan and a zoning change as the same thing is dead wrong. That says planning doesn't have any status, municipalities shouldn't do it, it should change its official plan as easily as a rezoning bylaw. I disagree fundamentally. That is not going to help good planning. That will not give anybody any certainty whatsoever. It means that whenever anybody applies to do anything, there will be a big fight, because they know official plans don't mean anything; they're the same as zoning bylaws.
That's the third change that creates massive uncertainty in the planning system, which is not going to help anyone. It will not streamline one single thing. It means everything's up for grabs on every application, and I think that's bad and I don't think that's a good kind of planning system.
The last point, also having to do simply with the practice of planning, is the change that's suggested in section 9, which seems to imply that the minister can relinquish the power to approve upper-tier official plans.
As you know, one of our recommendations was to get the province out of municipal hair. We suggested that could happen in a number of ways. One was by having good, strong policy you could actually refer to. That would keep all the departments, the ministries, out of municipal hair because you had some written down policy.
But another way we suggested of keeping the province out of municipal hair was to say that lower-tier plans got approved by the upper tier, whether the county or the region, and the ministry, the provincial government, would only approve upper-tier plans. It would mean the province could keep an eye on what was going on and make sure it kept before it the question of the planning framework in Ontario. We think that's very important. We think the province does have a good, strong role.
That power will be relinquished in that section. We -- I think that's very, very bad. I'm sorry for continually saying "we." I've consulted my colleagues on this, Toby Vigod and George Penfold. They were my fellow commissioners on the commission. They of course have decamped for British Columbia for the warm weather, where I understand George is making lots of money in the consulting business, where things are happening. But I consulted them on this and they generally agree with the kinds of remarks I'm making.
The point I want to make is these are four changes that do not help planning, and I'd like to give you a case study about what would happen if these changes were in place. I use the example of the development of the Greenwood racetrack in the Beaches area of Toronto. It's a large 80-acre site that a large developer -- Marco Muzzo and Fred De Gasperis, some of the largest in the Toronto area -- purchased a year ago.
They are trying to develop it. They're trying to do something pretty straightforward, which is building about 900 houses in the very same form as you would find in that area, houses on a street with back lanes, which is exactly the way that neighbourhood works. Everybody seems to agree that if you're going to build anything there, that's what you build.
It's really interesting. This developer has run into a city council that has no interest in dealing seriously with the applications that the developer has suggested, that have been put forward. In fact, council seems to be caught up in this whole question of, how do we get more parkland there, not, how do we manage to get this development on and running? I might say that so far, city council has got about 25 acres of parkland. Somehow, they don't think that's enough. So there's a fight, right? On the one hand there's a developer who's trying to do something, and on the other hand there's a city council that says no.
What's really interesting is at least at the current time, the developer has some things he can rely on. The first thing he can rely on is provincial policy. Provincial policy says intensification is a good thing, right? Provincial legislation says decisions will be consistent with provincial policy. So at least the developer can go to the Ontario Municipal Board and say: "Look, I'm doing something that's in line with provincial policy. The municipality isn't." I think in that situation the OMB is probably going to say: "Yes, you're right. There's clear policy. It's clear you have to act consistently with it. It's clear the municipality is not. Fine, let's get on with this and let's figure out how we approve it." That's one thing that the developer's got on his side.
The second thing the developer has on his side is an official plan. Toronto has an official plan now that meets all the requirements of every good official plan. It's comprehensive, it deals with all the issues, does the kinds of things that official plans are supposed to do under regulation.
Of course, that official plan says that's a low-density residential area and supports the building of houses. So what the developer can do is again go the OMB and say, "Look, what I'm doing conforms to the official plan and I would like it approved." This is what the developer has decided to do. Last week he applied to the Ontario Municipal Board. He said, "Hey, my applications have been in to the city for four months; they've refused to do any planning reports on them; I want to get ahead with my development, which the official plan says I should do, which provincial policy says I should do," which I think most reasonable people would say it should do. I think when the application is heard at the Ontario Municipal Board, the developer will do well and will get a good decision.
But if the four changes are made that I've been talking about this afternoon, guess what? The first thing is the developer will get there and say, "Look, I've got this terrific intensification scheme," and I think the OMB's going to say: "First of all, we don't have any policies of the province saying intensification's a good thing, but secondly, you only have to have regard to them. You don't have to follow them." I think the developer will be kicked out on that basis, because he has nothing on his side. The policy's not on his side; the legislation isn't on his side.
Secondly, I think what will happen is the developer will try to argue about the importance of official plans, but the OMB can say quite clearly, "Official plans, they don't mean very much any more; We don't have any regulation of what they should be," so the developer will lose the legal footing as well.
I think that can happen in Toronto. Not only will it happen in Toronto, I believe it will happen in small municipalities that don't have the planning expertise or the kinds of pressure groups that happen to exist in a place like Toronto. For that reason, I think these four items I've talked about, those changes are not helpful for anyone who's trying to get something done in the development area.
By the way, I forgot to mention one point. If you don't have policy that says, "Protect these significant features, and you have to act in a way that's consistent with those features," the other thing that will happen to the applicant is he'll be confronted with some environmentalists who come forward and say: "See that pond in the middle of the racetrack? That's a significant natural feature. You save it. Let's have a fight about that." You think, "What a dumb thing to have a fight about," but in fact that too will be opened up.
No one is going to win with those kinds of changes and I would strongly suggest to your committee that in fact you amend the bill in those four respects.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon, John. It's a pleasure to see you again. You will recall that during the process that you were going through, the public consultation on Bill 163, I had the opportunity to serve representing the 80-some per cent of the municipalities you referred to that do not have the type of planning expertise that you express concern about.
One of the things that came out in those hearings was, there was great debate -- I would agree with you -- about the words "shall be consistent with," as opposed to "shall have regard for." At that time those municipalities, I think at least at the beginning, somewhat agreed with the premise that it should be "shall be consistent with." It was based on the adage that the guidelines would be very definitive, that they would do nothing but protect provincial interests and would do no more.
When the process was completed, those municipalities almost unanimously opposed the words "shall be consistent with," and it was based on that the policy statements were so definitive that in fact it was planning from Queen's Park, that if you were "consistent with" all the policy statements, there would be no local decisions. Would you care to comment on that? Did you see that there was some of that in that process, or do you not see that as a problem?
Mr Sewell: There's no question that you're right about that. Some of the smaller municipalities complained very much about the idea that first of all there would be policy, and secondly, that they'd have to act within it. I have no question that some municipalities did complain about that.
Let's face it, when you're trying to create some large-scale change to make a planning system that provides some certainty and that moves relatively quickly, I'm not sure you're going to get 100% of the people on side. What we did find was that generally municipalities, municipal planners, the development industry, the environmental movement and citizens' groups thought this approach was the proper one to follow.
I think if there's any problem, it has come with the implementation guidelines that underlie the policy. The policy, as you know, is very simple, very straightforward, with one or two exceptions that we could talk about. But I think where the detail comes that people get worried about are the implementation guidelines, which of course is why we had suggested that they be non-mandatory, as indeed they aren't.
So I was aware of the concern but I think the policy is set in general terms that reflect the provincial interest while allowing most municipalities to do quite reasonable things within it.
Mr Hardeman: I have many more questions, but I'll turn it over to another questioner.
Mrs Fisher: I concur with the 80% that Mr Hardeman referred to. I happen to represent the riding of Bruce. I have 40 ANSIs, I have multiple-designation provincial parks, I have a national park, I have native reserves and I have a 45-metre setback from the whole lakeshore in terms of development right now.
You were present at the hearings in Owen Sound. We do have a Bruce county planning department, for example, that has been able to undertake and manage an official plan very well for our area. The case example you gave us was a Metro issue, and when you were out in the field you were reminded of the needs of rural Ontario. I think we're very capable of observing and adhering to those restrictions in the plan right now. Would you not think that a county planning department, with its expertise, could do the same for us?
Mr Sewell: The problem is that you need a planning system that creates some kind of certainty for people. I think that's one of the objectives. If you don't have certainties, you're going to have big fights exploding all over the place. I think to create that certainty you need two things: First, you need reasonable policy. I find it interesting that all the policies that you've talked about were not the policies that we recommended. We didn't make recommendations of any note about ANSIs, as an example. We talked about municipalities defining significant natural features, not the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Mrs Fisher: But 163 includes them.
Mr Sewell: I realize that, but please don't burden me with "something the government did that we didn't recommend."
Mrs Fisher: That's fair.
Mr Gerretsen: Of course, what's very interesting about this whole situation, what drives this whole thing, is the notion that somehow developers will get something more quickly from municipalities, and I think the case study that you've shown, which could happen in any municipality --
Mr Sewell: It does happen all the time.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally disagree with what's just been said. It could happen in any municipality. In effect, it gives more fire to the people who are opposing some development because of the uncertainty of the situation. Is that basically your point?
Mr Sewell: Yes, that's exactly the point I'm trying to make, that it's extremely important that you create a system in which there is some kind of certainty. You need good policy and you need some good words that say people have to pay attention to that policy. My fear just with the words "have regard for" is that they do not mean you have to pay attention to the policy. Find words other than "be consistent with"; that's fine with me, but you have to say something that says, "This policy is important and you should be acting within it."
Mr Gerretsen: From a municipal viewpoint, I think where they've always had problems with all these provincial statements etc is that there's always been this feeling that they can change at a moment's notice, and certainly have in the past -- I'm not talking about just --
Mr Sewell: So that the ministry could change things?
Mr Gerretsen: Sure, the policy statements.
Mr Sewell: That's been a great problem.
Mr Gerretsen: That's been a great problem.
Mr Sewell: That's been a horrendous problem.
Mr Gerretsen: Do you have any suggestions as to how that can be handled, in other words, that the concerns of the municipalities that all of a sudden they aren't going to be facing a huge policy change in which they've had absolutely no input -- how, from your viewpoint, from where you've sat, can that be changed?
Mr Sewell: Our proposal, and I think this kind of a system is generally in place, is first of all that policy has to emanate from the cabinet, not from ministries. In the past five years, apart from the adoption of this policy -- before that, policies used to be thrown out on almost a weekly basis by ministries. We say, "No, policy should be done by the cabinet," so in fact it is serious.
Secondly, you want to set up an approval mechanism that doesn't require the province to sign off on everything you do. That has generally been put in place at this point in time. I realize that some ministries can move in different ways than others, but that to me seems to be the situation you should be working towards. Having the province simply say, "We're abandoning any interest in planning," will not create any certainty, will not help in terms of creating good or bad development in Ontario. It will create an awful lot of fights. That's what we've had for the past 10 years, and removing those kinds of changes that point towards making the system work better seems to me to be just a step in exactly the wrong direction.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): John, what these Bill 20 amendments are doing is basically making official plans ad hoc documents that can be changed willy-nilly by municipalities at their whim.
Mr Sewell: I might not use exactly those words, but it seems to me that's where we're headed, that official plans will have no more status in a rezoning bylaw, that in fact there is no requirement that they be comprehensive or address all sorts of problems. That is being removed, and of course, they aren't having to adhere to any statements of provincial interests of any note because of the "have regard to."
Mr Colle: So basically official plans are weakened documents that are not going to have the weight they used to have.
Mr Sewell: Not just official plans, but the whole process of planning in Ontario, which is a thing that can give you some certainty. I believe, just in these four instances, it will be very weakened and I don't think it's going to help any of us.
Ms Churley: I guess if Ernie can call you John, I can too; can I, John?
Mr Sewell: Thank you, Ma'am.
Ms Churley: He is a constituent of mine, I must confess.
I really think it's important that we clarify. Unfortunately, we are tending to spend a lot of time on the "be consistent with" as opposed to "must have regard to." I think there's a fair amount of confusion around it and I sense that there's been a mixup between the guidelines, which I know there was a lot of negative reaction to, and the policy.
It's my understanding that municipalities wanted more autonomy by freeing them from having to go to the province all the time for approvals. They got that, and the tradeoff was therefore that the municipalities' plans had to be consistent with some kind of provincial policy. That was the tradeoff there. This is where I think we might have a misunderstanding as well.
I've heard government members say a couple of times this morning that we can't have a policy that works for Toronto that is the same as a policy you'd need for Sudbury or Sault Ste Marie or whatever, and that therein lies the problem: You just can't have a policy that fits. The policy itself -- the guidelines are separate -- I see it as being very flexible and that it mostly deals with environmentally sensitive areas. Could you clear that up, how the policy can apply overall?
Mr Sewell: The approach that our commission took, and one that I believe is extremely useful -- from the calls we get from across North America it seems it's useful there; the people generally think it's useful -- is that policy should be general in nature, pointing in a direction that you want to go in. Then municipalities should act within it. It's fairly simple.
We were very clear that we should not get into detail about how that policy would be implemented. Ontario has gotten into that detail in the past and it hasn't been helpful. We think, for instance, of the standards that have been laid out for urban development, where most developers are saying: "These standards are crazy. They literally force us to bury money in the ground and it doesn't serve any useful purpose." What we wanted to do was make a break between the direction you should be going in, which is policy, and how you might implement that policy, so we said general policy that is applicable generally throughout Ontario, and we think you can have comparable policies. Obviously, agricultural policies will not apply in Toronto, but we think urban policies are common to the province.
Secondly, we made it clear that implementation guidelines were advisory only. In fact, I might say that is now set out in the interpretation and implementation section. It says implementation guidelines are advisory. I know that many people have been furious about these 800 pages that have been floating around that are now the implementation guidelines. I agree with them. They're crazy, and they are not useful documents. I've looked at them. But that doesn't take away from the fact that you need some general policy saying, "Where are we going?" If you don't have it, people will make it up on every single application and we'll be back to where we were five years ago, where there were fights on everything. I don't think that's the kind of planning system we want to have.
The Chair: With that, thank you, Mr Sewell. We appreciate your taking the time to come and make a presentation for us today.
Mr Hampton: In view of Mr Sewell's contribution, I wonder if we could have unanimous consent to ask some more questions. We're talking to somebody here who spent literally four years working on this. The committee is not going to have too many opportunities to hear from someone like this again.
The Chair: Our concern, Mr Hampton, would be that we have a number of other groups scheduled this afternoon, and we'd be inconveniencing each one of them.
Mr Colle: No problem with that. We'll consent.
Ms Churley: How about five more minutes?
Mr Hardeman: Much as I appreciate Mr Sewell's contribution, I think it's unfair to other delegations who are also very informative who spoke to the committee and those who are yet to speak. I think we should carry on as it's been set up.
Ms Churley: Five minutes.
The Chair: In the absence of unanimous consent, thank you, Mr Sewell.
Mr Sewell: May I say, it was not four years. Our commission was two years. We think we're the only royal commission in the history of Canada that was on time, under budget and almost fully adopted, and then of course abandoned a few years later.
CITY OF MISSISSAUGA PLANNING AND BUILDING DEPARTMENT
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the city of Mississauga planning and building department. Good afternoon.
Mr John Calvert: Good afternoon. My name is John Calvert. I'm director of policy planning for the planning and building department of Mississauga, and today with me I have Diane Horner and Ron Miller, also from the Mississauga planning department, as well as one member, Mr Rahkola, from the community services department, just in case there's a wide range of questions.
Mr Chairman and members of the committee, Mississauga was actively involved in the work Mr Sewell did through the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario and the subsequent Bill 163. Following up on that, Mississauga has taken a position on Bill 20. Our Mississauga city council, on January 31 of this year, has passed certain recommendations which have been forwarded to the minister regarding Mississauga's position on Bill 20.
The majority of our comments today are focused on the Planning Act component of Bill 20, and the presentation is set up in four components: the first part, the parts of Bill 20 that Mississauga fully supports; the second part, the areas we support but feel that there's some further discussion or clarification required; the third part is the areas that we don't support; and fourthly, the areas that Bill 20 is silent on that we want to present to just raise some points on.
First of all on the areas that we fully support, you'll probably hear the reverse side of the last presentation.
We support the return to the "have regard to" legislation with respect to provincial policy statements. We also support the authority to include provisions in the official plan, subdivision approval and zoning bylaws to regulate and control the creation of houses with two units. Thirdly, we support the elimination of the requirement for a public meeting on subdivision applications and consents.
We support establishing the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as the only ministry that can appeal a planning decision to the board. We support the removal of power that prescribes "any other matters" as being of provincial interest.
We support the removal of the authority of the province to prescribe the contents of official plans by regulation. We feel that this can be handled at the municipal level.
We support the exemption model that's included in Bill 20 whereby the official plan and official plan amendments can come into effect when council adopts a plan and there isn't an appeal within the 20-day appeal period. The simplification of requirement to give notice of council's adoption of plans only to those who have filed a written request is also supported.
The notice of dismissal power regarding appeals to the OMB is also supported, and finally, the provision regarding pending amendments, that a zoning bylaw passed prior to an official plan amendment coming into effect, will be considered to conform to the plan amendment once the plan comes into effect.
Those are the areas of Bill 20 that we have no problem with at all.
The next area, certain components of Bill 20 that we support but we would like further review or discussion on them:
The first is the direct appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. While we're not questioning the appeal process, we feel that the direct appeal takes away what's currently available, which provides the approval authority with the opportunity to review and consider matters that may be worked out or resolved and would hopefully lead to the elimination of a series of unnecessary referrals. So that direct referral, without question, we feel requires some further consideration.
Secondly, while we support the reduction of time frames and all efforts to streamline the development approval process, the further reduction in time frames proposed under Bill 20 may lead to not providing sufficient time to resolve issues, to discuss matters that could have been resolved with a little more time, especially the proposal for the 90 days needed to lapse from the date of application before direct appeal to the board. Perhaps that's too short a time that issues could be resolved, but the philosophy of reducing the time frames and streamlining the process is supported.
Thirdly in this area, we feel clarification is needed of the intent of deleting the words "all or" in subsection 34(1). Section 34 allows municipalities to include provisions in the zoning bylaw which currently would prohibit all or any use of land in environmentally sensitive areas. Bill 20 modifies these zoning powers to allow municipalities to prohibit any use of land, so there's a change from "all or any use of land" to "any use of land." While this is adding flexibility, we would just like that clarified as to what specifically is meant by that change.
Another area that council supports but still feels there's need for clarification and further discussion on is the appeal procedures of decisions of the committee of adjustment. On the one hand, Mississauga council would like to retain as much authority and decision-making at the municipal level as we can, and we're not opposing or objecting to the appeal process to the municipal board. But having council review the decisions of the committee of adjustment -- we were wondering and have raised questions certainly at our committee and council meetings about the extended workload of both the municipal board, which is already overloaded now, and the extended workload of council municipal staff, the increase in the number of rezonings that may happen. If you go to the committee of adjustment, have referral to council and you don't have council support, it becomes possibly a rezoning application. We're looking at that whole area of increased workload at the municipal council level that should be raised.
Finally, the issue that the act be amended to provide the municipality with the authority to impose a fee for filing an appeal to offset the cost, as Bill 20 now suggests for the board. If this portion of the act goes through, perhaps that could be extended to the municipal level as well.
Another area that we support and again have raised a question on is regarding the requirement to convey land for public transit rights of way. We support that but just question whether it should be extended not only to transit rights of way but to similar treatment for storm water management retention ponds, areas like that, that we could acquire through site plans and plans of subdivision.
The third area, the area that we do not support at this time and where we've requested, through the report I referred to that did go through our municipal council, that the minister amend the legislation:
The first section is with regard to mandatory official plans. The act now states that official plans are mandatory for, among others, regional municipalities, while local municipalities within the region "may" prepare plans. We feel that official plans are very important planning documents and that official plans should be mandatory at all levels, not just mandatory at the upper tier, the regional level, and "may" at the local levels. On that point, we've also said that upper-tier official plans should be very strategic in nature and really address only that level of planning and that they should provide a real added value to the planning process.
Second in the areas that we do not support: the elimination of the power of the municipal board to dismiss matters on the basis of prematurity. Right now, as you know, the municipal board does not have to have a full hearing if an issue is premature in terms of provision of hard services. If the board has to go through a full hearing on these, not only will it increase the workload of the board and its backlog on referrals, but if that's the case, we feel that a lot of those would be, or should be, of a very low priority before the board, especially if the area is not serviced or if services aren't expected within a reasonable time frame.
The issue of prescribed information versus additional information and the time for appeal: The bill requires that the clock can start ticking on provision of the prescribed information. We feel that additional information with any application of rezoning or subdivision, which could include areas such as traffic studies, noise impact studies, environmental impact studies, parking, marketing studies and so forth, is needed to help council make an informed decision before the clock starts ticking, that just the prescribed information may not be enough to make an informed decision. We would like prescribed plus additional information together so that all decision-makers will have all the information in front of them.
Also, requiring that existing houses with two units be registered within the city by a fixed date: Without such a provision, anyone can claim that an apartment existed prior to November 16, 1995, and therefore is legal pursuant to Bill 163. So we would like to see a fixed date on that registration part of it.
Finally, there are a couple of issues that Bill 20 was silent on that we would like to bring to the committee's attention that we would like addressed.
First of all, reference to the definition of "land use planning" in section 1 should be expanded to include other areas of planning, such as social planning, environmental and financial issues.
Section 2.2 of the act regarding provincial interest should be extended to require that every minister and Ontario Hydro be required to comply with the provincial policy statement.
Thirdly, the issue on public consultation on policy statements: The act right now indicates that whether it's a new policy statement or an amendment to a policy statement, the minister shall confer with such persons or public bodies that the minister considers have an interest in the proposed statement. We feel that the act should have a mandatory public consultation process, because all changes to the provincial policy statement could have impacts on municipal and community levels. We feel a mandatory consultation process should be included in that section of the act.
Also, the conveyance of land for park purposes, section 42: This a major concern of Mississauga. The provision of Bill 163 to amend section 42 should be repealed to allow the continuation of the previous two-stage payment process in which payments of cash in lieu of park land are valued at improved land values. It should be a return to that. In Mississauga, and Mr Rahkola can comment on this in more detail, the payment of land for park purposes -- one payment is taken early in the process at a certain value and a second payment is taken later, just before the building permit's issued; it's really one payment split in two -- that two-step process, that provision should return. Also, the act is silent on enabling municipalities to require a combination of land dedication and cash in lieu of park land. We would like those matters addressed.
Finally, there are two areas that were not part of our report before council, so I can't say they are a council-approved position. But they have been raised and I've included them in this presentation, the first one following a court decision of early last week so we did not have time to take it before council.
I'll just read the section and the concern that we have. Intrinsic with the stated desire of this government to return decision-making to local governments, municipal empowerment, is the need for a strong partnership with the province. This will enable local governments and the province to improve coordination, better protect the environment and public health, and to streamline the development approval process. We're requesting that crown corporations be subject to the Planning Act, the Building Code Act, the Development Charges Act and other appropriate legislation. This will be consistent with the existing Environmental Assessment Act and Expropriation Act, both of which bind the crown.
Finally, in terms of the Assessment Act, as I said, we did not address this in our position to council, but it is a feeling of staff in Mississauga that we'd like to take this opportunity to outline that Mississauga supports the Assessment Act in regard to farm assessment, subsection 19(3) as it currently exists. It's explained here, our -- I say "staff position" but I would probably hesitate not to say council is in support of that as well.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm sure that since his brief was so supportive of the government's position, the parliamentary assistant will ensure that the different acts will be changed so that the crown will be subject to this legislation as well, to the Planning Act. I'm sure Mr Hardeman will take that back.
Ms Churley: We'll support that.
Mr Gerretsen: Something tells me that if we see that, almost anything is possible. Of course almost anything is possible with this government. But in any event, you've heard Mr Sewell's presentation before -- I believe you were in the room at the time -- and you heard him express concerns about the lack of certainty and how this may prevent good development from happening because in effect it will give the opposition to good development that both the council and the developer obviously want, to raise issues which the OMB would have to accept, and therefore it may actually be almost an anti-development kind of a position. What are your comments on that? Do you have the same concerns that he had about changing that clause from "be consistent with" to "have regard to"?
Mr Calvert: No, I don't have the same concerns that Mr Sewell expressed. My feeling is that the authority and the decision-making and that level of accountability should be at the local municipal level. There should be a provincial policy statement that gives direction, I'm not questioning that, but the flexibility for decision-making and accountability should be at the local level. "To be consistent with" really binds our hands in a lot of decisions that local councils may want to make, if we have to be consistent with a provincial policy statement. Mr Sewell sees the emphasis at the provincial level, but I see the emphasis for decision-making and accountability at the local level.
Mr Gerretsen: The one aspect I agree with in your brief is this whole notion that before any provincial interest statement is published and taken as a fait accompli, in effect there be a mandatory public consultation process. Do I take it from your past experience in this area that this hasn't always been the case and that at times provincial interest statements have been brought forward that the city of Mississauga and other municipalities may have wanted to have some input into?
Mr Calvert: I think we would want to ensure that the opportunity exists in all changes at this time. Changing a provincial policy statement is significant, and there should be a mandatory provision for consultation. I'm not saying it hasn't happened.
Mr Gerretsen: But why are you concerned about that if the wording is being changed from "be consistent with" to "have regard to"?
Mr Calvert: The contents of a provincial policy statement are important. To say that we just still "have regard to," that's been around for a long time, but it doesn't mean we totally ignore it as perhaps the impression was given. Yes, we're not bound by it, but we don't ignore it either. We can't dismiss a policy statement, saying it's not important. I want to be involved in changes to a policy statement, but I also want the provision for our local council to have the flexibility to be able to make decisions within that and not be bound by it. That's our position.
Mr Hampton: What struck me about Mr Sewell's presentation is that he's saying, "Look, if you think that throwing this wide open is going to allow you to speed things up, it ain't going to happen." Throwing it wide open and removing certainties and taking out some of the rules that serve as guidelines will essentially mean you're going to have more free-for-alls. In locations where you've got active interest groups, whether on behalf of the environment or on behalf of certain types of urban development or on behalf of or against certain types of transportation corridors, you will have a free-for-all.
There aren't enough guide posts in what is being proposed here to help someone move something along, or there aren't enough guide posts for someone who's trying to do something to help them know up front whether they're going to succeed or not. Do I take it you're saying: "Don't worry about the guide posts. Don't worry about the upfront indicators. Don't worry about consistency"?
Mr Calvert: No. A provincial policy statement has the guidelines, goalposts, and I'm not disregarding it all. I'm saying that we can't be bound totally on every planning decision by them. There has to be the flexibility within those to be able to make local decisions. If we're bound by every policy statement, most of the decision-making and accountability at the local level is taken out of local municipal hands.
Ms Diane Horner: I'd just like to add to that. I think one of the intrinsic points we have tried to relay in our presentation today is that while we think it is critical to have provincial policy, we also feel it is very important at the local level in official plans, and we concur with Mr Sewell there, that official plans must be able to outline very clearly what information is required at the application stage. I think it's there that the municipality -- and many municipalities are currently doing this -- outlines the information that is critical for it as a municipality and for its residents to review a development application for their community.
While we're recognizing that it's important to have provincial policy statements, we're also stating very clearly that we think the local municipality must have the ability to outline what it feels is important for its municipality and be able to outline the information that it needs to review in reviewing a development application.
Mrs Fisher: I enjoyed your presentation and I do concur with your last statement with regard to global perspectives and allowing flexibility at the municipal level. I have one question relating to the presentation. The question is with regard to minor variances and how they're handled, whether it should be at the municipal level or whether it should be directly forwarded to the OMB. I'm just confirming something in the question. The major concern would be whether it's a time parameter as opposed to a potential conflict, conflict of interest almost, not necessarily pecuniary?
Mr Calvert: It's really both. I didn't want to elaborate on that, even though we spent a lot of time at committee and council discussing that point. Certainly there would be a time situation, where council right now would have to be an appeal body, have certain additional administrative staff and resources to hear them.
But also, as you're probably well aware, at committees of adjustment councillors get involved in submissions, supporting or not supporting applications. All of that would be gone, obviously, because they can't do that and hear any appeals as well. That conflict was another concern of council, because if they're there to be able to be supportive of the minor variance applications, that would be taken away. They had concern about that as well.
Mrs Fisher: My only follow-up to that would be: If you had a choice of whether you had a subcommittee of council which dealt with it individually first and then the right for final decision with council as opposed to the cost of OMB at a municipal level, burdened by the municipality, what would your choice be?
Mr Calvert: My choice would be a third option.
Mrs Fisher: Go for it.
Mr Calvert: Leave it the way it is. Don't take away the appeal provision, and let the board deal with them. On the other hand, some of the councillors in Mississauga may say, "Yes, but the board can make decisions that we're not accountable for and we're trying to get as many decisions back." But mine would be the third option: leave it the way it is.
The Chair: Thank you, folks. I appreciate your taking the time to come and make representation today.
SCARBOROUGH HOUSING WORK GROUP
The Chair: Our next group up is the Scarborough Housing Work Group. Good afternoon, Mr Hum.
Mr Doug Hum: Thank you, Mr Chair. I'd Doug Hum, chairperson of the Scarborough Housing Work Group, and I want to thank you for this opportunity to address the committee on matters regarding Bill 20. Our submission with regard to Bill 20 will be focusing on the apartments-in-houses provisions.
Scarborough Housing Work Group has been in existence for some 20 years. We've recently been incorporated as a non-profit, community-based housing advocacy group. We are made up of community residents and community organizations who share our vision and our goals. Our purpose is "to promote and advocate for housing as a universal human right," and that is safe, affordable and meets a variety of needs. Our vision is to see a Scarborough that is truly vibrant and dynamic; that meets a variety of needs; that promotes and supports a high quality of life for everyone; that makes good use of developed lands; and that protects the environment. We are therefore addressing the issue from a Scarborough-based perspective.
Our working group has played important roles in meeting Scarborough's housing needs. We had a role in the development of Scarborough's first family shelter, Homeward Family Shelter, which opened its doors in 1990 to provide temporary shelter to families in need; the Robin Gardner Voce Non-Profit Homes, which allocates 35% of its apartments to women leaving violent and abusive situations; the Chinese nursing home in Scarborough; the establishment of Scarborough's Second Base Youth Shelter. We've been advocating for permitting apartments in houses for a number of years, and we have also supported land use planning that supports the development of affordable housing.
We strongly support the rights of homeowners to install second units in their homes if they so choose and the rights of tenants to live in such units when such units meet fire, safety and health requirements. During the hearings on Bill 120, the Residents' Rights Act, last year, two subcommittees of our group addressed a legislative committee in strong support of the basic premises of Bill 120. We continue to support the legalizing of apartments in houses as a right and the prevention of imposition of onerous standards which could prohibit the creation of such units.
We generally believe that apartments in houses are;
-- Owner-friendly. They help people to pay mortgages.
-- Senior-friendly. They help seniors stay in their homes.
-- Environmentally-friendly. They help to minimize urban sprawl and allow people to remain in their homes.
-- Anti-recession-friendly. They promote jobs and economic development.
The changing demographics in Scarborough make a strong case for legislation that facilitates and supports the development of apartments in houses as a housing option. The population of Scarborough is aging, with the number of elderly persons increasing. Metro reports indicate currently that 13% of Scarborough's residents are over 65. This is expected to increase considerably in the next century. As well, household size is becoming smaller. The family size has shrunk from 3.6 persons per family to 3.1. In addition, the birthrate has fallen below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per mother to 1.68.
As a result, the single-family home which used to house a traditional nuclear family may now have space for two separate units for two smaller households of relatively the same numbers of persons per single-family home. Seniors can have the option of taking in a tenant to help with their chores and running the household. This helps to keep seniors in their homes and reduces the demand for building more seniors' housing.
A city of Scarborough study of such units, which began in 1989, estimated there were 14,000 illegal units at the time in Scarborough. The study was conducted by the consulting firm of Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg, and it was published in 1989. It found that this form of housing met a variety of needs of a growing and diverse Scarborough community from the traditional nuclear family to elderly persons, single persons, new Canadians, immigrants, first-time homebuyers, tenants etc.
The Scarborough study also pointed out there was popular community support for such units and its survey showed 65% of respondents supported such units. This is consistent with the Ministry of Housing survey of Ontario residents which indicated that 73% of respondents favoured allowing homeowners to add a rental unit as a way of providing affordable housing.
The Scarborough study also pointed out that communities will not be overwhelmed by these units. The study estimated that some 200 to 400 units per year may be created in Scarborough, which is well within the capability of the municipality's infrastructure to absorb. This low level of conversions is consistent with the Ministry of Housing's findings in a survey of municipalities with a population greater than 5,000. This was released in September 1995. This ministry survey covered the period from July 1994 to June 1995 and estimated across the province that 433 new apartments in houses have been created, with another 119 units being upgraded.
These units contribute to job creation and economic development. Apartments in houses generate employment and create jobs for the renovation industry, building trades and suppliers of household goods. A Metro planning report indicated that based on the proportion of homeowners receptive to the idea of conversion, that is, approximately one in eight, a theoretical potential of 39,000 units might be made available in Metropolitan Toronto.
Based on this number of new units, we estimate the total construction value to be some $650 million in Metro Toronto alone. Based on Scarborough's estimated 14,000 units that currently exist, upgrading of the units could also generate another $60 million in renovations. These units will generate demands for household appliances, generating additional direct and indirect economic activities.
We also understand that the federal government is setting aside another $50 million for its residential rehabilitation assistance plan, the RRAP program. These moneys could be of assistance to low-income seniors and again it is of benefit to the renovation and building industry, putting people to work.
The job creation and economic development aspects of apartments in houses makes a strong case for not unduly inhibiting the creation of the units and for realizing the Minister of Housing's call for economic recovery by cutting "red tape and getting rid of obstacles to growth."
Both the ministry and the Scarborough studies' findings indicate that there will not be an avalanche of applications for conversions which will overwhelm municipalities. However, the applications will be extending over a number of years, providing steady employment at a consistent level over a period of years. It is important not to create legislation that will dampen the contribution to economic recovery that apartments in houses will make. We are concerned that Bill 20 might do this.
The proposed changes to the Residents' Rights Act in Bill 20 troubles us. We believe that the removal of the as-of-right provisions of the Residents' Rights Act will create undue obstacles in creating apartments in houses. Our experience leads us to believe that municipalities will cater to the wishes of property owners over that of tenants. Tenants are taxpayers, too, and should have access to units that meet fire, safety and health requirements, without fear of eviction because the municipality may not like such units and will place obstacles at their disposal to prevent such units.
We are also concerned that Bill 20 brings out other aspects in the community. From our experience in hearings at the municipal level, it brings out those who are prejudiced against minorities, who do not like people of colour. They have said to us, directly to our faces, "We don't want such units in our neighbourhood because they bring people of colour into our communities." One also blatantly said to us: "The people moving into such units are totally different from the people who live in my community. They don't look like the people in the community, they don't dress like us, they don't eat the same food, and they would not fit in." We should not cater to such blatant racism and prejudice, and we must give every support we can to those who are in need of affordable and safe housing.
In summary, apartments in houses exist. They are needed. They will continue to exist and be needed whether or not any government chooses to recognize them. The failure of municipalities to acknowledge this important fact only serves to ignore the realities of people who own and occupy these units. People often have a basic ability to find ways to meet many of their needs, even if it has to be through an underground economy such as an illegal unit. Local planning does not respond well to those in need of such housing, in our experience. They have failed to recognize that whole groups of people have been prevented from accessing affordable housing. It seems that these people don't count and therefore have been forced to live in illegal situations due to a lack of money or a lack of resources or options, leaving them few options but to rent an illegal unit.
To prevent these situations from continuing, we respectfully request the committee to maintain the as-of-right provision so that both tenants and homeowners can continue to benefit from the legislation that supports rather than discourages the creation of such units.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for coming to present today. We haven't heard a whole lot around this issue so far today, and it's good to hear your point of view on that, given your background in the community with people who need affordable housing.
I want to ask you a general question, and you touched on it a bit. I am having a lot of trouble understanding this one. The Tory position -- I understand that it's philosophy, dogma, what they believe in, but this one confuses me a bit. It's an astounding move, given that this government is saying very cleary -- Al Leach has said it time and time again -- that it's getting out of the affordable housing market. They don't want to be in it. They want to see the private sector create affordable housing.
Yet we know, notwithstanding even some of the changes they're making in deregulation, that there's a problem for the private sector, especially in these economic times when we're about to see a made-in-Ontario Harris recession because of some of his policies. We're not going to see much affordable housing created, if any, by the private sector. We see people now out on the streets more and more -- families, kids ending up in motels, cramped hotels.
And it's a government that says it wants to cut red tape and get out of private people's lives. Here we have an opportunity for people to pay off their mortgage, to help deal with the affordable housing problem, and the government is saying: "No, you can't do it. We're going to let the municipality decide that." But they're allowing municipalities to be in the faces of private homeowners who could be benefiting the community.
It just doesn't make sense in terms of the overall Tory philosophy. I want your view of what you think is happening here. Why do you think this is thrown in the midst of all this other stuff?
Mr Hum: We view this as a private sector response to housing needs. It is not government housing. It doesn't involve government spending, other than perhaps expenses for inspection, fire inspection, and these may be recovered fees. This is a private sector response and it's a community-based response. People in homes are seeing their own needs in terms of paying down mortgages and maintaining their houses. The aging population, seniors on fixed incomes -- what other resources do they have? They have to look for other means. Renting out an apartment in their house provides that opportunity. It allows them, as I mentioned, to take in somebody to maintain the property, and income to pay for property taxes and general maintenance on the house.
Ms Churley: It doesn't make sense. Where do you think the pressure is coming from? Do you bring it back to what you say in your paper, that there has been pressure on some municipal mayors and councils to keep certain people out of their communities? That's a pretty serious accusation.
Mr Hum: I pointed that out. At local municipal deputations, deputants told us to our face, "We don't want these people living in our neighbourhood." You can't cater to that. You have to oppose that. Housing is a universal basic human right. Communities should be accessible to all kinds of people, no matter where they're from. The United Nations has defined Metro Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world. There's no other place like it. The world is reflected in the faces of all of us who call Metro home. We should provide means to accommodate people and make it easier for them to live. We're not advocating substandard housing; such housing must meet standards of fire, safety and health. We've always stated that.
Ms Churley: Do you fear we'll go back to the bad old days of a whole lot more illegal basement apartments, hidden basement apartments, and the serious concerns about fire hazards that go with that?
Mr Hum: Our concern is that it will drive people back underground if you don't allow it as-of-right, and then people will again be in unsafe conditions and there may be more fire deaths. It's human lives at risk that we're concerned about.
Mr Hardeman: I just want to go quickly to page 6 of your presentation: "Our experience leads us to believe that municipalities will cater to the wishes of the property owners." In your estimation -- or do you have figures that the majority of the two-unit buildings are occupied by tenants in both units as opposed to a property owner and a tenant?
Mr Hum: A Metro report indicates that something like 92% of single-family homes in Scarborough are owner-occupied. That leaves roughly 8% that may be absentee landlords, so the owner may not be in those, which is a very small proportion. Most people who rent out units tend to live there, based on those statistics.
Mr Hardeman: So it's reasonable to assume that most of those houses are owner-occupied with a unit in it. Do you have any figures on whether that unit in turn pays more property taxes for the services consumed? Talking about total services consumed and everybody paying their fair share, do property taxes go up when a unit is added to the house?
Mr Hum: I guess an application for a building permit would have a bearing on that. From what I understand from a previous Scarborough planner, Mr Peter Poote, such units are taken into account in the assessment, in the mill rate. I'm not exactly clear on that, but a previous planning commissioner indicated that. So taxes may very well be collected on those second units, whether they're legal or not.
Mr Smith: It's very clear from your presentation your view on implications of the removal of the as-of-right, and certainly from the bill the government's position on restricting the second unit. Those two positions established, do you have a vision, an idea, of how this whole issue might be better managed? Assuming the municipality is going to play a larger role, do you have a vision yourself of how we might manage that process?
Mr Hum: Bill 120 facilitates and helps the owner; there is a number of factors there. Our experience is that if you make it onerous, it remains underground; the owner will not surface. It puts both owners and tenants at risk, and this would be our concern.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Thank you for your presentation. You specifically related fire, safety and health. Do you not believe the municipality should have some authority in other areas? I happen to live adjacent to an area that has a high density of second units within the households, and to be quite honest, I think the statistics would show it's quite the opposite of what you're saying: that 90% of the homeowners do not live in those areas. Do you not think parking -- that the municipality should look at those areas as well?
Mr Hum: This is based on Metro reports and Metro assessments. I don't know if you live in Metro, but 92% of homes in Metropolitan Toronto are owner-occupied in a single-family home. We're dealing with a very small percentage: 8% may be absentee landlords, and of that, some numbers may not meet safety standards. But we have always stood strongly in support of seeing that such housing meets fire, safety and health standards. The current housing standards bylaw, building code requirements, health departments -- these regulations can govern the adequacy of such units in terms of health, fire and safety.
Mr Ouellette: So you don't think a municipality should be looking at parking or other areas as well?
Ms Churley: People who live in basements don't usually have cars.
Mr Ouellette: That's not true.
Mr Hum: I understand that to own and operate a car in Scarborough costs roughly $7,000 a year. Most people living in accessory units are working-class people and tend not to own cars in any great number. It's the homeowners who tend to own cars in greater numbers.
Mr Ouellette: I think that could be part of the problem. This is a province-wide issue. Maybe in Metro they can't afford cars, but in my community they certainly can.
Mr Hum: Given the fact statistically, we understand that those living in such units tend to be of lower income, tend to rely on public transit more.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm confused about this whole issue, I'll be quite honest with you, because the Conservative Party is the rights party, the rights-of-property party, you should be able to do as you want with it, and yet here they're trying to impose something which will only make it tougher in effect for some people to rent accommodation. Basically, if these 14,000 units were closed down by the legislation, and I'm not saying that they are, I would assume that a lot of these people would either be paying more rent if they were housed somewhere else or -- what would happen to them?
Mr Hum: With the vacancy rate plunging below 1%, I fear to think of what might happen. My office is near Kennedy and Eglinton, and the bus shelters after 2 o'clock become emergency shelters. They're occupied by people at night, even in these kinds of weather conditions. We may even see more of that. This would be my concern.
We have to try and look at means of providing housing in the most creative form we can. This is a private sector response. It doesn't involve any government spending. It's a community-based response.
Mr Gerretsen: Obviously your fear here is that if you left it strictly up to municipal control, then municipal councils may be influenced by certain segments within that community that would force these units to close, or force them to pass a bylaw that the units wouldn't be allowed at all or any new units couldn't be created, which seems to run completely contrary to the ministry's own survey which in 1992 indicated that 73% of the people had no problems with allowing homeowners to add a rental unit.
Mr Hum: That's right.
Mr Gerretsen: I wonder, Mr Chairman, if that information could be made available to us, the housing survey that refers to, because it's not all that old and maybe it's got some other interesting information in there. I wonder if we could maybe dig that out.
Do you have any ideas why this is being pushed this way then, when that particular survey, which is less than four years old, would indicate that almost three out of four homeowners in the province would support having a second unit in a house?
Mr Hum: I believe it is a response to a very vocal minority who are very prejudiced against low-income people, against single parents, against people of colour, against people of different backgrounds, who as they've told us don't fit into their communities. We've got to start looking at communities as being inclusive and start breaking down barriers that prevent people from living in their own communities. We feel that the previous legislation was moving in that direction.
Mr Gerretsen: What's your experience in Scarborough? I come from a community like Kingston where a lot of these units are occupied by students. There is some concern within that community that if you had two units within a house that was at one time a single-family residential unit, you could have as many as 10 students, I suppose, in a house, and it does create a certain problem in some neighbourhoods, etc. Do you have that kind of problem in Scarborough?
Mr Hum: I would assume that health standards would come in in terms of overcrowding and that fire codes would govern how many people can occupy a house. These are set, I would assume.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Hum. We appreciate your taking the time to make your presentation here today.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Can that information be made available?
The Chair: I'm told that the ministry will be pleased to make that available.
CITY OF SCARBOROUGH
The Chair: Next up is the city of Scarborough, represented by His Worship Mayor Frank Faubert. I would say this is not a good time to try and get hold of your Scarborough councillor. Greetings to you all. Frank brought the entire cheering section down with him today
Mr Frank Faubert: They insisted on coming.
The Chair: Our pleasure to have them down here.
You have 25 minutes, as you see fit, to divide between a presentation and questions from the three caucuses.
Mr Faubert: I'm here with Judy McLeod, director of strategic planning and legislation for the city, and Frank Weinstock, director of property standards and bylaw enforcement. I'm joined by some councillors, as you pointed out: Councillor Brad Duguid, Councillor Ron Moeser, Councillor Harvey Barron and Councillor Bas Balkissoon, who are all members of council who have had an interest in this legislation, indeed in all aspects of planning.
I should tell you, first of all, that we certainly appreciate the opportunity to present our views to committee.
The city of Scarborough supports the initiatives of Bill 20 to promote economic recovery, cut red tape and get rid of obstacles to growth, because we've been attempting to do just that. The city of Scarborough has done it quite successfully. We've cut red tape; we've streamlined our planning process; we've incorporated a corporate incentive plan; we've engaged in a program to reform our zoning bylaws to make it easier to do business in Scarborough; and we've entered into successful partnerships with local businesses and with communities. All these have resulted in renewed confidence and economic activity in the city.
I'm pleased to see the government of Ontario is taking steps to remove these bureaucratic obstacles.
At hearings on Bill 163, Scarborough and many other municipalities expressed concern with regard to the "shall be consistent with" terminology. Bill 20, in changing the wording back to "shall have regard to" will allow municipalities to consider all aspects of provincial planning policy statements and apply them appropriately, taking into account local circumstances and objectives. We support the revised provincial policy statements that are shorter, less prescriptive, focused on outcomes, and only setting out clear areas of provincial interest.
In 1994, it was Scarborough's position that the Ontario Municipal Board should not be burdened with appeals on minor variances. We know the results of that.
I'm trying to summarize this as I go through it, because you have a copy of the submission in front of you -- at least I gave it for your information.
We want to avoid the backlog of variance appellants waiting for their day in court before the board. I'm pleased to see that Bill 20 would allow council's decision on variances to be final, and I certainly hope the legislation will follow through this time.
I strongly support the move to restrict the term "public body" to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. We all know the criticism of the provincial government, the silo theory of ministries. We know that in recent years municipalities in the development community have been critical of fragmentation and the lack of coordination of provincial responses. The interests of various ministries have often not been communicated, one to the other, which has been one of the great problems, and ministries often appear at cross-purposes.
Municipal interests and economic growth have fallen victim. Indeed, we have some examples in Scarborough where we have had approval from the Ministry of Housing and at the last moment, the Ministry of Environment comes in and says -- this is after the approvals by planning -- "No, we have some concern; we want to review that again." It throws the whole process into disarray and delay.
Scarborough supports this attempt at provincial coordination, but I would caution you that we don't want the ministry just to be a postman that collects all the responses from the various ministries and sends them on that way. They have a responsibility, obviously -- the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- to properly coordinate the provincial interests, to analyse the requests that come forward and send forward the coordinated response to the municipalities.
Several ministries have declined to comment on municipal initiatives such as official plan changes until they're adopted by the local council. I alluded to that before. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing should be called on to play the role of coordinating responses on matters of provincial interest.
Then we have exemptions from approval requirements for official plans and amendments. This is supported: the provisions that would exempt official plan amendments from the requirements for approval.
This is by regions. In 1994, we requested that local municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto should be the final approval authorities for official plan amendments. We did not concur then, and we do not concur now, with Metro's request to be the approval authority. It's interesting, with the revisions that we're having in the Golden report on the GTA. I would say that position is probably supported by every municipality within the GTA. They agree they do not want this second approval level, a second regional approval. It's a duplication of public hearings, it's costly and it simply delays the process. The authority should lie at the local level.
We know this would substantially streamline the process, especially for amendments that clearly do not involve matters of provincial concern. I would request the ministry meet with representatives of the cities within the Metro area to determine the classes of official plan amendments which should be exempt to expedite this initiative.
In addition, we reiterate our request that large, sophisticated municipalities in the Metro area, municipalities with professional staff capable of performing the functions required of an approval authority, be also granted approval authority for plans of subdivision and condominiums.
On the issue of apartments in houses, with the changes to the apartments-in-houses legislation proposed by Bill 20, my council has asked me to present again a series of items it thinks are necessary to enable municipalities to develop a responsible, fair and comprehensive policy to deal with the matter. It has been our objective to ensure a high quality of life and a safe environment for the occupants of second units and for their neighbours.
There is an ongoing concern for the ability of staff to enforce our property standards bylaw, particularly as it pertains to right of entry. In this context, we are urging the government to undertake a review of section 31 of the Planning Act.
Municipalities must have an enhanced capacity to enforce standards through greater powers, streamlined procedures and the ability to recover the costs of administering this process. Council and the public both wish a quicker, simpler and more responsive system; that is, a less costly and more effective system.
Where appropriate, the enforcement procedures related to property standards should be harmonized with the building code and other applicable sections of the Planning Act. We propose that areas which require review include the need for a notice of violation prior to the issuance of an order; alternative forms of service; the appeal process itself; liability for the costs of inspections for recurring violations and repairs undertaken by municipalities; court orders for repairs; and fines.
The city's zoning, property standards and building inspectors must have reasonable and effective rights of access to dwellings for the purpose of inspection for compliance with the Ontario building code and local bylaws. We need to get into units to make sure they are safe. That is why Scarborough council asks that subsection 49.1(1) of the Planning Act be amended to add a statement that the province will adopt regulation guidelines on the kinds of evidence which may be used to satisfy a judge or justice of the peace with respect to the issuance of a search warrant under municipal bylaws, for example: assessment roll data, telephone or cable connections, doorbells, letter boxes, real estate listings, voters' lists and sworn affidavits from neighbours. Obviously, we don't intend to fetter the discretion of a judge, simply that some guideline may be necessary which to weigh a decision against.
Even if officers can get in and identify problems, there's a major problem in enforcing standards and upgrading units. Landlords may decide to close a unit down instead of upgrading it, meaning people may lose their homes. To avoid this, Scarborough suggests that the Landlord and Tenant Act and the City of Scarborough Act be amended to provide that a landlord's refusal to comply with the building and fire codes and municipal bylaws may result in the relocation of a tenant and/or the municipality may undertake the needed repairs, with all costs being recovered as taxes, obviously against that dwelling unit.
The Landlord and Tenant Act should be amended to provide the ability for a homeowner to evict an incompatible tenant from the second unit.
Scarborough also requests that the province enact the following measures to help us enforce our bylaws more effectively: create a municipal bylaw court to deal with all bylaw infractions and building code violations; amend the Planning Act and Municipal Act to provide so that the costs of work carried out under a municipal order can be recovered or shall be recovered as taxes; amend the court procedures to permit a prohibition order to be enforced by the court granting such an order. We can get an order, but if it's unenforceable, obviously it's not worth the paper it's issued on.
Although the city of Scarborough will be making future presentation on private member's Bill 11, I would like to point out in the context of my remarks here today that if Bill 11 is adopted, the moderate provision for entry provided for under the Planning Act and reaffirmed under Bill 20 becomes moot. Interestingly enough, it also affects other legislation, such as the Fire Marshals Act, the public health act etc. So I would ask that the Legislature consider that when it considers Bill 11.
Of particular concern are the provisions contained in Bill 11, section 2, most notably section 9.3, which provides that, "No one may enter on another person's property or take anything from it without the person's express or implied consent." Clearly, this provision is contrary to the provision in both Bill 163 and Bill 20, which allow bylaw enforcement officers some limited powers of entry, and it should not be adopted.
Our residents have also told us that they want apartments in houses to pay their fair share of taxes for the services they receive. Second units should be assessed appropriately to reflect the increased market value of the converted property; in other words, to assess them for property taxes as duplexes in comparison with other duplexes under the Assessment Act.
Scarborough requests the province to:
(1) Amend the Assessment Act to provide that the units in absentee-owned houses with second units be assessed as businesses;
(2) Amend the Development Charges Act to permit municipalities to levy development charges on additional dwelling units.
I'm pleased to see that the bill will allow municipalities to set up a registry of two-unit houses and that we will be able to require all such dwellings to be registered or to cease operating as two separate units. The registry will enable us to inspect units regularly to ensure that they are safe and indeed to meet other standards.
In closing, I would point out that appended to this submission is a list of council's outstanding issues. I won't read them; it's a long one. I certainly won't read all 14 of them, but I would put them forward for your information when you further consider the bill.
Thank you very much. I'm quite prepared to answer any questions.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the most thoughtful and most interesting presentation.
Almost every presentation has either agreed with or disagreed with the words "shall be consistent with" or "shall have due regard for." There's no question of what we're trying to do. We want to have some certainty, we want to have some clarity, we want to have some guidance, but at the same time we don't want -- at least in speaking from the government side -- the hands of local municipalities totally tied, that there can be, in exceptional, special circumstances, the opportunity to have that flexibility there.
Have you any other words that might come in between there, since people are either agreeing or disagreeing? Is there any grey, are there any other words that come to mind that might be used to describe what we're trying to accomplish?
Mr Faubert: We agree with "shall have regard for." I would ask Ms McLeod if she has any comment on this, because we debated this also at great length.
Ms Judy McLeod: I believe that "shall have regard for" is acceptable wording if people do have regard for and take seriously the provisions of the policy statements. I'm not sure that "have regard for" has really been tested at the board against "shall be consistent with," but we have found that in dealing with staff of various ministries, there's been more interest in putting specific words into an official plan amendment or a statement, rather than taking into account the overall objectives of the municipality and the development community. I think as long as everyone takes seriously "shall have regard for," it is suitable wording.
Mr Galt: Okay, I was just curious. Even the words "be consistent with" don't mean it's going to be the same. There's uncertainty there as well, if you really start thinking through on that particular wording.
The other question, if I may, relates to the second dwelling within a home. There's been quite a bit of concern at these hearings over that one in the past. We're asking for registration. What have been some of the problems that you've experienced in having these apartments in houses that I guess in many instances you're unaware of and find out about later on? Has it been a real frustration in your community?
Mr Faubert: We feel we have a pretty good handle on the numbers. We estimate between 10,000 and 13,000 of these in our city. The major problems have been non-owner-occupied or absentee landlord or multiple occupancy, over and above two units, for a single-family dwelling. That's the real issue. The average person who has a second unit would conform to these regulations and to the legislation, as we see it.
The major problem, as I point out, has been absentee landlords and the real overoccupancy of homes. We find, in terms of enforcement, usually someone has more than one. If someone is in this business, and so many of them are, they have multiple-occupancy homes in which they are truly absentee landlords, but they also have the legal wherewithal to fight the city on a continuing basis. Those are the problems that we really have with second units.
In the majority of second units, though, where persons who own the home have a second unit, they are the enforcers, if you wish; they're the ones who ensure that the standards are there, in most cases, that the parking is not a problem, that it does not become a problem within the community or within the neighbourhood. That's about the issue, quickly stated.
Mr Gerretsen: Dealing with the second-unit issue first, I take it then that this has not been a major problem in Scarborough. We heard earlier from a Scarborough housing group that they felt that if municipal control was given over this issue, in effect it would lead to a greater need for housing, particularly by the more unfortunate in our society. Do you have any comments on that?
Mr Faubert: In terms of it not being a problem, there is a problem, as I pointed out, in terms of non-owner-occupied, the second units, and I think it's a fairly clear one. In terms of the municipality taking on -- I think we're as sophisticated a municipality as any in Metro Toronto. We have the wherewithal to administer legislation as a municipality and I don't think we would create a problem with these. As a matter of fact, there's concurrence within the municipality, within the majority of residents, that they're not a problem in most circumstances.
There are exceptions to this and there are exceptions, as I pointed out, where someone is exploiting the housing market and owns a number of these, simply overoccupies the residence. We've had situations where we've had as many as 15 people occupying a single-family residence. These are problems of owners.
The second issue is the enforcement of the bylaws themselves, simply because of the way the courts perceive municipal bylaws, indeed how courts perceive the right of evidence and the evidence that they will accept. As you know, in many cases the department of health can go in and the fire department can go in, but the courts cannot accept their evidence of what they see. Our property standards must go in and then collect their own evidence and lay that evidence before the courts, and in many cases we don't get even the satisfactory judgement from the court itself.
If you wanted, I could ask Mr Weinstock.
Mr Gerretsen: I take it that the real problem deals more with property standards matters and occupancy standards rather than with the notion that people in a single-family area just don't want their neighbours to have an extra apartment in their unit.
Mr Faubert: Very much so. I think that is the issue.
Mr Frank Weinstock: Yes. The nature of the concern is where the extra units have garbage, debris, noise, cars. Anything that spills over and impacts on neighbours bothers people. If you have two self-contained units and the people are responsible and don't impact on their neighbours, most neighbours don't mind.
Mr Gerretsen: There's one other issue, and that deals with "be consistent with" and "having regard to." We had Mr Sewell here earlier today and he basically said, "Well, if the wording is changed to `have regard to,' you can take a look at it and totally ignore it and say, `Well, that's it; we've taken a look at it and we just don't think it applies here, or `We think that there are other issues that override that particular policy statement' etc." What's your comment on that?
Mr Faubert: We're happy enough with "shall have regard for." We think the issue of responsibility of taking into consideration is covered within the words "shall have regard for." That is quite direct.
Mr Gerretsen: But he pictured a scenario.
Mr Faubert: John always pictures the worst case.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a minute, now. He gave the example of the Greenwood Race Track that's being redeveloped. The developer went in there and basically wants to put a housing development in that is in accordance with the official plan and it's in accordance with the current policy statements and council goes along etc. But in effect, if we change the wording to that as suggested in the bill here, it would give a greater voice for the people who are in opposition, because there wouldn't be any standards at all and the OMB would throw it out. What's your opinion on that?
Mr Faubert: First of all, I never try to outguess the OMB. That's the first rule. As you know, John, in your tenure with municipal politics --
Mr Gerretsen: You don't like the OMB, is that it?
Mr Faubert: That's right.
Ms Churley: I appreciate your coming down to give us your position on the bill. I'm going to come back as well to the wording around "consistent with" or "must have regard for," because it isn't just mere wording, as I understand you fully realize. It's quite, quite significant, and I think the reason why people keep bringing it up is that they really need to understand the implications.
I understand that Ms McLeod has said it's fine as long as people adhere to it. In fact, therein likes our concern, my concern. Perhaps you will, but there are lots of tiny municipalities that don't have budgets -- there are other kinds of pressures -- that won't adhere, and what you have is a patchwork of, in some cases, very bad planning.
I think we mustn't forget that in the process of the consultations that led to this bill, more autonomy was given to municipalities, as you know, in terms of their planning. You don't always have to come running off to the province for approvals any more. But there was a tradeoff associated with that: that your policies would have to be consistent with the provincial ones.
I think that's fair. That way, when you have more autonomy, there is some and it should be broad guidelines or policy statements. Obviously, as people are saying, you can't have a policy statement that is too complex or it just won't work. But for that very reason, to get more autonomy, there needs to be some consistency in the planning or you're going to end up in a mess. I submit that what's going to happen in this rush to just "have regard for," because it feels like you have more autonomy overall, people are going to end up in real messes, that there are going to be more OMB hearings, there are going to be more disputes.
There are going to be municipalities that are not adhering to -- "We're going to have a look at it, throw it down and say, `Okay, let's ignore that and move on.'" It'll open the door for a lot more appeals because you won't be able to use -- the example that was given about Greenwood; we all know what happened there.
It can help developers too, you know. Perhaps not Scarborough, but many municipalities are going to have this problem where they won't have that to fall back on. I think people are really going to get caught. I really wonder if you have a response to that. Maybe it won't be for Scarborough, but overall, do you see what I mean about the tradeoff here?
Mr Faubert: Yes. I think you make a point probably in terms of provincial-wide legislation as opposed to how we see it affect our municipality directly. That comes back to the whole philosophy on Bill 163 and why they should "be consistent with" broad guidelines as opposed to "have regard for."
We've debated this at great length in the municipality and we felt that we would rather have "shall have regard for." We think that still gives us a better provision for taking into consideration what we consider, like local provisions.
This may not ever be resolved because, like all legislation, you can argue words until somehow it's put into place and there's some test case taken of this. But our preference is "shall have regard for," the amendment as recommended.
The Chair: Thank you again. I didn't set out to make this Scarborough Day here, but I see more positions down the road. We have the Save the Rouge as well.
Mr Faubert: In light of that, I should point out that we have another councillor, Councillor Watson, also in Toronto today, I understand. He's back there somewhere.
The Chair: Excellent. Many times have I visited your house and made representations. It's good to see you down here in the lion's den, and you're welcome any time, of course. Thank you all for coming down today.
FEDERATION OF METRO TENANTS' ASSOCIATIONS
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations. Good afternoon. We have 25 minutes to be divided, as you see fit, between presentation and questions and answers.
Mr Neal Ballosingh: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, I just want to spend a few minutes to deal with the Residents' Rights Act part of this amendment that is being proposed. I will be pretty brief on this presentation. My name is Neal Ballosingh and I am a tenant organizer with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations.
The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations is a 21-year-old tenant organization. We represent over 100 tenant associations including 6,000 members across Metropolitan Toronto. The federation does work with many housing groups and has made several presentations to standing committees regarding residential housing issues. We were also involved with proposals to government and continue to assist tenants through ongoing education on Bill 120.
Over the years we have spoken with hundreds of tenants about their experiences living in accessory units without any protection from the Landlord and Tenant Act. These tenants' experiences range from various forms of intimidation to forcible evictions. Tenants of pre -- RRA units have consistently voiced their concerns around issues of harassment by landlords with respect to lockouts, rent increases and privacy violations, without the benefit of legal recourse. For these and other reasons, the federation was extremely pleased when the Residents' Rights Act was introduced. The act offers important protection to thousands of new tenants across the province. Finally tenants could breathe a sigh of relief and stand up for their rights.
Government now proposes to repeal subsection 35(1) and return the power to allow or disallow the creation of much-needed second housing units to the whim of local municipalities. There are as many as 150,000 tenants living in second units across the GTA. What efforts did municipalities make to help protect the tenants living in these units before Bill 120? How will these tenants, along with the many hundreds more who will continue to rent and live in accessory units, be protected if the RRA is repealed? Municipalities disallowing the creation of these units through zoning bylaws will not prevent landlords from renting their units, and people will continue to seek housing wherever they must. The knee-jerk repeal of subsection 35(1) will force tenants to be disempowered again, create new uncertainty, and force a return to illegal, unsafe housing conditions.
The federation is strenuously opposed to the repeal of this important piece of tenant protection. We feel that democracy demands that citizens must have the right to choose where they wish to live, without mandatory constraints by government. These zoning powers suggest the inherent right of government to choose to discriminate against a tenant's fundamental right to secure affordable, available housing.
We understand that tenants living in apartments in houses prior to November 16, 1995, will be allowed to continue and will still be covered under the RRA, provided that the landlords meet building and fire and safety standards. This suggests that the provincial government sees nothing wrong with homeowners providing safe, affordable second units or with tenants living where they choose. It further suggests that government understands the need for tenants living in these units to also have their rights protected.
If so, why would government waste time and money on dismantling tenant protection and erecting barriers to opportunities for more affordable private housing units? The RRA is about landlords, tenants and building safety. It is not about land use matters or municipal zoning policies.
We further understand that homeowners wishing to add new units to buildings will need local municipal approval and will be granted this where building and fire safety standards are met. Then why not allow the conditions of these safety standards to determine the whole approval process? In this way there would be no need to control where apartments may or may not be created by any municipality. Tenants could themselves safely report living in a second unit, and the need for protection of those living in second units would be addressed. This may also help the government to streamline an already complicated city bureaucracy and assist tenants in more practical ways.
The federation believes that this whole issue has little to do with problems that may or may not arise from the creation of second units in houses. The opportunity for city housing officials to register apartments and inspect for building and fire safety concerns is already within the jurisdiction of the local municipalities. They must look for practical ways to accomplish this. We are not aware of any study pointing to overwhelming problems arising from those apartments created since the passing of the RRA, and if it's not broken, why try to fix it? Efforts to repeal this section of the legislation are therefore unwarranted.
A reasonable person could assume that if tenants and landlords are satisfied with the RRA and desperately needed private affordable housing units are being created, government would celebrate and encourage this initiative, a major point being that Ontario suffers more from a critical shortage of affordable housing and less from a housing shortage itself.
Also, we would ask the committee to focus its efforts on what is in the best interests of the people of Ontario, without restrictions by the political ideologies of any government. After all, we know that tenants do need and will continue to seek out apartments in houses, regardless of municipal zoning bylaws. By the same token, homeowners will continue to offer their units to let, wherever and whenever they wish. We also know that if these tenants could afford to own their own homes or pay higher rents elsewhere, we would not be here today.
Finally, knowing all this, the federation believes that at the end of the day all tenants will still need to have housing protection. We therefore suggest that this committee has the opportunity and a responsibility, in making its final recommendations, to ensure that this very important piece of tenant protection continues.
On behalf of our membership, we wish to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak to this important issue.
Mr Hoy: You mentioned the government's stance on this issue of apartments in houses, as they're suggesting, prior to November 1995. It brings up an interesting question as to why the change, or the change of view.
However, you have said these are affordable houses. It's my belief that they are probably even more than that. I don't think the rents are very high in many, many cases, probably extremely low compared to what we see in the general rule of things. What do you think would happen if these second-tenant homes are assessed in any different way?
Mr Ballosingh: I don't think that anything would necessarily happen differently. I think that if they are assessed, the landlords may pay higher taxes and they may adjust the rents to reflect those higher taxes on the tenants. But the tenants would still be paying reasonably low rents, even in that situation, as compared to trying to rent a single apartment in the city.
Mr Hoy: They would be able to afford these small increases? Do you think they would?
Mr Ballosingh: I certainly believe they would and it would be preferable to them, as some of them would like to remain in these communities rather than down in the major urban city areas as well.
Mr Hoy: Certainly I, myself, would agree with fire and health safety being enforceable. What's your opinion on the issue of parking?
Mr Ballosingh: When I came to this country I had to rent a basement apartment myself because it was the only thing I could afford, and my experience was that there was adequate on-street parking in most cases. As well, there were instances where landlords lived in the houses, and many of them didn't own cars but had parking and they rented the parking to the tenant. So I, in that case, paid for parking in the landlord's spot because the landlord didn't have a car. You have a whole variety of cases that take place. It does not necessarily mean that there's going to be no parking available if people are renting second units.
Mr Hoy: The renters of these units, would they run the gamut of society? I know that many have said that they tend to be elderly or at the lower income scale, but would there not be other people using these as well? Could it be the same percentage as there is in all of society, or is it mainly the lower-income and/or elderly people who are renting these?
Mr Ballosingh: It may be mainly them, but I don't like to focus on the fact that it may be mainly them. Generally, the idea is that a lot of people who are just starting out need to pay lower rents, and as they begin to establish themselves and save some money, they are able to move out and to rent bigger apartments. So in that sense it is a transition-type of situation for most people. From that perspective, everybody who starts out starts from a low-income situation. But it is very important from that perspective.
Mr Conway: This is a subject that has bedeviled governments and legislatures for some time. We were led to believe here earlier today that in metropolitan Oshawa, for example, there is some kind of a parking tangle as a result of basement apartments. I remember a couple of years ago being in Stratford and hearing from municipal people that they were really concerned with the previous government's initiative in this respect, that it would put all kinds of pressure on water and sewer services. The parliamentary assistant today has hinted that perhaps owners and tenants in these basement apartments are getting a bit of a free ride in terms of assessment and taxation.
You make quite an eloquent case for entry-level housing, which any of us who has ever been a university student I think certainly appreciates. My friend and colleague from Kingston is not here, but anybody who knows anything about Queen's University appreciates something of what these units have meant in that community.
But how do you deal with the charges that are made that I think I probably summarized generally just a moment ago, that there is a kind of unregulated chaos and a bit of a free ride and God knows what else?
Mr Ballosingh: I suggest that if there is, it is because it has been forced to be that way for the longest while, and we're looking to try and make that different now. The argument about parking and all those different things, and strain on the community, I don't think it's valid really as a serious argument. There are instances where these things occur, yes, but by and large I don't think that is a major issue. There are apartment buildings right now that are not basement apartments, sort of duplex-type things, where the same problems occur and there's not enough parking available for the number of people who are renting from them. The landlord is renting a place that has a parking lot that can only take four cars and there are people living in the building, 12, 15 people who have cars renting units. They end up having to look for street parking in the same way. So you can't point at basement apartments or second units and say that they are the cause of this kind of problem. I think that's a red herring type of argument.
Mr Hampton: In this debate, if you can call it that, I've heard a lot of excuses about why apartments in this kind of situation shouldn't be permitted, but upon further analysis, that's what they turn out to be; they turn out to be excuses. So let me ask you this. What, in your view, is the real reason? What's the rationale behind all the smoke and the excuses for prohibiting the establishment of these kinds of apartments?
Mr Ballosingh: I think there are two major rationales for it. One is that it has been consistently something a few people have complained about because they would like to keep their areas a certain way and prevent certain types of people coming into their areas. They have raised their voices in that way, a small minority group of people, and they have had politicians react to them. Maybe they've been influential in that way with the politicians.
That's a small part of it, maybe less than the fact that because the municipalities had this privilege before, they were arguing to keep this privilege. I think that was the major thing. It's the issue of you having a privilege or law on your side that allows you to do whatever you wish, even if it is a regressive law, even if it is causing more problems than solutions, you don't mind so much because you have the choice to use it or not to use it, but you don't want anybody to take it away from you. The point is that somebody took it away from you and you want it back now. I don't think it makes any sense, because with all the arguments that were brought forward that these basement apartments would cause this problem and that problem, we haven't seen any evidence of that happening since the Residents' Rights Act.
Mr Hampton: You make the case that these apartments will exist anyway, with or without municipal bylaw approval. They will exist because people need housing and other people have room to spare and need an income.
Mr Ballosingh: Yes, I think so. It will definitely, because historically it has. We have an opportunity to correct that and prevent that from going back into a situation where we had no control over it.
Mr Hampton: And where unsafe conditions could prevail.
Mr Ballosingh: That's right.
Mr Hampton: The Conservative Party stakes a lot of its so-called revolution, if you do any reading at all, on essentially what Ronald Reagan did in the United States. The 30% tax cut is vintage Ronald Reagan. That's what he promised in his first economic statement: all the cutbacks to public services and to public employees. One of the things that happened with Ronald Reagan is that the number of poorer people increased dramatically, in other words, people living at or below the poverty line. What's going to happen to those folks in terms of finding housing in the kind of world Mr Harris is trying to create here in Ontario? Where are they going to find housing, in your view?
Mr Ballosingh: With respect to the basements and the second units, if you were to take that away and make it illegal, you would have the issue of people still using it with unsafe conditions. Also, if you were to close down those kinds of opportunities, you would have an increase in people needing the housing unable to access it and living on the streets. You would have people trying to cram more into one family unit, the very thing you're complaining about. You're going to have more of that: people trying to cram more into one unit because there are no available units out there. You're also going to have greater strains on family situations to try and accommodate people living where they can't find housing. You could build up a lot of additional social problems that you don't necessarily have to entertain if you simply do the right thing now.
Mr Hampton: So the demand for this kind of housing is likely to increase, not decrease.
Mr Ballosingh: Very much so.
Mr Galt: Thanks for your interesting presentation, and thanks for looking out for those who need apartment-type housing.
Your preamble is interesting, and I'd like to respond for a few minutes to that and your reference to the Residents' Rights Act. The phone calls I'm getting are more from landlords, and they're very sad stories. They're coming into my office with tears in their eyes because they haven't received rent in six months or four months or whatever and the tenant is stripping the inside of the apartment or the inside of the house and there's nothing they can do about it. I may hear from them a few months later that when they did finally get them out, the house or apartment was totally gutted and they left a pile of garbage inside. These are the kinds of stories I'm hearing in my riding office regularly, and they're claiming it's because of this Residents' Rights Act. They're very angry.
Just to respond to some of the comments you're making, it isn't all one-sided, and I'm beginning to wonder which way we have that playing field balanced between landlords and tenants. It's a tough one; I don't think we'll ever get it really sorted out. I just want you to know I'm hearing a different side, a very sad side, coming across on a very regular basis. It may be different in Toronto. I'm from rural Ontario.
The intent here is to register to try and ensure that safety standards, fire and so on, assessment and all the rest, are met. What's so terrible about that?
Mr Ballosingh: I didn't say that anything was terrible about it.
Mr Galt: That is how I interpreted your presentation of what we're trying to do.
Mr Ballosingh: No --
Mr Galt: So you agree with it?
Mr Ballosingh: I have said in my submission that these should be the criteria, allowing people to register for fire and safety and things like that.
Mr Galt: I may have misunderstood you, then. So you agree with registration to ensure the safety is there.
Mr Ballosingh: Yes. I am saying that repealing the Residents' Rights Act is what I don't understand. Why would the government want to do that? Why are they attacking that?
Mr Galt: Okay. Let me move to the next one, relating to municipalities making this decision rather than it being laid on the provincial level.
Mr Ballosingh: That's right, that's what I'm interested in.
Mr Galt: The municipalities are where this is happening; they're closer to the action. The message I'm getting in my area is: "It's another one of those so-called Toronto-based solutions being forced down our throats. We want to make our own decision in rural Ontario." How do you respond to that, and also the concern of the neighbours in this general area, with the overcrowding, when they bought a home thinking they were in an area of single dwellings?
Mr Ballosingh: Everybody has a right to live where they choose to live and the landlord has a right to rent the house if it's big. Some of the things you're raising -- you're saying, for example, that landlords are complaining about tenants damaging their buildings and they can't get them out. That happens in every case I can think of, where you'd have a tenant like that, even in a high-rise building. I don't think it is subject to basement apartments, particularly. I am saying that if you give them the right legislation and the protection of the Landlord and Tenant Act, they can act upon it the same as any apartment person can do with a tenant who's behaving that way. I don't see that you can separate one from the other, from that point of view.
Mr Galt: To come back to the question of municipal decisions on that kind of housing, you tend not to agree with that.
Mr Ballosingh: No. I don't think they have a right to say where people can and cannot live if both parties agree to accommodate each other to create affordable housing. What does it have to do with the municipality? I don't understand.
Mr Galt: But you agree it should be a provincial decision.
Mr Ballosingh: I agree that the province should not allow municipalities to disallow the apartments but should give them the right to regulate them, inspect them for fire and safety standards.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation today. I appreciate your comments and your taking time to appear before us.
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF COMMITTEES OF ADJUSTMENT AND CONSENT AUTHORITIES
The Chair: Our second-last presentation this afternoon is the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities. Good afternoon.
Mr David Brown: Good afternoon. My name is David Brown, and I'm the vice-president of the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities. That's a provincial association made up of members of committees of adjustment, members of land division committees, members of consent authorities and the staff who work for those various committees.
Our association has concern about what's being proposed. I've submitted a copy of a letter our association has forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and I'm going to start midway through the first paragraph and read that as my submission this afternoon.
The Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities has grave concerns with the changes being proposed in section 26 of Bill 20.
The bill proposes to change section 45 of the Planning Act by exchanging the term "committee of adjustment" with "council" and "the secretary-treasurer" with "the clerk." The bill introduces a new subsection that states any decision of council is final. The removal of the right of appeal in the minor variance process is a serious proposition. People care greatly about their homes, their businesses and their rights to make changes to their properties. They also rely on the opportunity to oppose changes that they perceive will negatively impact on their property or business. People rely on the fair, impartial and full hearing that is available to them, if necessary, at the Ontario Municipal Board. They may not always agree with the decision, but the objectivity, impartiality and fairness of the appeal process is a fundamental right that is critically important to the parties involved and essential to the functioning of the system.
The authority for council to appoint a committee of adjustment remains. However, if that committee includes a member of council, the committee's decision will be final. In this instance, the concerns noted above are applicable. If the council appoints a committee that does not include a member of the council, then Bill 20 introduces section 45.1 to deal with the appeal process for a decision of the committee of adjustment. Appeals are directed to council and the council must determine the manner in which the appeal will be considered. Council may deal with the appeal or refer the appeal to the OMB.
If a council refers an appeal to the OMB, the municipality -- council-is responsible for the costs incurred by the OMB in the consideration of the appeal. It is very unlikely that any council will pay the OMB to make a decision which they have the authority to make. Therefore, council will exercise their authority to consider an appeal. The proposition that elected municipal councils should hear appeals from their own appointed committee of adjustment on a minor variance to a zoning bylaw, that was passed by council, is unusual and unsatisfactory. Considerable expenses and expenditures of time will be incurred, as council members will be acting in a judicial role as opposed to the normal legislative role. This is not appropriate and raises legal concerns with respect to the hearing of an appeal. In order to conduct a hearing, as that term is used in law, all members of council would have to be present for the entire hearing, each of which, on average, would take a half-day to a full day. This increase in workload for council will further bog down the current approval process. This raises a question as to whether the proposals will streamline the current approval process.
Appeals to council will create a significant conflict in council's position and responsibilities. Council could not direct staff to appeal a decision of the committee of adjustment that council does not favour when it was then directing that appeal to itself. I believe there is some significant question in law as it currently stands if council could in fact provide a blanket delegation to staff without some proviso whereby, on individual appeals, there would be some council endorsement of the correctness of staff's decision. Otherwise, the appellant would not be the municipality but would in fact be staff itself. It is clear that council could not be both the appellant and the adjudicator in an appeal. There would be clear apprehension of bias for any respondent to such an appeal.
A real impact that could arise from the elimination of the ability to appeal to the OMB is an increase in the number of rezoning applications being considered by municipal councils where the process provides for an appeal. Unsuccessful applicants before the committee of adjustment will apply for a rezoning and appeal the request to the OMB. This will not reduce approval times nor will it result in the decisions being made at the municipal level. It will result in the creation of additional red tape as the approval time will likely be increased. The workload of the OMB will remain relatively unchanged. It should also be noted that information provided by the OMB indicates that minor variance appeals represent only 14% of the board's workload and less than 6% of the board's hearing time.
There have been improvements made to reduce the OMB appeal time frames and these should continue to be supported. It is the opinion of the association that these percentages are not large enough to justify changing a process that currently works very well.
For these reasons, the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities is opposed to the changes being proposed by section 26 of Bill 20. The government's commitment to streamline and speed up the planning process is welcome; however, it should not be at the expense of the integrity of the process.
Thank you and I'd be willing to answer any questions.
Mr Hampton: I guess I'm left to ask you this: If the legislation stays as is, what kinds of situations do you anticipate will happen both in terms of process and also in terms of the legal ramifications?
Mr Brown: With respect to the current process, in light of the changes that the OMB is making in terms of reducing its time frames, I believe the current process as it's constituted in the Planning Act will not have any impact on that and I think we'll continue to see the time frames at the OMB reduced to the point where they will be acceptable, whatever time frame that may be -- three, four months to have an appeal considered. Currently, I understand it's approximately eight months and that's if you're fortunate.
Mr Hampton: To your knowledge, how much have the OMB time frames come down already over the last four or five years?
Mr Brown: At one point, it was approximately 12 to 14 months for an appeal of a minor variance to be heard by the OMB. Currently, again depending on the nature of the appeal, they are being heard in approximately 10- to 12-month time frames for a full hearing. However, the OMB has initiated a number of steps and processes to help reduce this time frame.
There's a short hearing process and settlement hearing processes where they will invite the parties to sit down, discuss the issues, flesh the issues out in essence, and sometimes they'll be able to deal with the issues right there and then. Those types of applications can be on for a hearing in three to four months. Because of the time frames and the scheduling of the board, they can achieve that.
The board has separated the nature of the appeals and this has enabled a larger majority of the appeals to get dealt with in a much more expeditious manner.
Mr Hampton: What do you think, in comparison to that, the net impact of what is being proposed here in Bill 20 bill be, and what kind of situation do you think this is going to place people like yourself in in terms of orderly process, in terms of outcomes people can live with and in terms of fairness?
Mr Brown: I believe it's going to have a very real impact on the integrity of the process. Currently, it's a process that's set up where the elected individuals who sit on council appoint a committee of adjustment and that committee has rules set out in the Planning Act that it operates within. If you feel or an individual feels that they have not been deal with fairly, they have the right to appeal and they can take it to, in essence, a higher court.
The proposed changes, as I understand them being proposed in Bill 20, I would anticipate are going to confuse the process considerably as there are going to be a number of different possible avenues through which a minor variance could be dealt with. As well, you have the elected council members appointing a committee and then, in essence, reviewing every or any decision it would make. In that instance, I think you'd be just as well ahead to have the council make the decision in the first place and to eliminate any possible hope, if you will, in the event that the committee deals with it in one manner and the council doesn't wish it to be dealt with in that manner.
I question the ability of council to deal with these types of appeals in the same manner that committees across the province have, over the last 20 years, been able to develop in terms of process, having the public hearing, individuals getting their day in court and having a fair decision issued by your neighbours, in essence, the members of the committee of adjustment.
That's where I see that with what's being proposed, you're going to have a wide range in terms of the makeup of committees and that's going to have a real impact on the current process that has taken a long time to create, but I think it currently works very well.
Mr Hampton: Do you think that people who would come before such a committee or such a council would be concerned about the confusion of fair decision-making with respect to a specific matter, the confusion of that with frankly political overtones?
Mr Brown: Very much so. My current employment is as the secretary-treasurer of the committee of adjustment in the city of Mississauga, and on a regular basis applicants will ask: "Who are the committee members and what political ramification do I have to be aware of? Do I go and see my councillor or do I not go and see my councillor?" On a regular basis I have to indicate who the committee are, how they're made up, what their is relationship to council.
Currently in Mississauga there are no members of council sitting on the committee of adjustment. They are all citizen appointments. With respect to the councillors' involvement in the process, it's been the process developed in Mississauga that the council gets the opportunity to participate as any other concerned or interested party would. It's a process that seems to work very well in Mississauga.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, I'd like to say it seems somewhat consistent. The majority of people coming before us today have expressed some concern about the right to appeal minor variances. I'd just point out one flaw in the present system, that we seem to have some trouble defining what a minor variance is. If everything that was before the committee of adjustment was truly a minor variance, I would find it hard to believe why there would be such a concern that they should not only be decided, but be appealable, if it was truly minor.
You mentioned the numbers of how much of the OMB's time was spent on minor variance appeals. I wonder if you have any idea how many of those appeals were lodged by the applicant as opposed to someone who was opposed to the minor variance being granted.
Mr Brown: I'm sorry, I don't have that information, but I would suggest that is available at the Ontario Municipal Board. They have provided me with information and that's where I got my numbers from.
Just further to that point, the number of appeals that are currently before the Ontario Municipal Board with respect to minor variances, I heard some comments earlier in the afternoon that Toronto seems to have a different manner in dealing with some issues.
I suggest to you that the municipalities outside of Toronto, and whether they be large or small, would have a very similar format in terms of dealing with the committee of adjustment. Similarly, the number of appeals of those decisions are not that great. In Toronto, there seems to be a much higher percentage of appeals that are being directed to the Ontario Municipal Board. In one of the discussions I've had with some of the people I've been discussing this with, it was suggested that perhaps it might be appropriate to look at the manner Toronto deals with it and provide some special or unique legislation for it when considering minor variance appeals. Outside of that, the rest of the province seems to be operating quite well.
Mr Hardeman: The other comment was regarding the problem with the appeal being to council when council was also the appointing body that appointed the committee of adjustment. I ask this one in all sincerity. I come from an area of the province where all the committees of adjustment are the elected councils; there are no appointed committees of adjustment. I was just wondering if you do not see the same problem presently existing where we have the need for the appointing body also appealing a decision of the appointed people. Would that not over a period of time, if there were too many cases where a council had to appeal a committee of adjustment's decision -- at the next opportunity they would appoint a different committee of adjustment and in fact it would be somewhat --
Mr Brown: I suggest council has that ability at any time. After an election, council appoints its various committees. The committee is passed by bylaw, and if there was some concern with the makeup or the behaviour of that committee, council has the ability to repeal the bylaw and appoint a new committee with a new bylaw. I suggest that control or ability is there currently. Also, the council, if it is not satisfied with the decision, has the right to appeal that decision to the OMB as would any other interested party. Those are my comments in that respect.
Mrs Fisher: I respect your opinion with regard to the appeal process on minor variances. I'm not clear yet who you might think should bear the cost if the appeal goes to the OMB. I get the impression you certainly don't want it held at a local level board, but if it's to go forward, you have maybe half the solution to half the problem you raised, but I'm wondering about the costs.
Mr Brown: The costs of processing an appeal, in my opinion, would be phenomenal. With the professional representation that is required, the time that is involved of the OMB's part, I think the cost of processing an appeal in the manner that the authority is given to the OMB to charge a fee would be easily in the area of $3,000 to $4,000 to $5,000 per appeal. I have no information to substantiate that other than my personal experience. When you deal with planners, lawyers and the like, the costs run quite high.
There's also a provision that the board can recover any additional costs that were not anticipated and if a hearing goes into two to three weeks, which often they do, even over a minor variance, it could be tens of thousands of dollars, in which case the municipality is responsible for that and it may be a question of whether or not the appeal is really warranted or worth that, but if the municipality doesn't have that ability to say that this is a frivolous appeal or a vexatious appeal, then they're going to be on the hook for paying the $4,000 to $5,000 for any person who has an interest in appealing.
My concern would be that if there's no responsibility on the appellant, and it may be a minor amount just to show their intentions are serious, that's where I have some concern with that.
Mr Gerretsen: I enjoyed your presentation. Although I didn't hear the whole thing, I've had a chance to read your brief. How long have you been in your present position with the committee?
Mr Brown: Seven years.
Mr Gerretsen: How many minor variance matters would come before the committee, let's say on an annual basis?
Mr Brown: Between 700 and 750.
Mr Gerretsen: From your experience then of having dealt with maybe almost 5,000 of these applications over the last seven years, how often has the Mississauga council appealed one of the committee's decisions to the OMB?
Mr Brown: I would say probably once or twice in a year.
Mr Gerretsen: Right.
Mr Brown: The next half of that, sir, would be whether or not that actually goes to a full hearing.
Mr Gerretsen: Right.
Mr Brown: Oftentimes it's a tactic, if you will, that the municipality can indicate, "These are our concerns and if you address those, we'll withdraw our appeal." I've seen that happen more often than not. I think in my seven years there's been one gone to a full hearing.
Mr Gerretsen: But in any event, councils don't normally appeal their own committee of adjustment decisions. It would be very rare, wouldn't it?
Mr Brown: Yes, I think that would be.
Mr Gerretsen: Now would you agree with me that a 10-month to 12-month waiting period to have a minor variance appeal heard by the OMB is still way too long?
Mr Brown: I think it is a long time. I think you have to put it into perspective with other time frames by the same token. The board is working towards reducing those time frames. Our association, because we are interested in the appeal process, does work closely with the OMB to discuss ways of improving the process and I think they are making steps in reducing that, but a 10-month wait is an awful long time.
Mr Gerretsen: I must admit there seems to be some confusion as to how quickly the board reacts to it, because I believe the minister, in his statement in the House when this legislation was introduced, was talking in terms of the OMB dealing with matters within a matter of three, four or five months after a matter was referred to the OMB, and he wasn't just dealing with minor variances. So I find 10 or 12 months somewhat at variance with that.
I suggested this morning that maybe one way around this is to set up a small panel of the OMB of, let's say, six or seven members, on a rotating basis, that could deal with these minor variances in a very expedient manner. Is there any reason you can think of in a minor variance situation why, from a practical viewpoint, the individuals involved could not be ready to deal with their appeal within a two-month time period after the committee has made its decision?
Mr Brown: In most appeals I think that would be fair. Cost is going to be a big issue. The other half of that, however, is that while some individuals may consider an application minor, typically the applicants, the appellants would not see it that way, and it does take a considerable amount of time to prepare a professional response to refute or to oppose a decision of the committee. That's where I've seen applicants require at least three to four months to get their case prepared and get it together and get something that is in a form that is presentable to the OMB.
I would suggest to you that a three- to four-month time frame is not an unreasonable time frame. I'm sure that everyone would like to see two months, but I think, in an attempt to be reasonable, three to four months would be acceptable. I see the board on their way to achieving that.
Mr Gerretsen: The other question: In your experience, have you ever seen the OMB actually reject an appeal on the basis that it was frivolous? Have they actually ever, in your experience, invoked that section?
Mr Brown: No, they have not. They have had motions put forward that were quite strong and quite clear. Typically, the appellants withdraw their appeal before it goes to motion. I have yet to see a decision of the board where they've dismissed an appeal on the grounds of being frivolous.
Mr Gerretsen: What about this intermediary step, mediation etc, that was introduced a number of years ago? Has that actually speeded up the process, as far as coming to some sort of final resolution of the issue is concerned? Or is it just another almost semibureaucratic mechanism that has been added into the process?
Mr Brown: I don't that it's shortened the time frame, but it has shortened the hearing time. I understand that a lot of the difficulty at the OMB is in scheduling hearing time. They have to go so far in advance to make sure they've got the right complement of members and sufficient time available. So what it does do is to clarify for them the amount of time required for a hearing, but it doesn't, in my experience, expedite the process in terms of time frame.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Brown, for your presentation before us here today.
SAVE THE ROUGE VALLEY SYSTEM
The Chair: This brings us to our final presentation today, Save the Rouge Valley System, Mr Stephen Marshall. Good afternoon, Steve. We have, as you probably heard me say before, 25 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between the presentation and questions and answers.
Mr Stephen Marshall: Certainly. I'm very pleased that the Chair of the committee is a strong supporter of Save the Rouge and has been for a long time. It makes me feel quite at home.
The comments I'm forwarding are not accompanied a written form for distribution. We're anticipating that there may be questions and we wanted to be able to carefully revise our recommendations. We'll be forwarding those in written form for your consideration by the deadline.
The SRVS, for those not familiar with it, is a community-oriented, non-profit, incorporated, volunteer-based watershed conservation group formed 20 years ago by people who were witness to the degradation of the Don and wished to prevent a similar occurrence happening in the Rouge. The mandate of our group includes protecting and enhancing the environment of the Rouge, encouraging the preparation of a master development plan for the watershed, seeking support from community groups, officials and planning bodies having an influence, and increasing public awareness and respect for the natural resources of the Rouge.
We have had, as a group, extensive experience with the land use planning exercises in three regions and six local municipalities through three versions of the Planning Act. For a lot of years our members and other interested individuals fought and lost battles for the protection of the cultural and natural heritage of the watershed. We lost the Centennial swamp in Scarborough; recently we lost part of a provincially significant wetland in the Townline swamp complex in Pickering.
In Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough and other municipalities over the years we are witness to wetlands being bulldozed, forests and woodlots cut down, streams buried or encased in concrete, very extensive destruction, all the more serious, in our minds, because of the effects of urbanization, of development, following nearly 200 years of logging, industrial activity and clearance for farms in the watershed. The cumulative effects of these activities has been described by other people, but it's clear there's a tremendous decline in the ecological health of the watershed in southern Ontario. As an instance, the Atlantic salmon, which once sustained an important commercial fishery, became extinct in the Great Lakes, the last known salmon caught off the mouth of the Rouge in 1898. The township of Markham, for instance, once a rich and diverse environment, was by the turn of the century a moonscape, and even now is only 3% mature forest covering.
Throughout southern Ontario the picture is similar: fragments remaining, and what remains is under stress. No one is suggesting that southern Ontario shouldn't have been settled, nor much of the land cleared for farming. We are here today because of that history. My own family is part of its heritage, my grandfather having had the honour of being Minister of Agriculture for this province, as well as a distinguished cattle breeder. From his papers and books, I have garnered a concern for healthy growth rather than unbridled development, understanding it's not a question of either/or: either economic development or ecological community and health.
This understanding that growth needn't involve destruction, and a concern for this destruction, is one of the main themes underlying public pressure for changes in the 1983 Planning Act. The developers were concerned about inefficient and costly bureaucracy, the public about municipal corruption and the deterioration of air, water and land. The previous two governments were asked, or commanded, in a sense, by the strength of public opinion, to address these concerns. The process to revise the 1983 Planning Act and the attendant policies involved a long, thorough, careful, broad-based, province-wide consultation with all interests in the planning process. I must say with respect that those characteristics are not applicable to the current process.
When the new, call it 1995, planning system was put in place, we knew that there were a lot of development applications in the pipe, applied for or approved under the old rules, that would still cause destruction and degradation of the natural heritage system of the Rouge for a few years in various locales. We're still dealing with those. As a watershed on the south slope of the Oak Ridges moraine, the Rouge is vulnerable to the ballooning urbanization of the Toronto megalopolis.
None the less, we understood under the new rules that the Rouge did have a future. We could anticipate protection of the natural wealth that exists and the opportunities for restoration of much of the ecosystem. We are currently planning, for instance, restoration projects throughout the watershed that are designed to bring back the extinct species, Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon. We feel it would be a fitting remembrance for the 100th anniversary of the extinction of this species in Lake Ontario to launch a major effort to reintroduce the fish.
We knew that under the new rules, the destruction of the Rouge would gradually cease and we could turn it around. We're more than halfway through the turnaround decade, after all. We knew that Toronto would not, like Phoenix or Los Angeles, sprawl outwards, destroying virtually everything in its path: farm land, community identity and heritage, natural areas and systems. We could look forward to sustainable growth, development without long-term costs to the taxpayer and the community.
Unfortunately, now that confidence is gone. What Bill 20 and, even more, the policy statement will do, we feel, is to remove any certainty or consistency of planning in the watershed. Official plans will be of varying quality and detail, often amended, supplying little direction or consistency. Applications, even the most outrageously destructive and nonsensical, such as subdivisions and woodlots and valley corridors in the countryside, miles from any urban area, golf courses in wetlands, or all of those put together -- which seems to be the latest enthusiasm -- will likely come forward, be heard cursorily and hastily by councils, without opportunity for significant provincial input, with very constrained public input, and then go to the board. At the board, who knows? With the comprehensive policy statements changed into the current abbreviated version, with official plans disregarding policy anyway, any outcome is possible. Under the proposed system we feel the likelihood of efficient growth, farm land preservation or environmental protection prevailing is very slight.
We see, under the new rules, accelerated urban sprawl and splatter, ex-urban developments, construction in significant natural areas, little or no attention paid to surface water, less to groundwater -- in a sense, a shotgun blast at the Rouge, no one pellet fatal, but the cumulative effect very disturbing. Under the old rules, the Rouge was suffering the death of a thousand cuts; what we fear is that the proposed new rules will accelerate this.
Our perspective is both local -- Toronto-based, if you like, GTA -- and provincial, having worked on these concerns for many years, and with other groups on the provincial issues. Based on this experience, I wish to convey to you that our view of the proposed amendments to the Planning Act and the policy statements amount to setting the stage for significant degradation in our watershed and, we anticipate, across southern Ontario.
Recommendations to ameliorate these negative changes are difficult to put forward, given the scope of the proposed change. Mere wordsmithing can't really address the drastic alterations proposed. One step that was suggested to us is if you leave the policies completely alone, and look to flexibility through rewording of the role of policies, subsection 3(5). A planner we sometimes hire for dealing with issues suggested 3(5) could be reworded to say something to the effect that the public bodies, in the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter, would "adhere to the principles contained in the policy statements...and to the principles contained in...official plans." This is an example of a different approach which retains the consistency and integrity of the policy statements, as devised over four years, but leaves the sought-for flexibility.
Another general concern we have is with official plans, having dealt with nine -- eight; nine only recently -- and their ability under the proposal to be amended frequently, quickly and with no requirement for consistency with, or even acknowledging in some cases, provincial policy statements. For instance, the deletion of subsection 26(4) prevents the province from, however you phrase it, requiring consistency with the policy statements. Without the amendment of subsection 23(1), the minister doesn't have the ability to even request, if an official plan is right off the wall, that it conform at least to some degree to provincial policies.
As I mentioned earlier, significant specific recommendations for changes are difficult to draw. What I've tried to convey to you is our concern about the scope of what is proposed, about what we anticipate to be the effect, based on 20 years of experience in a watershed which is urban and near-urban, next to Toronto. Thank you.
Mr Ouellette: Thank you for your presentation. I'm just going to ask a couple of questions to find out a little more detail about your organization.
First of all I'd like to know, do you have a specific policy regarding muskrats, and are you familiar with the damage that muskrats perform on river banks? Secondly, you mentioned the Atlantic salmon. Exactly what your organization doing in order to assist the reintroduction of the Atlantic salmon? Thirdly, on the tree-cutting policy of Durham region, how does that affect, or what's your position on, that particular policy?
Mr Marshall: I'll start with the last. I am not the person who is responsible for dealing with Pickering and Durham, so I can't address that in any detail, but I will go back and inquire.
The second question, about Atlantic salmon: We have a proposal to the federal government for funding for the restoration of the Little Rouge watershed on a continuing basis over a great number of years. We're also working on that on our own. We have a number of partnerships with the MTRCA, the MNR and the local municipalities for restoration projects. We're working with the Atlantic salmon group, which is a collection of experts from Canada, Ontario and other interested fishing groups, on determining the requirements; most of this has already been determined through studies in the Rouge watershed, so we're at the stage of implementing the requirements. It appears to be, based on the technical information to date, that there's not very much to prevent the Little Rouge watershed, which is extensively rural, from being rehabilitated to allow Atlantic salmon to exist.
Should it become urbanized, that question changes completely. Part of our concern is that with the proposed changes, prevention of ex-urban growth or rural splatter or sprawl is substantially diminished, and that even with the best intents of municipalities it could occur, could be approved through the OMB, and it would not be a rural watershed; it would become fully urbanized and, as fishery experts around the world know, beyond a certain limit, whatever you do, however carefully you do it, you've lost the river.
The first question was muskrat. We usually work in conjunction with interested parties -- for instance, land owners who have suffered damage from beaver and muskrat -- and the MNR in dealing with these technical questions. We don't presume to know the answers all by ourselves.
Mr Galt: Thank you very much. A most interesting presentation, and obviously you're very concerned about the environment and its protection. Let me assure you that this government is as well, as we're setting very tough standards to protect that environment.
I don't think you said so in so many words, but I expect you were making reference to "being consistent with" versus "having due regard for" as one of the areas of concern. This morning I used the word "expropriation," and maybe I shouldn't have used that particular word, but farmers, land owners, have lost, as a result of the previous bill, some of their rights to be able to use their lands. They were not warned; it was just laid upon them with no indication whatsoever.
We're looking at, as we go out with these hearings, the old wording of "being consistent with" is being interpreted as super rigid, and I gather from your presentation the words "having due regard for" are not. I see "having due regard for" being just about as rigid, except it leaves a little flexibility in there. I personally think local municipalities should have some flexibility but have the certainty of this very specific guidance. Do you see some other wording that would leave a little opening for municipalities to have some flexibility, yet certainty being left in the system?
Mr Marshall: Yes. What I had alluded to without being specific was an alternative wording that was suggested in section 3.5, referring to the minister and public bodies in exercising planning authority. Instead of "being consistent with" or "having regard for," it had been suggested by one expert we talked to that the wording would be something to the effect of "adhere to the principles contained in the policy statements and to the principles contained in approved official plans." The distinction this individual made was that if there is no commitment to the official plans, there's no consistency in planning in the municipality and it would be completely ad hoc. This diminution of certainty or common understanding is liable to result in an adversarial process throughout -- extensively, everywhere. I dread to think how the OMB can possibly handle it under the proposed changes.
Mr Galt: One of the problems we have is that we really don't know what our laws say until they've gone through the test of the courts and then we start to find out. Interestingly, your wording, "adhere to the principles of," is a different approach from either of the other two. I'm sorry I missed it in your presentation, but I've jotted it down.
Mr Gerretsen: Your presentation is very interesting, because you obviously don't represent developers or municipalities, all of whom are getting something out of this legislation specifically.
I'd like to follow up on that last point. The same point was made earlier today by John Sewell, who basically said if you go with the wording "having regard to," you're making it so broad and wide that even in the situation where both the municipality and a developer want to have a certain development go ahead, you're allowing the opponents of that development to build up arguments on almost anything at all that would have to be adhered to by the OMB, because there aren't any principles or guidelines the municipality has to follow in coming up with the planning decision.
You, in a different way, from a different aspect perhaps, have come up with exactly the same conclusion. What concerns me about that is, first of all, process. You've talked about process, how you were involved in changes to the other act and how long it took etc. What comments or suggestions do you have with respect to the process that was followed in the changes to this act?
Mr Marshall: I can't be complimentary. The process that led, for instance, to the policy statements was very extensive, did involve everybody. There was a number of revisions. It was put out; it was clear who the author was. And there was opportunity for comment and consideration. There may be a couple of lumps and warts on it, but it hung together pretty well as a set of policy statements.
In the version we have now, there are glaring inconsistencies that flatly contradict each other. There are definitions that don't have words in the text. It looks like it was knocked together fairly hastily. Most of the environmental protection has been stripped out, farm land protection, incentives to control urban sprawl. Each of these has an effect on an urban fringe area. The Rouge is one of the watersheds that's under the gun, so to speak -- different from eastern or central Ontario; the issues there are different. But the pressures in watersheds like the Rouge are extremely intense.
Mr Gerretsen: Would you agree with me that to effect changes to a municipality's official plan, you should go through a more extensive process than to change a particular zoning bylaw? I believe what's suggested in the bill is that basically the same process and same time lines are being adhered to. Does that make sense to you?
Mr Marshall: Our concern about the time lines for changing official plans or for addressing private official plan amendments -- private official plan amendments can be small or enormous in their effect. The time line is very short. Metro, I know, in the planner's brief to council, said that council may not be able to deal with the official plan amendment because the time lines are too short. Council sits; there's no space. The public would have a difficult time addressing it. If it moves that fast, you may wind up having planners' recommendations at the OMB because it never even got to council.
If an official plan is easy to amend and it's quick to amend and it could be amended drastically and it doesn't have to adhere to the policies, where is the consistency? We're afraid that people are going to come in with loopy ideas. We've been to the OMB on either side, as an appellant and as a respondent, and, if you'll pardon the allusion to an American dice game, it's a crap shoot. You don't know what you're going to get under the old rules. You really didn't. You'd look at the member and you'd think, "I think I know where this is going," but there just doesn't seem to be any consistency. We had an OMB member who completely disregarded the wetlands policy statement. He said: "Oh, I `had regard to.' Now we'll get on with it."
Mr Gerretsen: Do you have concerns that subdivisions can be approved without any public meeting at all?
Mr Marshall: I imagine that anybody neighbouring the subdivision would be very upset when they find out it's already approved, gone, finished, and they never even knew about it. We can't agree with that. Some of the details in subdivisions make the difference between development that is appropriate, efficient and protects the environment and one that just wipes everything out. These details are really important.
Mr Gerretsen: Exactly, and sometimes the general public will have a much better appreciation of where the parkland ought to be situated within a subdivision, for example, and how the streets ought to be laid out than the developer and even the municipality might have.
Mr Marshall: Whether they do or they don't, they certainly should be able to speak to it, because it affects them directly.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much, Mr Marshall, for coming to give your presentation. I want to make a comment. Mr Galt, with all due respect, said for the second time today that this government is strongly protecting the environment, in language like that, and I just want to put on the record that this government is dismantling over 20 years of environmental protection that's been put in place, through this bill and numerous other bills, including Bill 26, right under our noses. It appears that even government members aren't aware of that or they wouldn't say such things.
I'd like to point out that in this area perhaps I should be listened to a little bit. I come from Newfoundland, and I was one of the people, even though I was in Toronto at the time on Toronto city council, who participated in a rally here in Toronto with Newfoundlanders to try to persuade governments that there was a fish problem, a resource-consumption problem: overfishing in Newfoundland. Nobody listened. The then Conservative government in Ottawa was saying, "We've got to balance the environment with economics, blah, blah, blah." Nobody listened until the fish disappeared. The fish have disappeared. It is an example of what happens when these issues which are brought forward by people like you and others are ignored. "Oh, we've got to balance." That's what happens.
It's very important that people like you are not seen as just another special-interest group trying to impede development. Of course you're not trying to do that. You're trying to make sure that -- I get emotional about this. I have family members who can't make a living any more because they didn't listen to people like Mr Marshall. I just wanted to thank you for your presentation today and urge the government members to listen very closely to what people like Mr Marshall have to say.
Mr Marshall: I didn't emphasize, and I perhaps should, that we are not and never have been an anti- or no-growth-or-development group. What we promote is responsible, good development, and that's what we work with developers, municipalities and government agencies always to achieve.
The other point is that I would be absolutely delighted if there was a balance between growth and development and the environment. Actually, there is: It's 1% this way, and 99% this way. If we went 50-50, I think it would be absolutely fabulous. We have inherited 200 years of destruction, and we are in serious trouble. The water quality and the air quality are not getting any better, and our natural areas are disappearing. If it really were 50-50, we'd be putting a lot of effort into restoration, because protection isn't the issue; protection and restoration are what's required. If there were that balance, it would be wonderful. Unfortunately, the amendments proposed to the act and policy statements make it 0.5% and 99.5%. It doesn't really go the right way towards the balance, in our opinion.
Mr Hampton: Stephen, I want to ask you one question based on the statements you've made here today. If I heard you, you're basically saying that going back from "be consistent with" to "have regard to" is the wrong move, and that it is especially so when the policy statements themselves are being watered down severely; with the removal of the requirement that official plans be comprehensive, in other words, can be anything the council wants them to be now; with the provision for 90 days to amend an official plan, in other words, to amend the official plan at will; and finally, with the minister relinquishing the approval power for plans passed by upper-tier municipalities. What do you think the net effect of all those things will be in terms of the Rouge River Valley and the surrounding lands? If all this is being taken out of planning, what do you think the net effect will be on the Rouge River Valley and the surrounding lands in terms of some of the battles you likely foresee in the next few years?
Mr Marshall: Our concern is that if the proposals are carried and stay in place, most of the battles would be lost before they began; that we would have development in and by PARC itself, and development in areas where it should not be: sensitive groundwater recharge, natural areas, river valleys. With the cumulative effect of the urban expansion and the ex-urban development, which is sometimes more serious, up in the moraine, golf course subdivisions, we're concerned that under these rules, and depending on the market -- things may happen and there may be no development at all; it's quite beyond the Planning Act to determine what the market will be, and this is irrelevant to the market, in a sense -- if the market picks up like it did in the late 1980s, we'll lose the whole shebang. That's what we're worried about. We'll wind up like the Don or like the Humber.
The Chair: Thank you both. With that, we've reached -- exceeded, actually -- our allotted time. Thank you again, Mr Marshall. I noticed that during your presentation Ms Lois James has joined you. Continued good luck to both of you in your endeavours. Thank you for coming down to make presentation before us today.
With that, that being the last item on our agenda this afternoon, the committee stands adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning back in this room.
The committee adjourned at 1715.