Tuesday 13 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
Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations
William Roberts, past chair
Dale Ritch, vice-chair
Michael Opara, executive member
Ontario Society for Environmental Management
Ann Joyner, president
Mark Stevenson, chair, policy committee
Concerned Citizens of King Township Inc
Margaret Coburn, chairman
Elka Enola, executive member
Citizens for Affordable Housing, York Region
Peter Formica, coordinator
Metro Tenants Legal Services
Toby Young, staff lawyer
Canadian Bar Association--Ontario
Lex Bullock, chair, municipal section
Virginia MacLean, first vice-chair, municipal section
Paul Mondell, general manager, land development
George Aregers; John Anga
Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Avvy Go, director
Lloyd Cherniak, executive vice-president
United Tenants of Ontario
Barbara Hurd, coordinator
Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto
David Gurin, deputy commissioner of planning
Chris Burke, project manager, policy division
Phil King, senior vice-president, development
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)
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
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
Pettit, Trevor (Hamilton Mountain PC) for Mr Maves
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
Murray, Paul, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0908 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 Vice-Chair (Ms Barbara Fisher): Good morning. Sorry for the delay in starting. Sometimes that happens first thing in the morning. We welcome everybody to our hearings.
Just to outline a little bit the parameters around how we will operate this morning, we will allow 25 minutes for a presentation, to be used in whichever way, shape or form you choose. Welcome, Mr Davies.
Mr Jeffrey Davies: Good morning. I thought I would put some ideas before your committee. The ideas are solely my own. I have the privilege of working as a lawyer in the land use process and I thought that outlook would provide me with an opportunity to make some suggestions to your committee with regard to the way in which the bill could be improved, bearing in mind its original intent.
I have provided a letter to your clerk and I believe he's circulated it. Perhaps I could just give you an overview of these suggestions. I don't know if there would be any questions, but I'd be pleased to discuss it with you.
With regard to subdivisions and Bill 20, one of the things that is clear by analogy is that an appeal of an official plan amendment may be made directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. The bill takes away the step of seeking a referral through either the minister or a region. That may be the intent as well for subdivisions, but my reading of the bill makes that unclear and it would be extremely helpful if subdivisions could be appealed or referred to the municipal board without the intervening step of going through the minister or the region. This, in my view, is a needless step which simply promotes a lot of paperwork.
In looking at your bill, simple changes could be made to subsections 51(34) and 51(48) that would make it abundantly clear that a subdivision could be appealed directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. It presently takes three or four months at the very least to get a referral of a subdivision through the minister or through a region and this is just a total waste of time in my view. In that you're looking at speeding things up and making them more efficient, reducing the red tape, I'd strongly encourage you to make that simple amendment which would be greatly helpful to everyone.
That point regarding subdivisions is a procedural item. The second thing is a substantive item. That's my item (b). By way of analogy, if I may, under section 41 of the Planning Act, if one appeals a site plan to the Ontario Municipal Board, the Ontario Municipal Board has the jurisdiction under section 41 to actually settle the agreement so that when the hearing is over and you have a decision, you actually have a site plan agreement that is binding on the parties.
No such similar provision applies to subdivisions. Subdivision disputes are handled at the municipal board by referring conditions of draft plan approval and having the board revise the conditions. In highly detailed situations the board has detailed the conditions in a manner that would attempt to impose a subdivision agreement, but when the hearing is over the parties still have to go back and write a subdivision agreement. In my view, if the bill were amended, it would be a real improvement if the municipal board had parallel powers dealing with subdivision agreements as it does with site plan agreements, and I very strongly recommend that to you as a matter of getting things done and looking for finality.
On page 2 of my letter, I talk about dismissal without hearing and you have provisions in Bill 20 for dismissal without hearing. However, there are lots of situations where you have appeals, particularly of zoning bylaws which clearly comply with the official plan and which are not eligible for dismissal without a hearing or even some kind of summary procedure.
Most of these appeals are clearly in the form of nuisance appeals and it seems to me, with respect, that you ought to consider some form of summary dismissal where a bylaw can be shown to clearly comply with the official plan. Then a full-blown hearing dealing with the appeal ought not to be necessary. I don't view this as being a terribly difficult thing and, again, it would speed up the process and help to foster growth.
The third thing that I talk about in my submission is zoning. With regard to item (a), there are lots of situations where the most ridiculous disputes grind the system to a halt. I think you all know that. Often those disputes are not at all fundamental. One of my favourite anecdotes is a case I did years ago in Scarborough where a proposal was stopped because of a dispute over the colour of the window frames in a high-rise building. There was simply nothing that could be done, short of going to court or going to the municipal board, to break that logjam.
In my view, you ought to consider some form of speedy dispute resolution for situations which are not of a fundamental nature, but which none the less are stopping the system. These happen on a daily basis and are entirely counterproductive.
The second point I make under zoning has to do with your paragraph 3.2 of subsection 34(1). This is a section I suspect you'll be hearing from on others and it was amended vis-à-vis Bill 163. In my view, the general amendment to section 34 -- I'm not sure if you've had anyone else discuss this with you -- really doesn't clarify the situation. I wasn't sure what you were intending to do.
In that section, it provides for zoning to prohibit any use of land where you have certain categories of land; for example, hazards, contaminated lands, woodlands and things like that. The point that I wanted to make with woodlands is that woodlands are very distinguishable from the other classes of land in that section because we have treated woodlands as being lands that are developable if the trees were to be cut or if they were to be harvested or if they had not been grown as a plantation in the first place.
As a result, we have a system that is generally in place in southern Ontario where owners of woodlands, when those lands reach the development stage, the lands are purchased by the municipality at fair market value, as if they were developable for residential purposes. My concern with your section 34 with regard to woodlands is that it implies that the woodlands can be zoned for no further use and there may be no form of compensation available. This would be confiscatory zoning, in my respectful submission and I'm sure that's not what you intended.
I would suggest that in the first place, you delete woodlands from section 34 and secondly, that you reconsider section 34 and the subsections around it, because they do operate in a confiscatory fashion and I strongly doubt that's what you were trying to do.
With regard to complete applications, the concern I have is that they not be applied in a mindless fashion, where you have applications which, using simple common sense, don't require a litany of studies that a bylaw might stipulate. There should be some means of resolving any issue if the bylaw that the municipality passes is inappropriate because otherwise, what is happening in the land development business is that it's squeezing the small player out because the small player just can't afford to do all the studies that the big developers can afford to do. In my view, this complete application, while it makes sense, needs to have some leeway so that it can be applied in a commonsense fashion.
Over the page, I deal with policy statements and I'm not sure if your committee is dealing with policy statements. Is it?
The Vice-Chair: It's your time, if you'd like to bring that into the discussion, I think it could be helpful.
Mr Davies: Just a couple of brief points on policy statements: In section 1.1.2(b) there's a link of urban boundaries to infrastructure, and in my view that should be clarified so that it's clear that infrastructure will be provided when required and in the meantime, planning will go ahead. There's a lot of debate out there that planning, in the chicken-and-egg kind of nature, or catch-22 nature, should not go ahead until infrastructure is ahead, which I consider to be a rather shortsighted kind of argument.
Part of planning should be to plan for the provision of infrastructure. I think that if the policy statement in 1.1.2(b) is taken literally it could hamstring the planning process; 1.2(e), in my view, you're simply setting up a major situation. When the policy statement calls for preserving the vitality of existing commercial areas, what's happening is that those who seek to limit or regulate competition are being set up to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board and you're going to get all kinds of "store wars" style hearings that were not intended. So I would urge you to take a look at that.
The fifth point that I wanted to deal with has to do with development charges. I welcome the review that was announced, not because I'm opposed to development charges in any way, but because in my view the act, when it went through here in 1988, was a work of considerable compromise, and as a result it has a number of parts of the act which simply don't work. There are sections in the act which are poorly written and which don't relate well to one another. The act clearly, in my view, requires an overhaul. I understand that the government is moving in the direction of limiting development charges to hard services only, and of course that's the business of the government and the Legislature.
Part II of the Development Charges Act deals with front-ending. In my view, this is one of the most important parts of the act because it allows for the funding of infrastructure on a sort of with-confidence basis, in that the developer who has to put up the money can know that they can have an assurance that they'll be paid back. The front-ending portions of the act are in part II and they too are very poorly written. The result has been that part II of the act has not been well used. I would strongly encourage you to look at or direct your staff, or however you may be proceeding, to see to it that part II gets the overhaul it needs so that it can work.
The third point regarding development charges is that in 1989, when the act went through, one of the strong motivations was to provide for an open and accountable process, and I believe that's extremely important to maintain. The bill provides, I understand, that the minister will, at least on an interim basis, deal with the approval of development charges amendments. The concern I have is that this takes the process from the clearly open to a situation where the bylaw is reviewed on an administrative basis. I think it would be appropriate, if the act is going to be reviewed, to maintain the approval power with the Ontario Municipal Board but to give strong direction to the Ontario Municipal Board with regard to the types of services that are going to be allowed under the development charge.
The other thing I would point out, which results from a decision of the municipal board and from the court, is a point of extreme frustration with the Development Charges Act, and that is that if you appeal a development charges bylaw and the appellant can show that one component of the charge has been exaggerated, the municipality now can respond by saying that another component of the charge was underforecast and that it therefore makes up for the overforecast. This is what I call a moving target in development charges appeals, and it constantly happens. So I would strongly suggest to you that the appeals be dealt with on a component-by-component basis. The act says that the municipal board may not increase the amount of the development charge. I would suggest to you that the act should say that the municipal board may not increase the components of the charge. That would force the municipalities to live with the components that they forecast. Otherwise the development charge process is going to be a chaotic situation.
So those are some submissions that I've made. I tried to go over them on an overview basis so as not to bore with detail. If I can be of any further assistance, it's my privilege.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Welcome. I believe you and I go back a ways.
Mr Davies: A little ways.
Ms Churley: Probably I was sitting in city council objecting to some proposal, one or another --
Mr Davies: City of Toronto. That's right.
Ms Churley: Yes. But we won't go into that. I'm sure I supported some of the things you were doing.
Mr Davies: I don't remember it quite that way, but I'll accept it for the time being.
Ms Churley: Your submission, of course, is a very technical one and I think that's important that some of the technical aspects are looked by people like you who have a lot of expertise in the industry.
I wanted to ask you a few further questions on the development charge. I understand, as you mentioned, that there are numerous problems with it as it exists. The concerns around what this government is doing, however -- I think it opens up some difficulties around the ability for municipalities to be able to determine what kind of development charges are needed. The issue, and we have to face it, is that the Tory government is cutting back municipalities' transfer payments by huge amounts, up to 47%. The reality is that when new developments, especially in suburban areas, are created, there are soft costs as well as the so-called hard costs. Somebody's got to pay for those costs, and ultimately, if it's not the developer -- and of course those charges, it's true, are then handed down to the buyer -- it's going to be the general taxpayer.
I know this is an issue that's bedeviled a lot of governments for a long time and I think it's interesting to look at an overhaul, but I'd like to know what your opinion is. Who should be overall covering those costs of so-called soft services like schools and libraries and community centres? Do you think the overall taxpayer, or should the developer cover some of those costs?
Mr Davies: Part of the problem is that historically a lot of those things have been paid for out of tax dollars rather than development-charge dollars. So you've got large areas of the communities which are served by community centres, libraries, other things of that ilk that have been paid for out of the general revenues. To change the system in 1989 to fund those things out of development charges imposed a tremendous strain on new development. So the conundrum that you have is maintaining those things that have always been paid for out of general revenues in that fashion or transferring them entirely to development charges. I don't know where the answer is.
I think the problem is that the transfer that occurred when it did in 1989, when the new act came in, helped to very substantially inflate the development charges, and that has been counterproductive vis-à-vis growth. On the other hand, growth should pay for itself. So there probably isn't an answer that would satisfy you in that regard. A judgement has to be made, and at this time the priority is on keeping the charge down.
Ms Churley: Is my time up already?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, it is. Sorry about that. We were down to only three minutes a person, and we're already one past that. Sorry about that.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Mr Davies, thank you for coming and making your presentation this morning. I just quickly wanted to go to the first item in your presentation as to direct appeal for the subdivisions in subsection (34). The appeal is fairly direct and our change in Bill 20 is just to change the time frame from 180 days to 90 days. Do you see that as not sufficient direct appeal, because you have to appeal it to the municipality and forward it to the OMB, or do you think it's important that it goes directly to the OMB?
Mr Davies: I guess my point is sort of a technical one, because under 51(34) and 51(48), the paperwork goes to the municipality when the appeal is made, whereas under your changes to section 22 dealing with official plans, the paperwork goes directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. If you want to get things moving, which is what I think you want to do, then I would suggest that under 51(34) and 51(48) the paperwork go directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. That will get the files opened, the file will get in queue for a hearing and things will start to roll. I don't have a problem with the 90-day period. That's a different matter. It's strictly a matter of were the paper goes.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you, Mr Davies, for a very thoughtful presentation. I'm intrigued with what you've picked up on woodlands. Certainly in Bill 163 there was all kinds of confiscation going on with wetlands and lands around wetlands. It was very irritating to the farm community and land owners in particular.
You're identifying this with woodlands as another area where confiscation without compensation could occur. Do you want to expand a little more on that? I'm just a little surprised; you're the first to bring that one up that I'm aware of.
Mr Davies: Very clearly, if you look at the things in section 34, and I don't know if I have time to pull it out or not, a number of the items are very much dealing with classes of land which don't have a chance of being developed. For example, if you have a wetland, no one attempts to develop on a wetland. There's lots of argument over whether a piece of land is a wetland or not, but once it's determined that it's a wetland, no one would attempt to develop on it.
With regard to a woodland, because woodlands regenerate in the way they do -- they live and they die; they're planted or they might not be planted -- the practice has been to clearly say that woodlands are developable. All you have to do is cut the trees down and you've got a land that can support development. That has been broadly accepted, in southern Ontario anyway. So when woodlands go into public ownership, there's an expectation they'll be paid for as if they were residential land.
My concern with the section is that it will create an interpretation that will eliminate the need for compensation and then you'll get all kinds of problems.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Thank you very much, Mr Davies. I too enjoyed the presentation. I'm particularly concerned about speeding up the process. Having been involved in this from all three sides -- the municipal side, the developer side and the objector or public side from time to time -- over the last 25 years, I know that this is one area that no government, as far as I'm concerned, over the last 25 years has dealt with effectively.
I'm very much intrigued with, first of all, why the OMB doesn't use the "frivolous and vexatious" dismissal more often and why there aren't speedy dispute resolutions in situations where the average person on the outside, from an objective viewpoint, would say, "Yes, people have a right to have their say." This frustrates from all sides, not just from the public side but from all sides. Why does it take longer to get some of these matters heard or resolved than it would for somebody who's been charged with murder to have his trial over and done with?
Mr Davies: Let's pick up on that.
Mr Gerretsen: What reasons have ever been given to you as to why it takes so long for these things to get going; for example, this notion as to why the OMB shouldn't have the power to settle subdivisions? Has anybody in the ministry ever given you a reason why they can't do that?
Mr Davies: I don't know that anybody's got the definitive answer on the question, but the municipal board will say, and I'm sure from their point of view quite legitimately, that they're overwhelmed with files.
Mr Gerretsen: I realize that. I'm not talking about the time delay of getting a hearing on. You and I know that there have been situations with subdivision agreements, whatever, come before the OMB and there are always five or six or seven items that cannot be resolved right there and then, even though all the parties are finally sitting around the table and have had a full airing on the whole thing. Has anybody within the ministry ever given a reason to you why the OMB has not been given that power?
Mr Davies: I don't understand the historical reasons the OMB does not have that power, and that's why I'm suggesting to you at the bottom of page 1 of my submission that you give the OMB that power and let's get on with it. I don't understand the reason for the historical difference of why the OMB can settle a site plan agreement but can only deal with the conditions for a subdivision agreement. It doesn't make sense. If what you really want to do is bring about finality and get the system going, give the OMB that power.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming this morning. It's been very helpful.
Mr Davies: I hope it wasn't too technical but was of some help to you.
CONFEDERATION OF RESIDENT AND RATEPAYER ASSOCIATIONS
The Vice-Chair: Our next party is Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations. This is a reminder for our latecomers that we are in a 25-minute process, and however you choose to use your time is yours. We'll go into a question-and-answer period at the end if there's time. You could help us by introducing yourselves.
Mr William Roberts: Certainly. My name is William Roberts. I'm the honorary past chairman of the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations. My local ratepayer association is the Swansea Area Ratepayers Association. Mr Opara is a member of the executive of the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations and is a member of the Bedford Park Residents Association in North Toronto. Dale Ritch belongs to the Bloor-Junction Neighbourhood Coalition and the Dovercourt Park Area Residents Association, basically the west end of the city, working-class neighbourhoods. He's a vice-chairman of the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations.
I'm going to summarize the brief I've given you. We're going to narrowly focus on the issue of committee of adjustments appeals and what we believe is a fundamental destruction of community involvement. There are serious problems with the way the system works right now, but the solution of having a kangaroo court or a system where you have no ability to discuss matters or properly hear is essentially saying to people: "We'll make a political decision. We won't weigh the relative matters."
The problem with the OMB is that it's a hearing de novo. That's allowed the committee of adjustments to have very informal processes; in a sense, it's almost planning by ambush. What happens is that the applicant sets the process in place; they decide when to start the process and the clock begins to run. They can have up to a year to prepare what they're going to say at the committee. The residents will get about three weeks' notice. Most people work, and they can't always get to city hall immediately. In the case of the city of Toronto, it could be up to eight or 10 miles to travel if you're at the extreme ends. If you're not working downtown, it's not that easy to access the files between 9 and 5.
Probably about two weeks before the hearing, they begin to understand what the issues are. They appear at the committee of adjustment, and if there's no process for proper consideration at that level -- and it's the only place you're going to have a full hearing -- essentially, the citizens are already at a minus-sum situation.
If, as has been suggested, appeals may still lie to the OMB but the full costs will be passed on the municipality, the municipality may decide to pass the full costs on to the local residents, who at the beginning weren't given an opportunity to properly prepare their case, don't know whether what the applicant is saying is true.
If you were really trying to deal with the problem, which is in many cases a neighbour-neighbour dispute, you'd want to try to begin the mediation or dispute resolution process at the committee of adjustment level. It would make more sense if you had a process where the applicant begins the process, the committee has to set out a mediation or a pre-hearing date, and you would give the people surrounding the opportunity to file a letter indicating that they have concerns. If you had a meeting before everybody's drawn the lines in the sand and the emotional commitments are made on both sides, to try to see if there could be a resolution, where it's a neighbour-neighbour dispute, where somebody wants to build an 8,000-square-foot home in an area zoned for 3,000 square feet -- and I've seen that happen -- and the present home is 2,000 square feet, they might suddenly find the neighbours would be content with 3,500 but not 8,000 and maybe they should reconsider their plans.
Others times you have more significant issues that won't go away that easily, but the reality is, if the neighbours are excluded from a process and they suddenly find themselves there, they're going to file an appeal. If the only person who's doing the appeal is the local council, our problem with that is most politicians are used to dealing with political processes. They like the idea that they can leave the committee room and come back again. If you're going to try to have a hearing at the council, will they follow the rules of judicial procedure, which means that council member sits there through the full process, can't leave, can't deal with anything else, and for the five or 10 days their committee is dealing with this matter in legal argument, they can't deal with their constituents? Somehow I don't think that's what's going to happen.
The result will be a very easy, quick process for whomever is dealing with it. On one side, if you have a pro-development council, that will be great for the developers, but if you have an anti-development council you can guarantee the result will be no, no and no again, or if 300 people show up and oppose it, the answer will be no.
You need to develop a process that will allow for community involvement at an earlier stage. If you have a full hearing at a committee of adjustment or whatever level it is, at least people have had their chance to do that, and you could probably turn the Ontario Municipal Board or some other entity into a true appellate body that just decides whether somebody made an error in their decision, rather than having to have a brand-new hearing.
If you leave it to city council, the problem will be that you'll have a full hearing, and then it goes to city council and they make a political decision. I don't want to tell you what that's going to do to the process, but the reality for most people is that if they don't deal with city hall except when a committee of adjustment matter occurs, some of them -- they've never even been to court before. This is the first time they've ever seen an argument. Then if they find out at the end of day that nobody listens to their argument, that it's a political decision on who knows whom, well, you just blew the political process down the tubes, in the sense that why should anybody be involved in anything, why should they vote, why should they care what happens with the government? The alienation rolls along.
I'm saying you should show some sensitivity. We make a series of recommendations. It would be better, instead of what's happening right now, to really look at the process and develop a mediation process at the very beginning to see if it could happen at that stage, before, as I say, the whole neighbourhood's up in arms.
It would be desirable to have some sort of process, especially dealing with "minor." Part of the problem is that no one has gone and revisited the definition of "minor" since 1977, and if "minor" truly meant "minor," you might not get some of the disputes. For example, I know one case where a person tried to introduce an auto body shop into a commercial area where it was prohibited by calling it something else and claiming it was a "minor." It went all the way to the OMB and it was a three-day hearing. Finally at the end of the three-day hearing, the chairman realized the argument from day one, that the city had specifically zoned auto body shops out of this area and this was an auto body shop pretending to be something else, and he realized he should have dismissed it back at day one.
There's a problem here. To the extent that we can try to deal with it, it's desirable. To the extent that we simply make the changes proposed, I don't think they're going to solve the problem. They may streamline it, but the result may not be what you want. If you're really trying to streamline, mediation at the beginning would tend to streamline and maybe remove the disputes, where if a neighbour moves his wall three or four feet in a different direction, the appeal's over with.
That's essentially the submission. There's more detail, but I really didn't want to go into it all, but you could read it over. As I say, that's the problem: The definition of "minor" hasn't been really looked at since 1977 and it should be tightened up, and look at changing the process for mediation earlier on and probably a full hearing earlier on.
Mr Dale Ritch: I want to provide some background information for members of this committee, because the city of Toronto's committee of adjustment has been changing quite a bit in the last few years in terms of the type of workload it takes on. I'm not sure exactly how many municipalities outside of Metro have committees of adjustment or what kinds of issues they deal with, but the city of Toronto's committee of adjustment does not just deal with minor variances and consent applications, that is, severances, which probably might be more the norm outside of the city.
For instance, in the last couple of years, the city of Toronto has introduced some major changes into its planning procedures so that, for instance, conversions of commercial and industrial buildings to residential use are now allowed to go through the committee of adjustment process. For instance, a couple of years ago there was a building, just one of many, 7 King Street East, which was a very large commercial building converted to 315 residential units, and this was allowed to go through the committee of adjustment process. There's been quite a few conversions in the last two years. There's been at least a dozen major commercial or industrial buildings converted to residential use through the committee of adjustment.
At one committee meeting two weeks ago, there were two major development applications dealt with. Actually, both are quite close to this building. One was at Queen and Shaw streets, a large, five-storey, formerly industrial building located in a residential neighbourhood which the developer wanted to convert to 121 live-work condominium units. That was dealt with at the committee of adjustment, and on the same agenda, the same night, there was another major application at 424 Wellington Street, the Monarch Building -- there was a big article in the Star a couple of weeks ago about this one -- down on Richmond Street just west of Spadina, again a conversion of a formerly industrial building to live-work units, and this was in the middle of an exclusively industrial neighbourhood. This was particularly interesting, because the city has now launched a downzoning policy in a couple of sections of town to allow much more latitude for development of any type in an existing industrial neighbourhood.
A lot of these conversions raise a great number of planning issues which you can't really deal with at the committee of adjustment level properly, in our opinion, but the fact is that the city's decided to allow these conversions to go ahead through the committee of adjustment process and so be it. The point I'm making is that we're not just dealing with minor variances at the committee level now or consent applications, so the committee has broadened its scope quite a bit over the last few years in the city as compared to what the normal procedure would be.
I know there's quite a bit of feeling across the province that the Planning Act we have and the planning procedures we have have been an impediment to development and are slowing things down too much. You might be interested to know that right now in the city of Toronto, there are more than 20,000 units of residential dwelling units that have been given final zoning approval and yet no development, no action whatsoever has taken place on developing any of these units -- 20,000. What we have in the city of Toronto right now is an incredible glut of residential housing, to the extent that permission has been received to build 20,000 more units of residential housing and the developers are sitting on this, obviously because there's no market.
We recently saw some interesting stuff in the paper about a Hong Kong developer who wants to build four condominium towers down at Harbourfront. Maybe that's realistic, maybe it isn't. Nobody really knows. But if you take a look at condominium starts in Toronto last year and sales, you'll see that a heck of a lot more building is going on than units being sold.
The atmosphere we have in the city isn't really one of impediments to development by over-regulation. I think that's an important point to make.
The final point I want to make, and I guess what concerns us most about these proposed changes to the act, is that if appellants have to pay their costs at the committee of adjustment level, let's face it, the rich guy's going to win every time, in the long run. If you're forcing appellants to pay administration costs, not just the costs of hiring their lawyer or planner or whatever but actual administration costs, you're creating a situation where it's going to be very unfair against small property owners. That's our main concern. We more or less represent as an organization small property owners, ratepayers' groups and residents' associations, and we feel that creating such an atmosphere would make it impossible for the small property owner to have a fair chance through the appeal process.
Mr Michael Opara: There's an urgent need for municipal reform in this province, especially at the city of Toronto. I think that's one reason the city is in such a mess. I look forward to the province taking more action and doing more things in terms of reforming the Municipal Act, the elections expenses act and other acts.
But getting back to the committee of adjustment: To give you an example of minor variances that we've had go the committee of adjustment for, we had one building which was 60 feet over height, a major density increase, a new building, which went to the committee of adjustment; a house 100% over density, going to the committee of adjustment; another project which went from three times coverage to 3.8 times coverage. The city had just approved that whole strip to go to three times coverage, and it was in violation of the official plan. That went to the committee of adjustment. It was way over height.
The planning department, depending on what the project is and who knows whom, is steering projects to the committee of adjustment because they get through quickly. There's not enough scrutiny of certain projects. If we could redefine a minor variance and truly make it minor -- for instance, one homeowner wants to build an extra foot towards the property line of the neighbouring homeowner -- that's what the committee of adjustment should be used for, not for major projects where you have to investigate whether the schools and proper community facilities are in place.
We have to protect, in this process, the small homeowner. To give you an example, with my brother's house, the neighbour put in an application to go to the committee of adjustment to build a huge house next door. He lives in a bungalow in North York. The neighbouring house was going to extend halfway into his backyard, so half of his backyard would be shaded by this house. If there was not an independent committee of adjustment process with the right to appeal to the OMB, that house would have gone ahead. He was able, because there was time and because there was a chance for mediation because the committee of adjustment postponed its decision, to come to a satisfactory arrangement with the neighbouring property owner where everybody was happy. All the neighbours were happy with the plans; his backyard isn't being shaded; actually, the planning department said the new proposal was superior.
There is an urgent need that we keep the committee of adjustment process we have in place, with the right of appeal to an independent body such as the Ontario Municipal Board. There are a lot of faults with it, but it did work, in this case, relatively well. Thank you.
Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): On page 6 of your presentation you indicate that you support the return to the original wording of "shall have regard to." Could tell us why you feel that way? Also, if the change is made, do you see this as a sign that the government is relinquishing its role, or do you feel it'll still be able to monitor and have some input on any issues that are of provincial concern?
Mr Roberts: We actually opposed the original change from "shall have regard to" to "be consistent with." We felt it was mandating law by fiat, that you're giving the power to the ministers and the cabinet to make law, and that was inappropriate. The way the Ontario Municipal Board had looked at "have regard to" was that it was a very important matter to be considered, that government policy carries a certain weight just being government policy. The shift to "shall be consistent with" meant they didn't have the flexibility to say, "In these circumstances, this may not be appropriate." Depending on how in-depth those regulations got, there was a serious concern that it was removing due process at the OMB or at the city council level and making it an absolute requirement, which was inappropriate.
The reality is, if it's a government policy it has a certain level of weight at the board, period -- always has had. There's a series of court decisions where the court had to remind the OMB that a letter from the minister, while it may be of interest, doesn't remove the fact it could be tested. When you have "shall have regard to," it means it's testable; "shall be consistent with" means it's not testable. You can't even prove that there are facts that warrant the policy not applying in a given set of circumstances. For that reason, I don't believe the province is relinquishing anything; its powers are still there.
Mr Hardeman: You suggest that minor variances are more than minor variances and for that reason it requires the OMB to adjudicate a great number of those. You also suggest that there may be an opportunity to put a pre-hearing in place, and with that in place, you suggest that the committee of adjustment could be the final appeal process.
Mr Roberts: A possibility, but with some sort of process, whether it be to council or some other body, that they can review to make sure that the committee of adjustment -- to be quite honest, there was that situation in the city of York where it eventually it turned out that some of the committee of adjustment members were receiving benefits above and beyond what they should be getting in terms of making decisions. There was that implication.
If you have a body that is not appealable, the real risk becomes complacency because, "Nobody can look over my shoulder." People would simply do what they're going to do. I suggest that you could probably narrow the scope of appeal. At one point, there was an attempt to turn the OMB just into an appellate body, and it didn't work, partly because of the problems with the committee of adjustment -- but some sort of review process, whether it be the OMB or some other body.
What we suggested about three years ago is that you might want to consider creating, for example, a regional review board, an appellate body within the region to review those matters. It's still independent, and because it's drawn from more than one borough or municipality there's a possibility that it'd be harder to tamper with and we'd get an independent opinion that wouldn't reflect just that local municipality one way or the other. That's why I said the OMB or some other body.
But what's most important is at the committee of adjustment level, to make that a process where there really is a hearing at that stage and to allow the process. Right now, there's a requirement for the hearing to come on board within 30 days, whatever. If there were a process that allowed mediation at that stage where the normal process would be, the committee would try to sort things out. If nobody files a letter of intent of objection, the committee could hold a hearing at a given time without worrying about it, could do a whole pile of them all at once because they're pro forma. Where somebody says, "I have a concern," it goes into a process of mediation. If the mediation works out, it speeds up again. If you clearly identify what the issues are, people go to the committee with some sort of understanding of what they have to show, and it may help the whole process that way.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm very intrigued with your presentation, and I like this notion of having some sort of mediation beforehand and then giving the committee of adjustment wider powers, not only to deal with the application in front of it but to also make some amendments and changes, as long as it doesn't make the "minor" even greater than. If it's something less than, I think they should be able to deal with it.
I'm somewhat disturbed, though, as a former municipal politician, at this cynicism about municipal councils. I would suggest to you that if councils make their decisions on who they know etc, the same thing can be said for the committee of adjustment as well. In most communities, the same rule would apply.
Would you not agree that one of the main problems -- I guess this is my hangup and has been for years, about all these matters that come in the planning area or committee of adjustment area -- is just the lack of speed in the process, whether we're dealing with getting decisions out of councils, getting decisions out of the OMB, getting a hearing before the OMB, getting an application through the ministry's office -- it just goes on and on. Time is money, no matter which side of the fence you're on.
Do you have any comments on that? The residents out there who may be opposing something have as much right to know where they stand early on in the game. They shouldn't have to wait a year or a year and a half either. Everybody always assumes that anybody who makes this kind of argument is pro-development. I'm no more pro-development than anti-development. I'm just in favour of getting on with it, whatever it is that's being brought forward.
Mr Roberts: To be quite honest, with my experience at the city of Toronto and some other areas, usually the community gets advised that something's coming up; they get involved. Then it disappears into the labyrinth of the bureaucracy for a year and a half, two years, spews out again and the residents say: "But we've just got the notice two weeks ago. We haven't had a chance to read this inch-thick report. Can you give us two weeks?" And the comment comes, "But we've been dealing with it for two years" -- "but, but, but, but." Part of the problem is that when it gets to the bureaucracy or gets outside the political process or people are excluded from the process and decisions are made -- I've even seen the situation with site plans where the applicant sits down with the site plan proposal, goes through the whole site plan process for a year with the local planners, then it spews out into the community and the community starts raising issues, and there's further delay.
In some ways, the problem with the process that I see is that there's a failure of the community getting involved early enough to know what the issues are. I also sometimes have found that it's during the process of waiting for the OMB. In terms of city plans, for example, further discussions with the planners resolved several issues that hadn't yet been resolved while we were waiting for the lengthy OMB hearing to start. What could have been a three-year ended up being about three months, simply because there was pressure on everybody to resolve it.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. If you could tighten up the answer, I'd appreciate that. I don't mean to be rude, but we're going into lengthy questions and therefore lengthy answers, it seems, and we're running into other people's times. If members would shorten up the questions, it would help a lot.
Mr Gerretsen: There were three questions from the other side, Madam Chair.
The Vice-Chair: It was still within the time parameters.
Mr Gerretsen: We'll start timing them from now on.
The Vice-Chair: I am.
Mr Roberts: I'll try to make this very quick. Part of the problem too is that if you shorten the appeal period, you increase the number of appeals. For example, if you have a 20-day appeal period after a decision, you're basically saying that people have to make a decision whether they're going to file an appeal and they may not have a chance to talk to a planner or a lawyer, so what are they going to do? The advice from any lawyer is, "File your appeal and work it out afterwards." Once they've filed their appeal, there's a tendency for people to go into a state of, "I don't have to do anything for the next six months."
Ms Churley: I don't have time, but I have a number of questions. We have some agreements and some disagreements. I would like to go into those at another time.
I want to ask you specifically about something you didn't touch on in your brief but you may have an opinion on. One area I have concerns about in the new bill is that only the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing can now appeal at the OMB and that the Ministry of Environment and Energy and Ministry of Natural Resources etc will be able to do that. The minister says it's a coordinating role. My concern, and I'll tell you up front -- I've been in cabinet, I've been there -- is that I know that sometimes certain ministries get shoved aside. If there's a development that the Minister of Municipal Affairs really wants, it's going to go ahead. The fact that the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Municipal Affairs could have their say, could tell the public up front what they're concerned about, would have an impact.
It appears it's not going to happen any more. What's your opinion on that? It's been said it's in the name of speeding things up, blah, blah, blah, but it has some serious implications for the public.
Mr Roberts: Actually, I view it as a conflict of interest. When the same person who decides whether to refer an official plan also decides whether they're going to object to it, you're creating a problem. I had a situation where -- I'll try to make this short -- there was a possibility of expropriation going on and the minister sat on the referral to the last possible moment of an OP amendment. I'm not saying there was anything untoward, but it creates the impression that something's occurring there. If you're going to have one ministry alone doing it, it probably should be the Attorney General, and the Attorney General would act as agent for the other ministries. In theory, the Attorney General is far enough removed from municipal affairs and planning that it could provide the coordination and be an independent body that isn't getting advised by the same planners who said, "There's no problem here," or "There is a problem here." In other words, is the judge deciding whether he will ask a party to come or send a party to the table, or even the prosecuting attorney deciding? It's the same person. The judge and the prosecuting attorney are one and the same when it's the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming this morning.
Mr Roberts: We appreciate. It was short notice, just from 10 o'clock yesterday.
Ms Churley: Madam Chair, before we move on, I just want to make a motion, and I'm wondering if I should table it right now so we can deal with it at the end of the hearing this morning. Is that okay?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, go ahead.
Ms Churley: I'd like to table it now.
I move that this committee formally request the Minister of Environment and Energy to appear before this committee to answer questions relating to the effect of the Planning Act amendments, Bill 20, on the environment and the people of the province of Ontario.
I just moved it as opposed to tabling it, did I?
The Vice-Chair: You're moving a motion, is my understanding.
Ms Churley: Yes, I guess I just did that.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll second it.
The Vice-Chair: There's no need for a seconder.
Ms Churley: I'm happy to leave the debate till after the submissions. I think that would be better rather than at this point.
The Vice-Chair: That's right. So what you're asking for, then, is one stage for this motion to be acted upon but to proceed with the hearings today.
Ms Churley: Sure, and then at the end of the hearings at lunchtime we can deal with it.
The Vice-Chair: Is everybody agreeable to this? We will proceed with the hearings as we are now and we'll deal with the motion before we adjourn this morning. Everybody agreed? Carried.
ONTARIO SOCIETY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
The Vice-Chair: We have the Ontario Society for Environmental Management. While they're coming forward, I'd like to remind committee members that we are trying to adhere to the 25-minute limit. I will be asking for brief questions and whatever answer is necessary to the question, but we're going to have to adhere to the 25.
Mr Gerretsen: And that's for all sides.
The Vice-Chair: We started a few minutes late, and just to let you know I am timing and I have recorded times. In fairness to all parties and those who have to follow, I'd appreciate that. We welcome you here this morning. If you'd like to introduce yourselves.
Ms Ann Joyner: Thank you very much. I'm Ann Joyner, the current president of the Ontario Society for Environmental Management, and this is Mark Stevenson, who's one of our council members and the chair of the policy committee.
Just as an introductory point, I'd like to say that the Ontario Society for Environmental Management is a volunteer organization. We get all of our funds through revenues from our members and through events. Mark and I are both environmental planners in private practice and doing this as a volunteer initiative.
The OSEM was established in 1976. I'm going to summarize the brief that you have in front of you. You might want to keep the recommendations section in front of you as a lead-in. It's an interdisciplinary association with about 150 members right now, and what's unique about it is that it draws membership from a variety of different disciplines including law, planning, biological sciences and social sciences. We are united by ecologically based principles and are resolved to maintain and enhance environmental health. We promote environmental management through conferences, meetings, seminars. We have a newsletter and we participate in initiatives like today, providing comments on public policy, and we did so for the previous government as well.
With regard to the bill itself, we are very pleased to see that the emphasis continues to be placed on the protection of the environment in the new directions described by the government. We also very much support the need to streamline government and create a faster, less costly approach to environmental management. Many, many of our members have experienced quite negative situations where things could have been done more quickly and more cost-effectively.
But we also have some suggestions where we think that things could be improved to come up with a better balance that protects the environment and allows flexibility for municipalities. That's the focus of this brief, to provide comments that we think would improve Bill 20 and some of the other initiatives.
The focus of this brief is obviously Bill 20, but we want to stress that we think it's important that the government considers the effect of Bill 20 with the other initiatives that are ongoing right now, with particular emphasis on the policy statement which has been released. We are also commenting on that and will provide a second brief to government staff on that. I don't believe it's coming to the legislative committee.
The combined effect of the policy, the bill, Bill 26, changes in administration and the fiscal policies of the government are fundamentally changing the way that environmental management will occur in the province, and we urge you to try to consider how all of those things are interacting together.
I'm just going to briefly touch on the policy, because it connects to the statement of "have regard to" or "be consistent with." Our brief on the policy statement is going to say that we believe that the policy statement lacks clarity and does not carefully and succinctly define what the provincial interest is in particular matters regarding the environment.
We're going to comment that we think that improvements could be made to the policy and in particular that the guidelines and support documents should provide better guidance on environmental management. I think my catchphrase on the policy has been that ambiguity is no replacement for flexibility, and I think you need to think about that with regard to the policy statement.
Now I'm going to get on to the general comments on the bill itself. In our opinion, planning reform has to meet two primary objectives with regard to the environment, and that is to increase certainty and efficiency of the process and to ensure that important natural systems are protected permanently. To do this, municipalities must be instructed to protect key features and systems in a consistent and comprehensive way and municipalities must have the support of the province to achieve this.
Because the municipal plan is one of the strongest instruments available to protect the environment, it's our opinion that the role of the province is to clearly define the fundamental provincial expectations for the environment for municipalities, so that every municipality can then embody those expectations in its official plan, which then becomes the actual instrument that affects on-the-ground changes, affects how land uses occur.
The other sort of general point I'd like to emphasize, particularly to this group, is that the province varies considerably in terms of the environmental policy in place today. The GTA and municipalities like perhaps Waterloo and Ottawa-Carleton represent the most progressive municipalities. They've got good provincial policies in place. They've spent a lot of money doing research and data. But they don't necessarily reflect the whole province.
We have to be careful that the kind of legislation that comes forward is geared not only towards the GTA but towards the other municipalities, rural and northern Ontario, that perhaps don't have the resources in place and haven't put in place the structures that these more advanced and resource-rich municipalities have been able to do. We see that a lot in our private practice.
Now into the nitty-gritty here. The first point I'm making in section 2.2 of the brief is with regard to "be consistent with" versus "have regard to." It's OSEM's position that the movement back to "have regard to" will only exacerbate uncertainty and lead to greater inconsistency and vagueness in the way that we protect the environment.
We recognize that there is a need for flexibility at the municipal level and for choices to be made at the municipal level, but we think that flexibility can be embodied in the policy statements themselves. The policy as it exists today is extremely flexible. Every single statement has an out for the municipality to undertake its own approach to implementing the policy. The combination of that kind of ambiguity about flexibility with "have regard to" is too much flexibility. It just doesn't leave enough provincial direction on environmental management. We've always, as an organization, supported "be consistent with" and we will continue to do that.
The second point is with regard to greater delegation of power to local municipalities, and this is a general point. Natural systems, as most of you realize, aren't defined by municipal boundaries. Things like the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges moraine and watershed boundaries extend beyond the municipal boundaries and it's the provincial responsibility to ensure that municipalities work together to deal with the environment in the appropriate units. That kind of leadership, in our view, is not promoted in the current bill. Some of the more specific things I'll raise in a moment. We'll give you some more specific changes that we'd like to see to promote ecosystem-based planning.
The next point is mandatory planning for local municipalities. The current bill focuses on the county level and the regional level and requires that official plans be developed for those levels, but there is no requirement for local official plans to be developed. We recommend that section 17 of the act be amended to require official plans at the local level, which would then require local municipal plans to reflect the policy statements which, in turn, will ensure the protection of the environment at every government level.
We have some specific comments on sections of the bill. New subsections 1(2) to 1(4) refer to Municipal Affairs as the only public body, and I believe a question was just raised on this for appeals. We support the idea of a one-window approach. All of us have experienced situations where different ministries come forward with opposing views that aren't balanced internally for the government.
Obviously, it's important that the government tries to get its own house in order before positions are raised with the public, but at the same time we're quite concerned that only Municipal Affairs has the ability to appeal. It doesn't leave any check or balance on Municipal Affairs and, frankly, we just don't want to put all our trust in Municipal Affairs to make the right decisions to ensure that they're informed correctly.
Specifically, that relates to two things. One is the appeal ability and the other is the ability for individual ministries to decide whether they want to be at the board to protect their interests, regardless of what position the government's taking at the board. Although we support the idea of one window and that the government should get its house in order and come forward with one position, I still think that the check on that should be that provincial bodies have the ability to appeal and that they have the ability to decide whether they want to be at the board.
Next is powers for exemptions. Sections 4 to 7 of the bill allow the minister or approval authority to exempt plans and plan amendments from the requirements for approval. Given that the official plan is the most primary tool for local planning, we have a lot of questions about what the purpose of this exemption provision is and what the requirements and criteria will be for enacting this exemption. We recommend that the criteria for these kinds of exemptions be predefined now and that the process for those exemptions be put on the table so that we as a public understand what this exemption provision is all about.
With regard to the time frames, we support the idea that reduced times should be a definite priority with regard to all planning approvals, because there is no need for the sorts of time frames that have happened consistently in the past. But good planning requires good information to be at the table, so the time frames should be connected to the prescribed information.
Just for everyone here's information, what happens when an application comes in is that there's an amount of information that is called prescribed information that's required before the time clock begins for these time frames. At the moment the prescribed information is extremely minimal. If you put your name on the application with some location information, the time clock starts. In our view, to make good, informed decisions, the time clock shouldn't start until all the appropriate information is on the table. Either the prescribed information requirement should be enhanced to ensure that all information necessary to cover all the policy statements is on the table or municipalities should have the flexibility to crank up that prescribed information requirement.
With regard to the deletion of the requirement to hold a public meeting for plans of subdivision, we don't support the deletion of this requirement. From an environmental perspective, the public is often the body that brings forward important information on community values and environmental quality and environmental features, and to reduce the opportunity for the public to speak in a comfortable forum, as opposed to at council, I think is a movement in the wrong direction. I also think that the expectation exists right now -- the public expects at least the level of public consultation that we've got now -- and to reduce that is going to cause problems.
I'm on section 3.6 of my brief right now with regard to development charges. Sections 45 to 57 of the bill contain some amendments to the Development Charges Act but, more specifically, there is a review under way. Some of the information that was released with the media package on the bill indicated that the intention is to link development charges specifically to hard services. We have a concern with that with regard to the kinds of studies that we think are necessary, and coming back to my ecosystem-based planning approach, many kinds of studies that are needed to deal with environment and infrastructure, like water, sewer, transportation, master planning and sub-watershed planning, require interjurisdictional studies, and they require studies that should be funded by more than one developer, if you're going to use development charges.
The current development charges allow those studies to be funded. We've seen many good examples of where development charges have been used to fund necessary studies that will provide the growth strategy information that we need to establish the need and the appropriate locations for infrastructure. We should continue to be able to use development charges in that manner.
We would be concerned with a movement specifically to only hard services for the Development Charges Act. I understand that this government is really promoting the idea of public-private partnerships, and this is one place where it's working very well right now. So let's not move in the wrong direction.
With regard to the transition provisions, our only comment there is that we just went through a whole year of trying to understand Bill 163 and the transition provisions. We're now trying to understand the new transition provisions and, frankly, it's extremely confusing to us, who spend our whole lives trying to understand this. I hope that a really concerted effort towards education will be put in place so that everyone knows where they stand, depending on when their application got in the mill.
Finally, there is a great opportunity at the moment to integrate planning and environmental approvals. If an initiative that's on the table is streamlining and efficiency and cost-effectiveness, we think this government should take one step further and think about integrating environmental approvals under the Environmental Assessment Act and other regulatory standards with planning.
It's our position and the position of many of our members that the time has come and we're at a point where we've evolved and we understand what benefits the Environmental Assessment Act has brought to the table, the Planning Act has now been adjusted to try to reflect some of those elements and the time has come to integrate the two processes. Instead of having to go through infrastructure approval under the Environmental Assessment Act and planning approval under the Planning Act, let's think about how we can put the two processes together.
There are a number of initiatives by various non-government organizations to provide some leadership in this regard, and OSEM will be part of that. OPPI, which is the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, the regional commissioners and AMO all think that this is an initiative that's worthy of action in the near future, so we'll be providing a more specific brief on that at some point in the future.
I guess, finally, I'd just like to say that OSEM is pleased to be at the table today. We'd be happy to work further to develop some of these ideas and provide more specific thoughts, if that's required. We thank you for having us here today.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you. Would you like to address the group as well or shall we go into questions and answers?
Mr Mark Stevenson: Move to questions.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm curious about the position you've taken on the "have regard to" or "be consistent with" provision. We just heard from another group before yours that took exactly the opposite viewpoint but for exactly the same reasons. They were basically saying that if you went to a "have regard to" statement, there is in effect more certainty in that at least you could say, at the OMB level, the municipality has looked at it and may have rejected it for whatever reasons. I wonder if you could just expand on your position on this matter a little bit further.
Ms Joyner: I'll start and then Mark can add in. My position is that even if it is "be consistent with," there still would be a requirement to demonstrate that you have been consistent with a policy statement. So the idea that it will be unnecessary I think is not correct.
I think fundamentally we all agree that what we want is clear leadership by the province, allowing necessary flexibility for municipalities to do made-in-municipal solutions. I don't think there's any argument about that. The argument is, how do we get there? Our position is, the combination of vague policy statement and "have regard to," which is vague, is too much vagueness, to much ambiguity. We either need to strengthen one or the other to achieve what we want, which is clear provincial direction with flexibility to allow municipalities to have made-in-municipal solutions.
Mr Gerretsen: When the provincial direction changes through new policy statements, what's your position with respect to your input or the public's input into that process? Do you have a position on that?
Ms Joyner: I think, like in any other policy or legislative change, we need to have input the same way that we're having input right now into the policy statement. We are finding it frustrating that the only input we're having to the policy statement is at the staff level and that we don't have access to this kind of group.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm not from a two-tier municipality, so maybe you could just explain this to me. In moving the official plan level up to the second tier, the higher tier, would that not apply to the lower-tier municipality as well then? Do you follow what I'm saying? If you had an official plan for an upper-tier municipality, why would it be necessary for a lower-tier municipality to have an official plan as well when in effect they are part of the upper tier?
Ms Joyner: I think the practice is that the local municipality do produce plans that are on a community level and they reflect much more specific needs and desires of the local community.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Thank you for an informative brief. I just have some very direct questions based upon the points that you've made. In your opinion, will this bill and the associated policy statements in fact lead to ecosystem planning or ecosystem-based planning?
Mr Stevenson: I'll start.
Ms Joyner: Yes. That's a big question.
Mr Stevenson: Currently, the combination of the two we don't think promotes ecosystem planning. We're reviewing the version of the policy statements now and getting our comments together, so we haven't quite done that as council yet; they're due in early March. It is too vague to really direct an ecosystem-based approach to planning and touched on our concern about ecosystems crossing municipal boundaries and what you do there and what the provincial role is. Currently, the combination of the bill and policy statements does not foster or promote ecosystem-based planning.
Mr Hampton: Can you explain to us why it's important that we move to ecosystem-based planning? Why is it important that we search out significant woodlots and seek to have them protected or properly managed within a planning system? Why is it important that we seek out the headwater areas of significant streams and rivers and ensure that they're not paved over or used as draining ditches?
We talk about this but it seems to me there's a fundamental issue here. We enjoy -- we have enjoyed for the most part -- a fairly attractive physical natural environment here in Ontario, but it seems to me we're in danger of losing it if we're not thoughtful. So why should we do this? Why is it important to protect those significant woodlots? Why is it important to have a planning system that recognizes the tributaries of creeks and rivers and so on?
Ms Joyner: Let me start on that one, again a big question, but three points. The environment reflects qualify of life and quality of health, and clearly the protection of water quality, air quality and natural systems is what gives us the ability to breathe clean air and drink clean water.
On a more practical level, though, there are two reasons that we focus on ecosystem-based planning, which is going beyond municipal boundaries. One, as I said, is that natural systems don't respect municipal boundaries. For example, a stream crosses a municipal boundary. The water quality has to be assessed with regard to how it starts in the headwaters and goes down to Lake Ontario. The only way of managing that water quality is to manage it as a system, to understand how something that happens at the top of the stream affects what's going on at the bottom of the stream. So it's very fundamental to natural system quality.
Another point is that these features cross municipal boundaries. For example, on hard features like forests and natural habitat units, if we follow the process we've got right now, you might have the same forest on one side of a municipal boundary not being considered to be significant and on the other side being considered to be significant. It's important that we understand, is it significant or not; what needs to be protected; how much of it needs to be protected to keep those animals or features that we think are important to us intact?
The second important thing is a lot of the infrastructure that we need to support the kind of quality of life we have right now: Storm water, water supply, sewers and transportation cross these municipal boundaries and are planned on a cross-municipal basis. For us to understand the implications of that infrastructure on these natural systems, we've got to be planning for them on this broader basis.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): My question is taken more from the general perspective. You mentioned during your presentation the environmental management practices that have been achieved in Waterloo and a couple of other municipal jurisdictions. I would contend perhaps that that hasn't been necessarily achieved solely at the direction of provincial policy. I think there has been some local initiative, either through the region or otherwise, that has achieved that excellence.
Would you, from your perspective, not see that it would be appropriate for the government to establish a minimum standard, as we have done through the provincial policy statement, and then, given your comments with respect to transition in the role of education, see an increasing role for organizations such as yourselves and other municipalities that have placed a priority on this area to achieve standards that exceed the minimum anticipated in the policy statement? Do you see that as a possible role, whereby we'd get a direct application of experiences through your organization and others in the context of a mentoring process?
Ms Joyner: I think that's a worthy initiative. What I would argue with is that I don't think the provincial policy sets a minimum standard that will be or can practically be applied across municipalities. That's where I think the fine-tuning is needed. You just have to look at the water quality and quantity or a cultural heritage policy to see that there is no real direction provided in that policy other than, "You should consider water quality." There's no minimum standard whatsoever provided in that policy statement. I think if the policy statement has a minimum standard, then your mentoring system is an excellent idea for taking the excellence that we've achieved and spreading it around -- I totally agree -- along with some resources and program initiatives, yes.
Mr Stevenson: I think we agree that the province needs to define that minimum standard to protect that provincial interest, and that further enhancement -- not only maintenance and protection in that case at the minimum standard -- could be and should be promoted throughout the province. So defining that minimum standard, I think as Ann said, is a question mark right now and the difficulty.
Ms Joyner: I heard an excellent statement by a fellow planner who said he felt that some of his clients have expressed to him that they feel like they're on the road going towards environmental protection and they can see the provincial government passing them on the highway, going the other way. That's a really serious concern and I don't think that's the perception you as a government want to be promoting. But that is perhaps the perception that's out there, that the municipalities are ahead of you.
The Vice-Chair: That's the close of our time. Thank you for coming. We enjoyed your presentation.
The Vice-Chair: Would Margaret Hutchison like to come forward, please. Margaret, welcome. I would like to advise the members of the committee that there is no handout. There will be one coming later.
Ms Margaret Hutchison: Thank you. I'm really glad to come after the group ahead of me because they've done more of a line-by-line assessment of the bill and I probably concur with a lot of what they've said. I'll introduce myself in a little bit. I have learned planning by confrontation, planning by the OMB hearing, and I'll be giving you some examples that will answer some of those questions.
I'm a farmer. I live in Grey county. By profession, I'm a consultant on communications and medical research and science, not a planning and legal professional, but through the planning process and my introduction to it, I've become a quasi advocate at the OMB for farmers and developers and anyone who has difficulty with the planning system.
My first involvement, actually, was a letter to the editor. I read an article in the Globe and Mail on the Algarve coast in Portugal, and the headline was, "Billion-Dollar Industry Going Down the Tubes as Development Takes Over Algarve Coast." It seemed to fit in with some of the issues that I was being presented with, which was a hydro corridor that would go between my house and barn after I'd just invested a large amount in my house there -- I might have chosen another site had I known that was in the works -- swiftly followed by a conversion of what is a provincially significant wetland formally known to me as "the swamp." Ontario Hydro was told to go around it because it was going to be difficult. It's the headwaters of five rivers in Ontario. It's on the Niagara Escarpment. A lot of issues I had never paid attention to before, but when I found that it was still going to go ahead without my input -- and subsequently, then, the application to convert this to a hunt club next to my sheep farm. The two uses did not seem to me compatible.
As a result of this letter to the Globe and Mail then, I received responses from -- I didn't even know people in my county could get the Globe and Mail at the time. I used to drive 20 miles just to get one on Saturday, and that was the closest we came. But there were a few people who read it. Out of that then came several people who had been former municipal reeves involved in the development of our county official plan who were finding that this plan was being totally ignored, and their friends and neighbours who have other occupations besides staking their turf against residential development, gravel pits, snowmobiles, other farming operations which were not compatible with their own. For instance, I wouldn't want someone raising wolves beside me. Their county was really in an economic crisis because of this.
In fact, the province was sustaining bad planning by, with the one hand, allowing people to go to the Ontario Municipal Board, allowing municipalities to make decisions and totally disregard their official plans, and allowing them to tell land owners, "If you don't like it, you can sue us or you can get a lawyer and a planner and everything else and we'll deal with that," and, with the other hand, had their hands out that any problems that had occurred, the province would simply subsidize them. For instance, in water and sewage applications, the province will subsidize 85% of fixing the problem.
As a taxpayer -- and I think in this recent election you've heard from a lot of other people like me -- that does not make sense. I'm pleased that some of what has been done with the Planning Act that I have been involved with the last five, six years through two governments now to streamline and make sense of, is occurring. But as the group ahead of me pointed out, there are a few things which I still have difficulty with.
I'm not going to dwell on the "shall have regard to" and "be consistent with"; I'm sick to death of that. But the objective to have clear policies on the province's part, a bottom line that says this is the product we want to come out with, this is what we need to give our citizens the kind of security, whether they're farming, whether they're building a retirement home, whether they're starting a ski club, whether they're opening a gravel operation. If the school board builds that school right beside the gravel pit -- subsequently we've had a school that had to move because the two were getting closer and closer. It's now a hockey camp, I believe. I'm not sure how that's compatible, but I guess they don't go out for recess, they go over to the local arena. But there was, I don't know, $4 million or $5 million of a school just torn up because no one was thinking that of course the gravel use would expand, because that's where the gravel is. God put it there. You can put houses or schools in other locations. The whole purpose of this planning is to provide that kind of security for everyone.
To go back to that theme, a perfectly good term I feel has been overused -- "common sense." In planning, common sense for one person is not common sense for the next person, and the whole purpose of planning is to allow everyone to have some measure of security and economic benefit. I'm pleased that the sort of long title for this bill is to support economic development and the environment, and the two are definitely compatible, interchangeable, interdependent. We cannot afford not to protect our environment.
In an instance of an area where development was banned five or six years ago, because of projected water plans which the Ministry of Environment had raised, in an area which is a bedroom community to a larger area, now those people -- and their expectation is what has been dashed -- are suddenly being asked to spend $4,000 or $5,000 extra simply to have that water upgraded. The buildings either never should have been there in the first place or everyone should have agreed that yes, it's worth it to do this right. But let's do it right, because we can't afford to have all those houses suddenly empty; or they can't be sold, because who will buy a house that has no clean drinking water and no way of disposing of waste?
In a sense, when I say I've worked through three governments, this goes back to the expectation after the Second World War, as you all know, of the Planning Act to just provide this kind of security for Ontario. I'm not going to dwell on the "have regard" and "be consistent with," as I said, because we've all heard too much about it. But I think if this government does nothing else with this bill, give clear policy to prevent the kind of confrontations that I see every day and take time out on my-you know, no charge to go and help people, and my only success is that I haven't lost an argument at the OMB yet, because it's always common sense, and you can't ignore that. When it's been put into an official plan and everyone's agreed on it, there are no exceptions.
One of the issues that is of special interest to me and that I worked on through these last six years is the notice regulations. My feeling is that if everyone who would have some stake in -- often this applies to provincial ministries. There are ministries that have not been notified that there's an application going ahead. My concern with not allowing a ministry to make an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board or to Municipal Affairs to ensure that they appeal it is in the case where there's such a swamp of paperwork and data is wrong, an application does have a mistake in it. This has happened time and again. In my own case, the Ministry of Natural Resources approved something and it had looked at the wrong property. When you get out into the backwoods, it's not difficult to happen. We're improving that a lot now with our new GIS -- geographic information system -- computer mapping and integration. I hope all of those initiatives that had been started under the reform of the Planning Act through Bill 163 will continue.
But this is where good notice to everyone involved will ensure that the kind of information that has to come will be there and that we will not be paying for the kinds of mistakes that I've seen happen time and again. In one instance, the Ministry of Environment sent someone and wondered why culverts were 10 feet off the ground, thought the Ministry of Transportation must have been dreaming that day. Anyone who's lived there as long as everyone in the neighbourhood has knows that every once in a while that highway is completely under water, and so is everything around it, and of course you couldn't put three retirement lots in that area. But for the person who brought it to the ministry's attention, it involved two years of struggle with an OMB hearing, with, "Do I get a lawyer or not?" and not for his own property, simply for his own community, for the potential neighbours who would move in who would subsequently, the first year their basement flooded or their road was washed out, be going to his own municipality, which would be liable for that decision. This is the kind of thing that this bill is going to hopefully straighten out.
The other part of the bill that has been of particular interest to me, of course, is what was formerly policy D -- I'm not sure whether all those names apply -- the agricultural policy. I'm quite involved with the federation of agriculture. Grey county -- and Bruce to some extent, but more Grey -- is not entirely unique in the province, but we have excellent farm land interspersed with rocky pasture land. As sheep farmers, as beef farmers we make the highest use of that land by pasturing our livestock on the poorer land and using the good land for our crops. There is a saying in our area: There are no poor farms, simply poor farmers.
The kinds of conflicts: Every time I go to a federation conference, everyone's talking about, "We need stronger right-to-farm legislation." If the whole purpose of planning is to eliminate those conflicts, we won't need that right-to-farm legislation, because the security that we need will be there.
Like any industry, whether it's farming, agriculture, building houses, there are ups and downs. I think Mr Hampton asked, why do we have to worry about this woodlot, that headwater? The policies that you have -- and I'm glad that they've been sort of streamlined or made simpler and more understandable -- are comprehensive. You can't tinker with one thing over here and not look at the piece over there; they are all integrated.
Our economy goes up and down just like our stock market, which currently is right up at the top. A few years ago, I think a lot of our planning mess was inspired by that mid-1980s development high which sent everybody off on to cloud nine. I'm seeing a lot of those people's hopes dashed, houses that have been built that have been retired to. In the policy, I see the retirement lot has been put back in. I think the majority of farmers would say that is simply a headache; it's a red herring.
A lot is a lot. Whether you retire on it, whatever you do on it, subsequently it's a land use; somebody will be living there. You can't expect a farmer to live on the corner of a property forever. Sooner or later, someone will be there, and I know many people now who are there, who have houses they can't sell. Who would buy two thirds of an acre when you could by a whole 100 acres down the road for exactly the same price and not be surrounded by somebody spreading manure? In the one instance, they throw their rocks out into the field. The farmer in the spring throws them back on to their lot, because as he says, he farms right up to the fence. It's his field; it's one of his best hay fields.
So in the agricultural policy I would hope that there would not be any tinkering. Look at that retirement lot case. This is possibly where the "have regard for" debate -- each area will decide. The difference between Essex and Grey in terms of agriculture is great, and Bruce or North Bay, whatever. Each area will decide, but the bottom line is that we cannot preclude the fact that in the future agriculture will be more important than it is now. We won't know how important it is until it's too late. Although you can put a house anywhere, you can engineer anything in an urban environment, when it comes to farm land you don't have those options. We're quickly losing the good land that we have and, through erosion and flooding and a lot of other things, we're downgrading the good land that we have as well.
That's where the notice regulations in the rural areas are particularly important. I think in an official plan, once you've decided there's going to be a development in a particular area, the kinds of notice and discussion that take place are quite different from when a land use is totally changed from a hay farm to a gravel pit or to a subdivision. The time lines on official plans and official plan approvals: Although 180 days may seem long, in the context of the kind of planning we've had -- Grey county started its official plan three or four years ago and it still doesn't have it done -- 180 days is not too long, but certainly 90 days is simply not going to work if we're trying to get the kinds of good planning that we want.
I'd make an analogy to going to a bank with a business plan to borrow money. If your business plan simply said, "Give me the money," the bank would say, "It's been nice meeting you." But if you go with detailed plans of what your expectations are, what you're going to do, what you expect that financial supporter to help you with, you're probably going to go ahead, and you wouldn't even go if you weren't serious about it. You would have taken at least a couple of months or whatever was appropriate to get your plan together.
So I think those time lines have to be looked at again. That's where I say I think the comments of the group ahead of me -- and I know Waterloo county looked at the same things I was concerned with.
Something that hasn't been raised at all, and maybe this is a good place to put it in -- I've written on the top of my page, "water." In our area and in Bruce and Simcoe, and to some degree in Dufferin, water extraction and the extent of water extraction has become a real issue. We're the headwaters for groundwater in Ontario, and I don't have all the statistics on how many of our communities are dependent on groundwater -- clean groundwater -- but there has been an initiative to include water extraction for commercial purposes in the Planning Act as a land use.
This is coming from land owners and from municipal politicians alike, and I'm not going to go into it now. I think the bill was called Bill 126 or something, a couple of years ago. I know Ms Fisher knows it quite well, knows exactly the issue, because it's right in her backyard. It's Formosa, I believe, a brewery, and then someone who's simply taking water. Not to preclude that this isn't an industry too, but why do we have to keep our water clean? It's not just so that I can go outside my door and get clean water, but this is going to be a natural resource that is a big commodity and is something that makes Ontario attractive to industry coming here.
I asked a water bottler once, who was using water to make fruit juices, actually, exporting to the States, how they could compete with all the other big companies that they were competing with, and they said just saying that it comes from Canada is -- people assume that it's clean and that it's a better product. I'm not going to dwell on that now, but I think that's something that should be looked at to put back in.
I was on a list to comment on Bill 26, only because of the conservation authorities, and I'll be brief on this as well. The initiative there basically to kill them is inconsistent with what we've been trying to do and I believe governments have been trying to do, which is to put more responsibility and accountability with the municipalities. These water issues are just such a case.
Perhaps if Ministry of Natural Resources doesn't want the conservation authorities, maybe it could give them to Municipal Affairs and have them coordinated with the Planning Act. This is where the suggestion of all these environmental assessment acts, all these things that have to do with planning -- in the case of conservation authorities it's planning for water quality and quantity -- should be coordinated. Maybe this is the time, if MNR has difficulty with managing conservation authorities, the appropriate place would be Municipal Affairs.
I'm not going to go on too much longer. One thing I wanted to say was I've heard a lot of grief about those 700-page guidelines. I know that's a good door stopper; I have two copies. But the red herring is that this simply puts on paper what basically professional planners have known and allows some measure of shared knowledge across the province. Of course, several people were horrified by it, because maybe they didn't know they knew so much or there was so much to know. We can be overregulated and that's where I'm glad to have things simplified, but we do need the support of the province for municipalities when they're drawing up their official plans. I don't think you can opt out, as the group ahead said, without good reasons why. Your official plan might not deal with some kind of density if you're in Timiskaming or somewhere, but we have to remember that it has to be simple and clear. We also need strong support from the province so that wherever you live or work in the province, you know that you have the same kind of basic rules.
I think that's all. I am going to sort of put this into a short brief, just my basic points, to remind you of them.
Mr Hampton: I want to ask you this: Grey county has been notorious over the ages for what you might call haphazard planning, and I understand there have been all kinds of fights in Grey county about overplanning.
In your view, will this bill and the associated policy statements lead to good planning, or will it lead to more of the haphazard decisions and more of the battles that you've had in Grey county?
Ms Hutchison: From my initial reading of it, this bill would provide a context for good planning, provided the province will provide the kind of support and requirements for those good plans and will allow the kind of economic planning and accountability that we need. What I didn't mention was the importance of that conflict-of-interest legislation that was appended to this whole planning initiative originally and which is going ahead. We're planning not for individuals, we're planning for communities. So with those refinements, I think the policies are good but if you don't have to follow the policies, then of course we're going to be back to where we were.
Mr Hampton: Which takes us back to the issue that you said you didn't want to get into.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Hampton. We were at a minute and I'm just trying to keep proceeding here, if you don't mind. I'd like to go to the next question, from the government side. Sorry.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I appreciate you coming down and giving us your thoughts. I think you bring a different perspective than maybe many of our presenters, which I think is important. I too am from an area outside of Toronto, in eastern Ontario. I wanted to ask you what your thoughts are with respect to the issue of just the whole principle of local autonomy. Would you agree that municipalities are best able to determine their own communities' best interests being close to the situation?
Ms Hutchison: Some municipalities. This is a bill that has to cover every municipality. My municipality? No. This is the same municipality that would have allowed someone to sever three lots in an area that could be 10 feet under water periodically. Without the kind of support and direction from the province to do this, no. But where a municipality prepares an official plan that is consistent with provincial policy, that covers those basic things that we have to look at and can provide that kind of economic stability where we're not going to be subsidizing bad planning, yes, and there are municipalities that can do that. Unfortunately, it's inconsistent.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess, since the others took one minute each, that means I'll have two minutes? Is that what you're saying?
Interjection: You're special.
Mr Gerretsen: The one-window approach I think most people would agree to, except with this proviso, and I just wanted your comment on it: If the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is going to have the lead in this and it's going to be the ministry through which everything is followed, do you have any concerns that somehow the views of some of the other ministries, let's say the Ministry of Environment or Natural Resources, in effect will be finessed so that there may not be any appeal forthcoming through one of these ministries that would have come if we didn't have the one-window approach? Do you have comments on that? Do you have any concerns about that?
Ms Hutchison: I am somebody who's been promoting one-window approach. In my area it's a long-distance call to call my neighbour. To have to go to 50 million different agencies to get an opinion -- and one thing the conservation authorities have been trying to focus on is a one-window approach.
If the other ministries will provide the kind of support to Municipal Affairs, if Municipal Affairs is under an obligation to honour that approach, if we don't get a turf war between ministries, yes, I think the one-window approach is excellent. But if we can't ensure that there's going to be cooperation -- but I've been fighting for that kind of one-window approach now for six years and I fully support it.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, I hope that you're right.
Ms Hutchison: But it will also be incumbent on those ministries to ensure that they rein in --
Mr Gerretsen: That their views be heard and also if they have a serious objection that they insist that the Minister of Municipal Affairs objects.
Ms Hutchison: Yes. I sat through a four-week OMB hearing that I totalled it up to about $3 million or $4 million and I was including all the government's costs, my costs, all the ministries -- there were four ministries that were represented by counsel there. There really needed to be just one.
Mr Gerretsen: I agree.
Ms Churley: Most of the Ministry of Environment is disappearing in the course of deregulation and cuts in funding.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): What if the ministries disagree?
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, if you don't mind, we're finished our session with this presenter. Thank you very much for coming.
Ms Hutchison: Thank you. I'll codify it into a two-page summary.
CONCERNED CITIZENS OF KING TOWNSHIP
The Vice-Chair: May we have the delegation of Concerned Citizens of King Township, please. Welcome. We would like you to introduce yourselves and remind you that we are restricted to a 25-minute time period.
Mrs Margaret Coburn: Yes, I am Margaret Coburn and I'm chairman of the Concerned Citizens, Gillian Watt is my secretary and Elka Enola is a member of the executive and Elka will be presenting as well. We just learned yesterday that you have some preferences for the way we present and that you would like a summary and some recommendations so I have pulled together a little bit which may help you.
On page 2, paragraph 3, I will start off from there and say that during the two years of public consultation by the Sewell commission which resulted in the 1995 Planning Act, our group made five presentations, three to the commission and two to the government standing committee, about ideas that we felt would contribute to the development of a new and better Planning Act in its final form. In its final form, imperfect as it may be, for the first time environmental issues were given a fighting chance to compete with economic issues. We didn't get everything we wanted in it but we hoped that this government would move it forward and make further improvements.
We agree that streamlining was important, but Bill 163 addressed this. There was no time really to see just how effective it was, but certainly it addressed that issue. We agree that municipalities should have more control where it's reasonable, but strong policies are essential for this, and Bill 163 addressed this.
In our view, Bill 20 nullifies this. We agree that affordable housing policy had its flaws when it was applied across the board. But what we think we have in Bill 20 is somewhat a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Our recommendations include that there be a longer period for discussion of this issue and that some meetings be held in rural communities, not all of them only in Toronto or in cities. It improves a lot if you can have some of these meetings out in the rural communities.
We need time to examine the potential impact of many of the proposals within this bill, which may or not be all right. We can't tell in the short time that we have. I'll try not to repeat any of this within the context of my presentation.
I'm speaking on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of King Township. We are an incorporated, 25-year-old, volunteer citizen organization working within and across King township to support and promote a planning policy for the township that will achieve an orderly pattern of development and protect and preserve its natural environmentally sensitive features. Today, we have a township of which we are proud and we look forward to being able to say that 20 years from now. We are, by the way, not allied with any political party.
Many people moved into King township deliberately because of the rural characteristics of the area, which are becoming more difficult to find so close to a major city. They have chosen to move to King in many cases to raise their families. Often the working member -- or members as it is now -- of the family work outside the municipality in an urban centre. They want their chosen community to continue to be a rural community, a community that maintains itself largely on volunteerism and active farm interests.
In two letters to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, dated October 4 and November 7, we expressed our deep concern about this government's proposal to -- and I used the word "demolish," which I believe was used in the throne speech -- demolish Bill 163, which became the 1995 Planning Act. I would like to read excerpts from the replies we received from the minister, which I presume is the government position, which probably explains the nature of our presentation today:
"This government is committed to promoting economic recovery by cutting red tape and getting rid of obstacles to growth."
"These amendments are intended to further give municipalities more control over local planning decisions and ensure that environmental rules continue to be tough."
If this bill is enacted, the first statement may indeed barrel ahead and cut red tape and get rid of obstacles to growth. But promote economic recovery? In our view, much more than this bill is needed to promote economic recovery. We believe in fact that it will contribute little but will create many difficulties that seem to be overlooked in the bill.
The second statement, that Bill 20 will ensure that environmental rules continue to be tough, is wishful thinking. It's true there are many environmental words in the bill, but without teeth they mean very little. Good planning should not be sacrificed in the name of some vague goal of achieving economic growth. We need good planning to help us achieve economic growth, not one or the other. Good planning will do much to achieve it.
During the two years of public consultation by the Sewell commission -- and I did mention that, these five presentations to the various committees that were meeting. The changes that are now being proposed are intended, and I quote from the minister's letter of December 4, "to speed up the process, give municipalities more flexibility and strike a better balance between economic and environmental considerations."
It is our view that more flexibility will not speed things up. On the contrary, it encourages conflicts and unnecessary argument and will in fact waste time, nor will it protect economic or environmental interests.
What will speed the process are rules that are clear, fair and firm-and I think you've heard some of that today from other people -- so that everyone understands that no means no and yes means yes to the greatest possible degree. This requires clarity in wording in the act and strong provincial policies. Bill 20 will take us back to the days of uncertainty and consequent delays and animosities. The uncertainties will exist for everyone, developers, potential buyers and long-time residents.
It is our view that the statement in the 1995 Planning Act that planning decisions "shall be consistent with" provincial policies greatly improves the process for good planning decisions to be made. Reverting back to the totally ineffective wording "shall have regard to" makes a mockery of the stated intentions of this government.
In reality, it relegates the policies to the status of guidelines. Decision-makers will be free to do whatever they want as long as they glance at the policies, if Bill 20 passes as it stands. Politics will have the strongest influence on the decision-makers, not good planning, just as it was prior to the passing of Bill 163. If the intent is that building under vague planning limits will effect economic growth, where is the evidence?
I'd like to ask Elka to carry on from there.
Mrs Elka Enola: I think that I object to the economic considerations in the provincial policy statement of December 1995 relating to Bill 20, but I can't be certain because I can't crawl into the brains of the authors of the document in order to find out what concepts they intended whenever they refer to "economic growth" or "economic development" or other terms relating to economics. Furthermore, in spite of the pages and pages of definitions, there is not a single definition relating to economic terminology. This is extremely important because repeatedly and consistently the document gives primacy to economic concerns over all others, including those relating to prime agricultural land and to the environment.
As a holder of an honours degree in economics, I'm most clearly aware of the unscientific nature of economics. The essence of a scientific discipline is accurate predictability, something which is notoriously absent in the field of economics. You put four economists into one room and you will likely get five interpretations of a given situation and six predictions.
We all know of how statistics can and are manipulated to produce the desired outcome, so it is only prudent that intelligent citizens be most concerned about policies and programs where significant choices are based on unspecified statistical evidence.
Repeatedly, economic growth and economic benefits are given precedence over other factors. Since there is no definition provided, I must presume that the definitions that will be applied will be (a) the traditional ones commonly used in the past and (b) those consistent with the other economically related practices and policies of the current government. In other words, a policy whereby a variation of "What's good for General Motors is good for the country" will apply.
The traditional thinking was that if companies prospered and made large profits and incomes for the shareholders and the senior staff and directors, then the company would also be providing a good income for employees and everybody would be better off. This was true in the 1960s and the 1970s and the 1980s, but it is most definitely not true now.
In the past, when traditional measurements indicated economic growth, employment was high. Not today. While we are getting reports of economic gains -- and we are getting these reports -- we are not getting reports of reduced unemployment. While we are getting reports of economic growth, people are cashing in their RRSPs in much greater numbers than before. While we are getting reports of economic growth, people are being laid off without any warning; others are having jobs reduced to part time. Everywhere among the working people there is great insecurity. Permitting the use of replacement workers has greatly reduced the effectiveness of unions and thus added further to the insecurity of workers.
People who are insecure financially do not spend money readily. When virtually the whole population is hesitant to spend money, no long-term economic benefit is possible, no matter how one defines it. When cost-effective development, whatever that means, is permitted on prime agricultural land for any reason whatsoever, we are dealing with a situation of gross irresponsibility. The policy statement allows for such development "where there is no reasonable alternative." I suggest to you that there is always a reasonable alternative.
Prime agricultural land is irreplaceable. In any case, it should never be replaced with urban development. Let's face it: You can build a house anywhere, but you can't find prime agricultural land everywhere.
Unbelievably, "extraction of minerals and petroleum resources" is permitted in prime agricultural areas "provided that the site is rehabilitated." Again, the primacy of company profits over all else.
Firstly, the prime agricultural land will be removed from production for many years. Secondly, I categorically do not believe that a prime farming area that has been used as an oilfield for 20 years can be returned to its former state at the end of the time.
When the only important policy measurement is, how much money will the company make? we have a socioeconomic disaster of major proportions in the making. The primacy of economic benefits as it appears in the policy statement is a hazard to the land and to the people of Ontario.
Mrs Coburn: Some additional observations -- and there are others we could have made, but these we would like to make: To illustrate our concerns about vagueness in wording, we deplore such expressions as "promote" cost-effective development patterns, "encourage" cooperation and coordination and "strengthen" the role of rural areas. I believe these are known as encouragement statements, but if they aren't backed by operative statements that say how and what is going to happen, they are really very bland words.
We would like to see clear definitions for such words as "ecosystem," "environmental assessment process," "environmental study," "impact study," "intensification," "rural areas," particularly "minor variance," "significant" and "provincial interest," to name a few.
There is no longer a requirement for a public meeting re a proposed plan of subdivision or for severance, and there is no reference to support for curbing urban sprawl, although I had thought this government was in favour of that. Public discussion is limited in time and location, as I have said.
In general, we have consistently throughout our presentations re Bill 163, Bill 26 and today re Bill 20, expressed concern that terminology should be clear, definite and unequivocal, such that there's no room for doubt about the government's intentions regarding planning in this province. It seems to us to be important to point out that the objectives of the developers are not the same as the objectives of government. And government needs to make its intentions clear in order to avoid unnecessary and costly conflicts over what may and may not occur in land use planning in this province. Regretfully, this bill represents a large step backwards in this regard.
In conclusion, it really is devastating to realize that the democratic process condones the cost of an incredible number of hours and money spent by politicians, professionals and unpaid citizens to create a piece of legislation that will clarify and improve how our land will be developed, only to have a new set of players sweep it all away within a few months of coming to power. We do suspect that few of you took part in the previous process and probably fewer still have looked at any of the submissions that were made over that two-year period. Yet it appears the government believes it knows that it all should be undone. We earnestly request that you take a little longer to study the direction in which this bill will take you and that you extend the hearings for a few weeks to allow for more people to comment. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you. We do have about 13 minutes, but before we enter into that time, I'd just like to make one point. I'm not sure whether or not you're aware that the hearing process is three weeks long. Everybody who asked to be on the agenda has been accommodated on the agenda and in fact the hearings are travelling throughout the province. We'll be going to Sudbury, Cobourg, Ottawa, Hamilton, London. I don't know if you are aware of that or not.
Mrs Coburn: I did hear that originally and then I understood that the meetings were to be held here. I heard that later and maybe that's incorrect.
The Vice-Chair: I'm just clarifying a point for you. It's for information purposes.
Mrs Coburn: Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: We do have approximately three minutes each again, starting with the government side. Dr Galt.
Mr Gerretsen: Excuse me, three minutes? If we have 13 minutes, that's close to at least four minutes each.
The Vice-Chair: Sorry, we are to finish at 11:31.
Mr Gerretsen: If you have 13 minutes, and presumably you do, your statement, that's four minutes each.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. I stand to be corrected on the math. I have recorded here we started at 11:06 to conclude at 11:31, and I certainly would be pleased to take out the minute or so that I used. So I'm sorry. We are down to nine minutes, and that's what I said, I think.
Mr Gerretsen: No, you said 13 minutes.
The Vice-Chair: Sorry about that. So if we go with three minutes each, please. Dr Galt.
Mr Galt: Thanks for the presentation. The first comments from the chair were part of what I was going to comment to you as well, that Cobourg is indeed very rural and outside of Toronto.
I'm interested in your comments on concerns over environmental protection, and I gather you're referring to general protection of wetlands and lands around those kinds of areas. We too, by the way, are concerned about that kind of protection.
One of the things I was repeatedly hearing during the last election was that farmers in particular and land owners were having their lands confiscated by regulation without ever being notified, that they were losing the rights to use these lands as they had previously, as they had purchased, and there was nothing on deeds, etc.
Yes, there's no question we need to be protecting this. But who's responsible? Is it the farmer who has to give his or her lands to the province for the use of the public in general and lose the value that they previously had? Is it environmental groups? Is it the province of Ontario? Is it municipalities? I think it's a basic question we have to answer because I don't think it's fair. The farmers are struggling enough as is without taking more from them. Do you have any thoughts in that general area?
Mrs Coburn: I think it is a big problem. But it seems to me in European countries they have solved this problem somehow by maintaining that rural lands will be rural lands, or agricultural lands will be agricultural lands. The idea is that the farmer doesn't give something, but the sale of farms will be made from a farmer to a farmer.
If in fact the rules are there, then somebody who does want to farm, and there are young people in this country who do want to farm, knows that if they go to a certain area they may be able to find a farm there because agricultural land is there. As it is now, there's so much uncertainty of it that I know that young people are having difficulty knowing about this and also they're competing in price with a farmer who may be able to say: "Well, I've got an offer from a developer at this much. If you want to pay me a little more, I'll take it." And that's really unfair to the young people.
So we feel if there's certainty that agricultural lands are clearly defined as such and that's what they are -- we do need them -- this will make life easier for the farmers and the younger people coming along.
Mr Galt: And as you develop and come up --
The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Dr Galt. I'm sorry to interrupt.
Mrs Coburn: I'm sorry; I only half answered your question.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much. And I totally agree with you. Even though there may be two weeks of hearings -- I think in fact it's two weeks and two days -- there's a great, big difference, and this government simply doesn't understand the difference, between being allowed to make a presentation and being given two or three minutes to respond to it in this kind of dialogue and having clear-cut consultation. There is a huge difference with that. I think anybody who's been involved at any other level of government or school boards full well understands that what makes those situations work more than anything else is that consultation is more than just a three-minute dialogue on a particular issue, particularly with a bill that deals with so much as here. So I thought that your point was well made. This is not effective consultation.
Mrs Coburn: Not like the Sewell commission consultation program that was on before.
Mr Gerretsen: That's correct. I wonder if you could tell us in just plain, ordinary language -- and I realize you're not professional planners and what have you -- why you would want to have a public hearing on a subdivision development. I think this isn't being understood by a lot of people. Presumably you've got a piece of land that is already zoned properly etc. So now what the government is suggesting is, let's take the public hearing aspect away because it's already zoned; not too much can be done about it anyway. Why would you want public input in a subdivision plan? I know why, but I'd like you to say it for the committee.
Mrs Coburn: Well, in a rural area, which we come from, a subdivision coming in makes a profound difference to the area in every way: numbers of people, the institutions that we have to support them. The nature of the land that's there is not always understood at all or examined by the developer who is coming in. We feel that the people in the area, who have often worked very hard to get the plan that exists in their own community, know a good deal more about the issue than the developer coming in.
Mrs Enola: I'd like to just add something from a personal point of view. I was born in Montreal. I lived most of my life there. I lived in London, England, in Toronto. I'm essentially big-city. I moved out just west of Schomberg about seven years ago and you cannot drag me away from there now.
The rural areas are divided by side roads and concessions. Between Concession 11 and 12, where I live, along the 19 Side Road on the north side, where I am, all the properties have been subdivided into 11, 10, 14 acres. They had been originally two big farms, I believe. On the other side of the road, I face a huge farm and then some other equal 10-or-12-acre things.
We chose that location because next to us to the north and to the west and to the south are good agricultural lands with operating farms. Indeed, just north of us is prime agricultural land that's classified number one land. So we thought: "Okay, if we move here, we are safe. We are not going to get a subdivision. We are not going to get a McDonald's. We're not going to get any of that stuff. This is going to stay rural." When I look through here and I read this, I get worried, because we're looking at the ambiguity; that's why we are concerned about having no statement. Suppose somebody decides: "Hey, this is residential. We can do infilling. We can take into the farm across, into the area across, and we can now put in a big subdivision." That's not what I moved out to the country for. That's what I left.
So again, this is the perception why you have to have a public hearing when there are cases like this. I read this from two points of view. I read this from me living there, and I read this as a developer saying: "Hey, this is residential. They're not farming." None of us are farming. We're living out there watching the grass grow, watching the leaves. So this is the concern.
Ms Churley: Your presentation is what, to me, real common sense is all about, and I hope the government takes note of some of the things you say. What essentially the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is saying is: "Trust me; I know best. I don't really need to consult with the people of Ontario." This is a very complex area in municipal planning, and as you stated, our government with the Sewell commission spent two years and then extensive hearings across the province after that from the government. Not everybody was happy with it, and we couldn't come to a consensus at the end of day, but people hammered away and tried to reach as close as possible.
But you know, this is coming from a minister, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who didn't know the contents of his part in Bill 26 and had to make amendments after he said he'd quit if it turned out he was wrong. Well, he was wrong and he's still with us. But there are real concerns around that when a government with this kind of arrogance says, "Trust me; I know best."
I just want to tell you as well that I as the critic for Environment and Energy have some real concerns around the fact that the Ministry of Environment has been severely cut back in terms of money, and deregulation going on, and also the Ministry of Natural Resources. There's real concern around the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing being the only one who can appeal, and we haven't been guaranteed that these other ministries will be able to have a say. The other problem is, of course, with so much staff reduction, will the public have the benefit of the knowledge of the Minister of Environment and Energy and Natural Resources? So those are just some of the concerns that we have in terms of the bill going through in the state it is. I don't know if you have time to comment or not, but probably not.
Mrs Coburn: That's one of the things that I think we should be discussing, because I'm not at all sure that a one-window process really is the answer. I think it should be explored very thoroughly, because it could in fact do something quite different: It could eliminate the impacts from the other ministries and put them too far distant from the actual decision-making. So I would like to see more discussion on that, and we would be willing to be a part of it and also to listen.
The Vice-Chair: I thank you for your comments and I thank you for coming this morning.
CITIZENS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING, YORK REGION
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the Citizens for Affordable Housing for York Region come forward. Good morning, sir. Welcome to our hearing process.
Mr Peter Formica: I'm Peter Formica, the coordinator of Citizens for Affordable Housing in York region. Today I would like to be speaking on Bill 20, the section where they're repealing the accessory-units-in-houses legislation, just a small portion of the bill.
Mr Chairman and members of the task force, for the past eight years the affordable housing committee of York region has been lobbying and advocating for the provision of more affordable housing choices. We have supported the implementation of Bill 120, An Act to amend certain statutes concerning residential property. We believed its implementation would deal constructively with the many affordable accessory units in the region, ensuring that future units would be safe and built to the Ontario Building Code.
Bill 120 had many benefits, from housing people and boosting the local economy by the sale of building supplies and the employment of building trades at a time when they desperately needed work to assisting municipal compliance with the 1989 land use planning policy statement. The legislation also dealt with approximately 100,000 units in Ontario that were illegal through zoning and worked towards ensuring all apartments in houses are safe and built to code.
Many municipalities and housing groups in York region have worked hard to build affordable social housing units. However, there still are many people without adequate and affordable housing. Most of our non-profit housing has been directed to seniors and families. Now our existing government is cancelling the building of any additional units through the passing of Bill 20. Apartments in houses help provide housing for non-seniors and young couples. This sector of the housing problem has been sadly neglected for too long.
The Hemson report, which was a housing needs study for the regional municipality of York, states that York region would require 1,000 assisted units per year for the next five years, for a total of 5,000 units. With the cancellation of all government housing programs, apartments in houses will have to fill all these needs or the problems associated with low housing vacancies in York region will increase substantially.
The CMHC report dated April 1995 stated that York region has a vacancy rate of 0.8%; that's eight in 1,000. With the new proposed changes, the percentage will only decrease. According to Stats Canada, York region's population has increased from 505,000 in 1991 to 577,000 in 1995, a net increase of 72,000 people. York region's share of the greater Toronto area's yearly population increase was: in 1991-92, 20,000; 1992-93, 19,300; 1993-94, 14,900.
Tenants in the lower incomes are being hit from three directions, and careful consideration has to be given to the implications of any new government policies and how they would affect them. For example:
(1) A 21.6% reduction in welfare payments is driving more people to seek less expensive accommodation.
(2) The cancellation of social housing projects has stopped the construction of affordable rental units in York region.
(3) A change in policy on accessory apartment legislation would have the effect of less private affordable rentals and would therefore be the final door closing on them.
A survey of employers was taken by the affordable housing committee in York region in March 1990 in the city of Vaughan. Sixty employers who had a payroll of 25 or more, representing a wide range of businesses and industries, were asked if they were having difficulty recruiting staff and if they perceived housing costs in the area to be a contributing factor. They were also asked if they would be in favour of more affordable housing options in Vaughan.
Of the 15 surveys returned, 100% reported difficulty with recruitment and all favoured more affordable housing in town. Of particular concern was the lack of rental accommodation for employees earning less than $26,000 annually, but several indicated problems recruiting even at the higher wage levels of up to $55,000.
A survey taken in the town of Markham in 1991 had similar results. A total of 58 companies in Markham returned questionnaires; 66% of the respondents were still having difficulty recruiting personnel, and the majority of these perceived that the higher cost of housing in Markham contributes to this problem. A full 83% of employers who replied were in favour of the development of more affordable housing.
An affordable rental stock can be viewed as an economic asset that helps attract and retain a diverse workforce essential for the various industries in York region. Employers in the retail service and shopping, hospitality, office, manufacturing, transportation and institutional industries are some of the employers who depend on a low-cost labour force. A low-cost labour force depends on low-cost rental units for its housing needs.
In good economic times, employers have a problem recruiting employees when the affordable rental stock is in short supply. Therefore, it is essential that our supply of units be increased, not decreased. An accessory apartment in a house tends to be less expensive than the same unit in an apartment building, making them more affordable. With Bill 120 in effect, competition between landlords helped keep prices down and the units in a better state of repair. If the creation of accessory apartments stops, prices will rise and more people will have difficulty finding suitable accommodation.
The existing prices at our Housing Help Centre in Aurora are as follows: The rooms range from $350 a month to $400 -- that's where you just share a kitchen; the bachelors, which is a separate apartment with kitchen facilities, are from $450 to $550 a month; the one-bedrooms, $525 to $725; two-bedrooms, $750 to $850; three-bedrooms are from $900 to about $1,025.
There's a special note here: Since the 21.6% reduction in welfare payments, the price of rooms has decreased, and my schedule reflects that, approximately $25 to $50 monthly. Landlords who rent rooms depend on the monthly income to meet their expenses, so they have to rent their rooms regardless.
Another group that benefits from the creation of apartments is the first-time home buyers trying to get into the housing market. Some banks, trust companies and private mortgagers will accept the income from legal apartments to help the applicants qualify for mortgages. Seniors benefit financially from the income of apartments, as well as arranged for assistance of property maintenance by their tenants. Retired homeowners who spend many months away from their property might use the tenants of their apartments to assure their home is secure while they are away. Many insurance companies require changes to premiums when residents vacate properties for long periods of time.
When the task force was conducting hearings on Bill 120, arguments by municipalities opposed to the bill were to the effect that the neighbourhoods would be overrun with rental units. A phone call by myself last Friday, February 9, 1996, had these results regarding the number of accessory units applied for since July 1995 under the new provisions of Bill 120: The Newmarket building department had 10 applications, the Newmarket fire department had 30 units under inspection; the Markham building department had 15 applications, Markham fire department has 22 units under inspection; Aurora building department has six units; Whitchurch-Stouffville has only two units; Richmond Hill building department had 10 units; Vaughan building department has two units and the Vaughan fire department has 60 units under inspection.
The accessory units applied for is very low when you consider the population of York region is 572,000 people. The existing bill is also encouraging tenants who live in substandard apartments an opportunity to request fire department inspection without the fear of eviction from an illegal apartment. The bill also encourages that landlords bring their units up to standards.
Conclusion: The apartments-in-houses legislation should not be changed until a full impact study is done on its implications. Municipalities have overreacted on their concerns on the impact of accessory units. To proceed without fully understanding the impact that Bill 20 has on the employers and the economic effect it would have on the region could have negative results. Our employer study in 1990 and 1991 serves as an indicator of employers having recruitment problems due to the lack of affordable housing for their staff. If the province proceeds with the passing of this bill, we would strongly urge you change the enforcement date to give landlords who have proceeded in good faith time to complete their renovations. It is customary on building code changes to give trades an opportunity, with adequate warning, to complete their building plans and apply for their building permits.
I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity of speaking to them today, and if there are any questions, I'll gladly answer them.
Mr Gerretsen: It's an excellent presentation, sir, and I think it's kind of ironic that we're dealing in the same bill with committee of adjustment minor variance issues that have been loosened up, where somebody could come in and in effect build monster homes in neighbourhoods that have relatively small homes right now, and yet we're also saying that we're taking away rights that property owners right now have to create second units in their buildings, which wouldn't change the residential nature of a neighbourhood at all. It's kind of ironic that we're sort of allowing the one, which would be much more of a -- well, you'd certainly notice it a lot more from the outside than in the other case, where there may not be the same effects at all.
I'm very much interested in the statistics that you've provided us, because 157 units having been applied for in the last seven or eight months in an area that has over 570,000 people certainly isn't a lot.
Mr Formica: Actually, there's quite a bit less, because the building department applications are applications for approval. The applications to the fire department are ones that are already existing and they are in an effort to bring them up to standards.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm glad you pointed that out, sir. Just so we can put some further credence to these numbers, did you go to all of the various approval departments within York region or are there areas that you have excluded? In other words, did you go to all the fire departments and all the building departments within the region?
Mr Formica: No, I did not. Every one of these ones here I personally phoned myself. I did not phone Georgina or the ones further north, East Gwillimbury, because their rates would be very low as well.
Mr Gerretsen: Would be very low, because they're much smaller municipalities than the ones you phoned.
Mr Formica: We have 13 municipalities within York region. Of particular concern, though, is that when I spoke to the Vaughan fire department, it has 60 units under investigation now: 80% of them were from tenants who complained that they wanted their unit updated and inspected; the other 20% came from people in the neighbourhood who had complained. There wasn't one application from the landlords themselves. In other words, the last bill, the new restrictions, are forcing people to update their units and bring them up to the code standards. That's why there will always be a discrepancy between the inspections and the applications.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you. I appreciate that. Third party?
Mr Hampton: You make some arguments, and I simply want to go over them again. The evidence that you've put together here indicates that in fact the market for affordable rental units is increasing dramatically in your part of York region.
Mr Formica: That's correct.
Mr Hampton: And yet the changes in the law that this bill will make can have the effect of dramatically reducing the number of apartments that might be legally available in existing homes or existing dwellings. Is that right?
Mr Formica: If the act is changed and the municipalities do not give the people the right to create a basement apartment, or an accessory unit wherever it is, then it will have the effect of putting less affordable housing units on the market. It will also handicap an empty-nester who has a big home who prefers to have a little income.
Mr Hampton: In your experience, will people put what will then be illegal apartments on the market anyway? In other words, will people rent them out even though they're illegal?
Mr Formica: Well, before the last act came into effect, we had over 100,000 units across Ontario.
Mr Hampton: So what the government's going to be doing is it's going to be creating, or contributing to, a situation where in effect there will be a lot of unregulated and potentially unsafe apartment units.
Mr Formica: If the apartment is illegal, then the tenant in the unit cannot complain to the fire department because they stand to get evicted. As long as the units are legal, the tenant can complain to the authorities and insist they be brought up to standard and therefore they can't be evicted. They won't get evicted because of it.
Mr Hampton: What do you think's going to be the outcome then? I mean, I know how the market works. I know, for example, that you can prohibit the sale of some items, but if there's a public need for them, and there's a public need for housing, then those goods, in this case illegal apartments, will go on the market in any case. If you've got all kinds of apartments around that are not subject to fire department inspection, are not subject to building code inspection, that fall far below the safety requirements, what do you think's going to happen, if the government puts people in that situation?
Mr Formica: Regardless, if a person needs a home, they will not live on the street. They will live in any apartments that are available and it is normal they will try to live in the best one. I've seen people come in and take a unit until they can find a better one. But if there are less units out there, they don't have the choice and the prices will rise. Already, on my three-bedroom units, they've increased $70 within the past couple of months.
Mr Hampton: What do you think will happen in terms of people's health and safety in those illegal units?
Mr Formica: It's not a good situation. A lot of people don't like living in basement apartments. If they have asthma or other conditions, or rheumatism, some of them just cannot live in basement apartments.
Mr Hampton: And what about the fire protection issues?
Mr Formica: The fire protection issues, you have to make sure it complies with the building code. Any basement apartment, to me, can comply with the fire codes if it's built properly. It is not that expensive to put in a fire door at the top of the stairs and a smoke detector. I don't agree that the units should not comply with the building code or with the fire code, because you can comply and you can comply cheaply.
Mr Hampton: Yet all of these are going to fall outside any regulatory or inspection measures.
Mr Formica: It can happen.
Mr Pettit: I took the liberty last night to speak to a number of my neighbours in Hamilton, Hamilton Mountain, that is, in single-family neighbourhoods, and the consensus seemed to be that they're not in favour of the government legislating second-unit housing. Having said that, do you not feel that the municipalities are best able to determine what is in the best interests of their neighbourhoods as opposed to the province?
Mr Formica: If you came back and told me in the municipality that the planners were regulating where they go, I would agree with you, but if it's the municipal politicians who's doing the legislating where they're going to go, I can't agree, because what they have a tendency to do is group them in certain parts of town and they don't spread it evenly across the whole town for the community.
They put them in sections of town that are less desirable, and if a person has a house with 3,000 or 4,000 square feet and their children have gone off to college, then it's very difficult for the municipality to say, "Okay, you can have an accessory apartment," because it's in a higher-class neighbourhood. I get them in higher-class neighbourhoods and one of the restrictions was that one of the homeowners said, "Yes, I will rent you out an apartment but you must park in the garage because I don't want my neighbours to know I'm renting."
Mr Pettit: Do you think municipalities should be able to register the basement apartments?
Mr Formica: I would be in favour of that if that means we're going to keep accessory units. Let them register them; let them get them inspected. In planning, if you create areas, which we do now, industrial-commercial, residential, don't say it's residential single family.
If my neighbour next door has five people living in his house and I have two, then I should have the right to have two more people living in my house, even though they're not related to me. If you're going to legislate it planning-wise, then what you should be legislating -- I'm not recommending -- is that in a house you can have so many people living per so many square feet. That would be a more just type of planning.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Just to follow up on that, don't you think, though, that if a municipality recognizes the needs for affordable housing to support low-income jobs, they would look for areas to initiate that through the political process, because you said the politicians would probably not support that.
Mr Formica: We had a negative effect in 1990 and 1991 when we did our needs study, when the employers in Vaughan were begging to have more units created and the municipality of Vaughan was totally against affordable housing.
Mr Ouellette: That seems overly counterproductive to the community.
Mr Formica: It was counterproductive because the employers themselves were saying, "We can't hire people." Especially in the manufacturing area, if they're making under $30,000, $25,000 a year, they can't afford the high price of housing. They need those bachelors and one-bedroom apartments to live in. I presume the economy of this country and Ontario is going to change, and when it does change, we don't want to put the employers in the position where they can't get employees again because of housing.
Mr Ouellette: You think the municipality should not have the option of making that decision.
Mr Formica: You should have a right to have accessory units within certain guidelines.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for attending this morning.
Mr Hampton: Madam Chair, I'd like to present a motion at this time, if that's all right.
The Vice-Chair: That's fine.
Mr Hampton: We can debate it at some later point, but this is the essential text of it:
Whereas Bill 20 has a significant effect on the natural environment and our natural resources in Ontario; and
Whereas the Mike Harris government has taken many measures to dismantle environmental safeguards that protect our environment and health during the last eight months; and
Whereas the minister responsible for the protection of our natural environment and our natural resources is not scheduled to come before this committee;
I move that this committee formally request the Minister of Natural Resources to appear before this committee to answer questions relating to the effect of the Planning Act amendments, Bill 20, on the natural environment, our natural resources and the people of the province of Ontario.
Ms Churley: I'll second that motion.
The Vice-Chair: There's just a mover required, but thank you very much. Is it the wish of the committee to deal with this at this time?
Ms Churley: If I may, I presented a motion earlier, that we could deal with it at lunchtime. However, Mr Hardeman, I don't know if you're ready for us to deal with it now, or would you rather wait till the end of the day?
Mr Gerretsen: I thought it was the end of the day.
Mr Hardeman: I have no objection to dealing with the motion now, but I think we did have unanimous consent of the three parties that we would not deal with it till the end of the day.
Ms Churley: So we'll deal with the two of them at the end of the day?
Mr Hardeman: The Chair may want to rule on it, but I suggest they are similar enough that dealing with one resolution would put the other one out of order, but that's the Chair's decision.
The Vice-Chair: I would ask, in dealing with the motion that has been put on the floor at the time, whether or not we would like to deal with it now. That's really what the question is, whether we'd like to deal with this one right now or whether we'd like to delay it and deal with both of them at the close of session today.
Mr Hampton: I'd like to ask in connection with that, is Barbara Jamieson here?
Mrs Barbara Jamieson: Yes, I am.
Mr Hampton: Let's hear from Barbara Jamieson and then we can deal with the Minister of Natural Resources motion, if that's all right.
The Vice-Chair: Before we deal with the delegation, I would like to finish off this motion. I understand that what Mr Hampton has just recommended needs unanimous consent. I would like to know if we do have unanimous consent to deal with this after this next delegation or not, or whether we should be leaving it till the end of the day and deal with them together.
I'll deal with the motion that's on the table right now and what it requires to proceed past this point is unanimous consent to either deal with it at the end of the next delegation or at the end of the day. Ms Churley has indicated there seems to be consensus to delay the other one till the end of the day.
Ms Churley: Mr Hardeman and I discussed that. My preference is to deal with them both at the same time. It just makes sense, given the motions are very similar.
Mr Hardeman: We would support unanimous consent to deal with them both at the end of the day.
The Vice-Chair: Is that agreed? Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Mrs Jamieson, I apologize for the delay and I know we're a little bit behind. We'll try and make sure we move through this in a fair way.
Mrs Jamieson: First I'd like to thank the Chairperson and certainly the members of the committee for having me today.
I'd like to commence by stating that I support accessory apartments with health and safety standards in place. Before Bill 120 was passed, municipal zoning bylaws discriminated against the economically disadvantaged individual and householders. Without standards, families and the children of these families were at risk.
Stated in the 1990 report by the Advisory Committee on Children's Services titled Children First, "All children have fundamental entitlement to necessary health care and treatment and adequate nutrition and housing." One of this committee's statements of goals was, "Laws that affect children directly or indirectly must be written and amended to express and give force to their entitlements."
Municipalities allowed accessory apartments to grow in numbers without health and safety standards in place, ignoring this important issue. No attention was paid to the United Nations report on the world's children which made the case that children should have first call on society's concerns and capacities and that children should be able to depend on that commitment in good times and bad.
Children and their families need stability and an environment which is safe and healthy. If the power of control is given back into the hands of the municipalities, you put these families in jeopardy as they were in the past.
Our present vacancy rate is low and inevitably the greedy will exploit renters. Before Bill 120, the municipalities held on to antiquated bylaws, keeping tenants at the mercy of disreputable landlords who chose to rent basement apartments with no health and safety standards even considered, bylaws that were ineffective and whose only design seemed to be to keep many of the population in fear: fear, because some households such as young families and seniors needed to rent. People who normally were honest, law-abiding citizens were now breaking the law.
A fact sheet produced in October 1992 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Housing stated that there were approximately 100,000 apartments in houses in Ontario. Previous governments directed municipalities through the 1989 Land Use Planning for Housing policy statement to eliminate excessive zoning standards to allow apartments in houses in residential areas. Very few municipalities complied with the policy, but basement apartments continued to grow in numbers.
There was a need for more affordable housing choices. Scarborough city, where I reside, did a study funded 80% by the province which indicated there were at least 15,000 apartments in houses in Scarborough. I just remind you, that was when they were illegal. One method municipalities used to fight legislation of accessory apartments and having to put standards in place was to claim there was a parking problem.
From a personal point, families like mine that don't have basement apartments encountered the problem because our children became old enough to own cars. A Metropolitan Toronto study found that one- or two-bedroom converted dwelling units had fewer cars than a one- or two-bedroom non-converted dwelling unit.
Municipalities knew that ignoring their very existence was not going to make them go away.
Please let us not return to the time when home owners and tenants lived under the jurisdiction of irresponsible municipalities that didn't act responsibly when for many years the opportunity was there to do so.
Let us not forget, for many families renting out can assist them in acquiring a home or even for some to acquire the ability to stay in their homes, and for renters, providing relatively affordable housing choices. I know and accept the fact that government-subsidized housing simply cannot meet the needs of many of your constituents. Renters should have the choice to live closer to special schools, parks, shopping malls and other services they may require.
Ontario's population growth rate is high, many settling in the Metro area. Let us be careful not to put into place barriers which will prevent a mix of people and housing in communities to occur.
I am sure we all recognize that poor quality housing is one of the causes for family breakdown. A family's housing situation is an important factor for the wellbeing of children. You and I must care for our children and our children's children. The present government has appealed to us to take responsibility for our relatives, our friends and our neighbours, to give them a helping hand. On the issue of accessory apartments, past experience shows us that municipalities lacked this initiative.
Leave Bill 120 intact. Don't provide municipalities the power to revert back to where "love thy neighbour" was not a priority, when accessory apartments under their jurisdiction continued to grow, and health and safety standards were ignored.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. If you'd like, we'd like to get into a bit of a question and answer period. We do have 19 minutes left, so that's over six minutes per party.
Mr Hampton: You've hit on the nub of the issue, so I want to go over that with you. The fact of the matter is -- and some of the people in the government caucus I think want to deny this -- that municipalities have had the opportunity in the past to properly ensure that health and safety standards -- fire safety, electrical safety and certainly health issues -- were observed. They've certainly had the opportunity to deal with this area appropriately and they have chosen not to.
Mrs Jamieson: That's the truth.
Mr Hampton: So when the province intervened here we had a situation, as you point out, where there were over, as I understand it, 100,000 illegal apartments and that none of these apartments had, in effect, received the kind of electrical or fire or other safety inspections that they ought to have had. So what do you say about simply letting this go back to municipalities? What do you think the effect will be of simply letting this go back to municipalities?
Mrs Jamieson: I think it's obvious. I mean, 100,000 occurred when they were illegal. We're going to get the same again if people need them and we're not going to have the health and safety standards in place. I can't see that people who are in need are going to change that. It's going to happen. What I say is that a lot of these citizens are normally very law-abiding citizens. You're now putting them into a position where they have to be going against the law. They're going to do it anyway. I'd rather see the health and safety standards in place.
Mr Hampton: You were here when the previous presenter, Mr Formica, made his presentation.
Mrs Jamieson: That's correct, I was.
Mr Hampton: He quoted a lot of evidence that indicates that in fact the need for and the demand for these types of apartments in dwelling houses is going to increase, and in fact going to increase dramatically. Is that your sense too?
Mrs Jamieson: I think so. I look at even my own personal situation where, for instance, there's a good chance that my daughter, who's a wildlife biologist and is on contract positions -- I can see her coming home again. I assume that you're aware that when the apartments were illegal, I couldn't have her live in my basement, even if I put in any kind of separate facilities. I don't have a basement apartment now, but if she needs to come back and live there, I'm going to have to put something else in there.
I think that's the problem for a lot of families now: There are a lot of children or a lot of family who are coming back. I can recall, when they were illegal, there was a gentleman in Barrie who was quite harassed by the municipality, where he had his mother living in a basement apartment and the municipality went after him and in actual fact he had to evict her and had to put her into his part of the house. They fined him heavily and he had to pay. These are the kinds of horrendous things that were happening when they were illegal. I see that continuing.
I even look at Scarborough. I have to tell you that when they did the study, which the province funded 80% of, they got the results of the study, the mayor at that time made some bizarre statement to say that one third of the residents wanted basement apartments, one third wanted them legalized and one third didn't and that meant that they didn't want them. Even some of her colleagues had a problem with those kinds of figures. It made you wonder why she was even making that kind of a statement.
On top of that, nine of the councillors in Scarborough voted to not inform their wards that they were going to have a public meeting to discuss the results of those surveys. I went around knocking on doors in my area, because we were one of the wards not to be informed, telling them that whether they were for basement apartments or against them, they had the right to go to the public meeting and hear what the results of that survey were. I was phoned and harassed by my local councillor and warned that many of the colleagues were going to go after me because I had done this.
This kind of irresponsibility in my part -- if I'd had a tape, I would have loved to tape it, but it wasn't possible. There was another break of confidence which I won't go into, but it was certainly to do with Metro, with this same local councillor whom they had informed about my filling out an anonymous survey. I, fortunately, got the copy of that letter, so if I ever had to proceed with any harassment -- could you imagine what it would be like for me if I ever decided to put in a basement apartment, what would happen? Because that same councillor is still there.
I saw so much irresponsibility on behalf of the municipality, which knew they were there. They even had trouble with the consultant that they hired; I must admit that the province recommended him, but they hired him. There was this firing and bringing him back and letting him go, and he finally quit, because the study didn't read the way they wanted it to be. Those are the dangers I have.
I am just recently retired and a former employee of the Catholic Children's Aid Society, and worked in Scarborough for 20 years. I went and visited apartments that you wouldn't have a dog live in, but these tenants were not able to speak to their rights because they had no rights, except the potential to be evicted. It was fearmongering.
Mr Galt: Thank you for your presentation and expressing your concerns for those who do rent apartments. I'm a little concerned and disturbed as I think about municipal politicians and what you're saying and what you're suggesting. Where I come from, I hold municipal politicians in the highest regard. They do a great job. They try their very best. I'm not saying they always come up with the right decision. That may depend on your vantage point or where you're coming from. But you don't seem to have -- I'm paraphrasing here -- very much trust or faith in your municipal politicians. Do they operate differently in Scarborough than the rest of Ontario?
Mrs Jamieson: I'm not going to go on record and say that. I think I have a little more common sense.
Mr Galt: I guess I'd have to disagree; I heard it.
Mrs Jamieson: Let me say that the experiences that I have relayed to you have not made me feel comfortable towards the municipal politicians. Now, when I say that, it's like every other thing is -- I don't say all of them. I'm not saying all of them would do that, but I am saying that there was a large portion who voted not to even allow us to know the results of a survey that was our taxpayers' money. We had that right. They put the advertisement in the paper and said, "Ward so-and-so and so-and-so, there's going to be a public meeting," which implied that we couldn't go, but I knew that we could. But you'd be amazed at how many people did not realize that. I must admit that I'm very sceptical. I want them to prove themselves before I can support them.
Mr Galt: The other area to toss back to you is in connection with registration of apartments, knowing where they are, making sure that they meet the standards.
Mrs Jamieson: I think that's an excellent idea. I have no problem with that. In fact, I really believe that bill would encourage people to register them. I think they should be registered.
Mr Galt: So you're supportive of registration, but you're not supportive of leaving it in the municipal hands?
Mrs Jamieson: I'm really nervous of the fact that, looking at what happened before Bill 120 -- and I worked on this area for 10 years -- municipalities were not willing to accept that they were going up -- "Let's not look at this situation" -- until they got to the point where they were in so many numbers.
I guess the other thing I want to say is, I don't believe the 100,000 apartments in houses were all not good. I do believe there are good apartments out there, but you do get some pretty horrendous ones that really need to be monitored.
Mr Hardeman: I'm just wondering, on the issue of the accountability or the wishes of local council to make the decision, you suggested there had been a public meeting held but it was not very well advertised, that some members of council seemed to prefer that not everyone attended.
Mrs Jamieson: That's true.
Mr Hardeman: Having said that, would you not agree with me that this type of an issue, whether we have single-family residence areas or whether we don't, should be a decision through public consultation and the wishes of the individual communities, that this should be a decision made by those members of the communities through the public hearing process which is required through the zoning process?
Mrs Jamieson: I think it's very important that that happen. The only thing is that in our case, where there was a survey done and it did show really that two thirds were willing to have them for different reasons and one third was not, and yet it seemed as if the people who got called were the people who were sitting on the side of the municipality's feelings, just fortunately the rest of us were interested enough to keep scrounging around and make sure that we knew when they were going to have these public meetings in order to address them. So it was a concern, but yes, I do believe that public meetings should be held.
Mr Hardeman: So you would suggest that going through the local process with public meetings would tend to lead to the direction of the good neighbour syndrome, as you mentioned in your presentation where I think the neighbours agreed with it?
Mrs Jamieson: Well, I think as long you're not going to do every basement apartment or accessory apartment that's going to be built. I think that would be difficult; I mean, to inform them about everyone. You're now delaying a process that you have trouble keeping going as it is. I still think the other thing is that if there's a long delay, it could encourage people to just put them in anyway without informing the municipality.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Galt and I agree on at least one thing. It's been my personal experience as well that most of the municipal councillors I've dealt with over the years have been trying to do their best and have usually acted in the best interests of their community. I know that during this entire process the last couple of days, we've heard all sorts of comments that people have made where maybe they've had individual experiences with local councillors that have been not only negative but almost bordering on the harassment situation etc.
Would it be fair to say that your concern can be summed up this way? You have no problem with registration, you have no problem obviously with having health standards for units and things like that, but the real problem is that a local council may try to keep the secondary units out of the so-called better residential areas where usually the bigger houses are that can usually accommodate the secondary units better than in perhaps areas of towns or cities that aren't as desirable. Is that the concern?
Mrs Jamieson: Just looking at where I reside, I would say that that's exactly what happened. It was obvious because you could tell which councillors were in the wards where there were much bigger homes that still had the basement apartments in them, but they ignored that. So yes, that did happen. It was obvious at times.
Mr Gerretsen: It's interesting that you would say that they've been ignored in some of those areas. I know too of some of the better areas of the city where I'm from where you've got basement apartments. Somehow it's not an issue to the people who live there, but it is an issue to the neighbours -- not about those apartments but about the apartments that are somewhere else in the city. I guess my question is, do you have any concerns about any other aspect of the act at all; for example, dealing with the deferral of public notice requirements in the approval of subdivision areas?
Mrs Jamieson: I must say that for me, having gone from a professional status to a citizen only, there are a lot of things that I haven't been privy to as I was in the past. So I really focussed in on one of my main concerns, and that is that people do be informed. I think it's important that people have a say. But in terms of some of the nitty-gritty details, I must admit I don't have any real opinions on that, other than I think that your public, who are your taxpayers, have a right to at least be informed.
Mr Hampton: I wonder if you could agree with this statement. It seems to me that the argument we've heard from you and from Mr Formica amounts to this: The choice is between accessory apartments that are regulated and that meet health and safety standards and accessory apartments that are unregulated and do not meet health and safety standards, because the market is going to exist, no matter what.
Mrs Jamieson: That's definitely my opinion. At the last set of committee meetings, one of the MPPs asked me if I really wanted children to be brought up in basement apartments, and I said to them, and I say to you now, I don't have a garage on my house and I would love a garage, always wanted one. I don't have one and I'm never going to have one, and that's part of life. Not everyone is going to be able to afford a home, so the reality is, I want what's best for them, for those who are going to rent. They're not going to have the finances or maybe they choose not to live in a home. Some of the elders like to live with their families but they want some independence, so therefore the basement apartment is an option.
I know our next-door neighbour at one time didn't believe in basement apartments, until her husband had a stroke, and what she brought in was she put in a basement apartment and they had a nurse live there who was able to help with services. So when I look at that, I say I still want those health and safety standards in place. I don't want to return to where there was a system where we just totally ignored them and some of them were in deplorable condition.
I went into a home that was a client-based home at the time, where there were two single mothers in a basement apartment who shared one living room. One had one child and one had two children and they had one bedroom between them. There was no kitchen; it was a bar, where the gentleman had pulled out the panelling and put in a fridge and a stove. This is because it was illegal, so he wasn't going to report it, and they certainly weren't going to bring the fire department in or the building code in, because they might get evicted. It was all they could afford; he charged them $500 each a month for that.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming and being patient with us. We do appreciate your presentation.
Before we adjourn, I'd just like to remind us that we should be back here, at 1 o'clock; otherwise we're going to back up the others as well. Is that what we agree to? Okay. We adjourn for this time.
The committee recessed from 1223 to 1313.
The Vice-Chair: I think we will proceed. Although we don't have a quorum, we have a consensus from those who are here to proceed so that we don't get so backlogged that we can't catch up to this.
METRO TENANTS LEGAL SERVICES
The Vice-Chair: We have our first delegation here from Metro Tenants Legal Services, Mr Young, welcome.
Mr Toby Young: Thank you. Good afternoon, members of the committee, my name is Toby Young and I am a staff lawyer at Metro Tenants Legal Services. I'd first like to say a few words about who we are and what we do.
Metro Tenants Legal Services is a community legal aid clinic formed in 1976 to advocate for the advancement of the legal rights of tenants in Metropolitan Toronto. We give information and advice to tenants on our telephone information lines, in our offices and by providing duty counsel at landlord and tenant court. We also provide legal representation for low-income tenants and groups whose cases have the potential to advance the rights of many tenants. We deliver public legal education targeted especially to groups who generally lack the access to information and advice concerning their housing rights. And finally, we assist tenants to organize themselves, often in conjunction with other organizations like the Federation of Metropolitan Toronto Tenants' Associations.
With respect to Bill 20's amendments affecting the apartments in houses, at the outset let me say that we are dismayed that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is introducing this legislation. We feel that the provincial government ought not to be abdicating its leadership role in the creation and implementation of housing policy. Municipalities have been unresponsive to the needs of a substantial number of constituents in terms of providing affordable and inclusive housing choices. MTLS views the proposed changes as regressive and reactionary and unrelated to any rational approach to the housing needs of low-income tenants. What follows is a review of those sections of Bill 20 which relate to apartments in houses from the perspective of their potential impact on tenants in Metro Toronto.
I now turn to the amendments to the Planning Act, subsection 1(3) of the bill repeals the definition of residential unit, which had been added by the Residents' Rights Act. Section 8 and subsections 19(1), 21(1) and 29(5) repeal the restrictions concerning the content of official plans, bylaws and plans of subdivision with respect to two-unit premises.
We do not support the repeal of those provisions of the Residents' Rights Act which made apartments in houses available as of right throughout the residentially zoned areas of any municipality, town or village. It is our view that Bill 20 will inevitably result in less choice for tenants, as municipalities move to prohibit the development of apartments in houses by passing new bylaws. One need only to be aware that over 30 municipalities are part of a charter challenge opposing the apartments-in-houses provisions of Bill 120 to gain an understanding of local governments' attitudes towards apartments in houses.
In our view, zoning should emphasize the distinction between uses and where an area is zoned residential there ought not to be any further zoning restrictions based on the type of residential accommodation that tenants are living in. Where the premises are truly residential, we believe that the laws must apply equally to all tenants.
In our view, zoning bylaws that permit only single-family houses in residential areas are outdated and premised on a myth of the nuclear family that no longer reflects reality, nor the goals and values of the majority of members of our communities.
These bylaws may appear neutral but their impact is not. Justifications are often couched in the language of planning or drains on services, but historically these municipal rules have controlled who may live in residential neighbourhoods. Giving that power to local politicians may suit the desires of elements of a community, but such bylaws silence the voices of many others who make economic, social and cultural contributions within that same community.
These bylaws have a disproportionate impact on various groups of tenants, namely single people of all ages, single-parent families, people who are new to Canada and people whose incomes prohibit them from seeking other forms of housing. Zoning can be and is used to keep different groups of people out of a neighbourhood. In our view, the right to adequate housing cannot be at the option of municipalities.
MTLS is also concerned about the impact Bill 20 will have on tenants in these apartments as compared to other types of tenants. One of the most important protections for tenants' quality of housing is the requirement in part IV of the Landlord and Tenant Act that landlords ensure that the premises they rent are in a good state of repair and fit to live in. The apartments they rent out must comply with health, safety and housing standards.
While tenants and their advocates can find no lawful reason for those provisions not to apply to tenants living in illegal units, since they pay rent like other tenants, the courts have been inconsistent in their decisions on whether tenants living in illegal apartments in houses are covered under the Landlord and Tenant Act. These interpretations leave tenants and their advocates struggling to secure safe housing in the shadows of the law.
Judges in landlord and tenant court have managed to take away the rights of tenants if there is a contravention of a zoning bylaw. For example, in one case involving an application by a tenant under the Landlord and Tenant Act for repairs and an abatement of rent, the judge would not grant the remedy to the tenant, holding that the tenant's letting of the premises contravened the zoning bylaw and the court would not force "an illegal contract."
I'd now like to turn the members' attention to the retroactivity provisions of Bill 20. It is subsection 74(2) of Bill 20 which makes those provisions regarding official plans, bylaws and plans of subdivision retroactive. In effect, Bill 20 grandfathers existing apartments in houses which were legal on or before November 16, 1995. While MTLS is relieved that those apartments in houses will be deemed legal, there's an overriding concern that the retroactivity of this legislation is both unnecessary and potentially damaging to the rights of tenants.
The effect of this provision is that there will be created two classes of apartments in houses. There will be those that already existed before November 16, 1995 which will remain legal, if they met the planning standards under the Residents' Rights Act. Homeowners of these units will, of course, still be required to bring their apartments up to the provincial fire standards. However, new apartments created after November 16, 1995 will once again be at the mercy of their local government. Each municipality will be able to create exclusionary zoning restrictions for all new apartments in houses, determining where they can and can't exist, and what planning standards will apply.
Bill 20 will, therefore, create a double standard: one set of rules for apartments in houses created before November 16, 1995, and a second set of rules for those created after that date. These double standards will create mass confusion for tenants and homeowners. Tenants will not know whether their apartment is legal and what standards will apply. This lack of common standards across the province may result in this form of housing once again going underground in much the same way as prior to the passage of the Residents' Rights Act.
Bill 20 will undermine tenants' security of tenure and where tenants don't have the security of tenure under the Landlord and Tenant Act, they are also not secure in the knowledge that they will be able to enforce their rights without fear of reprisal from municipalities. There will be confusion created about the legality of apartments in houses and it will be difficult to advise tenants of their rights where they are caught between these two pieces of legislation.
There is a very real possibility that tenants will once again find their homes to be illegal as they become subject to zoning bylaws which once again prohibit apartments in houses. MTLS recommends, therefore, that the provisions of Bill 20 not be made retroactive to November 16, 1995. Instead, MTLS proposes that the amendments come into force on the day Bill 20 receives royal assent. Otherwise, there will be apartments in houses which will be affected and tenants' security of tenure jeopardized.
I'd like to move now to the amendments to the Municipal Act.
Subsections 59(2) and (3) permit municipal bylaws to contain provisions concerning: (1) the registration of two-unit houses and the revocation of those registrations; (2) the imposition of specific standards which must be met in order to register; (3) requiring as many inspections as necessary, prior to registration, to determine compliance with the standards.
MTLS does not support the creation of a registry for apartments in houses. We maintain that there is already a lack of available resources for the inspection of apartments and that by adding an extra layer of bureaucracy in the form of a registry these scarce resource will be stretched even further. The costs of creating and operating a registry would be better directed towards the hiring and training of municipal inspectors to enforce compliance with safety standards.
Not only does Bill 20 permit registries, but it also allows the passage of bylaws which may prevent an apartment in a house from being occupied where the house is not registered. In effect, for tenants this creates yet another reason for municipal authorities to shut down their home, that is, for the owner's failure to register. As well, it empowers municipalities to specify those planning standards which must be met in order to be registered. This enables municipalities to preclude registration by specifying a wide range of planning standards, to which any non-conformity could result in an inability to register the unit, thus rendering the apartment illegal.
In short, a registry simply sets up a whole new set of obstacles for homeowners and potential legal problems for tenants in apartments in houses. MTLS maintains that there is no evidence which warrants this type of arbitrary and intrusive treatment towards apartments in houses as compared to other forms of housing stock.
If the purpose of these provisions is to ensure that safety standards are complied with, MTLS takes the position that there are already methods available to municipalities such as the Building Code Act and the fire code to deal with the substandard apartments in houses. MTLS is concerned that these amendments will only further enable municipalities to crack down on these apartments.
In conclusion, we have to ask if these proposed changes advance the rights of tenants. The answer is an unequivocal no. MTLS does not support the repealing of those provisions of the Planning Act that restricted municipal power to exclude apartments in houses in residential areas. The Residents' Rights Act prevented any official plan or municipal bylaw from prohibiting the creation of apartments in houses in areas where residential use is permitted by law. Despite the fact that we had some criticisms of that act, MTLS supports the present state of the law in the face of the changes proposes by Bill 20.
By once again giving municipalities the power to pass bylaws which prevent apartments in houses, it is open to municipalities to zone this crucial supply of housing back into a realm of "illegality." Prior to the passage of the Residents' Rights Act, MTLS received numerous calls from tenants living in illegal units inquiring about their rights. Since the passage of the Residents' Rights Act, the number of calls that MTLS receives from tenants living in illegal units has been reduced to a few calls per month.
We would expect that this situation will change, because these amendments will reduce tenants' measure of security in their housing even further. Sending apartments in houses back into the realm of illegality will again reopen issues of illegality due to zoning bylaws.
Tenants in legal apartments in houses already face more insecurities than other types of tenants in that they may more readily be evicted for landlord's own use under section 103 of the Landlord and Tenant Act. Moreover, because these units are not required to be registered with the rent registry, these tenants are not as well protected by the Rent Control Act and are more vulnerable to illegal rent increases. As such, these tenants are already less secure than are other types of tenants, and Bill 20 can only serve to reinforce this vulnerability.
Given existing residential housing in many neighbourhoods, these amendments leave municipalities with far too much power to restrict access to available and affordable housing. Zoning, by its very essence, is a negative tool; it can only be preventive. In contrast, apartments in houses are a proactive and creative way of dealing with the shortage of affordable housing and developing vital communities.
Finally, the basic reality is that apartments in houses will be created with or without municipal sanction. This type of housing is needed by tenants and is desired by tenants. The undeniable fact is that apartments in houses exist and will continue to exist despite municipalities' attempts to ignore or eliminate them, which is clear evidence that municipalities are unwilling to recognize people's housing needs.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We have 10 minutes left, which will be divided three ways, starting with the government representative.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): We should divide it two ways.
The Vice-Chair: Maybe they'll show in time.
Mr Baird: If there's still no representative from the Liberal Party here, do we get to split their time?
The Vice-Chair: Actually, we'll use that time to make up some of the time lost waiting to start. In fairness, we did agree with three.
Mr Baird: I appreciate your presentation. I just want to fundamentally underline the principle in the bill which causes concern: the issue of local municipal governments having the authority to introduce and maintain zoning requirements within their municipality. With respect to the issue of basement apartments and second apartments in the same home or semi-detached, you said it would cause chaos. Do you think there would be genuine chaos there, with the grandfathered provision? Given the host of regulations and requirements for tenant protection and what not, there will be things much more complex than this. It's simply that if you had it before November 1995, you'd be grandfathered. How would that chaos manifest itself?
Mr Young: The point I'm trying to make is that by grandfathering in certain apartment houses up to a specific date, those become legal so long as they comply with the standards at that time. However, for those units created after November 16, retroactively they will be zoned illegal when municipalities move once again, as we anticipate they will, to prohibit second units or apartments in houses in those places. There are a number of units which could be created which will fall into this grey area, this no man's land, if you will. We think that's going to create even more confusion for tenants. It would be better, in our submission, if these particular provisions weren't applied and that it just be made effective as of the date of proclamation or royal assent.
Mr Baird: With respect to municipal registration, all of us would agree that first and foremost, above anything, health and safety is a priority, to ensure that there are safe environments. What has been your experience with municipal registration in this area? What are your thoughts on how it would manifest itself?
Mr Young: As you probably heard, MTLS opposes registration. We simply don't think it's necessary. In effect, the purpose of Bill 120 and the Residents' Rights Act was to ensure that health and safety and housing standards were met in these units. The problem for a long time was that they were ignored. Finally, they were recognized and legalized and there were mechanisms put in place to make them safe. If you ask me, this legislation is simply unnecessary and can only, in my mind, be a mechanism for potential abuse by municipalities that dislike this form of housing.
Mr Baird: I know there are strong concerns in communities where people have concern about never being able to find a parking spot at their principal residence. There are some communities in my area where they put the houses as little as three feet apart and there's simply very little room for parking and what not. And there's the whole infrastructure there that the municipality obviously has to provide, from snow removal, water, sewage, basically community infrastructure, transportation, a whole host of things. It's the government's view that we want to return that authority to the local level for zoning, and it certainly isn't based on any negative aspect of tenancy whatsoever.
Mr Young: Assuming that's correct, I would still argue that the so-called drain on resources or the inability to provide adequate parking -- in the evidence I've seen, that simply doesn't hold up to any kind of scrutiny. There's some evidence to suggest that people who rent apartments in houses are less likely to own cars, for example.
In terms of drains on services, the fact is that the demographics are changing. You have these big family homes now with one or two people in them. The nuclear family is much smaller than it used to be, and by putting a second unit into a house you really don't increase the volume of people in that house. They were formerly there back in the heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.
In short, we're not convinced that those arguments raised in support of this bill are persuasive.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Baird. We'll go to the opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: No, thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Ms Churley?
Ms Churley: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I want to come back to the registration again. I find it interesting that you talk about an extra layer of bureaucracy and that scarce resources will be stretched even further. I agree with you that the most important area where we need to spend very scarce resources these days -- with municipalities losing about 47% of transfer payments, the resources are even going to be scarcer. I find it peculiar that the Solicitor General of this government objects to, for instance, gun owners having to register their guns and justifying it on the basis of too much bureaucracy, too much trouble for the gun owner, too much expense -- who's going to pay for it? -- yet they're demanding that people register a second unit in a house. I just find that a weird contradiction and I'm wondering if you have any comment on that.
Mr Young: I certainly agree with your point. I would think guns are more dangerous than apartments in houses. The basic point here is that registries really just aren't necessary. The dangers that have been alluded to regarding apartments in houses and the people who live in them simply don't hold up to any kind of clear analysis. And with resources very, very limited, as you say, it would be wiser, in our submission, if that money was spent on enforcing the standards onsite by having inspectors go down to the units, as opposed to creating this bureaucracy with forms to be filed and people to be hired and what not.
Ms Churley: The question is, who's going to pay for it? Are you concerned, as I am, about the cumulative effect of this policy, which will certainly restrict again second units in housing, along with the threat of losing rent control legislation and this government also getting completely out of providing affordable housing? We've already had people freeze to death on the street. There are more and more homeless. There are kids ending up in tiny, cramped motel rooms because they have no place to live. Couple that with the welfare decreases, and these all at a certain point come together. I wonder if this is for you part of the overriding concern, that we're going to lose affordable housing in Ontario.
Mr Young: Yes, absolutely. This is just one very small part of a housing program implemented by this government which we are adamantly opposed to. We believe the provincial government has a strong role to play in the creation and implementation of housing policy in this province. So-called getting out of the housing business, to my mind, is not an adequate solution. It will leave those who are most vulnerable and most unable to find housing even more vulnerable, despite whatever good intentions the legislation may have.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for attending this afternoon. We welcome your presentation.
CANADIAN BAR ASSOCIATION -- ONTARIO
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Will the representatives from the municipal law section of the Canadian Bar Association come forward, please. Good afternoon, and welcome to the committee.
Mr Lex Bullock: Thank you very kindly. Mr Chairman, members of the committee, my name is Lex Bullock. I am the chair of the municipal section of the Canadian Bar Association of Ontario. With me is Virginia MacLean QC, the first vice-chair of the municipal section. What we'd like to do today is to divide our presentation into two halves. I will be dealing primarily with the first half of Bill 20; Ms MacLean will be dealing with section 23 on. You have our presentation before you.
I don't propose to deal with the sections individually. As a matter of principle, our section and the bar association is here today to support the government's move towards a more efficient planning process; however, of course to emphasize the importance of retaining a fair process when looking at these kinds of amendments.
When we speak of efficiency, we really think of two particular criteria: The first is the question of timely decisions and avoiding delay and the streamlining aspects of Bill 20; the second is the issue of a reasonable and affordable cost for appeals and of the planning process in general for those whose rights are affected by the planning process. It's important to remember that these are property owners, in addition to the development industry. I think that's a perspective that needs to be kept in mind: Property owners are affected by decisions made under the planning process.
If I could take you to the introduction of our submission, as many of you know -- I see Mr Hardeman is here, Mr Gerretsen is here -- the bar association has been very actively involved in planning reform in this province for some time. We very much appreciate the opportunity to provide input to this committee about Bill 20 and, as I mentioned earlier, commend the new government for its willingness to address unresolved concerns about planning reform. With the exception of our continuing concern -- and, I would emphasize, a very serious concern -- about the committee of adjustment provisions, the Canadian Bar Association of Ontario generally supports the present amendments. It is our opinion that Bill 20 has succeeded in addressing several of the major shortcomings of Bill 163, the previous amendments to the Planning Act. Ms MacLean will be addressing very specifically the issues about the committee of adjustment and our concerns in that regard.
Commenting upon section 1 of the bill, the new definition of "public body" in subsection 1(2) has the effect of consolidating provincial planning appeals with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It is our opinion that such a corporate approach to planning decisions and appeals is appropriate and will encourage more efficient decision-making; in other words, a very appropriate role for the province to unify the objections or concerns of the various ministries in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
However, we are somewhat concerned about the regulation-making power in subsection 1(3). If such power were to be exercised frequently, it would detract from the efficiencies previously achieved by the corporate view by unifying the appeal review power in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It would be our recommendation that subsection 1(3) of the bill be deleted.
I'd next like to address section 3 of Bill 20. This section amends subsections 3(5) and 3(6) of the Planning Act to remove the "shall be consistent with" provincial policy statements test that was introduced by Bill 163. The "have regard to" test that originated with the original Planning Act, 1983, has been reinstated. We believe that this is one of the most significant and important amendments in Bill 20.
In its submission to the standing committee on administration of justice in September 1994, the Canadian Bar Association of Ontario reviewed the difficulties of complying with the "be consistent with" test. It's our opinion that the return to the original Planning Act, 1983, test is preferable, as it will alleviate the administrative burden and consequent cost upon municipalities by removing the need for a detailed case-by-case examination of each policy statement for every planning decision that's made. In other words, what you'll see, we believe, is that the provincial policy statements will be applied very much at the official plan level, which is in our view the appropriate level for them to be applied at, and then subsequent planning decisions of course will have to comply with the official plan, which has already complied with the policy statements.
We believe that the amendment, the reinstatement of the "have regard to" test, should significantly reduce the costs and delays that would have been created in the planning process if one retained the "be consistent with" test. So again we're very much in support of the section 3 amendments in Bill 20.
I'd next like to address section 9 of Bill 20. This section replaces the section 17 official plan review and appeal processes with a new, direct appeal process with shorter time frames. The section also empowers the minister to exempt official plans and official plan amendments from his or her approval and to authorize another approval authority to exempt official plans and official plan amendments within their jurisdiction from approval.
It's important to note that even if a plan is exempt from approval, the right to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is preserved by subsection 17(24). On a plain reading of section 21, the same right of appeal is preserved for official plan amendments, even where those official plan amendments are exempt from approval. We endorse the preservation of these rights of appeal and support the Ontario Municipal Board in its continuing role as an impartial and independent appellate body to hear appeals under the Planning Act.
The new section 17 replaces the existing official plan referral powers with a direct appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, as I mentioned. The Bill 20 amendments provide that an appeal fee may be prescribed under the Ontario Municipal Board Act. We support the direct appeal approach because it is a simpler and more efficient appeal process. We are concerned that reasonable and affordable appeal fees be prescribed so that the appeals are not prohibitively expensive for the average Ontario ratepayer. Again, the emphasis is upon the planning process affecting the average homeowner, the average property owner in the province.
With respect to section 13, which is the section I'd like to address next, we generally support the reintroduction of shorter time frames for appeals and the direct appeal process, although certainly in our view we have always believed that the Planning Act, 1983, was a very well-drafted piece of legislation and in fact, if used appropriately, had very short appeal time frames pursuant to it as well. So we're somewhat interested in seeing the direct appeal process introduced and again very much in support as a more efficient kind of appeal process, but are wondering why there wasn't perhaps a return to the original time frames provided for under the Planning Act, 1983. With respect to the appeals under this section, we reiterate that the appeal fees prescribed should be reasonable and affordable for the average Ontario ratepayer.
I'd next like to address section 20. This section amends the zoning powers of municipal council as they relate to contaminated lands and sensitive or natural areas and further amends the zoning process to provide notice to the public of the Ontario Municipal Board's new early dismissal powers.
We support very much the giving of this notice of the early dismissal powers to the public. The act provides that this would be done in a timely way at one of the initial meetings for the rezoning. We believe that such notice will ensure that members of the public can preserve their rights in a timely way and understand that if they wish to participate in planning decisions, they need to maintain a consistent position from the initial submissions they make. As respects the balance of the amendments, we would reiterate our support for the direct appeal process, seeing it as more expeditious.
Finally, in terms of my comments, section 21: This section amends the Planning Act to restore the authority to council to pass zoning bylaws prohibiting the construction or use of two residential units within a house. I believe this was one of the issues that the gentleman before us was speaking about.
We have no comment to make with respect to the change in planning policy. However, we do support the government's decision not to amend subsection 35(2). This provision provides that the zoning power does not include the authority to pass a bylaw that has the effect of discriminating between persons who are related and those who are unrelated. This is a long-standing provision in the Planning Act. It codifies the established law of this province, and we very much support the government in maintaining what we see as an anti-discrimination provision in section 21.
Ms Virginia MacLean: Mr Chair and members, in the time allotted I propose to deal with the section 24 change and the section 26 change.
We are somewhat surprised that the government announced it was going to repeal Bill 163. Both of these sections were not in Bill 163. They were in part of the planning studies, and the Canadian Bar Association has commented eight times in this process; this is our eighth time here. We have been consistent in our comments as they relate both to the changes made to the site plan approval processes, which is what you're putting in section 24, and our comments with respect to the committee of adjustment appeal process.
The change to section 24, which is a change to section 41 of the Planning Act, is to give municipalities powers to require land for public transit purposes as a condition of site plan approval.
We would not support this recommendation or this change. It's our submission that municipalities have sufficient power already and there is an Expropriations Act and there are other means of obtaining public transit rights of way rather than putting it through the process of site plan approval.
Our concern is abuse and the potential for abuse that would reside in a municipal council if it had a power to determine something to be for public transit purposes. It may be in their official plan for five years and they may decide it's not there. What happens with that land they've acquired? I would submit that if they are going to put through a subway or whatever they're going to do, there is the Expropriations Act. It has adequate remedies.
With respect to the committee of adjustment appeal process, first of all, we'd like to say we fully support the submissions that were addressed to you yesterday by the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities. We endorse all the comments contained in their submission.
We have consistently, through the Planning Act review process and into Bill 163, been opposed to any changes to the rights of appeal from a decision of the committee of adjustment to the Ontario Municipal Board. We oppose this very strongly, because this is a private property owner's sole right of getting to the Ontario Municipal Board. It is designed for minor variances. As indicated, if you have the provisions which you are now providing, which give control to the council and do not have a as-of-right appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, you're slanting everything in favour of either the large developer or the municipal corporation. The small property owner no longer has the rights that were guaranteed to him under the existing provisions of the Planning Act.
Moreover, if you're concerned about fairness of process and you have eliminated the rights of the application of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to the decision-making powers of the council on its review, you are further eroding the rights of the individual to protect his property.
It's our submission with respect to this particular proposal that you leave it as it is, allow the rights of the individual to be exercised before that committee of adjustment and allow him to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The last section, the fee cost section of that particular section, we have not addressed specifically in our comments, but we would like to comment on it. That fee cost section, in our submission, is very onerous. We appreciate that this is an age of cost recovery, but this is one area where we submit the provision should not apply. You are taking away the right of the individual property owner to appeal if he is faced with the potential of paying the costs incurred by the board in holding a hearing. If the fees are high and are unreasonable, plus the potential penalty costs provision, we would submit that you are effectively stopping the board from functioning as it now functions in dealing with these kinds of appeals.
Therefore, in terms of an alternative, we had recommended earlier, and you'll find it in our submission, that a leave-to-appeal process could be implemented. We appreciate that one of the concerns was that the Ontario Municipal Board was burdened with too many appeals from committee of adjustment decisions. We had recommended a leave-to-appeal process, so the board could then make its own decision to determine and weed out unnecessary appeals.
Again, as I indicated, we are very much opposed to any change to the committee of adjustment right of appeal, and that is really the main thrust of our submission.
With respect to the other sections, the comments are there in the paper. Most of them that are housekeeping we have no concerns with. Some of them are necessary housekeeping amendments, and we don't propose to deal with any of the comments.
We have a number of comments on how certain of the changes proposed to the Development Charges Act, the Assessment Act and the Municipal Act will work, but they're just editorial changes and they're not anything of substance. That is really the conclusion of my remarks on those two areas.
Mr Bullock: To wrap up, we're here today very much to support efficient planning decisions. We would point out that the efficiency ought not to be at the expense of an inherently fair process, and we're here very much to request you to delete the provisions respecting committee of adjustment appeals to council and to maintain the committee of adjustment appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.
I can really do no more than quote from the submission of the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities: "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."
It's important to remember that a lot of these decisions affect what we suggest would be the smaller property owner and the property rights those individuals have. Thank you.
Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to turn to this committee of adjustment appeal matter. We've probably heard about that more than anything else. I'm intrigued with your notion that any person who wishes to appeal to the committee must set out the reasons in writing and then all parties have an opportunity to respond in writing and then the OMB could decide. Would you not agree with me that from a practical viewpoint they simply haven't been doing that, have not been using the "frivolous and vexatious" objection section?
Mr Bullock: No, I would not agree. I think the Ontario Municipal Board has been using it very effectively since the power was introduced approximately two years ago.
Mr Gerretsen: How often have they used it?
Mr Bullock: I don't have the statistics, Mr Gerretsen, but certainly it's clear from our discussions with board members and the chair of the board that it is a power that they've been using very effectively to rid the system of inappropriate or unreasonable appeals.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe we can hear from them then because that's certainly not my impression that's been given by other presenters. In actual fact, I don't think the OMB's time really is spent with committee of adjustment matters. I believe that only 6% of their total time, according to some statistics that were given to us yesterday, is being used in dealing with minor variance matters.
Would you agree with me that one of the main difficulties is that there's a very long period of time, in even relatively minor minor variance situations -- I know that's a term certainly that's subject to some debate as to what is minor and what isn't minor -- in a lot of cases, to get the board to have a hearing? It's not because of any fault of theirs necessarily, but simply because it just takes a long period of time. If there was some way in which we could shorten that period of time, would that not maybe be a solution to the problem?
Ms MacLean: I think that when you shorten the time you can't do it at the expense of denying a fair hearing; that's the balancing.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm not talking about the appeal times. I'm talking about the period of time between the time when somebody appeals to the OMB and the OMB actually has a hearing.
Ms MacLean: They're about six months right now.
Mr Gerretsen: Right. In a relatively minor situation, do you think that that's too long or about right, or too short a period of time?
Mr Bullock: I think the parties would always like to see it shorter, Mr Gerretsen, but as a practical matter in this day and age -- certainly something less than six months would be preferable but it's not an unreasonable length of time.
Ms Churley: I find it interesting -- I was just trying to look up section 4 in here but I didn't have time to find it -- that you have no comment on it, simply because John Sewell was here yesterday and said that section 4 was gobbledygook and that the government should get the lawyers to look at it. Actually my question isn't on that.
I want to come back to one of the other big issues that's been raised here, and will continue to be, and that's disagreements about "have regard to" as opposed to "be consistent with."
Mr Bullock: Yes.
Ms Churley: I know lawyers who have an absolute opposite opinion to yours, which of course in the legal community is not necessarily unusual.
Mr Bullock: Or any community for that matter.
Ms Churley: That's true. I think you're coming at your presentation very much from a legal point of view, not really examining the policy implications that much.
Mr Bullock: I think that's fair.
Ms Churley: But it has been said to the committee and to me personally by lawyers that just the opposite from what you suggested will happen, that in fact there was a tradeoff made when this bill was created, that municipalities wanted more autonomy and not have to go to the province all the time for approvals; they got that. The tradeoff would be to bring in a consistent provincial policy to have it broad enough, fair enough and with enough flexibility built in, but to make it easier for the smaller municipalities that just don't have the money and the staff to do a lot of the work. That was the tradeoff.
What we're hearing from some people is that the lack of clarity will mean there will be more appeals than ever because this gives any municipality the opportunity to look at it, then toss it aside and ignore it, and then there will be more community groups, environmentalists, all kinds of appeals because there'll be disagreements when you don't have that consistency in front of you. That's the other side of this, that it may look on the surface that it's going to speed up the process. The opposite view is that it will complicate the process and spin it out even longer because there is less clarity.
Mr Bullock: That may be the opposite view. It's one we obviously don't agree with. I think it's important to understand how the planning process works and I think it's important to understand that the primary document that will be measured against these policy statements is the municipality's official plan. Subsequent planning decisions on rezonings and variances then need to conform to the official plan.
We support it because we think that an appropriate kind of testing will be done at the official plan level and that then, once that is done, the local municipality will be able to measure subsequent decisions against its official plan. They shouldn't have to jump back, if you will, back up to the policy statements.
With respect to your comments about appeals, like lawsuits one can never stop someone from making an appeal if that's what they choose to do, but from the bar's perspective, the powers the Ontario Municipal Board has to dismiss an appeal early on in the process are appropriate. That is where the vetting will be done and an assessment can be made about the prima facie, the initial, the on-the-surface, on the face of the merits of the appeals. So that's why we support it as being more efficient.
We also support it as being a clearer test. There is established case law with respect to the "have regard to" test. There obviously isn't with respect to the "shall be consistent."
Mr Hardeman: I thank you very much for your presentation and I think it's fair to say that you are not the first presentation that has expressed some concern about removing the right to appeal for minor variances.
I found it interesting in your recommendation that the Ontario Municipal Board should be authorized to make the decision based on written submissions from all the parties concerned. From your legal perspective, would that be the same for the people writing it in? Would they be getting their fair day in court by written submissions, not knowing what the other side had written in and not being able to explain their position? By the OMB, would that be perceived as being fair and just to everyone concerned?
Mr Bullock: From our perspective, it's always preferable in our view for there to be an oral hearing. But when one looks at the recent amendments to the Statutory Powers Procedure Act it is becoming clear that paper hearings, if you will, when one looks at the cost and the cost recovery side of things and balances that with the question of having your views put forward, are becoming more accepted.
Moving with the times, perhaps we should have added to our submission that there ought to be, as you've suggested, a right of reply to the appellant and I think that's certainly implicit in our submission. If you have the appeal going in and you have the respondent writing in to say it's not meritorious for this reason, we certainly think the appellant should have the opportunity to respond, yes.
Mr Hardeman: The other issue, if I might, Mr Chairman, very quickly, is the issue of the requirement of property for transit by municipalities that was referred to. It's my understanding that the present Bill 163 allows or has that authority for the upper tiers, but it does not have it for lower-tier municipalities, that being the reason it's in there. I wondered if that would explain why it came out of nowhere as it appears to in your presentation.
Ms MacLean: That may well be the reason. Our position is still the same on it, whichever tier government has it.
Mr Hardeman: You're content that if it was good for one it's good for the other.
Ms MacLean: No.
Mr Bullock: We don't believe -- it's a question, Mr Hardeman, as I think Ms MacLean explained earlier on, of surplus and what happens in those instances.
The Chair: Thank you both again for your presentation and we appreciate your comments.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Chairman, I have a motion here that I'd like to move and perhaps we could hold discussion on it until later on in the day if there's unanimous consent.
I move that the committee formally request that a representative of the Ontario Municipal Board appear before this committee to answer questions relating to the current practice and effect of appeals from committees of adjustment to the OMB.
The Chair: Is there consent that we table this motion for debate at the end of the day? Seeing no contrary opinion, consider it tabled.
Mr Paul Mondell: Good afternoon, Mr Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Paul Mondell and I'm here on behalf of the Metrontario Group. The Metrontario Group is a group of companies that I am proud to say has been in business for the last 50 years, developing residential communities and building homes in the greater Metropolitan Toronto area. We have major development projects currently under way in Burlington, Oakville, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Oshawa and the city of Toronto. In addition to these extensive holdings, we have development interests in two other provinces and four states.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon on an issue that is very important to our company and to our industry, an industry that has for the last five years been brought to its knees as a result of economic conditions, a lack of consumer confidence and an ever-increasing amount of unnecessary administrative and legislative red tape.
I am here this afternoon to express my support for Bill 20. I believe that the introduction of Bill 20 is the first step to a return to a balance: a balance between economic development and the protection of the environment, and a balance between the roles of municipalities and the role of the province in setting the legislative and planning framework in Ontario.
It is absolutely crucial for our industry that a new planning system be introduced that returns a balance between economic development goals, streamlining of the planning process and the protection of the environment. We need a system that clearly promotes the benefits of economic development and allows us to get back to the job of building homes and places of employment that will stimulate the economy. Our industry can and will do that if given the tools to do so.
As you know, our industry is one of the largest employers in this province and our ability to provide affordable housing and to successfully create jobs is largely determined by the planning framework within which we operate. Over the past five years we have seen an attempt to reform the land use and planning and approval system in Ontario. This review came about as a result of the previous government's desire to fix a system that it perceived was not working. Unfortunately, the current act fell well short of achieving two of the goals for which it was intended: streamlining the system and empowering municipalities.
It seems to me that the more we talked about streamlining the planning process the more complicated it became. In fact, I would suggest the current Planning Act creates greater uncertainty between provincial and municipal powers, establishes longer, more complicated time frames, and discourages a balance between economic and environmental issues.
What we have now is an opportunity through this legislation to fix the problems that were created by the current Planning Act and, as I said, to return to a balance in the process.
This government has made it clear that it understands that growth and economic development are clearly linked to planning legislation, clear policies and the process itself. Economic development has finally become a government priority equivalent to the protection of the environment.
The draft policy statements also make significant progress towards addressing the balance I referred to earlier. The new policy statements are considerably less prescriptive and more focused on matters of core provincial interest. There must be clearly defined roles for the province and for municipalities in order to eliminate the needless overlap and duplication which delays the process of obtaining development approvals.
The province's role must be clearly articulated and defined. However, within this planning framework municipalities must be given the power and the flexibility to make planning decisions which are appropriate for their communities. This, I believe, has been achieved by returning to the "have regard to" test. This respects the local decision-making process and encourages locally driven solutions while ensuring the provincial interest is taken into account.
Bill 20 also encourages a one-window approach in dealing with the province. We need to return to the days of having clear and concise guidelines. The existing act with its complex guidelines has created a system that stifles many applications.
Today I would suggest that we operate in a system that's full of documents prepared by various ministries that have the words "draft," "proposed," "interim" and "guidelines" on them. These documents have no official status but are being implemented as if they were official government policy.
The new policy statements are very clear and concise. The new policy statements, I would suggest, should also lead to the creation of a stable supply of registered lots and designated land that will help to keep our land and housing affordable and not lead to wild fluctuations in land prices.
Bill 20 also accomplishes other important objectives:
Shorter time frames for processing applications. This will, in my opinion, create a more efficient process.
The direct right of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. Bill 20 provides for the absolute right of appeal and eliminates the discretion and uncertainty associated with a referral request.
Appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board by the province may only be made by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The one-window approach to provincial planning restricts the ability of other provincial agencies to unduly frustrate the process.
Finally, Bill 20 makes it clear that the appeal clock starts to tick upon the submission of the prescribed information. The onus is now on the municipalities to deal with the application once it's received. This eliminates the ambiguity of a complete application, as being interpreted under the current legislation.
It is important for this legislation to move quickly to becoming law. Our industry is in a period of transition. We have in effect three systems because of the uncertainty that's been created by Bill 163. Many of us, including myself, moved very quickly to submit applications under the previous Planning Act and as a result have still not been able to fully understand the implications of the current legislation. With the introduction of Bill 20, many of my colleagues have held off submitting new applications until the current situation becomes more clear. Once this legislation is proclaimed, it should lead to more applications being submitted as more confidence and certainty in the system is once again created, and I would suggest that it will get us back to the job of building houses in this province. Those are my comments.
Ms Churley: I perhaps missed it. There's no document, I take it, that was handed out?
Mr Mondell: No, I'm sorry. I just prepared this presentation.
Ms Churley: That's fine. Therefore, I just want to ask you, and perhaps you said it at the beginning, what is your group? I see you're land development. What do you do exactly?
Mr Mondell: We're a land development company. We are by and large subdividers of land and have a large number of projects, I'd say mostly large holdings, primarily residential.
Ms Churley: Within the Metro area?
Mr Mondell: We've got projects on the books right now in Burlington, Oakville, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Oshawa and in the city of Toronto, and as I said, we're also involved in projects in two other provinces and four states.
Ms Churley: And what do you do with the company?
Mr Mondell: I'm in charge of the land development and planning process for our Canadian operation.
Ms Churley: So you've dealt over the years then with municipalities all over, you said in other provinces as well, so all over the country.
Mr Mondell: My experience has been limited to the greater Toronto area.
Ms Churley: I see. So you've mostly dealt with the local municipal councils. I was going to ask you some questions about other jurisdictions, but I guess you're not aware of those.
Mr Mondell: No, sorry.
Ms Churley: I guess I just have a general question to ask you. Is there anything about this Bill 20 you don't like? Is it, in your view, perfect?
Mr Mondell: I would suggest to you it's far from perfect. I think there are many details that need to be examined. I'm certainly not the one or in a position to be doing a clause-by-clause assessment. There are certainly a number of things that need to be looked at, I would suggest, but I think it's returning in many respects back to where we were with the 1983 act and a system that I think most of us were quite comfortable working under.
Ms Churley: It wasn't a facetious question. It's just that most people, even those in support, have mentioned a few things they'd like to see changed.
I just remember when I was elected to a city council not all that long ago, in 1988, before I came to the province, there was a pretty huge turnover at Toronto city council because of some very, very bad, poor development going on within the city of Toronto. Partially -- we refer to it, many people referred to it as the curtains down at the waterfront, that obstruct people's view. Essentially I think there's almost total agreement, perhaps not with some in the development industry, that that was a disaster for our waterfront and for our city and there was a recognition that there had to be some changes in the way city council was dealing with applications for development.
I just throw that story in, and of course there was a huge turnover in city council, and I was one of those elected under the program of more responsible development: not stopping development, but responsible development, with more community participation.
One of the things that this bill does is it really cuts down on the public participation, which I think, as a representative of the people, is very, very important. I just wonder if you have a comment, if there's any time left. I know it can be very frustrating to developers, but at the end of the day I've seen better development for all when there's proper public participation and everybody having a say who has an interest. It ends up, I think, on the whole, for the long term, better development.
Mr Mondell: I agree that there has to be a balance between the development that we bring to the table and the protection of the environment and I would suggest to you that the way Bill 20 is set out, some of the situations that you have referred to may not have happened in quite the same way.
However, I do believe that if the municipalities are not given strict time lines in which to deal with applications, they will continue to drag. I can point to many examples where we were waiting for eight, 10, 12 months for very, very simple amendments to zoning bylaws that were holding up construction, that were holding up developments that could otherwise have gone through and may have, for whatever reasons in the last five years, missed an opportunity in the marketplace.
Ms Churley: But that's a bureaucracy problem as opposed to a public participation problem, which I think has to be addressed here, the difference between giving people ample time to prepare and respond as opposed to the internal problems which we've all seen in bureaucracies in government. I believe that's where the focus should be, frankly, on trying to speed up the time.
Mr Mondell: I don't believe there's anything in this legislation, in this bill, that is restricting the rights of individuals to comment and make applications --
Ms Churley: Oh, yes, there are.
Mr Mondell: -- that they wouldn't have otherwise.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Churley, that's your five and one quarter minutes. We'll move to the government benches, I believe Mr Ouellette.
Ms Churley: Do you want me to point those out to you?
Mr Ouellette: Thank you for your presentation today. The builders in the community have pointed out that there are approximately 120-odd steps that take place from the time a piece of property is purchased till the time it's developed. Do you have any idea of the percentage of reduction in steps this change represents and the costing as it relates to, say, a home buyer?
Mr Mondell: I'm afraid I don't. I'm sorry. I would say, though, that I believe with some of the time frames that have been set up, obviously time becomes money for all of us, and all attempts to try to condense the process and allow us to get on with it are going to lead to a more efficient process, as I said, and hopefully reduce the costs at the tail end of the project, when it is the consumer who is ultimately paying that price for the delays.
Mr Smith: Just a couple of quick questions with regard to practice and process perhaps. You made reference to the "have regard to" test. I just wanted to get your opinion on whether you feel the switch back to that "have regard to" will compromise either your industry's ability or municipalities' or stakeholders' in general ability to adequately test environmental concerns that may arise during a development project and whether or not the streamlining process that you referred to and the reduced municipal time frames will compromise the ability of municipalities to adequately assess a planning project.
Mr Mondell: I believe at the end of the day, notwithstanding the time frames that have been set up, our industry will still have to present its case as to why an application should move forward and the proper documentation and background studies are going to have to be prepared. So I don't believe that the municipality's ability to assess an application is going to be compromised.
Notwithstanding the time frames that have been set up, I may be able to trigger a right to an appeal to the OMB much more quickly, but I'd be foolish to do so if I didn't have the proper backup and documentation to support that by the time I got to the board. I'd be thrown out on my ear, I would suggest. So we still have to prepare the background documents. We still have to prepare the information that's required.
With respect to the "have regard to" test, I would suggest to you that the current Planning Act has got such a long list of complicated policy statements and guidelines that it's very difficult for a municipality to assess what it's being consistent with, and in many cases you may have competing interests. I think the "have regard to" test, as I said, is going to allow municipalities to tailor their decisions to their local situation, and I would suggest that as long as there is no adverse impact on a development or the proper mitigation measures are taking place, the municipality can move forward in that process, knowing that it has had regard to the provincial policies. I think that is a very, very crucial thing for our industry.
The Chair: Any other questions? You've got approximately two minutes remaining. Okay, we'll move to the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Do I take it then that we have seven minutes? Are you yielding that time?
The Chair: No.
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, okay, I see. I'd like to get back on something, though, that Ms Churley raised earlier. It's always been my concern, having seen it from I guess all three sides over the last 20 to 25 years, that the real problems are not the time limits that are set for appeals and various processes in the act. The real problems are that, as you stated yourself, it can sometimes take eight months to get something out of city hall or eight months to get something out of a different ministry, let's say the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, or certainly it will take eight to 12 months to get a hearing before the OMB etc. Is that not where the real time delays are?
Am I in stereo here, or what? What's happening? Go ahead.
Mr Mondell: I think it's a big part of the problem. There's no denying that. I think what this bill represents, as I understand it, is that it's going to start putting much stricter time limits on municipalities so they can't drag out an application for whatever reason, whether they just don't plain like it. It's going to require the municipalities to become more efficient and to deal with applications in a timely way, and if that's one of the things that comes out of this bill, then --
Mr Gerretsen: But you know as well as I do that if you've got an application for a rezoning before a municipality and everything seems to be going along all right and they want to take an extra month or two beyond the time periods that are prescribed in the act for them to deal with it, you're not going to appeal it to the OMB. You're going to wait until they deal with it two or three or four months later.
Mr Mondell: On a minor issue, I would probably agree with you. On a major issue, I may take issue with you and say that we will make sure that if the proper steps aren't followed, we're going to push that button, because we know that at least we're going to get a date, whether that's in front of the Ontario Municipal Board --
Mr Gerretsen: You as a land developer would almost ruin the good reputation that you have with a particular municipality that you'll have to go back to maybe a year from now on another project on an issue like that, if you know they're coming your way, or if you have that feeling?
Mr Mondell: I would say every situation would certainly be assessed individually, but if the situation as you've described it -- if it's a matter of waiting for an opening on an agenda because of a workload issue, you're right, I would not make an issue, as my own personal practice would be. I can't say that every municipality and every company works the way we do. We generally try to work with the municipalities and try to get a consensus before anything reaches the municipal council level, certainly. That's not always possible.
Mr Gerretsen: The other issue deals with the fact that you made a statement near the end of your remarks to the effect that we can get housing going again. We were told earlier today that there are over 20,000 approved lots -- I'm not sure whether they were all single-family lots, but there were over 20,000 lots in the greater Toronto area that are just ready to go right now. Would you not agree with me that the real reason why there aren't any houses being built has got very little to do with the planning process but more to do with the economy over the last four or five years?
Mr Mondell: I would suggest to you that that certainly has an important bearing. In three municipalities that I'm currently involved in applications, those being in Burlington, in Oakville and in Oshawa, I would suggest to you that there is a very limited number of lots that are available to the marketplace today. If I had lots available within those municipalities, I would be bringing those to the market in anticipation of what we see as possibly some light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully this year will be that year.
In many municipalities, there may be that availability of product. That does not apply on a municipality-by-municipality basis, and I would suggest to you that the lots that are available in Ajax and Whitby aren't doing me any good in Oakville or Burlington.
Mr Gerretsen: One other issue, and that deals with the issue of the one-window shopping: I personally like this notion of it going through one particular ministry, because if you phone somebody here in Toronto within government, at least you'd have somebody to contact, rather than having to contact 15 or 20 different people in different ministries about this.
There was something in your remarks, though, and we didn't get them in writing so I may have misunderstood you -- it is my understanding, from what the minister said here yesterday, that if there is a concern a particular ministry has that may not be shared by Municipal Affairs, certainly in that case the minister would still launch the appeal on behalf of the other ministry -- let's say it's Environment or Natural Resources -- to ensure that the hearing is held. Is that your understanding as well?
Mr Mondell: I understand that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs could assign their one window to another ministry, for instance. But we have many situations where we are dealing with a ministry that is not being cooperative, that there are competing interests, as I mentioned, where the Ministry of Agriculture and Food may launch an appeal notwithstanding everyone else is on side.
Mr Gerretsen: That could still happen, though, except it's done through the one window rather than --
Mr Mondell: I understand that, but I think generally speaking the spirit in which this one-window approach is being put forward, as you have said, being able to have that person, that individual, that one ministry that can coordinate provincial concerns into one issue and hopefully prioritize what the concerns are, is going to lead to a more efficient system and make it less difficult to deal with various provincial ministries.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Mondell. I appreciate your taking the time to make your presentation today.
The Chair: Our next group up is two individuals, George Aregers and John Anga. Good afternoon, gentlemen. We have 25 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between a presentation and question-and-answer period.
Mr George Aregers: First I'd like to thank the committee members and staff for allowing us to make a presentation today. We hope you consider our recommendations and submit them to the Legislature. Before I continue reading the script that I have, I'd like to tell the committee here that we're not developers. We are small land owners who own properties on regulated land.
I've owned my land in Mississauga since 1981. I was supposed to raise my family peacefully. It's never flooded -- nothing. Since 1981 I've been terrorized. The government wants the property for parks. I'd like to tell these people here that that's what the intent of Bill 163 was.
This Bill 20, we agree on it. It is a good bill but there's only one problem with it: It's not retroactive to the first reading of November 16, 1995. This morning I got in touch with the director of planning. His name is Philip McKinstry. I asked him one particular question, "Why is this Bill 20 not retroactive?" He said, "It's unfair to the municipalities." I said to him: "Let me tell you what is really unfair. The city of Mississauga" -- you can see in the back of my written form there's a page -- "they notified me that there was going to be an official plan proposed."
Granted, it started in 1993. Since then I've always called them up and asked: "Are there any changes? This is my land. Is it going to be affected in any way that I have to make a presentation?" They said, "No, you don't have to worry."
I got this letter and I said, "I want to take a look at the official plan." "It's not available." I said, "What do you mean it's not available?" "Well, you have to look at it after November 16." It's odd that it happened to be the first reading of this Bill 20.
I made a presentation to city council and I begged them, "Why don't you incorporate in this official plan what Bill 20, the new government, wants?" Oh, no.
My biggest concern was that I am told that the province, Bill 163, gives the power to Mississauga and other municipalities, and this is the horror in this whole thing. I own a property. Part of it's on regulated land; part of it isn't. I'm told that by their new official plan Bill 163 gives them power that if a tree falls on my house and it burns down, they will not give me a permit unless I give them my regulated land plus a buffer zone. Then they will consider a permit. But think of my friend here, John Anga. He doesn't have land. All his land is on regulated land. If his house burns down, if his garage burns down, if he lived in Mississauga he wouldn't be given a permit. That is the unfair thing.
What I can't understand is, why don't we roll this Bill 20 to be retroactive to November 16, 1995? Why are we giving all these municipalities time to incorporate in their official plans sections of Bill 163 that will terrorize small, little home owners?
We are only a very few of us left who have regulated lands. In the past 30 or 40 years, slowly the municipalities have been taking this property from us through the conservation authority. The situation we have here now is that the conservation authority has lost some of its power, and this Bill 163 -- what's happened, and the municipalities knew this -- gave them the power to do what the conservation authority was doing, but now they've incorporated these things in the official plan to take lands from private owners.
I'm going to read this information that I gave to you, and if there's anything here that you don't understand I'll explain it to you, but please consider it; be fair. Let's make this Bill 20 retroactive to November 16, because Mississauga knew about it and there is no reason why it's not made retroactive.
The government has taken a necessary step to remedy a harsh Planning Act. This is a bad piece of legislation which should never have passed. The present government should have abolished the entire act and reverted to the old one. Since the inception of Bill 163, the committee responsible catered to special-interest groups, conservation authorities and unscrupulous municipalities. Their underlying goal was to acquire additional public lands at the expense of private owners. The private land owner's concerns were ignored: mine.
In its present form, Bill 20 is perceived by many to bring fairness and justice, and I say the word "perceived." However, this is not the case. We believe that all legislation should apply equally and fairly to all jurisdictions in the province of Ontario. I've highlighted this: Bill 20 is not fair. Bill 20 can be made acceptable and workable if it is retroactive to November 16, 1995, or beyond. We believe that any official plans incorporating harsh policies of the present Planning Act which conflict with Bill 20 must be abolished and made to conform with Bill 20. Bill 20 allows municipalities and regions a choice and sufficient time to take advantage of the existing bad Planning Act.
We believe in this case that the present government is not candid with the public. Good government should be discouraging, not promoting, bad legislation. Contrary to amendments in the Development Charges Act -- this is in Bill 20 -- we find the opposite applies and is retroactive to November 16, 1995. Why is there a difference? Why do we have one act that's retroactive but this, on the Planning Act, is not? Is the government appeasing vocal and non-cooperative municipalities to the detriment of civil and property rights?
A retroactive date of November 16, 1995, must be incorporated into Bill 20 for this to have any credibility.
This unjustified grace period to municipalities allows the passage of official plans incorporating harsh policies and statements of the present Planning Act. These official plans become totally exempt from Bill 20. It is obvious that the government is giving ample time to municipalities to escape Bill 20's abolishment of -- I've put here two points. There are others. One of the points is "all municipalities consistent with government policy statements." This applied to all jurisdictions in Ontario.
A policy was made. Maybe some of the people don't know it, but this is the policy statement that everywhere in Ontario they had to comply with. Most of the information that's in here, the diagrams and the graphs are from the local conservation authority. If you take a look at one of the diagrams, it shows you something from the Grand Canyon, where all the river valleys in Ontario are, which is not true. I have vast land in the back of me that is over half a mile. It's not the Grand Canyon, but I'm told I can't do anything with it. It's good that this government has abolished that, and the new policy statement that's out from this government is fair. I just got a copy of it last night and I've read it.
The other thing that was very shocking in the past government was that council was able to approve all uses of land in construction just with the stroke of a pen. If any constituent complained about it, took it to the OMB, the argument would be, "The province says I can do it." But speaking with Philip at the ministry this morning, he says that it's possible for municipalities to do that now still or go further. What I told him was that it's not the province delegating what you're supposed to do; it's something that you can contest now and make a presentation to council. If council oversteps it, you can accuse them. The municipality can't say, "The province wants us to do this." I really have to thank this new government for removing that number two.
Again I'd like to get back. The non-retroactive clause in Bill 20 discredits the purpose and intent of Bill 20. If this Bill 20 is approved in its present form, private land owners are at the mercy of local municipal councils, who are now more than ever capable of acquiring lands without compensation to private owners. With municipal budget restraints in progress, now all property owners are vulnerable. Bill 20 must be retroactive because harsh policies will exist in some official plans forever, and it's true. Mississauga has put all these things from Bill 163, that takes my land away from me, and no matter what happens in the future, it's in their official plan.
The present government has misled us. They promised adequate changes would be forthcoming to combat the harsh policies of the present Planning Act. Bill 20 was supposed to kill Bill 163. I was told by my local MPP that Bill 163 was like a dinosaur. It's going to be dead, but it's not.
Various other changes, such as the dismissal of automatic right to appeal, leaves the property owners without recourse and a loss of property rights. I talk about this automatic right to appeal. I understand that it's for variances. But in our area, my neighbour there has a little lot and he wants to build on it. Because his lot's not 65-foot frontage, he's denied because he abuts on to a ravine area. But in the same area, you've got all kinds of properties that were less than 50 feet that got building permits. Now with this new system that we've got here, you can't go to the OMB if the municipality favours one individual over another. It's up to them to make a decision. If this change is not accepted by this government our expectations of good government is diminished.
I'd like to end my presentation and I'd like to go back to the special public meeting. You can see what I've underlined there on the first page. They have stated to the public that their official plan -- and remember how close this thing is to November 16 in this area, when they knew about Bill 20, that they said this plan "that resulted from the approval of Bill 163 and associated regulations." Well, the part "regulations" is wrong. Really what they're referring to is this: It's a policy statement, and Mississauga has placed this in their official plan.
I could give you an example if you'd just bear with me that they've taken out of here a definition, which is "development." If you look into this thing, "development" has got one, two, three, four, five different terms to it. If you look at some of the terms, like "development" to anybody who'd want to say, "We're developers," you know, if you're going to go -- no. Our great past government says development is that if you want a building permit for just a board across your porch, that's development. And they've incorporated this term "development" in the official plan that if anyone wants a permit, you're not allowed unless you give your regulated lands to them, free, plus a buffer zone.
This is the last page here which I underlined, that this official plan, the draft plan was available -- we don't know what was in it -- to council about a month and a half prior to November 16, 1995. I called up when I got this letter. "You're not allowed to see it till after November 16." When I went there November 16, it wasn't even allowed to the public. "It's not ready yet."
Lastly, I'd like to thank this committee for listening to me, and I hope we all can agree, please, let's make Bill 20 work. Let's make it retroactive that we can help some of the small homeowners that are affected severely. I'd like to keep my land for my family.
The Chair: We have about eight minutes left, so just over two and a half minutes per caucus, and questioning will begin --
Ms Churley: He has some more. We'll give up our question period --
The Chair: Oh, absolutely. Feel free, Mr Anga.
Mr John Anga: My name is John Anga. I am the president of the Valley Landowners Coalition. I live in north Etobicoke in an areas known as Thistletown. I am also the owner of the last farm in Etobicoke. I'd like to thank you in advance for the time allocated for me to speak, both as a private individual and also as the president of the Valley Landowners Coalition.
I am concerned about the many restrictions that Bill 163, which was imposed by our previous government, has placed on ordinary property owners like myself. Although I am in favour of Bill 20, I don't think it goes far enough to rectify the damage Bill 163 has done. For years now we have been lobbying the provincial government and the Metro bureaucrats regarding the unfair treatment of property owners of ravine lots and valley lands, but our cries keep falling on deaf ears.
The restrictions imposed upon us are horrendous, and yet the property taxes we pay are equivalent to similar homes in the area that have no building restrictions whatsoever.
Believe it or not, as George mentioned here -- if, heaven forbid, my home should burn down, I wouldn't be able to rebuild it. Believe it or not, they won't even let me fence my property in against the vandals who come across on to my property at harvest time and destroy my fruits and vegetables and all the crops. I want to just emphasize something here, I grow a lot of pumpkins there. In fact, one year we had about 1,500 pumpkins and we couldn't pick one. Somebody came over and sliced every pumpkin in the field, and it's despicable.
Every time one of our members applies for any kind of building permit, it's a nightmare. The amount of red tape and the costs associated are such that usually we give up. The demands that are put on us by these authorities are horrendous. At the end, our permits are refused if we don't give in to their underhanded demands.
For example, as George mentioned earlier, in some cases they demand some of your property in exchange for a permit. We cannot appeal our decisions to the Ontario Municipal Board, but instead have to appeal to an internal arbitrator with a predetermined verdict. Over the years, appointed bodies like MTRCA have purposely drifted away from their original mandate set out by the province. They have slowly taken on different roles in order to justify their paycheques at the expense of taxpayers. The autonomous power that this appointed body has acquired is frightening. These bureaucrats have built a self-governing empire that is impregnable by any level of government.
The disrespect this authority has for private lands leaves a lot to be desired. We have been closely monitoring their activities and without any doubt they have double standards. They restrict the private sector from improving their properties while they, on the other hand, tear hell out of the valleys with their dozers and backhoes, having little respect for the environment, the trees and the wildlife.
This city has thousands of miles of paved roads and sidewalks which, if properly delineated, can be used for bikes. That, however, is not enough. MTRCA and Metro Parks feel that we must exploit the only natural resource we have left and those are the valleys.
In their quest to pave bike paths through the valleys, they have altered the contour of the land, bulldozed through environmentally sensitive areas, cut down trees and scared off many animals and wildlife living there. They have divided the animals' natural habitats with yet another paved road. You trust these people and call them conservationists? I don't think so.
We think a closer look should be given to Bill 20 to ensure that private land owners are treated fairly. We implore you to read Bill 20 over very carefully. I'm sure you will agree that it gives us private owners very little consideration.
I have eight points here for your consideration and these are my comments here.
(1) Stop the unnecessary acquisition of private lands. The taxpayer can't afford it and the land is safer in private hands. Most people who own valley lands are naturalists. It isn't necessary to spend taxpayers' money to purchase such lands.
(2) Encourage all levels of bureaucrats to work closer with the private sector. They have created too much animosity with the private owners. This is not healthy.
(3) Existing structures that pose no immediate threat to human life should be allowed to remain where they are and the owners should have the right to upkeep such properties without any hassle.
(4) More consideration should be given to the people who live in these regulated areas. This government, along with local municipalities, should acknowledge the fact that we are legal, paying taxpayers and have the right to live in peace.
(5) Individual agreements that are mutually suitable can be drawn up between this government, local municipalities and private owners regarding any long-term acquisition. I made an example there, but you can go on forever.
(6) The constant exploitation of valley lands for bike paths should be stopped. It never should have started in the first place. Man's greed to exploit everything is the reason why this world's in the mess it's in today.
(7) We should have a proper appeal system, such as the Ontario Municipal Board, available to us to handle any land or permit disputes.
(8) Last but not least, a retroactive date of November 16, 1995, must be incorporated into Bill 20 for this bill to have any credibility.
Once again, thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, both of you gentlemen. Given that there are just a few seconds left, we don't have time for questions from the three caucuses, but thank you both for your submissions and we'll certainly review them when it comes time for our clause-by-clause deliberation.
METRO TORONTO CHINESE AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN LEGAL CLINIC
The Chair: Our next group up this afternoon is the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. I am told there will be a slight delay for the written handouts; they're being rephotocopied, but the clerk will deal with that.
Ms Avvy Go: I'm just going to read from my presentation here. Good afternoon. My name is Avvy Go and I'm the clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which is one of the 72 clinics in Ontario that serve low-income people.
I'm going to restrict the scope of my deputation today to a specific issue. As you know, Bill 20 is a massive piece of legislation and, like the omnibus bill, it affects various aspects of the lives of Ontarians and contains many changes that I will not be able to deal with all today. In fact, I think it would be impossible for any individual group or individual person to go through every single aspect, but particularly so for our clinic, because our mandate is to serve low-income people. We provide legal services in the areas of tenant law, so I will be restricting my comments on issues that will affect the groups that are served by our clinic.
For these reasons, I will focus today solely on the amendments that affect the former Bill 120, which was introduced under the previous government. The amendments in Bill 20 with relation to Bill 120, in effect, will reverse all the positive changes that have been made to legalize basement apartments or apartments in houses in this province.
The specific amendments proposed by Bill 20 that come under this banner of apartments in houses will affect various provisions under the Planning Act, the Municipal Act and so on. I have a list of the provisions. There is section 1 of the Planning Act which deals with the definition of "residential unit;" section 16 of the Planning Act concerning the content of official plans with respect to two-unit premises; section 31 of the Planning Act restricting the authority to pass any bylaw prohibiting two-unit premises; section 35 of the Planning Act dealing further with restrictions to bylaws concerning two-unit premises; section 51 of the Planning Act dealing with approval of a plan of subdivision; subsection 6(4) of the Rental Housing Protection Act regarding restriction on issuing permits. There's a new section 207.3 of the Municipal Act concerning bylaws for the registration of two-unit houses and the right for municipalities to order that houses which are not registered vacate one of the units; and finally, the provision dealing with the retroactivity.
Our clinic was one of the groups that presented before the legislative committee when Bill 120 was introduced. We were also one of the organizations involved in the public inquiry into the issue of illegal apartments in 1994. The inquiry was organized by the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign. So this issue is not new to us.
I'm sure this committee has heard and will hear again from community groups and tenants' rights groups as to why we need to legalize apartments in houses. You have probably heard either from Metro tenants or from other groups about the discrimination faced by tenants who live in these apartments which, when deemed illegal, give tenants no recourse when their rights are being violated.
You have probably also heard about who these tenants usually are: low-income people, single mothers, new immigrants, refugees. In other words, these are people who are usually marginalized in so many other ways by our society that they are unable to stand up and speak out about their own concerns when they have some kind of conflict with their landlord.
This committee may have also heard that Bill 20, if passed, will create a double standard: One set of rules for apartments in houses created before November 16, 1995, and another set of rules for those created after that date. This committee may have also been told that these double standards will create mass confusion for tenants and homeowners since people will not know whether their apartment is legal or not and what standards will apply to them.
Many community groups may have told you already that giving municipalities the right to create apartments in houses registration systems is not going to solve the problem. The system would only be used by the municipalities that are hostile towards apartments in houses to crack down on these apartments.
But more importantly, the committee must have been told that the law legalizing these apartments was actually working. Not only were the tenants better able to exercise their rights to ensure safety at home, but more importantly the homeowners who were renting out their in-house apartments were in fact learning about the new fire safety standards and were doing the work to bring their apartments up to standard.
The only the question that this committee needs to ask itself today is: Why change the law when it's working for everyone?
It is one thing to introduce some law without knowing for certain what this new law would do to the people. It is quite another thing to take away some legal remedies that the people have benefited from, knowing exactly that taking away these remedies would harm the people affected. By de-legalizing apartments in houses now, this government is in effect taking away something that has been of benefit to the community as a whole.
I would like to invite the committee to imagine just for a moment what will happen if Bill 20 is passed. To do so, let me take you back to an incident concerning fire in basement apartments just before Bill 120 was passed. There was a fire, if you remember, in a basement apartment in Mississauga that left a single mother's family in devastation. The casualty or even the fire itself could probably have been prevented had the landlord simply installed some basic safety measures inside the apartment for the tenant.
If Bill 20 is passed today, I can assure you that there will be more and more unsafe apartments around in this province. Landlords will not have the incentive to improve safety because they know that the tenants will not have any recourse from the court.
So let's imagine that this government passed Bill 20 today. Tomorrow there's a fire happening in an apartment which is deemed to be illegal by the municipality. An inquest is called to determine the cause of the fire and finds that the fire was probably preventable if the landlord had put in some safety measures, but no one knows about the problem because nobody came out. The tenants didn't try to enforce the law because there is nothing that they can hang on to.
At this point, can this government still say, "Well, there's nothing we could have done to prevent the fire"? You probably cannot say that any more because you have been specifically told that this is exactly what will happen if apartments in houses are deemed illegal. You have been told that landlords do change their behaviour when they know that their apartments are legal, as opposed to illegal, and if you had not taken the step to repeal Bill 120, we may not have seen the same kind of fire, the same kind of incident. So at little extra cost to the government, legalizing apartments could help prevent fire from happening and could ensure that thousands of tenants and their landlords in this province could live safely in their own homes.
On the other hand, declaring apartments illegal does pose a significant cost to this government and to our society. The cost to our society includes the cost of an increase in potentially unsafe apartments. It will also cost our economy because some people will be discouraged to become homeowners if they are unable to rent out part of their home to help pay for their mortgage. The trickling-down effect on the economy is not insignificant. At this time, when the government is so keen about boosting the economy, such a move is against even the common sense that this government has so clearly outlined in your revolution document.
In conclusion, there are undoubtedly many principled reasons why we should keep apartments in houses legal, but even for a government that may not hold these principles dear to its heart, it does not make any sense to illegalize apartments in houses when the law is in fact working.
I will just probably end on a personal note. I am a homeowner myself. I don't have any tenants. I live in an area where in-house apartments were illegal at one point. I think that to many homeowners it is not fair that some people can rent out their apartments legally and others cannot. As homeowners, I think we would also want see uniform treatment of tenants in apartments in houses across the province.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm somewhat interested in this whole notion that this party that stands for freedom of individual rights, as this government does, is bringing in a bill that in effect prevents people from utilizing their property to a greater extent than they otherwise could, or at least than they presently could.
I'm curious as to what your opinion would be with respect to the whole notion that really it's done in order to satisfy perhaps those residential areas that are better off and more well to do and those people simply wouldn't want any apartments in the neighbourhoods where they reside. How do you feel about that?
Ms Go: That was certainly an issue that was raised in the previous legislative hearing and the inquiry that we held because it does vary from one municipality to another and different city councils and town councils do hold different views on this issue. I think that there is a lot of argument and a lot of evidence that would support your argument that it is particularly in areas where the homeowners are well off enough not to have to rent out part of their homes who would have the strongest opposition to any bylaw that would allow people to rent out the apartments.
But in the end it doesn't really make much sense. I think it's unfortunate that the council or whatever, municipality, would be so much influenced by the smallest sort of segment within that community. By and large the majority of people, including homeowners, are not necessarily of an income level that would allow them to have that kind of freedom that they could own their home all by themselves.
The Chair: Mr Hoy has a comment here.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Yes, I would like to make a comment. I come from a rural riding where these secondary apartment units are really not in existence to any great extent, although there may be some. I was trying to think about similar situations that might occur where I live and one of those situations that I did think of in recent days was the main streets of many of the small towns in my riding are over 100 years old. They have corner pillars that say they're 1893 or whatever. Many of the shops on those streets have apartments up above them. They tend to be for the lower-income people; not exclusively, but many are. I see a similarity between what is maybe perceived to be a Metro situation, but certainly a housing situation that has developed by ingenuity, by necessity in even the rural ridings where people are renting above a store. So I'm trying to envision the situation here as you describe it and I appreciate your comments today.
Ms Go: I think also, whether it's rural or urban, given the economic situation right now -- take my clinic, for example. We are getting more calls from people who before probably wouldn't have qualified for our service. You know, these are people who may have been in a profession before, owned homes at some point in time but are now facing a problem keeping up with their mortgage payments because they lost their jobs or they have been laid off. I would probably think that there may be a situation where you may have more people wanting to rent out some part of their house to supplement their income.
At the same time, the demand for apartments in houses would probably also increase because the welfare rate cut has happened. These apartments tend to be cheaper than units in apartment buildings and so on. So the increase in demand and also perhaps more and more an increase at some point for homeowners to start thinking of supplementing their income. This problem is not going to go away, so for municipalities that are not keeping up with the progress in our society, I guess they will just not allow these apartments to exist or just ignore their existence. So some of the problems that we see with unsafe apartments because they are not legalized would just continue to happen.
Ms Churley: Hello, Avvy, nice to see you again. For those of you who have never met Ms Go before, I'm sure you will see her on other occasions. She is very modest, but Ms Go is a highly respected lawyer, who is very active in --
Ms Go: Actually, I'm not that modest.
Ms Churley: -- the Chinese and Southeast Asian community and in the Toronto community at large. Whenever Ms Go comes to talk to us I listen closely because of her own firsthand, personal experience in dealing with some of the lower-income communities, at least in the Toronto area.
I'm concerned about, I guess, the same issues that you raised, especially in response to Mr Hoy's comment. I have great fear that we're going to see more fires. In the best of circumstances we know that sometimes standards aren't kept up or accidents do happen; they also happen in private homes. These things happen, but we know from experience in the past that it's much more likely to happen in illegal basement apartments, where we have had terrible tragedies in the Metro Toronto area over the past several years, which is one of the major reasons why our government decided to proceed, to make sure that we weeded out those particular circumstances.
The reality is that people are going to create these apartments anyway. That's a fact, and we can't get away from that. You can't stop it, so what we do is bring back a situation that is really just unsustainable, because especially with this government getting out of rent control, getting totally out of the affordable housing or social housing market, the other cuts, job losses and all of the other problems in our society right now, affordable housing is needed more and more. People are going to live in these homes whether they're illegal or not and will put up with very unsafe conditions.
I think you have commented on that. I'm wondering if you can tell us why you think some municipalities -- because that's what this government listened to -- certain municipalities really wanted this act repealed in that context. Why do you think some municipalities just don't want them, even though they're there anyway?
Ms Go: Take the mosque in East York as an example or the issue in Markham as an example. There are a lot of prejudices and biases that exist in our society and the people who are targeted tend to be low-income people or people of colour, people from certain ethnic communities, immigrants, refugees and so on. If you look at the voting record, usually only 5% to 8% of the people living in municipalities come out to vote. Right? So you tend to get a council that only represents or is voted in by a small segment of the population in that area. They tend not to represent the diversity in that area and they also tend to share some of the more biased views of the people who voted them into power in the first place. That's the situation in East York.
In the mosque situation, some members would vote against it regardless of whether the parking problem has been solved. Or the issue in Markham: You know, Chinese Canadians are simply not welcome by some of the councillors from that town. Because of the type of people who tend to live in this kind of apartment, you would attract views that unfortunately exist in our society, whether it's views against minorities or against low-income people or against tenants in general, that will be espoused by the council because of the type of people who vote them in in the first place.
It goes in a cycle. There need to be a lot of changes to a lot of things before that will go away, but for now this is the reality that we live in and I think this government should recognize that.
Mr Baird: Thank you for coming and talking to us today about this important issue. We all appreciate it. The one point I take from your submission is that municipalities would immediately seek to illegalize across the province en masse this type of initiative. I think that municipal politicians by and large represent the folks they represent.
Ms Go: That's exactly the problem, that only a very small percentage of voters come out to vote.
Mr Baird: Sure. My point is I have always found municipal politicians the closest level of government. It's the level of government where can you just simply pick up the phone and call your councillor. There's a very close relationship there. I know that's been the case in the two communities I've lived in, my own constituency of Nepean and when I went to university. I went to university in Kingston from 1988 to 1992, and there was a municipal regulation in the city of Kingston. There was a very good mayor when I first arrived there, and this was a bylaw on the books.
Mr Gerretsen: Would you like to identify him or her?
Mr Baird: It's not a her, I'll tell you.
The issue was that they had a minimum of five non-related people who could live in the same household, and in Kingston the housing was very close together, very high-density, and I guess the city was very enthusiastic about its high tenant population because they were all university students, something that was a major part of the community and something that the city always worked very closely with for good relations and was very much a valued part of the community.
If we were to take that community, for example, and put basement apartments in those units, the density would become so high that you would wonder whether the community infrastructure there could support it. So the one question I have is that, you mention on pages 3 and 4, what would happen if Bill 20 was passed. Why would you suppose a municipality would want to do this and be so unrepresentative of the community?
Ms Go: Because municipalities are in general not representative of the community. It's the same problem that I alluded to earlier. Look at Markham council, for example. Over 20% of the people in Markham now are Chinese, and there is one Chinese --
Mr Baird: Their member of provincial Parliament is Asian too.
Ms Go: That's true, but if you look at the voting record, at least at the provincial level, you get a larger segment of the voters coming out to vote, but the record is just dismal for the municipality. In general, less than 10% of the people would come out to vote, so you tend to get the same kind of people being voted for year after year, and their views tend to be more insular and so on.
I'm not saying that all municipalities will then decide en masse that they will just illegalize all the apartments, which is not true. We know it wasn't the case before. in the city of Toronto, for example, it hasn't been as much a problem. But we also know from our experience that a lot a municipalities will not legalize the apartments.
I think the issue around density, or some people would talk about parking problems, if these are real problems they can be regulated better if you legalize the apartments than if you don't, because the apartments will exist in any event. If you are legalizing them, then at least you can control the density issue, the safety issue to prevent fire, or what have you. Whichever way you look it's better in terms of the control from the government perspective that the apartments should be legalized as opposed to being illegalized.
Mr Baird: Can I yield the rest of my time to Mrs Fisher?
The Chair: There is one minute, five seconds.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): This'll take 25 and the rest can be the answer. Like Mr Hoy, I come from a rural riding where choice is something we're looking forward to. If the community probably decides to allow second units, as some would in that situation, there's an assumption, or there's coming to be a perceived assumption, that as soon as you allow it, it won't be allowed, and I don't agree with that. I feel municipalities should have the right to decide if they want second units, and if they do, then they have to be managed under the same regulations as everyone, including fire. Do you agree or disagree with that?
Ms Go: If you are concerned about managing and fire prevention, as I said before, if the apartments are not legalized, it is harder for you to manage because you wouldn't know beforehand that there was a problem. Who would come out to complain? The landlords themselves, the homeowners themselves are not going to raise their hands and say, "Look, my house is not safe." It's up to somebody else to enforce it. Most of the time it is the tenants who bring it to the attention of the authorities and then the authorities say, "We'll come in and take a look." That's how reality works.
Again, I'm not saying that the municipalities will then decide to legalize these places, but for those that are interested in safety for tenants and landlords and whatever, it is in their best interests that these apartments are legalized. If all municipalities are controlled by rational thinkers like us, then I think all of them will agree to legalize, but unfortunately that's not necessarily the case.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Go. We appreciate you taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
The Chair: Our next group up is Lebovic Enterprises, Lloyd Cherniak, executive vice-president. Good afternoon, Mr Cherniak. We have 25 minutes to dispose of as you see fit, divided between the presentation and a question and answer period.
Mr Lloyd Cherniak: Good afternoon, members and Chairman. There's a brief report which I've left with you. I just want to hit the highlights, and I suppose the major highlight is to congratulate the government on a very excellent piece of legislation.
There was obviously a problem that was created by the previous government with the introduction of Bill 163 that's left many of us who are active in the planning and development industries with a big question mark as to what it's all about. The series of guidelines and different regulations that were imposed would probably fill a whole table and are really not understood by anyone.
I just want to briefly introduce myself. I work as executive vice-president for a development company. It's in the GTA. We've been building and developing for over 40 years, primarily in Scarborough and currently now in Pickering, Ajax, Oshawa, the areas north of town in Aurora, Stouffville. So we have a variety of experience in developments and building houses. We also build factories which we continue to own and rent. We have a great stake in this province, as do you as well.
In terms of the development industry, there's been quite a bit of press to suggest that somehow this legislation will slacken the control over our industry. In researching it, I found that we're governed currently by 60 codes, 280 provincial acts, 65 agencies, and 450 statutes and regulations, of which of course the Planning Act is one of the acts.
I also found that currently, according to information I've researched and I've attached, over $65 million a year is spent annually in the GTA on planning. When I discussed that with Mr Sewell in a public debate, he sort of laughed it off, and you may notice that in his final report. That of course doesn't include the money that we as developers spend on consultants and planners as well.
Just to give you an idea of what this bill can do for Ontario by reducing red tape, the development industry or construction industry in 1991 employed 582,000 workers, or 12% of the Ontario workforce, and in 1987 paid $4.8 billion in taxes. So any improvements which help to lessen regulation and red tape and improve our industry will of course be directly transferred into better products for Ontario, more jobs, more employment.
I've also seen comments that somehow planning has reduced agricultural land. I've attached a very brief one page done by Dr White, who looked into the actual truth of this statement. He simply claims that these people are alarmists, that in fact large areas of the Ontario countryside are not disappearing as the alarmists claim. He showed that in 1981 there 8.43 million acres cropped, when prices were high, versus 7.99 million acres in 1961.
I'd also like to point out that there's been a lot of criticism of development as not paying its way, which is entirely untrue. Part of this product, I suppose, discussed some changes that might occur to development charges. We all know, if anything, there's been somewhat of an abuse of that system.
In discussions with the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association, they've informed me that each house built creates 2.5 person years of work and 109 different workers perform onsite job functions. Also, industrial and commercial properties were doing the same. So if you translate that into the some 20,000 starts that we used to have in this province, you can see the effect it can have directly on employment.
Again, cities cover a very small part of our land mass in Ontario. It seems through the term of the last government I spent most of my time arguing with environmental groups that were brought in to stop development. I think one has to look at the conflicts that occur in the planning process. There are many different government policies, and when you weigh any one policy so strongly as it was in Bill 163, you're not going to always get the correct results. So my comment to you today is that this is not only common sense but good sense that's been introduced.
Just one small comment I'd like to make by way of comment on the bill itself, and it's a point that I've discussed with Mr McQuaid, who's given some insightful speeches on problems that arose under section 34, which was introduced under Bill 163. Briefly, these sections allow a municipality to zone land that is significant habitat or sensitive aquifer and basically to sterilize its use. Our concern in this regard is that if one is giving up land -- and I've put Mr McQuaid's quotes in, which I'm sure are spoken better than myself, but in my own words, if one has put forward the proposition that this land can't be used by the land owner itself, then of course there is a public interest and the public should acquire the land. I don't think any of us who are in the development industry are attempting to suggest that we should develop lands that are a problem, but we are concerned about the abuse that could result and lack of legal interpretation in the whole area of expropriation without compensation which could arise.
As I say, these three items under paragraphs 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 were added under Bill 163 and remain in the existing bill. It would be our request that you review those sections and see if you could help out in terms of, at the very least, giving some solid interpretation to avoid some of the problems that might arise.
Again, I would like to say that, as developers in Toronto, we congratulate you on this work and hope that it will help to get Ontarians back to work.
Ms Churley: You said a curious thing towards the end of your statement. I'm just wondering if you could expand on it. What do you mean by -- I didn't get the whole sentence and it may be in here -- environmentalists were "brought in to stop development"? Who brought in environmentalists to stop what development? I don't quite understand what you mean by that.
Mr Cherniak: There were certainly a number of areas where developers and the development industry participated in the creation of Bill 163. I myself sat on a committee to study the Oak Ridges moraine. These committees seemed to be weighted towards the environmentalists. There were very few of us brought in from the business community. When we were brought in, we made suggestions which were often ignored. The comments that we made were not necessarily given the weight and were often outvoted by the number of environmental groups that were on the committees. I'm not suggesting that developers have a problem with recognizing the importance of the environment; I'm just suggesting that we need more balance in terms of legislation.
Ms Churley: So you consider this bill to be balanced about, say, 50-50 or do you think it's more favourable to the development industry? What would you say, on balance, this bill is?
Mr Cherniak: I would say that the existing Planning Act, prior to Bill 163 was --
Ms Churley: I'm sorry, Bill 20.
Mr Cherniak: I understand, but I would say the Planning Act before Bill 163 was balanced. It provided for broad interpretation of environmental issues by the municipal board and municipal governments. Bill 163 went the opposite way. It took a totally extreme view and said that in any situation where there is any environmental concern, the environment shall win. So this is a return to balance which I would say is 50-50.
Ms Churley: I have a different opinion, but I just want to move on to something else. You say in your document, "But is it fair to place the burden of saving environmental features on whoever lives near natural habitat or a feature considered by others," and you know the rest of the quote. I just want to get to the developer's charge that's also going to be looked at and changed.
The government is suggesting that municipalities not be allowed to charge anything to developers above and beyond hard services. Would you say that the general taxpayer, therefore, should pay for the so-called soft services needed in a community when new sites are developed? Who should pay overall? Should the developer, the people who bought the houses? Clearly what's going to happen in this case is that the general taxpayer is going to end up having to subsidize. Would you view that as fair?
Mr Cherniak: I think your question is tilted in the way you've posed it. First, the development industry has always paid for new development and growth-related costs. When development charges were introduced by the Liberal government, there was a desire to bring a fairness back into the system and an accountability, but certainly when York region built its headquarters out of development charges -- and not to blame anyone but just by way of an example -- that was paid for by money that developers had contributed for new growth. So there were and continue to be abuses of development charges.
The fact is that all residents in York region pay for the regional centre in their taxes. So what you've got are new homeowners paying both through the price of a new home in development charges and through the tax base. If there are any debentures outstanding on other structures, they're also paying for that and they could well be paying for local improvements. I've yet to see any financial indication that developers have not paid their fair share for new growth and have somehow burdened the existing tax base with new growth. I don't think that's true at all.
Ms Churley: My suggestion is that that may happen as a result of this bill, that if developers are just paying for hard services, somebody's got to pay for the other services in a new subdivision. That's a reality. You've got to have schools, you've got to have libraries, you've got to have community centres, you've got to have these services.
My question still remains. I'm not talking about the past, and I quite agree with you, there have been abuses and there are problems. But I think there is going to be an even more serious problem for the general taxpayer if we don't figure out who's going to end up paying for those so-called soft services. In that case I don't necessarily think developers will be paying their fair share in setting up new communities. I don't know what you suggest, who should be paying for it.
Mr Cherniak: As I say, I don't agree with you. I think the property taxes pay for the services that the homeowner is getting in the municipality. Certainly I don't agree with you that a new homeowner coming into North York should be paying for the library books at Lawrence and Bathurst. I think one has to differentiate between the real costs of new development, the hard services, which he should pay for -- and the development industry takes no issue that it should pay for it -- and other costs, which are not documented, have never been calculated, have been abused in the past. There's no evidence that any of these municipalities have suffered before development charges legalized the collection of this taxation.
Mr Smith: I want to raise one point. Earlier this morning we heard a presentation from residents from King township. During that presentation they alluded to the fact that they had difficulty making a relationship between a streamlined planning process and economic recovery. I was wondering, given your comments and your presentation, whether you'd have any specific comments you would like to make in terms of that particular statement and the types of results that you would anticipate resulting from the streamlined planning process in the context of economic recovery.
Mr Cherniak: I think it's clear we're talking about an industry that is the largest industry actually in the province. You have to consider what the effects would be by streamlining. As an example, I've seen some figures in the past, that if you improve productivity by 1% in this industry, it's worth $125 million to Ontario, and you could go through each of the tax indications, the job indications and so on. As I say, there is information in this regard.
Red tape doesn't help anyone. All it does is allow someone who is sitting at a desk to say no, and we all know it's difficult for people who have no reason to say yes to say yes. But certainly it doesn't help the people in the community who are waiting for that development to occur, because that only creates uncertainty, it creates problems in the resale market and it creates general problems in their community. By having the certainty of knowing, is the decision yes or is it no, they know where they stand in the community and the jobs are created. It's nothing, as far as I'm concerned, but a win-win for everybody.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for your presentation. Yesterday we had Mr Sewell in, who was, I suppose, somewhat of an author of the previous Bill 163, at least he did the consultation work for it, and he expressed concern about the government changing from "be consistent with" to "have regard for." He told us the general public like the wording, "shall be consistent with," and the municipalities like that wording; furthermore, the developers like that wording, because it would give them assurances of what the rules were up front. He felt that if we went to "shall have regard for," developers and the other parties would feel uncomfortable, because they would now know going in what the rules would be as they wound up with their applications.
I wonder if you could give us your interpretation of that, whether you feel comfortable with "have regard for," and letting the municipalities deal with the certainty or uncertainty of provincial policy statements.
Mr Cherniak: I have to smile a bit when Mr Sewell says he speaks for the developers. I know that representatives of the development industry spent hours with his commission arguing this very point. I'm sure there will be more learned speakers than me on this particular issue but, in my own experience, the problem it creates is, as I see it, you can have several conflicting provincial policies: one is to protect aggregate resources, another is to protect the environment, a third is to promote economic development and a fourth may be to provide housing.
How does one decide which one should take precedence? I mean, we can't follow every policy that exists otherwise we would be running around in circles. From my angle, I obviously want to see the GTA prosper and I want to see growth that's required continue. Therefore, if I had my way, I would always see growth as the key factor. I think the whole point of a board and a municipal council is to be able to balance all these considerations and say: "When is it correct and how much should we protect of the environment? Should we protect this aggregate resource or should we allow it to develop into housing?"
I think most people who are familiar with this subject would always opt for hearing all the information on each particular case and making a decision. That's why my own feeling is, by allowing the board or the council or the government or whoever is listening to the case to balance all the things that come out with the right decision, we're back to a system which we always had confidence in and under which we never once doubted that the right thing would be done at council or would be done at the municipal board.
Mr Hardeman: I did quickly want to get into the parts that you suggested that were in Bill 163 and that we left in Bill 20 about the significant habitat and sensitive aquifers. I was just wondering if you felt that those had come lately or whether they've always been there and whether or not the person owning that property knew their restrictions or their limitations prior to owning them, and if that would not somewhat take away from the fact that they should be paid for by the public sector as they would not be allowed to be developed.
Mr Cherniak: It's not so much knowing or payment per se. I think the real issue here is, what this is allowing to happen is that someone could suggest, for example, that your farm pond is a sensitive recharge area for the Oak Ridges moraine, even though you had been watering your cattle there for 30 years, and could thereby zone that piece of land "sensitive recharge" and not allow you to use it for your cattle at all.
There's a very recent case, which some friends of mine like to remind me of all the time, of a farmer in Vaughan who had a woodlot and at the edge of the woodlot he wanted to build a house for his children. However, the municipality did not allow him to build on it because they said it was regenerating woodland and, therefore, he could not disturb it.
All I'm suggesting to you is there can be many abuses and grey areas where you're allowing someone to have the ability without a real strict guideline. In the Expropriations Act it's clear, when the government files a plan to build a highway, you know you're on that highway, you know the land is being taken and you know you have rights. In this case you could very well, as I say, have a cattle pond or a woodlot that you think -- and you've used all your life -- is part of your property, and the government could zone it a sensitive area and you couldn't use it. I think that's the issue I'm trying to address, the abuse of that section.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm glad that you mentioned, in answer to an earlier question, that you're here for the development industry and you like to see development and that's basically where you're coming from, because there are certain comments made in your brief that are so general. I must admit that, as someone trying to find the balance in the right approach to the development industry and the environmentalists, I find some of your statements somewhat broad and general.
For example, to suggest that we can get people back working again by just merely passing this act I think is a bit of an overstatement, isn't it? We were told this morning that there are over 20,000 lots already in the Metro Toronto area that are available right now for development, except there's no housing being built because of the general economic situation. Would you not agree? Bill 163 has only been there for six months and, whether you like it or not, it cannot have had that great an effect on the development industry as far as the current building of houses is concerned.
Mr Cherniak: I think you've got to recognize a couple of things. First, if you look at the number of housing units, as I said to you, at one point in the GTA we were building 20,000 houses a year, probably under your government, and we were happy to do it and the government was happy to allow it. Therefore, that would equate your current supply to one year's supply of housing.
Mr Gerretsen: Right.
Mr Cherniak: I've worked in this business a long time and I've listened to a lot of things in the press, but when you're out there working on something that you know is going to take you 15 years to bring on stream, you're very sensitive to the criticism that will arise when that shortage occurs, and that's my concern. I would say at reasonable growth rates in the GTA we have about a four-year supply of housing stock. If one were to say it's going to stay the way it is, sure, maybe we've got 10 years, but it's quite conceivable that things could turn around very quickly.
The other thing is, it's also not fair to say we have a slow economy now, therefore Bill 163 didn't do anything. Bill 163 gave tremendous powers to the municipalities. I was in York region the day after the day that came into force -- I believe it was a year ago -- and there were applications lined up from one end of the municipal building, down the hall, all the way through the York region centre. If it was so beneficial to industry, why did every single person who owned a piece of land in this province make an application? It's quite clear that it had tremendous impacts, and if it had stayed in, it would have continued to have great impacts on the industry and made things very difficult for us.
There are planners I've hired that have told me that in the region of Durham they can't even understand the application form under Bill 163 and neither can the planners in the region. I think you've got to recognize that we all hope things are going to get back to normal. You've got to provide a system that's worked and has always worked; it really wasn't broken in the first place.
Mr Hoy: Your first page is basically statistical. You cited codes and acts and other instruments you must deal with, and then you talked about agricultural lands. There are probably two things people aspire to: a place to live, whether it's an apartment or a home or some other structure, and of course they must eat. The demands for land are great for two different purposes.
I'm not aware of land being left idle, as Dr White states, I'm speaking particularly of classes 1 and 2, which are the most productive of lands. That's not to say that somewhere some has stayed idle, but I'm not aware of it, unless it was purchased for developmental purposes and then simply set aside and not growing a crop of some kind.
I would also like to mention to you that the growth in agriculture is probably due to technology. Whereas when I started in the business of farming, I would be somewhat disappointed if I grew 100 bushels of corn per acre; now I'm really disappointed if I don't get 145 bushels per acre. It's a per acre technological advantage that farmers have advanced.
We are, yes, creating new lands at the same time where lands are going out of production, and technology has allowed us to do that particularly in the north and east of Ontario. I just wanted to make that point with you, that in some regards the need for development and the need for agricultural food sustainability are at competing odds, particularly when we talk about classes 1 and 2 land.
Mr Cherniak: My point, and I guess it's based more on Dr White's expertise and my own of farming, is simply that there is land which farmers hold back. I've discussed this on many occasions with the agriculture federation, and they would admit that if prices are good, then they'll get their yields up and bring lands that they're not producing on back into production. The point we're trying to make here is that you don't sort of sterilize farmland as a necessity, because even farmers don't like that.
What we're trying to say is, let the farmers run a good business, let them do what they want, and sure, they may need certain protections to become a healthy farm community, but by the same token, they've been able to keep up with the pace of growth in Ontario and continue to feed the population. Dr White's view is that it's quite alarmist to just keep counting and suggesting how many acres of land go out of production every year. It's not true. The statistics show that in fact land has come back into production if farm prices are high. Farmers are running a business like anyone else. As you say, your productivity improved and hopefully the prices improved and you tried to make more money, just like anyone else.
The Chair: That brings us to the conclusion of our time. Thank you, Mr Cherniak. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
UNITED TENANTS OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Our next group is the United Tenants of Ontario. Good afternoon. We have 25 minutes for your presentation and/or questions and answers, as you see fit.
Ms Barbara Hurd: You all have a copy of our very brief brief that we've put together for this committee. I'm Barbara Hurd. I want to introduce our organization and then I would probably just read my conclusions and recommendations and maybe go to questions, and I could elaborate if you need me to.
My organization has a number of purposes, but for the United Tenants of Ontario/Locataires uni(e)s de l'Ontario, also known as UTOO and LUDO, purposes are to organize and train tenants across Ontario, to provide a means of communication between tenants, to change laws that adversely affect them, and to fight for tenants' rights to decent, affordable housing. We were founded in 1989.
The majority of our members and 100% of our governing council are tenants. We are run by tenants for tenants. Our members are from all over Ontario, from small towns and large urban centres and everything in between, and from public, private and non-profit housing. Our membership is also comprised of individuals, tenants' associations and federations and other supportive organizations.
Two years ago, UTOO appeared before a legislative committee concerning Bill 120, which gave new rights to thousands of tenants in care homes and illegal accessory apartments. From the beginning, our organization has consistently supported the legalization of accessory apartments and that is the reason we are here. We are here again to fight to keep it on the books.
I'll read my conclusions and recommendations. The recommendations that we have overall are:
(1) That the creation and regulation of accessory apartments in Ontario be allowed as provided in the Residents' Rights Act.
(2) That the education of homeowners and tenants as to their rights and obligations under the provisions of the Residents' Rights Act be continued by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
(3) That the provincial government take the position that exclusive zoning for single-family dwellings discriminates against people on the basis of tenure.
(4) That the provincial government adopt the position that tenants, as taxpayers and citizens, have the right to establish homes in any residential area of their municipality.
(5) That the provincial government also present these positions to the municipalities in Ontario that are opposed to accessory apartments in order to reverse their opposition.
I want to just cover my conclusions and then I will take questions. We've concluded:
(1) That tenants and homeowners in Ontario have indicated their intent and demand for this type of housing by creating 100,000 basement or accessory units to this point.
(2) Setting standards for the creation of these units allows tenants to require maintenance and fire safety without fear of losing their homes.
(3) Passing a law and rescinding it in less than two years, leaving in its wake legal apartments and illegal apartments, creates confusion and chaos in adherence to and enforcement of standards.
(4) As citizens and taxpayers, tenants deserve more service from their municipal governments. Allowing accessory apartments would begin to address the historic neglect of tenants.
(5) Allowing accessory apartments allows tenants choice in housing arrangements and promotes positive diversification of neighbourhoods.
(6) Higher densities in suburban areas would mean more efficient use of public services.
(7) The government has not provided persuasive rationale for rescinding the legalization of accessory apartments.
(8) There are no other sources of rental housing starts besides accessory apartments, virtually speaking.
I want to just make one little correction on page 5 of my brief where I've dropped something out in the second paragraph at the top of the page, "that this society does not find it acceptable to have tenants living as fugitives." If you'd please make that note, I'd appreciate it.
Mr Ouellette: Thank you for your presentation today. A couple of questions. What percentage of your organization actually live or work outside the GTA? It mentions the rural communities, but there are a lot of perceived rural communities within the GTA.
Ms Hurd: I don't know that for sure. Our representation is broad, though. We have had conferences each year. About 250 tenants come. They may not necessarily join our organization, but they are people we are in contact with. We have people from small centres like Kenora, Goderich, Hawkesbury.
Mr Ouellette: Are they directly affiliated with your own organization or are they associated with another one?
Ms Hurd: Yes, we have members. We don't have millions of members in each of those locales because there aren't millions of people there.
Mr Ouellette: Do you have any idea what percentage of homeowners actually live in the house they're renting?
Ms Hurd: Could you say that again?
Mr Ouellette: Do you have any figures that show what percentage of homeowners actually live in the houses they have other units in?
Ms Hurd: You're talking about absentee landlords?
Mr Ouellette: Yes.
Ms Hurd: Absentee owners? I don't have any statistics as to that.
Mr Ouellette: Okay. A couple of other questions. In your conclusion number 4 you state that "tenants deserve more service." Why do you feel that and what service do you feel they are deserving of?
Ms Hurd: For example, in high-rise buildings in a lot of urban areas, tenants pay for garbage collection on top of property taxes that are paid to the municipality. The homeowner gets garbage collection services for their taxes. They don't have to pay anything extra. Tenants really rely on the services of the property standards inspectors to make inspections when there are complaints about serious safety problems in their buildings.
It's been my experience when I worked in a legal clinic and through working for UTOO that inspections are extremely hard to get. At one point when I was working in Scarborough, they were talking about charging for an inspection. It used to be a real process to get the property standards inspector to come to a building to inspect an individual's unit as well as the common areas of the building. Yes, tenants do use the services of the roads and other public services, but when it comes to specific services for their specific needs --
Mr Ouellette: So you think inspections should take place without charges?
Ms Hurd: Yes, they should be part of the tax -- especially because tenants pay so much in tax.
Mr Ouellette: Okay. One of the other ones was under recommendation number 4. You state "That the provincial government adopt the position that tenants, as taxpayers and citizens, have the right to establish homes in any residential area of their municipality." We have elected councils in municipalities. Don't you feel they have the ability to make those decisions where they should take place, as elected officials?
Ms Hurd: This question came up two years ago too, about the independence of municipalities, and I've always supported that, but you don't support something indefinitely if the independence means they're going to stick with positions that run against the tenants' needs or the rights of tenants. For example, single-family dwellings: You have to rent the whole house or buy a house and that's it. The point I made the last time was if there's an enlightened policy and the provincial government is going to have to impose that to get that enlightened policy sort of into a level of government that is supposed to provide that decision-making, then that's where tenants will turn, they'll support that.
That's why I put in my conclusions that I want the provincial government to take the position that tenants have rights and go and push that position with the municipalities. It would be better if the municipalities could be persuaded to adopt non-exclusive zoning, but if they don't, and oftentimes -- I think that's happened in the past -- the provincial government has, through whatever conclusion it has come to, felt the need to impose things on municipalities, and possibly, following that, the municipality would see the reason and adopt it themselves.
Mr Hardeman: I was just wondering, when Bill 120 was introduced, it was introduced recognizing that there were a great number of basement apartments that were not inspected and were in fact not safe for people to be occupying. The legalization in Bill 120 was put in place to try and correct that problem. Have you got any figures or any idea how many of those present apartments that were there at that time are still not inspected?
Ms Hurd: No.
Mr Hardeman: Would it be a great number, or are we getting close to having them all inspected?
Ms Hurd: I'm not sure. This isn't something our group has been able to do a lot research on. We have hardly any staff. If we were the organization we want to be and had the funds we want to have, we could do that kind of research. We could be preparing that kind of research for the purposes of enforcing enforcement. However, that's a little bit beyond our capabilities.
Mr Gerretsen: Just to follow up on that, I take it your association would have no objection to having the apartments registered.
Ms Hurd: This is something that came up in this legislation. Is that right?
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, that's right. See, there are two issues here: number one, who should have the ultimate control as to whether or not they ought to be there, the municipalities or the province; and secondly, whether or not there should be registration. I think just about everyone who has spoken in favour of allowing the homeowner the right to have a second unit has pretty well spoken in favour of registration except for one group earlier, and I've forgotten exactly which group that was. What's your view on registration?
Ms Hurd: I haven't had the opportunity to really look into it. I notice an organization that's followed this issue very closely, INC, Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign, doesn't agree with registration. We haven't had a chance to specifically look at that issue. We were mostly concerned about the rescinding of the legalization.
Mr Gerretsen: What's very interesting about this whole notion is that most of the arguments you've brought in favour of these units are usually brought up by developers or by people who aren't tenants etc. There is this tremendous fear that I sense from all the tenant organizations that the units are going to be built anyway. People are going to build the units anyway, in a clandestine manner, and quite often municipalities will have no control over it, and sooner or later we'll have to do what they did years ago with the Planning Act, where people were constantly disregarding the Planning Act and then the province would come along a year or two later and sort of certify that everything that had gone on before that was okay, and we'd go on another merry chase like that.
Is your concern that, number one, there wouldn't be too many units so your own tenants wouldn't have the same kind of choice and it would obviously have an effect on the increase in rents? Is that one of the concerns that your organization has?
Ms Hurd: No. The concern we have is that the people who live there can't resort to any -- their protections are minimal, and because they feel insecure, they'll put up with illegal rents or --
Mr Gerretsen: That's if they live in illegal units.
Ms Hurd: Yes. In terms of supply, I mean, I've never thought of it as the ideal kind of supply. We were very unhappy with this government to stop the non-profit housing program, because it was to be affordable and addressing needs of the different groups within the tenant population. This isn't the answer, but as vacancy rates are dropping all across the province, this is providing some small amount of supply to a diminishing stock.
Mr Gerretsen: Did I misunderstand you? You said you were very much in favour of the government stopping the non-profit program? Is that what you said?
Ms Hurd: Oh, no, no, no.
Mr Gerretsen: No. Okay. I didn't think so.
Ms Hurd: No, I said I was very unhappy about that.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm sorry, I just misunderstood.
Ms Hurd: Given that's been undermined, and the landlords have not come forward with all their supposed offerings to build housing if tenants' rights are demolished, then where will it come from? It is slightly cheaper housing, so it makes it slightly more affordable than what might be put on the market, say, at full price or new construction, and it's fairly easily and quickly put on the market.
So it does have something to do with, first, legalizing what's there and then governing what comes after and, yes, bringing what's there up to standard. I don't know. It just seems so logical to me.
Mr Hampton: I've asked this question of a number of senior citizen organizations and tenant organizations like yourself. If the government proceeds as it has indicated it wants to proceed, do you think there will be any reduction in the number of these apartments that are already out there? Do you think we will see fewer of them built, or will the market demand for this kind of lower-cost, lower-price housing continue to bring on more supply, whether it's regulated or not?
Ms Hurd: When the existence of these kinds of units came to my attention, it was I guess in the 1980s, and people continued to advertise. This is out in Scarborough again. They were illegal, people advertised them, people talked about them quite openly. I don't know that legalizing them and taking the legalization back again will stop that. I think it will continue.
It just really makes me very concerned that we're going to say, "Okay, we're not going to legalize any more," and we'll just pretend they're not there. People are going to go with what they think is a necessary -- take a necessary step to create housing, either to help them with the mortgage or, you know.
Mr Hampton: So the market demand is there, there are, as I understand it, increasing numbers of people who, because of lower pay or because they don't have a permanent full-time job any more or by reason of other factors, will be looking for this kind of accommodation. The demand will certainly be there and the supply will be there, but they will be unregulated. We'll be back in the days of health and safety standards simply not being observed or certainly not being enforced.
Ms Hurd: Right.
Mr Hampton: Municipalities have always had it in their capacity to do something about the regulation, and the government members keep going back to that, saying, "The municipalities should do something." But what we've heard here today and yesterday is that municipalities have largely ignored these issues. They've largely ignored the fire safety, electrical safety issues associated with this kind of housing and accommodation. Why do you suppose that has been that way? Do you have a sense of why that's happened?
Ms Hurd: I guess it might not necessarily be that they've ignored those issues, but I think over this issue generally they're listening to so-called ratepayer organizations who just don't want certain kinds of people and certain kinds of things going on in their very exclusive neighbourhoods. So they're the ones who are putting pressure on the municipalities to keep things the status quo. I'm not sure about whether or not they've neglected fire safety of that stuff, because I think everybody tends to find that there's just not enough inspectors when you need them or whatever, so maybe they can't cover every inch of housing, but --
Mr Hampton: At least you could make a complaint, though. When you officially recognize this housing market, it seems to me then a tenant can at least make a complaint and can raise the issue.
Ms Hurd: In an illegal apartment?
Mr Hampton: In a legal one.
Ms Hurd: Yes.
Mr Hampton: In an illegal one, the risk is you get kicked out or you're told you're not welcome any more.
Ms Hurd: Right.
Mr Hampton: What's the difference in assessment, say in Scarborough, between someone who has a legal accessory apartment, and therefore I guess would be assessed in terms of property taxes, and somebody who has an illegal one? In other words, their house is still down as a single-family dwelling and someone else's is down as a single-family dwelling plus accessory apartment. Is there a difference in how they're assessed, do you know?
Ms Hurd: That I don't know. I think when you do make changes or add to your house, there is some inspection that's supposed to be done. I get the feeling a lot of people don't report these things, whether it's about an apartment or not. But that I don't have information on.
Mr Hampton: I guess what I'm getting at is it seems to me that on the one hand you've got the health and safety of a whole bunch of people. All right? Let's assume there are in excess of 100,000 of these accessory apartments in existence around Ontario, mainly in urban areas, although perhaps not. It seems to me on the one hand you've got the health and safety issues of the people who live in those accessory apartments. It seems to me you have the potential for fire; you have the potential for other serious situations. You'd think municipal governments would take that seriously, and you'd also think the province would want to take it seriously.
On the other hand, you have the issues of, "I don't want certain types of people living in my neighbourhood," or "I want to run an illegal or unregulated accessory apartment but I don't want to pay any additional property taxes and I don't want to pay for inspection and I don't want to have anything else involved here." It just seems to me that there's a test here as to which values are more important.
Ms Hurd: Well, I don't know. The reason why I'm here is concern for the health and safety of tenants who are renting units that are being offered by homeowners and who need that housing. There are a whole lot of other issues that impinge on this, but the reason for my presence here is the concern for them.
The Chair: With that, I'll thank you both. We've exceeded our time. Thank you, Ms Hurd, for your representation this afternoon, for taking time to come down and speak to us.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Mr Klaus Wehrenberg. Good afternoon, sir.
Mr Klaus Wehrenberg: Thank you for allowing me to be present here. Since I am not part of an organization, I would like to start by introducing myself. Before I start my comments, I shall give you some background on why I'm interested in Bill 20.
While I was born in Europe and received my basic education there, soon after my arrival in Canada in the late 1960s, I got involved in land use issues, planning issues, and I haven't stopped. They were mostly local issues, but in the last 10 years I have taken an interest in provincial and national issues as well.
My involvements in Ontario's planning have included provincial appointments to the local conservation authority and to the citizens' advisory committee on the Oak Ridges moraine under Liberal and NDP governments. As well, I conceptualized and, with the help of others, organized a symposium on greenways and green space on the Oak Ridges moraine, an event that was attended by planners, developers and academics from across Ontario and that focused on alternative ways of balancing green space and residential development, obviously focused on the Oak Ridges moraine as an example.
To the dismay of the municipality, land developers and some provincial ministries, I also did not shy away from following through with OMB appeals, but they may rest assured that I do not like them any more than they do and I'm hoping never to have to be involved in one again.
In most cases, I have had to react, but always with proactive input, with suggestions for alternative approaches. That is what I intend to do here: to give you another angle on how to approach planning.
Let me now turn to my comments on Bill 20. First, some critique. The title of the bill suggests a focus on economic growth and on the environment. What about Ontario's social infrastructure? I'm leery of growth. In fact, I detest this preoccupation with more and better. To me, it looks like an illusion that you are chasing. On the back of my van I have a sign: "Wilderness is God." To me it is, and to the ecological balance in the wilderness, any economic growth often entails changing the status quo, to the detriment of wild animals and plants and to natural ecological processes -- to our detriment as well, in the end.
I recognize that we have to accommodate humans, especially in a land where immigration is spelled with capital letters. But is there a need for economic growth, or should it be for economic stability? Should we not also be concerned with social infrastructure that aims at stable social environments? Should that indeed not be a major focus in planning? You might say, "Yes, but it is," but why not focus on it in your title if you are going to have such a lengthy title anyway?
The "protect the environment" on which you do focus in the title of Bill 20 should refer to natural ecology, a term that implies a much more in-depth understanding of the interrelationships of natural processes and therefore demands a different approach to planning than is indicated in the draft bill.
Enough of the critique and on with the proactive, the positive. This is where I would like to make my suggestions.
I would like you to become aware of what I consider a feasible physical framework within which planning powers could devolve safely and beneficially to the local levels of government, provided that local decisions will "be consistent with," and not "have regard to" a few provincially uniform ground rules. This framework involves placing all planning on a watershed basis so that each planning region's physical boundaries are determined by natural features.
Today more than ever, more and more people have lost touch with the natural aspects of their surroundings, aspects that were a part of everyday life only a generation or two ago. Today most people grow up in urban environments and are not aware of ecological processes and their significance to human wellbeing and survival. They do not live in nature.
This watershed approach to planning would reinject an element of the natural world into our day-to-day existence. To illustrate, this approach could be developed in conjunction with the current revamping of the greater Toronto area and the local and regional municipalities' boundaries would be redrawn to coincide with watershed boundaries.
The approach could be expanded to the rest of the province and could form one of the pillars on which planning in Ontario rests. After consideration of how the implementation of the approach could be staged, the approach could be incorporated in Bill 20, along with concurrent changes to other legislation, such as the Municipal Act.
While I readily concede that this approach involves a host of administrative and legal changes and related costs, the concept promises benefits that are hard to achieve any other way and they will entail cost savings in the future.
The watersheds, such as the Holland River in the area where I live -- the Aurora-Newmarket area -- and the Rouge and the Humber all have one common denominator: They have within them urban communities mostly towards or at the mouth of the river and rural components in the upper reaches of the river.
In the GTA model we are searching for just such a mix of development features or forms to allow the sharing of the advantages, such as a tax base and recreational opportunities, and disadvantages: cost of transportation and waste disposal. In the GTA we are also searching for ways to maintain community identity and already know that the currently proposed models are problematic in that respect.
While the watershed approach does not retain the focus on the smaller communities, it also does not artificially divide them. A community is generally connected to a stream or river, especially the urban nodes. Rural townships might suffer division, such as King township, but the residents' orientation towards one of the more urban nodes within the township will remain. Therefore, there might be partial disturbance of the community identity factor, but likely only of the one that relates to the artificial township boundaries. I experienced that this latter factor was the less significant of the two during the 25 years that I lived in the country.
Obviously, these few remarks give you only an inkling of what an orientation towards a watershed model would offer. But the model does offer a planning alternative which could be incorporated in the draft bill even if it were only for staged introduction.
You will hopefully recognize that planning on the basis of an area with natural boundaries has these advantages over planning based on areas with artificial boundaries. Residents can relate to areas related to rivers and streams over areas that have no boundaries with a common denominator. From that springs the sense of community identity. People belong to something they can readily express and which they can see and experience. Residents would start to care for the cleanliness of their air, water and land and could be motivated to relate to how the conditions of these basic elements of life could be maintained or enhanced.
The approach presents an option that would allow for a considerable shift of planning responsibilities from the provincial to the local level without the risks that are related to artificial community boundaries. As stated earlier, if minimal provincial ground rules were put in place and enforced, then planning could become better understood, could be a more natural part of our lives, would be less complicated and above all would be less confrontational and hence more efficient and less costly.
With planning professionals working at the local levels and public confidence in the planning process restored, perhaps the planners could then act to plan for the community rather than react to plans initiated by an individual. You have an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a real planning alternative. Would you ever serve the people of Ontario if you did that. Thank you.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for your presentation. I also noted that the first words in the bill were "An Act to promote economic growth"; the government has had a desire to put the words "economic growth" in a number of bills that I've looked at lately. Of course, there may be other issues involved, but "economic growth" is always something they put forth first.
You talked about common interest of communities or of a community. I've had presentations made to me under Bill 26, and perhaps under Bill 20, that there could be an encroachment or a disintegration of the common interest within a community or within a number of communities and I think you've touched on that here today. Are you concerned that the two bills together could be harmful to communities?
Mr Wehrenberg: Bill 26, the way I understand it, and I didn't look into all the details of it -- we didn't have time to do that, so I didn't bother making comments on it -- gives governments, ministers, pre-emptive powers. Especially the Minister of Municipal Affairs can do certain things and he is going to call the shots, basically.
My concern in general has been that what we are attempting to do in the GTA, and obviously we have to consider elsewhere, is going to be fought all the way by the communities because they're going to be told that they have to amalgamate artificially with others, and this is all on artificial boundaries; that's why they can't relate to any of this stuff. There is nothing in common between them. But they have to amalgamate in order to get a vote around the GTA council table, basically. That type of thing is in the making.
The communities don't want to be torn apart, but by the same token there is a lot of acceptance of the need to restructure local-level government to get efficiencies out of the system. The efficiency I think could come from having a local body of government that has some form, that has some presence in people's minds; like, they can say, "I'm from the Holland River area" or "I'm from the Humber River" or "I'm from the Nottawasaga River." We could all relate to that. We all know a piece of the Nottawasaga, we know a piece of the Ganaraska and so on of the river systems and we know basically where it belongs. We then have people speaking to something that they all have in common, and we have a mix of people: We have rural elements and we have urban areas.
We have a concern I think in the whole township, then, or watershed or whatever you want to call it later on, for instance, about how waste is going to be disposed of and how much of it they create, how it will affect their water and so on. They can control these things, because it is always in this ecologically cohesive land base in which they live. So you're going to get some interest from the community, because at all times when we talk about planning they will relate to this because they are part of this and they can have an influence and they can point to something.
These environmental issues, the environment development conflict, has pulled us apart. It has created nothing but acrimonious relationships. It has used up time. It is still not being resolved, it won't be resolved by this act and it won't be resolved by the GTA boroughs. That's one of my concerns. I think we need to get to terms with this but we have to make a big leap. There's no doubt that what I'm presenting here is something that takes a little bit of political courage. This is not something you can just pull out of the bag and say, "Well, we're going to do this tomorrow." No, it takes commitment and some real looking into, how you best restructure the whole shebang. We are not going there now. We are not going to resolve the GTA.
Mr Hampton: You're advocating something that I think a lot of the biologists who work within the government also advocate, the move to ecosystem-based planning, watershed-based planning. So let me ask you bluntly: Do you think this legislation and the policy statements that go along with it will lead towards watershed-based planning, will lead towards ecosystem-based planning or will lead in another direction?
Mr Wehrenberg: No, they will not lead there; this is obvious. In fact, the whole framework isn't there; it's not in place now and there is no hint in the legislation that this is the direction that the legislation should move. My concern, naturally, is that we also have taken away from Bill 163 basically something that we really hammered out in public meetings and it was talked about and there was the development industry and there were the stakeholders. They were all in there and there was democracy to some good degree.
We have taken away the capacity, I think, under the new legislation, under Bill 20, to address these ecological connections. Corridors and so on have been taken out of the policy statement, the concern for corridors. The municipalities have to "have regard to" or the developers have to "have regard to" policy statements. But it isn't sufficient. As I said in this documentation, we need to have some ground rules at the provincial level that all planners have to worry about, all people, all private and public interests have to worry about. If we don't have them, then we don't have any provincial interests that can be paid attention to.
If I'm going to have to stand there, as somebody who intervenes in the planning process, and gather up the expertise to show that a planning proposal has no "regard to," and then have policy statements that are equally wishy-washy, in a way, there's no way I can be involved in it. My nerves won't hold out. I did two OMB hearings, and I had to put them on the mat to be able to get my word across. You just cannot keep up this type of work, as an individual. This is what is expected here. When you have policies or when you have acts that are not precise, you then have to argue your case, but without professionals you'll go nowhere, absolutely nowhere.
I haven't got the means and the resources to garner these professionals, and not the time, under the new rules. Ninety days? Give me a break. Ninety days for an OP amendment that can have vast influences on the future of the community? There is no way I have the time. I wouldn't even attempt it, because I would lose my credibility overnight, just like that. Every time I'd go in front of the public, they would say: "Well, what the hell is he talking about? He can't talk about it, because it's not in there." So I'm dead from the word "go." There's no point in wasting my time. I've had too much experience in this. I won't do it.
Mr Hampton: This is an issue we're having some debate over. You've come as someone who is interested in environmental protection, and you're saying that this would not leave adequate guidelines, the policy isn't there to work with, the policy statements aren't there to work with.
One of the things we heard yesterday, though, from Mr Sewell, who headed up the Sewell commission, was that the government believes that by doing some of these things they'll move through the process more quickly. Mr Sewell was of another view. He said, "No, it won't move through the process more quickly, because anyone who does have a stake, anyone who does have an interest, will find ways to argue about something, will finds ways to tie up the process and will find ways to simply create a number of issues around the vague language and so on." What's your view?
Mr Wehrenberg: There are two angles to this. One is what I've just expressed, that the average citizen won't even bother getting involved any more, anybody who is worried about his credibility. As an environmentalist, you are worried about your credibility, because without it you have no stock-in-trade. When I see what is in front of me, I assess what chances I have of arguing this case successfully. I can lay off there, because what I see in front of me with Bill 20 and the policy statements will not allow me to be credible, to remain credible.
The other angle of that is that if I do in fact feel superstrongly about this and I gather up maybe other organizations where we can tie together, we have a coalition or something, then we will fight and we will try to convince. But then this fight will drag on. There's no doubt about it that we're going to have arguments over arguments, and there will be all means used to drag this in one direction or the other by both sides. There just isn't the ammunition there for either side to be precise about this, and therefore we are going nowhere and you will in fact delay the process.
Now, the 90-day period, I'm not too sure how that is going to work. My suspicion is that there will be deals cut, before it ever gets to the official introduction of the application, that will enshrine positions before the public ever gets in on this. If that happens, then the public isn't going to be served by the Planning Act, period. There are going to be structural deficiencies in there that are working against the public interest, and that's all there is to it.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon, and thank you for your presentation. You mentioned the issue of Bill 26, the restructuring process and looking at municipal boundaries and so forth. In a number of discussions that I've had with municipalities, they find it difficult to put an outer line on the area that they should be looking at for restructuring. Is it fair to assume that in your presentation you think an appropriate way of looking at that would be on a watershed basis as opposed to the present municipal structures?
Mr Wehrenberg: Yes.
Mr Hardeman: Secondly, would you go so far as to say that a reasonable size of municipalities would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of the present areas that conservation authorities cover, or do you see that as needing to be split up?
Mr Wehrenberg: Split up? I have hesitations about it on a subwatershed basis where the watershed is awfully large and very populated. Maybe you can split it up on a subwatershed basis, but we could also think in terms of putting other watersheds together. I'm not saying that you should stay always with one watershed or with two. The Humber watershed is quite a substantial -- a very odd shape, in a way. But nevertheless I think you might -- that may be the outer limit of what you can put in one bundle. I haven't looked at all the details. There are umpteen watersheds tying into Lake Ontario, for instance, and others into Lake Simcoe and so on, and you have to analyse. In the north you might have to go on quite a larger area, meaning that you have to look at a dividing line that includes several watersheds.
But, yes, in basic terms, I think in a way it can move you politically away from having to deal with this in-fighting that's going to take place at the local and regional level, like the turf protection and all this type of thing. I think you have an out and it is a very feasible out. There isn't anything ulterior about it. It is an option that you can pursue and that I feel has a lot of validity to be considered at least, to flesh out and to maybe get into a study of it or something, I'm not too sure, before you actually incorporate it.
Mr Baird: Let me first just say we're always pleased to have anyone come before us, but I'm particularly pleased when I see individual citizens just coming forward to express their own concerns and feelings on issues. I think you mentioned at one point, if we had more concerned citizens. I think you're certainly a good example of that so I'd commend you on that.
One issue that seems to be pervading public policy areas at all levels -- it's certainly part of this bill -- is the issue of local autonomy, decentralizing. The federal government's talking about doing it to the provinces. The province here in Ontario has definitely talked about that direction, particularly reflected in this act.
Someone said that giving municipalities more decision-making authority means giving planning and development decisions where they can be made closest to the community. What do you think of that and how does that relate to your experience in environmental issues?
Mr Wehrenberg: I say in part of my paper, towards the end, that in effect I expect the watershed local municipality, as it were, to have the necessary professional staff to be able to cope with professionals from both sides. I think if the watershed local level is large enough, you can afford to have some staff. We used to have a combination of staff at the planner. They had some expertise in this and that and they made a plan with no problem. They had certain expertise in planning. But at the conservation authority we had the flood control people, the experts, and we had the Ministry of Natural Resources, we had the Ministry of Environment.
All of those professionals would be, in my view, attached to the municipalities at this point, provided there are some overriding provincial interest guidelines that have to be fairly firm. If they are not firm, then you are skidding right off the bat. But as long as you have a large enough municipality, you can afford to have on staff professionals who can be trusted by the public and they will in fact at all times be detached from the political influences.
The larger the municipality gets, the more detached they would be. The lower down you go, the smaller you go, the more attached they are to the political influences on a day-to-day basis.
Mr Baird: That could be said for this bill and any other. I agree.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Wehrenberg. We've reached the end of our allotted time and really appreciate your taking time to make a presentation before us today.
Mr Wehrenberg: I apologize for not giving you a copy. My computer printer broke down last night, and I had relied on it. So you can have this copy to make copies from I think, if you need it at this stage.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
MUNICIPALITY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO
The Chair: With us next, the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, Metro planning. Good afternoon, gentlemen. We have 25 minutes available to us this afternoon. It's up to you to decide how much time to take for your presentation and how much for question and answer.
Mr David Gurin: We'll be concise. I'm David Gurin. I'm the deputy commissioner of the planning department of Metro, and with me is Chris Burke, my colleague in the planning department. Also with us and observing is Wendy Walberg from the Metro solicitor's office.
You have received, I believe there was just distributed to you, a Metro council position on Bill 20. It was actually passed about a week and a half ago and sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. I think it may not have reached you, but now you have it and I am substantially going to outline that for you. So I'm very much in sync with what you have there.
I think our response is very much in keeping with those from other regional municipalities, but I think that to understand Metro's special perspective on Bill 20, it's important to understand that Metro is unique in at least two ways with regard to this legislation.
First of all, it's the only fully urbanized upper-tier municipality and therefore most development that takes place within Metro is in the form of redevelopment rather than what's known as greenfield development. We don't normally start afresh; we start from something that was already there.
Second, it's the only upper-tier municipality without approval authority for local plans. This is, in our view, a gross anomaly and it's one which we hope will be corrected by this government.
Let me outline Metro's responses to Bill 20 in five different areas: First of all, the question of approval authority, which I've just mentioned; second, the status of official plans and their relationship to policy statements; third, provincial involvement in municipal planning -- and I understand very well that the thrust of your legislation is to try to decrease that; fourth, reliance on the OMB -- and I think you would like to decrease that kind of reliance because of its cost as well; and fifth, Metro responsibility for the provision of infrastructure.
Let me go back over those. First of all, the question of approval authority: I cannot emphasize enough the degree to which we think it is counterproductive and expensive not to give Metro the same approval authority that is given to all the other regions. The province continues to assign all upper-tiers and counties the ability to approve official plans within the regions, except Metro.
The advantages of assigning regional government the right to approve local official plans have been recognized by the province. It expedites the development review process, it resolves disputes to avoid costly OMB hearings and it reduces provincial entanglement in municipal affairs. So as one of the conclusions council-passed material that we have in front of us is that once again Metro council requests that Metro be assigned approval authority.
Second in the list of things I've mentioned is the status of official plans. Bill 20 proposes to delete subsection 3(8), which was added through Bill 163 to provide for official plans to be deemed consistent with provincial policy statements. This provision is very important to limit recurring challenges of approved official plan policies and other approvals. So Metro council requests that subsection 3(8) be retained with the necessary modification so that it reads "to have regard to" the provincial policy statements.
In other words, we don't want to see any challenges because people, after there's an approval of an official plan, then go back to provincial policy statements. We regard the approval of the official plan as embodying the provincial policy statements.
Third, the provincial involvement in municipal planning: Again, you would like to see this minimized and that more local responsibility is embraced. The proposal to provide for exemption of official plans and amendments might be useful to an upper-tier municipality with approval authority. Without this, in Metro the minister would be the one making the exemption decisions instead of Metro council or the regional council making the exemption decisions. So the ministry would then be in the business of defining Metro interests and determining Metro official plan conformity, thus increasing provincial involvement in municipal planning matters rather than doing what your stated goal is: to decrease that involvement.
The lack of limits placed on the minister's exemption authority could result in a far more adversarial process in Metro, leaving the OMB as the only recourse for Metro council. This goes counter to Bill 20's goal of municipal empowerment and streamlining the process. We believe that this would be resolved if Metro is assigned approval authority so we could then deal with any kinds of exemptions as well as all other matters in regard to official plans within our region.
The fourth item I want to speak to is reliance on the Ontario Municipal Board. Perhaps other speakers earlier today have addressed this. We think that the referral system has worked well in allowing approval authorities the opportunity to resolve disputes. Dispute resolution is a method, a subject matter that many people have put under the microscope of late. It's always best, as you know, to try to bring the disputing bodies together, the people who are engaged in a dispute, rather than have them go into a legal proceeding.
The process of referral has worked very well, because a significant portion of matters are resolved without being sent to the OMB, and we would urge you very strongly to continue this process of referral and to save disputants having to go to the OMB. Not only does it solve going to the OMB, but through the referral process, the scoping down of objectives means that when things do go to the OMB, only very specific issues may go rather than the entire matter, and this saves both public and private costs related to the OMB.
If in fact you choose to replace the referral system with appeals, you will make the development process more adversarial and time-consuming and this will result in greater provincial involvement in local planning matters through the OMB. It will also result in significantly greater costs to municipalities and to proponents and to the province due to increased OMB costs to resolve disputes. So Metro council does request that the referral system be retained for official plans and official plan amendments.
Last, Metro responsibility for the provision of infrastructure: Metro and other regional municipalities are responsible for providing significant public infrastructure, including water and sewer systems, waste management and arterial roads. Metro has to be able to get the most efficient use of its infrastructure investment to save taxpayer dollars and to support its objectives to attract development into the existing urban area. We call this reurbanization; you might have heard it referred to densification. The notion is that by trying to get development where infrastructure already exists, a great deal of money is saved.
Two provisions in Bill 20 may make this difficult: First, by removing the appeal of local minor variance decisions to the OMB, Metro may be left in a position of being unable to protect its infrastructure interests; and second, the lack of means to sunset rezoning as is done with plans of subdivisions, and we think wisely, in Bill 20 to allow for reallocation of unused infrastructure capacity when the approved development does not occur. In other words, sometimes zoning does give out development rights and those can go up to a certain cap of what infrastructure will allow, but if those are unused and there's no sunset provision, that will prevent other developments from going ahead.
So Metro council requests, first, that provision be made to permit upper-tier referral of lower-tier minor variance decisions to the OMB; and, second, that municipalities be empowered to provide for the lapsing of rezoning approvals after not less than five years, thereby permitting allocated infrastructure capacity to be reallocated to develop when it's ready to proceed.
That's the end of my testimony. However, I would like to ask my colleague Chris Burke to add anything if he feels there's anything in addition that ought to be brought to the attention of the committee.
Mr Chris Burke: The only thing I wondered was just to be sure that all of the members understood what the referral system is. It essentially is a system whereby the approval authority in Metro's case is the Minister of Municipal Affairs; in other regional municipalities the approval authority is the regional municipality itself for the local plans. It's a system whereby people with objections to a plan or to an amendment can ask the approval authority to refer a particular part of a plan or amendment or the whole thing to the Ontario Municipal Board, but that approval authority has the discretion in terms of the timing that it takes to send the matter to the board. If it feels that it can indeed scope down the issue or resolve the dispute without sending it to the board, it has the discretion as to when it actually sends the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board. Under the proposal of Bill 20, the direct appeals system, the approval authority would no longer have that role.
Ms Churley: Thank you for coming to present your views today. Were you consulted by the government while it was writing this bill?
Mr Burke: My understanding is that the regional planning commissioners were consulted through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Ms Churley: So through AMO.
Mr Burke: Through AMO, but not directly.
Ms Churley: It's just that Metro is huge and, as you pointed out, just different from municipalities. Some of it can have different impacts on you.
Mr Burke: Yes. We weren't consulted directly, but indirectly.
Ms Churley: Right, just as part of the whole AMO structure. So you weren't given any opportunity to voice your concerns, that's what I'm trying to get at. You saw no draft or were not told what might be in the legislation beforehand.
Mr Gurin: Not directly.
Ms Churley: So you had no direct input.
I should probably know this, although my stint at city council was very short. I can't remember the historical reasons why Metro Toronto approval was not granted for approving an area or municipal plan. Can you just remind me of that? Is there some kind of turf war thing going on here? Am I suspecting that or is my suspicion correct here?
Mr Gurin: In my tenure, it's been asked for consistently. As for the original reasons why it was not given, I'll call on Mr Burke.
Ms Churley: Did the city of Toronto object? There must be some other reason.
Mr Gurin: There have been some objections -- I don't know how officially they were ever made -- by the area municipalities, yes.
Mr Burke: I do believe that some of the reasons were from the concerns expressed by the area municipalities. We believe that it's partly due to a lack of understanding as to why Metro would have the approval authority. It's effectively not simply to tell the local municipalities what to do but in order to be able to better resolve issues within its area, as the other regional municipalities are doing.
When Bill 163 came forward, Metro did come to a similar hearing as this one today and the same question was put by our chairman, Mr Tonks. I do recall watching that on television and seeing the answer as being, "The government is trying to deal with the whole greater Toronto area, so we're not changing anything in Metro." Yet we seem to have had no problem changing matters in the other regions, even though there's a greater Toronto area exercise under way there as well. The same reasons for the regional municipalities dealing with approval authority, in being able to come up with the efficiencies in the local area, apply to Metro as well.
Mr Smith: Earlier today we heard a presentation from the Canadian Bar Association and it dealt in large with a number of legal terminologies. As part of their presentation they expressed concern, or perhaps "opposition" would be a better word, to that provision in the bill that allows the municipality as a condition of site plan approval to require the applicant to convey land for public transit rights of way. On page 4 of your report you indicate that you're an advocate of that type of provision. Perhaps you could share with the committee why you are proponents of that particular position, by comparison with what we heard from the bar association.
Mr Burke: I think particularly within an urban area, where most activity occurs through redevelopment, very often the site plan process is the point at which these kinds of matters can be dealt with. There already was in the legislation the provision for road rights of way to be gained through this mechanism and I believe through Bill 163 the public transit aspect of it was provided to regional municipalities. It's the local municipalities themselves which actually administer the site plan process, so it makes sense for them to also be able to exercise this authority. Secondly, in a number of municipalities the transit authority is actually reporting to the local municipality, so that it would be the local government that would have the responsibility for transit matters.
Mr Gurin: I just think it's a matter of really basic and elementary planning. The market cannot conserve. It can do all kinds of things, but it cannot conserve. Rights of way are one of the things that planners can make provision for, and that's a good device.
Mr Hardeman: Going back to the comments made by Ms Churley about the consultation with Metro directly as opposed to other segments of organizations, you said they met with or discussed the change with the regional planners?
Mr Gurin: I understand they met with AMO, and there was an organization of the regional planners of Ontario that is represented on AMO.
Mr Hardeman: I would like to go on then. You also mentioned the comment about the consultation for Bill 163 and being told that things were going on in the Metro area and that's why they were being excluded from the changes. That is true today. Could you tell me how many of the changes in Bill 20 would directly impact Metro today? How much of the change is actually applicable to Metro as opposed to the rest of the regions?
Mr Gurin: I could say that there are some which might not apply to us, but most of the more important ones will apply across the board; for example, the issues we brought up, where we fear increased disputatiousness, an increased problem of going to the OMB rather than the deferral process. That applies to us as it would to any municipality within Ontario. There may be some matters which don't apply to us, but I think the great majority do. Would you concur with that?
Mr Burke: Yes, and I believe that, as requested, one is the effect of the exemption of official plans, and that's because it's putting the power to exempt local official plans and amendments, or portions of them, in the hands of the approval authority. In all other regions, that therefore puts it into the hands of the regional municipality. In the case of Metro, the approval authority is the minister because it hasn't been assigned to Metro, so it creates a different set of issues within Metro than for the other regional municipalities.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm curious about all these questions about consultation. I wouldn't like to see consultation take place just with one group and not with another. All the municipalities across the province recognize the fact that Metro is by far the largest but they are the same, and I think there's always been a feeling outside of Toronto that there's too much consultation directly going on between Metro and --
Ms Churley: Not with this government.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a minute now -- and the city of Toronto and government traditionally, governments of all stripes.
Just so you can educate me more than anything else, you haven't dealt with -- or if you have, I've missed it -- the apartment unit issue. Is that not a Metro issue? Is that a local municipal issue for the city of Toronto?
Mr Gurin: Well, it's both. Our official plan does allow for apartment dwellings.
Mr Gerretsen: But do you take a position on whether it's a good or a bad thing to exclude them, or to bring it down to the local level?
Mr Burke: No, council did not take a position at this time. The report that was taken forward was largely on the Planning Act changes of Bill 20.
Mr Gerretsen: I see. What about the committee of adjustment? Does Metro have a committee of adjustment, or is that a local government?
Mr Burke: That's a local responsibility, which is the gist of the comments on minor variances with respect to infrastructure spending.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time to make your presentation today.
The Chair: Our last presentation of the day is the Orlando Corp. Good afternoon.
Mr Phil King: Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Phil King, with Orlando Corp. I've provided you with a point-form summary of the presentation I'm going to make this afternoon.
Orlando Corp is a privately owned development company specializing in industrial-commercial development. Orlando has been in existence for over 40 years and it's evolved into a fully integrated development company. We are well known for the development of controlled business parks, the latest being a 1,200-acre development at Highways 401 and 10 in Mississauga called Heartland.
We currently own and manage over 24 million square feet of industrial and commercial properties. Our integrated services include the assembly and development of land; design and construction of industrial-commercial buildings as our own contractor through design-build projects; ownership of the properties, and property management. Provision of these services has made us a one-stop shop for industry wanting to expand, and has resulted in us now being one of the largest companies of its kind in Canada. Companies like ours are at the foundation of industry, business and employment in Canada. We create places of work and employment, and our competition is not local, it is international.
Industry comes to Orlando because of its ability to provide facilities on a fast-track time frame. To do this, we need the cooperation of government to bring land on stream and provide the various municipal approvals in a quick and efficient manner.
Bill 20 provides the framework for municipalities to assist industry by reducing red tape and bringing land on stream and business to this province. We support the general direction this government is moving in by trying to reduce the time and cost of developing land for business.
We support Bill 20 with particular reference to reduction in time frames for processing of planning applications; the absolute right of appeal; using the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as the clearinghouse for applications; to eliminate further duplication by deleting the requirement for public meetings for plans of subdivision due to adequate public consultation still being required where areas for land use is really determined, ie, official plans and zoning bylaws; the clarification of what "prescribed information and material" means and when the trigger for the required time frames kicks in; also, maintaining the OMB and the inclusion of alternative dispute resolution approaches.
There are, however, some areas of concern that we request this committee to address:
The absence of property rights protection and compensation principles for land taken or sterilized. This issue is of grave concern when talking about buffers to significant wetlands and other environmental areas. In some instances, land holdings may be completely frozen or considered undevelopable.
The ability to take land for public transit rights of way without compensation. Public transit rights of way are services provided for the population in general, and it is unfair for specific land owners to contribute more than their fair share. Both of these items fall under the heading of expropriation without compensation.
Minor variance applications being appealable to municipal council rather than to the OMB. This is a concern for two reasons: (1) It will not remove politically motivated decisions which will be based on local motivation rather than planning issues, and (2) frivolous appeals will be in abundance due to the lack of preparation required to appear in front of council rather than the Ontario Municipal Board.
Appeal rights for changed conditions on subdivisions and consents. The decision regarding approval has already been handed down and should not be reopened due to a change in a condition. The decision has not changed. Frivolous appeals would result in unnecessary delays and a minor change in the condition of approval should not open up the whole process for appeal.
As a general point, we request that the provisions of the act be made clear to all government bodies to ensure that the confusion that currently exists between the old and the existing Planning Act does not continue, especially in light of us having three planning systems in effect.
Dealing with Bill 20 is a major step forward in trying to assist the kickstart of the economy by removing unnecessary red tape from the current planning system. However, as we fix one part, other impediments to growth emerge. These issues are directly related to economic growth and the development of industry in Ontario and resulting employment, and if not corrected will remove any benefit that Bill 20 generates.
These issues are primarily business concerns and can be resolved by amendments to the Assessment Act, amendments to the Municipal Act and Education Act and amendments to the Development Charges Act.
We're not dealing with increased profits to development companies; we're dealing with survival and our ability to continue to attract business and employment to this province. For business to be competitive we need changes.
Recent court cases have caused a significant appeal process being implemented by municipal governments to increase the level of realty tax on vacant industrial properties that are zoned. It's grossly unfair for a municipality to be able to tax vacant land at the full industrial rate just because the land is zoned. This approach will result in municipalities becoming owners of land due to non-payment of taxes and/or drive up the cost of land to an uneconomical level. It will also severely restrict the availability of land which is zoned and ready to go, because developers will not pre-zone lands due to the high tax cost and hence carrying costs.
Already the cost of taxes, levies and hard costs exceeds the sale price of land. Unless we change the system, industrial development will cease. This can be illustrated in the two examples attached to the brief I supplied, one dealing with the cost of land and sale price, and the other dealing with the tax differences with respect to vacant industrial land.
We believe an amendment to the Assessment Act is needed in conjunction to the passing of Bill 20 to resolve this issue by permitting recognition of when lands really become industrial, and that could be used for industrial purposes. Zoning alone is not the trigger.
Another measure that would assist new business is to stop placing the burden of cost solely on new businesses. With respect to education development charges, this can be achieved by revisions to the Municipal Act and the Education Act to permit school boards to put the non-residential education development charge component on the overall tax base.
Currently, education development charges will apply to only new industrial and commercial buildings. However, there's no relation between new industrial and commercial growth and new pupil places.
With respect to the non-residential sector, all business benefits from education, and not just new business. The boards of education in Peel, the economic development department of the city of Mississauga, the boards of trade and the development industry support an alternative which removes the burden of education development charges on new growth and spreads the impact over the much larger non-res assessment base. Amendments are required to remove the 85% relation between residential and non-residential mill rates and the Education Act to permit this alternative.
The third item is development charges, and we know this government is currently looking at the Development Charges Act, so I'm not going to get into any discussions on that, just that we will obviously be involved with UDI in future discussions on that issue.
Thank you for the time. That's my presentation, and I'd be willing to answer any questions.
Mr Galt: Sorry, I came in in the middle of your presentation, but I'm interested in your item about property rights and compensation for land taken. This was certainly a great concern during the campaign, particularly by farmers. I wonder if you would expand on some of your feelings. This morning it came out, and I had not picked up on it previously, that possibly we're in a position whereby woodlands would end up in a similar situation. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts in this general area.
Mr King: I can give you an example, which I think is the easiest way to explain this. We had control of some land in Scarborough, adjacent to one of the tributaries of the Rouge Valley, and the Rouge River park plan identified significant buffer strips adjacent to the environmental area. We're not talking about the environmental area itself; we're talking about the buffer strips adjacent to it.
Mr Galt: The 150 metres.
Mr King: Yes. That would have sterilized a 100-acre piece of land because of a tributary to the Rouge River running through the middle of the property, and that park study did not address any compensation for sterilizing or taking that land. The municipalities weren't looking at actually acquiring it; they were saying, "You just cannot develop on it." That's an example of the concern, and that can happen against woodlots, against watercourses and any other environmental area. That's the concern.
Mr Galt: The story you relate here has been related in my riding many, many times over, and it seems very unfair, as a result of Bill 163.
Mr Hardeman: Near the end of your presentation you referred to the Development Charges Act, that it was being reviewed, but just prior to that you were indicating that we should allow the development charges for education to be spread in all areas. It would seem to me that there is a connection between the two, that the review of the development charges, particularly where the development charge on education now sits -- I would presume that spreading over the total tax base would not be done until the review of the total Development Charges Act was completed.
Mr King: It may be. The situation, as you may be aware, is that we've just had education development charges passed in the region of Peel, so it's a situation that exists today. Through our presentations to the schools, we put forward this alternative and had the support of industry and the boards of trade. They were willing to look at that alternative, because they recognize that they don't want to stifle new industry because of its benefits on the tax base. But we could not use that alternative because the Municipal Act and the Education Act wouldn't permit it. The Development Charges Act gave them the right to put these things in place or not, so it wasn't the Development Charges Act that was the issue; it was the other two acts. I brought this up today because of the concerns that all run together about the costs of development, especially upfront developers.
Mr Hardeman: I have one further question on the environmental areas that you refer to, somewhat from the opposite direction that my colleague comes from. Have the environmental areas that need protecting because they are a provincial interest not always been a provincially significant area, with the developer knowing in the purchase that the ability of that land to produce was the purpose that it would be designated for?
Mr King: Whether the actual area was provincially significant I don't think is the issue. I don't think we are concerned with the actual environmental area that would be running through the property. It's the extent of the buffer that's adjacent to it and how that is treated, as far as not being able to be developed or restricted in development considerably. We're not saying to get rid of the environmental areas; we're just concerned with the buffer, and some of them can be pretty significant, effectively wiping out a piece of land.
Mr Gerretsen: You're obviously a believer in property rights and that a person should have as many rights as possible as far as their own particular property is concerned. Am I correct?
Mr King: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: Do you not think it's rather unusual then that this act would include a clause by which, in effect, the right to have a basement apartment has been excluded? I know you didn't make any comments on that, and probably as an association or as an organization you don't have any interest in that, but does that sound consistent to you?
Mr King: Having the right for basement apartments? We're not residential developers, so we've never come up against that situation. I'm not really qualified to comment on that.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, anyone can have a basement apartment now by right, provided you meet certain health standards etc, and that has, in effect, being taken away in this act and it's being referred to municipalities to deal with. Do you think that's somewhat inconsistent?
Mr King: I'm sure there are people that will be speaking in front of this committee that have a hell of a lot more basis for a discussion than I do, I'm afraid.
Mr Gerretsen: I see that you support the deletion of the requirement of a public meeting for plans of subdivisions.
Mr King: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: As you well know, there are usually at least three parties involved: the municipality, the developer and the immediate neighbours. Being reasonable about it, don't you think it's somewhat unusual to require a public meeting in the case of a committee of adjustment dealing with a minor variance?
If this were implemented the way it's suggested, we've now got a situation or we will have a situation where a public meeting would not be required for something that's usually of a much larger scope and nature, namely, a subdivision. I realize that the land is zoned for that, but if you were an immediate neighbour to that, would you not want at least to have some input into how that subdivision is to be developed?
Mr King: I think the neighbours do have considerable input under the process without public meetings for subdivision.
Mr Gerretsen: How?
Mr King: Through the zoning bylaw and through the official plan.
Mr Gerretsen: But that's quite a bit different, though, because in a zoning bylaw you don't really deal with the particular layout of the subdivision or how exactly it's going to be implemented.
Mr King: The only thing that it probably won't show is where the internal roads go, but it certainly does show all of the different zones that are applicable and what uses are permitted on the land. I think the draft plan of subdivision is really the technical side of how to implement the zoning bylaw and the official plan.
Mr Gerretsen: But that could in fact be quite different one from the other, could it not?
Mr King: I don't believe so. I think that the zoning bylaw and the official plan is where the land use and where the concerns of neighbours, and also the site plan approval that deals with issues that come along later on -- the public has considerable input into all of those areas. I think it's just adding an extra area that's not required, just adding more time.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess you and I will disagree on that then. But would you not agree that the real time delays are not so much the specific time periods that are talked about in the act, but rather the length of time that a council or a planning department or a ministry deals with a particular application?
Quite often there are time periods set out for that. As you and I well know, these time periods quite often aren't adhered to because of workload demands and one thing or another. It's really the administrative time requirements that take the time and not so much the legislated time factor. Would you agree or disagree with that?
Mr King: In a certain way I think that what this act does is permits the applicant to refer the application to the OMB if there really is not any progress on that file. I think most of us -- I'm not saying all, but most developers -- work with the municipalities and, provided the thing is moving along, there won't be a proliferation of appeals to the OMB because a certain time frame isn't met. But there are instances where a municipality, through political issues, will not deal with an application. It's in those situations where these provisions and the stipulations for the time frames will help.
Mr Gerretsen: But I guess my point is that the extra time that is required for the public meeting really isn't that -- the word escapes me. But that really doesn't add all that much time to it; it's all the other time delays that do.
Mr King: If you're adding an extra public meeting and all of the issues that would have to be addressed after that -- in a lot of instances, you're dealing with duplication. Still have the public meetings but deal with these issues at the zoning bylaw.
Mr Hampton: I want to take you back to your comments about the Rouge River Valley. Park planning there has been going on for some time. As I understand it, the Rouge River is one of the most significant watercourses draining into Lake Ontario that still has some wilderness territory attached to it, still has an opportunity to be preserved or maintained as some sort of parkland for Metro Toronto. You were talking about the protected strips along the side of ravines and so on. Is it 150 metres?
Mr King: They range, it depends. In some areas it may be 30 --
Mr Hampton: The size and significance?
Mr King: Yes. In some areas it may be 100 and in others 150. It's not the quantum, it's the principle, I think, that we've got a concern with.
Mr Hampton: So you're not talking about that these are excessive?
Mr King: No. If it's deemed that the protection of that environmental area is required and it does require to sterilize these areas, it's the compensation to that individual owner. If the benefit is for the whole population, why should that one individual owner carry the burden of that? If it's deemed by government that that's something they want to protect, then it should be paid for by everybody in general, not just that individual owner who happened to have that environmental area running through the property. That's our concern.
Mr Hampton: So it's not the protection you object to, it's the question of how it's going to be handled and dealt with?
Mr King: Yes.
Mr Hampton: Did you take part in any of the park planning?
Mr King: We commented on the various reports that came through, yes.
Mr Hampton: That's all I wanted to ask.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr King. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us this afternoon.
Now, committee members, we'll move on to the three motions that were tabled earlier today. It's my understanding that the first of those motions was the one moved by Ms Churley.
Ms Churley: Do you want me to read it now?
The Chair: If you wish. Yours was the first one.
Ms Churley: Whereas Bill 20 has a significant effect on the environment in Ontario; and
Whereas the Mike Harris government has taken many measures to dismantle environmental safeguards that protect our environment and health during the last eight months; and
Whereas the minister responsible for environmental protection is not scheduled to come before this committee;
I move that this committee formally request the Minister of Environment and Energy to appear before this committee to answer questions relating to the effect of the Planning Act amendments, Bill 20, on the environment and the people of the province of Ontario.
Could I speak to the motion?
The Chair: Please do.
Ms Churley: I'm not going to take up a lot of time. There are two other motions --
Mr Hardeman: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Is the resolution you just read the same one that was circulated this morning?
Ms Churley: Yes, it is.
Mr Baird: The derogatory "whereases" were added.
Ms Churley: The clerk told me I should just give him the motion --
Mr Hardeman: I have no objection to the resolution. I just wanted to make sure we were working on the same document.
Ms Churley: You heard that. He said he had no objections to the motion.
Mr Hardeman: Being put.
Ms Churley: In the interests of time, because there are a couple of other motions and it has been a long day, I'll keep my comments brief. It's very, very clear that the environment is a huge part of this bill. I would say a good half or almost half of the people who have come so far, and there are others coming before the committee, bring up their concerns about the implications of some of the changes to the bill which will, in their view and in my view, have a detrimental effect on the environment.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was here briefly, but it was very clear to me that, first of all, there wasn't a lot of time for questions, but it was also very clear his background is not in the environment. It was very clear he didn't have answers to questions. We haven't had an opportunity to hear from the minister her views on some of these changes and how she would ensure that environmental protection is provided once this bill is passed and the changes come into effect.
I think the committee should understand that it may appear right now that all these changes can be made and nice little words be put into the bill about environmental protection, but when the substance isn't there, sooner or later, people are going to start figuring out that this government is dismantling environmental protection, and I can assure you there's going to be a lot of concern and a lot of anger about that.
I think it would be in the interests of all of us on this committee to have the minister here to discuss some of those concerns. Perhaps she can reassure some of us about some of the issues which have been raised that seem to indicate that there could be very dire environmental consequences as a result of some of these changes. I think it would make sense for all of the committee members to hear at first hand from the Environment and Energy minister and I would certainly request and solicit the support of you all in asking the minister to come forward and be able to answer some questions.
Mr Gerretsen: I speak in support of this motion and I hope that this will be carried unanimously. We're here to get as much information particularly as possible, and if there is something that the minister can add to this, or at least give us her views on these changes, then I think that the committee work will be the better for it. I'll just leave it at that. I think there are some environmental impacts, obviously, that will result as a result of this legislation, so let's find out the ministry's official view on it. I speak in support of the motion.
Mr Hardeman: I would refer it over to Mr Galt, who is the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment. I'm sure he would appropriately speak to the resolution.
Mr Galt: I think it's rather interesting the comments that have been made and the motion that has been put forward. I think back over the day and a half that I've been here -- I missed most of this afternoon, and I'll explain that in a moment -- and as it relates to MOEE and that particular ministry, there's really been very little that's been brought forward about the Ministry of Environment and Energy as it relates to that portion of Environment.
I would point out that one of the purposes of a committee hearing is, as I understand it anyway as kind of a new rookie on the block, we're here to get input from the public. We've already received ministry input, particularly from the minister, as mentioned earlier. Also for input we have the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. This information is out to the public in that way.
As parliamentary assistant for Environment, I have been meeting with stakeholders and that's, as a matter of fact, where I was this afternoon, meeting with several stakeholders over the policy statements that we have. As a matter of fact, it was an excellent meeting this afternoon with people with various interests coming together and coming to an agreement on economic development and protection of the environment at the same time. Those who had a real interest in the environment came up and congratulated me at the end as to how well the meeting came together so that both interests could be protected.
I mentioned a second ago Minister Leach has been here, spent close to an hour and a half, a full hour in responding to questions. That is the lead ministry involved with this particular act and he did, I thought, just an excellent job in responding to the questions.
I'd point out to the member presenting this that when Bill 163 was debated, the minister, the Honourable Bud Wildman, did not make a presentation to this committee. As a matter of fact, your parliamentary assistant to Environment at the time, Wayne Lessard, did not sit on the committee for the hearings. In this case, I'm here as the parliamentary assistant for Environment, and also Bill Murdoch is the parliamentary assistant for Natural Resources. Unfortunately, he hasn't been here the first two days, but certainly will be participating in the hearings. So I think you're very, very well represented in both of those ministries.
I certainly cannot support this motion and I would encourage the members not to support this motion and would also, in closing, point out that all the information coming forward at these hearings is being provided to the minister and to her staff for consideration and deliberations as we move to the third week and look at line-by-line deliberations on the act.
Ms Churley: Thank you, Dr Galt, for that. I was quite interested in your explanation as to where you were this afternoon and, because you've offered this information, I wonder if you could table the stakeholders whom you met with this afternoon. You might be able to tell us now, but if not, table that for further reference; because you've offered this information, I wonder if you'd be willing to do that.
I would just like to quickly say that I don't accept that explanation as to, for good reason, why the minister shouldn't appear. I appreciate that you are the parliamentary assistant but so far, Mr Chair, the presenters who have talked about the environment -- I've heard Dr Galt say on many occasions very nice words about how this government cares about the environment and is protecting the environment, but I have pages of evidence which I could rhyme off here in this meeting of areas where the environment has been cut, the budget has been cut.
There's been deregulation around the MISA regs. I don't know if he's aware of that, Mr Chair, but the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement plan, which all levels of government worked on -- it was done in secret, they were just watered down. The advisory committee that was there to advise the ministry on such things was fired, was told, "We don't need you any more." In the meantime, the minister was busy signing regulations watering down these MISA regulations, which I think is a disgrace. That's just one example right there, and there are many, many others.
You mentioned the Environmental Commissioner. I mean, she just recently did an unprecedented thing and wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House complaining that she had very, very broad concerns about Bill 26 and the exemptions from the registry that came through that bill.
There are many other areas that have been cut and there are people out there in the community -- and you will be hearing from others, and some you won't hear from, some have been writing -- who have grave concerns about the implications of this bill, Bill 20, on planning as it relates to the environment.
I think the minister has a responsibility to appear before this committee to answer questions that, with all due respect, Mr Leach was unable to answer, has no knowledge of. The Minister of Environment, that's what she does day to day. I say again that nice words about how this government is protecting the environment are just not going to cut it and we need to have some real answers about the minister's involvement in the writing of this bill, which looks to be minimum, and what she is going to do to work with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make sure that the environment will be protected.
Mr Gerretsen: I must admit that I'm a little surprised that the minister couldn't be made available. I totally agree with Dr Galt to this extent, that this is a public, open process. We're hearing from a lot of different delegations and there are certain environmental issues that have come out as a result of that. Now, at the end of the process I wouldn't expect the minister to be here first thing tomorrow morning, but I would expect her to be here once all the public consultation has taken place. At the end of the process, there may be certain questions, as there already have arisen in certain areas, that the minister could enlighten us on.
If the whole intention is to stonewall this committee with respect to government information, then somebody say it out loud and let's clear the air and let's get on with life. I thought the request was a reasonable one, but if there's government policy to the effect that ministers do not come to a committee like this -- I realize, sure, Minister Leach was here because it's his bill, but to suggest that he would have been in a position to answer the environmental questions that the bill raises or that have been raised by a number of the people who have made presentations to the committee, I think that's just going a little too far because I don't think he would have been able to.
In any event, I think the request is reasonable and I'll just leave it at that.
Mr Galt: Just a short comment in connection with Ms Churley's response. We probably would not be in this position if the overspending hadn't occurred and put us so far in debt. We have to do something about the horrendous debt that we're into, and the rest of her partisan comments don't warrant any comments.
Ms Churley: We're not going to keep this up, I know, but watering down MISA regulations has nothing to do with cutting the debt. But I'd just like to ask Dr Galt again, though, if he could table with this committee, the stakeholders he met this afternoon.
Mr Galt: Mr Chair, I'll investigate that possibility.
Ms Churley: That should be public knowledge. You as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy -- what's to investigate? I don't understand.
The Chair: I believe Dr Galt has given whatever response he is going to give you, Ms Churley.
Is the committee ready for the question? Shall the motion carry?
The Chair: I beg your pardon. You're right, put your hands up.
Mr Gerretsen: I would like a recorded vote.
Churley, Gerretsen, Hampton, Hoy.
Baird, Galt, Hardeman, Ouellette, Pettit, Smith.
The Chair: The motion fails by a vote of 6 to 4.
The second motion is the one moved by Mr Hampton. If you'd care to speak to the motion, Mr Hampton, the floor is yours.
Mr Hampton: Yes. As you look at the clauses of this bill and then you look at the policy statements, and we've listened to quite a lot of information provided by members of the public over the last few days, I think a couple of things become apparent.
The Ministry of Natural Resources in fact has the biologists, the ecologists and water resource people who can tell us to a large extent how this bill will work in terms of implementation and operation. As well, in related matters, you've got the policy statements: the policy statement on wetlands, the policy statement on natural environment features. You've got the issue of ecosystem planning or ecosystem management, and that all falls into the work that people in the Ministry of Natural Resources do as well.
Further, people in the Ministry of Natural Resources are often called upon to provide expert evidence, either at the municipal level or at the OMB level, as to what constitutes a significant provincial feature in one way or another, or simply to give a description of the planning area in question.
For all those reasons, I think it would be wise for this committee to hear from the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister can bring some staff people with him, as is often the case, to deal with some of the issues that have been raised frankly by some of the people who have taken the time and effort to appear before the committee.
As well, there's another issue, I think, that needs to be looked at. It's my understanding that the Ministry of Natural Resources staff is going to be cut by about half over the next 14 or 15 months. I spent some time at the Ministry of Natural Resources and it was their view that even with the old system -- I'm not talking about the Bill 163 system, but even with the system that predated Bill 163 -- they were hard-pressed to provide the kind of evidence and information that is needed in order to do thoughtful, careful, orderly planning, planning that doesn't cost you more money down the road because it was done poorly.
I think one of the things we should perhaps hear from the Minister of Natural Resources is what is their thinking, what is his thinking, in terms of how the Ministry of Natural Resources will be able to do this planning, provide this expert advice and also work through this legislation and the policy statements if it's going to have less than half of the employees it formerly had.
If we're really serious about this legislation, and we're really serious in seeing how it will work, how it will be implemented and what will come out of it, then the ministry that does a lot of the on-the-ground work and has to deal with many of the on-the-ground problems should be heard from, as well as some of the professional staff from that ministry. That would only inform this committee and help us to make an informed report back to the House on what this bill is all about and what it can and cannot do.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, I want to say that this is a bill from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing did appear to explain the bill in its entirety. He may or may not have answered the questions to your satisfaction. That again is a judgement call.
I do want to comment first on a couple of statements that have been made. I think Mr Gerretsen mentioned the issue of stonewalling, that in fact we're trying to keep information from the committee. I would point out that prior to the hearings of the committee, the offer by the ministry was made that they would go through it clause-by-clause and explain anything that was in the bill to the best of their ability and I would surely hope that no one on the committee would suggest that the ministry does not know what it says. They may not be able to deal with the policy direction, but as to what the clause-by-clause bill actually reads, I would be the first to suggest that there would be no better place to find that information than the offer that was made.
Also, I think everyone would agree that there is a connection or a process that this is following Bill 163. There are similarities between the direction of what the bill is supposed to do, between what was being proposed in Bill 163 and what is being proposed by Bill 20. I just want to point out that the Minister of Natural Resources at the time, Mr Hampton, did not deem it appropriate to appear before the committee or did not feel it was needed to appear before the committee to deal with those issues.
I would go on to suggest a number of issues that have been brought forward by members of the opposition that the members want to discuss that are not part of Bill 20, but issues of the direction that the government is taking on our expenditure controls and to try and get the deficit somewhat under control, as to the number of employees who will or will not be working in different ministries. I think they're very important issues, but they are not directly related to Bill 20. I would suggest that the ability to discuss that information should be pursued in an alternative method. I believe these hearings are set up to deal with the public participation in Bill 20 and to hear what the public has to say about the issues as they appear in our bill.
I also want to point out that the Minister of Natural Resources has informed me that they are prepared to answer any of the relevant questions that you may have. If you wish to forward them, we would try and get answers to them for you to help you in your deliberations.
But we do not feel it appropriate that we request the minister to appear before the committee, and the government will not be supporting the resolution.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I don't particularly care what happened with respect to the last government and whether or not somebody did or did not appear to a committee. I believe I've heard that at least a half-dozen or a dozen times now. As far as I'm concerned, I was in private life at the time and did not take any particular interest other than the interest as an ordinary citizen in Bill 163. I've no idea how it was developed or what the process was, and quite frankly I couldn't care less.
The issue that is being totally missed in this is that yes, there is a public aspect to the debate on this bill and that's happening on a daily basis. There's also another aspect to it and that is that the minister came here and explained the bill to the best of his ability and answered questions on it. Perhaps that process should take place at the end of the public process rather than at the beginning, quite frankly, because at that point in time we really don't know what's on people's minds until we've heard from the general public.
I guess what I'm mainly interested in -- and this is right in line with what the government's purpose of this bill is, and that's to speed things along and to deal with a cost-efficient method etc etc, and I agree with that -- but I would like to know how the larger ministries, that are going to have an impact on the planning that's going to take place in our communities under this Bill 20, are going to be affected one way or the other and to a certain extent how they are going to be involved in it from an administrative viewpoint. That's where my support in this is coming from.
Now, again, Mr Hardeman can disagree with me if he wants, but this is very much like the process we went through on Bill 26 as well. There is a definite attempt, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm trying to look at this in a balance, unbiased sort of way, for ministers of the crown, for whatever reason, not to cooperate with what is happening at the committee level. This is the second committee now that it's happening to as far as I'm concerned, and if that's the way we're going to play the game, then let's get on with it and let's just vote on it and deal with it.
This has got nothing to do directly with expenditure controls. The process that comes out of it may very well end up with a better system for planning for Ontario and as a result of that there could be certain public and private moneys being saved etc, but the bill itself has nothing directly to do -- the bill itself doesn't save you any money. The process that comes out of it does.
Ms Churley: Maybe.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe. That's the concern you're talking about.
There are two ministries here that are directly involved within the planning process. They are going to be circulated with the various planning documents that come out of the municipalities as a result of the new processes that we're putting into place under Bill 20.
If it's being suggested that whatever these people have to say is of no interest to the committee, once the public process or the public presentation process has ended, then I would suggest to you that you're totally wrong in that, but that's my view on it.
The Chair: Ready for the question?
Ms Churley: A recorded vote, please.
Churley, Gerretsen, Hampton, Hoy.
Baird, Galt, Hardeman, Ouellette, Pettit, Smith.
The Chair: By a vote of 6 to 4 the motion fails.
The third motion was the one proposed by Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: I moved this one and I'll speak to it very briefly. In this case, we are not dealing with a government department as such. We are dealing with a quasi-judicial body. The purpose of the motion here is to deal with their administrative procedures, not with the way in which they reach decisions, and I'm going to make this quite clear. I realize that we have to be careful when you're dealing with a judicial or a quasi-judicial body. Obviously the manner in which they decide things -- I may have some general inquiries about that, but that's not my main concern.
The issue of appeals to the OMB with respect to minor variances, I think it's safe to say, has been brought up by just about everyone who has commented on that section. All of these people have all had the same comment: Basically they would prefer municipalities not to be the final decider, but rather the OMB. There have been certain comments made with respect to the workload of the OMB as far as minor variances are concerned, and with respect to the length of time that it takes to get a matter heard by the OMB once an appeal has been launched for a minor variance. We've heard everything here from 12 months to four to six months from different presenters.
I'd like to know what the facts are. I would like to have somebody in an administrative capacity from the OMB -- maybe its executive director, for example -- come here and provide those statistics to us and also make some comment with respect to the notion I sort of floated yesterday: If the concern is to get to the final decision as quickly as possible in minor variance cases, and that's certainly something I'm interested in -- I don't think people should have to wait 12 months in a lot of these cases to know exactly what the fate of their application is, or if you're in opposition to it, what the fate of the application is as well -- is it possible that the OMB could set up a smaller panel of people -- the same people who are there now; I'm not talking about appointing new people -- who on a rotating basis would be dealing with the applications, which we heard the other day I think from somebody in most cases take less than a day to hear, to deal with them in a quicker and more efficient fashion?
This is not a government department. No minister is going to hang himself out to be potentially embarrassed by any questions that may be asked. I think it may be something the committee as a whole may be interested in finding out about. I would urge the members of this committee to support the motion.
Ms Churley: I speak in support of the motion. We have to bear in mind, when we sit on these legislative committees, that at the end of the day we will be looking at amendments. I've been in government. I know that the government members are not going to change the main thrust of the bill. That's unrealistic. I suppose I could hope that you could be convinced in the areas I'm most concerned about. But I also know, having been in government, that government members do support or make motions that the opposition will support that make the bill better. I think some very good points have been made by my Liberal colleague that this is an area a lot of concern has been expressed about.
Very few of us on this committee have the background in what can be sometimes a very complicated, very complex area, and if you don't have a background -- I have a small background so I tend to understand it overall, but not everything -- I think it would be useful, particularly in this area, to have officials come in to be able to answer just routine kind of technical questions that might be able to help us when it comes time to look at amendments in those kinds of technical areas where it actually, even from the government's point of view, could improve the bill. I can't understand that there would be any reason why all members couldn't support this particular resolution.
Mr Hampton: It seems to me the government has staked a lot on saying, "If we push through these amendments and these changes, planning and the planning process will move along more quickly." Then the government says it will be easier to get economic development projects off and running and put the construction industry back to work etc. We've already heard from a number of folks who have been involved in planning from one perspective or another who have said, "Well, it may not be so."
What you may find is that you've introduced a level of ambiguity and vagueness into this whole process such that everything will now be open for interpretation and therefore everything will be open to a fight, and the result will be that processes can and will take a lot longer. We heard from one individual today who said that groups will naturally tend to agglomerate around some of these issues and fight them tooth and nail.
I think it would be wise for the government, as this motion suggests, to have someone from the OMB attend and help us out in terms of whatever information they can provide. You may be right; the government may be right on this. I think you've heard, though, from enough people who carry weight and credibility in terms of planning who have said: "You're not right. This will not speed things up. If anything, it will slow things down and make things more costly and at the end of the day you will end up with bad planning which can cost you megabucks down the road as you try to repair some of the damage done by bad planning." I think it's just prudent to have someone from the OMB attend and help us out before you gamble away a big chunk of the future on something which may be very flawed.
Mr Galt: Certainly I have some empathy in listening to the suggestion. I would have to have more information about procedure with something like OMB. I also just kind of wonder if there's a need to have them come before us. They could have put forth a presentation, or the members of the opposition or third party could have encouraged them to put in a submission and make a presentation as a delegation. I would need to know some of the procedural effect of this committee inviting somebody from the OMB to come before I could vote to support it. Unless somebody has that information for us, I'm not aware of it right now.
Mr Hampton: In reply to Mr Galt, I think you'd find that the OMB would not appear here on its own will, that it would probably take an invitation of this committee. As a quasi-judicial body they would not want to be seen as in some way determining the legislative and consultative process. If an invitation came from this committee specifically along the lines that have been suggested here today, we probably would find some people from the OMB would be willing to come over and enlighten us on some of these issues. I think, just in the interest of keeping the quasi-judicial world separate from the legislative world, they won't do that without an invitation.
Mr Hardeman: I will not be supporting this resolution. The problem I see is that I think all the questions that have been put by the opposition members that they would like answers to could be put on a piece of paper and forwarded to the OMB and that information could be received back.
I have concern, as Mr Hampton mentioned, that they would not appear here on their own. I feel it's inappropriate to request them to be here. The questions would, in all fairness, relate to whether the OMB deemed government policy appropriate. I don't believe it's appropriate to put them in that predicament or that position, to have to comment on whether this will be good for the OMB or bad for the OMB. I think the opposition members would not want to put themselves or the OMB in that position. I suggest that all the questions we have could be put in writing and that we could get responses back to answer the concerns that have been addressed. I will not be supporting the resolution.
Mr Galt: I think in view of the confusion and misunderstanding of what they can or can't do, it would be wise to table this motion for 48 hours. Why can't we table the motion? Can we table it until we have further information in 24 hours?
The Chair: The Chair is at the direction of the committee.
Mr Galt: I think that's in order.
The Chair: The clerk advises me it would take unanimous consent to postpone further consideration of the question.
Mr Gerretsen: Before doing that I want to make it quite clear, just so you know where I'm coming from, that the purpose of requesting the OMB to come before this committee is not to ask them policy advice. I realize full well that policy directions come from the government and from the ministry. The political people are the policymakers, and I certainly wouldn't be asking the OMB to come here and say, "Do you think it's a good idea if we put this in this act or if we put that in that act?" My question was related to some of the comments that were made about the OMB and the length of time it takes to get hearings and that sort of thing. I made it quite clear: It deals with the administrative aspects. The policy advice is being done by the government.
Rather than 48 hours, if you want to get some further input, if you want to table it for 24 hours, let's deal with 24 hours; 48 hours brings us to Thursday and then the only day they could come, I suppose, would be next Monday, because then we're on the road. I've no objection to it being tabled so you can get some further advice on it, but I'm not here to embarrass anybody as far as the OMB is concerned, as far anybody is concerned, for that matter.
There have been comments made about whether or not the council should be the final decider with respect to the minor variance matters or the OMB. That's a major issue with just about everybody that's addressed it and they all come down on the side that they want the OMB to do it. Then the issue as well is, if we want to speed things along, why does it take them as long to deal with a minor variance as it does to deal with a full-fledged rezoning application, and is there a way in which that can be handled quicker? So I'd like an administrative person here, not a political, appointed person who is now a member or chair of the OMB.
The Chair: Is there any further discussion? There is a suggestion and, as I said, it takes unanimous consent to defer any further discussion. Is there unanimous consent that we defer this? No? Seeing none --
Ms Churley: Till when, tomorrow?
Interjection: There was a suggestion made for 48 hours.
Ms Churley: Why not 24?
Mr Galt: I'm not here tomorrow. That was why I suggested 48, but tomorrow is fine. I think the committee needs to be better informed before they make a decision on this, because there is some merit in what's being suggested; if we have more information, maybe we could make a wiser decision.
The Chair: To perfect the suggestion being put to you, further discussion would be withheld for 24 hours. Is there unanimous consent?
Mr Hampton: At the end of tomorrow?
The Chair: The end of tomorrow? Mr Hardeman indicates he's not prepared to give his consent. Is the committee ready for the question? Any further discussion? All those in favour of the motion?
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Hardeman apparently didn't consent so --
The Chair: That's right. We're dealing with the motion.
Mr Hardeman: I believe that delaying it for 24 hours or 48 hours is not going to change the issue, and I believe it's inappropriate to have the OMB appear before this committee when all the questions that have been put forward can be addressed. If any member of the committee wishes to have them addressed, forward them to the OMB and they will be answered at their earliest possible convenience.
Mr Gerretsen: So you're saying, Mr Hardeman, just so I understand correctly, that the people of the province of Ontario are allowed to come to make a presentation here but a quasi-judicial body of the province --
Mr Gerretsen: That's right. You are in effect saying that the only way we can communicate with those people is strictly by way of letter and you do not want them to appear. I just want to understand that correctly, because that just proves everything I've said about stonewalling earlier.
Mr Hardeman: I would point out that if the OMB wishes to appear before the committee, the committee would hear them, but I don't believe that the request that has been put forward thus far requires any further information than what could be provided, and I don't believe we should proceed with asking them or requesting them to appear before the committee.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I haven't been around long enough, but I darn well know that an agency of the government would not come before this committee on its own accord. It would be taking its own life into its hands.
The Chair: Ready for the motion?
Ms Churley: A recorded vote.
Churley, Gerretsen, Hampton, Hoy.
Baird, Galt, Hardeman, Ouellette, Pettit, Smith.
The Chair: By a 6 to 4 vote, the motion fails.
This committee stands recessed until tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock in committee room 2.
The committee adjourned at 1800.