Wednesday 14 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
Women Plan Toronto
Reggie Modlich, representative
Winch Planning and Development Services
Melvin Winch, planning consultant
West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Sheeba Sibal, community legal worker
C.N. Watson and Associates Ltd
Georgian Bay Association
John Birnbaum, executive director
Mario Buszynski, volunteer chair, land use and planning committee
Rod Northey, volunteer member, environment committee
Community Housing Partners Peel
Bob Freeman, chair and social researcher, Social Planning Council of Peel
Aubrey Carrega, community housing worker, Malton Neighbourhood Services
City of Toronto
Dennis Perlin, city solicitor
Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto
Malcolm Shookner, board member
Ann Fitzpatrick, community worker
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Kathleen Cooper, researcher
Beaver Valley Heritage Society
Muriel Anderson, president
Georgian Bay Trust Foundation
Christopher Baines, president
Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign
Jacquie Buncel, coordinator
Grey Association for Better Planning
Peter Ferguson, president
Ontario Home Builders' Association
Ian Rawlings, past president
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 / -CentreND)
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 / -Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Conway, Sean (Renfrew North / -Nord L) for Mr Lalonde
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
Skarica, Tony (Wentworth North / -Nord PC) for Mr Tascona
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
Sheehan, Frank (Lincoln PC)
Turnbull, David (York Mills PC)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel: McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0915 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 (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Good morning. Seeing a quorum, we'd like to proceed. I do apologize for the delay. Unfortunately, somebody ended up with a battery that was dead and then no car keys, and we have another one who's involved in the weather out there somewhere trying to get here. We didn't have a quorum at 9 o'clock either. We would like to proceed.
WOMEN PLAN TORONTO
The Vice-Chair: I do owe our apologies to our first presenter this morning. Good morning and sorry for the delay. We will proceed with a presentation period of a 25-minute allotment, and if you'd like to make a combination of presentation and question-and-answer, please do so. Welcome to our hearings.
Ms Reggie Modlich: I'm Reggie Modlich, on behalf of Women Plan Toronto, a volunteer organization with over 400 individual and group members and supporters. We assist women to become conscious of their needs in their communities and to speak up on their own behalf. We work to have women's voices heard and our needs met in municipal decisions that affect our lives.
We have been deeply involved in the Sewell commission and its recommendations and are concerned that Bill 20 pushes aside years of struggle and efforts by thousands of people, especially women, to create compact, diversified and caring communities while safeguarding our natural environments. We believe the bill opens the floodgates to unrestrained urban sprawl and exposes our environment to the whims of political discretion. Few areas of government responsibility have to respect public interest more than the policies and processes by which our communities are planned.
Democratic governments differ from authoritarian governments primarily by having to act in the public interest rather than that of a few groups. As we witness bill after bill introduced by this government effectively making the poor poorer, the sick sicker, the weak weaker, and the rich and powerful more wealthy and powerful, we start having serious concerns about which form of government we live under.
For social, economic, demographic and even biological reasons, communities affect women differently and often negatively than other sectors in the population. Women still earn three quarters of what men earn. Although over half of working-age women are in the labour force, we still carry the burden of two thirds of unpaid domestic work.
Two thirds of Canadians over 65 years of age are women and almost half of them live below the poverty line. All this takes place in a context of an astounding amount of violence against women. Over 40% of women over 16 have reported being assaulted by men, and almost 30% of married women state that they've been assaulted by their partners. These factors greatly constrain all aspects of women's lives. Thus, availability, affordability, accessibility and security of housing, services and transportation affect women more than men. The process and regulations that guide the planning of our communities are consequently of critical importance.
We are particularly concerned about Bill 20 reneging on intensification. The Sewell commission laid the basis for planning policies and processes which encouraged compact, comprehensive, lively and productive communities. Provision of hard and soft services, transit and pedestrian movement becomes more efficient, viable and therefore more affordable in such communities. The recently released Blais report estimates savings of $1 billion per year in the GTA alone if communities were built at densities of traditional Toronto neighbourhoods.
Intensification basically means a few more units on a given piece of land. This allows for lower housing construction costs without lowering the building code standards -- another proposal by this government. Intensification would therefore place lower-cost housing on the market without compromising quality -- particularly important to women. The problem with the slow housing markets today is not the Ontario Building Code or rigorous planning regulations, but truly a terrified workforce uncertain about how long they will have their jobs and how they will be able to feed and shelter their families, and ever-growing numbers of unemployed and elderly as well.
Women Plan Toronto is concerned about the change in the status of accessory apartments. Women, as homeowning widows or single parents or as tenants, greatly benefit from such apartments. For ever more people, and especially women, such units are becoming the only alternative to homelessness and destitution on the streets. Women Plan Toronto has fought for their legalization for almost 10 years. Such apartments were legalized precisely because for years municipal councils had refused to acknowledge and ensure the safety of the estimated 100,000 units that exist. Although the bill legalizes existing units, most municipalities know neither number nor location or condition of these units. Few councils therefore have the incentive, resources or information to develop, let alone equitably apply, the proposed regulations.
Removal of as-of-right permission for secondary units is contrary to the government's own pledge to reduce government regulation and intervention. Such free-market affordable units would dampen the blow of your cuts to cooperative and social housing. They would also help the building industry. Again, economically vulnerable groups, and especially women, will be hurt the most by these changes.
Several policy changes concern us. All policy changes have been rendered considerably less binding by changing "consistent with" to "having regard for." As long as an excuse for non-compliance can be made, policy statements can be circumvented. In addition, most existing provincial policy statements have been so compressed and generalized in the new bill that many specific aspects that have benefited women have been lost or become optional; for example, B policies on economic, community development and infrastructure.
Almost all guidelines for healthy communities have been eliminated, including support for compact communities, mixed uses, lively and safe pedestrian-oriented streets. Instead, the undefined term "cost-effectiveness" is substituted.
The stress on public transit and development densities to make transit cost-effective is reduced. This further restricts the mobility of women since they have less access to cars and are far more dependent on transit than men.
Bill 20 omits the linkage of social and human services with land use planning. We have struggled over 20 years for the acknowledgement of this link. This policy would have required municipalities to consider services such as child care centres, neighbourhood social service centres and women's shelters in their official, secondary and subdivision plans. We had hoped that the Development Charges Act would be broadened to cover capital costs of soft services. This could have enabled municipalities to bring about truly healthy communities to benefit women, children, the elderly and everybody in the community.
Housing policy changes worry us too. They no longer specify affordability criteria or ratios. This opens the door for negotiating away the already minimal requirement to provide 30% of new housing to be affordable and 15% to meet the needs of the lowest 30% income earners. Over half of the female-headed, single-parent families live on low incomes. Thus, women and their dependants will be put at a further disadvantage by this change.
Natural heritage, environment and conservation policies are weakened too. Natural heritage protection guidelines have no longer clear standards and performance criteria. Conservation guidelines have omitted transportation, waste management, site plans, building and infrastructure design. Women take major responsibility for nurturing their families and children, and elderly relatives. We are generally more aware and concerned with potential health problems arising from an endangered natural environment.
Lastly, we are concerned about changes in the planning process. Bill 20 and Bill 26 shorten or eliminate many appeal periods. The ministry gains powers to allow development to bypass normal processes. Such tightening of the time lines makes it more difficult for community organizations and individual citizens to inform themselves, discuss the issues and develop positions and interventions. With their dual and triple roles and safety concerns, women will find it even more difficult to participate.
Local councils obtain greater controls and approval powers. Committee of adjustment decisions can no longer be appealed beyond the local council level to the OMB. Many councils in Ontario are dominated by homeowners who break out in a rash of NIMBY at the mere mention of anything they fear might lower their property values. This has included such proposals as a bus stop in front of their houses; semi-detached dwellings backing on single, detached dwellings; or basement apartments next door. Such attitudes have and will favour low-density, socially manicured urban sprawl, which harms women, other vulnerable groups and of course the environment.
In conclusion, Women Plan Toronto is deeply concerned that the quality of life in our communities will suffer through Bill 20. Issues we have struggled for for decades will be rolled back. To protect women and children and many other groups in the population, Women Plan Toronto therefore urges the following:
(1) Require that the municipal planning be "consistent with" and have not only "regard for" provincial policy statements, to ensure stronger compliance.
(2) Retain the B policies of Bill 163, particularly regarding intensification, recognition of the social services and land use link, and other qualities of healthy communities, if not as an integral part of the bill then at least as part of implementing guidelines.
(3) Retain policies and standards for conserving and protecting the natural environment, including the protection of wetlands.
(4) Retain the clear and simple thrust of Bill 120, permitting accessory apartments in all fully serviced houses.
(5) Retain the time lines and public participation processes of Bill 163 as well as the possibility of appealing committee of adjustment decisions, if not to the OMB then at least to the upper-tier municipal level.
(6) Maintain the ratios of the housing policy statements.
We ask you to hear our concerns in the spirit of democracy and compassion and social equity. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Thank you very much for your presentation. We have four minutes each per caucus. The questioning will commence with the official opposition.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a question I'd like to ask you. Are you aware of any statistic that would tell me the percentage of women who are widowed within the total population?
Ms Modlich: I'm sure they're in the Women in Canada Statistics Canada report. I could probably dig that up.
Mr Hoy: But you don't have any particular knowledge of it.
Ms Modlich: I don't have it on hand. Actually, yes, there's a whole section there on single women over 65. Now, there are many widows younger than 65, but there is a whole section on that and how their incomes are 15% less than those of their male counterparts, and that's where this 50% living below the poverty line comes from. They're single women's households over 65.
Mr Hoy: The same question could be asked about how many widowers there are in Ontario, or indeed Canada.
Ms Modlich: One third in that case, in that age group.
Mr Hoy: These widows or widowers who have homes with the ability to put in a second unit would, I think, enjoy the opportunity of having someone else in that home -- I don't want to use the word as a "companion," but as a security measure for themselves. Would you agree?
Ms Modlich: I believe so, and I think surveys have shown that that's occurring, that in fact the population in those areas where there is a large extent of basement apartments or secondary units does not necessarily increase at all, especially not considering the capacity of that area, but that it's usually underinhabited houses, especially of seniors or of single people who have family-sized dwellings, that are used for that purpose.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Have you noticed a difference in the manner in which these basement unit apartments are kept from a safety viewpoint as a result of the implementation of Bill 120? In other words, within the network that you have, do the people who live in those units feel more secure now that, first of all, they're in legal units, and is there a greater safety standard now than was the case when they were illegal, before the implementation of Bill 120?
Ms Modlich: I feel that sufficient time has not passed to make such a generalization yet. Things just started rolling with municipalities getting a hold and integrating this whole new task. All these illegal units don't come forward by themselves, because obviously it may affect assessment, so it's going to take a considerable amount of time to integrate that.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Thank you for coming down to present to us today. Congratulations on the work that you've done. I know that it's hard for volunteer organizations to analyse these kinds of bills and continually have to come down and speak to them. I think you did a good job.
One of the issues you raised was public participation in the process. I know you're coming at it because of the work that your organization engages in from the women's point of view, but I just wanted to point out to you that there are quite a lot of restrictions on public involvement, which is really alarming.
For instance, public notice and appeal periods are reduced to 20 days for notice of an official plan and for filing an appeal. You know, you add in weekends and holidays and all of that, people can be left with just a couple of weeks to review, analyse and comment on very complicated documents. Government review periods are shortened. Review and approval of an official plan is now 90 days instead of 150, and that was shortened from before, in Bill 163. Public meeting requirements are removed for subdivision plans, and the people who will be entitled to notice that an application has been made, that will be left to be set out in regulation, which of course can be changed any time. And of course I think you mentioned decisions to exempt minor variance from compliance with bylaw can no longer be appealed to the OMB.
There are a lot of things in the bill I don't like, but I'm extremely concerned about cutting off public participation in the process. I'm wondering if you can comment on the impact you think that will have on people.
Ms Modlich: It's quite traumatic. It's already difficult at the best of times, because most organizations have at most monthly meetings. By the time you circulate information and discuss these and come to a decision, two months are over. You know, to operate democratically, it's just not possible to respond on that basis.
Also, of course, developers always have the recourse of waiting longer and have a tacit agreement, if their application is not responded to in the 60 days, if they consent to waiting a bit longer, that's fine. But if they're bent on pushing things through, they can then push things through quickly. Community groups often are not from that vantage point. They're usually in a reactive rather than a proactive relation to a proposal, so deadlines tend to apply to them far more rigorously than the developer, who can say to the municipalities: "I know the deadline has passed. We can wait a bit longer and have things worked out." We have mostly acted at the municipal level as a group, and this is already a very, very difficult scene to intervene, precisely because of the deadlines, and now these time lines tend to more resemble it.
Also, the appeal to council of committee of adjustment applications: I'm really concerned that there needs to be a second level above a local council, because there is such a close relationship usually between these committees and council. They're very much in consent with each other. If somebody has a problem with a committee decision, it's likely they'll have a problem with council too. The same mentality exists in these groupings, because council appoints the committees, and if you don't have at least the upper-level municipal tier to go to to appeal and hope for a little bit of a broader horizon and sense of equity, these committee of adjustment things are just reinforcing the powers that exist already at the local level. Often they're narrow, they're very middle class, and social housing or anything of that nature will be ruled against and hopelessly lost.
The Chair: The questions will now pass to the government benches.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): How are you this morning, Mr Chair?
The Chair: The throat's better but my tongue isn't working.
Mr Smith: My throat's not.
Thank you very much for your presentation. It was certainly very comprehensive and thorough with respect to the issues that are being presented in the bill.
I just wanted to come back to one point that Ms Churley raised, and that was with respect to minor variance, and you spoke briefly about it. In your view, would it be more appropriate to leave the minor variance appeal process the way it is currently, or alternatively, given the government's positioning on and its desire to streamline the planning process, have you put any thought to what alternative mechanism there might be to deal with appeals dealing with minor variances?
Ms Modlich: I did suggest in the submission that maybe the upper-tier municipal level be at least one of those, an alternative to the OMB. I know that the OMB is overloaded. The alternative conflict resolution process that's been introduced there I think is a real positive thing. Maybe that could happen. Maybe that could happen at the regional or the upper-tier level. But I certainly think the local council is a poor choice for a last decision.
Mr Smith: The issue of public participation you raised and Ms Churley raised again: As someone who has been involved in the planning process -- and I'm asking you this from a perspective that I have as a planning practitioner myself -- have you found the public participation process an effective process as it is presented today? Do you find people understand and participate in the planning process to the extent they should?
Ms Modlich: No, of course not satisfactorily. But I think the Sewell commission did provide some improvements in that. Again, it's a question of the power structure within municipalities and their approach to public participation that can make a tremendous difference. I think the city of Toronto is probably pretty progressive in innovative and positive changes towards improving public participation under the same legislation that exists for every community. I have participated in smaller communities and I realize how narrow that can be. It can be still, I think, a fairly positive process, but it could be much more improved.
Mr Smith: So perhaps the focus should be more on education and less concern about declining or streamlining time frames, whereby we would see more participation if people understood the process --
Ms Modlich: You need both.
Mr Smith: -- and the time frames are really irrelevant.
Ms Modlich: No, I don't think the time frames are irrelevant at all. I think they're still very critical. But you need both the education and the language. That is a pretty formidable thing as well.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation this morning. We appreciate your taking the time to come down and speak to us on this important issue.
WINCH PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Mr Mel Winch, planning consultant. Good morning, Mr Winch
Mr Melvin Winch: I want to thank the members of the committee for having the opportunity of being here this morning. It was about one and a half years ago that I made a similar presentation to the standing committee on administration of justice, and that was in connection with Bill 163, better known then as the proposed changes to the Planning Act which originated with the Sewell commission. Now, as then, my remarks will be directed towards one particular section, namely, the approval of what is commonly known as minor variances. I notice the previous deputant also touched on that as well.
As a result of my previous submission and those of others, the government of the day reconsidered the legislation back a year ago and the legislation was not changed dealing with minor variances. I believe that decision was in the public interest and hope that my comments before this committee today will allow you to recommend that the current proposal also be reconsidered.
If my comments and suggestions appear to be self-serving, your impression is correct. A substantial component of my planning practice is assisting with committee of adjustment applications and providing evidence at the Ontario Municipal Board. My remarks to this committee are based not only on this direct and substantial experience, but also as one who has worked in the public sector in senior roles for several municipalities.
Section 26 of Bill 20 repeals the current section of the Planning Act dealing with minor variance applications. The new provisions would permit a council to select one of three options for the approval of minor variance applications. Options 1 and 2 would mean that council or a committee of council in effect would hear the committee of adjustment application and there would be no appeal from such a decision.
Option 3: By this option, council could delegate the authority to a committee of adjustment consisting entirely of non-council members. With this option, the council would enact a bylaw and establish the following review/appeal procedures:
(a) Decide on a case-by-case basis whether to review a decision or forward it to the Ontario Municipal Board as an appeal; or
(b) review all decisions; or
(c) forward all decision as appeals to the OMB. The board would then conduct a hearing as is the present situation.
Under suboptions (a) and (b) the council would review the committee of adjustment decision and confirm, vary or rescind it.
Other than requiring the council to consider all submissions and responses, the new legislation does not specify how the review is to be conducted and this is somewhat disturbing. What is clear is that the Statutory Powers Procedure Act would not apply. Parties would not be entitled to call evidence nor question other parties at the hearing or review.
Currently, decisions of a committee of adjustment can be appealed to the OMB. With the new legislation, the right of appeal will be denied to applicants and objectors. It will be replaced with an optional council review which council may decide to apply under option 3 only, and only if no members of council sit on the committee of adjustment.
The new legislation dealing with minor variances is quite similar to that which originated with the Sewell commission. The commission recommended that appeals of minor variance decisions be heard by the municipal council, but this was later watered down in Bill 163 to an optional review that might occur in limited situations. As I have previously mentioned, the proposals were subsequently withdrawn by the former government.
The proposal to do away selectively with appeals before the OMB and replace them with an optional but limited review of decisions by a municipal council is, in my opinion, unsound for a number of reasons.
The significance of minor variance applications: The Sewell commission stated that minor variances deal with "zoning detail" and issues are "too insignificant" to be dealt with by a provincial appeal body.
The term "minor variance" is not defined but a successful application is required to meet four tests of the Planning Act. In the final analysis, it is judgemental on the part of a committee of adjustment or a municipal board as to whether the tests are met.
The granting or a refusal of a variance to alter, for example, the height, size or placement of a building can be quite significant to both the proponents and community in which the proposed development is situated. While changes in use are usually accomplished through an application to amend the zoning bylaw, they can also be facilitated through the committee of adjustment authority contained in section 45 of the Planning Act.
There are numerous examples of committees granting substantial departures from comprehensive zoning bylaws or even site-specific bylaws that were carefully formulated after consultation with the public. This is often done, I might add, with the blessing of the local councillor, but without the backup staff reports and without full community participation. With the new procedure, the community may lose its existing right of appeal.
It is important that a sound approval and appeal process be in place so that all the relevant issues will be thoroughly canvassed and considered, and a fair and objective decision reached. This will not happen by a review process. It is also important that the process be perceived as fair to all the interests.
While committees of adjustment are governed by the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, hearings tend to be somewhat informal and limited in time. I have never seen an oath administered, evidence led by counsel, nor cross-examination permitted. Committee members are lobbied, particularly by council members, and frequently meet before a hearing is held and arrive at an unofficial decision before hearing all the parties. It is not unheard of for applicants or opponents to say they are going through the motions and they will have their day in court at the OMB.
Under such circumstances, the appeal procedure must not be eliminated.
The municipal council as an alternative is not well suited to consider minor variance applications or review decisions from the committee of adjustment. Councils, for the most part, have legislative and administrative functions to perform, which are based on perceived political mandates. Members of council do not have the time, interest, necessary skills, but most important, the objectivity to deal with appeals of variance decisions.
Elected members of federal, provincial and municipal legislative bodies expect to be lobbied by their constituents and other interest groups. While tradition and law dictate that the courts and tribunals such as the OMB are not to be influenced prior to a hearing being held, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for councillors to avoid being lobbied and coming to a conclusion on a minor variance matter before it is heard.
Such lobbying can also be expected to influence a council in deciding either to review a decision or send it to the municipal board. If council decides to review the case, its decision is also likely to be influenced by lobbying.
Not only is the appeal or review process less meaningful with the new legislation, but it is solely at the option of the council whether it chooses to review committee of adjustment decisions. Where variances are considered by the council or delegated to a committee of council or to a committee of adjustment with at least one member of council, the appeal or review option is not available by the proposed legislation.
Part or all of a committee of adjustment can consist of council members. It is not uncommon for council members individually or collectively to send a recommendation to, appear as a deputant before, or appeal a decision of the committee of adjustment. In such circumstances, in particular, it is not possible for a council to be objective and be expected to deal fairly with the review of decisions. Council should not be judging the decisions of those to whom it delegated its authority.
If a council selects option 3, it can give itself the authority to review decisions on a case-by-case basis or forward the case to the OMB.
The public will not know in advance the process by which minor variance applications will ultimately be decided. Two similar proposals, for example, could be decided in one case by the council and in the other case by the OMB.
The public has the right to know ahead of time that the planning process operates by definitive and consistent rules.
Many minor variance applications involve a concurrent application to sever property into two or more parcels. Depending on the option council selects, appeals of minor variances may no longer be heard by the municipal board. The board will, however, continue to hear appeals relating to severances or consents. A situation whereby minor variance decisions may not be appealed or can only be reviewed by council, but the severance decision can be appealed and heard by the board, is confusing, inefficient and wasteful of resources. The same development proposal could lead to inconsistent results: one decision for the severance, one decision for the minor variance. Where does the proponent go?
If a proponent receives a negative decision from a council, committee of council or committee of adjustment, and if his review by council is unsuccessful, he still has the option of submitting a rezoning application for the same proposal and having the appeal ultimately heard by the municipal board.
Removing the right of appeal to the OMB for minor variance applications will likely increase the number of rezoning applications and appeals. This is counterproductive and is not the intent of the new legislation.
On the other hand, if an opponent of a proposal is not able to convince the decision-maker of his position, he may not, depending on the option selected by council, have the opportunity to take the matter to the OMB. This is fundamentally unfair.
If a council decides to refer minor variance decisions, either selectively or routinely to the municipal board, it could be faced with substantial fees or costs imposed by the board. This, in itself, could serve as a deterrent for selecting this option. On the other hand, council could attempt to recover such costs by increasing minor variance application fees and/or by attempting to recover their costs from the party who makes the appeal. This could discourage development initiatives or a party from pursuing his objection to a decision.
The Sewell commission's recommendation, which is more or less reflected in the new legislation, has been driven to a large degree by the commission's other recommendations which would see the municipal board take on additional responsibilities. There is also a legitimate concern with the excessive time it takes for appeals to be heard -- no doubt about this. The appeal process should be concluded in a considerably shorter period of time, and there can be no doubt that the municipal board is overburdened. Nevertheless, minor variances should not be trivialized and removing appeals from the jurisdiction of the board is not the answer.
Minor variance appeals should, in my opinion, be continued and they deserve to be treated with the same degree of importance and impartiality as do appeals of official plan, zoning, subdivision, severance and site plan control matters. This should go hand in hand with efforts to reduce the number of appeals by increasing mediation and by screening of appeals and by arranging for hearings expediting decisions within reasonable time frames.
This can best be accomplished by strengthening the resources of the municipal board. The highly politicized environment of a municipal council is not an appropriate forum to review appeals.
The Ontario Municipal Board has well served the residents of this province in acting as an impartial and fair decision-maker in planning and land use disagreements and disputes. If the government wishes to review the desirability of maintaining an appeal procedure and role of a body such as the municipal board, I would suggest with respect it should do this systematically and not arbitrarily decide to eliminate one type of important land use decision from the jurisdiction of the board.
I thank you for your patience and having the opportunity to speak to you today. I'd be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
Ms Churley: Mr Winch, thank you very much for your presentation. It's very clear and written in plain language and could be an educational tool for anybody, I think, who doesn't understand this process. It's very clear that you've had a lot of experience in the field.
I couldn't agree with you more when you talk on page 5 about municipal councils not being appropriate review bodies. I think I heard my friend from Kingston muttering along in agreement on that one. It's not because you're saying that municipal councillors are corrupt in any way, but they are politicians. I have been -- mind you, for a very short time -- on city council and know exactly what you mean and understand the implications of council. I would expect that councils wouldn't want to be put in that position.
I wonder if you could tell me -- I suppose I should actually be asking government members themselves, the minister -- why they've chosen to do this, given that as you know, as you said, it was recommended by the Sewell commission and then we were convinced as a government to back off from that. What's this all about? Is it about trying to speed up the system by going about it, in this case, in a wrong-headed way?
Mr Winch: I think there are two motives behind the legislation, Ms Churley, one of which is to speed up and expedite and streamline the process and I can't disagree at all with that situation. I'm suggesting, as one way of doing it, obviously to pre-screen some of the appeals, which the board is now doing, attempting mediation to reduce the number of appeals and therefore provide more timetable, more schedule for the board to deal with applications more quickly.
The second motive, I believe, is probably trying to return decision-making to the local level. I don't disagree with that either. I think the grass roots is the appropriate place for decisions to be made. We are talking, however, here about an appeal, an appeal procedure. I have no problem with a committee of adjustment dealing with the initial application, hearing the application, but we must understand that at the local level there are these political motivations which influence decision-making.
When push comes to shove and when the decisions finally must be arbitrated, and the name of the game is land use planning and good planning, it really must be ruled at that point and put into the lap of an appellate body such as the OMB.
I think there are two reasonable motivations, but I think the second motivation is somewhat faulty in terms of how things really work, perhaps at the municipal level in terms of appeals.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Thank you for your submission. I'm certainly glad that you're up front and said it was self-serving. I can see that and I think this is the reason why, though, minor variances aren't being sent to the OMB, because of people in your profession who sometimes can drag these things out. It takes too long for development to take place and I think this was the problem.
The only thing I can agree with you -- maybe severances shouldn't be there either -- but I would go the other way and say maybe they don't need to go to the OMB because a lot of people use this process to drag out development. I think this is what's happened in Ontario and this is what's slowed down development.
I would just like to ask you what your idea would be of what elected councils are actually for. We do elect people to make decisions. Maybe you disagree with that, but I would like to know why you'd say we elect councils.
Mr Winch: I have no problem with council making decisions, Mr Murdoch. What I'm suggesting is that the total planning process must be considered. If, after these many years in this province, decisions should be taken philosophically not to permit appeals from local planning decisions, I can live with that, but I'm suggesting that to make that systematic, make it across the board.
Mr Murdoch: I could agree with you --
Mr Winch: Don't differentiate minor variances from zoning, official plan matters and subdivisions, because minor variance applications, in my experience, can be just as significant as those other matters.
Mr Murdoch: I'd like to disagree on that, but I think there could be some more maybe put in there and not appealed; I could agree with that. We could put some as the severance. Again, though, I think that's why we elect councils and that's what we have the democratic process for, and those are their decisions.
Mr Winch: The difficulty at the council level is, it's very difficult to set up the procedure, put the apparatus in place for a full hearing to get all the facts before the council. Even at public hearings, time is very limited and councils tend to be rushed. They have lots on the agenda for that evening, even at public hearings. It's very difficult to ask questions of other witnesses, of other people who make presentations. This, to me, is very critical, which is not occurring now at the council level.
Mr Murdoch: Maybe in some places, obviously in the ones that you've been in, but I've seen where they have. So again, maybe some of the experiences you've had have been wrong, but I think councils do that, so I guess we have a philosophy difference.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, sir, I think this is an excellent presentation. Having been involved for 25 years at the municipal level and looking at this whole problem from a municipal level, from the applicants' level and from the public's level -- I've represented all sides at various times -- you've hit the nail right on the head, that it's an appeal we're talking about here. It would be like making a municipal council the adjudicating body to deal with bylaw enforcement etc. We have judges to do that. The real problem here, and I agree with the government's attempt to try to speed up the process -- that's what this is really all about. How can we deal with minor variances at the OMB level a heck of a lot quicker than with gigantic rezoning applications and official plan amendments?
You may be interested in knowing that yesterday we put a motion before the committee in which we basically asked the OMB to appear before us to give us information from an administrative level as to how that could be done. That's where the crux of the problem is -- I totally agree with you -- and the government members voted against that. They don't want to hear from the OMB. They said that if the OMB wanted to appear, it should have applied just like everybody else, which I checked out last night. It's absolutely absurd for an agency of the government to in effect ask to make a presentation here without it being requested to do so. It would be highly inappropriate to do so.
I'm a great believer in municipal councils, by the way, and in municipal decision-making, but we are talking here about an independent appeal. We should not just be looking at this problem from just a municipal council's viewpoint but also from the general public's viewpoint and from the applicant's viewpoint. Those individuals and organizations which are part of the municipality most of the time have rights as well. Do you have any comment on that, sir?
Mr Winch: I think you've supported what I've said to a certain extent, but I have no difficulty with council dealing, as Mr Murdoch said, with planning issues, providing a forum is established, that all the facts be put on the table, that there's a proper consideration of the issues and an informed decision is made.
There are many motivations that enter into any decision, and you are correct: In terms of the public's perception of things, it's important for them to believe they've got their day in court. It's important to actually be in attendance, so I think that comment is a fair comment.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Winch, for fighting the traffic to come down and see us this morning and making your presentation.
WEST SCARBOROUGH COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from West Scarborough Community Legal Services. Good morning.
Ms Sheeba Sibal: Good morning. My name is Sheeba Sibal. I'm a community legal worker at West Scarborough Community Legal Services, a non-profit organization which provides free legal aid and advice to low-income people who live within our catchment area, which is west Scarborough. We are bounded by Victoria Park on one side and Midland on the other, going up to Steeles and down to the lake.
Today I will be talking only on the aspect of Bill 20 which deals with two units in a house, more popularly known as basement apartments or accessory apartments.
We work closely with tenants, and prior to the passage of Bill 120, which Bill 20 seeks to rescind completely, we found in our experience that it was very difficult to advise tenants who were living in second units because second units were illegal in Scarborough, as in many municipalities. When a tenant had a problem with the landlord not fixing the place, not maintaining it up to health and safety standards, the question was: Does the tenant want to save his home or save his life? Basically, it boiled down to that, if it was a health and safety issue. If the landlord refused to do any repairs, then the recourse the tenant had would be to call the property standards to make the landlord do the repairs. If the landlord refuses to follow the work order, property standards can just close the unit because it is illegal, period; the tenant loses the house. If the tenant chose to go to court, to get the court to enforce his or her legal rights, the courts had two views. Most of the decisions in the courts were that because second units were illegal, therefore not protected under the Landlord and Tenant Act, tenants lost the house, their home, basically.
With Bill 120, that issue was resolved because across the board, with certain exceptions, most second units were made legal. From the side of the homeowners we found also that those homeowners who did want to get their houses checked out to see if things were okay and wanted a second unit for a second income or a supplementary income would fear to call the city because that meant they would get a notice to shut it down. With Bill 120, the situation had become clearer and that fear had gone. Now Bill 20 comes and rescinds Bill 120.
I'd like to examine the impact of the provisions of Bill 20 in the light of the commonsense approach and the philosophy of less government, which this government says is its cornerstone.
It is a commonsense view that simple laws and laws which reduce complications are the best. However, Bill 20 will complicate matters for tenants, homeowners, municipalities, courts and legal clinics. It will increase the paperwork for homeowners and will lead to more government instead of less. Let's see how.
With the implementation of Bill 20 there will be four categories of homes or houses created, which could be legal or illegal, depending on when they were constructed, when the permit for construction was issued and in which municipality that particular second unit is situated.
Under this bill, those units which existed prior to November 16 will be deemed to be legal, provided they were legal under Bill 120. That's the grandfathering clause you have. Those units which were under construction or were constructed after November 16, 1995, but on the basis of an unrevoked permit which was given prior to November 16, will also be deemed to be legal, again provided they met the requirements of Bill 120. The status of those units which are being constructed or have been constructed on the basis of permits given after November 16, 1995, we don't know. That will depend on the interpretation of the courts, because if a municipality cannot deny an applicant a permit, since Bill 20 is not yet law, Bill 120 still prevails. The legality of those units which will come into existence after the passage of Bill 20 will depend upon the municipality permitting the units under the power given under Bill 20, which is, if the municipality wishes to allow you to have a second unit, then it will be legal. If you build it without permission, it will not be legal.
Apart from this, Bill 20 gives power to the municipalities to get these units registered. The wording is "may register." It doesn't say that the municipality will have to make sure that these units are registered. It also gives power to the municipality to make such bylaws to enforce registration, to see that compliance is made to property standards. They can also fix a one-time registration fee.
Let's see how this impacts on the tenants, homeowners, municipalities, courts and legal clinics.
Tenants: Let's talk about tenants first, since we represent tenants most of the time. The biggest issue we see with tenants is that at this point in time there are not many vacancies, which is well known. It's less than 1%. So one of the avenues for a tenant to find a home would be in a second unit.
After Bill 20, the tenant goes to the landlord, seeks to rent the place, wants to be sure that this particular unit is legal and will have to ask several questions to find out whether or not this unit is legal. The landlord would probably just refuse this person. He's being too nosy; he knows his rights too much maybe. We don't know, but from experience we know that the less the tenant asks, the more chances the tenant has to get a place.
The second problem: Once in the unit, if he has a problem and does not know whether this unit is legal, the tenant is again going to fear whether or not he should call the city to see to it that the place is in good state of repair, that the landlord is made to repair the unit or keep it up to health and safety standards.
The other problem the tenant may face is that in some wards units may be permitted, in some wards units may not be permitted, but there's nothing to stop landlords from making units without permission. So how is a tenant to find out in which ward it's legal and in which ward it's not legal? It's going to lead to too much confusion. It's leading to more complications.
Homeowners: Under Bill 20, if the municipality chooses to get the units registered,the landlord will have to register it, but the landlord will have to show that the unit existed prior to November 16, 1995. How's he going to show it? There has to be some procedure. Municipalities are going to have their own requirements. Every municipality may have a different requirement. If a homeowner happens to have homes in different municipalities, what is he going to do? He'll be dealing with several municipalities with different sets of criteria to prove that his unit was there before November 16, 1995.
If his unit doesn't get registered and he has to appeal, the only recourse is that he goes to the Ontario Court (General Division). Going to court is not a cheap remedy. If a homeowner only owns one home and is trying to rent out the basement where he or she lives, it's going to be too expensive. It may not even be worth doing it.
The other aspect which we see is of a prospective home buyer. In this market it's not easy for someone to buy a house. A prospective home buyer may be willing to invest in a house if there's a chance of getting a supplementary income to pay off the mortgage. That could come from a second unit. But if this is the procedure, if this is what he has to go through, the homeowner may or may not be able to get a second unit legalized in his home, and that will rule out that possibility too.
The fourth problem that we see is setting up registries in different municipalities which will have the power to impose different standards and bylaws. That means another set of bureaucrats that a homeowner with properties in different municipalities will have to deal with. This is not less government, but more.
Municipalities: If municipalities decide to get the second units registered, they may have to appoint a registrar to register two units. To enforce the relevant bylaws, they will also have to designate one or more persons, as set out in section 59 of Bill 20.
In this era of budget cuts and reduction of deficits, where does the province expect the municipalities to come up with the money to pay for these persons? It can only mean that either the municipality will not pass any bylaw for implementing section 59 of Bill 20 or will divert the personnel from other required services to effectively enforce the bylaws.
If the municipalities do not implement section 59 of Bill 20, the whole purpose of rescinding Bill 120 and grandfathering the second units in existence prior to November 16, 1995, becomes redundant. If the municipalities pass the bylaws but do not assign a person or persons to enforce them, again the whole purpose of Bill 20 becomes redundant and is an exercise in futility. What is the point of wasting taxpayers' money on a toothless and ineffective bill? This goes against all common sense too.
Courts: Tenants living in second units and landlords of such two-unit homes are bound to go to court under the Landlord and Tenant Act when the disputes arise. However, now there will be another issue the courts will have to decide, that is, whether the second unit is legal. The courts will have to decide this in those cases where municipalities have not set up a registry for two-unit homes. This translates into more time taken for trials of such cases. This will be particularly true of second units which are being constructed or have been constructed on the basis of permits given before November 16 but revoked because of the bill, or permits given after November 16.
Again, with the pending budget cuts which this provincial government is set on, the courts will be expected to do more with less. The officials of the courts will have to find a way out. In such a scenario, denial of access to the justice system to poor tenants or to small homeowners is not only conceivable but is a reality. This is not simplifying matters. Bill 20 is complicating it.
Legal clinics: After the passage of Bill 20, if a tenant calls on us to find out their rights to enforce the Landlord and Tenant Act, especially in relation to health and safety and property standards issues, we will have to first find out whether the unit is legal. This is not going to be an easy task, as tenants will probably not know. In such a situation, our mandate to help a poor tenant will become more difficult and time-consuming. To get the relevant information, we'll have to spend more time getting details before we can give any advice. We will not be able to advise or help tenants trying to enforce the property standards, health and safety bylaws, as that may lead to the tenants losing their homes. This is going to lead to dangerous conditions, including an increased risk of death by fire.
There are other issues I would like to address too. The first is discrimination. Blanket power given to municipalities to permit or not to permit the existence of two-unit houses as and when they please, without any guidelines, can be open to blatant abuse. This bill gives too much power in the hands of a local government which can be swayed by people with the NIMBY syndrome or who have racist attitudes or are merely prejudiced against the poor.
In Scarborough, Mr Wolfgang Droege, a known white supremacist, contested elections from ward 1. At the time of the last municipal elections, there were 18,497 registered voters. Mr Droege obtained 802 votes. Mr Harvey Barron, who won the election, obtained 4,915 votes. The fact that Mr Droege contested the elections and obtained 802 votes shows us that there are people who unequivocally support the views of white supremacists. There are probably more than 802 people in ward 1 and other wards who hold similar views. Such persons can raise vocal objections to neighbours who may want to put in second units merely because their colour of skin is different.
To support my point that racism exists, I will quote some observations of a particular community group of Scarborough. I quote from the submission to the standing committee on general government regarding Bill 120 by the Scarborough Access to Permanent Housing Committee, dated February 8, 1994. On pages 7 and 8, under the subheading "Discrimination," it was stated as follows:
"Our experience has led us to a more sinister aspect to the issue of legalization of accessory apartments. It is the issue of discrimination that verges on a level of defamation and hate. On this issue we have encountered racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, anti-tenant and anti-youth expressions.
"We have encountered opponents of legalizing accessory units who proffer the cultural background and colour of one's skin as reasons to prohibit accessory apartments. A deputant at a Scarborough council meeting on the matter stated that he did not want coloured people living next to him in a basement apartment. Council did not challenge nor reprimand him for these statements.
"In a separate meeting, a member of Scarborough council said to a delegation which included Scarborough Access to Permanent Housing Committee members that he did not feel that certain people of African origin would `fit into' his `community' and that if basement apartments were legalized, his `community' would be overrun by such persons."
Obviously, if we have councillors in Scarborough who hold such views and we have residents with such attitudes, the fear that powers granted to the municipalities without any guidelines are open to abuse is valid and real. This may be true for many other municipalities as well.
Shortage of housing. In a February 1996 article by business reporter John Spears in the Toronto Star, it was pointed out that there is going to be a serious shortage of rental apartments in the next two years. The vacancy rate at present is less than 1%. No new rental apartments have been built for a long time.
According to Greg Lampert, who prepared a study on rental housing policy last fall for the Ontario government, 22,000 condominiums flooded the rental market in the late 1980s. Then the Ontario government financed a big wave of non-profit construction in the early 1990s. However, both of these sources have dried up. According to Mr Lampert, new owners are buying up the condominium surpluses and taking them out of the rental market, and this government has stopped funding non-profit housing.
In light of the above, it would have made more common sense if this government had encouraged another private source of housing, that is, second units in already existing homes. It would have made more common sense if this government had made provisions in Bill 20 encouraging homeowners and municipalities to create second units. This could have been done by:
Not repealing the provisions of Bill 120 relating to two-unit houses;
Laying down time lines for the municipalities to get units registered;
Ensuring that the least amount of red tape would be required for such units to be registered, either at the request of the landlord or the tenant;
Encouraging and supporting municipalities to direct appropriate resources to ensure the adherence to property standards, health and safety standards bylaws in such second units;
Amending the Planning Act appropriately so that the municipalities will have greater power to readily recover the costs they incur repairing private residential premises in case of non-compliance of work orders; and
Amending the Planning Act appropriately so that the municipalities can exercise collection procedures available to creditors under the Execution Act, including those procedures permitting the auction of the property.
Job creation and economic development. It is the opinion of financial analysts that investing in a home for the purpose of investment to build equity is a thing of the past. Buying a home in this economy is still a distant dream. It is a fact that sales of new and used homes are low. There is at this time no incentive to prospective home buyers to buy.
One incentive to a prospective new home buyer to take a plunge in the housing market in an area of his or her own choice could be the prospect of financing part of the mortgage by renting a portion of the house. This will not only boost new home construction but also encourage renovations in older homes. This translates into job creation and economic development. However, the introduction of Bill 20 has done away with this source. This goes completely against the government's objective of job creation and economic development. It seems that Bill 20 sacrifices common sense at the altar of political expediency.
In summary, we recommend: The provisions of Bill 120 relating to two-unit houses should not be repealed by Bill 20; and the provisions of Bill 120 should be strengthened by amending Bill 20 to encourage single-family homeowners to bring up to standard second units and build new second units and bring them into the rental market.
The above can be achieved by:
-- Laying down time lines for the municipalities to get the second units registered. That will ensure that the municipality knows where these units exist and will know how to enforce the bylaws.
-- Ensuring that the least amount of red tape would be required for such units to be registered, either at the request of the landlord or the tenant. The reason we recommend tenants also is that sometimes landlords who know their units don't meet standards do not want to incur the expense and are using that particular unit just for purposes of making more and more money without investing in it. A tenant will be more interested in getting it registered so that he or she can be protected under the Landlord and Tenant Act and get the property standards bylaws and health and safety bylaws enforced.
-- Encouraging and supporting municipalities to direct appropriate resources to ensure the adherence to property standards and health and safety standards bylaws in such second units. This is again to address the issue which a lot of municipalities are raising, that second units are dangerous, are fire traps. Yes, they are fire traps, because property standards and health and safety issues have not been addressed in these units. One way would be to get the municipalities to have the resources to do it.
-- Amending the Planning Act appropriately so that the municipalities will have greater power to readily recover the costs they incurred repairing private residential premises in cases of non-compliance of work orders. That has been another complaint of municipalities, that if they do enter the premises and do the repairs, they cannot recover the moneys. Therefore, we're saying amend; give them the power so they can do it and recover. How they can recover is by amending the Planning Act so that the municipalities can exercise collection procedures available to creditors under the Execution Act, including those procedures permitting the auction of the properties.
The above recommendations we believe will benefit the community at large, including homeowners, tenants, the construction industries, the unemployed and the economy of Ontario.
The Chair: An extensive presentation. We actually have less than a minute per caucus. I don't know if any of the members wish to ask questions. We'll start with the government members, if you do, but please respect the time lines of the other groups coming after.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Thank you very much for coming before us this morning. I represent a rural riding where we also have a need for second-unit apartments. We also have municipally elected councils who have shown responsible decision-making in the handling of these. We have tools available in the Planning Act, we have the official plans, municipal bylaws, the site plan agreements, plans for subdivision; we also have fire regulations etc. The municipalities would have an option to register these units as well. Why do you feel Scarborough council can't do that as well?
Ms Sibal: Because of the way Scarborough council has behaved in the past. I pointed out the quote which I read. One particular Scarborough councillor certainly had views which said he did not want African people in his community. We don't know how many other councillors have that view. We know that Mr Wolfgang Droege contested elections from Scarborough; 802 people supported him. They were there and they voted for him. We don't know how many more people have similar views. We fear.
If the council is given the power to deny or to give permission at the whim of neighbours, that is not going to be a fair process. There is no guideline as to what procedure this council is going to follow to grant a second unit. Under Bill 120, guidelines were laid. Zoning bylaws permitting, if the parking space was enough, if the height was the right amount, second units had to be permitted. There could not be a denial of making a second unit.
No one is forcing anyone to make a second unit. If the homeowner or the landlord thinks it's too much of a problem, they're not going to make it. But when the process comes to the municipal council where a homeowner has to go and ask permission to make a second unit, where it can be brought forward and the neighbours who raise objections can say no to it, and the councillor refuses, for political expediency or for personal attitudes, or the council refuses, it will not be a fair process.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for your presentation. We don't have much time, but I would like to make a comment. I find your submission, when you're talking about discrimination, to be very sad indeed. It's an appalling situation, to say the least.
I also want to confirm with you that I too believe that having a home in this area is a dream for some people. I have had people in the area tell me that themselves, that they have absolutely no hope of ever being able to afford a home in the markets that exist. You offer an excellent overview of the situation in regard to the topic here and you offer substantive solutions, and I thank you.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Maybe you can help me out on this. It's my understanding that at the time Bill 120 became law it was discovered there were about 100,000 illegal second apartments in the province.
Ms Sibal: Yes. It was discovered prior to Bill 120 and that was, we hope, one of the reasons, because it made no sense to have those units illegal. They were there; they were in existence. People were living there in unsafe conditions.
Mr Hampton: So the reality was that municipalities were in effect allowing, or ignoring the existence of 100,000 illegal units. In some cases those units didn't meet the fire code, didn't meet electrical codes and didn't meet the building code.
Ms Sibal: Yes.
Mr Hampton: If this legislation passes and we go to the scenario you have painted for us here, do you think illegal second units will disappear? Do you think there will be more illegal second units? What do you think will happen?
Ms Sibal: My personal opinion is that when people need houses, when people need to live somewhere, they're going to look for places to find it. Homeowners who have the place will produce the place for them to live in. In this economy, when the vacancy rate is less than 1%, where are these people going to go? One of the resources will be living in second units and homeowners will make them available. Illegal units will come into being, not because people don't want to live in them but because the government says they are illegal.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Sibal. We appreciate you taking the time to make a presentation before us this morning.
Ms Churley: I just have another question between presentations here. Even though I see that Dr Galt, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy, is not here, I'm wondering if his office has tabled the list of stakeholders he met with yesterday which I requested after he brought it up?
The Chair: The clerk indicates he has not received anything as yet.
C.N. WATSON AND ASSOCIATES LTD
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from C.N. Watson and Associates. Good morning.
Mr Cameron Watson: I would like to take perhaps half the time to walk you through the presentation that I think you all have before you. First of all, a little bit of information as to who we are.
We are a small land economics consulting firm, 10 people, Toronto-based. We've been in operation for 14 years. We have done this kind of work for some 250 Ontario municipalities, school boards and utilities, as well as a couple of dozen land developers and some cities across Canada. As you can see from page 2 of the presentation, there is a list of 146 municipalities and school boards for which we have done full Development Charges Act studies over the last five years. I think it is therefore fair to say we know something about that particular topic.
What we are seeking to do today is to provide constructive input to this committee on a very limited segment of Bill 20, that is sections 47 to 57 and section 74. Those are the sections that deal exclusively with amendments to the Development Charges Act. The submission is organized into four parts: The first touches on the purpose of the bill. The second is asking and answering the question, are the problems the bill addresses real? Then it looks at, what does the bill change? The fourth is, what new problems is the bill creating? It's creating problems today because it's proposing retroactive legislation. The third chapter is in the form of a very brief conclusion.
Let me start with the question, are the problems that the bill is addressing real? The intent of the bill, as I understand it in the Development Charges Act part of the bill, is to remove an obstacle to growth. The obstacle is presumably a development charge that is too high or is going to be increased so that it will be too high, and that's retarding housing development, or development in general, and that is not doing everything we can to stimulate employment. We certainly support that objective without question.
The underlying assumption for introducing close ministerial control over any changes in municipal development charges bylaws is, as I say, presumably that the charges are too high and they're moving upward and this is needed to curb that.
If you would look at figure which is pages 5 and 6, that summarizes some research we have just conducted. We've triple-checked this and we have extensive background to support this, and what it does is it looks at what has happened to development charge amounts in 54 of the largest urban centres in Ontario. As you can see, we have the large urban centres from virtually all of the regions, and over on the right-hand side at the bottom we've added a number of large centres across the province.
The table is set up in five columns, and from the left we have "Outright Decline in DC." Those are municipalities that during the past four years have actually decreased the charge. The charge today in absolute terms is lower than the charge it was in 1991. You can see who they are, and at the bottom right-hand side you'll see that 12 of the 54 have actually decreased their charge voluntarily during that period.
The next column is "Decrease in Real Terms"; for example, those who chose -- once again voluntarily -- not to index their charge each year. That's permitted and invited by the statute. The purpose of indexing, of course, is to ensure that the purchasing power of the development charge remains constant as construction prices go up. Obviously, you need to compensate for that. There are 22 of the 54 municipalities that in the interests of stimulating development have chosen not to index the charge, or have not indexed it each and every year, so that their development charge in real terms, in real purchasing power terms, has declined over the last four years.
Then you have the middle column, "No Change Other than Indexing." That literally is no change in the real magnitude of the development charge. We have 15 in that category.
That only leaves five of the 54 major municipalities in Ontario that actually, in real terms, have increased their development charges in the past four years. In three cases these are relatively small charges: Vaughan, Cambridge and Sarnia. In a couple of those cases, the increase between 1991 and 1996 simply occurred because they phased in the new charge that they adopted in 1991. They didn't put it in place fully at one point in time. In the interest of assisting development they phased it in, so it's a little higher in 1996 than it was in 1991.
There are larger increases in two of the municipalities: Oakville and London. We did both of those studies. In the case of London, that charge was done in close concert with the development community and it was not appealed; it was deemed to be reasonable. In the case of Oakville, the charge was appealed but the amount eventually arrived at was arrived at through a settlement.
My point from all of this is that this material, and we could go on and add to it, does not suggest to me, I don't think it would suggest to anyone, that we have an unreasonable situation in Ontario in terms of how municipalities have been handling development charges. I don't see any sign of abuse of power or any absence of concern for development.
The next question is then, why did development charges increase so much between, say, 1985 and 1991? They did increase substantially. In some cases they tripled from a relatively low base. There are four very good reasons why they increased during that period, and those are mentioned on page 8.
First of all, inflation was 28-36%, depending on the index you use. Housing prices during that interval went up 70%. I think that's beside the point in a way, but it's background.
The second point, and the point that is often missed by those who are critical of development charge size, is that there was a statutory requirement for costs to be moved from development agreements into the development charges regime.
Subsection 45(1) coupled with subsection 3(7) of the Development Charges Act required that to be done. It prevented a municipality from using a subdivision agreement to ask a developer to pay for work external to the plan of subdivision, and it prevented a municipality from asking a developer to pay for oversize works within a plan of subdivision, so you $2,000, $3,000 per dwelling unit removed from one pocket and put into the other pocket, namely, on to the development charges. You had development charges moving up for that reason -- not one dime of additional cost attributed to that; it's just moved from one area of collection to a second.
The third reason is that the Development Charges Act considerably broadened the services for which charges could be collected. In particular, schools and hydro facilities, and also rolling stock and furniture and equipment and so on, were explicitly added within the act, and municipalities and school boards have merely proceeded to recover growth-related costs in that way. Once again, I don't see any sign from what occurred of unreasonableness or abuse of power; it's simply municipalities following through on the legislation that's been provided to them.
The third point is, are development charges already unacceptably high? I won't spend much time on pages 9 and 10, but it seems to me that there are at least half a dozen fundamental questions that have to be asked, ought to be asked in that regard in terms of looking at development charges as a user-pay, benefits-received type of system, and examining closely what happens if you reduce the charges by $1,000 per unit, for example, or you increase them, whether there's a magic number that development charges shouldn't go beyond etc.
Our point here is that before you make fundamental changes to what we are characterizing as one of the most reasonable and thorough statutes of its type in North America, the Development Charges Act, it would seem to me that you would want to answer, have answers to these questions, and I don't believe that these questions have been properly addressed and they ought to be.
Are development charges likely to increase in the future? I think there are a number of reasons -- particularly when you talk about services other than sewer, water and roads, namely, recreation and parks and administrative facilities and libraries and that kind of thing -- for believing that development charges are going to fall, have been falling and will fall for those categories, for the simple reason that the act requires charges to be based upon service standards and the service standards are falling.
The service standards are falling because development is decreasing, because grants are decreasing, because affordability is decreasing, and frankly because a number of municipalities are becoming even more reasonable in terms of how they address all this. They are concerned about economic growth and ensuring they capture their share of it, and they are looking very carefully at the standards for which they are recovering development charges.
For the studies we've been doing, we are seeing in many instances those service standards moving down and that inevitably will bring down development charges. It's not bringing down development charges, however, because all of that has been brought to a complete and utter stop by this bill, Bill 20, because Bill 20 says that retroactively to November 15, sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Development Charges Act will be repealed and that the minister has the right to approve or not approve of any change.
What that says to municipalities is that there's no point in doing anything right now, because whatever they do right now will be rendered ultra vires by the passage of this particular bill, or rendered null and void, I guess, by the passage of this particular bill: "There's no point in proceeding at this point in time. We might as well just wait."
The other half, and I guess the answer to that question is that certainly as MTO grants are with withdrawn and other grants are withdrawn, there will be some upward pressure on the cost of hard services. But that's an inevitability. That has to be dealt with by municipalities in terms of how they're going to finance growth-related capital costs of sewer, water and roads. I don't see any signs of unreasonableness in the approach being adopted, but the funding has to be found and development charges have to play a reasonable role.
Another question is, have municipalities been failing to account properly for development charges spending? One section of the Development Charges Act amendments of this bill puts in place the requirement that municipalities report annually on expenditures, revenues and credits. We're simply making the point here that that's a desirable thing to do, but in our view it isn't going to change anything. That already is a municipal requirement. It's in the regulation. It's something the municipalities, in the vast majority of cases, are all doing. It certainly doesn't hurt to move it from the regulation to the act to give it a little more prominence, but I just wanted to make the point that municipalities are very careful about how they are reporting on the use of their development charges. We have a couple of examples of the sorts of statements produced annually by municipalities in appendix A.
On page 12, what does the bill change? I think I've already touched on that. Actually, on page 13, indented, we have a summary.
On page 14, what new problems is the bill creating? I have touched on those, and I think they go to the retroactivity clause. What's occurring is that the bill has not been proclaimed so the minister does not currently have development charges bylaw approval powers, but when the act does come into force, the sections of the Development Charges Act which would be used at this time to make any change to bylaws will be repealed. That will invalidate whatever action was taken by the municipality unless the minister subsequently approves of the action retroactively and unless the unapproved time periods can be covered off. In other words, the bill will be passed and the minister's approval presumably won't be the same day; there are gaps, there are problems, there are uncertainties.
You have 150 municipal bylaws, or more, expiring this year. As I explain at the bottom of page 14 and on page 15, you have dozens and dozens of municipalities that need to do something today with their development charges in order to provide services for growth. These are municipalities whose development charges are not of complete coverage. They weren't able in 1991 to know exactly what had to be charged for all storm drainage requirements or all sanitary sewer requirements. So there are gaps in their bylaws and they now are coming back to try to fill those gaps, in Cumberland, in Niagara-on-the-Lake -- I have a couple of dozen examples in appendix B -- but they can't fill the gaps because of this bill. This bill has brought everything to a halt.
It's my submission that, although we support the spirit behind the bill, we think its effect is the reverse of what it is set out to do. It is set out to remove obstacles to growth and stimulate development, and I don't think that's what it's doing. I think it's doing exactly the reverse, which brings us to the conclusions, page 16.
I think the first and second reading of this part of the bill has been a useful wake-up call to municipalities and to people like ourselves. It does emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of not having development charges or any other obstacles to growth impeding development and the employment that goes along with it. We do have the greatest respect for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and for his staff and for what they're trying to do to improve a situation that does need improving in terms of this particular industry.
However, we think the amendments under Bill 20 do not have the potential for providing net benefits to the province. As a result, we believe that part of Bill 20 should be fundamentally reconsidered, and we think, with respect, that should be done on an urgent basis. Personally, I don't think a few months from now or next summer, when all of this is finally decided upon, is sufficient. Something should be done immediately.
Mr Gerretsen: It's all so ironic, isn't it? Here we have a government that wants to give municipalities all the powers because they've cut off their grants, except that they also want to do a favour to their friends in the development industry, who basically don't want to get involved in development charges at all because it raises the cost of their development and would rather have the general taxpayer pay for all these costs. A government that believes in municipal autonomy would in effect, through this act, not allow municipalities to do what they would feel is right as far as development charges are concerned. I should indicate that I'm from a community that has very little development charges at all. We're basically just involved in infilling etc, so I have no axe to grind with anybody.
I'm very struck with your comment that this bill has brought everything to a halt and that this government, that claims to be doing everything in order to get the economy moving etc, in effect is doing the exact reverse. Could you expand on those comments you made about municipalities not doing anything with respect to the developments that are in front of them because they really don't know what the situation is with this act or with development charges in the future?
Mr Watson: There are two aspects to that. One is that the municipalities are all facing a deadline relative to their development charges bylaws, that is, a five-year lifetime. That lifetime, in most cases, expires in the fall of this year, and therefore all the municipalities were impelled and had an incentive to go back in and update things and make the changes that had to be made. They no longer have that incentive because this bill permits them to remove the five-year time horizon and to give their bylaw indefinite life.
Second, the municipalities facing area-specific situations -- I'm not here saying that each and every one of them is doing nothing, because that's not the case; we are working with some of them. But I'm saying the bill is making it much more difficult, much more uncertain and much more time-consuming to know what to do.
For example, in Cumberland, where I'm with council next Tuesday, there's a major growth area. We now have the costs of servicing it, substantial costs. They're not in the present bylaw, so we would like to go back and replace the bylaw, but the sections of the Development Charges Act under which the township of Cumberland would be acting have been deleted by Bill 20 retroactive to last November, and they've been replaced by a provision that the minister will decide whether or not what they're proposing is satisfactory.
But of course the minister can't decide today, because the bill hasn't been passed, and the bill won't be passed, as I understand it, until possibly the middle of this year. We don't know when it'll be passed, so we are in a state of limbo, a moratorium state, for that kind of situation. Some municipalities are -- well, I don't know. There are going to be all kinds of different responses, but one response will be to sit on their hands.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe word should go out that the Minister of Municipal Affairs is anti-development.
The Chair: Sorry, Mr Gerretsen, time's up. That's a minute over, actually.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order: We started 20 minutes late today, and I've noted that every delegation --
The Chair: What has that got to do with the 25 minutes allocated to each group?
Mr Gerretsen: That's exactly my point. If you'd let me make my point of order, maybe you could then rule on it. We started 20 minutes late, and there's been an attempt to get that time back by making the delegations shorter and shorter, which in effect is cutting into our question-and-answer time. I suggest that tomorrow we start right at 9 o'clock whether the government members are here or not. We all saw these little caucuses going on beforehand among government members in terms of whether they were here in sufficient numbers etc, but we have our right to question the delegations and to take our 25 minutes.
The Chair: You're absolutely right, Mr Gerretsen, and not one group has gone less than 25 minutes. That's not a point of order.
Mr Gerretsen: You're incorrect on that, Mr Chairman. You wouldn't know because you weren't here at the beginning.
Ms Churley: Mr Watson, I wish we had received your comments earlier on in the process, because a fair number of developers, not surprisingly, have come to speak to us in support. They obviously have a self-interest; they want to spend as little money as possible in their development plans. It's interesting, and I think part of the problem here -- we just had Winch Planning and Development Services tell us that they feel removing the right of appeal to the OMB, for instance, for minor variance applications will likely increase the number of rezoning application appeals. You say that in this case the government again could be inadvertently, I think, actually going against the grain of what it had hoped to achieve here, and that is speeding up the process and cutting red tape.
Part of the problem is the fact that the government moved so quickly on its agenda that there was very little consultation and therefore a real lack of understanding of the implications of what it was doing. In cases like this, I would suppose that the government will reconsider what it's doing here if it can be convinced that in all likelihood this would be the opposite of what it hoped to achieve. That is, I understand, what you are saying, and that you are suggesting -- and this I want to be clear on -- that they should reconsider this part of the bill. Are you saying they should just remove it entirely and keep it at the status quo for the time being?
Mr Watson: That's my belief in terms of what they ought to do, but of course I'm not privy to the many things that go into making this decision.
Ms Churley: I just want to be clear on your recommendation, because I'm not entirely clear. You're saying it should be removed from this bill.
Mr Watson: Yes.
Ms Churley: In your presentation, you made it clear that you think there are a lot of misconceptions about the status quo; that the status quo is actually working fine and there is no need for change at this time.
Mr Watson: It's not perfect, but I think it is working fine. As I say, I think the process has been benefited by the bill to date -- it was a wake-up call -- but it's time to get back to business.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I met with a number of builders prior to these hearings, and they expressed the concern that although the development charges were collected, there were no statistics or figures to show that those charges were actually spent in the area they were collected, so any fees collected could be spent or distributed throughout the community and not in the immediate area. Do you have any figures to back that up or to contradict that claim?
Mr Watson: The question is whether the development charges collected are spent in the physical area in which they were collected? There is a statutory requirement, section 16 of the act, that requires a municipality to spend the charges for the purpose for which they were collected. Every municipality has a clear policy report which makes reference to service standards and to projects, and there's a statutory requirement that it follow through on that. Not all those projects are going to be in the immediate area. In some cases, you've got central services. There may be an expansion to a central library. There may be reasons for spending money in areas other than the immediate growth area, but that ought to be consistent with what was put before the development industry and the public when the bylaw was passed. They then had an opportunity at that time, through a series of public meetings and appeal rights and everything else, to say: "We don't think your capital spending program is valid. We think you ought to substitute project A for project B." But once they've gone through all that, the municipality simply follows through on that; it's required to.
Mr Ouellette: So you don't have any figures to show where the actual spending is done, and you don't have a problem if the spending does not take place in the immediate area that it's collected?
Mr Watson: I would only have a problem if the spending were not, in a fundamental way, consistent with the plan that underpinned the development charge in the first place. I think you'd have to get back into each and every municipal situation to decide whether there was a problem there. But it's certainly a difficult area; it requires scrutiny and monitoring. I don't say all municipalities are perfect in that area; they're not.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Watson. We appreciate that. Our 27 minutes are up.
GEORGIAN BAY ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be the Georgian Bay Association. Good morning.
Mr John Birnbaum: I'm John Birnbaum, executive director of the Georgian Bay Association. By way of introduction, we're a voluntary umbrella group representing 25 associations and about 5,000 families on the eastern and northern shores of Georgian Bay and the adjoining inland lakes. We've been actively involved in the consultation process through Sewell, which resulted in Bill 163, and with the new land use planning system consultations of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Up until now we had not participated in any of the discussions around Bill 20.
It's our understanding that the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations will be making a submission to you in another location at another time representing the overall provincial interests of cottage country, but we would like to share today our views, since we represent a significant number of ratepayers and some unique planning challenges.
Our presentation will be made by two volunteers from our association. Mr Mario Buszynski is the volunteer chair of our land use and planning committee, and Mr Rod Northey is a volunteer member of Georgian Bay Association's environment committee. I'll turn the microphones over to them.
Mr Mario Buszynski: I am Mario Buszynski. I'd just like to give you a little bit of a background, a regional context if you like. Our member associations come from the district of Manitoulin, Sudbury, Parry Sound and Muskoka. With the exception of the district of Muskoka, the government organization and planning expertise in these other areas is based for the most part on contract planning staff. The databases aren't very comprehensive. I was in Simcoe county yesterday and they have a very comprehensive geographic information system program. They're developing a very comprehensive database. The Ministry of Natural Resources is plugging into it. You'll have maps that will identify areas of environmental concern. I'll talk a little bit more in detail, but in our area -- it's a very fragile area on the Canadian Shield -- data are incomplete. For the most part, planning approvals rely on the input of the Ministry of Natural Resources and specialized consultants.
There's permanent snow cover for a large part of the year and you can't get on to the properties to see if they're suitable for the placement of septic systems. In many cases you have to go by boat or long, poor-quality roads. Access is a problem. So in a number of these issues we'll talk about, in streamlining the process, how it can make it very tough in cottage country.
We'll look at Bill 20 and compare it a little bit to Bill 163 in three areas: streamlining the planning process, empowering the municipalities and protecting the environment.
Just to shake you up, I'm going to start with concern 2 as opposed to concern 1, looking at the "have regard for" provision, which I'm sure you have heard a fair bit on already. However, our concern is that there are different legal interpretations and applications of the term "have regard for." We're concerned that in fact you may not streamline the process, you may bog it down, because there may be Divisional Court appeals.
In the old Bill 163 wording, "be consistent with," I think a lot of people were thrown off by the thickness of the implementation guidelines for the policy statements, and I agree they shocked me somewhat as well. However, they did try to provide a clear direction. We're not certain that we have a clear direction, and we're recommending that there be some clarification to the legal intent of the term "have regard to" related to the provincial policy statements. Otherwise, we feel that it's not going to streamline the process.
Mr Rod Northey: Good morning. My name is Rod Northey, and I am going to now get back to concern 1. I asked Mr Buszynski to help me out on going to concern 2, because I think when you look at what you have before you for concern 1, what we really need you to consider is the integration of a number of problems raised by Bill 20.
The main point we're trying to make is that although it may appear that letting the Ministry of Municipal Affairs have sole jurisdiction to decide whether things should go to the OMB at the ministerial level -- in practice that's going to lead to a very complicated system of interministerial discussions and, we think, in the present climate, to an abdication of the province doing anything at the level of dealing with planning approvals.
I'd like to just explain that in the context of a couple of the ministries that deal with the environment, which is of major concern in the Georgian Bay area. Presently, you have the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Environment and Energy both with some role over the environment, and not particularly clear roles between the two of them of what they're doing. But the most important point is, in terms of what they are doing today and have been doing, it's not entirely clear what they have to do. The standards are not clear; there is a great deal of discretion.
What that means is, if you look at the standard and then you come through Sewell, which has tried to create an approach where because of a requirement to be consistent with what was set out there were in fact provincial planning standards, we now have a situation where you've moved back away from "be consistent with" to this "have regard to" language, which in our view takes away the point that there are standards. It means there are a lot of things everyone's going to have to go and look at -- that includes the provincial ministries -- but there's really no stopping point. There's nothing where anyone can draw a line in the sand and say, "You cannot cross here." Because at the end of the day everyone can have regard to a number of different documents, and we're going to have to all go to the Ontario Municipal Board, where it will be the final arbiter and say: "Here's the line in the sand. Yes, everyone's had regard to a number of things, but this is where we draw the line."
What we're trying to say here is, with your one-window approach, if you look at what's going to happen without the clarity of standards -- we use the example of drinking water standards. The Ministry of Environment says, "We think we've got a concern with this proposal on the drinking water area." Now, the developer or somebody says, "Well, we've had regard to the policy statements." The ministry says, "Yes, we've had regard to them too, but we think the standards are what apply here," but the developer says: "Well, there aren't standards. It's just required that we look at these things and have regard to them." So we go back and forth. Then the developer says: "We don't agree with where you're going on this. On your one-window approach, we see that you need to get the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to agree with whether you are right or wrong."
Presently, what can happen is Ministry of Environment can say: "We don't agree with you. We're going to file an appeal." So there's an incentive at the front end of the process to try to get the two to at least come to a reconciliation. Well, what happens here? Is there a streamlining with Municipal Affairs involved? No. What you're going to have is that Ministry of Environment needs to consult with Municipal Affairs. Municipal Affairs will then need to get itself involved in a process where presently it has no involvement. So instead of having two ministries deal with the environment, we're now going to have three ministries every single time there is a controversy on environmental matters in the areas of concern. We think that's inconsistent with streamlining.
More to the point, when you look at what the practical effect will be when you move from Ministry of Environment getting frustrated because Ministry of Municipal Affairs is not letting them go and launch these appeals, you're going to get the Ministry of Environment saying: "Why are we bothering? Why are we even bothering to review these appeals? We know the minute it goes over to Municipal Affairs, they're going to stop us, so why bother reviewing this stuff? Let them go forward; let Municipal Affairs deal with this."
So the question is, either you are going to have a lot more discussions between ministries, in which case you don't have streamlining, or you are going to have provincial ministries saying, "We don't have a direct role any more in this. It's Municipal Affairs," and from our perspective that's an abdication of provincial responsibility for the environment.
So looking at the big picture, what's going to happen when you say one window, our view is you're not going to get streamlining and you're not going to get better protection of the environment.
Dealing with the issue of minor variance, presently the process provides for an appeal to the municipal board. As you know, you've got a very extensive code in Bill 20 to try to give municipalities some flexibility to deal with this and make their own decision as to whether things should go to the OMB.
The concern we have with that is trying to understand whether in fact municipalities are the best judge of what minor variance matters should be and whether they are the problem or the solution. Looking at the practice of this, it's our perspective that municipalities are very often part of the problem, not the solution, and the problem is that they are guided by other considerations than good planning. There may simply be politics, if I can use the word that way, rather than good planning.
What you have in the present system is an ultimate arbiter, the OMB, which says, "We are going to deal with politicians playing politicians instead of planners, and we are going to deal with minor variances and make sure that, at least, good planning is maintained on a consistent basis." The approach that's taken by Bill 20 is to really require municipalities to decide that they want to let the OMB have a role, rather than have the province say the OMB has this role. We think perhaps there are ways of circumscribing it, and we've suggested here that perhaps you limit minor variance appeals to one-day appeals so that they're expeditious. But the concern on the provincial level is that there be good planning, and our concern is that municipalities aren't always making decisions that represent good planning. Taking away the right of appeal and letting municipalities have the sole discretion on that is really going to make political what is now principally a planning matter.
Mr Buszynski: Our fourth concern relates to the reduction of time lines for approval and appeals that are put forward in Bill 20. We feel there is a high degree of risk in this approach. We also feel that for our constituents, it represents significant hardships. For instance, we've talked about our geography being a little less hospitable, the database being less well defined. The other area is that it's our understanding from the press that there will be massive cutbacks in the civil service, which will relate to fewer numbers of environmental stewards and others looking at these applications, which means the people who are there will be more overworked and they'll have less time to deal with them individually.
We've had many of our water bodies developed through multiple consents rather than plans of subdivision. This in itself can lead to planning and environmental problems because a comprehensive approach may not be taken to the review of this type of development. We are concerned that with the lack of MNR staff in areas like Manitoulin, Sudbury and Parry Sound district, the municipalities that are there are going to have to rely exclusively on a consultant's interpretation and guidance and that possibly the most detailed information and adherence to good environmental planning may not occur.
Our recommendations are that the present time lines be kept. Certainly we heard from others, when Bill 163 was being put forward, that these were fairly onerous. I've had experience in other jurisdictions -- for instance, in the States, in doing environmental impact assessment work dealing with the US Forest Service -- where I've gone in as a proponent looking for comments back. They have time lines that are dictated, and talking to the staff, staff have said: "I'm sorry. If you expect us to get our input back to you within those time lines, forget it. It's not going to happen." That's a fact.
We're concerned that if you implement Bill 20 with even more restrictive time lines, people who are empowered to make decisions will throw their hands up and say: "It's not possible. Go to the OMB, and you'll just backlog the OMB."
So we're recommending that the approval time lines and the appeal processes are maintained. This will also enable us to ensure that our membership receives adequate notice. A letter can take five days to reach Toronto from Parry Sound.
Mr Northey: Moving on then, concern 5, I think it's fair to say that's dealing with the flexibility to determine a complete application, as I review the bill. I think there is that flexibility provided, so I think that concern is addressed in what I see in Bill 20.
Just to add to a point made on this public notice, I think the difference, as we've put in our recommendation, between 20 and 30 days is significant. If you're dependent on regional newspapers or things that are monthly to get your notice, a 20-day period means that the month is not quite going to work, and I'm not sure that that 10-day period is all that important from a time line perspective, but it may be very important from a public input perspective.
Mr Buszynski: Our sixth concern relates to public meetings. In our area -- we have a summer residence in the Parry Sound area -- we have developed a very cooperative approach with developers. We'll receive notice of a development, we'll evaluate it and we'll meet with the developers, and if we have some concerns, we'll try and iron out some ways to mitigate those concerns. This has worked effectively for our association in the past, and it prevents down the road conflicts. We feel that if you remove the requirement to hold public meetings, what may happen is that down the road you'll spend more time on appeals because people won't be properly consulted. In fact, inappropriate decisions may be made, because people who are resident in the area may be able to help someone out who's a proponent of a development, something that they've overlooked.
Mr Northey: Moving on then, the final one I will deal with is concern 7, and this is something I'm sure you've heard about, which is the infrastructure issue. Under Bill 163, one of the innovations was to make provision for a municipality or a board not to hear something, in other words, to put a stop to something where there was a view that the infrastructure was not adequate. By taking that away from what you've got here, and it exists, as you will know, under the official plan issue, under the zoning issue, under the subdivision issue, you're really perpetuating discussion and you're forcing things to go to a board hearing or past municipal council level, rather than cutting something off at the early stage of an application by allowing a municipality to say: "This is premature, in our view. We don't want to deal with the infrastructure issue right now. We don't think this development application should come in at this time until we've got infrastructure dealt with."
To conclude, then, looking at the larger picture, the difficulty is, if you want to streamline the process and give municipalities empowerment, in fact, with what you are taking away here, you are doing the opposite. You're allowing hearings to go ahead where municipalities have to spend resources dealing with infrastructure matters, and in terms of the time lines, you're involving extending the time out when people can just keep pushing a process or an application along.
Mr Buszynski: In general conclusion, of the three precepts, those being streamlining, municipal empowerment and environmental protection, we feel you're achieving the municipal empowerment. We don't feel the planning process will be streamlined, for reasons suggested before. In fact, in the end, an agency such as Ministry of Natural Resources, if it's not involved up front and there are significant environmental impacts, may wind up laying charges in the end of the process, which may make it more costly for the developer and may take a lot longer time. Good planning means understanding everything up front in the process to save time in the end.
Environmental protection we feel won't be enhanced under this scenario. There will be a drastically reduced number of environmental stewards in the province as a result of the government cutbacks.
Then, taking not an appropriate amount of time to consider the development applications may lead to significant environmental damage, and it's fine for someone, the Ministry of Natural Resources, to go in at the end and lay a charge because environmental damage has occurred, and it has every right to do so under other acts. That doesn't alleviate the fact that the damage has occurred, and we may not be able to repair it.
What we would like you to do, if possible, is to consider our concerns and see if you can build them into the review of the bill.
Ms Churley: I think you've outlined many of the problems that we've been discovering as we progress along with this bill. I think it should be called an environmental destruction bill at this point. It is going to cost us all a lot more down the road.
I'm going to come back quickly, as others might, to your comments about the "have regard for" as opposed to "be consistent with." We had a Mr Mark Stevenson from the Ontario Society for Environmental Management, chair of the policy committee, in here yesterday saying the opposite of what you're saying, that this is preferable to go back because it will speed the process up. I know you're a lawyer. I rest my case. There are different opinions on this, and it's going to keep coming up over and over again. Could you clarify again, as a lawyer who has dealt with these issues, why you think it's actually going to increase the time frame?
Mr Northey: Because, to put it very bluntly, "be consistent with" sets a standard and "have regard for" sets out a process. If you're trying to streamline something, you want a standard, not a process. So you've lost. Looking at the Planning Act, there is nothing that you could regard as a hard and fast standard when all you're saying is, "Everyone, you must have regard for" something.
Ms Churley: So what you're saying is people could end up -- and this is what we're hearing on this side of it -- there'll be more OMB cases, there'll be more community groups, because there's no certainty.
Mr Northey: Absolutely.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I just wanted to go to number 7, your concerns with the right to refuse because of the prematurity. I just wanted to point out that many people have expressed the concern that by having it in there, the OMB could refuse the application for a hearing based on the prematurity of the application of non-servicing. The people who expressed a concern felt that they should have a right to the hearing to put forward the argument that someone had made a misjudgement on the prematurity of it, that that was something they should be allowed to have their day in court on. The OMB would still have the power to refuse the application, based on that the servicing was not available, but they would have a right to that hearing. Do you see that taking that right to the hearing away and not being able to put their case forward is taking away the democratic right the developer would have in this application?
Mr Northey: I think that's a fair comment. I think if you reflect back on what we were saying about the other appeals, which were the minor variance, you have spotted an inconsistency with what we're saying, because we're saying on most things there should be that ultimate right of appeal. I think, though, if I could put it this way, perhaps a fairer resolution is to have in the OMB some very abridged process for dealing with the issue of infrastructure.
The concern is that if you have the OMB appeal that can go ahead for any length of time, the infrastructure does not get resolved early on. I guess, to be fair to a developer on this, there should be a way where they can have an independent judgement on the prematurity point.
But I think equally there should be a way for a municipality to say: "Look, we don't want to get into the overall planning merits of everything going on with this application. We think there is a problem with the infrastructure point. Can we have a very abridged hearing on this point?" I do take the point you've made, but I think there needs to be some process where a municipality can put its foot down, so to speak, and say, "We don't want to get into the merits of this application holus-bolus; we want to have some ability to control our infrastructure process and when things should happen," not just lay it at the whim of developers.
Mr Gerretsen: I completely concur with your comment relating to concern number 6 that public hearings or meetings with respect to subdivision plans and severances are an absolute necessity, or else the public, particularly the public that may be immediately affected by living adjacent to it, will be totally left out in the cold without at least having their say about the matter.
But what I wanted to get your opinion on deals with this whole one-window approach notion. Let me tell you, I like the one-window approach notion from the point of view that everybody knows who the heck the lead organization is.
But your comment that the environment will not be better served as a result of this -- and particularly when one reads the Globe and Mail this morning with respect to dump sites and the relaxation of environmental regulations, which obviously indicates to me where this government is heading that way -- would you agree with me that what's really important is that there are some definite guidelines and procedures that all of us know about within the various ministries that are involved in the one-window approach, that they need to be set out so that everybody knows what the rules of the game are in dealing with it?
Mr Buszynski: I don't know, maybe Rod would like to supplement. I'd like to try to answer one thing, because I have had experience. I've worked in the provincial government. I'm now a private consultant. I've seen it from both sides. I've worked for developers; I've worked for government.
As I say, I was in Simcoe county yesterday at a government office, and they were busily preparing their input for Municipal Affairs, a map showing their concerns, their environmental concerns.
Municipal Affairs in the one-window approach would essentially do a checklist. For instance, if they see it's near a watercourse or a significant promontory, then they check off; there may be some heritage concerns. Now, if you have a map showing MNR concerns that says it's a deer yard or a wetland or whatever and they have a geographic area, you look at the development application. Perhaps you can say: "Yes, okay, it's in that area, so there's an area of concern. So we'll check it off, we'll circulate it to MNR."
The concern that this staff person addressed to me was that, number one, things aren't static in time. Things change, new information is brought in all the time. It's a question of trying to keep this updated.
What you're doing is you're asking somebody in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to be the final arbiter. They're sitting in Toronto, perhaps never having lived in or experienced any of the areas outside of the greater Toronto area. They may not be really aware of what's a significant concern. And what you can give in the way of a map at a gross scale may not adequately provide enough information, and this one window, this one person in Municipal Affairs, has to provide that function. They may not be adequately prepared.
If you have the agencies like MNR, that pride themselves on being in the field, being out there and aware of what the impacts are and what the environment is, if they're not figured prominently in the process up front -- and I don't think they can be under this system because it would become too onerous -- then what you're left with is, when the damage occurs, then the ministry will go out under another act and charge the person.
I don't think that's the way we want to do it. I think we want to review it.
I would be the last person, having worked for the development industry, to say the existing system is great. It doesn't allow for a speedy resolution of the issues. I think one thing is a lot more emphasis has to be placed on mediation. That's something that really is lacking and something that I haven't really seen addressed strongly. We're doing that on a local basis with our association and any development applications, and I can give you the names of developers we've worked with who are satisfied with the process.
I don't think that reducing the time lines --
The Chair: Excuse me. I'm going to have to cut you off, because we're already past 28 minutes. We appreciate your comments. Thank you very much for taking the time to make your presentation today.
COMMUNITY HOUSING PARTNERS PEEL
The Chair: Our next group up is the Community Housing Partners of Peel. Good morning, gentlemen.
Mr Bob Freeman: Okay. My name is Bob Freeman. I am employed by the Social Planning Council of Peel, which is a social research planning and coordination body in the region of Peel. I also chair Community Housing Partners Peel, which is a loose coalition of agencies providing housing and related services.
I'd like to indicate at the outset that I'm not a lawyer or a developer or urban planner. Part of what we do at the council is assess the possible implication of legislative or social policy changes on certain segments of the population. I'd simply like to provide a brief profile of the clients who are served under this program and to identify some possible implications if Bill 20 is passed, implications for the clients we serve. Then I'll turn things over to Aubrey Carrega and he will talk in more detail about the situation in Malton, which is a section of Mississauga.
Typically, the people served by the program are those with low income; often they're on some form of social assistance. Many are new Canadians. Quite a number are ex-offenders, single-parent households and people with psychiatric problems. The major activities we conduct are housing help, that is, linking landlords with people looking for housing; mediation in landlord-tenant disputes; and counselling. Typically, clients require other forms of counselling: life skills, how to live within a budget and so on.
A consumer profile -- and this we presented to the Ministry of Housing that funds this service; a survey we completed earlier this year. Of a total of 1,344 clients in the period of a year, from September 1994 to August 1995, it indicated that 23% of those were single, 44% were the head of a single-parent family -- typically, women -- and 18% were family households.
The primary source of household income for the same period: Of 1,165 households, 21% had no income, 24% received general welfare assistance, 14% received family benefits assistance and another 27% received family benefits assistance in addition to employment income -- typically, the working poor.
The primary reason for people seeking help in the same period: 36% were identified as homeless, either living in a shelter, on the street or sharing a home; another 25% indicated that the rent in the current unit was too high. The greatest housing needs identified were among ex-offenders, single-parent families and newcomers to Canada. The groups hardest to house that we identified were ex-offenders and single-parent families, typically because of discrimination on the part of private landlords. The groups most vulnerable to losing their housing among people served were people with mental health problems and young adults with low income.
One of the major features of the service we provide is a housing registry of private landlords, and there are approximately 370 of those, with a little over 500 units that we have access to. Of these, one third are rooming houses or shared housing, typically a basement apartment situation or an apartment in the house.
The average rent on the part of people looking for this kind of accommodation was in the area of 60% to 70% of income. The cut in the rates of social assistance which went into effect last October has had the effect of resulting in more people looking for cheaper accommodation, more families looking for cheaper accommodation and certainly more sharing of accommodation.
Just some background within this environment, some features of Peel's rental housing market. The vacancy rate as of last October, as identified by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp, was 0.7%. Peel continues to experience high migration and population growth in the area of 17,000 to 20,000 people a year. With the moratorium on social housing that went into effect last year, there were only three social housing projects on stream which will bring in another approximately 250 units, which is certainly not anywhere near meeting the need out there.
There are approximately 20,000 household applicants for social housing. Most of those are Peel Living, which is the major landlord in Peel, and the Peel Regional Housing Authority, which is the local housing authority for the Ontario Housing Corp.
While no one has done an actual count, it is estimated that there are 18,000 apartments in houses in all of Peel region. At the same time, the rent supplement program -- I am told that many of these units are being phased out of private buildings, so slowly, another avenue for people who typically can't afford to buy houses or live in market rents is being denied to many.
A study by Peel Living indicated that nearly half the residents living in non-profit housing are single parents. Also, 42% of Peel Living's residents were identified as coming previously from shared accommodation, typically with three or more people, and of those, more than three quarters were living in overcrowded conditions.
I'd like to conclude simply by saying that any legislative move in the environment being experienced in Peel region may have the following consequences: further discrimination, particularly against large families with three or more children, single parents -- roughly 80% of those are women -- people on social assistance and people with disabilities. Another implication will be growing homelessness, and, as we saw in the late 1980s, the intensification of practices such as key money.
At this point I'd like to turn it over to Aubrey Carrega to talk about the situation in Malton.
Mr Aubrey Carrega: Good morning. My name is Aubrey Carrega, and I'm the community housing worker of Malton Neighbourhood Services. I try to match landlords and tenants with safe, affordable housing. On a daily basis, I meet tenants who'd like to rent rooms in people's homes or I speak with landlords who have dwellings they would like to rent.
One of the things I've noticed in Malton is that quite a lot of new Canadians are arriving there and they want to settle with their sponsors, who are usually the families who sponsored them. They would be in the basements of those homes. My concern is that if Bill 20 goes through, would that be severed completely? Would we still allow second families to be in a basement? That's my concern.
I'm a bit nervous, because this is new to me.
The other thing is that the new arrivals do not have jobs. It takes a while for them to get jobs and settle down and get the first and last month's rent. It takes a while. If we don't have somewhere for these new arrivals to stay, there's going to be a problem. Where will these people go? They will encounter severe hardship, and if they have to rent from private landlords they will not have the money. I notice that in Malton a regular one-bedroom will go for about $650, whereas if there's a unit in somebody's home, it may go for $250 to $450. There's a big difference there.
The new Canadians help to stimulate the economy, in my opinion. Because if they are staying in somebody's basement, a relative's basement, they're not paying the regular market rent; they're saving money. From saving their money, they're allowed to get a down payment to get a new home, purchase a home that somebody else doesn't want. They want to move on to another unit. To me, that indirectly creates jobs, because you have to construct new homes for these people.
I was talking about the first and last month's rent. Private landlords, in my opinion, are much more flexible. We have situations in the Malton area where people have a poor credit rating, they do not have the first and last month's rent, they have too many children -- all kinds of reasons they couldn't get into a regular apartment building. The private landlords with a unit in the basement are more flexible. They're willing to say: "Okay, let's work something out here. You don't have the last month's rent but you can move in and pay me in instalments. You have too many children? It's okay, come in." That helps the vulnerable people to find accommodation.
We have situations of landlords who have already modified their basements. They have put in a separate entrance and have spent a lot of money to bring it to the standard required in Bill 120. If this bill is repealed, what happens to those landlords who invested that kind of money? I don't know.
I've had situations too where elderly people want a couple to move in with them just for companionship. What's happens there? That's a second family moving in. The elderly people may not want to rent it, they just want companionship for safety or whatever reason. That's a concern, and I've seen this a lot in Malton. I don't know what will happen there.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend that Bill 120 not be repealed. It should still stand, but we should have more inspectors going out to deal with residents, particularly in Malton, because I've seen some situations that maybe shouldn't be rented. I agree that we should still have Bill 120 but more inspectors going out there to inspect the premises. Thank you.
Mr Smith: Thank you very much. It's been interesting to hear the various presentations from tenants' groups. There's certainly consistency in the type of information that's being presented. It's refreshing as well to see the type of detail you've presented with respect to the Peel demand.
The irony in this, if we want to call it that, is that it's sort of all or nothing. Obviously, the government has articulated its position with respect to having municipal autonomy and decision-making involved in this process of apartments as a second unit. Concerns have been raised by tenant groups about potential discrimination on the basis of a number of reasons.
The previous group, West Scarborough Community Legal Services, provided some alternatives. Are you aware of any models or alternatives that might find common ground to this issue? Have you had the opportunity to experience that, or are you aware of other situations where the concerns you're expressing can be married in some part with the government's view that this really is a municipal issue? Are you aware of any solutions, or can you provide any solutions to this dichotomy that exists?
Mr Freeman: Looking at the problem, it's such a multi-pronged problem. On one hand, there was quite a bit of social housing development going on in the 1980s and early 1990s; that's been identified as being too costly, too time-consuming. I really don't think there's any silver bullet out there. I think it takes a number of different approaches to start to adjust the problem, and my point is that people don't choose to live in basement apartments. They live in them because they have no other choice. With the situation, as I mentioned -- the moratorium on social housing, the rent supplement being repealed -- this only makes the situation worse, in addition to an already low vacancy rate in the rental housing market.
I know there have been a lot of discussions on repealing rent control. I don't have a firm opinion on that, but again I don't see a single or even a two-pronged solution. I just fear, if the current legislation is repealed and basement apartments and apartments in homes are made more difficult to access, for what people will end up doing.
Mr Hardeman: I just want to clarify the second presentation. There's some discussion based on what will happen to the existing landlords that have apartments in their houses and how they will pay the mortgage. I just want to point out that Bill 20 does not make the existing establishments illegal; in fact, it allows them all to remain legal, those that were in existence or those for which building permits were attained before the deadline date. So we are talking about the future as opposed to the present, existing apartments. I want to ask if you do not feel that the decision of where these apartment should or should not be allowed and where they should be serviced is not a more appropriate decision for the local municipality rather than Queen's Park?
Mr Freeman: This is an ongoing discussion. I know in Peel, especially in the discussion of where to put social housing developments, it's been a long standing debate that the municipality should have that control and I'm not in principle opposed to that as long as the decisions that are made do not discriminate against a certain segment of the population who are most vulnerable to being homeless or to losing their apartments or not being able to enter the rental market.
Mr Hoy: Good morning. In the last six or so weeks, there's been a lot of discussion about special interest and special-interest groups. Generally, it contains a negative connotation or at least people perceive it to be that way. However, I have a different view of things. I think that people who are interested in an issue and want to help others, as you are here today, are special. So I congratulate you on your presentation.
I want to particularly say that your statistical analysis in the first presentation helps to understand the people who are affected by or potentially will be affected by Bill 20, and it gives a kind of face to who we are talking about. I appreciate that part of your presentation very much, and your effort and your desire to see that the best outcome of Bill 20 that affects these people is actually put in place, and I appreciate your presentation here very much.
Mr Hampton: We've heard from a number of groups and individuals about the issue of second apartments. I wonder if you can confirm something for me. It's my sense, from hearing all the groups, that whether or not these apartments are illegal, they are going to exist in the future and they are going to exist in greater number in the future, because there will be a growing demand for them and because many people who own homes will have their incomes decreased somewhat and will be looking for ways to help enhance their income. Would you agree with that?
Mr Freeman: Yes.
Mr Carrega: Yes, I do.
Mr Hampton: What's going to happen, though, is if we move back to a world where these apartments can be declared illegal is that we will see more of these apartments not meeting the fire code, the electrical code, the building code. In other words, the people who live at them will have their health and safety at risk.
The third sense I get is that these people will be denied the kinds of legal rights we would usually associate with citizenship. Those legal rights would be the right to complain about living conditions that are unsafe or in some cases unhealthy because if you do you'll get kicked out, is my sense. What it comes down to is, is the government interested in the values of all these people who I think will be placed at risk and will be denied, I think, what are commonly called the legal rights of citizenship? Is the government interested in those folks or is the government interested in catering to all sorts of --
Mr Hampton: No, Bill, I take this issue very seriously.
Mr Murdoch: Well, you should but you're --
Mr Hampton: Because in effect what your government's doing is it's ghettoizing a whole group of people.
Mr Murdoch: What you're saying is that we should have the municipalities --
The Chair: Order, Mr Murdoch.
Mr Murdoch: Well, he's asking.
The Chair: Through the Chair, not directly.
Mr Hampton: I'd like to ask one further question. My sense is that municipalities for a long time had jurisdiction over this, yet the information we've received is that all kinds of illegal apartments that were not inspected, that fell below the health and safety guidelines, that fell below the electrical standards, that fell below the fire standards, were allowed and in fact existed across the province.
Mr Carrega: This is why I was saying that I agree with having Bill 120, but you must have more inspectors going out there and checking the units. I agree with that, and this is part of the thing I said before. Yes, I agree we must have inspectors out there.
Mr Hampton: Have municipalities in the past looked after this issue in a responsible way?
Mr Freeman: I'm not going to touch that one. In Mississauga, which tends to be, more than Brampton, a little more cognizant, or tries to enforce zoning bylaws that would maintain single-family houses, you may recall that in the last couple of years there have been some fairly high-profile cases of lives lost through fires and there have been inquests, and I believe there was one in Brampton. So as far as responsibility is concerned, I think it just indicates that there is a gap in the mechanism to ensure that apartments in houses are up to a level of safety, with regard to fire standards in particular.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make presentation this morning. We appreciate it.
CITY OF TORONTO
The Chair: Our final presentation this morning will be from the city of Toronto legal department.
Mr Dennis Perlin: Happy Valentine's Day.
Ms Churley: Oh, brought some candies for us?
Mr Perlin: No, just a wonderful submission that I hope you'll adopt. My name is Dennis Perlin. I'm the city solicitor for the city of Toronto and with me is John Paton, who is the assistant city solicitor.
We've submitted a few pieces of paper to you this morning. First of all, there's a formal letter to the committee attaching the city of Toronto brief with respect to Bill 20. Also, just in case anyone wants to follow the submission I was going to make this morning, it's also set out for you in a separate piece. The brief is this, and it has attached the council minutes and the submission this morning in terms of dealing with two particular points, which is the document that has the big print on top: "Bill 20."
If we have time, we'd be glad to go into a little bit more on the brief itself, but the two points we wish to deal with and we hope all members of the Legislature will see -- especially in the first point, one that is truly neutral but truly a streamlined measure, one that can save significant dollars in terms of legal fees, survey fees, registration fees and just time in itself, and one we hope you would see as a streamlining measure that could be adopted.
It deals with -- I know it will seem like a very mundane matter compared to some of the policy issues you're dealing with -- an important matter to many people who deal with development where site plan control is in effect, which is of course most, if not all, of the urban areas of the province, but particularly in the city.
The present system by which a municipality secures its approval and ensures that it gives notice to future owners and mortgagees, and then is binding on those future owners and mortgagees, is by way of the creation of a development agreement, its registration. What we are seeking as an alternative is one that would allow for an option in the bill that would allow simply notice to be done by way of recording the approval with the zoning bylaw status information system that municipalities have.
As many of you know, it's due diligence, common real estate practice, in fact required standard real estate practice, and indeed for those owners who do their own real estate work, for them to go to the municipality and seek a letter of compliance with respect to what are the zoning matters, are there outstanding work orders etc. What we have and what I know most municipalities have recorded with their zoning bylaw information is whether or not a site plan approval has been given and what conditions have been attached.
Because the present act provides for agreements and the registration of those as the way of giving notice to future owners and mortgagees, the question arises whether the approval in itself is notice to future owners. I am one of those municipal solicitors who believes that it is, but I have to tell you that there's a great deal of doubt, and I have some colleagues who think there's even greater doubt than others because of the fact that the Planning Act at the present time provides only one option with respect to notice and that is the creation and registration of an agreement.
Some of these agreements, as you'll see in the presentation -- I'm trying to keep it short because I know you want to leave in time to have some lunch -- can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000, and this can sometimes be on a very simple site plan matter for a small developer, because while we in the city, for example, create agreements, some smaller municipalities require the developers themselves to have it drafted. In any case, even if it's drafted by us, it has to be reviewed by other legal counsel.
There are legal fees for getting it executed, for getting it registered. There are survey fees in some cases to have it registered, or sometimes when there's a lane conveyance or a small piece of road allowance to be conveyed a survey has to be created. As I said, those fees are anywhere from a minimum of $500 to $5,000, whereas in most cases people can get the information in terms of a site plan approval and will get it when they send in their letter to the municipality when they're buying or when they're mortgaging for notice. They will get the notice as to what it is that the zoning bylaw provides and what it is that is the site plan approval and what are the conditions that are attached.
What we are trying to do here today is ask you to allow for an optional method of recording these approvals with the zoning bylaw status information register at a municipality. You have it, for example, in Bill 163 for registering municipal properties; you have it here in Bill 20, depending on your debate on second unit registrations in section 59 of your bill. There are many registers, and of course zoning bylaw status is something that a municipality has to give, and it's not a letter that a person can avoid. You have to send your letter of compliance even if we've registered an agreement. People will still have to send their letter to find out what's the status, what isn't in compliance.
What we developed at the city and what we're here for is to seek in the bill clear authority for what we are now doing. I show you at the end of our presentation -- there are two sheets at the end, the two last pieces of paper. You'll see there's a statement of approval/undertaking which is the second last document. What you'll see is signed by the planning official as the site plan approval and on the back you'll see the owner. You have an initial developer-owner who indicates that in this case she has accepted the approval and the conditions.
I purposely tried to show one on Coxwell that had three important conditions, but would at least from a municipal perspective -- but frankly, to spend $500 in order to have this registered is perhaps not necessary, especially when one can go get that information.
As per the next document that you see, the last document, which does have the department of buildings request, what we call the form letter that goes out as a letter of compliance, you will see on it the undertakings for 339 Coxwell, what the status of the conditions is etc. It does achieve what an agreement registration would achieve. That's the first point we would ask you.
We do give you wording -- you'll see it on page 4 of the letter or on page 4 of the brief, in both cases -- in which we add to the registering of the agreements the recording of "the approval and conditions under the same system used to record the zoning status of properties by the municipality." It streamlines this process tremendously and it saves significant dollars.
The last issue I will mention with it is this. The reason, of course, that we have to put the agreement on title at the present time, if you're using a fail-safe method, is to secure it against future owners and mortgagees. In order to do that, you have to get what's called a postponement agreement -- I'm sure many of you are familiar with it -- from mortgagees that may be there at present.
We have had the unfortunate circumstances sometimes that in order to get those particular postponement agreements, not only are there fees, legal fees for preparation and execution and registration charged by the mortgage company; sometimes mortgagees have charged additional money in order to give the postponement agreement or have even raised an interest rate under a mortgage in order to give the postponement agreement.
That, I would say to you, is a rather unsavoury practice, and this type of practice we're now attempting to have put into the Planning Act will avoid that type of practice as well. I've seen it all too often during my 23 years in municipal law practice, so I commend that to you. I would hope that is one that you could adopt without a great deal of debate.
The second one may be a little bit harder for you: that city council would like the OMB access to remain for committee of adjustment variances. We have 1,000 or more applications to the committee of adjustment. We appreciate the city of Toronto is the largest area in terms of the province, in terms of committee of adjustment variances, and we have sometimes 200 or 800 appeals. Sometimes the municipality goes on 20-some appeals a year.
We do not believe that you should charge the municipality or the appellant for access to the OMB. You've given options; I appreciate you've set out options, but they should not include a requirement that in order to access the OMB appeal option, you have to pay a cost. We believe section 69 of the Planning Act, as it is, will allow us to pass that cost on to the appellant. That cost can be quite significant.
We're concerned that people of means perhaps can afford it. We're concerned that people will avoid going with minor variance applications and go with zoning bylaw applications because then they can get free accessibility to the Ontario Municipal Board. So it may not be encouraging what some may have hoped, that this will be a more efficient practice. It may turn out to be a less efficient practice as people look for ways to get to the OMB by doing a zoning bylaw application as opposed to a minor variance application.
More importantly, it shouldn't be downloaded on to the municipality. We have no control over the costs of the OMB. We don't make the appointments, we don't set out its administration, we don't determine its salaries; you do, and the OMB does itself under the regulations that you provide for them. We have no control over those costs. For most boards we create we can control the costs because we control the budgets. I think it's an unfair practice to put it on a municipality. We don't wish to take away from any of the options that you've put there. There are some municipalities that will be glad to do the minor variances -- they have very few and do it themselves -- others that will appoint committees with a council and it will be a final decision, and others that might like to do the review process.
But it's a lot to expect a municipal council, in terms of a large city, to be able to handle 800 review requests or perhaps even more, because you now still have to pay a $125 filing fee for an appeal. So we would ask you to respectfully leave all of the options in the bill but please make sure access to the OMB an option that's available without cost to the municipality or the appellant, other than the usual filing fee that they have right now. That's our second point.
I commend, as I said, the whole brief to you including, you will see, city council's position on the issue you were discussing with the last application, that city council does not wish to see you repeal section 16 or section 35, those sections that allow for the as-of-right second residential unit in singles, semis and row houses. It has worked well in the city. There was a great hullabaloo that this would be the end of life in the R-1 sections of the city of Toronto; it has not turned out to be that case. I would commend that city council would ask you to please keep those provisions in the Planning Act.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation. The three areas that you covered are significant enough. I was particularly interested in your comments about the OMB and that whole discussion that you had there as to cost and downloading. I think they are significant concerns for all municipalities, whether it's the region of Toronto or elsewhere. I happen to be from a rural riding quite a distance from here and I know that costs, in light of a previous bill that was passed, are something they'll be very concerned with in regard to OMB etc. I thank you for highlighting those. Our party will discuss those.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. Happy Valentine's Day to you too.
A number of questions came out of your presentation, particularly the first one, which was quite technical, and I think I agree with you. I don't see any reason why the government should not agree with that. Hopefully, we can make such an amendment.
I wanted to ask you about municipal councils being given the power to consider minor variance applications or review decisions from the committee of adjustment. In other words, which would be the body that hears the final appeal? We've heard from a number of people that that's not a good idea for obvious reasons: that councils are very political and it is sometimes hard to be objective. I wonder if you can comment on that. Do you think it's a good idea, a bad idea?
Mr Perlin: In terms of the position of the city with respect to these OMB appeals, this should continue, and that is the preferred practice. Some of the most important planning matters that people ever face in their lives are these small minor variances; they sometimes cause the greatest problem in our city in terms of neighbourhood disputes and community disputes, and "the day in court" that the OMB provides to them is a very important matter.
It's also an important issue, sometimes, for owners-developers who feel they've tried very hard, with neighbouring owners and neighbouring groups, to reach agreement with them and they can't, and feel that they too should have access to the OMB, and they're not all big. Sometimes they're just home owners, they have very limited means, they are trying to get a porch or an addition on and feel that their next-door neighbour or others are being quite unfair and would prefer to have the OMB as the body that does hear that particular dispute and settles it.
In the city of Toronto it's a system that works quite well and indeed provides the greatest deal of problems, in most cases, for matters of dispute. People really do look to the OMB as that neutral body they can go to that's not appointed by city council -- so that's one strength, if you like, to it -- whereas the committee of adjustment is. Sometimes there's a concern that if you're going for a review, you're going to the same council that appointed the same committee of adjustment, so what type of neutral review are you going to get?
As many of you may know -- some of you have worked in municipalities -- it's the one time or sometimes the only time in people's lives where they will have the experience of fighting in the neighbourhood for something they really believe in and that they think is going to hurt their community, or, vice versa, something that somebody wishes to do with their property, and it's the most important thing they will ever do. They won't be building Raptor stadiums and SkyDomes and convention centres or going for those major rezonings. Minor variance is their day, and they want their day in court.
Mr Murdoch: Thank you for your presentation. On the first problem you brought up I would like to say to Mr Hardeman that maybe he will take that back and have our legal people look at it and see what they think. You do have some good points there, and we should be able to work something around that.
The second one, and I may be getting it wrong -- you're saying we should have an option in there that something like the city of Toronto could choose the option that minor variances do go to the OMB. I come from rural Ontario, and a lot of times I can see where minor variances shouldn't go there. I think councils have a responsibility to make some decisions, and a lot of the time what happens is that minor variances can be held up for a long time with really frivolous objections. I think that's why councils get elected sometimes, to make decisions. Am I hearing that right, that there should be an option in there that, "save if the city of Toronto wants that option," that they should be able to make that the way they would handle their problems?
Mr Perlin: Right now, you have that option in the bill. You have three options. The one that you're speaking to, Mr Murdoch, and that option could be chosen by that council, could stay either final by the council or by a committee of review or a committee that has a council member on it, and that's fine for those municipalities. In the city we're looking at about 150 to 200 that are appealed. It's very difficult for city council to try and deal with those requests, so in effect, in the city the option of going to the OMB is perhaps the most practical option.
Our concern is -- not that you take away any of the other options that other municipalities might wish to use -- only that the cost should not be charged back to the city of Toronto. That's what this bill provides, that the Ontario Municipal Board may charge the cost of those appeals back, and our concern is that it's unfair to do that to the municipality.
Mr Murdoch: If they choose that one option, yes.
Mr Perlin: If they choose that option, and some people will go with rezonings in order to ensure they get that option, as opposed to minor variances, and that will go without cost to the OMB.
Mr Murdoch: You like Bill 120 -- you just threw in at the end there that things are okay with basement apartments and that and you like it the way it is now.
Mr Perlin: The city council likes it the way it is now.
Mr Murdoch: Okay, that's just to get it on the record.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make your presentation this morning.
That being the last agenda item on this morning's calendar, this committee stands in recess until 1 o'clock, back here in room 2.
The committee recessed from 1213 to 1307.
CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF METROPOLITAN TORONTO
The Chair: First up this afternoon is the Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto. Good afternoon. We have 25 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between the presentation and question-and-answer time.
Mr Malcolm Shookner: Thank you. Our intention is to take about 15 minutes of the 25 to present our brief and then have time for questions. My name is Malcolm Shookner. I am a member of the board of directors of the Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto. I have with me here today Ann Fitzpatrick, who is a community worker for the agency, and Michael Johnson, who is a volunteer on our housing committee.
This submission will outline the mandate and client profile of the Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, the scope and recommendations in our submission, and the negative impact that we believe Bill 20 will have on the wellbeing of children, youth and families with whom we work.
The Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto is the largest board-operated child welfare organization in North America. Annually, our organization works with over 8,000 families and 17,500 children and youth. The Child and Family Services Act mandates our organization to protect children up to age 16 who are at risk for abuse and neglect. Where it is required, we also provide high-quality substitute care and adoption for children. In addition, our services include prevention and support programs to keep children with their families whenever possible.
The children's aid provides social services to some of the most economically and socially vulnerable children, youth and families in Ontario. Fifty-one per cent of our clients are lone-parent-led families; 56% of our clients are in receipt of social assistance; 35% of the children, youth and families we serve are members of racial minorities; 70% of our clients rely on private sector rental housing, 30% of them on subsidized housing.
Since we are one of the few mandated services which visit families in their homes, we have a unique perspective on the impact of accommodation on children and families. Accessing safe, adequate and affordable housing in the public and private housing sector is very difficult for many of our families, including youth in our care who are moving to independent living. Large reductions in social assistance rates for families, extremely low vacancy rates for rental housing in Metro Toronto and long waiting lists for government-subsidized housing have combined to make it very difficult for our clientele to find and keep suitable housing that they can afford. We expect this trend to continue.
The children's aid and other child welfare experts recognize the relationship between children's wellbeing and accessible, affordable and safe housing, and it was for that reason that our board of directors developed a housing policy and adopted it in 1981: "Everyone has a right to adequate, affordable housing, and furthermore it is the role of all levels of government to set and enforce policies in such a way to ensure that this occurs."
Research carried out by the University of Toronto and the children's aid found that housing problems were a factor in 18% of the cases where children were taken into our temporary care. Therefore, housing was a factor in up to 250 child admissions to care in a one-year period. The average cost for a child in care is $1,560 a month. In contrast, prevention and support services to children at home with their parents cost about $124 a month. The emotional and social costs are much harder to measure. We do not think that governments at any level can afford to ignore the basic housing needs and rights of children, youth and their families.
The scope of this submission relates specifically to the sections of Bill 20 that will regulate houses with second units and directly impact on the safety and housing needs of children and youth. In this brief, the terms "accessory apartments," "second units" and "apartments in houses" will be used interchangeably. On all occasions, we're referring to a second, self-contained apartment unit as defined under the Planning Act and the former Residents' Rights Act.
The children's aid worked with hundreds of organizations and individuals across the province leading up to the proclamation of the Residents' Rights Act. We appeared before a standing committee to support the bill in 1994. It is with great disappointment that less than two years later we're facing the repeal of this law.
The Residents' Rights Act was a step forward towards the provision of safer housing for children and families while legalizing and encouraging a small-scale addition to affordable rental housing supply. This legislation created a new level of consistency in every jurisdiction regarding fire safety and planning standards, benefiting homeowners and the children, youth and families living in these apartments.
To repeal this legislation by proclaiming Bill 20 will only serve to hide the development of new accessory units, once again placing children, youth and families at risk. The number of child deaths in unregulated, illegal apartments in houses prior to the passage of the Residents' Rights Act underscores our concern.
We recommend that the section of Bill 20 pertaining to apartments in houses be deleted from this legislation, and we further recommend that the provisions established in the Residents' Rights Act remain in force. This is in the interests of children and families who rely on housing that is accessible, affordable, safe and includes security of tenure.
Now I'd like to ask Ann Fitzpatrick to speak.
Ms Ann Fitzpatrick: I'd like to talk about the impact of Bill 20 on child welfare in terms of access to housing, affordable housing, safe housing and landlord and tenant rights.
Accessing housing is a major problem for many families involved with the children's aid society, and we support every government initiative that expands the number of rental housing options. Approximately 12% of the families we work with lived in basement apartments or apartments in houses in November 1995.
This form of housing provides additional choice for families regarding the housing they can access. Their choices are already seriously limited by low vacancy rates for rental housing -- which are at 0.6% in Metro -- tenant selection policies that screen out tenants on the basis of their income, long social housing waiting lists and high rental costs.
Apartments in houses are not just a source of housing for our clients; they make up a substantial percentage of the rental housing in the community. The recent Lampert report commissioned by this government states that accessory units "contribute 9% of the `non-conventional' private housing stock in Ontario."
Since the passage of the Residents' Rights Act, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has been trying to tabulate the number of new units created. Although not all municipalities gave their stats, as of September 1995, 433 new units have been created, 119 units have been upgraded and 280 inspections of existing units have been completed, 53% of which required smoke alarms.
Apartments in houses are a viable form of housing that expand the choices for low-income parents and children.
The children's aid supports laws and programs that will result in the development of affordable housing options. Many families involved with children's aid pay a large percentage of their income for housing. Since the social assistance rates were cut in November 1995 by 21.6%, the numbers of evictions have reportedly gone up in Metro, there are more households on social assistance unable to pay their rent and the shelters in Metro Toronto have noted a 52% increase in homeless families in the past year. There are over 600 children and another 600 adults who are living in cramped motel rooms on Kingston Road that represent the shelter overflow in Metro Toronto. The CAS has had children come into our care, which is very expensive, due to parents' inability to feed and house their children. More than ever, the province needs to show leadership in supporting solutions to increase affordable apartments to meet this need.
In terms of our experience, apartments in houses are a more affordable form of housing and this has been supported by research done by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in their report Apartments in Houses, October 1992. Furthermore, the Lampert report once again speaks to the affordability of apartments in houses and they quote:
"Not only do they augment the total supply of rental housing, but they add variety, and particularly with accessory apartments, they comprise a low-rent, low-cost addition to the rental stock that would not be possible without subsidized new construction."
Planning experts, housing experts and child welfare experts have recognized that this is an important source of affordable housing and we think it's necessary for the government to catch up.
We think Bill 20 is going to create obstacles to the development of affordable housing apartments. It removes the overriding as-of-right provision for homeowners who want to add a unit and it returns the powers to municipalities to invoke historically restrictive zoning and planning standards. Mandatory registration systems will add even more red tape and bureaucracy that homeowners will try to avoid.
If history repeats itself, we predict that Bill 20 will reduce the number of legal apartments that are installed, but it will not reduce the number that are created underneath the view of the municipalities. Before the Residents' Rights Act was passed, we need to remind ourselves that 100,000 homeowners in Ontario defied local zoning. They created an underground market of housing units. They were exercising what they saw were their property rights and in some cases it was an economic necessity to prevent mortgage foreclosure. The Residents' Rights Act finally legitimized and regulated this form of affordable housing.
We think homeowners who install apartments in houses are part of the housing solution in Ontario without cost to the government. Private rental starts are at the lowest level in 50 years and there's no solution on the immediate horizon. It's unclear why a public policy that promotes privatization would implement a bill that effectively attacks homeowners' options to make their housing more affordable while meeting a community need. Bill 20, with the added zoning restrictions, will create needless obstacles to inhibit the development of affordable housing.
CAS is concerned that Bill 20 will not be as effective as the Residents' Rights Act in ensuring most apartments in houses are safe and regulated. Our workers make home visits regularly and it was because of some of their concerns about apartments in houses that we advocated for Bill 120 to be passed. We saw Bill 120 and the Residents' Rights Act as the most significant advance in terms of the safety of apartments in houses. The law did provide enforcement tools to a municipality that did not exist before, such as an amended fire code and building code. In contrast, Bill 20 will result in confusion in standards that various apartments must meet and will create greater problems with safety.
From our perspective, there are going to be three tiers of apartments in houses in Ontario after Bill 20 passes: grandfathered units that have one set of standards, a second set of standards for municipalities that allow zoning for new units, and a third tier which is going to be the one where homeowners continue to defy zoning. This is going to be a nightmare in terms of enforcement and in terms of tenants even knowing what kind of housing they're living in.
With few exceptions, prior to the Residents' Rights Act accessory apartments were not permitted in most cities and in most areas across Ontario, which left tenants and homeowners with no property standards, enforcements and supports. Tenants could not, if they were living in an illegally zoned apartment, phone their local city to enforce any standards because they would be at risk of having that unit shut down. People want safe housing; they don't want to lose their housing. Under Bill 20 tenants have little to look forward to. Once again, in unregulated housing they're going to be in a safety limbo.
One of the tools municipalities have as the result of the Residents' Rights Act is an amended fire code that makes specific standards for basement apartments and apartments in houses. Section 9.8 of the fire code came into effect in July 1994, and within 30 days homeowners had to install smoke detectors. Since the passage of Bill 120, there has been one fire fatality in Ontario, in contrast to seven fire deaths between January 1994 and July 1994 involving several children.
In July 1996 further regulations will come into effect regarding exits and fire containment. We believe this new fire code regulation was a big step forward in promoting safety for children and families. Homeowners can face big fines and there are liability issues if they don't comply, and tenants don't have to be afraid of losing their housing if they phone to complain. With Bill 20, we're not certain how homeowners are going to see whether they need to comply with this or not.
Regarding enforcement powers, Bill 20 proposes to give municipalities added powers to have every home registered. In our opinion, this is an excessive regulation and will do more harm than good. Apartments in houses represent 9% of the non-conventional housing market and as such they should be considered part of the regular housing stock and should not require a parallel system of enforcement. Apartments in houses and their tenants should be treated in an equal fashion with other tenants and have the same access to property standard staff and fire staff on a complaint basis.
A separate costly registration system for over 100,000 units is going to be another disincentive for homeowners to come forward and will result in an underground market of these units. With municipal grants reduced on an average of 20% or more, it's not economically feasible to set up this kind of system unless it's financed by homeowners, and fees are expensive. Wouldn't you rather see homeowners spend their money on smoke alarms and safety upgrades rather than registration fees?
Prior to the passage of Bill 20, if tenants were living in an apartment in a house that was illegal due to zoning, legal clinics and tenants faced confusion and inconsistency in landlord and tenant court. Tenants were in a legal limbo, they were like second-class citizens, and in all cases they did not have their rights upheld regarding evictions, privacy and other aspects of the Landlord and Tenant Act. The Residents' Rights Act finally ensured that tenants in accessory units have the same rights as other tenants in Ontario. Bill 20 will leave a growing number of tenant households vulnerable and uncertain in terms of their landlord and tenant rights.
Mr Shookner: A couple of concluding remarks: The Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto has had years of direct experience working in the homes of families, children and youth who live in apartments in houses. We urge this committee to delete the section of Bill 20 pertaining to apartments in houses and recommend that the provisions established in the Residents' Rights Act remain in force.
By enacting that law, the former government showed leadership by effectively balancing the safety and rights of tenants, homeowners, the need for affordable housing and good planning with long-standing municipal resistance to accessory units. This law was in the best interests of children and families who rely on housing that is accessible, affordable, safe and includes security of tenure.
Apartments in houses are a reality in Ontario. Families, children, youth, students, seniors, the disabled and thousands of social assistance recipients rely on this form of housing. Again, the Lampert report estimates it's about 9% of the non-conventional housing stock.
Many centres in Ontario, including Metro Toronto, are facing a crisis in rental housing with vacancy rates nearing zero. Homelessness is on the rise, and overcrowding. As Ann mentioned earlier, we've already filled up the motels on Kingston Road with homeless families that the shelters can't take, and this is before the changes that we anticipate coming from this new legislation. We may have to start using the hotels downtown pretty soon to fill them up with homeless people because there won't be any place else to put them.
We believe that the province of Ontario must take responsibility by investing in creative and sustainable housing solutions. The Residents' Rights Act was a positive solution, long overdue. It would be a serious mistake to repeal this law and would jeopardize the wellbeing of thousands of children and families. Thank you for your attention.
Mr Hampton: One of the arguments that the government is making is that this whole issue should be left in the hands of municipal authorities, that municipal authorities are in the best position to deal with this issue. What's your sense of how responsibly municipal governments have dealt with this issue in the past? Do you have any views on that?
Ms Fitzpatrick: Sure. I would be very concerned about putting the powers back into the hands of municipalities. I have had direct experience in trying to support, make deputations to city councils, making these same arguments. Since 1989, when the Liberal government introduced the housing policy statement, very few municipalities on a voluntary basis came forward with bylaws that would permit accessory apartments in certain areas. There has been a vehement opposition to apartments in houses by municipalities, and I see no reason why that's going to change.
The other thing I've seen at first hand, being on the board of a shelter that was developing in one city and being familiar with the non-profit developments across municipalities, is that the not-in-my-backyard syndrome is very pervasive when it comes to trying to get planning approvals for housing developments that relate to low-income people. Our history has been that zoning and planning decisions are being made on the basis of who is going to live in a development, as in an accessory apartment or a social housing building, versus legitimate planning concerns. In answer to your question, we aren't confident that municipalities will act progressively or responsibly on this issue.
Mr Hampton: We've had a number of presentations on this part of the bill. The sense we get is that the market for these types of apartments is going to grow astronomically. Whether they are legal or illegal, the market is going to grow astronomically because there will be so many people in need of less expensive housing in apartments and there will be a number of homeowners who, in effect, need to supplement their income.
The sense I get is that the choice is not between having these apartments and not having them. We will have them. The choice is between ensuring that they are safe, that they meet fire code, that they meet electrical code, that they're healthy places to live, on the one hand, which I think would come with regulation and as of right for property owners, and on the other hand, ignoring their existence and putting up with all kinds of unsafe conditions in terms of fire inspection, electrical inspection and other things. What's your sense?
Ms Fitzpatrick: I agree with most of what you said except that I don't necessarily think, based on history, we're going to see an explosion or a flood of new units. I think there is a market for them, but homeowners have to be in a special situation to want to add a secondary unit to their home. I think if you look at the statistics that the ministry has collected over the last 18 months when the Residents' Rights Act has been in place -- we haven't heard from every municipality, but you're not seeing a flood. There still will be some homeowners who may put in units without safety standards, but the idea is they're in the regulatory framework and they can be brought forward.
But I think the issue is, all the other statements that you said I think are true, that they're going to keep coming on stream in a regulatory framework or not, and providing the as-of-right zoning provides one less burden for homeowners and I believe provides more of an incentive for homeowners to phone the city and say, "How do I do this right?" because they're not in fear that they're going to be told, "No, you can't do it."
Mr Murdoch: Do you actually believe in municipal government?
Mr Shookner: Yes.
Mr Murdoch: Okay, that's one good thing. What about local autonomy then?
Mr Shookner: Where local autonomy results in people being put at a severe disadvantage or their health and safety being at risk, I think there are limits to local autonomy, which is where a provincial role comes in.
Mr Murdoch: So you think the provincial should do that. Okay. I just want to know where you're coming from.
It's really strange to sit here and listen to people advocate, basically, that if we don't do something, people will break the law. I mean, they're breaking the law when they put apartments in houses when it's against the zoning. That's against the law. We seem to sit here, or some people do, and say: "That's fine. That's going to happen willy-nilly. It doesn't matter. We can break the law in this country and it doesn't really make any difference."
I find it really disturbing that our society has come to that and that you could sit there and say, if we pass Bill 20, people are still going to break the law. This is very disturbing for society, and if that's the way you feel society has gone, then I think we're in trouble, because that's what you're saying.
Ms Fitzpatrick: On an issue like this, when a homeowner puts an apartment in against zoning, I think in a sense they're voting, they're trying to tell elected officials what makes common sense in their lives and in communities. The fact of the matter is that they're not breaking into stores, they're not imposing on someone else. What they're trying to do is create some housing within their own private property and they're providing housing for another tenant.
We're not advocating for people to break the law. We're asking for municipalities to catch up with the economic realities of our time. Both homeowners and tenants have a lot of economic needs that our governments are not addressing and maybe cannot be expected to address. We're saying give homeowners the autonomy.
Mr Murdoch: It's strange, though, we vote by breaking the law. That's why we have elections. They get a chance to vote for these people in their elections.
Mr Hampton: Bill, who's the Premier who said that tax evasion is only human nature?
Mr Murdoch: Howard, if you'd like to debate with me, why don't you ask the Chair if maybe we can have a debate here?
Mr Hampton: Bill, I'm trying to help you out. Who's the Premier who said that tax evasion is only human nature?
Mr Murdoch: I don't know who the Premier is. That's your job, to find that out, not my job. I'm saying that here we're advocating to vote by breaking the law.
Mr Shookner: Excuse me. I think you have misunderstood what we're trying to say. We did not say what you're suggesting we said.
Mr Murdoch: The lady said we vote by putting that in there --
Mr Shookner: Your interpretation of that is wrong. I think the record will show that.
Mr Murdoch: -- and that's not the way to vote. We have elections to vote.
Mr Shookner: We also have committees and legislatures to vote.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for being here today. I assume you're good, outstanding citizens who are not here with any intention of condoning the breaking of laws, but I do understand that you want to amend or change an impending law. Your presentation is probably testing the capacities of the present provincial government to make good law. I appreciate your being here. The question of whether we require municipal levels of government or provincial government is not really the question here. We're talking about Bill 20 and a change to some law.
You mentioned the municipal grants that have been cut, and you mention 20%. I assume you chose that figure for some reason, maybe a generalization. I can tell you, just during the noon-hour break I was looking at a municipality's cut of 31%. The government would say: "If municipalities must do some inspection of these apartments, they can charge fees, and there's no problem here. You can be cut 32%, 20%, 18%, as a municipality, and you have the ability to charge fees." Fine. What about the ability of those to pay the fees? Do you have any comment about that?
Mr Shookner: As a corollary to the statement that there's only one taxpayer, there's only one taxpayer-feepayer, in the sense that whatever requirements of the provincial or municipal governments to raise money to conduct what they think is important is going to come out of the pockets of all of us in varying degrees. To shift the focus to municipal governments and put them in the position that they have to charge fees for services like this, if they're going to try to do the right thing, they're going to take the heat as well for the adverse affects of this kind of legislation.
I think an underlying question here is, what are the appropriate roles of the provincial and municipal governments in trying to create an adequate environment within which -- what we care about here today is environments within which children and families and youth can live in a reasonably healthy and safe and secure way. Governments have a role to play in this. The market will not do the job. We know from experience that that's the case. That's a long answer to your question.
The Chair: Thank you, all, for taking the time to make your presentation before us. We appreciate your comments.
Ms Churley: Mr Chair, before we go to our next presentation, I'd like to make a motion. I move that this committee formally request the Minister of Environment and Energy to appear before this committee during the first day of clause-by-clause deliberations 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 make this motion because yesterday when I made a motion to request the minister to appear before this committee during public hearings, the government members denied that request. One of the reasons given by Dr Galt was that it was not necessary for the minister to be here because he is the parliamentary assistant to the minister and could act on his behalf. Well, he isn't even here today.
I will be introducing amendments to Bill 20, because I see this as a very destructive bill when it comes to the environment. I believe it will take us back decades in terms of environmental protection. We have not heard from the Minister of Environment and Energy at all regarding this bill, and she has to be accountable to the people of this province regarding the areas of the bill that relate to the environment, of which there are many, and she must be available to provide comments and information on such a very important bill that seems about to be passed by this government.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Mr Chairman, I would respectfully say that we had the debate on this yesterday. It's relatively the same motion. Could we just call the question and vote on it?
The Chair: That's a function of when debate ceases, Mr Baird. Any further debate?
Ms Churley: I want to make it very clear that this is a different motion from yesterday. We're about to hear from CELA. I've had a chance to look through this document. This is a very well-respected organization, consisting of environmental lawyers and policy people. They have, as we will hear in a few minutes, very serious concerns about the impacts this Planning Act, if it's passed as it's before us now, will have on the environment. I think it's absolutely crucial, and I would expect that the backbenchers of this government will want to know, before just willy-nilly going along with passing this bill the way it is, the implications it's going to have on the environment and on the health of the people in their own communities. I can't believe they don't want to hear from the minister so they themselves will have more knowledge when we're going through clause-by-clause, with amendments coming forward, about the implications of the bill. It's unbelievable.
Mr Hardeman: I would first ask the Chair to rule on whether the motion is in fact in order. I deem it to be the same motion that was dealt with at 6 last night. After the ruling of the Chair, I would like to debate the motion, if the Chair rules that it is in order.
The Chair: It is in order, Mr Hardeman. It's substantively different inasmuch as the request is for a specific day, namely, the first day of clause-by-clause.
Mr Murdoch: The parliamentary assistant, you mentioned, couldn't be here today, but he was here yesterday, I understand.
Mr Baird: He told you he wouldn't be here today.
Ms Churley: I don't know about that, but I do know we have a very important presentation, for instance, coming up now, and I am disappointed. He gave the reason it wasn't necessary to have the Minister of Environment and Energy here: because he was here to represent the minister.
Mr Baird: He said yesterday he wouldn't be here.
Ms Churley: None the less, I think my motion makes it very clear why I'm asking that at some point -- and I'm being specific: during clause-by-clause, when we are putting forward amendments -- we all know what's going on here. I would hope you'd want that information yourself.
Mr Murdoch: Certainly, and I'll do my best to know what's going on myself and talk to different people we hear in submissions, but I understand Mr Galt will be here, hopefully, when we go through clause-by-clause. As you know, parliamentary assistants are somewhat as bright as the minister. Somebody may object or may disagree with that, but you know that. Your motion maybe is not out of order, in terms of putting the motion in, but I think it shouldn't be passed at this time. We should make sure we have capable people here to answer any questions you'd like answered, but not necessarily that it has to be the minister.
When you tie it down like that, it's unfortunate we can't vote for something like that or I can't support it. But I have no problem having people here who are expert and things like that, and we do have different ones within the ministry. That's why I think it's a little premature to say that at this point. We still have two more weeks of meetings and all kinds more presentations come to us, and I think we should wait until then and look at it then.
Mr Hoy: Having been here yesterday when the parliamentary assistant was speaking about the possibility of the minister coming before the committee, his suggestion was that his presence was enough to satisfy.
Mr Baird: He said yesterday he wouldn't be here.
Mr Hoy: That isn't the case, though.
Mr Baird: Check the record. He said he would not be here.
Mr Hoy: The request was made for clause-by-clause. Yes, we do have other weeks of hearings to come, but certainly the minister would be able to respond to those at that time, and I will be supporting the motion.
Ms Churley: I found Mr Murdoch's suggestion very interesting. If this motion is lost, I'd be happy to take him up on the offer that the parliamentary assistant will be able to answer questions on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Energy. In terms of process I'd have to ask you, Chair, but if this motion fails, which it appears it's going to, I'd like to put that forward as a motion. But I assume I have to wait until we deal with this one.
Mr Hardeman: I will not be supporting the resolution. Contrary to the Chair's ruling, I believe that the resolution yesterday dealt with the appearance of the Minister of Environment and Energy at these committee hearings. I do not believe that just changing the time and defining the time that they would or would not appear changes the resolution.
Having said that, I want to point out that in terms of the minister being here to speak as it relates to the delegations that will be coming forward and the fact that the parliamentary assistant is unavailable to be here today to hear the presentation, I suggest that if the minister came to the clause-by-clause, she would not have had the opportunity to hear any of the delegations. I suggest that the ability of the parliamentary assistant to address the issues and the clause-by-clause will still be as well served as it was previously.
I would also point out that the Canadian Environmental Law Association, which the presenters will be members of, has had meetings with the minister where a number of people were in attendance to discuss the issues, and in fact they have been requested to meet with the minister to discuss the policy statements but at this point have not yet agreed to do that. I think we should carry on hearing the delegations as they come forward to speak to the bill. I will not be voting for the resolution.
Mr Murdoch: I think when we go into clause-by-clause we should have a free-wheeling discussion and everybody should be able to put their points on, and I'm sure we'll have as many people with expertise as we can here, different parliamentary assistants. Municipal Affairs is here today, and I'm sure Doug will be here. He can't be here all the time. I know he left. You knew yesterday he wouldn't be here. I haven't been here for two days, unfortunately, but we can't always be here.
Ms Churley: That's okay. We forgive you.
Mr Murdoch: Thanks, Marilyn. I'm always happy when Marilyn will forgive me.
I think we should get on. I think we'll have that free-wheeling discussion. I hope to be here for clause-by-clause too, and then we can get at some of these issues that the opposition so dearly wants to.
The Chair: Seeing no further debate, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion?
Ms Churley: A recorded vote, please.
Baird, Fisher, Hardeman, Murdoch, Ouellette, Skarica, Smith.
The Chair: By a vote of 7 to 2, the motion fails.
Ms Churley: Okay, I have another motion. I move that this committee formally requests the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy to make a presentation before this committee during the first day of clause-by-clause deliberations and answer questions relating to the effect of the Planning Act amendments, Bill 20, on the environment and the people of the province of Ontario.
Mr Murdoch: I still think it's premature. I don't think we need to do this at this time. I think you're way ahead of yourself. I don't like to see anybody play games, and I'm sure you're not. As I said on the other one, I think you're premature in this motion. I think we've got to wait and see what we get. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this you'll be so full of wisdom that you won't need any wisdom from us. I think we should just let it go and defeat your motion and let's get on with business and later on bring up some of these ideas you have.
Ms Churley: Mr Chair, with all due respect, we were not able to get any credible answers from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on the first day about the impact on the environment. With all due respect to the parliamentary assistant to the minister, he's been full of very flowery language about what a wonderful job this government is doing on the environment but doesn't seem to understand what's within this bill. I would like to make sure that he is aware, in terms of his duties as parliamentary assistant to be fully apprised of the implications to the environment, and that we have somebody involved in that ministry, one of the politicians involved in that ministry -- I think we deserve that as a committee -- come in here willing to give a presentation and answer questions, for everyone's comfort. I think that is extremely important.
It is not premature. Perhaps it might even prevent other motions tomorrow and the day after and the day after, in terms of me trying to get this government to agree to have some presentation and questions answered at some time in this process. I would urge the members to agree to this motion today. It makes sense. I don't see why anybody should have any problems with it.
Mrs Fisher: Mr Chair, I do understand Ms Churley's concerns. We are all sitting here. We are all in receipt of the delegations and presentations being made. We will have an opportunity, through clause-by-clause, to do our debating as necessary. We'll also have another opportunity in the House to do the same, and I do happen to agree with Mr Murdoch's statement that there'll be an opportunity, a time and a place to make that happen. We know we have credible people in our party who can represent the ideas and the interests that are being discussed at the table. We'll make sure they're here. So I would urge the rest of our caucus members to vote against the motion at this time.
Mr Hardeman: Mr Chairman, I agree with the last speaker. The parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Environment and Energy was appointed to this committee, subbed into this committee, because of his expertise and his involvement with the Ministry of Environment and Energy. I have all confidence that Mr Galt will be present during the clause-by-clause debate and I have no reason to assume that he would not be prepared to answer questions as they were asked, so I do not believe it's appropriate to pass a resolution that that in fact must happen.
As the process is unfolding, it in all probability will happen. I think we should carry on and hear from the delegations who are here to present to us, rather than to sit and debate who should and who should not be sitting around the table on the first day of clause-by-clause.
Mr Hoy: Would you repeat the motion for me, please?
Ms Churley: I move that this committee formally request the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy to make a presentation before this committee during the first day of clause-by-clause deliberations and answer questions relating to the effect of the Planning Act amendments, Bill 20, on the environment and the people of the province of Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you. Is there any further debate? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
Ms Churley: Recorded vote.
Baird, Fisher, Hardeman, Murdoch, Ouellette, Skarica, Smith.
The Chair: By a vote of 7 to 2, the motion fails.
Ms Churley: I don't know what you're so afraid of.
CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation this afternoon is the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Good afternoon. Sorry for the delay. We appreciate your indulgence.
Ms Kathleen Cooper: Thank you. Before I begin, I just want to clarify something that Mr Hardeman just said in the context of that debate you just went through. In fact, there were no meetings with the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Minister of Environment and Energy on the matter of amendments to the Planning Act, as I think I heard you say. There should have been. There were not.
There was very little consultation during the fall as very quickly these changes to the Planning Act and the policies were made. There was one very brief meeting with members of citizens and environmental groups in September concerning possible changes to the Planning Act. That was not consultation, as far as I am concerned. I just think it's important to clarify that matter. Now, on to my presentation.
Just for your information, the Canadian Environmental Law Association is a non-profit, public-interest organization specializing in environmental law and policy. We have had at least eight years of experience in land use planning work in Ontario. Four years ago we assisted with the formation of the land use caucus of the Ontario Environment Network, which is a network of over 90 citizens and environmental groups from across the province.
Through that structure, we have worked with citizens and environmental groups across the province on matters of land use planning reform, both in terms of direct client representation and in the consultation that was undertaken by the previous government on planning reform.
Those organizations with which we have worked have detailed involvement in planning issues in their communities all the way to OMB hearings. That's just some background on who CELA is and whom we have worked with on this matter.
Just to summarize the concerns we have with Bill 20, the changes in this so-called Land Use Planning and Protection Act are regressive in many respects. We believe that the bill will remove essential planning tools and thereby contribute to continued environmental damage, urban sprawl and renewed delays in the planning process. The bill will also contribute to excessive costs as a result of both delay and conflict during the process itself and as a result of bad planning decisions.
A little bit of history. The need to reform planning was well known in the late 1980s. It's fair to say that the controversy around planning decisions contributed to the fall of the Liberal government in the late 1980s. Much of that controversy surrounded the inability of the system to adequately address environmental concerns.
With the establishment of the Sewell commission, there was in Ontario one of the most extensive consultations I have ever participated in and that I think this province, perhaps even Canada, has ever seen. The planning reform package that was developed was a result of extensive consultation and compromise and represented a broad consensus and a very valuable step forward in Ontario. Bill 20 reverses those reforms. In particular, it reverses reforms that were broadly supported by citizens' groups, by environmental groups that have extensive experience in the land use planning system.
I want to draw your attention for a moment to the media backgrounder that was distributed on the day that Bill 20 was introduced. On a fact sheet about changes to the planning process, the introductory paragraph says: "A coalition of municipal leaders, planners and developers, the people who actually use the land use planning system, says the current system hurts Ontario's competitive position."
I can't emphasize enough to you how insulting citizens' groups and individuals and environmental groups that have been deeply involved in this process find that statement, that they are not people who actually use the land use planning system. These are thousands of people across the province: They are ratepayers' groups, they are cottagers' associations, they are individuals and members of citizen and environmental groups. They have spent thousands of hours of their own time volunteering and thousands of dollars of their own money, taking precious time away from their families, because they care very deeply about their communities, about the environment and about the shape of their communities. They use the land use planning system just as much as municipal leaders, planners and developers do.
Nor are the changes in Bill 20 supported by the public at large. There have been several polls recently; every six months there are opinion polls done of Canadians' views on the environment. The most recently published one, in October, pointed out that a very high percentage -- I think it's 78% -- of Canadians supports increased environmental regulation in Canada and does not support reliance on voluntary encouragement as a strategy for pollution reduction and environmental controls. The changes in Bill 20 essentially -- and I'll get into it in a minute -- go back to a voluntary approach because of the vagueness of the language of subsection 3(5).
There was another poll in the greater Toronto area which found that residents thought that provision of environmental services ranked first among all municipal services listed, and most survey respondents wanted spending increased on environmental protection. That public faith in effective environmental regulation seems well placed.
There was another survey done by KPMG consultants in 1994. It was a survey of managers in Canadian companies, hospitals, municipalities, universities and school boards. When those managers who had environmental management policies in place were asked what had motivated them to establish the policies, 95% said the number one motivator was compliance with regulation, 69% were motivated by potential director liability and only 16% were motivated by voluntary government programs.
There is similar scientific consensus of the need for environmental protection: the need to protect the intrinsic value of biodiversity, the need to reverse environmental degradation and the need to ensure a healthy environment as the basis for a healthy economy. There are several citations provided for you in this brief to support those statements.
There's equally broad consensus about the need to curb urban sprawl and scattered rural development. Again, there are many citations in this brief about the need to curb sprawl, including support from the Provincial Auditor of Ontario, who pointed out in his most recent annual report that there was "significant progress" made with the previous government's land use planning reform package towards establishing "specific roles and responsibilities for the province and municipalities, helping to eliminate inconsistencies and unnecessary duplication in planning decisions."
As well, there are many studies in the United States and in Europe pointing to the need to move towards a more compact form of development. The recently published Golden commission report and background reports equally stress the need to curb sprawl for the sake of environmental protection and saving costs.
The need to curb sprawl also has not escaped the scrutiny of bond raters. In 1990, bond raters gave Howard county, Maryland, which is near Baltimore and Washington, DC, an AAA bond rating. They said the limits that were placed by the county on development, including a farm land preservation program, enhanced the county's fiscal integrity by demonstrating a commitment to a high quality of life and controlling the costs of development.
These widely held views of the need for environmental protection and the need to curb sprawl did not escape the authors of Bill 20. However, the importance of environmental protection only survived into the title of the bill. The word "protection" in the title is a misrepresentation of the content of the bill and the associated regressive changes that have been made to the proposed provincial policy statement. In fact, I would submit that the government is trying to apply a false green veneer over essentially political favouritism to the development industry by making the changes that have been made in Bill 20.
More importantly, under this, what I consider to a be false green veneer, the stated goal of streamlining the process and saving costs will not be met by Bill 20. The reason for that is because the key changes that have been made in Bill 20 substantially reinstate the planning system that was in place in the late 1980s and for which there were so many calls for reform. In particular, the decision to go back to the standard of "shall have regard for" policies in subsection 3(5) of the act means that we will again have situations where policy will be ignored. On top of that, the language that has been chosen in the changes makes the rules very vague, so we have vague rules that can be ignored.
The key point is that what the government has done in Bill 20 is stripped municipalities of the tools to say no when they need to say no. There was a key provision in the old policies and backed up by the "shall be consistent with" standard in subsection 3(5) that came to be called the "`no' means `no.'" It was a provision to protect natural heritage areas from development. It was finally a provision where "no" meant "no." It didn't mean "maybe," it didn't mean "later"; it meant "no."
The reason we will go back to the site-specific battles each time a development application comes along instead of the goal of upfront planning that was the original objective, and I'll give you an example -- there are several examples in this brief for you to review. Without the tool, without the ability to say no when they want to say no, if they're in a situation where they want to say no to a development that could be potentially environmentally destructive -- if they say no, developers will challenge them at the OMB. If they say yes, citizens' groups will challenge them if they have a chance; there's no intervenor funding, they have limited resources etc.
The point here is that it appears you're under the impression that if you strip away the environmental protection tools, public concern and motivation to protect the environment will also disappear, and that is simply not the case, that the result will be community discord and costly delay.
Another problem with Bill 20 is that the government has removed important quality control measures concerning official plans. There's no longer a definition of an official plan in the act. The ability to prescribe the contents of official plans is deleted. This was essentially a quality control measure that was widely supported during the four years of consultation that led up to the previous reform package. If you add that vagueness to the ability to process a private official plan amendment in 90 days, we're going to see a return to being able to criticize official plans as being neither official nor a plan.
There are also important deletions in Bill 20 of planning tools that will enable municipalities to curb urban and rural sprawl and ensure public involvement. On the matter of tools to curb sprawl, some of the changes that have been made, the bill takes out the restriction on municipalities on exclusive zoning. It takes out the apartments-in-houses provision. It takes out the prematurity test whereby if developments come forward before the servicing is in place, municipalities have the ability to say no on the basis of prematurity. All of those were tools that enabled municipalities to ensure a movement towards more compact form, transit-supportive land use planning etc, all those things are removed. There are several restrictions as well on public involvement that are of concern.
I will turn now to some of the examples that are in here to make the point why I think we are basically going back to the old system. Because we are reinstating a system of vague rules that can be ignored, we're back into the same situation that's existed, for example, in Eagle Creek and West Carleton. That was a situation in the late 1980s where the West Carleton township council approved a golf course development as compatible with the function of a class 1 wetland. The MNR, the Wetlands Preservation Group of West Carleton and a private citizen objected and the proposal was the subject of a lengthy OMB hearing.
Despite these objections and despite the fact that the matter was going to a hearing, construction of the golf course went ahead. The OMB did in fact conclude that environmental damage occurred during the construction of the golf course and that the operation of the golf course would lead to ongoing environmental degradation, which has occurred. The rezoning necessary to operate the golf course was denied by the OMB. Nevertheless, the golf course was built. The township decided, through a sort of interesting, circuitous route that I won't get into -- it's in a footnote -- decided not to prosecute for contravention of the zoning bylaw and the mayor was given an honorary membership in the golf course.
In this situation, local citizens, The Ministry of Natural Resources, the OMB all concluded that a golf course was indeed incompatible with the function of a class 1 wetland. The provincial wetlands policy statement was only in draft form at the time, but it did provide that development interfering with the function of a wetland should be prohibited. The township spent over $100,000 defending its decision, only to hear from the OMB that indeed the development would interfere with the function of the wetland and should not have been allowed. The Ministry of Natural Resources had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on the matter as well. Meanwhile, the golf course was constructed and, as I have noted, controversy over pesticide and fertilizer contamination from the site continues to the present day.
This example is typical of situations where policy is ignored at every step of the process despite the views of provincial officials and objections and interventions of local citizens. The matter had to drag on for over two years and a lengthy OMB hearing only to confirm what the province and citizens had maintained from the start. It also underscores the difficulty of small municipalities to exercise independent judgement and to properly evaluate the environmental implications of development proposals.
The point here with the vagueness in the rules and the ability to ignore the rules is that with clarity, as existed in Bill 163, as to the status of policy, that is, it shall be consistent with, "We mean it; yes, you should apply it," and a clear "No means no" on development in provincially significant wetlands, this kind of development could have been directed to a more appropriate location and a lot of time and money could have been saved.
This kind of situation can now be repeated from Kenora to Cornwall, and it will be, because people will continue to be concerned about these kinds of proposals and the municipalities will not have the tools to say no to these kinds of proposals.
I want to draw your attention to a typographical error in the next example. It's on page 13, the discussion of Sydenham Mills in Grey county, a matter that Mr Murdoch will have some familiarity with. In the first paragraph, where it says, "This plan would have built about 25 estate residential homes," 25 is the correct number; however, further down where it notes that nearby residents were concerned about "the installation of up to 40 wells and septic tanks," that should say "up to 25 wells and septic tanks." It's in the second-last line of page 13. If you could correct that, I would appreciate it. I just noticed that while I was sitting down.
Mr Murdoch: I'm getting a question on that for you.
Ms Cooper: Okay.
This situation is another example of lack of policy tools to say no to environmentally harmful developments and the unnecessary expenditure of enormous amounts of time and money by many different people who are involved.
This was a very complicated situation. The proposal was a plan of subdivision in the headwaters of the Spey River. The area is characterized by springs, crevices, easily blown-over trees and generally obvious indicators of a very shallow water table. Local residents nearby were very concerned about the water table effects of this development because they frequently experienced spring flooding and didn't want to see clearing and installation of wells and septics right in the headwater areas. The ministries of Environment and Natural Resources also noted the potential for even more distant downstream impacts along the Spey River if development were allowed in the headwater area.
At the same time that there was a plan-of-subdivision application circulating in the province and local citizens had asked the minister to declare a provincial interest in the matter, the developers decided to make a separate application at the local level for eight severances and a roadway, presumably to avoid provincial scrutiny by applying for a series of consent applications at the local level as opposed to a plan of subdivision that has to be circulated at the provincial level. This technique is often referred to as subdivision by consent.
After many months of debate, a review of the proposal by the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee, the many aspects of this matter ended up in four weeks' worth of hearings at the Ontario Municipal Board. The ministries of Environment, Natural Resources and Municipal Affairs were all separately represented by counsel, the appellant was represented by counsel and of course the proponent was.
Incredible amounts of money were spent on lawyers and consultants to debate the merits of this proposal, and after all the time and effort that was expended, it became clear that no amount of engineering would address the water table concerns that were raised right from the start. The board's decision discussed the inappropriateness of the proposal on this particular site and the approach taken by Grey county officials to such matters in general.
There's a quote in the brief from the board's decision, "Although the proposed housing may well be desirable and marketable, it is in no way essential nor is this the only location in Grey county where such housing can be located." The board also said, "However, even if it was the last site in Grey county, the board would still consider the risks unacceptable."
The board went on to say, "In the board's view and considering the letter and obvious intent of the Planning Act and this official plan, there are major flaws in the approach taken by the county planners and council to this proposal and generally to estate residential housing in the rural areas of Grey county."
Once again, this situation illustrates the need for clear policy with clear status to give municipalities the tools to say no up front when they need to. That is what you're stripping out of Bill 20 and the policy statements.
I should probably stop there. There are five examples for you to review and a detailed discussion of the excessive costs of sprawl. Given the broad matters of public concern and public interest raised about this bill and the policies, we urge the withdrawal of Bill 20 and the proposed provincial policy statements. Sorry to go on too long.
The Vice-Chair: It's not too bad. We will have one very short question from each of the parties. We will start with the PCs, please.
Mr Hardeman: I just want to clarify. I think at the start of the presentation there was some discussion about the meeting. In fact, I understand there was a meeting with the Ontario Environment Network held in September with the minister, at which about 40 people were present. There may be some debate whether that is consultation, but I just wanted to clarify for the record that the meeting did take place. I also wanted to point out for the record --
Ms Cooper: No, that is not true. I'm sorry, that is not true.
Mr Hardeman: Well, we will check it further. That's the record that's here, and obviously I was not at the meeting so I cannot personally --
Ms Cooper: Neither was I.
Mr Hardeman: -- say it happened, but I've been informed that the meeting took place. I also wanted to point out that the Canadian Environmental Law Society was invited to attend the stakeholders' meeting with Mr Galt; we had previous debate to talk about the policy statements, but at this point in time they have refused to meet to discuss the impending policy statements, which are presently out for discussion. I just wanted to put those two items on the record.
Ms Cooper: May I respond?
Mr Hardeman: I also wanted to, going to your first --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Hardeman. I'm sorry to cut you off, but --
Ms Churley: She should have the opportunity to respond to --
The Vice-Chair: It's not a question, and I'm just --
Mr Hardeman: It's a statement.
The Vice-Chair: There's not a question involved in this. He was making a statement. The official opposition, please.
Mr Gerretsen: We gladly yield our time to Mr Murdoch, since we feel that whatever he would say would obviously help our cause.
Mr Murdoch: I'm certainly appreciative of my friend across the way. I'll have to be more careful of what I say to him from now on and be nice.
I'd just like to point out, because I don't have a lot of time and we could debate this and the Mills one all the time, that under the previous bill, which is Bill 163 under the NDP government, they've just approved a subdivision -- not just; about six months ago, before the election -- closer to the Spey head with no problems. So unfortunately it's an all-draft approval. So all this was in somebody's mind, who had a vendetta against people who were involved. I'm sorry, they've just approved a subdivision closer to the Spey River. Right, that's fine, the NDP government.
Ms Cooper: Not under the rules of Bill 163 or the new policies.
Mr Murdoch: Yes.
Ms Cooper: No.
Mr Murdoch: They did. They just approved it. Well, that bill was in power at least eight months ago and that's when it was approved. It had draft approval. I'm sorry.
Ms Cooper: I think it's important as a matter for the record here that Mr Murdoch had a conflict of interest. He had a development interest in --
Mr Murdoch: No, no conflict. Careful.
Ms Cooper: You had to declare a conflict many times with respect to the Sydenham Mills development --
Mr Murdoch: No, I didn't declare any conflict. Let's get it right.
Ms Cooper: -- as chair of the local conservation authority, as the reeve of Sydenham township, and when you were involved on the Grey county planning advisory committee and the Grey county planning approvals committee, you had to declare conflicts repeatedly over the Sydenham Mills proposal.
Mr Murdoch: There's one more. You forgot I was chair of the conservation authority too.
Ms Cooper: Right.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. We're not into debate here. I thank you.
Ms Cooper: I think it's important to put that on the record.
The Vice-Chair: I thank you very much. Again, it was a statement; it wasn't a question. I thank Mr Gerretsen for forfeiting his time. On to the third party, please.
Ms Churley: Very quickly, back to the consultation issue, this government is not listening to what you have to say anyway.
Ms Cooper: Clearly.
Ms Churley: They only listen to developers on this. I just want to get into the whole consultation area. I want you to clarify and be able to respond to what Mr Hardeman said. But I also want to ask -- you saw the headline in the Globe and Mail today: "Ontario Unfettering Dump Firms." Were you consulted on that? Were you consulted on any of the other masses, pages and pages worth, of deregulation and cuts that are going on in the Ministry of the Environment and Energy?
Ms Cooper: Starting with the Planning Act, we did not see the point of attending the recent meeting with respect to the proposed provincial policy statement. We felt the time for consultation was prior to issuing this draft which is when the development community and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario were consulted -- we were not -- on the changes to the policy.
The views we have on provincial policies are a matter of public record for the last four years. We basically did not feel like wasting any further time. We had to focus on this committee. We will do a written response to the changes to the policy.
With respect to the other consultations, there was no meeting with 40 members of the Ontario Environment Network in September. That is false.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. I think you've answered the question.
Ms Cooper: She asked me several other questions. Did you want me to answer them?
The Vice-Chair: Maybe at a later date. The problem here is, you were granted 25 minutes; you used 23 for presentation. According to the standards, in fairness to everybody else as well, you are entitled to 25 minutes. We have now exceeded --
Ms Cooper: You would like me to stop. That's fine.
Ms Churley: Madam Chair, before we move on, perhaps what would be helpful to clear up some of the matters of consultation is, I would like to ask that the Minister of Municipal Affairs be asked to table with this committee all the people he formally consulted with and held meetings with. I'm sure we won't get information about the informal consultations that we know happened, but at least we should be presented with the formal consultations that took place, the lists that are available.
The Vice-Chair: I would be glad to make a request to provide that to you as soon as possible.
Ms Churley: Thank you. I'll follow up on it tomorrow.
BEAVER VALLEY HERITAGE SOCIETY
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the representative from the Beaver Valley Heritage Society please come forward. Welcome to our hearing process, Mrs Anderson. Just so that we can set the parameters around how we're proceeding in these hearings, there is a 25-minute allotment to be used as you see fit. You might note, though, that if you would like a question-and-answer at the end, perhaps maybe we could leave that. Otherwise, feel free to do with the time as you wish.
Mrs Muriel Anderson: Good afternoon and happy Valentine's Day. I just came from a household of seven children, and if they hadn't taken all the cookies, I could have brought some for you.
I'm Muriel Anderson and I'm president of the Beaver Valley Heritage Society. My husband and I live on a small farm in the bottom of the valley. Thank you for giving time to hear our concerns.
The Beaver Valley Heritage Society is a non-profit citizens' group incorporated in 1981 to preserve and protect the unique natural environment of the Beaver Valley. It endeavours to represent the interests of both the valley's year-round and part-time residents. Our role is to present the views of our members in a clear and organized way to the decision-making bodies that have jurisdiction over the valley. Our society supports development that occurs in areas designated through proper planning for growth, provided that such development or its accumulated effect does not compromise the environment.
We believe that a planning act reflects the agreement on how we live together on the land that is available. Therefore, the Planning Act must be based on a consensus reached by the citizens, protect the public interest, provide clear foci for protecting the environment and clearly define roles and responsibilities.
With these broad purposes or needs in front of us, we look at the proposed changes to the present act and we see a great backward move on the part of your government. That's the PC government, of course. The present act was developed after two years of consultation with citizens of Ontario. We are dismayed that by a quick rewriting we can be so easily and rapidly dismissed as having no rights over the development standards of our communities.
It seems to us that your Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is just suggesting a return to the old system. All stakeholders came close to agreeing that the old process didn't work for the good of anyone. The lack of vision in the proposed changes and the hasty time lines cause us to fear that opportunity for planning our lives together is being denied. Your proposed amendments negate the concerns so carefully stated by the citizens of Ontario during the past consultations.
The community groups, the environmental groups and the public interest groups have never opposed planned and fiscally responsible development. Since the present act has only briefly been part of our history -- less than 10 months -- there is no statistical evidence that it has prohibited or inhibited development. We believe the act should be left in place and tested for its efficacy in order to prove whether or not good planning stands in the way of a growing economy.
Good planning does encourage a stable society because the directions are clear to all participants. Poor planning is time-consuming and expensive. Each time in the future, as in the past, that an environmentally destructive development proposal is applied for, there will be a long, site-specific confrontation, and valuable energy and money will be consumed. The recent floods in our small Beaver River have shown the extent to which poor or bad planning can cost individuals, insurance companies and municipalities -- the taxpayers. The flood is over, but the problem remains where severances were allowed on floodplain lands.
To quote from a Toronto Star editorial: "Good planning is, in fact, a spur to economic growth, while bad planning costs taxpayers. It encourages insufficient use of existing infrastructure and forces up demand for more -- sewer lines, highways, transit etc -- to service far-flung developments."
There is no mention in the revised proposals of the need to preserve productive land or encourage compact development, and only weak proposals on protection of environmentally sensitive areas. Rather, these new items encourage urban sprawl, rural strip development and the using up of more good and necessary agricultural land that we need for food production. The wetland areas are our recharge areas of uncontaminated water, an absolute essential to healthy living. The rewriting of guidelines that loosely protect our water resources is unacceptable. The clear set of rules newly in place since March 1995 is what our communities want. Protection of the environment is strongly supported by the vast majority of Ontarians. It is very important in Grey county. Our wealth is to be found along the Georgian Bay shoreline, the Niagara Escarpment, our class 1 and 2 wetlands, our old-growth forests, the rare plant areas, the cold water fishing streams, our crystal-clear and pure groundwater, and our many scenic valleys, of which Beaver Valley is one.
Rural tourism is the up-and-coming industry of our global village. Our cities have become similar in every nation, but the geography in every country is varied. This is where economic gains are to be made. But it means greater protection will be required for our rural landscapes, including those features that are distinctive to them. With bad planning, this economic base can be quickly destroyed. Good planning will provide for development, expand the tourist trade, enhance our environment and protect our community values.
Bill 20 withdraws the need for a municipality to have a comprehensive official plan that speaks to the chief planning needs. At the same time, the provincial government is not retaining responsibility for approving plans that have been approved by upper-tier municipalities. In denying this important provincial role, the comprehensive planning at the local level may not take place. This will work against any serious planning in our communities. The suggested time line of 90 days, from six months, for amendments to an official plan indicates the lack of permanence and dependability of any plan. Again, time and money will be lost as the stakeholders debate the direction of planning in a municipality. In fact, this 90-day period establishes an ad hoc approach to planning in Ontario. Will this create clarity and certainty for those seeking development and economic progress? No. Rather, it will produce rancour and division in our communities.
While purporting to give municipalities more local autonomy, Bill 20 takes away their power to refuse development where infrastructures do not exist. This may lead to an OMB hearing and a requirement to provide expensive infrastructures for the benefit of a developer.
The suggested appeal time of 20 days severely limits the participation of the public in the plan approval or amendment process. Studying complex documents, consulting with a group or an executive and finally preparing an adequate brief for submission takes more than 20 days. We read this as a definite rejection of the expertise that exists in society and that is available to the decision-makers in our province. Under such conditions more OMB hearings will be necessary as there will be no time for mediation actions. The limitation on public input will necessarily lead to more unrest and dissatisfaction with politicians and government generally.
In consideration of the importance of good planning in Ontario, we urge you to act on the following recommendations:
(1) Consider that a planning act is a document of how we are to live together and not only an economic strategy.
(2) Ensure that all Ontarians dwell in livable communities that protect a high quality of life.
(3) Allow the present Planning Act to remain in place for 1996-97.
(4)(a) That statistics be logged over the time period from March 1995 to December 1997.
(b) That the above information be readily available to all.
(c) That consultation with all stakeholders on planning matters take place during this time.
I would like to add that our brief on changes to the policy statement section is not included in this brief and will be forwarded to the appropriate committee next week.
That is my submission.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mrs Anderson. You've certainly put a different focus in your recommendations than some of the other briefs we have heard. I really like this concept that the Planning Act is not just an economic strategy document, but a document as to how we develop the communities in which we live.
Bill 163 is not one of my favourite documents, but I do agree with you to this extent, and that is that at least the act should have been given its proper length of time in order to determine how it was going to affect development. Because so far many developers who have come in here have said one of the reasons why development hasn't been going on over the last year or so is because of Bill 163, and then others have said it isn't, it's because of changing economic circumstances etc. I totally agree with you that certainly the act itself has not been given any sufficient amount of time to determine how it would have affected the whole planning process.
One of the things that has been taken out of the act is the whole notion of public participation, and that's something I'm a great believer in. One of the areas that they've taken it out of is the approval of subdivisions, on the theory that once a property has been rezoned, then presumably what goes on that property in detail, which is normally sketched out in a plan of subdivision, is of no concern to the community and to the people in the immediate area, which is something that I totally disagree with. I think the layout of subdivisions and how the land is utilized even within the zoning that is allowed on that property is of a great concern to the people in the community. It also gets rid of a lot of turmoil that may happen without the public meeting. I wonder if you have a comment on that.
Mrs Anderson: Certainly I have. We are a group of people who are vitally interested in land use, because you can't protect a valley -- which is our primary concern, to keep the valley as beautiful as possible for the people who live there and the people who play there and the people who pass through there. The way the land is used is of utmost importance, and certainly if you're going to have a subdivision near any other environment that's peopled with people, there's going to be strife if they don't have a choice of input on that. I think it speaks ill of a government that has cut that out.
This 20-day short appeals period is very bad for everybody, not just for the public citizens. It's very bad because it means you have to go immediately from the first day, supposing you get -- well, in our area, I got the letter today for this meeting delivered by Purolator in Toronto at 10:45. If I were doing an appeal process, I might wait five days, and if there happened to be a weekend in between, I might wait seven days. And if I wait seven days, I'm probably going to get ready to go for an appeal straight to the OMB rather than to wait for --
Mr Gerretsen: You see, I think the government is somehow of the view that we can have an economic resurgence of this province if somehow we just deal with municipalities and developers and leave the general public out of it. I think that's why a lot of the public meeting requirements have been taken out of the act.
Mrs Anderson: We are the municipality.
Mr Gerretsen: That's correct. You're right on.
Mr Hampton: I want to ask you a general question. Given the changes in the legislation the government is proposing and given the changes in the policy statements being proposed, and given the fact that the Ministry of Natural Resources will lose about 2,000 of its staff over the next 12 to 15 months, and I expect there will be similar reductions in the Ministry of Environment, if this legislation passes and the policy statements are implemented, where do you think that will leave planning in the province?
Mrs Anderson: I think it will leave planning, and the loss of conservation areas in the omnibus bill is going to leave planning, as an ad hoc business. You buy your way in and you're in.
Mr Hampton: You buy your way in and you're in.
With the limitations on appeal periods and some of the other limitations that are part of this legislation, what's your sense of how groups who care about planning and who care about environmental protection and proper resource management will react, both within the planning process that comes out of this and in terms of other avenues they might pursue: the courts etc?
Mrs Anderson: All the groups interested in proper land use will probably have to work out different strategies. We probably won't be responding to legislation by briefs, because we don't feel we're being heard. Therefore, we're going to have to do something that makes much more noise, quite a different strategy. You're going to have a very irate, noisy population in Ontario.
Mr Hampton: Your major recommendation here is that the present Planning Act be allowed to remain in place for 1996-97. Do you have the same view with respect to the policy statements?
Mrs Anderson: Oh, definitely. You can't separate them, I don't think, although you have for this committee; you've separated the Bill 20 body away from the policy statement. But I think Bill 163, the previous bill, plus the policy statements stand as a unit.
Mr Murdoch: I won't ask any questions, but just thank you for coming down and making your brief, and I also thank you for making your brief at Bill 26 at my hearings in Owen Sound. I appreciate that. You always have lots to say and lots to tell us and you stick up for your rights, and that's what we want. I just want to thank you. I appreciate your coming in.
Mrs Anderson: I thought it was rather a short brief.
The Chair: Don't go yet.
Mrs Anderson: My ride is going to go back to Grey county without me.
Mr Gerretsen: Bill will take you home, then.
Ms Churley: Is she one of your voters? You're being awfully polite.
Mr Murdoch: Yes, she's a voter. You're always polite, aren't you, to your voters? We may not always agree.
Mrs Anderson: I'm a voter. He lives in hope.
Mr Smith: I have just one quick question. I noticed with interest that on page 3 of your document you made reference to the increased importance of rural tourism. As an owner of a small farm and a land owner, I'd like to present this to you. Would you agree that the granting of additional authority to municipalities in terms of local planning decisions would allow you to foster the local economic development initiatives that would contribute to your community better than a provincial standard?
Mrs Anderson: Yes, for sure. Every community has to do its own economic development, because no one is going to do it for them. In our area, what we are trying to foster, some of it, is going to be destroyed by this bill.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs Anderson. We appreciate your taking time to make a presentation before us today.
GEORGIAN BAY TRUST FOUNDATION
The Chair: Our next group up is the Georgian Bay Trust Foundation. Good afternoon.
Mr Christopher Baines: My name is Christopher Baines. I am the president of the Georgian Bay Trust Foundation Inc. For those of you who may or may not know what a trust foundation is, essentially look at us as a cemetery commission in that we don't look at our assets as assets but rather as liabilities. We have to take care of these in perpetuity, if you will.
Presently we are in our fifth year of operation. We're a federally registered, charitable non-profit, and our business is preserving and protecting "environmentally significant" sites on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay. We currently have three properties worth about $880,000 altogether under our stewardship, with about another four or five in the pipeline or under consideration. I might point out that at the present time most of our cash and islands have been as a result of gifts from Americans rather than Canadians, but that's another point.
If you want a definition of what it is that we look at preserving, it's the definition of "environmentally sensitive" as indicated here. Environmentally significant real estate is defined as rights that control the use of a parcel with attributes of geographical, biological, ecological, archaeological, palaeontological, cultural and/or historical significance. Indeed, all our properties do now and certainly will in the future have those attributes within them; otherwise, we wouldn't accept them.
More background on land trusts: There are approximately 1,100 land trusts right now in the United States. There are about 12 or so to my knowledge now in Ontario, and I think you're going to find that this is the hot new "industry," that term, in the environmental conservation movement. We're really modelled after the national trusts in England and most particularly the Nature Conservancy in the United States, whose motto is, I might say, "All action and no talk." My being here today, I'm an exception to that rule.
I'd also like to congratulate the government for a recent action under the Ministry of Natural Resources which has made it easier for our organization and other trusts to work, and that is the change to the conservation easement legislation which will allow trusts such as ourselves to hold easements. Quite frankly, that will be a growth area for us.
Nevertheless, you will see an evolution of organizations like us in the partnerships developing in the new reality, that which we all face these days, and that is particularly that we walk the talk. As various provincial and federal agencies and ministries run out of money, it's organizations like ours, that are in the field, that deal with land owners of identified significant properties, either by ourselves or government agencies, that actually will end up, hopefully, stewarding this property. We have a number of relationships with a number of different governments and bodies that seek to preserve and protect these environmentally significant properties.
As such, we have a stake in this, and that's the reason we're here today. We are land owners. We are stewards of some very important property. Most particularly, we're owners of property in an area, on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, where the environment is what sells. It is the industry. The fisheries were exploited in the late 1890s, the lumbering was all gone by the 1920s. There is nothing else at the present time other than the natural environment and what it provides, and we are an actual agency that is delivering on that. Our actions, by preserving and protecting sites up and down -- and remember, we're very young, but give us 10 or 15 years and wait -- tangibly benefit the whole society in our area. The municipality, certainly all developers and all future land owners, actually benefit from our actions.
Indeed, proof of that is my latest appeal to the Assessment Review Board. The impact of us getting a lower zoning down to a natural state conservancy in the township, the archipelago or whatever, is that the assessor, who had never heard of a land trust before, suddenly says, "So what you're saying is that if you are putting restrictions on the development of this property in perpetuity, that makes the land around it actually worth more, because that owner will not see development beside his property." Consequently, the assessor assesses that property more. So there is cause and effect all the way down the pipeline.
What I'm stating here is a philosophical point that I think it's important the Planning Act reflect. We are sympathetic to the interests of the development industry in trying to get through the red tape and speed up easements and subdivisions and severances etc. However, what we don't believe is currently reflected in the current legislation is the fact that we are, as I said, an industry unto itself as well, which is perfectly on a par with what a subdivision or the development industry is itself. As I stated, the environment is the industry we are from, and we would like that specifically reflected in specific points as I have pointed out here in this brief with these recommendations.
I'm not going to go through them all because it's rather explicit here, but I would point out two in particular. Under (d), which is public notice, recommendation 6 on page 4, "Establish a public registry of interested parties to be informed of applications and appeals concerning particular topics or geographical areas," that would certainly be of great importance to us. As other speakers have indicated, we are all volunteers, we do not have any paid staff, we have a diverse board, and it's very difficult to keep on top of all our interests. We will have quite soon probably about 10 or 12 different properties up and down a wide area in three or four different municipalities, so for us to have the manpower to respond in a judicious way will be a challenge. If a registration such as this were to occur, we would certainly avail ourselves of it and take advantage of it, again to protect our own particular interests as a land owner and as a steward.
The other item would be point (e), which is the government review period. We would think that rather than 90, it should go to 150 days, particularly when these reviews of an application would run during the months of December, January or February, and particularly because all of our properties are islands. As you know, right now the ice is good some weekends and not good the others, and it's a challenge to get up there, and when you do get up there, it's covered in three feet of snow. So if there is something that's under review or that is contentious particularly, it's a challenge for us to actually do due diligence to comment on the particular state of affairs.
I would point out to you that, for instance, we do not accept or engage in the purchase or acceptance of properties during the winter, quite frankly because we can't conduct an environmental audit. It's difficult with two or three feet of snow to ensure there are no PCBs -- not that there ever would be.
So those are two very specific points. The rest are contained in here. But I did want to give you and share with you our philosophical bent and let you know that on behalf of land trusts, look for a lot more coming. If there are 1,100 now in the States -- and I recently attended a rally of some 950 trust directors and staff down in the States -- you know it's going to happen up here, and quite frankly it should, because hopefully, we will be able to deliver on what has to be done as government increasingly pulls back. We accept that and understand that. We don't necessarily like it or agree with it, but we will do it because it has to be done. But for that, there is a bit of a quid pro quo here, if you will, that we would like some latitude in the Planning Act to allow us to carry out, to give us the tools, if you will, to steward our sites appropriately.
Other than that, I would invite questions.
Mr Hampton: I want to ask you just some further questions about your organization, which I find interesting. Your membership, the people who are part of your organization, are not just found in the Georgian Bay area but throughout southern Ontario?
Mr Baines: There's an interesting quote that one of our directors uses, "I may work in Toronto, but I live in Georgian Bay." The answer to that is, in most cases, we have seasonal residents who have cottages up there, but we do have some permanent residents as well. So their summer cottage would be on the 30,000 islands but they would live around southern Ontario, and indeed in the United States as well, because 30% of our inhabitants, our seasonal residents, are American residents.
Mr Hampton: How do you typically acquire land?
Mr Baines: We've been successful in three different mechanisms: (1) direct donation; (2) we've been lucky enough to work with the federal government to get a change in the capital gains provision in the recent budget so that now instead of just 20% you can get 100% capital gains write-off; and (3) as I indicated, a brand-new weapon, if you will, or tool, I should say, is the use of conservation easements, whereby the individual would continue owning the property and pay taxes, but we would have a conservation easement which would prohibit the development of the property. So basically we have our cake and eat it too, which is the best of all worlds.
Mr Hampton: Conservation easement became applicable to your kind of work I gather about a year ago.
Mr Baines: Just in March, yes.
Mr Hampton: A year ago.
Mr Baines: A year ago, yes, that's right.
Mr Hampton: You're basically saying to the government, as I read your brief: "Don't be in such a rush. Don't throw out all the good work that was established coming out of the Sewell commission and most of the consultations held around and after the Sewell commission."
May I ask you this: If the government fails to follow your recommendations here -- in other words, if they go back to "have regard to," if they exempt plans from the minister's approval, if they maintain some of the unrealistic time guidelines that they've set out here -- what do you think's going to happen? What do you think's going to happen, for example, in Georgian Bay?
Mr Baines: It's very difficult to speculate on that. We're a determined group, quite frankly, and our experience has been that our donors or potential donors really don't want very much to do with governments, consequently that phrase, "All action, no talk." We will have to adapt, whatever happens, regardless of what the legislation is. It will just put a great strain on our resources to monitor and effectively represent our interests, both at the municipality and at the district and indeed with the government itself. So in that sense we would see it as retrogressive.
Mr Hampton: What does retrogressive mean, in terms of your ability to do some of the work you're doing now?
Mr Baines: A good question. I would say retrogressive in respect to some of the elements in Bill 163. There was certainly a lot to applaud in that and we would hope that some of that could be incorporated into this.
Mr Murdoch: I appreciate your brief here. I sort of like what you're saying, if I take it right: If you want to sort of control it, you buy it.
Mr Baines: Or get an easement for it.
Mr Murdoch: Yes, and that's the same. That's fine.
It's too bad you couldn't come around here today. We have what we call the Niagara Escarpment around Huron county, and it would be really nice if you'd buy the whole escarpment, and then we wouldn't have any land owners on it who would have problems. Is there a consideration of expanding, or is it just your --
Mr Baines: Not at the present time. Who knows? When the occasion arises, perhaps there could be chapters or so on, but we're so young right now. We really have to see what happens.
Mr Murdoch: I think it's a good idea and I hope you can expand it into our area. If you need someone to take your message, I'd like to do that.
When you get the land, though, and then of course again you're talking about islands so it's a little different, but do you have it rezoned, like no development?
Mr Baines: Yes, and that is a very interesting point, because quite frankly municipalities have never heard of -- nor have assessors, nor has the ministry, quite frankly -- restrictive convenance and what we are all about. When we went to the assessment appeal board, it was very suspect as to what our motives were, that any organization like ours would be around. It took quite some explaining to understand where we were coming from, that no, we basically just wanted to protect and preserve this in perpetuity.
Mr Murdoch: The Bruce Trail Association now is doing a lot of that. They were buying land, and basically it's no development, because I know they're allowed to buy 50 acres off the back of a farm where there isn't actually even an access to it because it's part of the trail. So in a sense they're doing that.
Mr Baines: Correct.
Mr Murdoch: But I think this is a good idea and I applaud you on it.
Mr Baird: One of the unique aspects I think your group brings is it's a small local group, locally driven, with a very specific mandate and what not. One of the principles that's being discussed I think as certainly underlying this bill is local autonomy, to try to put greater zoning and planning requirements at the local level. Given the success that obviously your group has had in the relatively few short years and the promise for the future that you've mentioned is the direction you're headed with some of the things, what do you think of the principle of giving local areas more autonomy, where's there's often, I think, at least in my community, a greater degree of accountability, where obviously government is much closer to people?
Mr Baines: I would say that's a double-edged sword, quite frankly, because we deal with about four or five different municipalities, some of them unorganized, some of them with upper-tier, such as the district of Muskoka and the township of Georgian Bay, and that in itself of course is changing, what with the potential for municipal reorganization.
This gets back to "have regard to" or "be consistent with." Quite frankly, we'd rather see a provincial interest expressed. We're very sensitive to the local municipalities' interests and autonomy, and indeed we would not survive, or it must be political in a sense to understand their needs and interests.
But having said that, I think there is much to say for the provincial government expressing provincial interests in specific environmentally sensitive areas, because when it comes down to a choice between development and a provincial interest, it becomes a political battle that unfortunately I think on some occasions the environmental interests have lost out on, to the detriment of the environment itself.
So the short answer to your question is --
The Chair: Very brief, 30 seconds.
Mr Baines: Yes, I know.
Mr Baird: If there's only a few seconds, then I won't use time. You can start.
Mr Hardeman: If I could, just one question, in the presentation, as it speaks to "shall have regard for" or "shall be consistent with," you indicate that after widespread consultation and consensus, they used the words "shall be consistent with." I would suggest that it was a long way from a consensus that they came to when the choice was made to use that wording.
Mr Baines: With respect, I suppose that's where your opinion lies. I participated in the Sewell commission and made submissions and was very impressed with the to-ing and fro-ing of that, and perhaps it's our impression. I understand your difference and your disagreement with that.
Mr Hardeman: I also participated in the Sewell commission, and I was not one of the ones that would've agreed to the consensus.
Mr Gerretsen: I wonder if I could have your comment on this. There's no question about it that a lot of this is local autonomy driven, and I basically agree with that, but the one area where it sort of misses the mark is that they have equated local autonomy with the fact that we no longer need public meetings, for example, in order to get subdivisions approved or severances approved. I wonder if you would agree with me that that sort of completely misses the mark. You can have local autonomy, but the public input and a public say is still extremely important before a lot of these planning decisions are reached. Would you agree with that statement?
Mr Baines: In the main, yes, but there again I'm sensitive to the time elements and the difficulty and the delays in getting people together. So it's difficult to make a generalized response to that. Certainly, from our part, were there to be any potential subdivisions around us, we would want -- and that's why we stated it in here -- to be notified to that effect and would make our response to it. Whether or not that would require public meetings specifically -- for our purposes, it's not necessary. We would want to be notified, though, at the very least.
But there again, when you're dealing with, for instance, the municipality of the township of The Archipelago, a very diverse, quite a large municipality, it can take some time to get everybody together. I would think it would be in their own best interests, the politicians of a municipality, to have public meetings.
Mr Gerretsen: By the same token, local autonomy, when it comes to minor variance appeals, has also missed the mark in the sense that what we're talking about is, yes, the original decision ought to be made at the local level, whether it's the council or the committee of adjustment, but there still ought to be an independent appeal to some other body, such as the OMB, that could decide the issue if there is, obviously, a difference of opinion as a result of the appeal being launched. I guess your brief sort of indicates that.
I wonder if you could tell me a little bit more about your organization. How do you differ then from an organization, let's say, like the Bruce Trail Association and the Rideau Trail Association?
Mr Baines: Actually, perhaps there is very little difference, but you could say that the trail is a mechanism to educate the public on the benefits of the environment. And to a certain extent, our sites would be similar. By getting more people to participate to walk the Bruce trail, hopefully more enjoy the environment and would appreciate it more. To do that, they need the tools, which is conservation easements and to own the property and they must maintain it. Similarly, we look at preserving and protecting specific, unique sites, both, as we said, archaeologically --
Mr Gerretsen: But you have no problem then with people having access to the properties that you own and operate.
Mr Baines: Indeed, it's part of the condition. We don't necessarily encourage it. It depends on the particular site. If it's very sensitive, that would be a potential restriction, depending on the land owner and the donor.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Baines. I appreciate you taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
INCLUSIVE NEIGHBOURHOODS CAMPAIGN
The Chair: Our next group up, the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign. Good afternoon.
Ms Jacquie Buncel: Good afternoon. My name is Jacquie Buncel and I'm the coordinator of the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign. I'm going to use the first section of my time to present a brief, and then I hope to entertain questions from you. I'd like to say just to start that my presentation only deals with the apartments-in-houses provisions of Bill 20.
When the Honourable Al Leach, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, introduced Bill 20, he stated, "This government has promised to promote economic recovery by slashing red tape and getting rid of obstacles to growth." He continued: "Ontario's planning system is tied up in red tape that kills development and jobs. We will...bring in a system that's faster and less bureaucratic...that people can understand...a system that delivers an answer more quickly."
As an organization that has done education and advocacy about apartments in houses for five years, I want to tell you that Bill 20 in fact will do the opposite of what Mr Leach has stated. The provisions of Bill 20 that deal with apartments in houses run counter to the intention of the legislation as outlined by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Instead of promoting economic growth, Bill 20 will hinder economic activity in the building and development industry by creating disincentives to construction of much-needed affordable housing in the form of accessory apartments. It will also create unnecessary obstacles to homeowners wishing to install an apartment in their house. Furthermore, instead of slashing red tape, it will produce needless, complicated bureaucracy for homeowners, developers and tenants. Finally, it will certainly not result in a system that people can understand. Bill 20 will produce a complicated maze of zoning and standards variations which will be incomprehensible to the average person.
In fact, I will argue during the next 15 minutes that the provisions of Bill 20 dealing with apartments in houses not only run counter to Mr Leach's claims, they also run counter to the direction of the housing policies of this provincial government. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has stated many times that the province of Ontario wants to get out of the housing business to give the private sector a greater role in housing construction. Bill 20 will do the opposite of this goal. The proposed legislation will choke private enterprise by individuals wishing to build apartments in houses and increase government intervention in their lives. I will also argue that Bill 20 will result in a decline in the supply of this form of private rental housing and will produce housing that is once again unsafe and unregulated.
Before I proceed to substantiate these claims about the likely effects of Bill 20, let me tell you about my organization, the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign, and our history and current work on this issue. The Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign, or INC, as we call ourselves, is a coalition of 138 organizations from across Ontario. Many sectors are represented in the coalition, including faith communities, business, labour, construction and environmental groups, legal clinics, social services, women's organizations, housing help centres and registries, seniors' organizations, youth groups, disabled groups, and ethno-specific organizations.
These organizations came together from 1991 to 1993 united in the position that apartments in houses needed to be legalized across the province. At this time, studies indicated that there were 100,000 apartments in houses across Ontario. It was estimated that approximately half of these units were located outside Metropolitan Toronto. The organizations which formed the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign had seen at first hand the problems and suffering resulting from the illegal status of accessory apartments. These organizations found that both tenants and homeowners were experiencing hardship because of the illegal status of apartments in houses in many communities. In order to determine the extent of the problem, the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign organized a public Inquiry into Legalizing Safe Apartments in Houses on June 3, 1993, and we produced a report, which looks like this. A panel of experts heard testimony from planners, community representatives, homeowners and tenants. The panel heard about first-time home buyers who could not afford to pay their mortgage without the income of a rental unit, and disabled homeowners and seniors who were house-rich but cash-poor renting out an apartment for extra income and company.
Peter Simpson, a homeowner living in Barrie, told the panel about his experience of being harassed and fined by his municipality for renting out an apartment in his house where his elderly mother lived. The house had only three adults living in it, but -- and this is what Peter Simpson said: "The position of the alderman, the mayor, was that all I had to do was take away the stove. You cannot take a stove from an 82-year-old lady -- you take away her independence. I was fined $3,000."
Another homeowner who wrote a submission to the inquiry was Jean, a disabled senior citizen who had lost her husband several years earlier. Jean, who did not give her name because of fear of more harassment by her local municipality, wrote:
"The municipality is hounding me. Personally, I feel under seige. My tenant has been very understanding. She is very comfortable and secure in my home. Her help and interest in the garden is also needed for me to hold on to my property. Emotionally, I feel intimidated and much more insecure, watching to see who is approaching my house. The independence I once felt has been affected. Financially, I have managed to be independent and self-supporting without having to rely on very much government assistance. Ultimately, if my rental unit were to be closed down, I would have to move to a high-rise and, unhappily, my tenant would have to find alternate accommodation and I would lose my home of 36 years. The effect of having to sell the property and move after all these years would cause me great mental and physical stress."
Subsequent to the inquiry and before Bill 120 was passed, Jean did lose her home because she could no longer tolerate being hounded by her municipality. The municipality was harassing her even though her apartment was spacious and safe and she and her tenant had lived harmoniously in her neighbourhood for many years.
Before Bill 120, tenants who lived in illegal apartments in houses were in a legal limbo. The courts were inconsistent in their decisions on whether the tenants living in illegal apartments in houses were covered under the Landlord and Tenant Act. Therefore, tenants were often defenceless against a variety of problems in their units, including illegal rent increases, illegal evictions and property standards violations.
Tenants in illegal apartments also faced an additional disadvantage, since they could not make complaints regarding violations of health and safety standards in their unit without risking eviction. City inspectors who enforce health and safety standards are the same inspectors who could order an illegal unit to be shut down. For example, I personally assisted a husband and his pregnant wife, who was about to give birth any day, who were experiencing problems in their basement apartment in Scarborough. In anger, their landlord had decided to remove the tenants' toilet. Because they were living in an illegal unit, the tenants could not call on the municipal authorities to rectify the situation; if they did this, they would risk losing their home.
As apartments in houses have traditionally been more affordable than apartments in buildings, many low-income tenants have to rely on this form of housing. Thus, many seniors, newcomers, families with children and single adults tend to live in apartments in houses. For these economically disadvantaged people, living in an illegal unit added another layer to the many problems they already faced. The Latin American Community Centre told INC's public inquiry that for refugees coming "from situations where fear is the dominant feeling, and when you live in an illegal apartment and you don't have rights and are like a second-class citizen, your fear is doubled."
Finally, a number of fire deaths of tenants living in basements in the Metropolitan Toronto area made the situation even more urgent. It was vital that safety standards for apartments in houses be established and fire inspections carried out to ensure safety.
To change this intolerable situation, local housing groups had been actively lobbying their local municipal governments for many years to change their official plans and zoning bylaws to permit accessory units as of right. They had met with minimal success. This, despite the fact that in 1989 the Land Use Planning for Housing policy statement, released by the former Liberal government, gave strong direction to municipalities to amend their official plans and bylaws to encourage as-of-right zoning for apartments in houses. However, most municipalities refused to change their official plans to allow apartments in houses, despite studies which indicated public support for them.
Indeed, an Environics survey in 1988 quoted in a Ministry of Housing document, entitled Apartments in Houses Proposed Legislation: Some Facts and Figures, showed that 75% of Ontario residents favoured "allowing homeowners to add a rental unit" as one way to provide affordable housing.
One of the many consultants hired by municipalities to study the issue was Mr Frank Lewinberg, who conducted extensive research in Scarborough on accessory apartments. When Mr Lewinberg's research clearly pointed to the need to legalize apartments in houses, the city forced him to resign. Mr Lewinberg told INC's public inquiry: "The fact is that, despite all these studies, not one new municipality has changed its zoning."
Because of the resistance and sometimes outright hostility of municipalities to apartments in houses, community groups realized that the only solution was for the province to take action. The 138 organizations which formed the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign demanded that the provincial government introduce legislation which would allow apartments in houses as of right throughout the province. Bill 120 was introduced in November 1993 and after extensive public consultation was proclaimed as the Residents' Rights Act in July 1994. Apartments in houses became a legal, permitted use across the province as long as reasonable building, fire and planning standards were met.
The Residents' Rights Act brought into a regulatory framework a form of housing that had been previously underground. Section 9.8 of the fire code, which was introduced as part of the regulatory framework for apartments in houses, established fire safety standards for existing apartments. These included smoke alarms, safe means of exit, and fire separations. Homeowners had two years, until July 14, 1996, to bring their units up to standard to comply with the fire code. At the same time, changes to the building code established standards to ensure that new units would be built to meet safety standards. The Residents' Rights Act sets a reasonable framework within which municipalities can set their own standards for such issues as parking, minimum size of units and ceiling heights. For example, municipalities are allowed to set a minimum ceiling height, but they cannot set their minimum as higher than six feet, five inches. Under the Residents' Rights Act, municipalities continued to have control over many of the important issues regarding apartments in houses, such as the physical characteristics of the neighbourhood, the house, the lot and property standards.
For the last year, the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign has done extensive education across the province about the new fire safety and planning standards for apartments in houses. Along with local housing help centres and community organizations, we have organized community forums to educate tenants, homeowners, welfare workers, children's aid workers and housing workers about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners under the Residents' Rights Act. Building inspectors and fire inspectors have come to speak at our forums in Ottawa, Sudbury, Kirkland Lake and New Liskeard to tell homeowners about their obligations under the new law.
In conjunction with the Community Legal Education Ontario clinic, INC also developed a series of brochures educating the public about the fire code standards and as-of-right status of apartments in houses. Approximately 70,000 copies of these brochures have been distributed across Ontario. I should just point out to you that our fire safety brochure was praised by fire inspectors from several communities as being very clear and the best they'd seen on this material.
In our work across the province, we saw that the Residents' Rights Act was working. Homeowners were doing the necessary repairs and renovations to bring their units up to standard. Fire departments were inspecting units to ensure safety and fire code compliance. A monitoring survey conducted by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicated that from July 1994 to June 1995, 280 inspections of existing units had been completed; 119 units had been upgraded. Only 60% of municipalities participated in this survey, so the actual number of completed inspections would in fact be much greater than this.
The inspectors found that 53% of units inspected required smoke alarms, a critical lifesaving device. We anticipate that more and more units will come up to standard as the July 14, 1996, compliance date approaches. In addition, statistics from the office of the fire marshal indicate that prior to the passage of Bill 120 in July 1994, seven fire fatalities had occurred in houses containing two apartments that year. Since the passage of the law until the end of December 1995, there was only one fire fatality in a house containing two apartments. We can say without hesitation that the Residents' Rights Act promoted safety in apartments in houses.
Construction of new apartments in houses was also generated by the Residents' Rights Act. The ministry's monitoring survey indicates that from July 1994 to June 1995, 433 new apartments in houses were created. The ministry estimated the construction associated with these installations and upgrades as $12,454,326, resulting in 205 direct and indirect person-years of employment.
Bill 20 proposes to turn back the tide on apartments in houses, to return the authority to municipalities to decide where these units can be built and what standards will apply. Many people who are unfamiliar with the history and political dynamics of this issue might ask, "Shouldn't planning decisions be made at the local level?" While this sounds reasonable, in fact the experience of the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign demonstrates that there is a proactive role for the province in encouraging this form of housing through enabling legislation. The historical and vehement opposition of many cities to apartments in houses is well known.
Over 30 municipalities have launched a charter challenge opposing the apartments in houses provisions of Bill 120. This case was spearheaded by the city of London and includes such municipalities as Ottawa, Sarnia, Owen Sound, Waterloo, Oshawa, Thunder Bay and Windsor, as well as many other municipalities. There is little doubt that some cities will use these new powers to prevent tenants from living in certain residential areas and prevent homeowners from exercising free enterprise to rent out an apartment in their own home. If Bill 20 is passed, apartments in houses will again be subject to the political whims of municipal governments, which might again choose to create single-family-home enclaves.
The municipalities have chosen in the past to listen to the NIMBY concerns of neighbours, which many studies document, including the Lampert report commissioned by this government. As aptly stated at the inquiry by Canadian Pensioners Concerned:
"Apartments in houses are illegal, because in our view, local governments have pandered to the demands of middle-class homeowners who don't want `those' people living in their neighbourhoods. `Those people' are some of us, our children, our grandchildren...our friends, our neighbours, old Canadians or new, singles or families, the employed or unemployed, students."
While INC is pleased that Bill 20 grandfathers the existing 100,000 units, my organization is very concerned about the confusion that Bill 20 will create for the public. Bill 20 will produce three classes of apartments in houses: There will be the so-called Bill 120 grandfathered apartments, which will be governed by the Bill 120 planning standards and the fire code; then there will be the post-November 16, 1995, apartments which will have different planning and zoning standards and will be governed by the building code; then there will be the illegal apartments in houses, apartments in houses built without building permits in areas that will now be zoned again for single-family homes.
We know that people will continue to build these apartments because homeowners and tenants need them. I'm sure that other presenters have also told you about their benefits around promoting housing intensification and preventing urban sprawl. However, Bill 20 will discourage homeowners and tenants from coming forward, because they will not know whether or not their unit is legal. The lack of common standards across the province will result in this form of housing going underground again. We can expect that there will be illegal building and again apartments which are unregulated and therefore unsafe. Once again there will be fire deaths in unsafe, illegal units.
Homeowners will be caught in a legal maze as municipalities require them to provide evidence about when their apartment was built to determine its legality. In January, I made a presentation to about 30 homeowners in Ottawa about apartments in houses. When I described to them the status of apartments in houses under Bill 120 and then outlined the proposed changes under Bill 20, I was met with looks of confusion and dismay. They asked, "How will I know if my apartment is legal?" This is a question which homeowners and tenants will constantly be asking if Bill 20 is passed.
Tenants will once again be prohibited from living in certain neighbourhoods because of restrictive zoning bylaws. For the more than half a million tenants who rely on apartments in houses, their tenure and rights will be uncertain. Once again tenants will risk losing their housing if they attempt to have their unit inspected by a municipal property inspector.
Because of the confusion of standards and the restrictive zoning bylaws which Bill 20 will lead to, this proposed law will limit the creation of new apartments in houses just at a time when vacancy rates are plummeting and affordable housing is becoming more and more scarce. The vacancy rate for the Toronto CMA was 0.8% in October 1995. Furthermore, the private rental starts for this area for January to October 1995 were only 14 units. At the same time, this government has cut back 385 social housing projects across Ontario.
The importance of accessory apartments meeting this critical need for affordable housing cannot be underestimated. Indeed, Greg Lampert, in his report commissioned by the present provincial government entitled The Challenge of Encouraging Investment in New Rental Housing in Ontario, points to the contribution apartments in houses can make to the supply of housing. I won't read his quote because I think it was referred to earlier on and you're welcome to read it. Basically, it's pointing out that apartments in houses are a low-rent, low-cost addition to the rental stock which doesn't require any infusion of public expenditure.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has emphasized his commitment to removing barriers so as to encourage the private sector to build more rental housing. Indeed, one of the four principles of his tenant protection program is greater housing choices through increased supply. Why then is this government introducing legislation which will result in more red tape and obstacles which will discourage the private sector from creating accessory apartments? Surely the role of the provincial government should be to enable the growth of this form of housing rather than stifle it.
Since the introduction of Bill 20, some municipalities have started to refuse to issue building permits to homeowners wishing to instal an apartment in their house. We have heard about homeowners who are now being told they won't be able to instal an apartment because they will be illegal again.
I would like to conclude by addressing two final issues: the registration schemes and the retroactivity of this legislation.
Bill 20 gives municipalities the right to establish registration systems for apartments in houses. While this sounds good in theory -- INC has always advocated that units be safe and inspected -- INC is concerned that municipalities hostile to apartments in houses will use registration schemes to crack down on these apartments. Mandatory registration will place even further demands on the already overburdened building and property standards departments of municipalities.
Any tenant who has experienced delays in getting a municipal inspector to inspect their apartment knows just how few municipal inspectors there are. Why not put resources into existing inspection departments rather than create a new bureaucracy for apartments in houses? Also, registration systems will create more red tape which will discourage homeowners from renting apartments.
In fact, mandatory registration schemes seem contrary to the spirit of the other sections of Bill 20 which focus on getting rid of red tape and restrictive regulations. Furthermore, registration schemes seem contrary to the general philosophy of the current provincial government which promotes reducing government bureaucracy and cutting administration costs.
While some municipalities have argued that they need registries to enforce safety standards, INC would argue that there are already processes to ensure units come up to standard. Any homeowner wishing to instal a new apartment must apply for a building permit and their unit must be inspected to ensure that safety and building standards are met. Existing units are being inspected by the fire department to ensure compliance with fire code standards.
It is our position that public registries are redundant and an unnecessary use of taxpayers' dollars. In addition, public registries might be used by municipalities to close units down for minor zoning infractions like parking. An inspection process for apartments in houses which responds to complaints from tenants is more consistent with the inspection processes and procedures currently in place for all other rental units.
The final issue I would like to address briefly is the issue of the legislation being retroactive. Many homeowners have indicated to us that they believe the grandfathering clause should be extended for units up until the date of proclamation. Many homeowners and developers planning to instal an apartment in a house or in the process of doing so were caught by the introduction of Bill 20 as they discovered that their municipality would no longer issue building permits for the construction of accessory units.
In conclusion, it is the position of the Inclusive Neighbourhoods Campaign that the apartments-in-houses provisions of Bill 20 will choke the supply of affordable housing, create more red tape and bureaucracy and stifle economic activity in the building and development industry in the area of accessory apartments. In addition, it will create confusion for tenants and homeowners and will result in unsafe, unregulated units being built.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Buncel. You obviously practised: 25 minutes exactly to the second. Thank you very much for making your presentation before us today. Oh that the three parties could be that timely.
GREY ASSOCIATION FOR BETTER PLANNING
The Chair: Our next presentation today is the Grey Association for Better Planning.
Ms Churley: More friends of yours, Bill.
The Chair: Friends of Bill Murdoch.
Mr Peter Ferguson: My name is Peter Ferguson. I'm president of the Grey Association for Better Planning. I'm glad to note that Bill Murdoch, our local member, is on the committee, and I think I recognize a few familiar faces from the omnibus committee meetings. I hope you won't find our information approach boring if you're one of our friends or acquaintances.
I'm going to go through the handout you've been given, because that's what we want to say, and presumably we'll get on to questions afterwards.
Oh, I should say I hope the opposition members won't mind if I seem to direct my comments towards the government, because they're the people we're trying to convince.
Mr Gerretsen: You can speak to them all you want.
Mr Ferguson: Thanks. I'm sure you'll have something to say about it, though.
The Grey Association for Better Planning has 300 members across Grey county, represented by a board comprising members from each township in the county. We came together in 1990 to ensure adherence to the county's official plan and provincial planning policies. Currently, we're working at community development, Grey's new official plan and planning policy at the provincial level, our reason for being here today.
We believe that planning is the fundamental activity of a democratic society, determining together how we can live together without hurting one another. We also believe that planning has four primary facets: firstly, active community involvement in establishing planning objectives; secondly, establishment of clear, strong planning rules; thirdly, consistent and fair enforcement of the agreed-upon rules; and then fourthly, regular reassessment and revision of those rules.
We do not believe, as some would think, that planning should just be a matter of preserving the environment. Rather, we believe that we must decide together how best to utilize it, how to live together in it and how to maintain it as a continuously productive asset to society.
And so today, we come before you, our local flowering of a North American phenomenon, the conservative renaissance. Reform, Republican, Progressive Conservative, across the continent there is a surge of parties similar to yours. What do they have in common? We believe our Conservative front runners believe in three primary tenets, all of which have a visceral appeal for us good old boys and good old girls up in Grey county. We're far enough from the seat of power to still have a bias towards a kind of out-on-the-edge pioneer self-reliance.
Those are: firstly, strong government leadership allied with a reduction in government interference; secondly, fiscal rectitude and economic revitalization; and thirdly, responsiveness to the grass roots and community values.
We trust government members of the committee will agree that these broad thrusts underlie their Common Sense Revolution. We come before you because we fear you risk undercutting these admirable aspirations in your proposed revisions to the Planning Act which we and countless others across the province spent much time and effort improving over the past few years. We'd like to discuss each of these aspirations and make recommendations regarding your proposed alterations to the act in the interests of ensuring that your aspirations are in fact realized.
Firstly, under government leadership and non-interference: We agree, government must show leadership while trying to reduce its intrusiveness. The best way to do this is to establish strong rules and then leave citizens and lower levels of government alone to respond to them. Planning, as you know, takes place through the municipalities which are simply administrative creatures of your provincial government. A government which allows these servant levels of administration too long a leash runs the risk of abnegating its responsibility to them and to its voters.
Our recommendations in this area are, firstly, require that municipalities follow provincial policies. Take your responsibilities as provincial regulators to heart. You're in charge. We didn't elect you to wash your hands of controlling the municipalities. The previous NDP government toyed with the idea of changing wording on policies to "have regard to," just as you're doing now. We were able to convince them at a committee meeting very similar to this one that if they were confident in their own abilities and willing to wield their legislated power, they should require municipal plans to be consistent with their policies. We have the same faith in you and expect a similar strength of will. You can make good rules. Make the municipalities and all the rest of us follow them.
Secondly, strengthen provincial policy statements. If municipalities are going to have to dance to your tune, make sure it's one that's got clear rhythm and a memorable tune. Most of the revisions you propose to the policy statements make the language ambiguous. We've sat through many meetings with municipal politicians, developers and other interest groups during the development of the present Planning Act. The one thing everybody wanted was a clear set of rules: the municipalities so they could write clear plans, the developers so they could start to invest with some assurance of eventual success, and the rest of us that we could assist both the other groups without getting needlessly in the way. Just give us some clear, crisply stated rules so we can get the economy moving again.
Thirdly, deny planning approval to authorities with inadequate official plans. Your proposed revisions provide municipalities approval authority regardless of whether their plans are consistent with your policies. Why make the policies if you allow subject levels of government to ignore them? If your rules are good, you have the responsibility of requiring adherence to them.
Fourthly, allow ministries other than Municipal Affairs and Housing to appeal planning decisions to the Ontario Municipal Board. Municipal Affairs and Housing cannot administer all the areas of concern included in intelligent planning. Our other ministries are provincial assets in which we have made a large investment over many decades. To reject their expertise is to throw this investment away and limit the resources available in making fully considered planning decisions.
Under the rubric of economic revitalization, in developing fiscal policy for the province we must take the long view and not leap on short-term, Band-Aid solutions. We want sustained growth in this province, not just an early, convenient blip in our incomes. The "environment" in this context is not just a frill, a pretty picture out there to visit on weekends. It's our fundamental infrastructure, our necessary habitat, a precondition to effective economic development.
Economic planning must take into account all costs, including the future cost of environmental remediation, should you, our leaders, make decisions which lead to the deterioration of this heritage infrastructure. Right now, we're in debt to international financiers. If we go wrong on maintaining our natural infrastructure, we will be putting ourselves in debt again for the eventual costs of cleanup of misguided decisions. Just look at eastern Europe. There, short-term economic planning destroyed rivers, cities and farms to the extent that the embryonic free economies are hamstrung by the massive cleanup necessary before they can even begin to approach our level of production and income.
Our recommendations in this area are:
Save wetlands, water recharge areas and other ecologically important areas. We don't want to wake up five years from now with dirty water, dying fields and choking cities and all the costs attendant on repairing those situations.
Restrict low-density, scattered development. Ensure that we won't have to blow our declining budgets in straining to provide services over huge areas of what used to be valuable farmland which can no longer contribute to our health and our income.
Finally, under grassroots community values, once we have clear rules for development, which will keep us from running up future debt, the best way to work within those rules is by making the development system locally responsive. Your government stands for a renaissance in our society, a reinvigoration of the idea of small, local groups as the fundamental building blocks of a caring society taking care of social needs through direct involvement. To carry this through, you must begin to smooth the way for the participation of citizens and their local societies rather than throwing up barriers to it.
Three recommendations in this area:
(1) Maintain the required public meetings at all levels of the process. The only way to strengthen local organizations is to give them authority. If you shut them out of the planning and development process, the social infrastructure you're seeking to develop will wither. Municipalities, developers and even yourselves will end up spending much more time and money on rear-guard action, assuaging the demands of shut-out citizens than you would if you simply took advantage of their contributions in the beginning.
(2) Maintain public appeals to the OMB. A fundamental tenet of a party attempting a Conservative restoration is that all citizens should have equal access to the mechanisms of power. To exclude citizens from the OMB implies that your government does not trust the average citizen.
(3) Finally, maintain public meetings for the approval of housing subdivisions. To remove the capability of citizens to comment on those developments which are most likely to directly affect their lives is a further imposition on their autonomy, which flies directly in the face of any vision of government founded upon responsiveness to community values.
Together, these recommendations will go a long way towards ensuring that your Planning Act truly reflects the exciting possibilities of the Conservative revolution. Please incorporate them so that we may live in a province with strong, fair rules, a healthy economic infrastructure and a strengthened network of locally responsible community service groups. We're behind you in these aspirations. Please let us know how we can help you to achieve them.
Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): Regarding public appeals to the OMB, one thing that troubles me about the current system is how complicated and expensive it is. I don't know if you're familiar with the Sydenham Mills project in Grey county?
Mr. Ferguson: Glancingly. It was before my time.
Mr Skarica: Apparently there were months of debate, a review by an environmental assessment committee and then there were unknown tentacles which ended up in four weeks' worth of hearings before the OMB. Apparently the Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources and Municipal Affairs were all there. They were represented by legal counsel, there was an appellant there, there was a proponent there, they all had lawyers, there were consultants. They debated the merits. This thing went on, apparently, for quite some time and at the end of it the development was refused. Then we heard today that there was another development that was put either there or nearby after all that time and trouble.
So my concern is, surely there's got to be some way to make development more streamlined and less expensive, because ultimately, when you have these kinds of hearings it makes development far more expensive and the average taxpayer, the average citizen, is the one who has to pay for it.
Mr Ferguson: So what's your question?
Mr Skarica: My question is, do you have idea as to how we can streamline the present system so that we don't get into these endless hearings with lawyers and consultants and the expense that's involved?
Mr Ferguson: I think the first thing you shouldn't do is eliminate public participation. You may not be enamoured of lawyers and accountants and so on.
Mr Skarica: I'm one myself and I'm not.
Mr Ferguson: It's a difficult problem. You have to either decide to have hearings or not to have them. If you're going to have them, you have to make them open to everyone. You can't say that there's one class of citizen that's approved and one class of citizen that isn't. If there are going to be hearings about these things, then you must let anyone appear. Of course, your predecessor government went to the extent of providing funding for anyone who wanted to appear and didn't feel they could bear the costs of that which, you're right, are quite high.
I guess we're looking to you folks to come up with a vision of how to permit everyone to participate while at the same time shortening time and reducing costs. I think those are two valid aspirations or intentions which we've tried to meet during the development of the past act. But the way to do it isn't to cut out one half of the population, which is what you're attempting to do right now.
Mr Skarica: Perhaps you could give me some idea as to how you could have a more streamlined process, because to me the present system is unacceptable. When you have all these ministries and lawyers and endless hearings, it's just too expensive. As you've indicated, we just can't afford it.
Ms Churley: A 30% tax cut.
Mr Skarica: Sorry?
The Chair: Just looking for a fight.
Mr Skarica: I don't know this area as well as you do, obviously, and I'm just looking to you for guidance, all right? The present system is too bulky. How can we have a more streamlined system that will still satisfy your concerns?
Mr Ferguson: That was the intention of Bill 163, and to this point of course it hasn't really been tried.
Mr Skarica: It appears not to have worked, according to this last submission.
Ms Churley: It hasn't had a chance to work.
Mr Ferguson: No, it hasn't. Until we know that it's broke, let's not fix it, is what we're saying. Until we know that the OMB in its revised form is not working, why are you cutting out citizens' participation? If you're going to cut out someone, why not cut out the proponent rather than the objector? If there are two sides to the argument, why are you removing the possibility of one side of the argument making its case?
Mr Skarica: I'm looking to you for guidance. I'm asking you the question: What kind of system could you have that's more streamlined and cheaper than the one we have now but still satisfies the concerns?
Mr Ferguson: The thrust of the majority of our recommendations is to maintain the act in its present form and give it a chance. Let's get together and try to work things out, once we find out how it is working, and then come up with revisions. As I said in the beginning, good planning is done through setting the rules, using them, seeing how they work and then going back and looking at them. We haven't had that chance yet to see how the new act works.
The Chair: Now we move to the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, how I wish, Mr Chair.
The Chair: I did that just to tease you.
Mr Gerretsen: You put your finger right on it, because I'm as interested as my friend on the other side there in speeding up the process. But the one thing that this government, in this bill and in Bill 26, just hasn't been able to understand is that it's exactly the way you put it: Cutting one factor out of the equation, namely, the general public, not holding public meetings -- that's not the answer; the answer is administrative. It takes too long to go through the various systems in our local town halls, in our planning departments, in our government departments. That's where the real problem lies, not in whether or not there should be a 20- or a 30-day appeal period. That's where they've got it totally wrong, as far as I'm concerned.
By the way, with this kind of document I'm sure that the government will hire you as a speechwriter, because the tone and flavour of it is I'm sure exactly what they're looking for.
But I wonder if you agree -- it's the point that I've been trying to make for the last three days to the government members and to people who have been presenting here -- that what they've basically done is listened to the municipalities and that the municipalities have said, "Just give us the final authority on a lot of this stuff and we'll somehow speed the process up." By doing that, they've taken appeals away from the OMB, where they should be as a final appellate body, as a final independent body, and they've also taken public meetings away in getting subdivisions approved, which to my way of thinking is absolutely absurd. Having zoning in place does not deal with the final product of what you may actually see there. I wonder if you could comment on that.
Mr Ferguson: That was our final point, its being the most fundamental. At least give people a chance to comment on things that are happening in their own backyards. In order to answer the previous question and yours at the same time, I think you're on the right track, which is to say that if we have, shall we say, three participants in the process -- the municipalities, the developers and the public interest -- then the way to streamline things isn't to just simply remove the participation of one third, but rather to streamline the participation of all three.
I don't have an immediate answer for that right now, and our intention is to try and get together. That's why we're saying "achieving the Conservative renaissance." That's why he thinks it's a good speech. We want to work with you guys to try and come up with revisions that make sense. But what we're saying is, let's not eliminate the participation of people who are fundamentally concerned in the process. Let's come up with administrative ways of streamlining it together.
Mr Gerretsen: One of the suggestions that has been made in these hearings is that, in a similar way that we are starting to hear more and more about alternative dispute resolution within the court system, we introduce a mediation process used before the hearings between, let's say, the developers, the interested citizens, the municipality. In some municipalities it's already done on an ad hoc basis and in some it's being done very effectively, I might add. Do you have any comments on that?
Mr Ferguson: That immediately raises the spectre of an additional level of process and level of bureaucracy.
Mr Gerretsen: I realize that, yes.
Mr Ferguson: But the intention should be to try and get people together in the beginning, as you say, modelled on the legal system, to say, "If it looks like we're going to have a dispute, let's get together in one room and let's try and hash this thing out," rather than getting all formal and expensive. It would be really nice to do that.
Mr Gerretsen: And to build true consensus, which is what the 42 years of Tory rule were all about.
Mr Ferguson: Or at least agreement, yes.
Mr Gerretsen: Exactly. Anyone else? No?
Mr Hampton: I want to say to you, Mr Ferguson, you've done an excellent job of exposing to the Conservative members of the committee the internal contradictions of their public statements on the one hand and their legislation on the other. It's an excellent job. I commend all members of the Conservative caucus to read this. It might help you down the road.
Mr Ferguson: That was my intention.
Mr Hampton: I wanted to ask you this. On page 2 you say, "We come before you because we fear you risk undercutting these admirable aspirations in your proposed revisions to the Planning Act which we and countless others across the province spent much time and effort improving over the past few years." I want to focus on the word "risk." If the government doesn't follow your sage advice here -- I think it's very sage political advice -- what do you think will be the result in terms of the planning that does occur out there and in terms of the kinds of battles that are going to occur as a result of the system that's now being proposed?
Mr Ferguson: I think the term "battle" probably hits it on the head. The problem is that as soon as you cut people out of a process, they become combative and they begin to try and make their feelings felt and you end up back in your corners -- developers against people, municipalities against people, people against municipalities -- which is precisely what we're trying to get away from. What we also end up doing then is hamstringing development in all of our jurisdictions.
What we want, just like we believe the Conservative government wants, is development. Up in Grey county we're dying. Our historical basis, agriculture, is falling apart. Our tourism, everybody wants to do tourism these days, but hopefully it would be of some use to us. Anybody looking at Grey county, at its history, at the legislation that's in place, at the official planning process that's in place, any person wanting to invest in that jurisdiction simply walks away. We can't get anybody to come up there and talk to us. Nobody wants to because they understand that the rules are so muddled, that the municipality and the citizens will be in fundamental disagreement because the rules are not understood. So what we're asking you to do is, set up some crystal-clear rules so that people will start coming to our various municipalities and start investing in them because they know what to expect, rather than muddling everything up again by putting together an act that's nowhere near as good as it used to be. We all want development. That's why we talk about not being environmentalists. We don't care about the environment except in so far as it benefits people, and right now our legislative environment is not benefiting the people of Grey county, and what you're proposing to do is going to wreck it even further. So please, get it together. That's my answer.
Mr Hampton: Do you know much about OMB decision times and OMB --
Mr Ferguson: I participated in a couple of them.
Mr Hampton: This might help answer some of the questions that have been raised by some of the Conservative members. It's my understanding that in fact the time to get a decision out of the OMB has come down, and it's come down significantly over the last three and a half years. In fact the OMB has started to remove a significant backlog that existed. It's my understanding the OMB has also put in place some administrative procedures which will allow them to give decisions even faster in the future.
Mr Ferguson: I believe you're right. And we're looking to the Conservative government, as presumably a small business and big business kind of government, to have the administrative wherewithal to be able to streamline these processes, as has already begun, in order that we can get going in this province. Don't throw us more muddled rules. Give us something to work with, so that our developers can do a good job for us. That's what we're after.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Hampton, and thank you, Mr Ferguson, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here this afternoon.
ONTARIO HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next group up is the Ontario Home Builders' Association. Good afternoon.
Mr Ian Rawlings: First of all, my friend has abandoned me. My name is Ian Rawlings; I am a past president of the Ontario Home Builders' Association. I am here today because I have been given the burden of following through on a process that I guess I started when I was president of the association in 1991 with the Sewell commission.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Ontario Home Builders' Association, we're a voluntary association of companies that are involved in all aspects of the building industry. We represent approximately 3,500 member companies located in 35 local associations around the province. I understand the time I am allotted, sir, and I will be very brief.
You have already heard from our local association from Toronto earlier this week. I understand you'll be visiting locals of Sudbury, Ottawa, Cobourg and Hamilton. I think you'll find there will be a common theme of support for Bill 20 from representatives from our local associations in those areas. In that context, I think my time is best spent in, as I said, being brief and then having some discussion.
There are a couple of points I did want to emphasize. Specifically to begin with, you'll no doubt hear that the change back to "have regard to" from "be consistent with" will weaken the policies and cause great harm to the environment and other interests. I submit to you that this is unlikely to happen. As the minister explained on Monday, those features that are protected under the current system will still be protected under the proposed system, and I agree with his view. The change that's proposed recognizes nothing but a simple fact: Responsible land use planning must address a wide range of interests. Those interests frequently compete with each other.
For example, the more you restrict development to certain areas, the more valuable that developable land becomes, and the more valuable the land gets, the more expensive the homes you build on it become. The consequences, restrictions on land and land use, compete with the need to build low-cost housing. That does not mean you ignore one or the other, it means you have to balance the interests.
How you do that, quite frankly, when you must be consistent with each and every one of the policies, with the "be consistent with" framework, was never clear to me. I am a professional planner; I've practised for 20 years; it is clear to me that you must consider them, but there is a conundrum. You're also likely to hear that the removal of the requirement for public meetings for plans of subdivision will undermine public confidence in the system. Anyone who understands the process knows that this need not be the case. The public has plenty of opportunity to learn about a plan and give comments. There is, quite frankly, a level of planning and planning detail that makes a difference to the overall community. That is handled at the official plan stage, the official plan amendment stages, and zoning bylaws. There is then a level of detail that affects only those people who will actually live or work in the area being planned. This is in the plan of subdivision stage.
I want you to keep in mind, of course, that you do not get a subdivision if you do not have an official plan, or an official plan amendment, or a zoning bylaw. The drafters of Bill 163, in their zeal for openness and transparency, wanted the general public to be involved at all levels of detail. I submit to you, there is no reasonable justification for this.
You will also hear some groups say that prematurity should be restored as a basis for a municipality refusing to refer or for the Ontario Municipal Board dismissing appeals. The defence, I imagine, will be both articulate and impassioned, but I have to question why. Both the policies as they're proposed to be revised and the legislation provide ample safeguards to ensure that development does not outpace essential services. Why do we need yet another provision to guard against premature development? The question of whether an application is premature is a fundamental planning issue. It's not one that should be decided on the basis of prima facie evidence, and it is not one that should be decided without benefit of appeal.
I'd like to touch on a few things that I'd like to see changed in Bill 20. Certainly, the time frames for the process have been shortened, and that is good. One is still too long; I'm referring to the one for review of privately initiated official plan amendments that have been adopted by council. Under Bill 20, if the region does not exempt these plans from its review -- and there's no reason to believe they will exempt them -- they have 90 days to make a decision. That's 60 days too long; in fact, I would go further and say it's probably 90 days too long, but I'll get to that.
If the region insists on reviewing local council decisions, then they should have applications circulated to them concurrently so that they're in a position to make a decision within a very short period of time: 30 days, not 90. But the fundamental question that's raised, of why they might insist on the duplication, is not resolved. They will have an opportunity to review and comment while the local council is studying the application. If they think the council decision was made incorrectly, they can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, the same as everyone else, including the province. The process of allowing regions to review decisions of local councils has one of two effects: It either duplicates the review, or it shifts consideration of issues back to the end of the process. Either outcome is incompatible with effective streamlining.
The other issue that is avoided by Bill 20 and needs to be addressed is the ability to change conditions on draft approved plans of subdivision right up to the moment the plan receives final approval. This is too much like being able to change the rules of the game while it is being played. Some limits need to be placed on this.
I'll digress from my prepared remarks and give you an anecdote, if you'd like. In my view, "draft approval" is not the appropriate terminology; today, it's a "draft refusal with conditions." If that helps you understand the point, I offer that to you.
That covers some of the key planning issues on Bill 20 that I think are important. I want to say a few words about the amendments to the Development Charges Act.
Since the act was passed in 1989, development charges have doubled and tripled in many cities and towns around Ontario. I don't want to go into the reasons why they've escalated so quickly, at least not in my prepared remarks, but I do want to remind you that the policies associated with financing growth-related infrastructure were devised during a time of unprecedented growth. The policies today are out of step with the market conditions that exist and with the conditions that are likely to exist in the foreseeable future.
The amendments proposed, in my view, lay a groundwork for a fundamental review of the Development Charges Act that is badly needed by the home building industry, badly needed by the people who want to buy or rent homes in Ontario. Thank you for your attention.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, first of all, let me tell you that I've been involved with this kind of a situation over the last 25 years, both from the municipal viewpoint, from representing developers, home builders like yourself and from representing members of the general public that may want to have some input or may even object to a particular proposal. My own relationship with the home builders in my own community has always been quite good. As a matter of fact, I've got two plaques on the wall sort of attesting to that.
But I do take exception with your notion on public meetings with respect to subdivisions, and I realize where it's coming from. It's coming from the notion that you'd like to see the plans approved as quickly as possible, and I'm totally in favour of that. But surely you will agree with me that there is a major difference in getting the general public involved at a zoning or rezoning of a property or an official plan amendment, and having them actually see the result or what is actually being proposed for a particular area by way of a plan of subdivision. Would you not agree with me that once people actually know the layout of the particular development that's next to them, from past experience that you yourself have had, that they are much more likely to react to that either positively or negatively rather than in the abstract concept of a rezoning that takes place with respect to that property?
Mr Rawlings: I guess I would say I probably am going to disagree with you. I say that partly because my comments are made in the context of what I see to be some very significant improvements in terms of how planners -- and I am a planner -- plan. I think what we see before us is an opportunity to have planners perhaps do a better job of doing community design as part of the official plan process so that the fuzziness that perhaps has existed historically with those, as we used to call them, blobs and colours plans, has some better edge to it.
I believe with that context, and the fact that the process is a public process -- superimposed over that is a process that identifies lot sizes and zoning and land uses, and traditionally uses things like roads as division lines between particular zones. Implicit and obvious in that statement is that there is a plan that has roads on it for that to happen. Quite frankly, once you reach the subdivision approval stage, without being glib, there's not much left than to talk about how many trees you're going to plant and where they're going to be planted on the front yard.
Mr Gerretsen: And where the park is going to be located.
Mr Rawlings: No, sir, I'm sorry. The park is zoned and it's in a zoning bylaw and it's very often identified in an official plan.
Mr Gerretsen: But not very specifically.
Mr Rawlings: I guess I go back to my early comment where I suggested to you that I see the process of planning now forcing us to define those things very concisely because they are, to a large extent, in many cases, environmentally driven -- or for hazards or slopes and those things are going to be very well identified.
Mr Gerretsen: Let's just say it's different for different for different municipalities, I guess. That's what it basically boils down to.
Would you not agree with me that the real problem with respect to development in this province is not so much in actual time periods that are set out in legislation, but rather the lengthy time periods that it takes planning departments, city councils, the OMB, the various ministry offices to actually deal with a particular application? From a development viewpoint, quite often you don't want to rock the boat, particularly if it's coming your way, by holding them to the strict time lines in the legislation. Is that not where the real problem lies, that it takes five, six years to get a development approved in some cases where there really isn't any opposition?
Mr Rawlings: I think certainly that problem does exist. Is it the problem? Is it the entirety of the problem? I don't believe that's the case. I think there is a whole host of improvements that are being addressed by this legislation. Part of the improvement, quite frankly, is the time frames. The reality of out-on-the-ground practice very likely will be that those time frames, for the most part, are not adhered to strictly. They are there, quite frankly, as worst-case best defence, if I can describe it that way.
I think in many cases people are processing applications as best they can. Personally, I've been both a land developer and a consultant-planner for 20 years and I have been able to find instances where people might be taking longer than I wanted but there's a sincere effort being made. By the same token, I've encountered situations where people are being largely obstructionist, and at that point putting an appeal in is your best defence because at least there's closure to it and you've got the fundamental of a time frame. We now have more of them and I think that's part of the improvement to the system. I think it will be useful.
Mr Hampton: One of the things I've found confusing over the last three days -- and in one of your paragraphs you get into it and you say, "The more you restrict development to certain areas, the more valuable that developable land becomes." We've had some groups come here and say: "Don't worry. There's lots of land that can be developed."
Mr Rawlings: I'm sure you have.
Mr Hampton: To do good planning, you should determine those areas that are of environmental importance or importance in terms of farm land and have those clearly identified so that people know the rules coming in, so that you don't spend a lot of time arguing about, is this environmentally sensitive or is this something that we ought to set aside for special management or is this something that is apt to be or is now important for agricultural purposes? Don't you think that's important? Doesn't that save you time in your work?
Mr Rawlings: Clearly it does. The easy instance for planners is when you have the obvious before you, which I think is the situation you were describing, where you have a community, perhaps you need to expand the urban envelope, you look around your edges and you find that on one side of your community it's prime agricultural land, you look on the other side and it's a prime mineral aggregate resource, you look at the other side and it's wetlands and groundwater recharge area, and you find on the fourth side that there's nothing of very much redeeming value. That's a pretty easy decision I would suggest to you. What isn't so easy is when you find the fourth side also has some significance to it. The consequence of being consistent with all of the policies is that you can't touch the agriculture, you can't touch the mineral aggregate, you can't touch the wetlands, and for argument's sake let's say there's a heritage resource on the fourth side -- you can't touch that.
Now what do you do? You need to grow. You have families. You have businesses that want to open in your city. They want to have people live to make their widgets, work behind their cash register. You'd like them to live close to their place of work. What does one do? It's the conundrum where you've tried, looked and found that you're surrounded by significant and important competing uses for that particular piece of land. Now, how do you reconcile?
Mr Hampton: How do you reconcile that?
Mr Rawlings: When you have legislation that says you shall be consistent and respect all of those, you're stuck.
Mr Hampton: I think what people would probably say in those kinds of situations, and I'd be interested in your response, is that you are going to reach limits. Whether they're naturally imposed or, in some cases, imposed by government being cautious about the future, you're going to reach limits where there may not be any further growth spread in a given area. I happen to live in a place like that. It's surrounded on three and a half sides by water, okay? And then you move further.
But it seems to me that you're still better served if you know going in what the rules are, if you know going in that you don't spend six months, six years arguing, "Well, what about this piece of land?" Isn't that helpful to all concerned? We know what the ground rules are, so now let's look at where development can take place and let's do it speedily and efficiently and effectively and in the least costly way.
Mr Rawlings: I think what we're looking at is a model here that would allow some judgement to be exercised, and I think where judgement is necessary, one should be able to make those judgements. I firmly believe that that should be part of the process, and that it is best made at the local level. It is too simple to bring down the tablets from the mount and hand them to everybody across the province. It doesn't work. I think the easy situations will resolve themselves quite easily. The difficult situations will be the true test of the planning profession and the political leaders of the particular community. But I firmly believe that the exercise of judgement has to part of this process.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, I'd like to deal with the issue of the public hearings for plan for subdivision. I personally have had a number of years' experience, as has Mr Gerretsen, in the municipal field dealing with applications. I've also been involved with the citizens who wanted to be involved with the application. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to be a land developer, or a developer of any kind, as Mr Gerretsen was.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe you will one day, Ernie. I'm sure you will. Stick around.
Mr Hardeman: So I'll have to ask you as a representative of that group. In the local planning that I was involved with, the zoning application for a plan of subdivision was usually subsequent to a draft plan approval to deal with where the subdivision was going to be put. Is that a reasonable assumption?
Mr Rawlings: Sometimes it has occurred that way. I think there have been a number of different approaches to achieving the same end. Yes, in fact you can get draft plan approval with a condition that the approval is subject to having zoning put into place that would implement that subdivision, so in this case you'd have the very detailed plan dealt with before you deal with the zoning. In many cases for the purpose of contracting a process, they are, as I say it, overlapped, they're run concurrently so that you would have a subdivision application moving forward together with a zoning application, so that in essence they're both before council, the region, the approval authority and the public at the same time. Those opportunities exist. They would still exist under the model before us and before the committee today.
Mr Baird: Your 3,500 members, would they primarily be big business or small business?
Mr Rawlings: No, I would say they pretty much run the gamut of work out of a pickup truck; one mom-and-pop operation; there are some large public real estate companies; there are manufacturers of construction products; there are consultants like myself.
Mr Baird: I appreciate your comments on page 1, when you stated the need to create a balance of interests. I guess one of the key elements of this is to create such a balance between interests. In your expert opinion, what impact will this legislation have on job creation and economic growth?
Mr Rawlings: My view of the bill is that it will be a certain and measurable improvement over a process that is clearly -- and I'm not subjecting one to the other; we have two, and some guys older than me will say you've had more than that. So clearly I see this as being an improved process. To the extent that it allows people to bring product on stream quicker, I see the opportunity existing to get back to work people who are waiting for projects to be approved, and in some municipalities there are projects waiting to be approved. Perhaps in our neck of the woods there are not so many of them. In Ottawa, it's a pretty tough town right now.
Mr Baird: It's a tough time.
Mr Rawlings: You betcha. But I clearly see an opportunity here for some tremendous economic stimulus to be gained from getting our industry back to work.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of information, Mr Chairman: I think Mr Hardeman put his finger right on it, that different municipalities require different things for rezoning. In some cases, you do need a draft plan of subdivision so that people know what's happening, and in other cases, rezonings can be done with very, very little actual physical subdivision plan information. That's really the whole point. If everybody approached it the same way, there would be no problem. A lot of municipalities don't.
The Chair: Let's not undertake a debate, shall we, but thank you for your comments, Mr Gerretsen. Mr Rawlings, thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Professor Philip Byer, department of civil engineering, University of Toronto. Good afternoon.
Dr Philip Byer: Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about Bill 20 and the land use planning and approval process in Ontario.
I come to speak to you with three backgrounds. First, I'm a professional engineer and professor of civil engineering working in the area of project evaluation and environment planning.
Secondly, as the past chair of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee, I became involved in a number of cases dealing with the Planning Act. I'll return to that later in my submission.
Finally, I'm a parent who wants his children to live in a province that is healthy economically and environmentally. I want them to be able to afford their own homes. For example, I love my children but I don't want them to be living with me when they're 40 years old. I also want them to have a quality of life that requires that we protect our rich natural heritage.
This brings me to Bill 20. I am greatly concerned that passage of Bill 20 as it is will lead to a very different and worse Ontario, one where inappropriate development destroys or degrades important environmental resources such as wetlands, fisheries, rivers and forests, and where the costs of infrastructure and services to support this development place a high and unnecessary cost to our children.
This future for Ontario is not one that many would like, and none of this is necessary. I am convinced that we can have both economic growth and protection of environmentally significant features from sound land use planning.
In my submission I would like to focus on four basic and interrelated concerns about Bill 20:
(1) Weakening of provincial policy statements by going back to requiring that municipalities only "have regard" to these policies.
(2) Weakening of requirements for the contents of official plans.
(3) Delegation of important approval decisions to municipalities that may not have the understanding or incentives to protect important natural features or consider the long-term economic costs of some development.
(4) Inadequate time for consideration of official plan amendments and plans of subdivision that, one by one, can subvert the intent and vision of an approved official plan.
I will return to these later.
I'd like now to back up and explain my background and experiences that lead me to these concerns. As I mentioned, I was chair of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee. The committee was established in 1983 to increase public input to decisions by the Minister of the Environment on the application of the Environmental Assessment Act. I was appointed a member of the committee in 1985 and then as chair in 1986, and I continued as chair until last fall when the committee was terminated.
During the 1980s and early 1990s the minister received numerous requests that land development proposals be made subject to the Environmental Assessment Act. Many of these requests to use the EA Act were based on public concerns that the requirements under the Planning Act were inadequate to protect the environment. In a number of these cases, the minister asked the committee to carry out public reviews. These included cases dealing with land developments on wetlands and forested areas, on the lake front, over old dump sites, and around a sensitive headwater and a recreational lake.
We also carried out public reviews in the Ganaraska watershed and in Grey county of the more general issue of the adequacy of the Planning Act to protect the environment, and finally, we carried out public reviews of a number of road, water and sewage projects tied to land development decisions. We saw the land use planning and approvals process in action, with conflicts within communities, delays in decision-making and threats to the environment.
In almost all of these land development projects, we did not believe the use of the EA Act was appropriate or necessary, but we heard significant, valid concerns about the land use planning process. This included the lack of clear and meaningful provincial policies, the cumulative effects of official plan amendments, the need for much better information on environmental resources and the economic effects of development alternatives, and the need to control site preparation prior to approvals.
These issues were addressed by the Commission on Planning and Development Reform and the subsequent changes to the Planning Act, to both streamline the process and provide better protection to the environment. Similarly, I assume we all want at least four things from the land use planning process: first, efficient review of applications and approval of development proposals that are in the long-term public interest; second, infrastructure and servicing that is economically efficient; third, protection of environmentally significant resources; and finally, meaningful public involvement in planning decisions that may affect them.
Bill 20 will probably achieve the first objective, efficient review and decision-making, but will likely fail with respect to the other three. As I stated earlier, I believe that Bill 20, as it is, will over time give us an Ontario that is much poorer in terms of environmental quality and costs to future generations.
I would now like to briefly discuss each of my four main areas of concern about Bill 20.
(1) Inadequate status of provincial policy statements: In the past, decision-making in many controversial cases could have been greatly speeded up if there had been clear, firm, provincial direction through policies under the Planning Act such as the one related to development near wetlands. Many developers have stated to me in public hearings that it's better to have clear, strict rules rather than unclear, loose ones, since the latter create uncertainties and delays in approvals, which are critical factors in development.
Proponents, municipalities, government reviewers and the public need to know the rules of the game so they do not waste their valuable time and money arguing unnecessarily over the protection of environmental features. Some things should be protected and others needn't be, and the appropriate level to make these basic decisions is not with each development proposal but through provincial or municipal policies.
I believe that environmental features can be put into three categories. First, those that are insignificant to those outside the municipality. Protection of these resources should be left to the sole discretion of the local decision-makers. Second, those that have some significance and we would like to protect, but protection must be weighed against other objectives -- here provincial policies could help direct the local decision-makers but the final decision would still be left to them. This is what we would get with the policy statements under Bill 20. Finally, there are environmental resources that are of such importance that the province should protect them through meaningful policy statements. But Bill 20 does not allow the province to establish such a level of protection.
Policies to protect the environment must be different from many other types of policies such as economic ones. Economic policies can be tried, and if they don't work, then we adjust them. Unfortunately, weak environmental policies can result in the destruction of significant and sensitive features, and once lost to development, they are lost forever.
I therefore strongly urge you to amend Bill 20 to allow for two levels of environmental policies under the act: ones that give provincial direction but may be overridden, in other words, the ones that are to "have regard to"; but add those that will provide true protection, as we could get with requiring decisions "to be consistent with."
(2) Inadequate requirements for contents of official plans: There can be a great deal of variation between contents and degree of detail in official plans for different areas. Differences are obviously necessary to reflect differences between municipalities. However, there are certain elements that are necessary to inform and direct more specific planning decisions, for example, objectives and policies to direct physical change and manage environmental impacts. Clarity of objectives and policies should help streamline decision-making. Yet Bill 20 weakens this requirement.
These are also important to help avoid unnecessary duplication with the Environmental Assessment Act. Currently planning and approval of municipal infrastructure, such as major roads and sewers, must go through the environmental assessment process, yet this approval is divorced from the development plans that such infrastructure supports. The basic decisions on such infrastructure should be made at the official plan level rather than through an environmental assessment of individual projects.
(3) Delegation of important decision-making power to municipalities: Bill 20 allows for further delegation of certain important decision-making powers to municipalities. Unfortunately, many municipalities lack the staff and expertise to properly review applications, and this will get worse with the downsizing. It will also be more difficult for municipalities to turn to expertise in the provincial government with the cutbacks.
More problematic and more difficult to deal with is the incentive that often exists for municipalities to approve developments for perceived short-term economic benefits at the expense of long-term protection of the environment and long-term costs of infrastructure and servicing.
Finally, development decisions often create environmental effects outside of the jurisdiction such as downstream in the watershed. There needs to be decision-making at the level appropriate to the extent of the environmental impacts.
(4) Inadequate time for consideration of development proposals: An official plan, if it is to mean something, must have some permanence. Official plan amendments, while often necessary, can cumulatively erode the original long-term intent of a plan. Bill 20 gives too little time for constrained municipalities and the interested local public to review such OPAs. I'm concerned that inappropriate developments will simply be approved under the threats of the deadline or of the developer going to the Ontario Municipal Board.
As you can see, these issues are interrelated and must be considered together. For example, the delegation of authority can be appropriate if there are strong, clear provincial policies to direct this authority and if there are adequate resources for reviews.
In conclusion, I believe that Bill 20 will only achieve half of its purpose. The title on the bill states that it is, "An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment." It may, and hopefully will, promote economic growth, but it will not protect the environment. This is sad since we actually can have both. Thank you.
Ms Churley: I regret that I missed, Dr Byer, the first part of your presentation. I should tell you, first, that I now call this bill the environmental destruction bill. It's more --
Ms Churley: Well, actually, I think my title fits the bill, so to speak, better than the official title, from what we're hearing.
I wanted to talk to you about, and I don't know if you have any knowledge of this, consultation by this government with environmental advisory groups. I know some have been disbanded, which you personally have some experience with, but the environmental groups, citizens groups, overall, do you have any knowledge of that?
Dr Byer: I don't have any. I certainly know, through the contacts that I have, that there seems to be a closed door. I don't know of anyone who has been consulted on the bills prior to the bills being put forward. I don't know of anyone who is being consulted on legislation that will affect the environment. I could be wrong, but that's certainly my impression.
Ms Churley: I don't know if you covered it or not, but I'd like to ask you your opinion on what the government is calling the coordination role of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as that minister being the only who can appeal to the OMB, and that the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Minister of Natural Resources will no longer have that option.
We haven't had a clear answer from the minister as to what role both these other ministries will have, and I'm still looking to get a very clear, concise answer that they will have a strong role. But right now, I fear very much, because I've been there, I've been in government, I know that there are various pressures on each minister, and there's a great fear that the ministers of Environment and Natural Resources, particularly with staff layoffs in both ministries, are not going to have a say in that. I wonder if you have an opinion.
Dr Byer: There are cases where other ministries have appealed to the OMB or at least, let's say, their concerns have been the cause of a case going to the OMB. I can think of the Ministry of Natural Resources, for example.
I think the clout within government of one minister -- these are from my experiences under the Environmental Assessment Act and the types of cases that I talked about -- I think quite frankly the threat of one minister to another minister, if you want to call it a threat, that they're thinking about going to the OMB would cause quite a bit of concern and a serious or a second look at some development proposal.
I don't think, from a practical level, that one ministry actually goes and appeals over the objections of another one. That's my experience. But I'm more concerned about the public having the right, and for there to be appropriate review within ministries of development proposals, and their reviews be put on the public record.
Ms Churley: I understand, but what you just said, though, is one of my concerns. In the past, the Minister of Municipal Affairs knew that the Minister of Environment and Energy or Natural Resources could cause a lot of trouble by threatening to appeal.
Dr Byer: That's right. I think that was valuable.
Ms Churley: So there was an incentive for that minister, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to sit down and really listen and try to work out the differences and make some compromises. But now, without that ability, we're not assured that they will come in and, say, give information to the public, be able to express publicly even if they disagree with where the development is going. That is my concern. I have no problem with trying to coordinate and streamlining it, but I have a serious concern about those two ministries being shut out and not being able to express concerns about environmental problems.
Mrs Fisher: Professor, I'm from a rural riding, and just so you know my background a little bit, I have been a 15-year member of a conservation authority board of directors. I also was on a planning committee of county council. I do believe there needs to be a very firm balance between fairness and opportunities for all Ontarians with respect to good planning and not knee-jerk reaction to planning. So I concur that we should be looking ahead to the future and taking into consideration as well the environmental aspects.
However, I would also argue that the environment under this act will remain protected, with the same regulations for the implications resulting around ANSIs or wetlands or setbacks on Great Lake waterways, 15-metre to 45-metre setbacks. I could tell you, in my riding, for example, I have 40 ANSIs. We have the Niagara Escarpment. We have multiple provincial parks, national park designation, two native reserves and the 15-metre to 45-metre setback all along the lakeshore, and I'm surrounded by water on three sides.
So if you were living in my community, knowing that that is there now, with the regulations and laws that were in place for the last number of governments and number of years, I would think that our government at a local level has acted very responsibly to take into consideration, given the list I've just read you, environmental concerns in the Bruce. Would you agree with that?
Dr Byer: I don't know the planning in the Bruce, but if it's as you describe it, that's wonderful. I think the purpose of the legislation would be to make sure that other jurisdictions provide the same level of environmental protection for significant resources. There are areas that I've seen where that has not happened and the Planning Act did not provide that protection.
Mrs Fisher: Well, the Planning Act is the same for all areas, in terms of it may differ in how it's implemented; there's no question. We, as a government, believe the local level government should decide the planning aspects and the environmental protection of all areas in Ontario. You've raised a point in your brief with regard to two levels of approvals as they relate to environmental issues. I've just given an example where the acts are the same for everybody relating to many of the environmental issues in Ontario, and it seems to have worked. Why do you think it can't work?
Dr Byer: I think you've missed something. The act provides minimum requirements. If a municipality or the planning jurisdiction, for example, in Bruce wants to provide a higher level of environmental protection or a higher level of planning, that's great, that's fine. But where the crunch comes, where the conflicts come are where municipalities are either just at the edge of the Planning Act requirements or, quite frankly, subverting them, and I've seen it. You can have lawyers reading it, but I've seen cases, because there's so much subverting the intent, the spirit, even if they might be meeting the legal requirements.
With respect to the local decision-making, I agree with you. Most decisions should remain at the local level. But there are environmental resources and features that go way beyond that, so that if we leave everything to the local level, we will see in 10, 20, 30 years that many of the things we cherish now will not be there.
Mrs Fisher: My question in closing would be, would it not be better then to identify those and put those into the act under the decision-making capacity of the local level, as opposed to creating a two-tiered bureaucracy in terms of an environmental issue at this level, or environmental issue at this level has two ways of process. I prefer a local level decision-making capacity, but I prefer also to protect the environment. Maybe what we need to be doing here is looking at those areas that you might be able to identify of provincial decision-making necessity, as opposed to those local, and include those in the act as opposed to two-tiered decision-making.
Dr Byer: Let me give you an example of wetlands. We've been fairly clear. It's been fairly, I won't say easy but at least it's been done, to rate wetlands on a scale, and it's served us I think quite well, where we have insignificant wetlands, regionally significant wetlands and provincially significant wetlands. We can do that for a lot of other environmental features. It's difficult, but I think we have to try.
If we can do that, let's take the ones that are not significant and leave it up to the local municipality; regionally significant can be at a different level of decision-making and approval; but provincially significant, there are aspects of that also that need strong provincial protection. And there are environmental effects that go beyond, for example, downstream of a municipality. We cannot leave all decisions up to municipalities when the effects go beyond them. If one municipality is upstream and wants to do development, but the effects of that development through erosion into the stream and so on create problems downstream, they should not have sole decision-making authority.
Mr Gerretsen: To just give my friends an indication as to how it's affecting my area, which is eastern Ontario, the map has been significantly changed so that much of eastern Ontario is eliminated entirely from the area where wetlands are protected. Somebody made that decision. I know my conservation authority is concerned about that. Other people in the area are concerned about that. It just happened in a new statement. Nobody knows where it came from. You just try to explain that one to me.
If I could take up your time up for just a moment, because it leads into a question to you, sir, we've just had a perfect indication how rezoning applications are dealt with in different parts of the province in different ways. In some areas, you can only get a rezoning if, in effect, you give the whole plan of subdivision in detail etc. In other areas of Ontario, and I know this for a fact, you can get rezonings with very little detail as to what you actually want to put on the land, and the first time that people actually see it is when a subdivision proposal comes forward. That is a fact.
We can get political about that and argue about that, but I'm telling you that is a fact. In that particular case where somebody can get a rezoning in the abstract, if I can put it that way, if you're taking the public meeting concept away from when the subdivision comes forward, it means the local community will have absolutely no input and won't know what's going to go on that site until after it's a fait accompli. That is a fact -- not a political statement, but a fact.
I wonder if you have any comment on that kind of situation that can develop under the new rules, because the methods in which rezonings and OP amendments are being handled by the various councils throughout this province are not the same. Do you have any comments on that, sir?
Dr Byer: Not at the direct level of the rezonings, for example. I have seen quite a bit of variation in terms of the approval process and, most importantly, the level of information that different municipalities require up front. That's why I think it's important to have minimum standards in effect in official plans, that all official plans be required to have a certain process or information for rezonings.
But I want to get to something that has come up, I think, through your question and through Ms Churley's question, which has to do with the role of ministries. With the obvious downsizing of government, there is going to be less -- it was difficult enough before to get government ministries to do reviews of zoning applications or official plan amendments. It's probably going to be impossible now, certainly not in the time lines that are available. If we look at the downsizing and the tight time frames, basically it won't happen.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us with the public needing to see this information as early as possible, and that's a heck of a burden on us.
Mr Gerretsen: I wonder if you could comment on this, sir. The one-window approach is at first sight a recommended thing from my viewpoint, so that people will know what ministry to go to to get the necessary information. However, it is extremely important in my view that if the other ministries are still going to play an active role in this, a memorandum of understanding be established between the various ministries, a protocol memorandum as to how the concerns of the other ministries will in effect be brought forward.
Otherwise, a lot of the concerns are going to be finessed if there's only one view that comes out of the ministry; for example, if the Ministry of Environment has a concern that it really feels strongly about, that there will be an understanding that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who will be the only agency that will be allowed to make the official appeal, will do so and that it will not be something that will be internally negotiated without any input from the developer, from the municipality, or indeed from the general public. Do you share that concern?
Dr Byer: I share the basic concern of where the Ministry of Municipal Affairs or the municipalities are going to get the information they need about the economic and environmental effects of applications. I honestly don't know where it's going to come from. Municipalities are not going to have the staff to be able to do this.
If on the one hand you want economic growth, if there's an increase in development applications -- right now maybe they can handle it because there aren't many, but I can just see everything crashing down so that there are going to be municipalities that will be approving these applications because they can't do anything other than that, they don't have the studies to show not to approve them. That's basically what I think is going to happen.
The Chair: Thank you, Professor. We appreciate your making a presentation before us here today.
I'm sorry, committee, I should have noted that before the professor on your agenda was the North York Interagency and Community Council. They cancelled earlier this afternoon. The clerk has just received a phone call that our next group, from the CAW, has also cancelled. Sorry for the lack of notice, but that would appear to conclude the agenda items for today. The committee stands adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
The committee adjourned at 1640.