Monday 19 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
Canadian Property Tax Association; Urban Development Institute
Yvonne Hamlin, solicitor, Goodman and Carr
David Fleet, vice-president, education, CPTA
Stephen Kaiser, president, UDI
Federation of Ontario Naturalists
Marion Taylor, director of environmental affairs
Concerned Citizens for Civic Affairs in North York
Colin Williams, president
Tim Pellew, director
Conservation Council of Ontario
Chris Winter, executive director
Ontario Urban Transit Association
Dave Roberts, executive director
Georgian Triangle Development Institute
Colin Travis, past president
David Slade, vice-president
Canadian Institute of Public Real Estate Companies
Ron Daniel, executive director
Mark Noskiewicz, partner, Goodman Phillips Vineberg
Lorne Braithwaite, president
Ontario Association of Landscape Architects
James Floyd, president
Eha Naylor, member
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
*Baird, John R. (Nepean PC)
Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre ND)
Chudleigh, Ted (Halton North / -Nord PC)
*Churley, Marilyn (Riverdale ND)
Duncan, Dwight (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
*Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
*Hoy, Pat (Essex-Kent L)
*Lalonde, Jean-Marc (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
*Murdoch, Bill (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Ouellette, Jerry J. (Oshawa PC)
Tascona, Joseph (Simcoe Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Mr Christopherson
Carr, Gary (Oakville South / -Sud PC) for Mr Maves
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Gerretsen, John (Kingston and The Islands / Kingston et Les Îles L) for Mr Duncan
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service
Murray, Paul, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0901 in committee room 2.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning, all. Seeing a quorum present, I call the committee back to order.
CANADIAN PROPERTY TAX ASSOCIATION
URBAN DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
The Chair: Our first presentation this morning is from Yvonne Hamlin, partner, Goodman and Carr, on behalf of the Canadian Property Tax Association and the Urban Development Institute. Good morning. We have 25 minutes available, as you see fit, for presentation and a question-and-answer period.
Ms Yvonne Hamlin: Good morning, Mr Chairman and members of the committee. With me here this morning is David Fleet who is the vice-president of education of the Canadian Property Tax Association. He's also a lawyer at the firm of Poole, Milligan in Toronto. Beside me here is Mr Stephen Kaiser who is the president of the Urban Development Institute. I'm a member of both these organizations and will do the presentation largely this morning and then David will also add some comments afterwards.
As the brief indicates, we're here this morning on behalf of two organizations. One is the Canadian Property Tax Association. It's a national organization. It's been around since 1967. One of its objectives is to study proposed legislation affecting assessment and taxation in the province of Ontario, present briefs, and provide forums for information exchanges.
Many of you are familiar with the Urban Development Institute also, which is also a national organization serving as a forum for the exchange of information and ideas on matters relating to land use planning and development.
We're here this morning to seek the assistance of the committee in bringing forward an amendment to the Assessment Act. As you know, Bill 20 already contains one amendment to the Assessment Act. We're asking another one be considered by you. The purpose of it is to allow a retention of how farm land assessment has been treated over the past four decades in the province of Ontario. Farm lands have always been assessed having regard to whether they are an actual farm use or not. Zoning or official plan designation on those lands has never been something that's been taken into account either by the provincial assessors or the Ontario Municipal Board, or the courts in their review of those decisions.
Certain aggressive municipalities -- and I don't think there'll be any secret in saying Mississauga is the leader in this regard -- have taken a small loophole that was created by a case arising out of Windsor a few years ago and are trying to drive a wedge in how assessment of farm lands is being treated, and in fact are taking the position, both through the courts and in terms of how lands are assessed in their municipality, that if lands have a designation or a zoning on them that permits urban uses, they should not have the benefit of a farm assessment on them.
We're here this morning to ask that the loophole be closed, to allow people, and municipalities in fact, who have planned their affairs over the past 40 years to be able to continue to do so.
The regulations affecting how assessment of farm lands should be treated have been in the Assessment Act for 40 years, as I mentioned. They came in in 1955. They have been amended over the years to reinforce them and make them even stronger.
There are a lot of provincial policies that speak to this issue. I'm not going to go into them in great detail with you -- they're set out in our brief between pages 15 and 20 -- but suffice it to say -- and I know you're all familiar with them -- things like: keep lands in agricultural production for as long as possible; have a long-term supply of land available until it's needed for development; look for a 20-year planning horizon. There are lots of policies relating to agricultural and food land guidelines. There are the draft proposed policy statements that go with the new Planning Act that's before you. All of these speak to a long-term supply of land.
The impact of allowing the situation to change and allowing, I'll say, the Mississauga approach to take over is significant. We had the company of Clayton Research do an analysis of what the economic impact would be, and it's set out at tab A of this brief. The kinds of things they looked at were, firstly, what was the impact on the farming community. They looked at it in terms of -- right now there's an incentive for the development community or those holding lands for future development, and sometimes, I have to say, they're just large companies that buy extra lands because they want to maybe expand their business in the future. It's not all land developers, although primarily they're the holders of land in the province.
Because of the incentive, taxwise, to keep the lands in agricultural production, they do so. Clayton looks at the fact that if there's no incentive to do so, then largely, why would there be any farming taking place on these lands?
At page 2 of their brief, they have a look at what the significance in the greater Toronto area is of farming. I was quite surprised when I looked at this, and I'm sure you will be. They looked at the 1991 census of agriculture, and in these regions that surround Metro-Durham, York, Peel and Halton -- in 1991 there were 4,700 farms, half a million acres of land in crop production, 204,000 weeks of work per year for hired labourers. They mention also that 43% of the land that's farmed in the greater Toronto area is rented. I think this is going to show that there are a lot of farmers who are working hand in hand with people who are holding land for future use to allow this farming to continue for as long as possible until the lands are needed for another use.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture -- we spoke to them. They in fact have been quite active on this issue and approached us some time ago on it. There's a letter before you this morning which says they're in support of an amendment to this section of the Assessment Act that's at issue, which is subsection 19(3). They say, "Farmers are of the view that farm land is farm land, regardless of the zoning designation." They go on to explain how it's important to them that this problem be fixed as soon as possible.
Also, the municipality of Caledon, which is as you know north and west of this downtown area, were worried about this issue last spring and summer. At your convenience, you might have a look at tab C, the second page of that extract. They actually passed a resolution last July indicating that because they have a strong agricultural community and they're worried about the agricultural community's viability, they supported, "That the Ministry of Revenue be advised that...when lands are being used for bona fide farming operation that the Assessment Act be clarified to ensure that the existing provisions, which benefit lands used for farming, are maintained." So that was out of Caledon.
Another impact of course is, what about these lands that are being held and what's the impact on the supply and the cost of them? Clayton also looks at that. If you flip over to their page 3, you can see they've done an example of an 80-acre industrial park. As you may know, what often happens is a land owner will buy some land that is being farmed. He'll do his zoning and official plan designation to get, let's say, an industrial zoning on it. He might even stop the farming activity, put in some underground services. There's no market, because sometimes you have to wait a long time for a build-out of an industrial park, so he starts farming it again. Taxes are low. It works.
What Clayton shows is that over a five-year period, if you take into account the additional taxes and interest that would come from having these lands assessed as urban industrial lands, it would add another $1.4 million to the cost of that land. That's an additional tax amount that would have to be paid.
Brampton is very concerned about this. When you have time, you might have a look at tab B of this brief, because you'll see in there a resolution from council of the city of Brampton that was passed last December, and a letter from the mayor, Peter Robertson, dated January 5, 1996, that he sends to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, essentially saying that Brampton is worried about the economic development hindrance that this will have on the supply of land and the cost of land. They're worried, I think as many are, that developers and owners of land will not bring lands on for a long-term look and hold for supply purposes if, as soon as it's zoned or designated, they're going to be hit with high taxes. It will impact on making sure there's enough supply available so when people come up looking and they want to put an industry here or a business there, they usually like to have a large choice of lands of where they're going to put it. Brampton was very concerned that this was going to impacted on, and their letter essentially is, "Please amend subsection 19(3) and assist us in that regard."
Also, land developers who are bringing new communities on stream plan for the long term, as I've talked about, and even though there may not be a market at the beginning of the planning scenario for high-density housing or affordable housing in a particular area or a shopping centre and a school, these things sometimes develop over a 10- or 20-year time frame. The lands are planned up front, and the zoning is put in place. Everyone knows where everything's going to be to have a fully functioning community.
But the problems with this, of course, is no one's going to want to do that, and how we're going to plan over the long term to make sure all these uses are there. These are concerns we have.
When you look at the Clayton brief again, and I'll ask you to look at their page 3, if you look at the bottom there, figure 2, they took an example again out of Mississauga, an actual piece of land that's five acres in size, presently zoned for a high-density piece, parcel use, no market for it right now. Clearly, after the lands have been held for nine years, and an additional $1 million of taxes that would be paid, it's going to impact obviously on the eventual sale price of those lands and whether in fact they'll be held. Likewise, you'll see in the figure to the immediate right of that what the impact will be on the cost of a school site. That obviously will be a cost to the public, over 10 years an additional $158,000. They also look at what's the cumulative cost on a single-family lot, and this is on page 4, and show us that over 10 years, the increase in taxes would amount to about $19,000.
What's happened in Mississauga, just so you understand what happened here, is for the 1995 tax year, Mississauga appealed every farm in their municipality. Hundreds of appeals were launched solely on the issue of: "Are these lands zoned for farming or not?" If they're not zoned for farming, in their view they should be assessed and taxed at these higher land values. Those are still going through the system. They are four or five years away from being resolved. Mississauga also worked with the assessment department for their region, and for the 1996 tax year all the farms were reassessed at these higher land values and so now taxpayers are being asked to pay taxes, starting in January -- last month -- at these higher rates.
It's a critical problem right now. The land owners don't know what to do. The impacts are just so dramatic, and I guess this is what Clayton shows on the first page, the annual increase on that 80-acre parcel zoned for future industrial use, an extra $232,000 a year in taxes. He shows some of these annual changes.
We're here then asking for you to consider to change the Assessment Act, subsection 19(3). It's the section that right now says lands that are actually farmed should be assessed as farms, regardless of who owns it or regardless of their speculative use. That test has stood the test of time, if I can put it that way, through the decades. There have been challenges over the years. The Ontario Municipal Board and the courts have been asked before, "Does zoning matter?" They have always said: "No, zoning doesn't matter. We're looking to see, are there crops planted, are the crops harvested, is someone fertilizing it?" These are the tests that have always been had regard to. Is it an actual farm or not?
This loophole that Mississauga has grabbed hold of, that zoning is the issue, flies in the face of 40 years of how this has been interpreted, how people have planned their affairs, and every provincial policy that speaks to long-term planning horizons and making sure there's an adequate and affordable supply of lands, whether it's for housing or industrial-commercial purposes.
David, did you want to add anything to that?
Mr David Fleet: Thanks very much, Yvonne. I am here on behalf of the Canadian Property Tax Association, which has as an organization for over 25 years been making submissions to this body s body in order to urge equitable and reasonable assessment policies. That's again why we're here today in support of the amendment, which would not create something new, but rather would allow the policies of the last 40 years to continue without the apple cart being turned upside down, so to speak.
It is perhaps, however, more succinctly put in the presentation of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture when they say, "Farmers are of the view that farm land is farm land regardless of zoning designation." That's the simple issue. I know, having met a young couple who do farming in the Oakville-Mississauga-Halton region, for instance, that they lease land from various owners, typically companies, and that's how they do their farming. If this litigation, reams and reams of litigation that's out there now, is not favourably resolved, that farming operation won't go on. It's as simple as that.
The position that the CPTA has consistently taken is that you ought to apply what I would call the normal assessment approach and that you ought not to be running off to figure out what the zoning is before you can figure out how you treat the land. That would not ordinarily be the case in property of any other kind. Zoning may impact on a value in some other respects, but the policy consistently has been that farm land in farm use is to be encouraged and supported, and the amendment sought is simply to ensure that, so people and companies who have ordered their affairs for some decades can go on without the rules having been changed, and in the context of the use of land, in midstream in a sense, because they're stuck holding all this land and the tax treatment potentially is radically different.
The proposition here is that the amendment be made retroactive to 1993 to get rid of all that litigation. It's exactly the kind of impediment to sound farming and sound business that I would hope all three parties would join in endorsing the elimination of.
Subject to other comments from Mr Kaiser or Ms Hamlin, I'd be open to any questions from any member of the committee.
Mr Stephen Kaiser: Mr Chair, I'm Stephen Kaiser, president of the Urban Development Institute. I must say before I start that the strategy was to leave lots of time for questions and answers, and I see that strategy is not working too well.
Just in my quick closing comments, the strategy under this bill, Bill 20, and I believe the strategy under 163 and the previous Planning Act was to make sure there was an ample supply of land out there to keep prices affordable. I think that's the main thrust of the argument.
I think everyone is familiar with a community like Cornell, which is a properly planned, comprehensive community involving hundreds of acres. The industry, in light of this decision in the current problem we face, would not bring a piece of land on stream like that in the future, and that's the problem we're here to correct today. Thank you.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Thank you and good morning. This issue has always been one of interest to me, and I'm pleased to see that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has given an opinion here as well. That's very good.
The issue of what is actually the intent for this land in the future has been questioned for many years. I've driven through large tracts of land where it appears to be farmed, and then I'm told that none of these farmers owns the land; they rent it, and in some cases the developer is actually paying them to work it so that if they were to show it to a customer, rather than having weeds and brambles it has a nice-looking crop on it and a more pleasant view for resale.
I think the interest quite often, among some developers, is the property tax rebate and not so much whether they get a crop off it or whether the crop is particularly good. That relates back to the pleasant scenery they see when they try to build a mall out there or whatever it might be that they have some intention for.
The federation is also looking for changes in the property tax rebate. They would like to see some reform in that regard, and I'm sure you'll want to have some input into that as well if indeed the government does move in that direction.
You would be aware, though, that if a developer is to qualify for the property tax rebate, he has to have an income off that farm of $7,000 or $8,000 a year. That's the kind of check and balance in there, that he actually appears to be a farmer. Of course, if you had 1,000 acres you wouldn't need much crop to come up with $8,000 worth of income. But I find this a very interesting brief, and it would appear that the farm community is on side with you, that farm land is farm land as long as it's being cropped.
Ms Hamlin: I haven't spoken to many people who have mentioned the farm tax rebate, but I think you have identified that this is an issue that really speaks to three different groups, in a sense: first, the developers. Sure, why not have lands that are well looked after as opposed to turning into a dump? If they're not farmed, people will use them as a dump or other unsavoury things, and it certainly keeps the community clean. Second, the farmers like it, because many of them draw their income from it and carry on viable operations. Finally, the provincial policies for long-term land use planning like to have the land zoned but in productive use. It's one of those issues that comes together and allows three different viewpoints to actually merge, which is an interesting one in this case, I think.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I apologize for being late. My concern overall, in the long run, is protecting our farm land, and I'm not quite sure how, and how long, land designated for other uses would be sitting as farm land. Does it really vary from time to time? Could it be a few years, 20 years? How does that work?
Mr Kaiser: I had a conversation the other day with John Latimer, who's the principal of Monarch, and they have a community called Millcroft in the Burlington area. The land was brought in under one master plan for 600 acres at one point in time. It probably covers a 20-year time frame in terms of the land being built out, and the servicing's there, but it was planned at one point in time. There's a 20-year time frame, and they're probably -- I'm not sure -- five or six years into it, maybe a little more, but the rest of the land is continuing to be farmed in corn, from what I saw the last time I drove by. So it is continuing as a viable farm.
Ms Churley: And it could be for a very long time.
Mr Kaiser: Yes.
Ms Churley: I see. So basically, you're not getting into a position on how municipalities determine what should or should not be designated farm land, but your position is very clear that as long as land is being farmed, every tool should be available to keep that land being farmed. I just want to be clear on that, and that what you're saying is that the high taxes are making it difficult, that once the land use is changed and the taxes are reassessed, it's difficult for the farmer to stay on that land and farm.
Ms Hamlin: Yes, that's exactly right.
Ms Churley: And they have to rent, essentially, to cover the cost?
Mr Kaiser: The argument's a little more than that, but it definitely encompasses exactly what you just said.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): In terms of basing our taxation on market value assessment, if the property we're referring to were left as farm assessment, would it be assessed as a farm outside of the metropolitan area, or would it be assessed based on the value as it was purchased by the developer?
Mr Fleet: It would likely be treated according to the assessor's perception of the market value, for whatever base year it was, zoned for something other than farming, ie, multi-residential-industrial, depending upon what that other zoning was. That other zoning may have no particular relevance to the current market value at all, partly because of the time frame from the base year of value -- which in Mississauga, for instance, would be 1980 -- to the present. It may be different because of the simple market realities that whatever it was zoned for, whenever it was zoned, isn't what's going on in the market today. Third, there are still substantive portions of Ontario where there is not a great deal of development of any kind going on and the prospects are not very good.
In fact, the intervenors in the one court case are typically holders of land that was planned for industrial use of one kind or another. That market is gone for the foreseeable future, from my information, and however that land might get used, that zoning isn't terribly relevant, but that's likely how the assessor is going to go and value that property, at a value per acre dramatically different and higher from how it would be treated for farm purposes.
Mr Hardeman: You suggested that this be made retroactive to 1993. Would that be fair to those people who have used the present law to deal with the issues in their municipality, to say: "Guess what? We've passed a new law and everything you've done so far doesn't apply any more"?
Ms Hamlin: That's a good question. Why we said 1993 was that just canvassing around, solicitors who practice in this very narrow area, it seems the oldest appeals out there are from 1993, but the 1993 ones had nothing to do with the zoning issue. People do have legitimate disputes over: Is this really a farm? Did the farmer plant it at the right time? Did he have a bona fide crop? Did he harvest? These are factual issues. Sometimes you need the Ontario Municipal Board to decide. In 1994 it would be the same kind of issue. By the time you get into 1995, those are the appeals that Mississauga launched itself, pointing right squarely into the issue of zoning, and in 1996 they had the reassessment.
But if we don't clean up the issue back to 1993, what will be left is the argument being raised by the municipality for 1993 and 1994 that zoning does matter for those two years, but doesn't matter maybe for 1995 or 1996. We're just trying to clean it all up.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Hamlin, Mr Kaiser and Mr Fleet, for making a presentation here today. We appreciate your taking the time.
FEDERATION OF ONTARIO NATURALISTS
The Chair: Our next presentation will be the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. Good morning. We have 25 minutes for you to divide between presentation and question-and-answer period as you see fit.
Mrs Marion Taylor: Thanks very much. We're pleased to be here and have the opportunity of speaking to you. The Federation of Ontario Naturalists is over 60 years old and has worked with every government over that period for improved protection for forests, for parks, for wildlife, and also for improved protection within land use planning for our natural heritage features, so you understand we're coming at the Planning Act from that point of view.
Also, for those of you who don't know much about the organization, we have provided public education for a long period over that time through our award-winning magazine Seasons, our trips program and our education materials. We are also owners of the largest private nature reserve system in the province, nearly 2,000 acres of high-quality natural heritage land which has been acquired through membership donations. We have 67 clubs across the province, from Thunder Bay to Kirkland Lake and from Windsor to Ottawa.
I think, then, we can speak with some degree of confidence about the concerns of both small urban and rural areas that arise from some of the things in the Planning Act. We're also going to mention things which do not strictly come within Bill 20, but which I think affect Bill 20: other legislation, the policy statement etc.
What we're dealing with is quality-of-life issues here. I would wager that probably 95% of the people sitting here are fishermen, or fisherwomen. Probably that everyone here is concerned with potable water, with having a supply of that available, and also concerned with the visual aspects of the place in which you live. Those are concerns we are going to try to deal with.
To start, then, in connection with Bill 20, I think one of the things that concerns us is that at a time when we're talking about cost saving, prudent fiscal management and so on, we are getting a total upheaval of the planning system, just after we thought things were settling down last June. That is being done, I think, without giving the present planning system the chance to operate. There will need to be changes -- everybody accepted that -- but we haven't had time to see where those need to occur. I think the main thing that we need to realize here is that many municipalities, large and efficient municipalities, have already incorporated a good part of the natural heritage policies into their official plans or are in the process of doing so.
I'm from a very small municipality in Holland township -- I'm pleased to see the MPP sitting here on the committee -- and I must say that I have an acquaintance on the council who has said that the clerk has said to her and to the council generally: "I was beginning to think that we had some grip on the rules here and how to deal with things in a rural municipality. Now I'm finding that just when I thought things were going to settle down, we're back with some pretty vague rules and I'm not sure how that's going to work out." Then he finished by saying, "I'm going to get those awful environmental people bothering me again and I don't like the thought of that."
The new policy statements stress cost-effectiveness and efficient development, and I think they do that at the expense of the natural environment. "Cost-effective" here seems to mean in the immediate time and place, not the total cost -- environmental cost, if you like -- of development, and "efficient" seems not to consider the long-term effects of development. That long-term cost would have to factor in the degradation of the natural environment as a result of the ambiguous natural heritage policies, and that is not even considered.
We are concerned about the across-the-board dilution and weakening of the natural heritage section of the policy statement. It removes protection for about 50% of the area that was protected previously under the wetlands policy statement. It's no longer protected, and there really seems to be no reason for that. The area that is within the line in the policy statement is largely the area in which a lot of damage has been done. Looking at southwestern Ontario, the whole area of cottage country has been removed from protection. The 1992 wetlands policy statement acknowledged that "the Canadian Shield wetland loss is also becoming significant, especially near urban areas and along shorelines of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water." I think we all know the pressures in cottage country on shoreline development.
The other thing that is of concern for us is that corridors and shoreline protection have been removed from the policy statement. Again, anybody who's interested in fishing should be concerned about that removal, because not only has that happened but we have under the Public Lands Act no requirement for permits now when shoreline work is done. So you have a very limited proactive way of dealing with loss of fisheries habitat. The Fisheries Act deals with after-the-fact rehabilitation of fisheries habitat.
We're also concerned with the weak policy statements -- I see that there are two representatives here from Grey and Bruce, and I think this is a real concern up there -- on water quality and quantity, which fails to curtail or even modify development in headwaters, aquifer and recharge areas, or adequately protect groundwater resources. I know in Grey county water questions are the questions of the next decade certainly.
In the midst of the removal of any strong framework for environmental protection, we have everything being passed down to the municipalities. The municipalities are now going to have to be responsible for protection, and God help them. They have no provincial agencies. I know the provincial agencies were, frankly, a pain in the ass at times, and I'm not defending them, but there was a provincial check there.
We also have a serious weakening of the conservation authorities, probably the only local agency that had some resource base and some training in being able to comment on that resource base. Now they are bound to the municipalities; they are dependent on the municipalities for their levies. I can't see that any conservation authority is going to put itself in jeopardy by telling the municipality something it doesn't want to hear. So that's happened.
Then what is the backup? The backup has traditionally been the interested public, and that means all of us who want decent water, who want streams unpolluted and so on. What has Bill 20 done there? Bill 20, for whatever reason, has curtailed public access to the process. Municipalities have in fact been given all the power, and the communities which elect those municipal representatives have a severely diminished say in their own future. This is something that should concern municipalities.
I know that AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, supposedly has had a large role in restructuring the Planning Act, but I really do wonder who AMO represents. Our municipality says that AMO doesn't represent them, that they prefer ROMA, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, and I know that the mayor of Caledon has said AMO certainly doesn't represent her, so who does AMO represent? It might be a question worth asking, politically?
To go to the major headings here, I think the major thing that we're finding people are reacting to is the limitations on public access to the land use planning process. This is everywhere. People are confused, baffled by the fact that they were beginning to get on to a system that came into effect with Bill 163, and now everything's been turned over again and they really aren't sure what's happening. But what is happening is that public taxpayer access to the land use planning system is being severely limited.
Time frames, for instance, for public appeals to the OMB have been reduced from 30 days to 20 days. You've probably heard this a million times, so let us hope that all this seed is not falling on barren ground, because the public has to support this. In the governing process, you do make the assumption that there is going to be a large amount of public buy-in into what is being done, and my observation is that this is a real concern to ratepayers' groups, to naturalists' clubs, to the general public across this province. The reduction from 30 days to 20 days doesn't make any damn sense at all, given our postal system. You probably will get the notice about the time that the last opportunity is there to speak up. It's important, I think, to restore that. Thirty days seems reasonable.
Bill 20 deletes the requirements for public meetings at the municipal level in a variety of circumstances. One is on a proposed plan of subdivision. I think a proposed plan of subdivision, especially in rural areas, is a major decision. I don't think that should have been removed.
Also, municipal council decisions on minor variances -- and again I know you've heard this time and time again -- are not subject to appeal, except an internal self-appeal to the committee of adjustment. As minor variances are not defined and can cover a wide variety of things, I think that's important.
As far as land use planning process and natural heritage -- and this may turn out to be a serpent that writhes in the hand of the person holding it -- we have what's called the one-window approach. I'm damned if I can see through it. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is going to be the one agency in charge. We've asked, how will this work? Nobody seems to know, which is kind of interesting at this stage. We don't know, for the ministries with expertise, for instance, in agriculture, in the natural heritage section or in the water section, how that expertise is going to be fed in, and at what stage. We have no idea. So I have a feeling that MMAH is going to find this not a one-window approach but a very hot-seat approach when things begin to fall into place.
In this one-window approach, there are a lot of questions. We're agreeing that there needs to be avoidance of duplication, but there is apparently no consultation process about what form this will take, and there is no indication that the protocols which we've been assured will be developed will be subject to public review or will be placed in the regulations. So I think this is a matter of some concern.
I think MMAH would be the first to admit it's not a field ministry. What about defending farm land? I think that Ag and Food has done a pretty good job in defence of prime farm land, and I can't see how MMAH is going to do that without some kicking mechanism to get Ag and Food in there when it needs to be. The same is true of water issues, which are big ones.
Another major concern is the exemption in section 9 of the bill to section 17 of the current Planning Act. I'm going to read this because I think it's something that is really bothering us. From our reading of that section, the minister can exempt from his or her approval official plans and official plan amendments, and the minister can also authorize that an approval authority exempt from its approval lower-tier official plans and official plan amendments. That looks to us uncomfortably like self-approval of official plans, at a time when directions to lower-tier municipalities are not very clear, when we're removing from them the financial support that has been theirs from the provincial government and also the technical support. That is truly frightening.
I think that was one of the things that we're finding from our club people and from the ratepayers' groups. They're saying: "We know a lot of these people who are elected as municipal officials. They're well meaning, but they do have certain prejudices and even certain commercial interests, which need some kind of check to them, and that's been removed." If this, in effect, is saying what we think it says, that scares the hell out of me, quite frankly.
Recommendations: In public access, public taxpayer access to the land use planning process must be improved in Bill 20 to garner public support for the streamlining process. This is only sensible. For instance, the time frame for public appeals to the OMB must be reasonable, and I think 30 days is a reasonable time. I don't think it's going to alter the course of history to have that back to 30 days.
Also, mandatory public meetings to address a proposed plan of subdivision and official plan amendments proposed by members of the public should be reinstated. You will often have, in our case, quite reasonable OP amendments introduced by members of the general public to rectify, for instance, a water issue or something of that kind, and if they can be dismissed by a council which is not sympathetic without any further recourse, I think that's a bad thing for the process.
Also, rights of appeal for minor variance should be reinstated. That one has been kicked around. I really do think that's important.
Appeals to the OMB: Now, I'm no defender of the OMB process. I do think that one of the worst things Sewell did was not listen to people when they said, "Look at the OMB, for God's sake, and reform it." That was not done, and maybe that's something this government should consider doing, because I do think there should be some means of solving things before they get to a full-blown OMB hearing. I would be willing to sit down with somebody and perhaps suggest some means of doing that.
But as it stands, if OMB is the last resort, if there are to be adequate checks and balances in this one-window approach, all ministries that have input in there, particularly ministries that have some prescriptive input, like MOE and MNR and Ag and Food, should have the right to appeal planning decisions to the OMB if all other avenues to reach agreement with MMAH have failed. I think that you have to build that in as a check and, as I say, particularly those three ministries.
The requirements for members of the public when appealing to the OMB are too stringent. We opposed the severity of the requirements during the consultation period for Bill 163 and we continue to do so. We accept the process as it applies to official plan adoption, as citizens have a longer period of time to get involved in the planning process. However, in the cases of plans of subdivision, official plan amendments and consents, we recommend that appeals by members of the public to the OMB be accepted if there has been any serious indication of prior interest in the matter.
In the exemption process, we recommend that the upper-tier municipalities not be allowed under any circumstances to exempt from approval their lower-tier official plans or official plan amendments. There should be a review process there.
In the natural heritage policy statement -- and I know this technically does not fall within this hearing's jurisdiction, but I see no reason you shouldn't recommend something here -- development should be prohibited in all provincially significant wetlands in the Great Lakes-St Lawrence region, as was the case in the 1992 wetlands policy statement, if for no other reason than it's going to give you a political nightmare. Have you ever thought of the expensive property and the amount of money that's invested in Georgian Bay real estate and the Muskokas, to name two areas? It's only sensible at least to cover that cottage country area with a policy statement.
Also, significant shorelines and natural corridors should be reinstated as areas of conservation concern in land use planning. Again, we're referring to the recreational values here. Anybody who hunts or fishes or who takes some enjoyment in the natural areas I think should support those as general protection measures.
Ms Churley: Welcome this morning. I think I have the answer to one of your questions, and that's the one-window approach. I would say that this is a terrible problem, because although we agree -- all agree, I think -- with streamlining and cutting red tape, given this government's dismantling of environmental protection to date -- and I don't have time to go into it across the board, but it's just incredible, and very disturbing -- I can tell you what the one-window approach means: it means that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources will not have a say in this process. Even if some window dressing, so to speak -- the window you can't see through -- is installed, that is clearly what is happening now across the board. Therefore, I can't support that aspect. I want to see streamlining, but that's what it means.
What I think the problem is, and we hear it time and time again from groups like yours, is that when we look at this bill, and when developers and when AMO came, it's very clear that many, many, if not all, in some cases, of their concerns and issues have been addressed in this bill. They have been consulted with, and some I've asked have said, "Yes, what we wanted is reflected in the bill."
Have you been consulted? Were you consulted in the putting together of this new bill, and do you see any of your very valid concerns represented in this bill?
Mrs Taylor: No, we weren't consulted, and no, as I've said, I don't see our concerns reflected here. And I think this is a matter of some concern, and I address this to the Progressive Conservative caucus: I think you're making a mistake in the closed-door policy which a lot of ministers are adopting to groups which have a valid concern in an issue and which have a long history of concern. We have not yet been able to meet with Mr Leach, and we have been trying since the summer.
Ms Churley: Shame, shame. Awful.
Mrs Taylor: Much as I like Jim Murphy, he is not a substitute for the minister.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Thanks for giving me a question. Thanks, Marion, for coming down. I appreciate your input. I know we'll be able to use this in the consultation and clause-by-clause. I'm certain we'll look at some of the aspects.
One thing I wanted to say, though, is that ROMA is part of AMO. We mustn't forget that, that they do form part of AMO. I know in our area our rural municipalities all belong to ROMA but they do go and participate on AMO. Gerry Short, who's reeve of St Vincent township, is just-past-president of ROMA. He sits on an AMO board, so he does get the input in there. So we do have that input, and I know AMO likes pretty well everything --
Mrs Taylor: Were they satisfied with the input they had?
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Oh, they got everything they wanted.
Mrs Taylor: ROMA?
Mr Murdoch: No, no. You guys, see, if you'd just wait and listen, she's talking about whether ROMA is satisfied. They like to jump on the government and they like to make things up. But that's fine; that's their job.
Yes, as far as I know. There are some changes they want too. Everybody has changes they'd like to have. Again, this is why we're here today for consultation and this is why you've brought your brief to us, and I think this is fine. It's disturbing to hear that you haven't been able to get in to see Mr Leach, and I'm sure if you get hold of some of us, we'll certainly see that you get that chance.
Mrs Taylor: Maybe we could address to Mr Hardeman a request that he set up a meeting for us.
Mr Murdoch: And I think Ernie heard that, but the thing you've got to remember it that June 8 was not that long ago. To get some things in order, there's not time, and there will be time and I'm sure they will, because when we request some meetings, they will come, and I'm sure he will. It's just probably that there hasn't been that long of a time frame yet that we've been in government, and there has been Christmas and things like that over there. Anyway, I'm sure you will meet with him.
Mrs Taylor: You're stretching it there, Bill.
Mr Murdoch: No, no. I wouldn't do that. You know that, Marion. I just appreciate your bringing this to us, and I'm sure some of the things we can look at and maybe we can do some changes. The water quality: We have to address that, as you know. I think that maybe could be addressed under regulations once the bill's passed. So I think we will look into that once that's been done.
Mrs Taylor: I was telling Dr Galt about Arnold and his cannon. If Arnold is confused, you guys had better watch out, because that cannon has a two-mile range, and if we trek it down here to Queen's Park --
Mr Murdoch: I don't know what the Arnold and the cannon is.
Mrs Taylor: You haven't heard about Arnold building a cannon? They were doing the black powder exercises up just north of Participation Lodge Road there, and Arnold -- you know, the clerk --
Mr Murdoch: Oh, okay. Arnold Rosenberg, yes.
Mrs Taylor: -- has built a cannon. I understand it's a two-mile range. So we want to keep Arnold happy.
Mr Murdoch: Yes, that's right. I didn't know that. Anyway, again, thanks for bringing it to us.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, let me thank you for your brief, because I couldn't have written it better myself and it's very nice to hear this on a Monday morning. I don't know you at all, and I used to be a president of AMO and a mayor and a developer and everything else, and I'll tell you, where the government has totally missed is that there are three major players involved in this, and that's the province, the municipalities and the general public. In the hopes of speeding things along, which is a laudable goal -- I certainly agree in speeding things along -- they somehow have shortchanged the general public out of the whole picture.
When I think that most of the delays that they place are purely of an administrative nature within our own planning staffs, city halls, provincial departments etc, and you could go on and on and on -- and that's the whole problem with this bill. We're sort of Mickey Mousing around whether or not it should be a 20-day appeal or a 30-day appeal, when in actual fact the average development probably takes a year or two to process etc, etc.
I firmly believe that one of the things that has always made municipal government work, by and large, is the fact of public process, and that has been written out of it. We see more regulatory powers. We see it not only in this bill but also in Bill 26.
And the one-window-approach comment you made is right on. Unless we actually see the protocols that are involved between the various ministries and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- it's great for people to say, "Okay, we can zero in on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and those are the people we deal with," but if we don't know what goes on behind the scenes, it could very well be that a lot of ministries that may have very legitimate concerns about a particular development etc are going to be finessed out of the situation.
I would like to just congratulate the Ontario naturalists for an excellent brief, because you've probably said it a heck of a lot better than I ever could. The real problem is administratively. It doesn't take 90 days to get an average rezoning done in most municipalities; it takes like a year or nine months. When you add the appeal process on to that, I think people have a right to know where they stand, whether you're for or against it, pretty early on in the process. I just wonder what your comments are on that.
Mrs Taylor: I just want to say that as far as the one-window approach, at least we used to know when MNR wasn't doing its job. Now there is no way in, so you can't know that.
But I do think that's one of the things that is probably going to come back to haunt you politically, cutting out the public from the process. I think you need to think seriously about some of these things, because I'm not sure for whom this is being done, but it sure as hell isn't for the public of Ontario.
Mr Gerretsen: And there shouldn't be any confusion as well that AMO's position, or the municipal position, is not always along the same lines as the general public's position on these things.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation here today. We appreciate it.
CONCERNED CITIZENS FOR CIVIC AFFAIRS IN NORTH YORK
The Chair: Our next presentation will be Concerned Citizens for Civic Affairs in North York. Good morning.
Mr Colin Williams: Thank you, Mr Chair. My name is Colin Williams. I'm the president of the Concerned Citizens for Civic Affairs in North York. On my left is Mr Tim Pellew, who is a director of our organization.
The organization is a civic group in the city of North York. It has about 70 members and four associations that are associate members of the organization. Our interest over the years has primarily been in the quality of municipal administration and in particular in planning.
I'd like to thank the committee for the invitation to appear today. We got word of this at about noon on Friday, so it's been a very short time to pull together a deputation, and we have no brief for you.
We made a submission to the standing committee on justice with respect to Bill 163 on September 19, 1994, and this is fully reported starting on page 1923 of Hansard. We pointed out some weaknesses, as we saw them, in that bill, in particular the proposal to eliminate variance appeals to the municipal board and the failure to effectively address the accessory apartment problem. We feel that Bill 20 deals better with the accessory apartment problem but needs some clarification. We like the registration idea.
Other concerns are: the elimination of the official plan definition -- it's our feeling that this tends to weaken a basic document in the planning process; the weakening of the development charges regime; the failure of the bill to strengthen protection of Canadian heritage structures; and the failure of the bill to address open government, the unfinished business of the last administration.
I'd like now to turn over to Mr Pellew, who will talk specifically on the variance appeals.
Mr Tim Pellew: Section 45 of this bill eliminates the right of appeal to the OMB on minor variances. In the case where the application for the minor variance is heard by council or a committee of adjustment on which one or more members of council serve, then their decision is final and there will be no appeal process. In instances where there are no members of council on the committee of adjustment, an appeal process to council is allowed, but again, there is no provision for appeal to the OMB. Council, however, will have the option of having the appeal heard by the OMB, but the grieving party does not. We are very disappointed by this change.
To start with, there's difficulty in defining a minor variance. Some are zoning changes in disguise. Many would certainly not be minor matters to the neighbours. Would you call putting up a monster house on an undersized lot next to you, completely dominating your house and backyard, a minor matter in your life?
I'll give you another example: In North York, a developer had succeeded in getting planning permission to put up a large condominium which the local residents had strongly opposed because of its height, size and closeness to their single-family residential neighbourhood. A month or two later, the development was applying to the committee of adjustment for a minor variance to approve increasing the number of suites by nearly 50%, although the outside dimensions of the building were little changed. But that's a pretty big sort of change to call a minor variance.
The individual doesn't expect always to get a fair decision at city hall. Developers finance the election costs of many members and expect favours in return. I don't have to go deeper into this because the saying that the individual cannot fight city hall is only too well known. We have little confidence that we'll get an impartial decision there. There's too much of politics involved: Developers will lobby the councillors. This sort of thing doesn't occur at the OMB.
Now I understand that the priority today is to get the economy to expand and create jobs and that the removal of obstacles will encourage builders and help in this respect. This is probably why section 45 is in Bill 20, to help with the streamlining. Let me answer this important concern this way: Based on our experience in North York, the great majority of the type of construction that is covered by minor variances conforms with the building bylaws of the municipality and building permits are issued without any hearings at all. It's only when the builder wants in some way to break the rules does it go to the committee of adjustment. Once again, the great majority of these are passed unopposed or passed without the opposition appealing. So what have we got left? The answer is, a very small amount of the total. I think that in most cases the builder is trying to put up a larger building than the rules allow. To get a larger building, he may be closer to the boundaries or taking up more area on the lot than he's allowed to, and this often results in inefficient parking. So my point is that the obstruction is usually caused by the builder himself, because he wants to break the rules unnecessarily.
What this bill will do is disempower the people by taking away their right of appeal to an impartial body, the OMB. There will be absolutely nothing people will be able to do if they are faced with injustice, which is bound to happen from time to time. The wealthy may be able to get the matter into the law courts, but the average person would not be able to afford that.
I have a vision of what I'd like to see happen in Ontario: It is to be a place where truth and justice prevail everywhere. I plead with you to change Bill 20 in respect of this matter.
Mr Williams: Bill 163 came forward with a view to enhancing the role of municipalities in land use planning, streamlining the planning process and protecting the environment. We look at the cover of Bill 20 and we see a similar set of objectives here. I would guess that the same scriptwriters have been providing material. One difference is that it's very difficult to find one iota in Bill 20 that does anything to protect the environment. I trust that you'll give some consideration to protecting the environment.
In support of what Mr Pellew has just said to you, I'd like to read from a letter that was sent to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, March 14, 1994, by Michael B. Vaughan QC, of Fraser Beatty. He deals with committee of adjustment appeals. He says:
"I condemn the proposal to take away the right of appeal of committee of adjustment minor variance decisions to the OMB. The proposal is Maoist. The proposal is statist. The proposal is wrong.
"People care profoundly about their homes, their businesses and their rights to make alterations to their properties, or oppose what they fear might be damaging alterations by others.
"Committees of adjustment normally hear applications over a 10- to 20-minute period and do not permit the leading of evidence or cross-examination and so forth. A committee of adjustment hearing is not a hearing in the judicial sense.
"People therefore rely on the fair, impartial and full hearing that is available to them at the municipal board on appeal. They may not always agree with the result, but the objectivity, impartiality and fairness of the municipal board appeal is a fundamental right that is critically important to the parties involved and to the essential functioning of the system."
Dealing with some of the other matters: Our feeling is that the official plan is a basic planning document, that it provides some stability for municipalities. Zoning can be changed relatively easily, official plans not so easily. Our feeling is that the elimination of the definition of an official plan from this act is a step towards weakening the planning process.
Our concerns about the development charges, first of all, are with respect to the ministerial discretion, the lack of any guidelines as to how that discretion should be exercised. The elimination of soft services: It seems to us that these soft-service costs should not be carried by the municipality at large but should be considered as part of the cost of erecting new housing, new commerce, new industry or whatever. Finally, for development charges, there is the elimination of the appeal to the municipal board. We feel that's a retrograde step. It's giving more ministerial authority, which we feel is unhealthy.
Our feeling is that the registration of accessory apartments is a good arrangement and basically we're supportive of the proposals in the bill in that area.
We've mentioned the unfinished business from Bill 163. That dealt with open government. It disappoints us that this matter is not being addressed as part of this bill. I'd like to read to you a couple of items from the terms of reference for the Sewell commission, which was instructed "to inquire into, report upon and make recommendations on legislative change or other actions or both, needed to restore confidence in the integrity of the land use planning system, including the following matters: improvements to the integrity, efficiency, openness, accountability and goals of the land use planning and development review system." These are all important issues which we felt were not properly addressed by the Sewell commission and which the previous administration made a small step towards addressing.
In conclusion, I'd like to commend for your more careful thought the presentation that you've just heard from the naturalists. Our organization supports many of the things they've been laying before you.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Good morning. I've appreciated the presentation. I do have a question though. You referred to taking into consideration the last presentation as well as your thoughts. I wonder if you could explain to me specifically what it is in the environmental aspects that you feel is being eroded by this new bill.
Mr Williams: The failure, first of all, of there being anything in the bill which protects the environment. There's no positive move in this bill which enhances the protection of the environment in any way. The hearing process is being abbreviated. The policies which are coming along with this bill were put out in December, I believe, and there's three months for public response.
Mrs Fisher: Excuse me, but I'm looking for specifics. I'm sure you've seen the policy guidelines as well. Included in there are those protections that you're suggesting maybe aren't there. ANSIs are still there, wetlands are still there. I just wonder what isn't there that you're worried about.
Mr Williams: The protection of ravine land, for example, which is very important in an urban area like Toronto, is weakened in the policy statements that come along as part of the package with this.
Mrs Fisher: I'm not so sure I would agree with that. It's still there and so are the other areas that relate to the environment. The policy statements haven't weakened, in the new introduction, from where they were before. I think the process is altered, there's no question about that. I do believe there's the ability to have the public input that is necessary. These aren't things that just show up; they come through the planning process way before subdivision agreements in terms of official plan amendments and zoning bylaws. I just was curious to know specifically what it was. Thank you very much.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Thank you for your presentation, Mr Williams and Mr Pellew. Looking through Bill 20, and in the past also, I really feel the definition of minor variance is vague at this point. It could be of anything I've had the experience of in the past, but the fact at the present time is that we have removed the appeal to the OMB. It is going to be left to the municipalities really. In a small, rural area, municipalities at times don't have the money to appeal to the municipal board, so it will be left, really, to the council. But at the present time, I feel that the minor variance committee or the committee of adjustment -- its decision could be made but we should be able to have the right to appeal through the municipal council itself.
The way the act is written and read at the present time, if there's a member who sits on the adjustment committee, then you have no right to appeal to the council. I really feel that there should not be any member of municipal council who sits on a minor variance or adjustment committee. That should be taken out completely, that section. But anyway, the cost that will be incurred by the municipality at times could come up to a very high, expensive process to go through.
Do you feel that the section that allows the member of council to sit on the adjustment committee should be removed and it should be really an independent committee of which, in turn, you would have the appeal right to go to municipal council if there's no member sitting on both committees?
Mr Williams: Let me try to respond. I don't think the question you raise is really the central issue here. Let's see how in an urban area, like the area I live in, people get on to the council. They get on to the council because they have support largely from one particular industry. There are special interests who make contributions to the election campaigns of these various people.
You've probably heard of Councillor Mario Gentile. He came from the city of North York. So, first of all, the council comes along in this manner, and then they appoint a group of like-minded people, such as Patricia Starr who sat at one time on our committee of adjustment. Our feeling is there's a lack of objectivity here.
Now, you mentioned the high cost of municipal board hearings, and I would suggest that the hearing itself need not necessarily be a very costly process. Typically, variance hearings at the municipal board take up perhaps half a day or maybe a day. So you have the cost of the chairman, usually it's a single person who holds the hearing, and that's the cost of the hearing, typically.
Ms Churley: I appreciate your comments today. You've done an extremely good job, given that you only had since Friday to prepare. The minor variance issue is one that comes up time and time again. The only people I've heard at all who came in here on all sides of this issue I believe was AMO, which I believe, for reasons of their, own supports that. I expect and hope the government will be willing to make an amendment.
I want to come back to protection of the environment. Ms Fisher asked you, "What's in the bill that hurts the environment?" Obviously, you haven't had a chance to analyse and digest the whole bill, but I can assure you Ms Fisher must be reading a different bill. I'll give you a few examples of how the environment has been hurt.
Natural heritage, the policies have been totally gutted. I can't believe she's saying that the environment is not being hurt. Loss of no-means-no prohibition on development in natural heritage areas. There's a loss of the requirement for an environmental impact statement to determine the acceptability of development in lands adjacent to natural heritage features. There's no quality control over an evaluation that has to go on still.
I think one of the biggest losses is that the wetlands map has been changed. About 50% of protected wetlands has been changed so that most of eastern Ontario, where the highest percentage of dwindling wetland resources remain, is eliminated from where wetlands have to be protected.
There's the whole question around "have regard for" as opposed to "shall be consistent with." It means that municipalities can absolutely ignore broad policy objectives of the province to protect the environment. I could go on and on. The water quality and quantity has been totally gutted, and you'll be hearing more about that in clause-by-clause.
Environmentalists and the general public have not been consulted, have not been listened to on this bill, and it's becoming increasingly clear that people like you and other environmentalists and the general public have been left out. This is a bill for developers. There is no protection of the environment in here, and you've got it right.
Thank you very much for coming before us today. This is your chance for consultation, a bit late in the process, but hopefully in clause-by-clause some of your concerns will be put back into the bill.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
CONSERVATION COUNCIL OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Conservation Council of Ontario. Good morning.
Mr Chris Winter: Thank you very much, Mr Gilchrist. It's a pleasure to see this is a feisty committee.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, we have to keep the government awake, you see.
Mr Winter: I was wondering how to start this presentation and the dialogue going on here gives me a sense of what to say. My name is Chris Winter. I'm the executive director of the Conservation Council of Ontario.
The Conservation Council is an umbrella group, an association of 32 provincial organizations, and we have quite a range of organizations in our membership, everyone from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and other agriculture groups; the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, who you heard from earlier; the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations, who I believe you're going to be hearing from; and the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects you'll be hearing from this afternoon. Each of these organizations has its own views on this bill, and you will be hearing from them.
In my role as executive director, I often see myself as being a bureaucrat, or an ecocrat, so my job is to put information in front of my members that allows them to make informed decisions, and that's what I've tried to do with this brief, Planning for Nature.
I would like to say that in the past 10 years that I've been with the council, I've managed to learn quite a bit about different views and perspectives from around the province and also a lot about how governments handle issues. I would like to say there's a trend I've noticed that every government comes in with a strong mandate, or at least a perceived strong mandate, makes a few mistakes, learns from those mistakes, and then realizes it has to start doing good government. So what I'm about to say about Bill 20 and the Conservative government is something that I've seen with the previous NDP government and the Liberal government before that.
I think you have made mistakes with this bill in your process, with the haste you have put it through, and I hope we will be able to find some way to rectify some of the mistakes that have been made in a way that allows you to proceed with your agenda of streamlining and making the planning system more efficient, but also strengthens the commitment to protecting nature.
I use those words with some intent, "strengthening" and "streamlining." The only way that I believe you can streamline the planning system is to strengthen the commitment to provincial interests. The one I've looked at today in this brief is natural areas. With that, I'll just run you quickly through it.
We have here the context first. The context: I've pulled some quotes out from the minister, Al Leach, that basically say that the government's context is primarily economic in this. The environment is mentioned and the government does say, "We will ensure that environmental rules continue to be tough but do not stifle economic development and growth." Therefore, while there is a recognition of the importance of environment, to my mind it is firmly within the context of the economy.
One of the ways of looking at this, and that's the broader context, is the three intersecting circles of society, economy and environment. I would put it to you that the role of government, of good government, is to balance the needs of all three of those, not to accentuate one, but to make sure there's a strong balance between them and that the result is a healthy Ontario. To do that, quite often you have to look at the tensions and acknowledge that there are going to be problems and tensions between each of those sectors.
We've talked in the past about things like sustainable development and the marriage between environment and economy. I think in part we were fooling ourselves that we could come up with a harmonious balance between environment, economy and society. Tain't necessarily so, folks. There are always going to be tensions, and that's one of the things we have to recognize. We're going to lose on the environment and sometimes we'll lose on economy and sometimes we'll lose as a society. But we have to understand and acknowledge those tensions between the different sectors at a very early stage.
I pulled out some of the population figures for Ontario, because I think that is the major tension that we are going to be facing in the next foreseeable time period.
In 1867 we were a population of 1.5 million; we are now a population of 11 million. By 2001 Treasury and Economics estimates we'll be 12 million. If you look at the population by regions, the greater Toronto area is now 4.4 million, and that's estimated to grow to 6.1 million by the year 2011, almost an additional two million people within the greater Toronto area. That's the critical challenge.
This challenge is also going to be mirrored in other areas as well, so there are going to be other key pressure points. The question is, how do we accommodate this?
The formula -- it's a simple formula, but the one we use is I = PAT, where I is the impact on the environment, and it is the result of the levels of population, the affluence of that population and the technology we use to achieve that affluence. I will put it to you that the planning system is a technology that we have, and the least disruptive way of minimizing impact is to fiddle with the technology, fiddle with the tools that we have. No one wants to change our level of affluence and no one wants to question the levels of population. So the most important and immediate thing we can do is make sure the technology we have is the best, state of the art.
If I look at the strategy for protecting nature, first of all, within the environment sector, that one circle on the environment, our goal of a healthy environment, there are three basic things you have to do to have a healthy environment: protect nature, conserve resources and prevent pollution. You do those three things, you're guaranteed a healthy environment. You mess up on any one, and we're screwed.
Within the aspect of protecting nature, a natural areas strategy looks at protecting natural areas, sustainability in the use of natural areas for the economy and livability of the environment and, particularly in this instance, the urban environment which is an aspect of the planning system.
The tools listed there: parks, planning, voluntary initiatives, and out of that we get to the planning system. So that's the context in which I'm looking at Bill 20 and the planning system.
When we look at a natural areas strategy, as I said, there were three main goals: protect significant ecosystems. There are times when we're going to look at natural areas and say: "This is important. We have to protect it. It takes priority over economic and social needs." There are going to be times and the rest we'd look at and say, "We want to make sure that the use of these areas is done in a sustainable and environmentally sound fashion." Third, we want to maintain public access to high-quality natural environment. This is a social aspect.
There you see in those three goals, we're mirroring the ecological, the economic and the social aspects.
The tools which we have for dealing with this strategy: acquisition, governance, voluntary initiatives, public outreach, which again leads to voluntary initiatives and review and improvement.
I went through and listed a number of the natural areas strategies, so I won't go into them at this point. Suffice it to say that in southern Ontario, the Planning Act and the planning system is an essential component of this. It's the most important piece in a natural areas strategy. So if the Planning Act and the planning system are weak, then our commitment and our resolve to protect natural areas in southern Ontario in particular is threatened.
Next, we looked at an overview of Ontario's planning system. It starts with a provincial framework: the legislation; provincial plans, recognizing that the province has the ability to do plans itself for areas of key importance; consultation and review. Conservation authorities' role: As a special agency, they are able to play a special role in protecting natural areas and managing ecosystems. The role of upper-tier municipalities and lower tier-municipalities in preparing plans, and also the ability to set aside natural areas as parks.
Then, finally, community action: That's something that isn't really referred to in Bill 20, but it is a very important part of the planning system. I'll just take a little pause here to plug a book we have, Community Action for the Environment, which is working in about eight communities across Ontario and allows communities to involve the community groups and public interest groups in not only saying, "This is what is important to us," but also, "Here's what we can do to help." So the planning system should not be just aimed at government doing the answers, whether it's municipal government or whoever. There is a very strong volunteer role, and communities should be able to take an active role in creating their own environment, a healthy environment.
The proposed changes to the planning system: Now we get to the meat. Now I've set you up on the context and I hope you understand that the planning system to us is extremely important within our ability to achieve the goals of a healthy, natural environment. The key changes:
(1) Replacing "shall be consistent with" provincial policy statements with "shall have regard to." This, to my mind, does effectively weaken the power of policy statements to guide the planning process. Policy requires enforcement. If it is not to be directly enforced through the Planning Act, then the province needs to outline how it will ensure local adherence to provincial policy.
(2) It changes the approvals process significantly. Bill 20 gives a number of counties additional powers to approve subdivisions and it allows the minister to exempt municipalities from the requirement for ministerial approval of official plans and official plan amendments. This further devolves the role of the provincial government down to the municipal level and it weakens the ability of the provincial government to maintain control over provincial interests.
(3) It changes the appeal process significantly. It makes the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing the only provincial ministry that can appeal a planning decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. This limits the ability of other ministries to speak on behalf of the provincial interest. I recognize the government's desire to have the government speak with one voice, but it's very unclear how other ministries are able to present their views and make those views known and have priority within the government. So I would prefer to see the existing process remain.
(4) The policy statements under subsection 3(5) are to be replaced with a single, streamlined statement. Much of the detail of the previous policy statements have been eliminated. Now I noted in going though that there is a fair amount of consistency with the things that are here with the old policy statements, but there are some significant gaps in it and Ms Churley pointed to some of them, and I agree with those.
Our council had a meeting with, I think, Mr Galt and members of the ministries of the Environment and Municipal Affairs and Housing, and went through the policy statements and will continue to go through those statements and make recommendations on how they can be improved. The problem, and I think it's a problem that was there already with the previous ones, is that they leave a lot of room for interpretation. The more condensed the policy statements are, the more room there is for interpretation, and that interpretation, given what Bill 20 is doing, is going to happen a lot more at the municipal level, rather than at the provincial level, and the requirement for municipalities to adhere to those policy statements is weaker.
So I think there are a lot of problems with the policy statements and a lot of problems with the planning system still and I don't think Bill 20 is going to rectify them. In fact, given the ambiguity and the scope or the room for interpretation, my fear is that there's a very real chance you're going to see more activity in the Ontario Municipal Board, and my sense is the Ontario Municipal Board may be strapped and handcuffed in its ability to interpret the policies because of the return back to "shall have regard to." So the municipal board may not be in an improved position to be able to speak out on behalf of environmental protection.
Finally, I've looked at some options, and these are options that I'm going to be presenting to our council, so you may get a further brief from the conservation council drawing from the briefs of our member organizations and trying to find some common points. But from my perspective, the key requirements that we need to do with the planning system are:
-- to make sure there's better information on natural areas, features and functions as the basis for good planning; we need more information, more science, on what's out there.
-- a clear statement of provincial interest; this is critical if we're going to have good leadership.
-- third, the ability to ensure the provincial interest is met within the context of a streamlined and locally adaptable process.
I recognize the value of streamlining the process, of making it more cost-effective, but the key point for us is that the environment really doesn't care how quick a decision is made; it cares what that decision is. So streamlining itself is not really an environmental initiative. If you want to streamline, then you have to make sure that there are measures in this bill and in the surrounding efforts to strengthen the commitment to nature.
Here are some of the options:
(1) Incorporate baseline ecological research into the planning system; for example, natural feature studies, watershed plans or subwatershed plans.
(2) Strengthen and clarify the policy statement to provide a clearer description of the broad requirements for identifying and protecting significant natural areas, features and functions.
(3) Restore a strong provincial role in ensuring consistency with the policy statement.
(4) Provide support services to municipalities to assist in addressing provincial policy at an early stage and throughout the planning process; for example, model bylaws and study methodologies for things like natural features studies.
(5) Develop additional studies or plans for areas of provincial interest, such as the Great Lakes, Oak Ridges moraine, and tobacco lands.
(6) Build professional expertise at the municipal level or by pooling such expertise at the region or conservation authority level. If we're going to be asking municipalities to do more ecological research and to incorporate that data and information into their official plans, then we need to make sure that municipalities have access to, or have within their staff, the appropriate expertise.
(7) Develop a provincial monitoring and reporting structure to compile municipal data on land use and natural ecosystems. One of my favourite little bugbears is the lack of clear, concise information on what's actually happening out there. Anyone who's interested in natural areas or the planning system has to become an expert and do a lot of digging before they're really able to understand what's happening out there. Government would certainly benefit from clearer state of the environment or state of resource reporting.
From these and other options it should be possible to design improvements to the planning system that will strengthen the environmental commitment while at the same time facilitating a streamlined planning and approval process.
So those are the options. Our council will be discussing them and I think they give you some flexibility to say how you can implement those options. It's not a prescriptive thing, but there is some room for you to come to us and say, "Here's what we think will improve the planning system," and we can respond to that and work with you.
The two key steps that I see: First is to strengthen the commitment within the Planning Act and I would suggest that Bill 20 could address this need by including a new section, possibly in part III dealing with the official plans, to the effect that every municipality shall be required to produce a natural features study or subwatershed plan in order to document the natural areas, features and functions within its jurisdiction and identify those areas, features and functions that require special protection under an official plan, as well as opportunities to enhance the natural environment within developed areas. In other words, if we're serious about protecting nature in the province of Ontario and if we're serious about using the planning system to achieve this goal, then let's say it in the Planning Act and let's put a requirement in there that is going to trigger changes to the planning system that will allow us to identify natural features and identify the tensions and conflicts and resolve them at a very early stage. This recommendation sets in place the research and the information that will then lead to better official plans and better planning decisions.
Second, initiate a focus study to determine the most cost-effective means for meeting this commitment within a streamlined planning system. I recognize that what I'm putting before you is quite a mouthful, quite a chunk, so what I would suggest is that the province should put in place a broader consultation process that is going to deal with Bill 20 and the planning policy statements and the whole planning system and say, "Okay, on an ongoing basis, how can we make this work?" How can we look at some of the options that I mentioned earlier and incorporate them into the planning system?
I think there are some good examples of municipalities. Richmond Hill and Waterloo are two that I have been told of that have done some good ecological planning and integrated that in with their official plans, so there are some good examples. What we should be striving to do is take those good case studies and turn them into common practice across the province. That's the thing that I think you'll find the conservation council and its members are willing to work on, and that, I think, will lead to substantial improvements in our ability to protect natural areas and essential ecological functions that are going to be extremely stressed over the next 20 years. Thank you very much.
Mr Gerretsen: I would just like to congratulate you on the positive, next-step approach and the amendment that you're suggesting for part III because it's always seemed to me, dealing with policy statements in general, the criticism has been that the policy statements that were developed under the previous government are so expansive that one could take any one policy statement and it would contradict slightly another policy statement. Nobody knew what to make of it, whereas now they're so wide and broad, as suggested in this new act, that really nobody knows what they mean. Anybody can give any kind of interpretation to a very broad statement. I think that the suggestion you have made is actually a very positive one, that if each municipality did set out in a straightforward manner, as the result of a study, what its environmental policies were for certain areas, areas that needed to be protected, then you could get through a lot of this mishmash of either too much policy statement or too little. So I concur with that and will certainly take that up within our own caucus.
Ms Churley: I appreciate your calm, cool presentation and your charts and graphs. It cooled us all down, especially me a little bit. Given the short time frame, I just want to ask you about consultation. I'm glad to hear that you are consulting with Dr Galt on the policy statement. However, given that people don't have to be consistent with it, I wonder about its value. But I want to ask you, were you consulted before or during the drafting of Bill 20, and if you were, were any of your concerns or suggestions included in the bill?
Mr Winter: To my knowledge, I know I wasn't and the conservation council wasn't and I don't believe any of our member organizations were consulted.
Ms Churley: What about conservation lands, given that municipalities can now sell them off and are being defunded by the government? Are you concerned about that?
Mr Winter: I am. I have one case study in the town of Cobourg, which I believe Mr Galt now represents, where there was a conservation authority that was going to let the municipality develop parkland for a baseball complex. It just so happens that it was my parents, who retired there, who led the battle against it, or helped lead the battle against it, and eventually managed to convince council to change its mind on that.
When I hear people say that the system has checks and balances, that the OMB is there to protect, that public consultation and input is there to protect natural areas, that worries me. To put that kind of reliance on the public to be ever-vigilant and standing guard against bad development proposals is something that worries me immensely. The more we can put those kinds of controls into the planning systems so that we are instilling an environmental consciousness or an environmental conscience, into the planning process, the better the planning decisions will be that come out at the end and the more efficient it will be in the long run.
Mr Baird: I appreciate your presentation and the amount of time you put into it. One thing I was particularly pleased with was that in the executive summary you mentioned "at the same time meeting the government's stated priority of streamlining the planning and decision-making process," and then I went on to read your number 5. Do you believe the process needs to be streamlined and made more cost-effective?
Mr Winter: I have two answers to that. One is it helps society in the long run to have an effective and streamlined planning process. It means we are a more efficient economy. On the other hand, from a purely environmental perspective, the more hoops and barriers you have to development, the better off the environment is, because at this point in time the more conflict there is, the less chance there is that significant piece of wetland or natural feature is going to be developed.
Mr Baird: In principle, you would support hoops and barriers in legislation and regulations?
Mr Winter: The environmental side of me would have to say yes. The conservation council side, the need to look at a wide range of interests in the context of environment, economy, social, working for harmony between the three and a healthy province, would say that a streamlined planning process and a more efficient process is in the best interests of the province, so long as the commitment to protecting the environment is strong and remains solid.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Winter, for taking the time to make a presentation today. We appreciate it.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Lorraine Katryan. Good morning.
Ms Lorraine Katryan: I'm delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you today. Please note that I will be confining my comments to the apartments-in-houses side of the bill. I apologize that I don't have a written brief for you, and if my voice goes, it's because I'm not very well today.
I'd like to start by telling you a bit about my story as a homeowner in the city of Toronto with an apartment in my house. I've lived in the same house for the past 14 years. My former husband and I bought it as a young couple and it was barely affordable to us at interest rates hovering between 18% and 20%. When we bought the house, it was a wreck. It was the worst house in the entire neighbourhood. It had a reputation. There were at least 20 work orders outstanding on the house. But we could barely afford it so that's what we got.
We worked hard to upgrade it. We fixed it. Over the years, we consistently put more money into it and brought it up to standard and now it's a very nice house and I get a lot of compliments on it -- small but very nice. But if we didn't have the option of renting out an apartment, we could never have afforded this house.
We started out by renting out part of the house. Then later on my husband's family moved in with us, his parents, his two orphaned nieces whom we raised until they grew up and moved away. Eventually all the family moved away and we had renovated the house substantially and formally installed a basement apartment. The house was inspected and it's a very nice little apartment. When we separated in 1990, I would have been forced to sell the house if it hadn't been for the basement apartment. Only by renting that out could I keep it.
I've continued to rent the apartment for the last, it must be six years now, and it's been a lifesaver for me in terms of providing me with that extra income I needed to keep it and to maintain it. I'm in the process of making a few minor adjustments to bring it up to the fire code standards by July 1996.
I have a young couple living in the apartment. They get along with the neighbours. There have never been any complaints about my tenants. My tenants get along well with everyone in the neighbourhood. My neighbours understand my situation and are very supportive.
Now let me contrast my story with my mother's story. She's a widowed senior living in Scarborough in the house I was born in and grew up in. She's lived there for nearly 40 years and she rents out an apartment in her house. She had that installed after my father died. She's a senior. She hasn't worked for more than 40 years for pay, although she certainly does her share of work in the house. She receives Canada pension and her only other source of income that she can survive on is the rent she gets. Without that rent, she couldn't get by.
Her apartment has been inspected many times. It surpasses the fire code. But she's on her own; she doesn't have a lot of supports in the community. Her tenants provide her with companionship and support. In fact a month ago, my mother had a heart attack and it was a tenant who found her, called 911 and saved her life.
If my mother lost her home because her apartment was shut down, she would become dependent on me and the public purse. I wouldn't be able to take care of her because I'm extremely busy and she couldn't manage the stairs in my house. She would have to go into a seniors' home and depend on government assistance.
Both my mother and I need to rent out an apartment in our houses, but we're in quite different positions because of the different stances of the municipalities we live in. In the city of Toronto, where I live, apartments in houses have been legal for many years. I'm secure in the knowledge that my apartment is legal. I don't have to be afraid of who is going to snitch on me to the authorities.
In contrast, my mother lives in Scarborough where apartments have always been illegal until the passage of Bill 120. My mother knows the fear of having to deal with inspectors, who sometimes harassed her, and she worries about her apartment being shut down. She worries that maybe one of the neighbours will have a grudge against her for who knows what reason and call an inspector on her.
She doesn't understand Bill 20. It's very confusing. She has no idea whether Bill 20 will make her apartment legal or illegal or what will happen because it's too confusing. There will be two sets of standards out there. Like other homeowners I've talked to over the years she's not going to come forward to any municipality I can imagine and report her unit if there's the least uncertainty about whether her unit will be legally allowed. She absolutely depends on that income for her home and for her living. She can't risk that.
If there's any confusion, homeowners are not going to come forward. Having an apartment in their house that they can rent out is vital to their survival, to their ability to pay their mortgage or, in the case of my mother, to be financially independent.
If Bill 20 is passed, the system will be confusing for homeowners and tenants. Each municipality will be able to set up its own rules and there could be different rules for different parts of the communities. Different standards will apply, depending on which municipality you live in, and it will be impossible for the average homeowner to sift through the morass of regulations, of rules: if this, then that; if that, then this. No one is going to risk losing their home to come forward and report it when the situation is like that.
Because of my interest in this issue, I also worked in Scarborough for several years on the struggle to legalize apartments in houses. During my five years working on this issue, I found that most people supported apartments in houses and wanted them to be legal. We did public consultations on the issue. We had ads in the local newspapers. We did public consultations. We were available to give advice and referrals to the public.
The general public was very supportive, very responsive and they supported apartments in houses being legal, but what they really wanted were safety standards. A lot of people told me stories about the apartment down the road that was in a terrible state of repair and was a fire trap. Once they realized that the reason these fire traps existed was because they were illegal and so there were no safety standards in place to be enforced, then people were very clear about wanting them to be legalized with appropriate safety standards.
As long as they remained illegal, they would simply continue to exist as they've always existed, 100,000 across the province, probably more than that, but they would just simply exist as an underground economy and there wouldn't be safety standards to apply to them.
The place where I did see opposition was from the municipal councillors. People like to say that municipalities are more in touch with the local needs, that they have their finger on the pulse of the community. What I found in Scarborough was that this was far from the truth. By the time Bill 120 was passed, I had a file this thick of supporters. By contrast, over the years I had talked to maybe a dozen, maybe 20 people who were opposed to apartments in houses.
But municipalities were not listening to their constituents. They were acting irrationally and out of fear and hatred. They had no understanding why people like me needed an apartment in their house. They hated tenants. They didn't like immigrants. They didn't single mothers who had to leave abusive husbands. They didn't like workers who were tenants who couldn't afford to buy their own homes. They didn't like the people they were in contact with day to day, students, the people who pumped their gas, people who served them in stores, people who babysat their kids.
The city of Scarborough decided to study the issue. They undertook a $125,000 study, which was largely paid for by provincial funds. They hired Frank Lewinberg, a consultant, to study this issue, and when he indicated that there was strong support for apartments in houses and pointed to the need to legalize them, the politicians were in an uproar. They wanted him to completely rewrite his findings, and when he refused, he was essentially forced to resign.
The city's own department then completed the study and they still found that two thirds of the general public supported legalizing apartments in houses with adequate and reasonable fire and property standards. So city council held public consultations on the issue. They organized a fair hearing. But then nine of the 14 councillors decided to unilaterally, arbitrarily pull their wards out of the public consultation process. All those people living in those wards were not going to be invited to the fair hearing, were not going to be given a chance to have their input or their say on the issue. Apartments in houses in their wards were going to stay de facto illegal because of the autocratic decision of just one single person.
Now you tell me how it is that municipalities that won't listen to two thirds of the public and won't let the issue be debated publicly are responding to the needs and concerns of their communities. This indicates to me that their motives are not rational, not based on reasonable planning principles, but are political. They were telling their own constituents that they didn't want to hear their opinions on the issue.
When they finally had their fair hearing, city hall chambers were packed. No matter what side of the issue people were on, everyone in that hall was appalled at the councillors' actions to exempt nine wards from that process.
Furthermore, I found it extremely interesting that when people came forward to the hearing to make their views known to the elected officials, the councillors consistently treated people who opposed apartments in houses very politely and asked them very few questions. By contrast, people who favoured apartments in houses were grilled for up to an hour with questions and insulted for their views. In fact, one woman said she'd have to come back with a law degree next time she appeared before city council because of the intense cross-examination she was exposed to at this so-called fair hearing.
When politicians speak about local autonomy, we need to ask ourselves whose interest they are really serving when they refuse to listen to their own constituents in a supposedly fair hearing process. If Bill 20 is passed, municipalities will once more have the power to disallow people's much-needed housing. This is particularly disturbing at a time when the government is getting out of the housing business.
It boggles my mind that this government says that it wants to encourage business, says that it wants to encourage private sector construction of housing, it supports free enterprise, it wants to cut red tape and it wants to eliminate public spending, and yet it's bringing in this bill which will do the opposite. We can only wonder what the motivation of this government is. Is it political rather than considering the best interests of the stakeholders who are affected by this bill -- homeowners like me, tenants who live in them, builders, developers, small business people who are just trying to get a little bit of work renovating people's houses?
In fact, I understand that I am the only homeowner coming forward to speak to you who has an apartment in their house. But I'm not surprised. Who can afford the risk of coming forward when they could lose their home? Would you want to lose your home?
Now I understand that Bill 20 also gives municipalities the power to set up a public registration system and I'd like to address this for a bit. I think this is just going to create more red tape for homeowners like myself. Who's going to come forward, then, when there's so much ambiguity and confusion about what's legal and what the requirements are? Existing apartments in houses have to be inspected by the fire department and new ones have to be inspected by the building department. Why do you need further registration beyond that? To me, that's registration enough.
Why on earth would the government want to encourage municipalities to create yet another level of bureaucracy and more red tape, which simply is going to cost more public funds to administer? When municipalities are facing massive cuts to their operating grants and essential services or programs are being cut, why would you want to encourage municipalities to create more expensive red tape and duplicate services? It's pointless.
I would rather that my tax dollars go towards day care, which is being threatened a lot more by these cuts, rather than towards a public registry system which is just a duplication of the reporting mechanisms that are already there and which I think will all too easily be used by municipalities to crack down on apartments in houses for purely frivolous reasons.
Bill 120 did an important service to homeowners and to tenants. I feel for homeowners who live in areas where municipalities are opposed to apartments in houses, like my mother in the city of Scarborough. I know that new units will be illegal under the restrictive zoning and that existing units will supposedly remain legal, but who's going to understand that? Who's going to understand the complications and the regulations and the restrictions and the "if this, then that"? They won't. New, young homeowners won't have the option that I had to buy a house and rent part of it out. Seniors won't have the option that my mother has to rent out part of her house.
I think Bill 20 will be disastrous for people -- homeowners like me who risk losing this vital source of income and tenants who need a place to live. As our population grows, where are people going to live? As our household size keeps shrinking and as there are more and more seniors, where are they going to live and who's going to look after them? Does the government want to put more funds into looking after them? I don't see this government doing that.
So my recommendation is to leave Bill 120 as it is. It was a reasonable bill that allowed reasonable safety standards to come into place. I hope that you will listen to what the people need as opposed to what developers need. I'm not even sure where the rationale for the apartments-in-houses side of this bill is coming from. I don't even know who you're listening to. What I'm asking is that you listen to the people.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Thank you very much for your presentation. I ask myself the same question and I'm going to ask you a rhetorical question. I look at the policy, as it exists now, that was created under our government and the move by the Conservative government to get rid of this legislation. We know that the government wants to encourage the construction of new apartment buildings and new units overall for the marketplace. I don't see that going in this direction.
I take it that the government doesn't favour the ghettoizing of low-income people in only particular parts of our community, but I see this, as well as other things they're doing, as moving in that direction because what happens here is that they're giving, as you said in your presentation, the ability for a local council to say, "I don't want in my ward, where we have well-to-do people, apartments in houses because it might just attract into my ward the undesirable people of our society."
I guess the question, and I'm going to ask it myself and maybe you can shed some light on it, is, what really is this all about, in your estimation? What do you think the government is up to here?
Ms Katryan: I agree with everything that you've said and I'm asking myself the same question. I mean, it makes no sense to me that a government is trying to promote free enterprise on one hand and yet clamping down on one of the most basic forms of free enterprise on the other hand. So what's the scoop here? Is it that this government wants to keep people homeless? Does it like homelessness? I don't know.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Come on.
Ms Katryan: Maybe that's a little extreme, but I don't understand the rationale for this bill. You tell me what the rationale is.
Mr Bisson: I have to ask myself the question, because I'm sure that the members here, like all members of this assembly, want to do what's right for their constituents. I have to believe that and I know it's true. But I have to ask myself, where does this policy bring us to that end? I've got to put the question back to you. I can't believe that this government wants to ghettoize people. I can't believe that's the direction here. But then are they saying, "We're only going to allow certain people to get into the business of rental units," maybe that part of it? "We don't want homeowners to get into the rental business," for whatever philosophical reasons. "We only want big developers and landlords." Is that it? I don't know. I'm asking the question.
Ms Katryan: That's what it looks like to me. Maybe it's part of trying to keep certain people out of certain neighbourhoods. There's a lot of anti-tenant sentiment out there among certain people; I don't think among the majority of people, but certainly among certain privileged people. But I ask you, who are tenants? Tenants are people who can't afford to buy a house yet. I was a tenant before I was a homeowner. I bet most people who own a home now were once tenants. So all of this makes no sense to me.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thanks for your presentation. I too was a tenant and then had a triplex, and it made it very easy to purchase our first home. I think I heard you say that you've had this apartment for six years, so this is long before Bill 120 came in. And it worked just fine. Certainly, I don't think it's an us-against-them or them-against-us type of situation. I see ensuring that apartments are registered to ensure that there's some safety standards there and that it's known where they are. When Bill 120 came in, municipalities were complaining that apartments could be built and they had no idea where they were, what was happening, how they got there. Because of Bill 120, homeowners had the right to proceed. We're looking at coordinating and pulling this together to ensure that safety standards are there. Are you opposed to that kind of thing?
Ms Katryan: First of all, Bill 120 requires that you either come forward with an existing apartment to the fire department or, if you want to build a new apartment, then you go to the building department. So what's the point in having another registry system? If you've already got to come forward to an official, then what is the city going to gain by having another office that you also have to report to? If you're going forward to the fire department or the building department, then that's in effect registration, if you ask me. So why do you need a separate registry system beyond that?
Second of all, if you're concerned about safety standards, then why on earth are you going to make most of them illegal again? Because we know what municipalities are going to do. Most municipalities made them illegal for years and years, despite all of the studies that showed that it was important to legalize them, despite all of the surveys that were done that consistently showed that between two thirds and three quarters of the population supported them with proper standards in place.
Bill 120 brought proper standards in place finally and now you're going to make them go underground again. It's not that people are going to stop renting their apartments. My mother lives in the city of Scarborough. Her apartment existed before Bill 120, because she needed it; otherwise where was she going to go? People need these apartments and they're going to put them in anyway. So if municipalities just make them illegal, then where are the safety standards? They're still going to be there, but there are no safety standards.
Mr Gerretsen: If Dr Galt is suggesting that the major problem is safety standards, then we've got mechanisms to deal with it. As you've indicated, we're already dealing with that.
I guess what it basically boils down to is that there was a great debate over what we do with these 100,000 units. The determination was finally made to legalize them. All we're doing by sort of driving it underground again is that five or 10 years from now they'll have to pass another law legalizing them all again.
I'll ask you the same question I asked somebody, I think the only person who spoke against having the basement apartments. I asked this question and I was surprised by the answer, although I take it the government members agreed with it. The notion that I'm stuck with in my own mind is to take a subdivision. You've got two identical houses. Somebody has already built an apartment in one of the units, which is perfectly legal now under Bill 120 and will remain legal. Do you think it's fair to say to the other homeowner who lives right next door, "You can't build an apartment in exactly the same kind of house as the guy next door has?" Do you think that's fair?
Ms Katryan: I would be furious if I was that neighbour next door. Why do you want to set up a system that arbitrarily allows apartments in one house and doesn't allow apartments in the next house?
Mr Gerretsen: Exactly. It always reminds me of the story where -- and this actually happened to me -- many years ago somebody said to me, "I'm against all these basement apartments. You've got to get rid of them," until they wanted one themselves for their own in-laws. Then, all of a sudden, that person completely changed her mind on it. I guess what I'm suggesting to the government members here is that we all know where this is coming from. This is coming from the more affluent subdivisions where people basically don't want other people having apartments until they themselves want them for one of their own relatives etc. I agree with you. Take another look at it. Two thirds of the people are directly opposed to any changes in the law as it currently is. I totally agree with your presentation, by the way.
The Chair: Thank you for taking the time to make a presentation today. We appreciate your comments.
ONTARIO URBAN TRANSIT ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Ontario Urban Transit Association. Good morning.
Mr Dave Roberts: Good morning. Thank you for the invitation. My name's Dave Roberts. I'm the executive director of the Ontario Urban Transit Association. I will try to keep my remarks fairly brief so we do have a bit of time for questions.
Just as a brief introduction, we are the association of virtually all of the urban transit systems within the province, and that is anyone from the TCC right on down to some very tiny systems in communities you may not even believe have transit systems. We serve ultimately about seven million of the province's population in those urban areas.
I'll get on to our specific concerns on Bill 20 and also the related policy statements shortly. Just a little bit of a very brief background: Our reason for being here is the very strong link that exists between land use and transit's ability to work and work well.
We have seen a situation, truly over 50 years, where the changes in land use, the more sparse development of land use, the suburbanization of urban areas, has literally led to a level where transit simply cannot compete against a car in so many of these different areas. We have done research in these areas and there's a lot of other research available, but our industry has concluded that land use is probably the single most important reason that transit has not been as successful as it should be, especially in those suburban areas.
We do differentiate with transit. There are a lot of areas where transit works very well, and you don't have to look much further than the inner part of the city of Toronto and even certain aspects of the GTA, like the GO system, the TTC subway system and even some of the bus lines. Where you have the densities to provide good service, transit works well.
The other features which I note in our brief that help make transit work well also include that type of contiguous development rather than the spotty development, the mix of land uses, keeping those higher densities closer to where the main roads and corridors are, and something that we may not think too much of, but something as simple as sidewalks. There are still a lot of municipalities where there aren't even sidewalks that allow people to get to the stops, and that particularly is of concern for people with disabilities.
Some of the other things that work against it, of course, are just the opposite, including the big, wide arterials that a lot of people can't even cross in the cycle time and the circuitousness, reverse frontages etc of streets, and large parking lots.
We make reference to a document here called the Transit-Supportive Land Use Planning Guidelines, which was crafted about three or four years ago by the Transportation and Municipal Affairs ministries, which we think is a superb document. We'd like to see it used more. It covers all these items that we're covering -- what makes transit work, what doesn't make transit work.
With respect to Bill 20, we have a few specific concerns. One which I'm sure you've heard perhaps several times before now is the elimination of the need for municipal plans to be consistent with the provincial policy statements. In our view, and again there are various opinions on this, that tends to be a pretty toothless type of provision. It seems that there will be lots of opportunities for "having regard to" equating to basically really not being consistent with or even paying much attention to.
The policy statements themselves, again, we like. If there are perhaps some opportunities to adjust them, if there are some concerns about the policy statements, that's probably a more effective way to do it, but not to basically render them impotent as a result.
As we state here, we believe that the provincial planning role should be to establish the certainty that's required; also to set the overall policy and have mechanisms in place to ensure that it's carried out.
With respect to official plans, we have, I guess, very specific views on official plans that we would like to make sure that they exist, that they continue to exist. We're very concerned over this ability to grant exemptions or even the lack of minimum requirements. We feel that to be effective, an official plan needs to have a transportation plan in it, and included in that would be the transit services that are part of the plan, things like modal split targets that would provide the kind of guidance that the municipal officials and the developers need.
The third item, multi-unit residences: I just heard that you were talking about that with the last presentation. We do have some concerns about that as well, for our own reasons. To be effective, we have stated again, transit needs a reasonable density of population to support the service. By that, we don't mean a sea of high-rises in every municipality; far from it. We think there are very intelligent ways to improve densities. Things like infilling is one of them, certain amounts of multi-family residential areas, say, near to the corridors and the nodes etc. But the basement apartments and the second units are all part of that as well. It offers some careful opportunities to improve those densities.
I heard on the news this morning that according to a poll, they estimate 25% of all Canadians are anticipating that their parents or their in-laws are going to move in with them at some point in time. This kind of move here could make that very difficult for them and in effect basically force them into seniors homes, institutions etc, which I don't think anybody wants to see.
The fourth point is development charges. We are concerned over the further restrictions and things like the registering and the fees, which seem to be, again, unnecessary administrative burdens and red tape. We feel that it's more than fair that development charges are the best way to pay for services being introduced into new areas. There has to be investment to put roads in, to buy the buses to provide the transit services, and it has to be done early in the process to ensure that people have that opportunity to use transit at the earliest stage. We'd rather see that than see that cost just passed over to the taxpayer.
A few concerns with the new policy statements, which of course are related to the legislation: We are supportive of good policy statements. Some of the concerns we've listed here appear to us to be a weakening of the policy statements that are now in place. We feel, when transportation infrastructure in particular is talked about, that we would like to see something in there that talks about a preference for transit, or at least sufficient planning and facilities to make transit effective. The existing statements do mention the need to integrate, not only with the neighbouring municipalities but also with other modes like inter-city bus modes, rail etc.
There are obviously fewer restrictions on greenfield development. I think we recognize there are going to be some, but we think the statement needs to be made that this should be basically a development of last resort, and if there is to be greenfield development, it has to be built on to existing built-up areas and not just pockets of development helter-skelter. We make the point here too that this doesn't add cost only to transit but to all municipal services.
We are also concerned that there's no mention of the need for pedestrian facilities. This may seem pretty simple and pretty straightforward, but there are a lot of suburban municipalities that simply don't put those in, and the impact on people with disabilities is considerable. We and the Ministry of Transportation are trying to promote full accessibility to transit, basically to curb the spiralling costs of specialized transit. But if people can't get to the stops, this isn't going to work.
Finally, we'd like to see reference made in the policy statements to the Transit-Supportive Land Use Planning Guidelines and give some kind of a strong message that these are pro-transit, they are workable and municipalities should be encouraged to use them.
In conclusion, why are we concerned? The main concern is cost; more specifically, tax dollars. That's related primarily to the cost of transit trying to serve a sparsely developed area versus an area that is well planned and has the kind of densities, the kind of facilities, amenities, that will support it. Also, of course, poor land use planning and lack of amenities makes it very difficult to attract people to transit.
That's all I have to say on the prepared remarks. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. I'd be happy to answer questions and to also provide any other input that we can on transit aspects of these or any other issues.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you very much. I apologize for my voice this morning. My question relates to perhaps a general comment first. Last week, we had Bob Lehman here of Lehman and Associates, a planner of 20-some-odd years' experience, and he clearly articulated that there is an increasing transition to community-based planning. Would it not be your contention that in that context we're not witnessing an increased awareness of transit-oriented-type issues and that it's better debated at that level than in a broader-policy, provincial context?
Mr Roberts: My background isn't planning, and I wouldn't want to contradict what was said there. I think in general he's probably right. We've already seen some examples of what's known as neo-traditional planning in communities like Markham, Oakville, Orangeville. Those are the ones that come to mind. I think certainly we've made some progress and there is a good understanding of it. However, our experience is still that it's spotty. Some municipalities are very positive. Burlington has come up with some very positive statements and policies towards transit. But others are very much non-supportive. We've already had at least one municipality within the GTA at the council level questioning whether or not they can even afford to have a transit system.
As we said earlier on, one of the biggest hurdles, especially in an area like the GTA, is that intermunicipal coordination. Again, leaving each municipality to do its own thing we think is going to lead to a somewhat chaotic solution and make it very difficult to do things in a coordinated manner.
Mr Smith: As a former municipal planner myself, certainly in London we've witnessed a continued decline in ridership. I've always had difficulty making the linkage or bridging that problem with the establishment of provincial policy and what in my mind appears to be a transition in personal or individual choice. How do we address that whole issue, given that there's an apparent interest on the traveller's part to use a private automobile irrespective of the presence of some of the design guidelines you alluded to in provincial policy?
Mr Roberts: I think we've seen in the last few years that transit certainly has declined in ridership; there's no question about that. Certainly the recession had a lot to do with that. But I think the continued drift towards the more sprawled-out type of land use has had more to do with that as well. We feel very strongly that we can attract people to transit if the circumstances are right. Again, there are in the more densely populated areas people of all walks of life who use transit, and use transit by choice because it's convenient and it's as good or better a choice for them.
There will always be people needing to use cars. They're not going to go away; nobody pretends for a moment that will happen. That will be especially the case in areas like -- again I use the area of Toronto as an example, with people going from suburb to suburb where transit facilities are simply not in place. But again, if we can strengthen those nodes, strengthen those corridors, we can overcome some of those things and provide better transit services. That is the way I think we'll attract more people to transit.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Thank you for your presentation. As the title of your organization indicates, Ontario Urban Transit Association, you implied that sidewalks are one of the areas that should be looked at. Don't you think, though, that the individual municipalities should have the right to determine what should be required in the community?
One of the other things that you mentioned was the developmental charges. Do you have anything that shows that the developmental charges that are actually collected are being spent in the area they're collected from?
Mr Roberts: On the first item, sidewalks, I don't think we're saying that we have to specify the standards to every municipality for sidewalks; far from it. But I think some minimum standards are appropriate; again, minimum standards to ensure that people have some access to transit or whatever. Where that level is set, I guess, is a matter for debate perhaps.
As far as development charges are concerned, in transit we have seen, again, quite a mix of experiences. Some municipalities are using them and making use of them and some are not. Some are also being constrained by, I think, an earlier version of the Development Charges Act that tied what they can collect to some kind of a historical level of service. In many of the developing suburban communities, those historical levels have been pretty poor and it's restricted what they're able to fund through development charges.
Mr Gerretsen: Did your organization make a presentation to the Bill 26 committee?
Mr Roberts: No, we didn't.
Mr Gerretsen: I don't believe you did, no. I'm just curious, because there was a very small clause on one of the more obscure pages in that bill that clearly indicated that the subsidy money that would be forthcoming from the province to the municipalities was going to be reduced from an amount equal to whatever the system cost, and I know there are different ways of calculating it, to an amount not exceeding, which means that it could be anything from 0% to 50%. I was always kind of surprised, having worked with the transit system in the Kingston area because I was a member of that committee, why nobody ever came forward. How do municipalities that operate transit systems feel about that lack of funding that may be forthcoming, or not forthcoming?
Mr Roberts: They're very concerned, no doubt. We've had some considerable discussions with the Ministry of Transportation people on this. I guess their position, and it's pretty hard to argue with it, I suppose, is that when all is said and done, the legislation changed "Thou shalt pay 75%" to "up to 75%." The ministry people basically confirm that this is what has been happening regardless. In other words, they can only spend what their allocations are. They have in the last two to three years, two years for sure, put what have to be considered arbitrary caps on funding that has fallen short of the amount that's called for in the legislation. They've been doing this simply because that's what their allocations were.
Mr Gerretsen: But the bottom line is that it would be a lot easier to do now, and there may be some year when you won't get anything at all unless the legislation permits it.
Mr Roberts: Yes, That is a concern. The ministry also advised us that its legal opinion was such that it could do that any time that it wanted anyway, so this is really nothing more than a housekeeping act. It didn't make us feel any better necessarily.
Mr Gerretsen: We got a few other legal opinions about direct taxation by municipalities etc, but they were all over the place too.
Mr Murdoch: Different lawyers.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, from different lawyers you get different viewpoints. That's the way it goes. Did you guys have a question?
Mr Hoy: I have just a comment on your multi-unit residences. This is a different piece of information that rather supports the use of basement apartments, where you talk about population densities that would help increase transit. It has been pointed out by others that many of the people in these units do not have a vehicle, and it would make good sense to utilize the best interests of the apartment and the transit system. I'm sure you would find passengers in these routes.
Mr Roberts: I am sure, and we would support that very much. In fact, I'm sure, again if that poll is any indication, a goodly portion of these people could well be seniors, who are very much one of the key markets for transit and the people who need the services the most.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, this government may be anti-senior, from the looks of it.
Mr Hoy: I believe you mentioned the possibility existed that families were going to take in their father or mother as they age. I have a neighbour who has gone one step forward. He believes that his children will not find jobs at a very early age. They are only in public school now. He is trying to crystal-ball the future and his view is that they will not find a job at any traditionally early time in life and has built a house that is large enough to keep them until they are close to 30 years old. Then he believes a switch will take place: They will take over the house and he'll live in the bottom half.
Mr Gerretsen: How depressing.
Mr Roberts: If nothing else, those also may be people who could be very much appreciative of a good transit system.
Ms Churley: I just have a few questions, one very quick one which my colleague Mr Bisson, who had to leave, wanted me to ask you. Are there low-rise buses in existence now?
Mr Roberts: The low-floor buses? Yes, there are only a few right now. There are a few in Kitchener and a few in Thunder Bay, and I think one or two very small communities.
Ms Churley: Thank you. I just wanted to come back to the issue of lack of planning consistency, which is an issue that comes up time and time again, and there seems to be a division right down the middle. Developers and AMO and some municipalities really like reverting back to "have regard for." I would like you to talk a bit more about how you see these kinds of inconsistencies affecting the municipalities, especially, as you say, in the greater Toronto area. What do you think could be a negative outcome of that?
Mr Roberts: A couple of things come to mind. Some of the inconsistencies and some of the lack of minimum standards lead to what I would consider sort of an unhealthy competitiveness between municipalities, where in municipality A a developer says, "We want this, that and the other thing, and if you don't grant it to us, we'll go next door to your rival." So it's almost the lowest common denominator kind of approach.
The consistency with respect to transit as well is so that people who have to cross boundaries and go from one municipality to another can do so with a reasonable level of coordination and convenience. The other point I would make is that I don't think we're saying that provincial policy has to be intrusive, but it has to set down what the basic rules of the game are. Then developers know what they are, planners know what they are, transit people, riders etc, and you're not seeing the mosaic of the good and the bad from municipality to municipality.
Ms Churley: Of course, in the Golden report, whether or not everybody agrees with all its recommendations, certainly a major recommendation, and I think it's pretty obvious to everybody given what's happening now, is that that kind of consistency and uniformity and coordination between regions is very important. This, to me, seems to be going in the absolute opposition direction. The Minister of Municipal Affairs is saying he's going to consult, and hopefully we can make some amendments in this bill to make sure that kind of coordination is there.
I just want to come to the developer charges. That's a concern of mine as well, and of many people, that the general taxpayer will end up picking up the cost. Do you expect that transportation needs will grow significantly enough, especially because this bill promotes urban sprawl, that taxes could rise considerably?
Mr Roberts: That may happen, but I think our greatest concern is that councils are going to say, "We can't afford to service that new development now," so we'll wait and we'll wait, and by the time the people have moved in there, they've already bought their cars, established their transportation plans, and you've lost them forever as potential transit riders.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Roberts, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate your comments.
GEORGIAN TRIANGLE DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Georgian Triangle Development Institute. Good morning.
Mr Colin Travis: We certainly appreciate the opportunity to address this committee today. My name is Colin Travis. I am past president of the Georgian Triangle Development Institute. My colleague is David Slade. He is the existing vice-president of the institute. I will summarize some introductory remarks and David will go through some specifics as far as our responses to Bill 20 are concerned.
At the outset, I must thank the committee for providing us this opportunity and I'd like to acknowledge the efficient and professional manner with which our request was dealt by your clerk to this committee: much appreciated.
We are again addressing a committee dealing with planning matters within this past two years. David and I have used this opportunity as a moment of reflection because we appeared before the standing committee on Bill 163 in Peterborough back in September 1994. It's a very important point of reflection for us because at that time we emphasized the need to proceed in a cautious manner due to the dramatic proposals contained in that piece of legislation. We pointed out the obvious, that is, that the province is extremely large and diverse, and we asked that the committee at that time pay particular attention to a rigid set of rules and policies that would seem to be imposed from above down to municipalities in a cookie-cutter sort of fashion.
We also questioned the big thing at that time, the "to be consistent with" provision in the bill, and suggested that the arguments supporting that were inadequate at that time because we were going to abandon the "shall have regard to" provision that had been in place for I suppose 15 to 20 years prior to that.
Finally, to that committee we expressed the need for a streamlined review and approval process.
We came away from that committee feeling that our thoughts of the day ran contrary to the nature of Bill 163 and its provisions. In speaking with some people, we couldn't understand the doublespeak that equated local planning autonomy with procedural simplicity along with prescribed official plan contents and 600 pages of policy and implementation guidelines. Today we find ourselves before you, another standing committee charged with gathering the public's thoughts on planning legislation.
This time appears to be a little different. We do not have any serious cautionary flags to raise, given what we had said before Bill 163's standing committee. It appears that the principal provisions of Bill 20 address the concerns we had before in 1994.
None the less, the review period for Bill 20 does appear to be short. We would like an opportunity to submit a further written submission to this committee before it retires.
Having said all that, I'd like to turn the table over to Mr Slade, who will review some of our specific comments on some of the provisions of Bill 20.
Mr David Slade: The institute recognizes that a significant attempt has been made to introduce a balance into the legislated planning process in Ontario. Bill 20 redresses many onerous and apparent contradictions introduced through its predecessor, Bill 163. We felt there was a lot of confusion out there as a result of how it was done. There was so much material established, and I think there was a lot of contradiction as a result of that.
The speed at which Bill 20 has been assembled is appreciated by the institute as a laudable attempt at getting a critical process of governance to a state that resembles what we and many others had asked for two years ago: a fair, efficient and balanced planning process that acknowledges local and regional abilities and differences.
The cookie-cutter approach to planning endorsed by the previous government appears to be replaced by a "made in Ontario" and maybe "made at the local level" flexible framework that enables local municipalities to express their individuality while having regard to the overall policy direction. This is preferable to a prescribed imposition of provincial policy and implementation.
Specific issues we would like to talk about:
The "shall have regard to" provision of the pre-Bill 163 legislation had been in effect for two decades. We had always questioned the basis for the change proposed through Bill 163. We had questioned that change for two basic reasons.
The first reason was that there had been no substantive demonstration of a need to alter the wording. We had pointed out that if the need was related to establishing the primacy of the province in a policy-driven planning machine, then the existing "shall have regard to" was adequate. Ironically, what was inadequate was the province's implementation of the existing policy statements. We feel that in the past it was not the wording; it was just the follow-through of the province to "have regard for," and use that carefully, and when they did it there was a very inconsistent approach to how that was done.
The second argument for retention of "shall have regard to" provisions was that since it has been used for over two decades, there is a substantial body of direction and interpretation of its application through OMB hearings, tribunals of various sorts, and common law. The introduction of the "shall be consistent with" requirement, in conjunction with over 60 new policy statements as was done under Bill 163, would throw and has thrown the existing basis of interpreting provincial statements into chaos.
As private sector planners, we can attest to the universal confusion at all levels as to how far and in what context these new policy statements should be considered. We were going to go through -- hopefully not now -- a whole decade of trying to understand what that "shall be consistent with" meant, let alone all the new policy statements that went along with it.
In our experience, the net result of Bill 163 was that any application or decision made by the planning community after proclamation was made with reluctance to interpret provincial policy. Consequently, if any of the actors were to err, it would be on the side of rigid application and overcautious approach. That's what's happened. In reality, we just haven't had much go on for the last nine months to a year, based on Bill 163. People are very cautious, being government people, public, planners, to interpret what was out there. It was a rare individual indeed who would offer an opinion on the non-applicability of a provincial policy statement. How long would this go on? How long could it go on for? Thankfully, it appears not much longer.
Just some general comments about time frames: It appears that there are at least 14 distinct references to attempts to reduce the amount of time taken up for prescribed parts of the planning process. This is very important for two reasons.
First, the planning process is a very long and complicated one in Ontario. We are not advocating a simplistic legislative model because we fear it may not account for the desirable local public input and scrutiny of procedure. None the less, we do advocate that any required process be as short as possible, simply because many undertakings represent the cumulative effects of time frames of more than one process. There always is and always will be such overlap of process, whether it's official plan amendments, subdivision, whatever, zoning. We have three basic major processes in Ontario, all of which have a public input process.
Second, from a development sector point of view, reduced timing provisions also serve another important function. They send a message to the review and commenting agencies that time is a very important consideration in any matter. The idea of deadlines for both proponents and respondents is crucial for an effective approval and review system. The provisions of Bill 20 appear to balance this notion along with the need for agency and public input. However, these measures only address part of the timing concerns. We do have a concern with the agency's ability to meet time-line deadlines.
In that respect, the agency respectfully suggests that the committee consider the addition of provisions within the Planning Act which stipulate maximum agency response times to proposals, along the same lines as the public in response to the development approval process.
An example could illustrate this suggestion. An official plan amendment is received and circulated by the approval authority. The agencies or bodies so circulated have a maximum of 30 days to respond to the circulated proposal. No comments within the 30-day period means no concern. If they don't get back to you, then it's implied to be no concern. In a lot of cases there may be difficult applications. It's entirely feasible that even the most complex of these application proposals can be addressed in that time frame. If the agency, however, requires more than 30 days to investigate it, it can respond accordingly with a brief summary of the requirements and requests for a 30-day extension. But we wouldn't want to see just a form letter going in. They have to have looked at the file and addressed the file and if, indeed, they do need more time, they explain why they need it. But they have to have looked at the file first.
Official plans: The institute supports the initiative of Bill 20 with regard to official plans; in particular, the appeal periods and the right to appeal directly to the OMB are seen as progressive steps in what otherwise could be a long, expensive and frustrating process for all concerned. In addition, the exemption model proposed in Bill 20 is a relatively bold initiative that could reduce time frames and costs associated with innocuous and non-contentious amendments. Of particular interest from a processing point of view is that such provisions would allow for an official plan to respond and adjust in a reasonable efficiency to a community's approach and treatment of short-term change.
The official plan's got to be fluid. I think the biggest problem is whammo, it's passed and then you can't look at it until a five-year review. Things are changing so fast that we have to have a fluid document, a document that people respect or they will turn around and won't use it. That's the worst thing possible. I think you want to have a document that is going to be used, but you've got to respect that and it's got to respect a time and change.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing: right to appeal. The institute supports the move to funnel appeals to the OMB through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on behalf of all ministries of the province. This proposal is consistent with the down delegating of planning functions to municipalities. We have always questioned why the province would need more than one body representing itself at the board. I've been at many hearings where the province is there and they're there with five or three or four different ministries and, let alone cost and confusion, I don't think it's necessary.
The proposals are also consistent with our position that there are too many cumbersome and conflicting planning roles that have gradually evolved in ministries. That our province should be involved in planning functions is not a debate; just how many planning functions should be replicated throughout different ministries. Each ministry has its own planning department and they're there to protect that interest. But boy, then we end up with seven different ministries with seven different positions on the same planning issue.
Conclusion: The Georgian Triangle Development Institute have actively participated in the province's attempts at planning reform and review for well over the last four years. The basis of our previous response to Bill 163 and all that entails remains the basis for our response. Our position, observations and experiences have not altered that much. Frankly, what appears to have been altered is a government that is willing to consider change that will account for a need for a balanced and efficient planning system in Ontario. The industry is in dire need of a system that is efficient, open, reasonable and straightforward and we believe now it appears that this will be possible.
Mr Gerretsen: I hope your wish will come true, but I somehow doubt it. It's always been my impression -- and I'm glad you addressed that in your brief -- it's the internal aspects of things, both at the municipal and at the provincial level; it's the "how long it takes to react to situations" etc. I like your notion that the different agencies be placed on notice and that the notice would be strictly adhered to because I think the public, the developer, the municipality have a right to know where every agency that has an interest stands on the issue.
I will ask you, and I've asked this of other people: Is it not true that most of the time lines we're talking about in the legislation are not the real time lines that are used in development? It usually takes a lot longer and if you know the particular municipality or the particular ministry is coming your way, then you're not going to appeal something just because they haven't done it within a certain period of time. Do you not agree with that?
Mr Slade: Certainly the time line changes in the legislation will help, but by no means that's the solution. It has to be an attitude with the ministries, with the local municipalities that time is important. Whether that attitude we're suggesting -- maybe we can help it by putting some deadlines in place that will allow them to speed it up. But certainly the delay is not because of legislation, the delay is in how it's being implemented.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with that. Let me just ask you very quickly-we had a presentation this morning from a Chris Winter for the Conservation Council of Ontario and he came up with the idea that Bill 20 ought to be changed by including the following statement: "Every municipality shall be required to produce a natural features study in order to document the natural areas, features and functions within its jurisdiction, and identify those areas, features, and functions that require special protection under an official plan..." Would you people have any objection to that, because then at least it seems to me from quick reading of this, everyone would know where they stand in the operation?
Mr Slade: To be truthful, there is more than adequate documentation in place that would allow that to be done through an official plan preparation.
Mr Gerretsen: Where?
Mr Slade: The draft policy statements that have been issued to date would address those issues.
Mr Gerretsen: Unless they're weak.
Ms Churley: I'm not surprised or concerned about your position on Bill 20. After all, you do represent a special interest, the development industry, and that's fair. You're looking at this bill from that perspective. I know I can't persuade you of my opinion on this, but I'd like to try for a moment to at least let you see where I'm coming from.
On page 3 of your document, the last paragraph, you talk about "shall be consistent with" as opposed to "shall have regard to." First of all, I'd like to say, you mentioned the confusing and very long policy statements under Bill 163; in fact, it's the guidelines that really bedeviled a lot of people, not the policy, which I agree has some real problems -- too long, too confusing. But people are getting those guidelines mixed up with the actual policy statements. I just wanted to clarify that.
Coming back to "shall be consistent with" and "shall have regard to," we looked at that as a government, and I know there were huge disagreements and there still are, but one of the things that municipalities and developers really wanted was for municipalities to not have to go running to the province all the time for approval. That was done under Bill 163 as well, but part of the tradeoff was that, therefore municipalities had to be consistent with provincial policy, and I think that makes sense. I think you have to have in that case a consistent -- I believe broad and flexible -- but consistent policies, in particular, protecting natural features and environmentally sensitive areas, and that kind of thing.
There's huge concern from environmentalists, cottage owners and the general public, frankly, that without that consistent policy, "have regard for" means exactly that. You pick it up and look at it and then ignore it, which we know has happened in the past. Very definitely that's what it means. There's absolutely no reason why you have to pay attention to it. You look at it, put it aside and say: "That's it. We don't like it. That's it. Let's ignore it," and go on.
People are telling us that in fact, that is going to tie municipalities' hands even more, because cottage owners, property owners, ordinary people, environmentalists are going to try every move they can to slow things down, and there will be more OMB hearings because of that, because public participation has been curbed considerably under this bill. We have been told by many who know the process that in fact, it isn't going to work out that way, it's just going to make it tougher for developers.
That's the other side of the issue, and I certainly don't want to see things be tougher. I'm of the opinion we need to be as consistent as possible so we can get on with it, but in what I view as a very balanced way. I suggest that this bill is not going to give you what you think it is. I don't know if we have the time for a comment.
Mr Slade: I think I'll respond to what our submission said. First of all, we didn't see through the past 20 years of planning that there was a need. Again, I've been in planning for 20 years at many OMB hearings. The "have regard for" was respected at the board. Okay? It was not thrown out. It gave the municipalities, and I believe will continue to give them, enough flexibility to provide local input into the situation where the fear was "shall be consistent with" would not. The second point is we're going to take 10 years to sort out what "shall be consistent with" is, and we don't have the time to do that. We've got to get things organized and in shape, especially when there wasn't a need to change the existing legislation in the first place based on the past 20 years of planning, I believe.
Ms Churley: A lot of people would disagree with you on that.
Mr Murdoch: Thank you, guys, for coming down today and presenting the brief. It's nice to hear as progressive an organization as yours give us some encouragement. I wanted to note to Ms Churley that there's somebody from Grey who happens to agree with her. She's had her way with us before when we've had a few other organizations in, like the better planners --
Mr Gerretsen: These are the first people from Grey who agree with her.
Mr Murdoch: Well, I don't know. Marion Taylor had some good points and some bad points. She was a little --
Ms Churley: I hope that's in the record. Marion Taylor won't like that comment.
Mr Murdoch: That's right. She was glad to see that I was here, so there you are. I want to get that on the record too, Marion. Anyway, we're certainly glad that you are here today and point out some of the facts to the other side there. They can't seem to get their facts straight, and of course we're concerned about the Liberals; we don't know where they've gone now. One day they vote against the bill and now they're here supporting the bill. We really have concerns about them.
Ms Churley: At least I'm consistent.
Mr Murdoch: At least the NDP are consistent in the way they are against development, but that's fine. The only thing we haven't mentioned here though is the minor variances and the local municipalities looking after them. We have heard quite a few concerns and even from many consultants that they don't want to see minor variances looked after by the local municipalities. Where do you sit on that one?
Mr Slade: Again, we did ask for the ability to respond further and that was one of the issues that we may respond on. Just as a general comment, though, I don't think it is a big issue in rural Ontario.
Mr Murdoch: Obviously.
Mr Slade: The issue appears to be in urban Ontario, in the big city centres, because of the power of the committees of adjustment. I deal with committees of adjustment right now that have severance ability in local municipalities, and they appear to have as good an ability as the upper-tier level, so I don't see a problem with the ability to down delegate to local municipalities.
Mr Murdoch: I think it's a rural/urban split, because we did have developers from the urban, large urban, and they were really concerned with it, so maybe we'll have to deal with that somehow.
The Chair: Thank you both, and I particularly appreciate your comments about the clerk. It's certainly our intention to try and operate this public participation process in a professional manner, and we appreciate your feedback. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
The committee stands in recess until 1 o'clock.
The committee recessed from 1158 to 1308.
CANADIAN INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC REAL ESTATE COMPANIES
The Chair: Seeing a quorum present, we'll proceed with the first presentation on this afternoon's agenda, the Canadian Institute of Public Real Estate Companies. Good afternoon. Please proceed.
Mr Ron Daniel: My name is Ron Daniel. I'm the executive director of CIPREC.
Mr Mark Noskiewicz: My name is Mark Noskiewicz. I'm a lawyer with Goodman Phillips Vineberg, and we advise CIPREC.
Mr Lorne Braithwaite: My name is Lorne Braithwaite. I'm president of CIPREC. I'm also president and CEO of a large public real estate company called Cambridge Shopping Centres Ltd.
I'd like to kick off our presentation and start out by saying thank you for giving us an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the Planning Act as set forth in Bill 20.
CIPREC's member firms, which total 29, represent about $50 billion in assets and they include most of Canada's large publicly traded investment and development companies, large privately owned real estate companies, trust companies, life insurance companies and banks, so it's a very broad-based group. Since its inception, CIPREC has participated extensively in the discussion and formulation of public policy and legislation affecting the real estate development industry in Canada.
CIPREC previously provided comments to the Sewell commission and to the Minister of Municipal Affairs in 1993 and 1994 in respect of proposals for planning and development reform which led to Bill 163. In September 1994, CIPREC provided specific comments to the standing committee on administration of justice in respect of that bill.
CIPREC supports the general thrust of Bill 20 and believes that most of the proposed reforms contained in the bill are positive. In particular, CIPREC supports the government's attempts to streamline the development approval process and to promote economic development and growth without jeopardizing the environment.
Despite CIPREC's general support of the reforms contained in Bill 20, it believes that certain of the problematic provisions in Bill 163 are not corrected by Bill 20. Our submission deals solely with major aspects of Bill 20 that are either supported by CIPREC or represent an area of continuing concern.
To get into those details, I'd like to turn it over to Mark Noskiewicz.
Mr Noskiewicz: Mr Chair, members of committee, I believe you have a copy of our submission dated February 14. What we've attempted to do in the submission is to focus, as Lorne indicated, on the major aspects of the bill. We have not attempted to set forth a detailed or technical review of the bill. Our submission is organized to deal first with some aspects of Bill 20 which CIPREC supports and, second, with some aspects of Bill 20 about which CIPREC has some continuing concern.
Dealing first with the aspects of Bill 20 which CIPREC supports, I'm going to speak to three parts of the bill. CIPREC supports the return to the "have regard to" test. Second, it supports the elimination of the power given to approval authorities to summarily dismiss matters on the basis of prematurity. Third, it supports the streamlining initiatives.
Dealing first with the return to the "have regard to" test, when CIPREC made a submission in September 1994 to the standing committee on Bill 163, it set forth six reasons the change to a consistency test in the context of policy statements was inappropriate, and I'll just quickly run through those.
The first was that the legislative change to a consistency test appeared to have been fuelled by what we believe was a mistaken perception that the "have regard to" regime results in policy statements being ignored. It's our view that this simply is not the case.
There have been a series of municipal board and court decisions which have held that ministry guidelines or other documents which are not properly promulgated under section 3 of the Planning Act as formal policy statements can't be given the same weight as policy statements, and there's no question that is the case. But to suggest that properly promulgated policy statements were ignored under the pre-Bill 163 regime we believe is simply not the case. As an example, the housing policy statement brought in in the 1980s has clearly been repeatedly referred to by the municipal board in its decisions.
The second reason a consistency test was inappropriate: It fails to recognize that planning decisions inevitably involve the resolution of conflicting or competing policies. It's instructive to go back to a document the Ministry of Municipal Affairs produced in 1986 when dealing with the use of policy statements. That document was prepared at a time when the debate between the "have regard to" test and the consistency test was perhaps a little less politically charged. The very first statement in that 1986 document said that planning by its nature involves the resolution of conflicts between competing demand for land and resources. The ministry's 1986 guide also went on to state that the reason the Planning Act does not require compliance or consistency with policy statements is that there is a need to provide flexibility to decision-makers in recognition of the fact that the significance and application of a particular policy may vary from area to area.
That really leads to our third reason, which is that a prescriptive consistency test is inappropriate, given the need for flexibility in planning decisions.
The fourth reason we gave was that a prescriptive consistency test was inappropriate in the Bill 163 context, given the lack of clarity in the policy statements that were being brought forward. We understand that the policy statements are also being reviewed, but I think the general comment remains. It would be our view that it is difficult in the planning context to reduce policy statements to a clear and concise set of rules, and in terms of having flexibility in the decision-making process a "have regard to" test is more appropriate.
The fifth reason we gave was that changing from a "have regard to" test to a prescriptive consistency test would open the doors, potentially, to legal challenges of planning decisions, which we believe runs counter to the government's stated streamlining objective. More fundamentally, it would be CIPREC's view that the appropriate forum to resolve planning disputes is in the first instance at municipalities and in the second instance at the Ontario Municipal Board, and not in the courts.
Finally, the sixth reason we gave was that the legitimate desire of the government to create a planning system that follows provincial policy is best met by promulgating clear policy statements. I don't think you need a consistency test to achieve that aim. You need to focus on having clear and comprehensive policy statements.
The second aspect of the bill that CIPREC supports is the elimination of the power that was given by Bill 163 to summarily dismiss matters on the basis of prematurity. Just to try to give an example that puts the issue in context, under Bill 163, if a local municipality, for instance, the city of Ottawa, adopted an official plan amendment to expand its urban boundary but the regional municipality, which in that case would be Ottawa-Carleton, thought the expansion was premature because of a lack of services, the regional municipality in its capacity as approval authority could simply have unilaterally decided the matter. There would have been no ability for the local municipality, in that case the city of Ottawa, to have the matter determined by the Ontario Municipal Board.
In CIPREC's view, the issue of prematurity of services is often an issue over which there is legitimate debate and is an issue which often has to be decided by an independent adjudicator. We welcome the elimination of the power for an approval authority to summarily dismiss matters on the basis of prematurity.
Finally, CIPREC supports the general measures aimed at streamlining. The time frames for processing development applications have been reduced, and CIPREC supports that. In certain circumstances, one will be able to appeal applications directly to the municipal board without having to go through a referral process, and CIPREC supports that. CIPREC also supports the power that has been given to the minister, in appropriate circumstances, to exempt official plans from the requirement to go through an upper-tier approval authority. It will be up to the minister, as we understand it, to decide what those appropriate circumstances are.
One issue we've raised is that Bill 20, as drafted, creates the situation that where the minister himself or herself is the approval authority, he or she could, by order, exercise this power. When an upper-tier municipal government is the approval authority, it would be up to that approval authority to decide whether to exempt the official plans of local municipalities from an upper-tier approval authority.
The point we've made in our submission is that if the government is truly committed to greater planning autonomy for local municipalities, it should consider giving the minister authority to directly exempt, in appropriate circumstances, all official plans from an upper-tier approval requirement. It seems to us it would be somewhat ironic and perhaps not the government's intention if it transferred all the official plan approval authorities to regional municipalities but then there was no ongoing transfer down to the local municipalities. We're not sure that was the government's intention, and CIPREC believes it's something the government should consider.
Turning to the areas of the bill with which CIPREC has concern, there is a continuing concern on CIPREC's part, and I understand others, about the continuing powers of municipalities to prohibit any use of land in environmentally significant or sensitive areas. Under Bill 163, as I'm sure you're aware, section 34 of the act was amended to permit municipalities to include provisions in their zoning bylaws which would prohibit -- and the words used in Bill 163 were "all or any use of land" on land that fell into certain categories, for instance, a sensitive aquifer, a significant woodlot.
CIPREC and others objected to these new zoning powers because they appeared to give municipalities sweeping powers to prohibit development on certain lands and did not appear to mesh well with established planning principles that private lands may not be sterilized or turned over to public uses unless the municipality or some other agency is prepared to purchase them.
When we appeared in front of the standing committee on Bill 163, we gave three reasons for CIPREC's concern. The first was that when read in conjunction with the policy statements, there appeared to CIPREC to be great uncertainty about how wide the net was being cast in terms of what constitutes an environmentally significant area. The second concern was that there appeared to be no direction in the legislation as to how to balance quite legitimate environmental concerns with the economic interests of private land owners. The third reason was that environmental concerns have been traditionally thoroughly debated under the pre-Bill 163 planning regime.
There's obviously a difference of opinion over this point, but it would be CIPREC's view that, pre-Bill 163, there were appropriate planning tools in the Planning Act and other legislation to allow for the protection of environmental areas. In our view, the new clauses that were added in section 34 should be eliminated. Bill 20 appears to have attempted to address this by modifying the phrase "all or any use of land" and changing it to the phrase "any use of land." The municipality would still be able to prohibit any use of land. There appears to us to have been an intention to create some change, but it's not clear to us that any change of substance has been brought about by that change of words. To say you can prohibit "all or any use of land" or simply prohibit "any use of land," it seems to us that there's no difference. If the intention was to bring about a difference, it would be our submission that the clauses should be eliminated and it should be recognized that the pre-Bill 163 powers are sufficient.
The second area of concern deals with the removal of minor variance appeals to the municipal board. CIPREC supports the retention of the right to appeal minor variance applications to the municipal board. Our understanding is that this change was fuelled, at least in part, by a sense that the municipal board spends too much time dealing with minor variance appeals, but our understanding is that in fact the municipal board spends a very small percentage of its time dealing with these appeals. As well, when you think about it, to an individual homeowner, a minor variance appeal could be the most important planning application in their lives. We believe, like any other planning application, it should be capable of independent adjudication by the board.
If the objective of eliminating the appeals is to have the municipal board spend less time with such matters, we think the change will not necessarily accomplish that. People who want to put an addition on their home, people who want to do something else that they currently do through the committee of adjustment, if they can't get the matter appealed to the board, may simply go through a rezoning exercise, which in the end may take up more of the municipality's time, more of the municipal board's time. We really don't see the wisdom in the change.
Finally, a third concern we've listed in our submission has to do with the requirement to convey land for a public transit right of way. Under Bill 163, there were new provisions added to section 41 of the Planning Act, which deals with the site plan control process, which allowed regional and upper-tier municipalities to require, as a condition of site plan approval, that land be dedicated for a public transit right of way.
There appears to be an analogy to the road-widening powers in the Planning Act, but CIPREC believes that analogy is inappropriate for two reasons. First of all, the land required for a public transit right of way will typically be greater than that required for a road widening, and thus the taking of such land will have a greater effect on the land owner. Second, whereas a road widening is generally felt to benefit the adjacent land owner by providing a better means of access to his or her land, you cannot make a similar presumption about a public transit right of way. The right of way may cut through someone's land but that person may be miles from an actual transit stop.
That's not to say that the government, when it needs land for a public transit right of way, shouldn't acquire it, but in CIPREC's view, the method of acquiring it should be through the expropriation process or some other process, perhaps negotiation, but they shouldn't just try to take it for free as part of the site plan approval process.
Those are our submissions on Bill 20. The last point I would just quickly mention is that we understand you heard a submission this morning from Yvonne Hamlin, representing UDI, on clarifications to the Assessment Act and/or the Planning Act dealing with the manner in which farm land is assessed, specifically farm land which may be zoned for future urban use. I simply want to indicate that CIPREC is supportive of the position we understand was advanced to you this morning by Ms Hamlin on behalf of UDI.
Ms Churley: I'm not going to pretend that we don't have many differences here. I think the one we all agree on is the minor variance. Everybody except, I believe, AMO's representatives -- what was that all about? That was an interesting almost comment from you when I mentioned AMO. Did you groan when I said AMO?
Mr Noskiewicz: No.
Mr Gerretsen: The rest of us did.
Mr Noskiewicz: Well, I certainly didn't.
Ms Churley: Oh, you want that on the record.
Developers, citizens' groups, everybody seems to support that that needs to be amended.
I just want to come back to "have regard for." Even you would have to admit, I think, that under Bill 163 municipalities were freed up from having to come to the province every time they wanted approvals. Well, most other developers do agree with that. Part of the tradeoff was that therefore there had to be some kind of provincial policy to protect broad environmental issues, that the more you free municipalities to make their own decisions, there has to be -- the environment knows no boundaries, as we well know, and there have been terrible, terrible problems, as we all know. You say there haven't been problems in the past. There's example after example, and I'm sure you're aware of them, where there have been some very bad planning decisions made and the taxpayers end up picking up the bill to clean up the land and the water etc, etc.
That was the justification for it, and there are many who say that just the opposite of what you say is going happen will happen. The jury's out at this point, and we'll find out, but in fact municipalities will be able to look and "have regard for" and then throw it away, and environmental groups, cottage owners and others will go -- many more OMB hearings, much more disruption, because there is no clarity.
Mr Bisson: To what point do you balance it in favour of the developer? That's basically what you're saying.
Mr Noskiewicz: I don't think the purpose of our submission is to tilt the balance in favour of the developer. I think it's important to recognize that the problems you're referring to, the extent to which there have been bad environmental decisions, in my submission does not rest on the fact that there used to be a "have regard to" test. It rests on the fact -- and I'm not familiar with the specific decisions you're referring to -- that pre-Bill 163 there was not a clear and comprehensive policy statement dealing with environmental concerns. And that relates to the point I mentioned earlier, that the courts and the OMB, when they have not followed provincial guidelines, it's generally been in situations where the province had not incorporated its guidelines into proper policy statements. The courts and the board said, "There is a clear procedure in section 3 of the Planning Act to put forward policy statements and if, for whatever reason, the government chooses not to follow that procedure, we can't give the same weight to those guidelines as proper policy statements."
I don't think the solution lies in the "have regard for" or consistency test. The solution, as I said in my submission, lies in having appropriate and clear policy statements. I hope we were clear in our submission in suggesting that the legitimate objectives of land owners clearly should not take precedence over environmental concerns. That's never been the CIPREC position. We recognize the need for environmental policies to be a big part of the planning process.
Ms Churley: The difference is that you think they're in here and I don't.
Mr Baird: Some of my friends opposite are not against development. Some of their best friends are developers, we've learned during these committee hearings.
I appreciate your presentation today and note that you're in support of our streamlining initiatives, which is obviously the thrust of the legislation. Also, I'm pleased to note that you agree with our view that planning decisions should not be made at the expense of the environment. That's very much the issue, to balance those two concerns: a streamlined process and protecting the environment. That's something I know our government feels very strongly about.
With your experience with your 50 member companies, what sort of effect do you think this will have on the economy and on job creation in your industry?
Mr Braithwaite: In regard to the one about not being able to develop sensitive areas, that issue, or are you talking generally?
Mr Baird: The whole legislation as a package.
Mr Braithwaite: It'll have a different effect at different times in the business cycle.
Mr Baird: What about at this time in the business cycle?
Mr Braithwaite: It will have some impact, but I don't know, in all honesty, that I would say it would have a big negative impact right at this time, because the cycle in terms of development -- I'm speaking primarily from the commercial side of it now, not the residential side, because I'm not knowledgeable about the residential side. On the commercial side right now, the amount of development activity that's going on is down dramatically, and I don't think it's going to pick up very quickly, with or without these revisions, if you will. I'm not sure it's going to have a big impact in the short term. I think in the medium term it will have some impact, and the negative impact perhaps will outweigh even some of the positive impact in terms of a better sense of order and better clarity for the development community in terms of the rules it has to work with.
I don't know if that answers your question. It's hard to get a good handle on the impact today because of the prolonged recession or depression in our industry. The real estate section of the TSE in the last four years has dropped 90%, dropped more than the entire stock market dropped in the 1930s. It's been absolutely decimated. To overlay the question you've asked in that kind of environment -- it's pretty tough to assess.
Mr Baird: Our view is that by maintaining that balance and making initiatives in terms of legislation and regulation, we'll do everything we can, however small and bit by bit, to create a climate where we'll see increased economic growth and job creation.
Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I admire your honesty. Sometimes we get the impression sitting here that everything we do here is going to have a huge impact on somebody immediately. It's the same thing with Bill 163. Let's be honest. I wasn't in favour of Bill 163 either, but to suggest that --
Mr Murdoch: But now you're in favour of it.
Mr Gerretsen: You didn't listen to me. I hope time is added on for me because of these disruptions.
Mr Murdoch: Either way, John. Go either way.
Mr Gerretsen: In all fairness to Bill 163, it hasn't been around long enough for anybody to really know how it was going to affect your business one way or the other.
From a practical viewpoint, from an administrative viewpoint, the time limits you're talking about in actually processing an application have very little to do with the time periods we're talking about, whether it's 163 or Bill 20. Wouldn't you agree that the time planning staffs and municipal councils and different ministry departments take to process an application is usually much, much longer than anything that's anticipated, from a practical viewpoint?
Mr Braithwaite: Yes, I would agree with that. That certainly was the environment we were in particularly in the 1980s when development was very prevalent and was happening everywhere. Many applications took a long time and in many cases -- "many" is probably a little bit of an overstatement. Let me put it this way. In a number of cases, market opportunities were missed, major opportunities were missed, as a result of the planning process and so on. A good example that our company directly was involved in was a major redevelopment in downtown London. It didn't happen.
Mr Gerretsen: I can remember phoning the ministry offices three months after you'd filed an application to see what had happened to it, and somebody hadn't even opened up a file, in those days.
Would it not help your industry if some of the protocols between government departments and ministries were set out so that you, the general public and the municipalities would know exactly what is expected from you at which stage of the development? Would that not be a big help?
Mr Braithwaite: Oh, very much so, right up front in the process so you could monitor it and track it.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with you, sir. That's where the real problem lays.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
Ms Churley: How do you like being kicked around like a political football?
Mr Braithwaite: I just wish I was closer to the action. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Mr Bisson: Just for the record, I want to tell you that it's not a lot of fun.
ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
The Chair: Our last presentation today is the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects. Good afternoon.
Mr James Floyd: Good afternoon. We wish to thank you for this opportunity to comment on Bill 20. Since we are the last group, we appreciate your patience.
I'm James Floyd, president of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects, the OALA, and with me is Eha Naylor, a member and our representative on the technical advisory committee to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. We here on behalf of the OALA, a self-regulatory body representing the province's 700 landscape architects.
The outcome of this committee's work and the enactment of the legislation will profoundly affect the course of land use and development in this province. It will have major implications for our economic and environmental health.
Most significant is the fact that the proposed changes represent an unprecedented shift in decision-making authority from the provincial level to the local community. This clearly raises questions as to how this will be accomplished and who will pay the cost of the planning resources to support local decision-making and the costs to protect natural heritage areas.
We are here because landscape architects are key stakeholders in the planning process. We are often leaders or members of the multidisciplinary teams that design and plan development projects for both the private and public sectors.
Because of our multidisciplinary education and expertise we often integrate the work of other land use planners, engineers and architects with that of natural scientists, such as biologists, to bring about environmentally intelligent development proposals.
As you know, landscape architecture is the design profession concerned with the planning, management and stewardship of the land. We are in fact architects of the land whose goal is the best use of land resources.
I would like to briefly outline the professional credentials of landscape architects.
The qualifications to become a landscape architect are stringent. Landscape architects are required to complete a five-year university degree, two years of professional development and pass an internationally administered accreditation exam.
Landscape architects develop and promote economically and environmentally sustainable solutions which balance human needs with those of the environment. In other words, landscape architects plan and design development projects to be both cost-effective and have environmental protection as an integrated component of the plan.
We are here because we want to offer constructive criticism and practical advice. There is no question that an effective and efficient planning system should promote economic growth while protecting the environment.
This committee has heard much scepticism and direct opposition to the proposed legislation. Once implemented, Bill 20 will be carefully scrutinized by all who have an interest in the planning process. The first decisions made under the new policy will be seen as an acid test of whether the government has delivered on its promise to provide both economic growth and protection of the environment.
The broader public too will be looking for proof that the new planning system is encouraging long-term growth without sacrificing the vitality of the environment.
We know that public expectation is high. In recent decades, a strong environmental ethic has taken root in Ontario as it has around the world. While taxpayers and voters want fiscal responsibility, they also continue to set a high priority on the protection of ecological resources.
It is widely recognized that there is a link between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. It is also clear that the consequences of ignoring this relationship carry a high pricetag for future generations.
Our major concern with Bill 20 and its companion provincial policy statement is not so much with what they state but with what they do not. We are concerned that there are serious omissions or information gaps making it unclear as to how we will continue to protect the environment. There is no road map.
A few years ago, the landscape architects found that we could not support the previous government's change in the wording of subsection 3(5) to "shall be consistent with," because the policies lacked clarity and scientific basis. We now find ourselves with similar concerns.
For example, the new provincial statement indicates that the province's economic and environmental health depend on efficient land use practices.
While the policy ingredients for long-term economic prosperity include such components as urban intensification, better use of infrastructure and public transit, they do not clearly recognize the role of a healthy environment.
There is mention of the need to coordinate watershed issues which span municipal boundaries to prevent adverse downstream impacts, but it is not clear how this coordination will be achieved.
As a profession dedicated to land stewardship, we are concerned that the provisions of this legislation and its policy statement are inadequate to protect the broad provincial interest regarding the environment.
We have a suggestion to amend section 1.1.3 of the policy statement which states that, "The essential ingredients for long-term economic prosperity will be provided by:"
We recommend that an additional point be added to page 3 of the policy statement. The wording we suggest is "conserving significant natural heritage features and biodiversity." This is a simple statement that describes what in our view is an essential ingredient for long-term economic prosperity.
The information gaps are even more worrisome when we look at how they will affect local communities. Bill 20 represents a dramatic expansion of local planning responsibility that has new and major implications for Ontario taxpayers.
The changes will mean that local communities will have far more say in how they want to see their area grow. But there is also an enormous potential for the system to disintegrate into costly and bitter site-by-site conflicts.
Local communities may also be about to confront another new reality of local autonomy. For the first time the question of who is going to pay to protect environmentally sensitive areas is going to be decided on at the local level.
The overhaul of the planning system coupled with the government's review of development charges could see local communities faced with the decision of whether land developers or taxpayers should pay to protect significant local natural features like wetlands, woodlots and other natural heritage.
If developers are going to be contributing less, taxpayers will have to determine what is important to them and whether it is worth keeping. Local residents will need the resources to make informed decisions about the significance of a particular natural feature in their community. The scientific research to make informed decisions is lacking in many municipalities.
Local planning authorities will now be expected to set environmentally sound land use policies in their official plans. Municipalities will also be encouraged to establish performance standards to monitor the implementation of these policies. Municipalities could find themselves scrambling without sufficient resources to provide defensible decisions.
They will need far more research and information than they have had in the past. It has been suggested that the province will provide support to local planning authorities to assist them, for example, in setting guidelines for significant natural heritage areas. But with provincial funding cuts this will be difficult.
There are solutions. In this area the landscape architects can offer assistance to help bridge some of these information gaps and to do our part to help make the planning system work. We, as a profession, have the training and expertise to fill some of the gaps.
For example, satellite technology is being used by landscape architects to help identify suitable areas for development and areas suitable for conservation. The OALA would like to work more closely with the province to expand the use of this technology as a more accurate and efficient way of making decisions on the significance of natural features.
We make this offer particularly in light of the fact that provincial ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources are under considerable financial restraint. It will be increasingly difficult for MNR, faced with its own financial limitations, to keep pace with its own needs as well as those of local municipalities.
Our association would like to work with the province and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to provide advice to municipalities as they restructure to assume greater planning responsibility. We will be meeting with AMO to offer our assistance.
The minister has said that his goal is to streamline the planning system so that it will be clearer, more flexible and more workable. We believe that Bill 20 has provided a much higher degree of flexibility for the planning process. However, without a strong policy context and increased provincial support to local planning authorities, this flexibility will just increase uncertainty. If the province is going to delegate authority, it needs to provide a strong policy context with clear and direct wording which will help reduce conflict and help make the new system work.
Mr Ouellette: Thank you for your presentation. A couple of questions. I'd like a little more information about your organization. You said there are 700 members, or are there 700 individuals who perform this function in the province?
Mr Floyd: There are 700 individuals. Only individuals are members and each individual has a stamp. We were enacted by Bill Pr37, 1984, as a self-disciplinary --
Mr Ouellette: So it's mandatory that they're part of your organization?
Ms Eha Naylor: Yes, it is. To call yourself a landscape architect in Ontario you must be in this.
Mr Ouellette: Who do you think should make the decisions as to what actually is a natural heritage feature? I'll give you an example. In the early 1800s the Second Marsh in my community was a port. Now it is the Second Marsh, which I've spent some time protecting. Who do you believe should make those decisions? For example, should the Grand Trunk Railroad embankment be classified as a natural heritage now?
Ms Naylor: In our view, the decision about whether a feature is a natural heritage should be founded in science. Those decisions need to be based on what are generally accepted scientific background data, so ecological function and the significance of natural features need to be understood from the scientific perspective. Then the decision on how those natural features should be utilized is something that should be addressed by the local planning authority with direction from the province. What we're suggesting is that the policy framework that's being provided is really helpful in guiding local municipalities. The problem is that the local decision-makers quite often don't have the science, don't have the knowledge necessary to make really good long-term, informed decisions.
Mr Ouellette: On page 6 you made mention of the fact that they don't have the information in order to make these decisions or are not used to getting information. Don't you think that potentially Bill 20 may be one of the initiatives that they'll have to start getting that information?
Ms Naylor: We believe that's absolutely necessary in order to make land use planning decisions that are defensible. We think that, yes, it's really necessary to undertake a study that provides the basis for future planning, particularly when it comes to the natural environment.
Mr Ouellette: Whereabouts are your members located? Are they mostly in the rural areas?
Ms Naylor: Our members are located throughout the province, and our members are, I think, fairly equally spread out between the public sector and the private sector. We have a number of members who work for the province, who work for local municipalities and who work for conservation authorities, those kinds of functions. We also have members who work for the development community, and a number of our members are private consultants. So we really span all sectors and all regions.
Mr Gerretsen: I take it you feel that under the policy statements developed under Bill 163, there was really almost too much detail and too many policies that may conflict with one another and anybody could at the end almost take out of it what they wanted and the current policy statements are too loose and too general, that they really don't amount to anything. Would that be categorizing it correctly?
Ms Naylor: This legislation provides flexibility in that now the language is no longer "consistent" but rather "have regard for." So there is now flexibility that's been built in. However, when you look at the policies themselves, they're also very loose. It's fine to have flexibility in the legislation as long as the policies are clear.
We work with the natural features and we look at how to marry those features with development proposals, and we feel strongly that the natural environment and development are not mutually exclusive. They can be worked together.
However, a very clear policy context makes it much easier to work through the planning process. It takes out a great deal of uncertainty and it takes out a great deal of the potential conflict. Historically, conflicts have been resolved at the municipal board because the policy context hasn't been there. The stronger and the clearer the policy context, the easier it will be able to work through the planning framework.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I think that you have hit the nail on the head in terms of concerns around environmental protection. You talk about that local communities now, you're quite correct, will have to do a lot more work and be more involved in defining environmentally sensitive areas.
So here we have a situation, with this bill coming through, the conservation budget's been cut; Bill 26 allows conservation authorities to sell off land; there's a 47% cut in transfer payments to municipalities; there are no clear policies which have to be adhered to by municipalities; there are massive layoffs coming in Natural Resources and Environment, plus massive deregulation. If you add all of that up, what you're going to end up with is municipalities in desperate situations that will be allowing bad -- badly planned, environmentally unsound, cheap -- development in, in some cases, environmentally sensitive areas. When you put it all together, that's what we're looking at here, and it's quite a devastating picture.
I presume that you have, even though you didn't have a lot of time to go into all of it today, looked at the overall impact of all of -- plus development charges are going to be limited. I just wonder if you have a comment on that and how we can fix this bill to try to deal with some of these problems.
Mr Floyd: That's a tough one. We've looked at it in two ways. One of the ways is the process beyond the bill, and that is that, as I indicated, we are talking with AMO to identify which of the municipalities are most lacking in information. Under the definition of empowerment, to say that if you don't have the information you can't make the decision, we are trying to identify which municipalities have the biggest gaps. We are also talking with the Ministry of Natural Resources to identify its methodology for setting significant environments and taking that back to the universities of Toronto, Guelph and Ryerson and making sure that in the final year, each of the graduating landscape architects is prepared to go into those municipalities and assess the information in context.
The biggest problem that we've identified in the planning process, the way that it happens, is what Eha refers to as flat land planning, that nobody is actually walking through the land and looking at it. One area that has been stricken from 163 is the statement of ridges, views and vistas, and it's very interesting, because with that, it at least hangs a hat on what it is that you see. People can walk into a council and talk with pictures. They can talk about what is out there, as compared to just numbers and digits in that sense.
Do you want to add to that?
Ms Naylor: I do. I'll make two points. I think there are two things that can be done to assist in resolving some of the problems of that legislation. One is support for municipalities, and I realize there are limited resources and we'd have to juggle, but municipalities clearly need guidance and training and support from the province and that support not be diminished or cut. That's one issue.
The other issue is clear, simple language in the policy. If no is to mean no, say it. No should not mean maybe.
With respect to the softer issues of landscape, because they're very important to our profession, one of the complaints we have, and James discussed it, is the issue of flat land planning. The development community for years has held that it's either environment or development. That's not the case and we feel there's education necessary on that front, that views and vistas not only make better places to live, they make more marketable and perhaps economically more viable projects for developers as well.
The Chair: With that, that concludes our presentation this afternoon. Thank you very much for taking the time to come down and speak to us today. That having been the last agenda item, this -- oh, Ms Churley.
Ms Churley: You didn't really think we were going to end now, did you? I do have some questions to ask, Mr Chair. Last week, as you're aware, I asked for the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy to provide a list of the stakeholders whom he said he met with -- I believe it was last Monday afternoon -- to talk, I now ascertain from listening to some people, about the policy guidelines. I wonder if he has tabled that list.
The Chair: The clerk indicates it has not been tabled.
Ms Churley: Could I ask the PA if he could respond to my question as to where the list is?
Mr Galt: The list is available and in the hands of the parliamentary assistant for MMAH.
Ms Churley: So it can be tabled with the committee?
Mr Galt: If you so desire, they're all set to go.
Ms Churley: And is this the list from the consultations of that day?
Mr Galt: All set to go.
Ms Churley: Great. Thank you very much.
Mr Galt: I'm so pleased you asked.
Mr Hardeman: Mr Chairman, I have here a list to table with the committee. It contains an extensive list of all the people who have been consulted with, all the groups and individuals, starting off first of all with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and its consultation list on Bill 20 itself. There were 17 delegations in the list, one of which, incidentally, I just want to put on the record -- there was some concern expressed by Ms Cooper, I believe it would be Thursday, from the Canadian Environmental Law Society, and she indicated that they had not met. In fact, on September 13, the Ontario Environment Network, of which the law association is a member, met with the minister and a number of other groups and they are on the list.
There is a list of 24 organizations that have been contacted for consultation in the process on the policy statements. One of those who has already met with the minister -- I think it was indicated to us earlier in the hearings that the Federation of Ontario Naturalists had not been consulted. In fact, they have already met with the minister and the policy staff.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has notified or has met with 15 different stakeholders. The Ministry of Environment and Energy has had six. Again, I just want to point out there was consultation with the Conservation Council of Ontario. I think it was indicated by one of their representatives that we had not met with those. The Ministry of Natural Resources has a list of 29 groups and stakeholders that have either met with them on the policy statements or have been asked if they would like to make representation, and the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation has a list of 13 it has asked or already met with. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has a list of 14.
I'm prepared to table these, meetings that either have been held or are scheduled to be held or at least the organizations have been asked if they would like to participate and present their views.
Ms Churley: I appreciate that, both of you, for tabling those lists I asked for. Before we close here, in response to some of the names that you read off, Kathy Cooper in fact -- I assume that we don't have a letter from her -- informed me after the meeting -- she was cut off because she had gone over time. Mr Chair, you weren't here at the time. The Vice-Chair was in the chair. She was in the midst of explaining, in her view, whom she was consulted with and whom she wasn't. It was clear after I talked to her that she was assuming, in response to my question, that I was talking about consultations with the Minister of Environment and Energy. I think, had we continued for a while, that would have become clear.
She did say to me after the fact that she does not view the meeting, which she clearly does not deny having, with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing as consultation with the environmental network, that it was a kind of a get to know you, a general chat meeting, but she was not then invited into ongoing consultations specifically to talk about the bill.
I think that's what we have to try to clarify here: the difference between the one-time-only meeting and real consultation. I will be taking the list and talking to those on it to try and ascertain who feels comfortable in whether or not they were consulted as opposed to met with. But I did want to clarify the record for Ms Cooper in terms of her misunderstanding about which ministry I was talking about at that time.
Mr Hardeman: Just a comment, Mr Chairman. I appreciate the explanation and I'm sure I accept that, that she did not understand, when I was talking about a meeting with the minister, I was referring to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I guess I just put it on the record to clarify the situation, recognizing that she immediately came forward and said no, the meeting that I had referred to had not taken place. I guess for the benefit of both Ms Cooper and myself, it's appropriate that it's on the record that the meeting I was referring to did in fact take place.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for that. I have one other issue I'd like to turn to. I'm not going to make a motion about it today, because I understand, although I haven't checked with the clerk, that it's not in order until we get to clause-by-clause.
I would like to ascertain, and perhaps the parliamentary assistant can respond to this, whether the government might be looking at coming forward with its intention, at least, to make an amendment around the minor variance issue. It's very, very clear that several people, pretty well everybody, agrees that's a problem. We have had some deputees come down to speak only and specifically about that issue. There seems to be general consensus that there is a problem with that particular clause, and I'm wondering, in the interests of perhaps saving time for some people over the next few days of hearings, if the government has an intention of amending that, we could let people be aware that that is going to happen and it might prevent some people from having to come down to speak to the committee about that issue, should they know that that's going to be amended.
Mr Hardeman: I think it's quite obvious that there have been very few presentations that did not see a need for some change in that area, and the government is listening to that. I think it's appropriate to hear from more, if not all, of the deputations. Not to say that it does not need changing or that the view of the participants will change, but I think there have been a number of times it's been brought up that there may be alternatives to going back to the way it was, to the OMB appeal, and we would like to hear more of that as time goes on.
Mr Baird: More views from outside Toronto.
Mr Hardeman: I think there will be some different viewpoints on that issue as we travel the rest of the province. The minor variance process in rural Ontario is slightly different from that in urban Ontario and we may hear some different views on that. But I could say that in all probability there will be some change in that.
If I could, just on the other topic again, Mr Chairman, I didn't mention this and I should have: The Ontario Environment Network has been asked to participate in the policy statements but has declined that invitation. At this point in time at least, they've decided they do not want to be part of the policy statement process.
Ms Churley: Mr Chair, I'm glad that's on the record as well. It's my understanding that, as Ms Cooper stated when she was here, they were not consulted properly in terms of input in the bill and that, in their view, with the fact that the "be consistent with" clause is taken out, they feel at this point the policy is almost moot. That's their view, that in terms of their position on this bill, it's a waste of time for them really to have input into the policy statement, and I entirely support their position on that. I just don't think at this point, given that they weren't included in writing the bill and the developers and the municipalities were, there's a real problem here.
The Chair: If there are no other comments, this meeting stands adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning, salon A, Ambassador Motor Hotel in Sudbury.
The committee adjourned at 1406.