Thursday 22 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
Willow Beach Field Naturalists
Bill Wensley, chair, wetlands committee
Pigeon Lake Environmental Association
Daniel Kennaley, president
Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance
Doug Hindson, member
Northumberland Federation of Agriculture
John Boughen, member, property, planning and land use committee
Colin Crews, member, property, planning and land use committee
Oshawa-Durham Home Builders' Association
Jo Casey, member
Ron Robinson, president
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Dr Terry Quinney, provincial coordinator, fish and wildlife services
Town of Campbellford
Jim Peters, planning coordinator
Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations
Ambrose Moran, vice-president
Taxpayers Coalition Burlington
Ray Rivers, member
Cobourg and District Chamber of Commerce
Bob Clark, co-chair, building industry network and environment committee
Frank Godfrey, co-chair, building industry network and environment committee
Save the Ganaraska Again
Katherine Guselle, president
Town of Cobourg
Bill MacDonald, councillor and coordinator of planning and development
Joan Chalovich, mayor
Township of Haldimand
Jane Kelly, councillor
Bill Finley, reeve
Northumberland Community Legal Centre
Garth Dee, lawyer
Northumberland Access to Permanent Housing Committee
Elisabeth Ziegler Simmons, chair
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barbara (Bruce PC)
*Baird, John R. (Nepean PC)
Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
*Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre / -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 / -Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Ms Churley
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
Rollins, Doug (Quinte PC ) for Mr Gilchrist
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Stewart, Gary (Peterborough PC) for Mr Baird
Wood, Len (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Mr Christopherson
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
O'Toole, John (Durham East / -Est PC)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
Murray, Paul, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0901 in the Northumberland Mall, Cobourg.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Good morning. We are very pleased to be here in Dr Galt's riding, abutting those of some others who sit at this table as well. Steve Gilchrist, who is the Chair of this committee, is not here today; he is attending in the Vice-Chair capacity in another hearing process in Toronto. The reason he has declined to sit at this hearing is that there was a potential perception of a conflict of interest, so as a small business owner in the area he chose not to sit. So you have me for the day, and I hope we can go through the process well.
WILLOW BEACH FIELD NATURALISTS
The Vice-Chair: I call on the first presenter, the Willow Beach Field Naturalists. Presentations will be 20 minutes in duration and the time can be used as you see fit between a presentation and a question-and-answer period.
Mr Bill Wensley: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'd like to be the first person to publicly welcome you and members of the committee to Cobourg. I know you're busy, but I hope you have a chance to see, if not spend time enjoying, the natural beauty of Northumberland county and our town. It's not a particularly nice day to do that, but there's the invitation. We're very grateful to you and the committee for coming to our community.
I am Bill Wensley, the immediate past-chairman of the Willow Beach Field Naturalists and I also chair our wetlands committee.
Our club was formed in 1954 and has a membership of about 180 people, mainly from Northumberland county, including the towns of Cobourg and Port Hope. Our members share an interest in all aspects of natural history and are committed to the protection of our environment, the conservation of our natural resources and the preservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat. It will probably come, then, as no surprise that my comments will focus on the environmental aspects of the bill.
In so far as the proposed amendments to the Planning Act authorize greater decision-making powers at the local level and simplify and streamline procedures, we are supportive. However, we are concerned about what appears to us to be a weakening of the provincial stance on environmental matters, specifically, the protection of natural areas such as wetlands, and the quality and integrity of ecosystems across the entire province.
Two examples from the proposed legislation will illustrate why we feel this way. The first is that the new subsection 1(2) excludes all provincial ministries except the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing from appealing planning decisions to the Ontario Municipal Board. In addition, subsection 1(4) gives the minister the regulation-making power to exclude other public bodies from the appeal process.
Even though subsection 1(3) permits the minister to make a regulation including other ministries, it is obvious that these proposals remove power from the ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment and Energy, both ministries having a particular responsibility for natural resources and the environment, and subsequently, of course, concentrated in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
The second example of a weakening of the stance on environmental matters is found in the proposed amendment to section 3. Current provisions in this section of the Planning Act require that planning decisions "shall be consistent with policy statements." The proposed amendment would change this wording to "shall have regard to policy statements." Thus, in the exercise of any authority or in providing comments, submissions and advice that affect a planning matter, the minister, various boards, municipalities and other agencies, including the municipal board and Ontario Hydro, need only "have regard to" Provincial Policy Statements and not, as at present, take decisions that are "consistent with" these policy statements.
While on the surface of it, these changes in wording may be passed off as merely semantics, it is symptomatic of what we believe to be a significant shift in emphasis away from a consideration of the environment. Furthermore, I would submit it is not merely semantics. The present wording "be consistent with" carries the interpretation of "constant to the same principle," whereas the proposed "have regard to" conveys the message that the provincial policies are but taken into account in planning decisions. The former wording is much stronger and puts more emphasis on the policies. We recommend its retention.
"Have regard to" is just not strong enough. I'm reminded of the story about the clause in the will of a deceased millionaire. The family is seated, waiting expectantly as each clause is read by the lawyer, and the lawyer gets to clause 7 and he reads the words of the deceased: "I am advised that I should have regard to my nephew Samuel. `Hi, Samuel.' And now for clause 8."
Section 3 refers to policy statements. These statements are intended to provide policy direction on matters of provincial interest in land use planning. They are of vital importance in the protection of our environment and wildlife habitat within the context of land use planning.
Our review of the draft provincial policy statement published in December 1995 and released for discussion purposes gives rise to serious concerns. While the draft document extensively addresses development and land use principles, economic growth, and protection of public health, safety and property, it does not provide adequate direction in the areas of natural heritage and environmental protection. It is not our intent today to present a comprehensive critique of the draft policy statement; however, we are compelled to draw attention to one of our concerns.
Our greatest concern has to do with the protection of wetlands. For purposes of this discussion, wetlands can be placed into two broad groups: those that have been identified as provincially significant and those that have not. It is our position that there should be no development and site alteration in any provincially significant wetland, and furthermore, that all planning jurisdictions should be encouraged to protect all other wetlands regardless of size.
Most of the wetlands in southern Ontario have already been destroyed, and the estimates range from 75% to 83%. A few years ago, the citizens of this town stood by in frustration as the former pond and wetland known as Pratt's pond was drained and converted into a golf course. Much of the destruction of wetlands has happened as a result of ignorance of their intrinsic value, but ignorance is no longer an excuse. We now know that wetlands are vital natural phenomena that must be protected if the environment is to be preserved for future generations.
Wetlands -- and these include, but not exclusively, marshes, swamps, bogs, fens and shorelines -- sustain water quality and quantity through flood and erosion control, filtration, cooling and maintenance of underground water tables. They provide habitat for amphibians, birds, other animals and fish. They resemble rain forests in their ability to produce biomass from solar energy, and in the process produce oxygen. They have resource and aesthetic value.
Which would you prefer for an evening walk: along a quiet, wooded stream or a drainage ditch?
It is unsettling, shocking even, that many people have yet to recognize wetlands as valuable real estate to be preserved in their natural state. Many consider them to be useless unless drained and filled in for some other use, or cheap land to be bought up and converted into a profit.
The result of this loss of wetlands has been lowered water tables, loss of wildlife habitat, decreased recreational opportunities, floods, erosion and a diminishing of peaceful havens for all of us. We're losing these valuable ecosystems at an alarming rate. Every effort, including legislation and policy direction, must be made to stop this loss of a precious natural heritage.
In conclusion, the Willow Beach Field Naturalists are not arguing against economic growth through appropriate development and land use, but we do urge that the focus of this activity be more on environmental protection than presently appears to be the case. Maintaining a healthy environment is vital to rebuilding a healthy economy.
We've summarized our recommendations. There are four. We recommend that:
(1) As a general principle, more emphasis be placed, both through legislation and policy direction, on the preservation of our natural heritage and the environment.
(2) A greater role be given to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment and Energy with respect to the land use planning system. We recommend that you re-examine the proposed subsections 1(2), (3) and (4).
(3) We recommend that firmer direction be provided regarding the provincial policy statements by retaining the present wording in section 3 which requires that planning decisions "shall be consistent with policy statements" -- consistent with.
(4) That the provincial policy statement on land use planning and development be strengthened with respect to the protection of our natural heritage. Specifically, but not exclusively, this strengthening should take the form of a prohibition of development in all provincially significant wetlands and providing firm policy direction to municipalities regarding the protection of all other wetlands. Thank you.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you for a very thoughtful and very concise presentation. The first area I'd like to explore a little with you has to do with the one-window approach we're referring to in government; rather than having all the ministries able to appeal, having just the provincial government, to try to simplify it for the public in general. We do not interpret it as a weakening of the Ministry of Environment or a weakening of Natural Resources, but rather a streamlining. Do you see this as a particular problem, the one-window effect, even though the other ministries do have the same amount of clout and can appeal but that it's only coming from one source?
Mr Wensley: Probably I would have to say that if the same consideration is given through the one-window approach that we would normally expect would be given by a ministry such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and/or the Ministry of Environment, then conceptually we don't disagree with that. The difficulty we have at this stage is that we're not absolutely certain of the extent to which those other ministries, which have a real expertise and a heartfelt interest in the environment, do have the input. If you're saying it is the plan that those people have that input, then I, for one, would certainly be very content with that, because I do understand the need to streamline approaches. But by the same token, we don't want to give up the expertise and the feeling that those ministries obviously have for the environment.
Mr Galt: No problem. The second is in the area of "have regard to" versus "be consistent with." We're being told that local municipalities would like to have a little flexibility to move and have a little more autonomy than to be straitjacketed by this "be consistent with." Do you see local municipalities spoiling our environment when, on unique occasions, they're able to have flexibility?
Mr Wensley: First of all, I can only speak about this municipality. In the last three or four years, since things have started to come together a little and not fall through the cracks so much -- I used the example of Pratt's pond because of the sadness that surrounds that. I say this advisedly, even though the Premier has a certain interest in the game of golf, but the wetland that was given up there essentially fell through the cracks. Had we had strong provincial policies that the town could look to and say, "This is the way it's going to be," I don't think that would have happened.
To answer your question, yes, I'm afraid that will happen. Municipalities will in fact say hi and pass right on, and the natural environment will suffer. I don't want to point any fingers anywhere, and I do want to say that the cooperation between our group and the town of Cobourg, in fact among our group, the town of Cobourg and local developers, has been good. We have some examples of that. The Elgin-Densmore development is one, where a centre part of that development around a cold water creek was preserved as the result of a cooperative effort, and I would hope that would prevail across the province.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I understand the concern of this gentlemen this morning, especially when you look at section 67 of this proposed act. There would be major concern about the wetland issue. I don't know if everyone understands the importance of wetlands in our province at present. It's bound to disappear more and more, because the developers don't care about wetland; they just want to go ahead with a subdivision and forget all about future generations. Sometimes we refer to wetlands as just a section of water. Sometimes we say there's a disease in the trees, and when we look at it, it's because of a lack of humidity in the area. They're a must and must be kept, but when we look at section 67, it's an amendment so that notices are no longer required to be published for three consecutive weeks. That is scary, very scary.
Also you mentioned "consistent with policy statements." The word "consistent" should stay there. You really gave us a good example of what happened in the will. To your knowledge, with the financial statement that was presented last November, do you feel that conservation authorities are at risk at the present time?
Mr Wensley: Very definitely. It's very sad indeed that conservation authorities have been stripped of much of their authority, if I may use that word. I think it's unfortunate because, as I understand it, flood control is the main issue now that conservation authorities are going to be left with, but so much is related to flood control: tree planting and all these things. In my view, the conservation authorities should be supported.
I'll give an example. In this community, when we first learned that this particular area in town was going to be developed, the conservation authority and the town of Cobourg and our group and others worked with the developers to work out a reasonable plan.
I'm very seriously concerned about the future of not only wetlands but forested areas and all those natural areas that conservation authorities have been protecting over the past 50 years.
Mr Lalonde: Especially with the fact that the conservation authorities have been stripped down by about 40% of their --
Mr Wensley: Exactly.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): First of all, I want to congratulate you. You're probably one of the few people we've heard where you've actually been able to, even pre-Bill 163 by the sound of it, find the compromise that needed to be found between developers, environmentalists and municipalities. That speaks volumes about the group you're working with and the calibre of the people in it if you've been able to do that, because I can certainly assure you that is not the practice across the province. In fact, that is why the Sewell commission, after many months of work, came to the realization that we need to have clear, consistent policy when it comes to how we deal with development in the province, and that municipalities have to be consistent with that. If you don't do that, you've got municipalities applying different standards across the province and not having a good regard for what we need to do in our environment.
The other thing people need to realize is that the reason these policies were brought forward by our government was because not only do we need to have consistent planning across the province, but the society of Ontario has grown to the point that we realized that, once and for all, we need to have regard for the environment in the sense of having consistent policies about how you do your planning, or else we're going to repeat some of the mistakes of the past.
Because you've been involved in development, the first question I'd ask you is, do you think, having a "have regard to" approach, where municipalities are going to do it differently, that developers will actually be before the OMB in larger numbers now? There will not be clear provincial policies and they won't have to be consistent with them, so each municipality will do it differently, so developers will be more driven to go to the OMB and say, "Look what happened down the road. They got away with it. We're not. We want to be treated the same way as the developer down the road."
My second question is broader. To what extent do we say that development is so important, we don't have to have regard for the environment? At what point do you have to balance the interests of the environment against doing economic development through development projects?
Mr Wensley: I haven't really thought too much about the first question, that is, the possibility that there would be more appeals to the OMB by developers, but as you were speaking, it seems probably likely that will happen, based on what you can see would happen in terms of inconsistencies across, because there will be an opportunity to play one off against the other.
Mr Bisson: They're all going to compete downwards to the lower standard.
Mr Wensley: Exactly. As I say, I haven't thought about that, but I can see where that could be a problem.
In the case of the second question, that's a very difficult philosophical question to answer. All I can say, and M. Lalonde mentioned it earlier, is that people do not understand the importance of wetlands to this province and to the world. They just do not understand it. That's something we've got to work at very hard. It's not good enough to buy a piece of wetland property, fill it in, and build houses or something on it. We're trading a natural environment for a strip mall or a doughnut shop, and that's just not acceptable.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation.
The Vice-Chair: I ask that the ENACT Neighbourhood presenter come forward, please.
Mr Tom Jones: This is my visual aid. I'm not going to table dance. This is a wetland complex.
Mr Bisson: It's not a golf course?
Mr Jones: Not yet. Maybe it could be changed into a golf course later on, but we'll start with this.
The Vice-Chair: Kindly introduce yourself, sir.
Mr Jones: My name's Tom Jones.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Can you sing?
Mr Jones: Yes, I can sing, I can dance.
What I'm going to do is quickly go through some of the information I have in my brief, and I'm going to leave the balance of my time for questions. I'd like to give half my time to questioning, because I think that is important, and you have the information in front of you to support what I'm going to say.
Good morning. First of all, I'd like to introduce the organization, which is my wife and I. Advanced Concepts Retirement Communities is a sole proprietorship, registered in Ontario for the sole purpose of research and development of low-density residential projects.
These low-density housing clusters, to be developed as infill projects on underutilized sites in existing neighbourhoods, would provide alternative housing choices for the 50-plus group, empty nesters, active retirees and snowbirds.
These residential units, built as link homes or semi-detached homes or row houses, are designed to encourage: elder care; homesharing; granny suites or garden suites; barrier-free housing; aging-in-place opportunities and home occupations or home industries.
These neighbourhood projects, appropriately named ENACT, that is, elder neighbourhoods affordable choice today, will be land-lease community homes, life-lease projects. This is the project I plan on building. This has been in process since 1991; the actual application was made in 1993. A bylaw has been put in place to allow this type of development in the area in which I live. Some people call me a developer. The closest I've got to developing is building that model.
Mr Bisson: You're a model developer.
Mr Jones: Yes. I'm a model developer at this point, but I hope to change that through this committee.
Some of the barriers and the roadblocks I have encountered in the process of trying to get to the point where it can actually be built are the following:
The existing development application process does not facilitate or expedite economic development. It results in overregulation, duplication, unnecessary delays and unreasonable additional costs. The municipality and the commenting agencies view the development application or the developer as a cash cow and utilize the rezoning application process to extract concessions from the property owner or the developer that they would normally not be entitled to. The municipality and the commenting agencies and lobby groups routinely request engineering documents and consultant's reports. The initiation of a report or an engineering document triggers a peer review at the applicant's expense and usually ongoing dialogue between two professionals at the applicant's expense and further delays the approval process.
The nine provincial ministries that have a hand in planning and development issues are like a series of silos, shut off from one another. Each of the nine ministries tends to protect their own self-interests and often has regulations or policies which conflict with the mandate to create an environment which facilitates economic development.
Some of the recommendations I would make, after having gone through this process for a small residential development, are the following:
Environmental issues: The Ministry of Environment and Energy could be designated as the upper-tier approval authority for all environmental issues and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the conservation authorities as well as the health unit be directed to forward their comments to it on development applications.
Small development: When introducing Bill 163, small residential development was specifically identified as development applications involving five or less residential units. It would be appropriate if all nine ministries could coordinate their efforts and their policies to facilitate and expedite this specific type of development proposal.
The Ontario Municipal Board: Rather than using the Ontario Municipal Board and lawyers to resolve development issues, the province could consider ensuring the provincial facilitator's resources are accessible to the proponent to mediate or arbitrate issues relating to development applications.
The county official plan: At present the four villages and 14 townships in Peterborough county have their own official plans in addition to the county official plan. Each area must underwrite the cost of amendments at specified intervals, which are five years. Each of these entities retains its own planning consultants, its own lawyers, its own engineers, with some choosing to use the resources already available at the county level. It would be advisable to restructure the arrangement so that the 18 official plans were consolidated into a county plan, a special section being allocated to each area's specific policies. It would also be cost-effective to have all planning jurisdictions utilize the resources of the county to process development applications; that is, the planner, the engineer and the lawyer. In the event that the workload on the county resources became intolerable, contracts could be made with an approved list of professionals instead of increasing employee levels.
Facilitating or expediting small development: Each village and township should be required to set a policy for development applications that clearly defines the process, the fees, the time frames, the documents required, the engineering and consultant's reports and their agreement in principle that the compliance with same by the developer would result in an approval of a development plan.
Fees: A reasonable fee should be set to permit a development application to be brought forward and circulated to the commenting agencies and a number of property owners in the immediate area for public input, and a suggested time frame for doing that is 30 days.
In relation to approvals, the planning committee should be required to meet with the proponent to discuss the application and, after being supplied with comments, give their decision as to whether they will support the development if specific criteria are met. The time frame for that is an additional 30 days.
The application and placing it in a holding zone: If the proponent agrees, a formal application is made, a fee paid and the county planning staff requested to prepare a bylaw which would place the property in a holding zone till the specific criteria have been satisfied. The time frame for that is 30 days. Upon removal of the conditions, the holding provision would be removed and the building permit made available.
At some point someone has to monitor what the municipality does. The municipality should be required to justify the amount of the deposits and the fees requested and the criteria set out to differentiate between small development proposals, low-, medium-, high-density and commercial and industrial development requirements.
Conclusion: The development application presented here represented an opportunity for the township to facilitate a small-scale development proposal on an underutilized site in a small rural community. The benefits to the township would be $8,000 in tax assessment per year, $4,000 in parkland dedication fees, $10,000 in development charges and approximately $6,000 in building permit fees. This underutilized site, prior to my buying it and putting forth a development proposal, was bringing $250 in annual tax assessment to the municipality. Under the proposal, developed as you see there, it would bring the township $28,000 in fees in the first year and $8,000 in tax assessment each year thereafter. The insistence of the township to apply site plan control to this small infill residential development could add an additional $30,000 in pre-development costs.
It's my opinion that economic growth and prosperity in Ontario will not take place if the local approval authorities do not support the initiatives being taken by the Progressive Conservative government to streamline the land use planning and development system.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I don't want to make any comments on your development in the sense of obviously we've only heard your side of it and we haven't heard the municipality's side of it, but I think the one thing that you do point out, and it's something that I've been trying to talk about for the last three weeks, is that what is almost more important than what's in the act are the protocols and procedures that are put into place to make the process work. It always seemed to me that the real time delays in all of these things are the length of time that a planning development and municipal council and different ministries take in dealing with the application, and the kind of time factors we're talking about within the act from a practical viewpoint in most developments aren't followed at all anyway, I think. You've taken, what, two or three years to get to this point?
Mr Jones: The application has actually been two years to the day.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess the point is that if you had applied all the time factors the way they're laid out in the act, whether the old act or the new act, you should have been before the OMB much earlier than that, because people have delayed the process along the way. Either public meetings have been called -- for whatever reason, and there may be legitimate reasons for it. But that's been my main concern. It's one thing to talk about the act. It's something totally different in talking about the, well, bureaucratic efficiencies, where I think most of the development hangups are. I wonder if you have any comments on that.
Mr Jones: Yes, I do. We're dealing with process more than we are with actually getting things done. We have too many people involved; the process has become too complicated.
I'll give you an example or an analogy. When I go to the bank for a loan, he gives me a list of the things I'm required to do in order to get that loan.
That doesn't happen with the development process. All through the process, someone is throwing a little hook in there of something else they need after you've supplied one thing, or something that's not sufficient or another report or another thing. We don't have a set policy stating that, "Mr Jones, if you supply us with these things, you get this." What they do is they hold you in abeyance right till the end of the process, which is two years. All during this process, even though I had $250,000 invested, I couldn't get a decision until two years later whether or not I was going to be able to actually go ahead. There should be a process set in place that says, "If you give us this, you get this." My suggestion is the holding zone.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with you. That's one of the main problems. People have a right to know where they stand, whether you're on one side of the issue or the other side.
Mr Jones: Yes, and what you can do is if you don't like what you're being asked to do at the beginning of the process, you can abandon it without getting in halfway and finding out you can't get out.
Mr Gerretsen: I couldn't agree more, and it would be a lot better if the government would start working on those internal processes and let people know how the decisions are made. That's sort of a murky cloud -- with all governments: local governments, provincial governments, former governments, what have you. They're all the same, you know? In a lot of these areas, we just don't know what's happening.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, I would say they are in that respect.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for the time and effort you've put into bringing your display forward. A lot of work went into the model.
We heard the previous presenter very much concerned with the words "in regard to" policies. If those words are put back in -- they didn't work before. There was a reason why they were taken out and changed to be "consistent with." Now, with those words going back in, is it your feeling that that would help to speed up your particular project or any other projects in economic development?
Mr Jones: Yes. This particular site here is a wetland. There is a wetland at the back. It's a class 1 wetland. Under Bill 163 and the restrictive policies that were put in, I was able to prove through the reports that were requested of me and the environmental assessment that had to be done by the Ministry of Natural Resources that that particular site, contrary to what most people say, is the most appropriate place to build the type of thing that I'm building. To put a septic system on that property is the most appropriate place to put a septic system. The hydrological report that came out said it would take, in his estimation, 60 years at least before any contaminant could ever reach the wetland at the back of the property, and that property is only 600 feet deep. The conditions that exist there with the pond and the wetland and the treed area, which we have guaranteed we will leave in place, is the most appropriate use for that wetland complex.
Mr Len Wood: In your particular case, because there is economic development taking place and there are rewards, I guess, involved if the development proceeds. But we've heard Mr Leach make comments to the bar association that the rules and regulations and policies are weighed too heavily to protecting the environment. We've had all kinds of presenters who have come forward saying that somebody out there has to be protecting the environment, the wetlands, the areas, and yet it seems like Mike Harris and Mr Leach are saying that economic development is more important than protecting the environment.
I don't know if you want to comment on that or not, but the concern that some of the presenters have had is that if you manage to successfully get one project through and then find out in a year or two years down the road that there is damage being done, even though the damage is being done, other developers are going to come forward and say, "Well, you let that happen in this area," and it would mushroom all across the province and the concern for wetlands and the environment and the wildlife out there would just go by the wayside and gold would be more important than all of these other issues. It seems like this is what Minister Leach has said in his presentation to the bar association. I just leave it at that, and thank you for your presentation.
Mr Jones: I would like to respond to that, if I might. One of the suggestions and recommendations I've made is that the lead ministry be the Ministry of Environment, not the conservation authority, not the Ministry of Natural Resources. This particular proposal went forward on the basis of an application to the Ministry of Environment for a septic system to service four units. It was approved. However, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the conservation authority were the ones I was having the trouble with. They were the ones that were saying it's in a regulated area. The septic system had already been approved. They're not meshing. There's something wrong.
Mr Len Wood: I think you should be telling the Conservatives over there that the Minister of Housing is the wrong ministry to look after that.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you for your presentation this morning. From the outset, I think it should be made very clear that the government does recognize the challenges you have presented in terms of addressing the streamlining considerations that you've proposed. Dr Galt alluded to the one-window approach. I guess our view is that that approach is best coordinated by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the focus will be one of coordination and not control, which has been your experience.
You've appended to this presentation your experience in the approvals process, and admittedly it deals with both local and provincial agencies. How do you feel a one-window approach would have improved your experience in dealing with various planning agencies?
Mr Jones: I would have to agree that there should be a one-window approach and if there were a one-window approach, I don't think we would have had these contradictions arise out of this particular application. What I've tried to do in this process is I've tried to take my development down to meet what I saw coming forth in Bill 163. That's what I saw in Bill 163, good development.
But when I tried and made application to do it, I found that either the message wasn't getting through to all the ministries and to the local level, or maybe I had misinterpreted what they were trying to do. Obviously, there has to be some coordination, like you suggested, a one-window approach would be most appropriate and the applicant be enabled to come forward in an environment like this to talk to all the people involved would be most appropriate, rather than dealing with us from their offices up wherever they are.
Mr Smith: You've to some extent suggested a more centralized planning approach for this area with respect to a county planning function. Perhaps my colleagues opposite will suggest that the bill in some of the changes that we are focusing on, or our attempt to address process, will compromise the product in the longer term. Do you feel in your region that your local municipality has the ability to address the real product issues at the same time as they're addressing the process?
Mr Jones: In replying to that, some counties have been given the opportunity to approve plans of subdivision. They've had to go through some sort of a process in order to get that approval authority. The municipalities haven't had to go through any process in order to get the approval authority; they just work on the basis of what they think this document says and what they tend to do is hold a veto over everybody else. "It doesn't matter what you do, we don't like it, so we're going stall the system on you. We're going to force you to an OMB, we're going to force you to a civil suit," and there's no outlet for you to satisfy that need.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Good morning, sir. I was just wondering whether in your opinion the municipalities are using the policy statements as a reason for what they're saying, or is it their opinion that what they're doing is what they think they need to do.
Mr Jones: Sometimes it's a little bit of both. Sometimes they don't have the vision that someone else has. They don't necessarily interpret the policies that are made at an upper-tier level the way they're supposed to be interpreted. Somehow, someone has to teach them that if this were brought forward at the municipal affairs level and they said: "That's good development, we want it facilitated and expedited. How can we do it?" throughout this process there has not been one person who has encouraged me to do it. They've all put something in the way, some extra cost or some other delay.
Mr Hardeman: In your opinion, under the policy statements that presently exist and the "shall be consistent with" in Bill 163, can this project ever be fully approved?
Mr Jones: It has been approved. At this point in time the bylaw is in place to permit it, but we've got to take it to the next stage, which complicates it more, because now we have to go into site plan control, which is another process, which can be lengthy and costly.
Mr Hardeman: But you are confident that you are going to be able to get this project approved.
Mr Jones: This project will proceed.
The Vice-Chair: We've appreciated your presentation this morning.
PIGEON LAKE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATION
The Vice-Chair: I would ask, please, that the presenter from the Pigeon Lake Environmental Association comes forward.
Mr Daniel Kennaley: Thank you. My name's Dan Kennaley and I'm the president of the Pigeon Lake Environmental Association. I'd like to first of all wish everyone a good morning and thank you for the opportunity to talk to the standing committee on resources development about Bill 20.
The Pigeon Lake Environmental Association, otherwise known as PLEA, and we are incorporated, is an organization of approximately 120 lake residents and others who are working towards the protection and improvement of the Pigeon Lake environment. Pigeon Lake is a lake located northwest of here, mostly north, slightly west, about 15 miles long, fairly narrow, perhaps a mile wide at its widest point, fairly extensively developed already.
More specifically, PLEA intends to raise awareness of the problems that the Pigeon Lake environment faces and of the methods that exist to help solve these problems; and secondly, to encourage politicians, regulatory agencies and developers to protect and improve the Pigeon Lake environment by making the environment a priority in their planning.
I'm not going to bore you today with a lot of rhetoric about the need to maintain the environmental safeguards that have been achieved over the last 30 years in Ontario. I would note that those environmental safeguards have been the result of Progressive Conservative, Liberal and NDP governments.
Suffice to say that the environmental safeguards have, I hope, come because today we all have a better appreciation for the interrelationships between elements within the environment -- water, soil, air, plants, animals and man -- because we have a better appreciation of the interrelationships between the environment and the economy, and because we have a better appreciation of the fact that in the past many economic activities were carried out without acknowledging the costs associated with negative impact on the environment, an environment that is owned by us all.
Instead of a lot of rhetoric, PLEA would like to focus on one serious concern it has with Bill 20. That concern involves the proposal to eliminate the appeal of minor variance applications to the Ontario Municipal Board. This change to the Planning Act was also proposed when Bill 163 was first drafted and PLEA made a similar presentation to this one to the standing committee on administration of justice which reviewed Bill 163. I think the government of the day very wisely decided to leave the ability to appeal minor variances to the OMB alone.
The problem with eliminating such appeals might not exist if minor variances were restricted to things like decks on houses encroaching slightly into rear yard setbacks, or allowing someone to park a boat and trailer on his driveway in his front yard. But minor variances are not confined to these matters. Rather, minor variances have been used to allow new uses in zones where the use is not permitted and even in official plan designations where the use is not permitted. This has occurred in the past. Attached is an OMB report which documents this surprising interpretation of law.
I've only given you one case, but I can assure you that there are many other cases that deal with this same matter -- whether or not minor variances can be used to allow new uses in zones where they're not permitted or in official plan designations where they're not permitted. I would note that the particular case that I've given you refers to some of the other cases that have occurred as well. The point being that the ability to allow new uses by minor variances, uses that are not contemplated by a zoning bylaw or official plan, is well established.
PLEA is concerned that local municipal councils, with the final say on minor variances, will use such variances to undermine the environmental protection otherwise afforded by zoning bylaws, the official plans, the Planning Act and the OMB. Eliminate the appeal to the OMB and local municipal councils could permit a motel, marina or commercial cottage resort by way of a minor variance in entirely inappropriate circumstances, but because the final word as to what is appropriate would be left to the local council, neither PLEA nor anyone else would be able to do anything about it. Unfortunately, PLEA's experience with municipal councils suggests they are capable of subverting good land use planning in this manner.
Our recommendation with regard to this matter is a simple one: Leave the appeal of minor variances to the OMB alone. The OMB is well respected for being impartial and for upholding planning policy. If you wanted to give the board more power to dismiss frivolous appeals so as to streamline things, that might be okay, but for the environment's sake and perhaps for the sake of good planning in general, don't eliminate the ability to appeal minor variances.
If you are not persuaded and you decide to eliminate the appeals of minor variances, then I think you have a responsibility to ensure local municipal councils do not abuse minor variances. This might, for instance, be achieved by adding a sentence to subsection 45(1) of the Planning Act that would indicate, "Notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, a new use not otherwise permitted in a zone or an official plan designation shall not be permitted by way of a minor variance."
I'd like to thank the committee for allowing me to talk to you and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much and congratulations for your work with the environment and coming forward today to make a presentation here.
I made a comment earlier from some of the comments that the present Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has said in his speech to the bar association, that policies themselves are weighted too heavily towards protecting the environment. "The way I look at it is that we must move forward as far as economic development and get things done and put less emphasis on the environment." First of all, do you think that's the right direction this Conservative government should be heading in?
Mr Kennaley: I certainly don't have difficulty with the idea of balancing economic development and environmental protection, but I certainly wouldn't want that to be sort of a coverup for the abandoning of the environment in favour of economic development. The two are interrelated and it's important. In many instances, economic development is dependent on a healthy environment and it's important to maintain that healthy environment. I don't want to see the safeguards lost but I do understand the need for economic development to take place.
Mr Len Wood: This is only my second day sitting on the committee and I'm replacing one of my colleagues, but we heard yesterday, and today so far, from other presenters that by changing the wording and going back to existing wording that a lot of the population of Ontario was not happy with "in regard for." "In regard for" basically means that you have a bunch of books on the shelf and you say: "Well, I know what's in them. They're collecting dust there but we'll just ignore that and we'll proceed ahead with economic development and we're not going to be concerned about wetlands, we're not going to be concerned about the wildlife, we're not going to be concerned about the environment. This area needs some economic development and it must be done at all costs. We'll look at the `regard for' but that's less important than getting this project up and running. Once the project is up and running it'll be an example for every other area across the province." What would be your comments concerning that particular wording, changing it from "in regard for" instead of "consistent with" provincial policies?
Mr Kennaley: I guess it's a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, whether we use the words "have regard for" or we use the words "be consistent with," I think we all want the policies to be followed.
I'm sure the people who drafted the legislation considered simply saying, "Thou shalt follow the policies" and "Thou shalt never deviate from the polices," as alternatives to "have regard for" or "be consistent with." At the same time, the environment, economic development: It's all a very complex situation. There are instances where a particular policy can't be applied in one location in the same manner it can be applied in another location. As much as I might want the words to be, "Thou shalt follow" and "Thou shalt not deviate from," I have to acknowledge there has to be some flexibility within the process.
Whether you use "have regard for" or "be consistent with," as long as everyone understands that generally that's what you're supposed to do and everybody understands that's what the words communicate, I don't know that there's a big problem.
I would certainly point to the Ontario Municipal Board as an important arbitrator in instances where people are obviously not having regard for and not being consistent with, not following policies. The Ontario Municipal Board, hopefully, will be able to put a very quick end to that sort of practice.
Mr Len Wood: When 50% of the funding cut to the municipalities has happened --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Wood, thank you.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Thank you, Dan, for your presentation. Just a couple of things: One of the problems, if I remember correctly, with Pigeon Lake is that there's about five or six or seven official plans around the lake, and unfortunately, there are a lot of variances one with the other. One of the things about Bill 20 is that it is pushing the fact that there should be county official plans; in your particular case up there, I believe Victoria county, Peterborough county and maybe a bit of Haliburton or part of it.
To ask you a first question, do you believe that might help to allow a little bit more consistency in environmental protection around the lake, if there was one plan per county, cross-referenced with the ones around the lake?
Mr Kennaley: The idea of needing to deal with Pigeon Lake, the Pigeon Lake ecosystem, if you will, as a single entity is an important one, so the need to cross-reference one official plan to sort of acknowledge what is happening in the other official plan is an extremely good idea and an important idea.
I don't necessarily have a problem with the idea of local municipalities having their own official plans because in many instances the county official plan may not have sufficient detail in it to do a proper job of planning. If you wanted to sort of boost the county official plan and increase the detail in the official plan, then that might make planning work, but at the moment, I would contend there isn't anything necessarily wrong with the local official plans.
The Harvey township official plan, for instance -- Harvey is one of the townships that border on Pigeon Lake -- is a good official plan. It's in conformity with the county official plan, as it should be, and it provides more detailed policies that are important in terms of protecting the Pigeon Lake environment.
Mr Stewart: The reason I asked you that was that you appear to be concerned that on minor variances you may have a problem with some of the local municipalities. I guess you have a lot more confidence than I have in the length of time the OMB can deal with an appeal of an official plan. Unless it is streamlined, I think the idea of an appeal to them for a minor variance -- certainly in many other things that's different -- could eventually hold it up, whether it be development or an addition to a cottage or whatever, for months and months.
Do you feel there could be another tool that might assist in the appeal process rather than going through to the OMB, and if you did go to the OMB and took that time, that the person who is applying for the amendment should pay the full shot?
Mr Kennaley: What I would be looking for with respect to any planning matter -- the point I'm trying to make with respect to minor variances is that sometimes they're not as minor as you might think. Sometimes they can have very important planning implications for a whole lake, and sometimes the planning implications are for a particular individual; to that individual that deck that's going to be encroaching into the rear yard of a neighbour and is going to be 12-feet high may have very serious implications in terms of privacy and protecting privacy. It's not necessarily a small matter. I think an appeal process has to exist.
Whether there's an alternative to the Ontario Municipal Board, I guess there can be, but what needs to be ensured is impartiality and also a proven ability to abide by or uphold planning policies. If you can find another group, another organization, another entity that's able to do that, then maybe you don't need to necessarily have minor variances go to the board.
It seems to me that since you've already got one there and if the problem is that the board is taking too long, I point out that it's been my experience that the Ontario Municipal Board, particularly in this area, has sped up the process lately very greatly and that came about as a result of this area being targeted as one of those special areas for speedup.
The Ontario Municipal Board is operating more quickly and if it needs to be sped up even more, then maybe one way of doing that would be to appoint more board members. It would be perhaps a good investment. I appreciate that cutbacks are occurring in the provincial but perhaps a few additional appointments to the board might fix that particular problem of speeding things up.
Mr Gerretsen: I appreciate your presentation. We totally concur that there should be an appeal to the OMB, and that's coming from a former municipal politician.
But everybody seems to forget on the government side that there are three parties that have an interest in this. There's the applicant, there's the municipality and the general public, and the appeal can come from any one, either way, whether it's to oppose a particular application that's been turned down or to approve it etc. There has to be, at some point in time, an independent arbiter who can deal with the situation if all those three different parties aren't happy with the final result that either a committee of adjustment or a local council comes up with.
It's as simple as that. That's not to say that local municipalities shouldn't make the decision, but if somebody doesn't like it, they should be able to have an independent person deal with that. I totally concur with your notion.
The thing we have suggested is that a minor variance should be dealt with a heck of a lot quicker than an official plan or a rezoning matter. There's nothing wrong with setting up a special panel at the OMB of, let's say, five or six board members on a rotating basis that could be dealing with these appeals in a matter of a month or two after they're made rather than waiting anywhere from nine months to a year that you normally do on OMB matters, so it can be dealt with.
We've heard a number of comments, and I know you're basically an environmental group, today in which the government members and particularly Dr Galt have said: "Don't worry. We care about the environmental as well." Nobody's going to come here and say they don't care about the environment, whether you're a developer, a politician or whatever, but the proof is in the pudding.
We used to have a document that had, I don't know, 200, 300, 400 pages in it. Now we've got a document that's 21 pages and when you deal with the environment, it talks about development in the wetlands in the area outside of the Canadian Shield and I realize we're -- are we just inside the Canadian Shield here?
Mr Kennaley: No, just south of it.
Mr Gerretsen: We're just south of it. It states that development may take place if it can be demonstrated that it will not negatively impact on the natural features or the ecological functions. To my way of thinking, that puts the emphasis in the wrong place. What's your assessment of that? It seems to me it's fairly easy to say or to prove that something doesn't negatively impact, but I suggest maybe we should turn it the other way around and we've got to show that maybe development actually helps the environment. How do you feel about that as an environmental organization?
Mr Kennaley: I would be happy, I suppose, or satisfied with development that did not negatively impact on the natural environment. I actually have a good deal of difficulty with the notion, for instance, that the Ministry of Natural Resources has, about development being okay and being able to negatively impact environment here if the same developer is able to improve the environment someplace else. There's this idea of a tradeoff. In fisheries habitat it comes about quite often that you can destroy this particular part of fisheries habitat if you establish some different fisheries habitat someplace else. I have some difficulty with that particular notion.
Aside from that, I would suggest that I would be satisfied with development that did not negatively impact the natural environment.
Mr Gerretsen: Would you agree with me that what's really required is for everyone, for environmentalists, general public, councils, developers etc, to not only know exactly what's involved, but what the score is in a particular situation, that what really needs to be developed are some fairly good protocol documents so we know what's happening inside ministries on a particular application and so everybody knows what the rules of the game are?
You heard the gentleman immediately before that. He's saying from a factual viewpoint, having worked on the development side of the business, that it is correct that you satisfy one requirement and they really don't like your development or whatever, and somebody else will come with something else and it just goes on and on and on. People have a right to know where the heck they stand. One of the ways in which you can do this, as far as I'm concerned, is to set out a protocol how these issues are going to be dealt with interministerially, and people know about that protocol. Do you have any comments on that?
Mr Kennaley: I certainly agree with that idea. I should point out that when I'm not speaking on behalf of the Pigeon Lake Environmental Association to a committee of the Legislature, I'm a planning consultant and I do have a lot of private individuals, developers --
Mr Gerretsen: I kind of figured that from your earlier comments.
Mr Kennaley: -- who I assist and work with. Too often developers look at "no" as just meaning it's time to try harder. Too often the idea of not knowing -- something coming up halfway through the process sometimes is a very legitimate occurrence. Sometimes it's impossible to know everything about an application and everything about a development at the outset and sometimes it's only when you get partway through the process that you become aware of an additional problem or an additional challenge sometimes posed by the natural environment that has to be met.
I think the idea of as much as possible establishing what the rules of the game are up front is a very good idea and a very important idea, but I think everybody has to acknowledge that even despite that, occasionally there are going to be these situations that arise halfway through the process that are going to upset the process to some extent.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, we're quite over time right now. I don't mean to be rude, but we should proceed so others have a chance too. Thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
ONTARIO PROPERTY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ALLIANCE
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the representatives from the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance come forward, please. Good morning.
Mr Doug Hindson: Good morning, Madam Chair and ladies and gentlemen of the committee. My name is Doug Hindson and I'm here this morning representing the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance.
The alliance is a group of nine organizations representing about 25,000 persons throughout rural Ontario. We're non-partisan. We believe that the natural environment requires our consideration, requires our stewardship. However, when we do that, we must do so in the context of an appreciation for our property rights.
Back in June 1995, OPERA provided to all members sitting in the House at that time a complete list of the concerns that we have with regard to Bill 163. I might add this morning -- it's not in my notes; however, it is our intention to extract all of those concerns and we'll be sending those to the committee later on in the week. I just put you on notice that there will be something else coming.
As a matter of fact, in May of last year we, as part of a survey, wrote to Mike Harris. The question we asked him at that time was whether or not he would repeal Bill 163 if the Conservatives were to take office. He responded to us in June 1995, "A Harris government will repeal Bill 163, streamline the planning process, and will provide municipalities with more autonomy and flexibility in planning decisions."
Eleven members of our organization met with the Honourable Allan Leach last November 20, which was just following the introduction of the Bill 20 revisions. We had a very productive discussion at that time and he invited us to appear here with you this morning, and that's why you see my face at the other end of the table.
However, having done almost a line-by-line and comprehensive review of Bill 20, comparing it to Bill 163 and back to the old Planning Act of 1992, prior to the introduction of those changes, I'm really disappointed to say that we simply cannot back off of our request that this government repeal all aspects of Bill 163, go back to the planning Act as it existed in 1992 and take a much more gradualist approach, one which certainly recognizes the property rights of rural Ontario land owners.
While we can't support Bill 20, I'd like to just very briefly touch on a couple of things that we do have concerns with. Right off the top, it's been mentioned here this morning that there has been discussion around the phrases "consistent with" and "regard to." We find that "regard to" -- let's be frank -- is ambiguous. Certainly "consistent with" is not ambiguous. However, what we found in reviewing some recent OMB decisions is that the OMB has a tendency, where having regard to a provincial policy happens to be at issue, to treat that in their decision exactly the same as "consistent with."
We don't believe that this type of arbitrary phrase or statement, as imposed by the policy statements, has any place in planning matters in Ontario. We're concerned as well that the policy statements and the implementation guidelines aren't on the table at the same time. Frankly, it's difficult to have a comprehensive understanding of the impact of all three elements unless we have those before us. I think that's, if I might suggest respectfully to the committee, a shortcoming in this process.
OPERA is concerned as well that if we consider the changes in Bill 20 that confer additional powers on the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, combined with the sweeping powers granted the government in Bill 26 and some of the more disturbing aspects of government land use policy in rural Ontario, these should be of a concern to all those who value our liberties and freedoms.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm probably going to come at you this morning from a somewhat different perspective. Being from rural Ontario, I have to say that I think most of our planning principles and all the planning takes place from an urban perspective. I ask you to recognize and remember that there are 1.8 million people who live in rural Ontario and who derive their income from working in the rural Ontario economy.
I think as a matter of fact, we've lost our knowledge of democracy and its source of legitimacy. This was eloquently dealt with by John Ralston Saul in last year's Massey lecture series, which culminated in a book called The Unconscious Civilization. For me, reading this particular book really had a tremendous impact, because it showed me where we are making mistakes and where we have backed away from our understanding of democracy in this country.
We're concerned about the shortening of appeal times. We're concerned about the limitation of appeals to those people who either have made presentations to a meeting or have made presentations prior to a final decision being reached in the planning process. We're concerned about the shortening of the appeals period. We don't think that represents a fair or reasonable recognition of how community groups come together to deal with planning issues which arise in the communities and which, after some consideration, demonstrate that they present a problem to the communities.
Lastly, as Mr Kennaley mentioned to you a moment ago, you'll recall that during the consultations on Bill 163 -- it was finally won as a result of I think a number of people coming before the committee -- the minor variances would be put back in as an appealable issue to the OMB. We would urge this government and this committee to look favourably upon that recommendation. As well, we believe that the appeal time frame should also be the same as it was in the last legislation.
Let's back away from Bill 20 and talk about where there are overarching concerns. We believe it's important to explain to this committee why we harbour strong views on Bill 20. Both are intrusive and they're centralist. We are concerned about some administrative practices which are currently being used by some of the ministries across Ontario with respect to the assigning of private property designations that come under the heading of environmental designations.
A growing number of rural Ontarians are concerned about the secretive practices employed by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Since 1992 MNR has applied ANSI designations, for example, to some 2,610 properties representing 150,000 acres in Bruce and Grey counties; Mr Murdoch will be aware of that. As a matter of fact, we have a denial of due process, which I think is a violation of those who believe in freedom and democracy in this country. When MNR writes back to an individual inquiring about how an ANSI could be applied to his land, he's told, frankly, "If you don't like it, go and get an EIS" -- an environment impact statement -- "and show us why." This throws the burden of proof not on the government but rather on the individual land owner.
In Victoria county, over the last three years, the MNR has been applying wetland designations. I have one here which is attached to the copies you received this morning, on the very bottom. This gentleman owns 550 acres, of which over 450 have been designated as wetlands. You know, I spoke to this fellow and he didn't even know it; he does now and he's mad.
Across Ontario, at least eight designations are being applied to private lands. These include ANSIs, wetlands, wetland habitat, conservation lands, open spaces, heritage lands, endangered species and environmentally sensitive lands. Recent announcements from the Ontario Heritage Foundation cause us to wonder if this is not the next effort of government to interfere with private property ownership. We wonder if the language that they use isn't in fact Aesopian, thus disguising the real intent of the foundation.
Extensive research conducted by OPERA indicates that there is rather a curious web through which these designations arrive on one's assessment roll. The designations are conducted by MNR or a contractor working on its behalf. Staff frequently trespass across private property; no inquiry, no discussion with the land owner. The results of the property designation are then communicated to MNR, which then in turn sends the information to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Housing then flips the information down to Finance, which then delegates it down to the provincial assessor's office, and bang, you have it on your assessment roll. Does the land owner know? No. We've got some mighty disturbed people across rural Ontario who are now finding that their hands are tied with respect to designations that have shown up on their land.
OPERA indeed supports with enthusiasm the efforts of Conservative backbencher Toby Barrett in his initiative, now before the House, which seeks to protect private property rights for Ontario citizens. Three other jurisdictions in Canada have legislation which protects private property, including Manitoba, Alberta and the Yukon. Ideally, property rights should be enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, provincial legislation in this regard would be a convincing step to indicate this government's intentions towards a citizen's right to own and use private property, rural or otherwise.
While OPERA cannot support Bill 20, what would give us consolation as property owners in rural Ontario would be at least a preamble to the act which dealt positively with the concerns felt by law-abiding citizens, many of whom bear a deep concern for their future as land owners. Such a preamble should affirm the right to own and use private property, with land takings -- you'll hear me say "takings" from now on, and what I'm referring to here is either the outright or implied confiscation of property; I'm using a US term. At least, those land takings should be compensated for with just compensation.
At the same time, we ask this government for immediate action -- and I repeat, immediate action -- to end the placing of designations of this type that I talked about just a moment ago against private property without properly notifying and securing the consent to these actions from the land owner. Further, we ask this government to create an appropriate piece of legislation to safeguard property owners against this type of action by overzealous provincial bureaucrats.
As I come to my conclusion, it's a bit over a page, but I'll try to be brief. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, with legislation like this making its appearance on our statute books now over the last three or four years, I think we all have to ask ourselves the political motives of this or any other government which condones such actions.
Let me go across to the United States, where we have some specific information and knowledge from people we are in touch with, and direct experience and information down there. In the United States, in 1994, there were 250,000 property takings; 80% of those were from honest, law-abiding citizens who had done nothing. Their property was confiscated, either by the state or by the employees of the state, and the employees pocketed the proceeds of those confiscations. In some cases, it was land; in a lot of cases, it was personal property.
There's a tremendous case at the moment in Utah, a land confiscation. Certainly from our perspective as Canadians we would be shocked to understand the details. I'm not going to deal with that here. But if you take a look at it, it's a 25,000-acre ranch that the parks service took cattle from, at gunpoint, and sold. The parks service staff put the money in their pocket, and they're trying to run this man off his land. He was smart: He showed up armed. He showed up armed with a 35mm camera and has it all on film.
We believe every member of this committee, we hope, fully understands that these kinds of actions represent a serious concern. In fact, Bills 163 and 20 are a building block to further substantiate takings through the denial of use, hence rendering a property owner's land worthless. What we do when we do that, ladies and gentlemen, is that we're really confiscating people's savings that they have invested in their land.
Few in this room will have heard of the convention on global biodiversity, the global biodiversity agreement, the GBA, the assessment or Agenda 21. They're part of the United Nations environment program. Their origin lies in the Earth Summit which was held in Rio in 1992. Canada tripped over itself to get in line to sign this piece of paper, which is now international law. Further, Canada, in complicity with the provinces, is now obligated to conform in this country to what that convention states. This is one of the reasons, we believe, that Bill 163 was originally drafted, and we are certainly concerned that Bill 20 contains those building blocks that had been left in the legislation, which is under the UN program.
Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest enemy that we as Canadians have is the United Nations. Many won't perceive that, but I think I could demonstrate that if I had the time, which I won't take this morning.
Members of this committee should be aware that the provinces, including Ontario, have joined the agreement. The GBA and the global biodiversity assessment are merely steps to achieving the globalist goals contained in Agenda 21.
In August of last year, Minister of the Environment Copps introduced the Endangered Species Protection Act. This proposed legislation, mandated by persons not elected in Canada under the force of the United Nations convention on biodiversity, is but the first step in a 40- to 50-year plan to remove virtually all rural property from private ownership and return most of it to wilderness. Are you aware of that? This convention has virtually no value for human life. Are you aware of that?
I won't say any more, other than that the general public is becoming aware very quickly. I'll be attending in March a meeting in the United States which is going to be attended by some of the top political and scientific minds in the United States, developing a strategy to defeat external intrusion into our sovereignty. That's what it is: It's a sellout of our sovereignty. There's little doubt that these bills, Bill 20 following on Bill 63, are simply building blocks in this larger agenda. We're very concerned about that.
Lastly and finally, without the intervention of those members of this party and this committee, who we presume continue to believe in freedom and liberty, Ontarians remain highly vulnerable. The question OPERA asks of this committee and other members of its governing ranks is this: Do you intend to stand in our defence, in defence of the cherished freedoms and liberties that we have enjoyed as Canadians for more than a century? These freedoms, I think all of us are aware, have been gained and retained through the cost of countless Canadian lives. Am I a patriot? Yes, I am. Would you, then, commit to acquiring a significant understanding of the intended consequences of this legislation and then finally ensure a full, complete, total and absolute repeal of everything that is in Bill 163? Thank you very much.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Thanks for coming, Doug. I appreciate it. I just want to point out one thing, that Barb Fisher, our Chair, is from Bruce county, so she'll also understand the problems.
I understand your problems with Bill 20. I think it's a start in the right direction. It may not be what we all want, and I certainly can agree with you on that, but it's a start, and hopefully we can get to some of the values that we all want. But again, it's better than 163.
Mr Gerretsen: The point still is, though, that during the election campaign Mike Harris and the Tories campaigned that they were going to scrap it. We in the Liberal Party didn't say we were going to scrap it, but we were going to make some amendments to it. Not these amendments, but we were going to amend it. But they did not scrap it; you're totally right in that.
Where do you stand on basement apartments, sir, since you're in favour of property rights? Since it's a right now in this province that if you're living in a single-family home that you have the right to have a basement apartment, are you in favour of that property right?
Mr Hindson: I'm coming at this committee not from the perspective of an urban home owner and apartments; I'm talking about our farm community, I'm talking about people who own large acreages. OPERA has not taken a position on that matter.
Mr Gerretsen: You have no personal opinion on that then?
Mr Hindson: I would prefer not to offer a personal opinion. I'll give you a general answer, Mr Gerretsen.
The Vice-Chair: If you could make it very short.
Mr Hindson: I will. I lived in Calgary. We had basement apartments in Calgary, and did they cause a problem? No, they didn't.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you, at least you're consistent.
Mr Bisson: I would just say this. I took a chance to go through your brief because there's a lot of it that you didn't mention. There are some things in here that I agree with, your general thrust in regard to Bill 26. I haven't got time to get into it.
But the only point I'd want to make is this. I want to be clear: I would not support your proposal. I think it is a step in the wrong direction. I believe that if you believe in planning, you want to have rules that apply to good planning, which means to say that the government does have to play a role. I realize that doesn't sit well with you, but I think I owe you at least the decency to tell you what our position is.
In regard to Mr Barrett's bill, I would not support that bill because I believe that really is a step in the wrong direction.
Mr Hindson: I think that hardening positions in this are going to be divisive.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you for your presentation.
NORTHUMBERLAND FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the representative from the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture come forward, please. Good morning, and welcome to our public hearing process this morning.
Mr John Boughen: Thank you. We're here representing the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture. It has approximately 800 farmer members in Northumberland county. We're part of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which covers the whole province.
We have a property, planning and land use committee of the Northumberland federation and some of the members are here today, so I'd like to introduce them: Colin Crews, on my left, Dan MacDonald, Ralph Richards, Sylvester Campbell -- Gerben DeJong is not here; he's on holidays -- and myself, John Boughen.
I presume you all have a copy of this.
We are very concerned here in Northumberland county in the way planning and land use issues affect us in the agricultural community, and this is the primary reason that a property, planning and land use committee was created in December 1995 as one of the many committees in the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture, to assist the agricultural rural community on these issues.
Agriculture is Ontario's second-largest industry, with one in five jobs being agriculturally related. Agriculture is an important, valuable industry for the people of Ontario, with tremendous growth potential in many areas of food production. We must have the best policies and planning available to ensure a continuing production of food products rated as the best quality and price in the world.
While not being formally trained in planning or governmental policy-making, we are well aware of what it's like to be on our farms, surrounded by people with different ideas for land use. We know what it's like to hope that our farms will still be around in 20, 50, 100 years. The overall effect of Bill 20 seems to increase the opportunities for development, while at the same time making it difficult for farmers to protect their land and businesses.
The following are points which we do not agree with in the changes from Bill 163 to Bill 20:
(1) Section 3: The change to "have regard to" from the existing "to be consistent with" in regard to provincial policies.
A municipality, when considering a development application, when it would only "have regard to" provincial policies, is a backwards step in the protection of good agricultural land across the province of Ontario. To "have regard to" the protection of good agricultural land is so much weaker than "being consistent with" the provincial policies, which means the municipality has to follow them.
Some of the reasons why this change to "have regard to" provincial policy won't work satisfactorily are:
(i) It allows for inconsistencies with local municipal politics;
(ii) It will allow these same inconsistencies from one municipality to another;
(iii) It will lead to inconsistencies from one elected municipal council to the next in the same municipality because the local politicians are so much more influenced by a few ratepayers than is a provincial body.
(2) Subsection 8(1): We are wary of the implications of having each municipality devise its own official plans without the areas of greatest concern included in a comprehensive plan which prescribes all major planning issues.
The official plan then becomes a device for any kind of planning the municipality wants it to be, which would be very unfortunate with this change and lead to poor planning decisions.
(3) Section 13 of Bill 20: We are very concerned with the proposed changes in this section, especially as it relates to clause 22(7)(c).
As it is now, legislation provides that official plan amendment applications must have a decision within a six-month period. The amendment in Bill 20 will change this to 90 days, the same time frame now in effect for decisions on rezoning applications.
We do not agree that time frames for various development applications should be reduced. It is often difficult to know all that is going on around us that might affect our farm businesses. Often, we find out rather late. How does one get the time to prepare to object or appeal and at the same time run our farms if time frames are reduced? We need time for mail to be delivered, to consult with neighbours, for thoughts to be gathered on paper so that we can adequately study major changes to official plan amendments.
(4) Section 26 of Bill 20: While recognizing that the Ontario Municipal Board needs to stay clear of minor decision-making, it makes us nervous to think we may not be allowed to appeal a minor variance application. Sometimes even things of a minor nature can have a large impact on our farm businesses. In a rural municipality, reputations and personalities play for and against each other. A municipal council may not be objective in the request for an appeal to the OMB concerning a minor variance.
(5) Section 29 of Bill 20 re public meetings about proposed plans of subdivision. Are no public meetings required?
(6) Section 30 re public meetings in respect to consent for severance applications. Are no public meetings required?
On section 29, our position is that there must be public meetings on proposed plans of subdivision. Our position on section 30 is that there must be public meetings for consent to sever land. How else are we to know of the plans to change our communities? How else are we to decide if these changes threaten our land or our businesses?
(7) Section 1 of Bill 20 says the Ministry of Municipal Affairs will be the only ministry able to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. We are strongly opposed to this move. In our situation as farmers, we must have the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs able to appeal as well to the OMB.
We are losing OMAFRA's powers to comment on development, consents etc on our behalf. They have been a watchdog and a voice with power that protected good agricultural land. It is puzzling to us as farmers how different ministries in the province have differing amounts of power. Our Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs ministry seems to be continuing to be reduced and deflated at our collective peril, even though agriculture is the second-most-important and valuable industry in Ontario.
(8) The Development Charges Act. With respect to the overall tone of Bill 20 as one that would appear to make development easier, it makes us uncomfortable to know that development charges can be reduced without ministry approval. We would like to point out, with the rewriting of the Development Charges Act, that farm buildings for agricultural use and any agricultural property be exempt from the development charges.
The summary of our positions is:
(1) That the policy of "be consistent with" stay as it is now in Bill 163.
(2) That municipalities must have a comprehensive official plan which addresses all planning issues.
(3) That time frames for various development applications not be reduced.
(4) That minor variance applications can be appealed to the OMB.
(5) That there must be public meetings on proposed plans of subdivisions.
(6) That there must be public meetings for consent to sever land.
(7) That OMAFRA must be able to appeal to the OMB.
(8) That development charges cannot be reduced by a municipality without ministry approval and that no development charges apply to farm buildings and farm land.
In conclusion, agricultural land is a non-renewable resource. To protect this land for the future is an all-important goal. If we continue as in the past to build on our best land, we are being shortsighted. In the future, we don't want to rely on other countries to provide much of our food. To be self-sufficient in our food supply is politically important. Our policies on agriculture land use must reflect this. The tools to strongly enforce these policies must be given to our people at all levels. Bill 20 does little to reassure us that agriculture will be valued and protected. Thank you.
Mr Gerretsen: We agree with all your points, and I'm sure the government members who are farmers especially will take this back to their caucus and amend the bill in accordance with the points indicated herein. We will make sure that happens.
Mr Lalonde: Thank you for your presentation. I understand your concern in the points you've brought to our attention. They're similar to the agricultural people down in my area.
In (3), you point out that you're against the reduction of time. Would you agree, though, that there should be something spelled out in the new Planning Act that rural areas should have a different time from the organized municipality? When I say "organized," we have to be clear. Regional government, large municipalities have the staff in place -- others don't -- to notify especially the farmers. I understand you're very busy people at times and the time it takes to get the mail down to your place sometimes doesn't give you enough time to look over and organize within your area. I really feel that reducing from 180 to 90 days is a very short time to notify all the people concerned.
There's another point you spelled out, that there should be no development charge applied to farm buildings and farm land. Would you say it would be acceptable that development charges be chargeable to the home of the farmers?
Mr Boughen: As far as the tax system is concerned, the farmhouse and one acre are treated as any other rural residential house, and of course development charges only apply to building a new residence in the township. We're under the same rules in that case, that if we built a new farmhouse we would be paying development charges.
Mr Lalonde: So this is acceptable on your part.
Mr Boughen: But I want to point out that it's very hard to understand even what it means in Bill 20, and we've only had about two weeks to research this. We're not experts, but we just want to make it clear -- I understand the Development Charges Act will be rewritten -- that for building a barn or a greenhouse, development charges don't apply.
Mr Bisson: Do they presently apply?
Mr Boughen: Not in our township. I can't speak for across the province.
Mr Lalonde: It isn't clear in Bill 20. I support you 100% on that. There should not be any development charge for farm buildings.
Mr Boughen: There's also another point when we mention farm land. Colin, would you like to elaborate on that?
Mr Colin Crews: There is an incident in our municipality where one municipality is trying to get an agreement to procure water from another, and everybody in between is going to be assessed a charge. There's a lot of agricultural land that this is going to go by. We don't feel that's proper at all. If they are going to hook on to it, we have no problem with it, but they're being forced in this case to hook on to it or to use it.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for an excellent presentation. I agree with a lot of the points you have raised, points (1), (2) and (3) of page 2, and your concern with changing the words back to "have regard to" instead of "be consistent with provincial policy." I was born and raised on a farm myself so I know the importance of farming and agriculture. I think it's wrong for Mike Harris and his group to decide they're going to pave over all of Ontario's farm land and spread the population out into all these areas so that we'll have to import food. These are some of the things Mike Harris said during his election speech in May: "Don't concentrate people too much in one area. Spread them out around the province." That's the danger, that Bill 20 will allow for the paving over of all the farm land in Ontario. I agree with your concerns.
Mr Bisson: In point (1) on page 2, you say the proposed system would be divisive. Municipal council people, as we know, tend to be pushed in directions by their constituents, sometimes not to the betterment of the community, when it comes to planning issues. I'm trying to be polite.
With Bill 20 saying "have regard to" rather than "be consistent with," my fear is that there will not be clear planning policies that people follow from one municipality to another and we're going to end up with one municipality saying, "We're doing it this way," which might be a lesser standard, and then the developer down the street in another municipality says: "It happened over there. You don't want to let me over here. I'm off to the OMB on an appeal." What we'll do is ratchet down the planning principles in the province to where it'll be less and less. I wonder if you can comment on that.
Mr Crews: Interpretation for the moment is what I'd call it.
Mr Boughen: Colin just said it's interpretation of what your official plan would be. Without consistency in following provincial policies, there are going to be differences from one municipality to another.
Mr Crews: I think a lot of it will come up to interpretation for the moment.
Mr Bisson: By the local council.
Mr Crews: Yes, by the local council, depending on what is before them. If it's pro-development, it'll be interpreted exactly that way.
Mr Bisson: If they don't have clear policy, you're going to be really in a ratchet-down race to the lowest standard.
Mr Crews: Exactly.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the presentation -- a lot of good information in that presentation. There's no question that we collectively want to protect environmentally sensitive lands, particularly wetlands. It came up regularly during the campaign, and prior to it at public meetings, and I've received many letters since from farmers concerned about their opportunity to use lands or the potential to use lands in the buffer zone around wetlands. They feel it's been confiscated and taken away from them.
We juggled back and forth between the terms "have regard to" and "be consistent with." I think what it really comes down to is, who pays? Does a farmer have to pay for this buffer zone? The Ontario government doesn't seem to have much money, sitting at $100 billion in debt. Then there's the naturalists. No question, it should be preserved. Who do you think should be paying and come through with funds to look after these lands?
Mr Boughen: That's a hard question. I guess it's up to us as farmers. We're under rules and regulations, and many of us, if we want to sever a lot, we can't. We abide by that. We abide by the regulations, where we're protecting that land for everyone in Ontario. With wetlands, it would depend on the land owner, on the buffer zone; it would depend on what you want to do. Would it be a development proposal that takes away profit from him? If the land is continuing to be used as it has been in the past, generally in most cases for farming, then there's no real loss. It would only come to a situation where a land owner would be prevented from doing a certain -- even if it was development or, say, in the case of agriculture, in tile draining to better that farm. There could be some grey areas in that.
Wetlands is something we just got into in Hope township since 1993 when it was first introduced into our official plan. Before that, we didn't even know we had wetlands there. Actually, in 1988 I was on a planning advisory committee, and we studied that from the province's coming out with the drafts and the proposal for wetlands. In 1993 all municipalities had to have them in their official plan designations. It was put in, and many land owners didn't even know they had wetlands, and in many cases they really aren't wetlands. I understand that they added some more last year. As a farmer, I haven't even had time to go and study the map. They did have an open house at our township office, but I was too busy. I don't know what's going on.
It's always a question of who loses what. Many of us, as farmers, as I said, are using our farms to farm and not asking for a development proposal, whether it's a severance or whatever. We're quite willing to protect this land for everyone and maybe losing a monetary dollar there at some time along the road, but our family had a chance in the 1950s to sever all the lots up and down our two road frontages and we didn't do it. So isn't this shared responsibility?
Mr Galt: It certainly shouldn't be all on the shoulders of the farmers, anyway.
Mr Crews: Perhaps we should be looking at a more clear-cut definition of just exactly what and where the wetlands are so that everybody knows, rather than just making a more vague planning document and guessing at the municipal level as to just whether it is or it isn't.
Mr Galt: You might be surprised to find what's been defined.
The Vice-Chair: I thank you very much. It's certainly a presentation that we don't have many of, in terms of representation from your group, throughout our hearings to date. Thank you very much.
OSHAWA-DURHAM HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the Oshawa-Durham Home Builders' Association come forward, please. Good morning and welcome to our hearing process.
Ms Jo Casey: Thank you for having us this morning. I'm Jo Casey, a local developer here in Cobourg. With me is Ron Robinson, the president of the Oshawa-Durham Home Builders' Association, and Bob Annaert, who is also a member and chair of the municipal liaison committee. I'm chair of the Ontario Home Builders' Association land committee on the provincial level.
The home industry has been charged with the task of providing affordable housing for the people of Ontario. This task has a direct relationship with the fairness and efficiency of the planning process, which brings serviced land to the market so that we can build this housing. Our association has 135 member companies. Our boundaries include Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Clarington, the rural townships of Scugog, Uxbridge, Brock, the provincial associations of Oshawa, Durham East, Durham West and Durham Centre, and we have representatives from the town of Cobourg.
The Ontario Home Builders' Association has 3,400 members throughout the province. In 1991 there were 658,000 workers in all sections of the industry, which translates into one out of every eight workers. The value of construction in Ontario in 1992 was $32 billion, representing 12% of the total economic output of the province.
It is important that the standing committee keep in mind the importance of the impacts on this industry, please, when considering the presentation of this association and that of other building and industry associations.
We have been actively involved in the consultation process leading to the amendments of the Planning Act as set out in Bill 20. May I say that the industry is very grateful to the government for moving quickly on the issue of planning reform. The process began when we attended Sewell commission presentations continued in consultation over Bill 163. During presentations to the standing committee on 163, the association presented several areas of concern with the bill that would result in negative impact on the industry. Unfortunately, the previous government did not concur with these concerns and moved forward with the legislation that we have today.
There was such apprehension in the industry with the planning approval process under Bill 163 that the approval authorities were inundated with new development applications -- "inundated" as it relates to the 1990s -- prior to March 28, 1995, the implementation date. This certainly was an indication that there were concerns that the Planning Act did not live up to the intent of the reform process.
Since coming to power, the government has moved quickly to address many of our concerns. We have worked in consultation with them at the Ontario Home Builders' Association, and the Urban Development Institute has also done a lot of work. The proposals presented in this bill generally follow through with the original intent of planning reform process and as such the implementation of this bill will create an ecosystem planning process that meets the needs of the community, the economy and the environment.
We are very positive in our support of the return to "have regard to" the provincial policy statements. Under objections, we put this forward as a concern with 163. Our biggest concern with "be consistent with" is that it would be too rigid a system and it would be difficult to balance competing provincial interests.
I have some experience in that, in that I sat on the task force that reviewed the guidelines to go along with the policy statement. That's 650 pages of confusion, and a lot of that came out of a concern that to make guidelines when you had a term "be consistent with" was so difficult. For instance, if you have one provincial policy statement that says "be consistent with the needs to protect the environment" and you have another provincial policy statement that says "the need to produce affordable housing," there's a certain point where you have to work these things out.
The other advantage of "have regard to" is that the courts have precedents on "have regard to," the OMB has precedents on "have regard to," as do the civil servants. When you went to a new term, "be consistent with," there was no precedent, and the 650 pages of guidelines indicate that we who were supposed to be looking at it as the first group could not solve the problem at all. So the clarity of "have regard to" in precedent is very important, and we're very happy with the return to that.
Reduced time frames for processing applications. One of the intents of development reform was to provide streamlining in the planning process. Our association advised the standing committee on Bill 163 that we were in full agreement with this reform. However, we felt that the proposals did not go far enough. The process was in such dire need of streamlining that our past president pointed out that the Second World War was fought in less time than it takes to run a parcel of land through the approval process of Ontario.
Mr Gerretsen: I agree.
Ms Casey: That is a heck of a parallel, ladies and gentlemen, and true.
While Bill 163 introduced a series of time frames for proposing official plan amendments, rezoning and subdivision application, Bill 20 proposes to substantially reduce those time frames. Given the requirements of extensive pre-consultation with the various review agencies, these reduced time frames should allow the approval authority ample time to make a decision.
Regarding elimination of the power to dismiss on the basis of prematurity, the association wholeheartedly concurs with the empowerment of the OMB to deny a hearing on the grounds that the appeal was intended to delay or was frivolous or vexatious. However, we strongly object to the denial of a hearing on the grounds of prematurity. The determination of prematurity is a planning matter and can only be decided by due process, and that fundamental right is being restored in Bill 20. The legislation provides adequate safeguards against development outstripping the ability of muncipalities to provide adequate infrastructure. Therefore, the issue of prematurity should be decided by the OMB.
Regarding appeals to the OMB by the province being made only through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, we support this one-window approach. Of course, it does not mean that other ministries cannot have their issues taken to the OMB; it merely means that they have to be focused through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This will help streamline the process.
We support the elimination of the requirement for a public meeting on a subdivision application. The reason for this is that you already have public meetings in this regard. Legislation requires public consultation at the official plan or the official plan amendment stage, when major land use issues are decided in a conceptual form. This public consultation process is again used when changes in zoning on the property are dealt with to define and implement the land uses established in the official plan. A plan of subdivision cannot be processed if the plan does not conform to the official plan -- if it doesn't, then it needs an OPA, which requires a public meeting -- and the passing of a zoning bylaw, which requires a public meeting, and that is required to implement a plan of subdivision. Both of these planning processes therefore are open to public input, and to introduce a further one is going beyond the public interest and is costly and delaying to the industry.
We have a few concerns with Bill 20 which I'd like to mention to you.
We're concerned with the power of municipalities to prohibit development in environmentally sensitive areas. Bill 163 introduced an amendment to the Planning Act which permitted municipalities to include provisions in their zoning bylaws that would prohibit "all or any use of land" on land that is contaminated; is a sensitive groundwater recharge area; contains a sensitive aquifer; is a significant wildlife habitat, wetland, woodland, ravine, valley or area of natural and scientific interest; is a significant corridor or shoreline of a lake, river or stream; is a significant natural corridor, feature or area; or is the site of a significant archaeological resource. The word "significant" in itself is debatable. Again, we found that when we were trying to do guidelines -- an incredible word.
The concern expressed during Bill 163 was that these expanded zoning powers empowered municipalities with the ability to sterilize development on private land with no offsetting right of compensation. The modifications in Bill 20 propose to allow that municipalities will only be permitted to prohibit "any use of land" for the categories of lands noted above, but it is not clear how this results in any change of substance, and the spectre of downzoning resulting in a sterilization of private land would remain.
We're concerned about third-party appeals to subdivision conditions and amended subdivision conditions. With the implementation of Bill 163, any person can appeal draft plan conditions or revisions of draft plan conditions to the OMB. Bill 20 proposes to retain this provision. While we agree that public participation is necessary in the process, it is the opinion of this association that third-party appeals after draft plan approvals allow for unnecessary public participation that adds delays and costs to the process.
Generally, redline amendments are minor in nature and will not impact on the public in general or the abutting neighbourhood. It is our opinion that third-party appeals will lead to unnecessary requests for appeals, and even if these appeals are deemed frivolous and vexatious, costly delays are already incurred. We suggest that only the applicant be allowed to refer draft plan conditions to the OMB after draft plan approval has been given. Coming up with this contract of draft plan conditions has been a long, debated and very intricate process. It's like a contract. To allow just anyone to start changing the contract is mind-boggling and very fragmenting to the industry.
The requirement to convey land for public transit rights of way we're a little concerned with. This provision was introduced in Bill 163 and allows municipalities to require as a condition of site plan approval that a land owner convey to the municipality lands for the purpose of a public transit right of way, provided that the right of way was shown or described in the official plan. Bill 20 proposes to retain this provision.
Land required for transit rights of way will generally be greater than lands required for road widening and will have a greater effect on the land owner. Road widenings will generally benefit adjacent lands by providing improved vehicular access, while public transit rights of way will not necessary provide a direct benefit to adjacent lands.
It is the association's position that public transit rights of way are not analogous to road widenings and therefore they should not be granted through the development process but should be obtained through the expropriation process.
Our last comment is a comment on the development charges amendment as in Bill 20. We most certainly support the introduction of the changes to the Development Charges Act as proposed in Bill 20. It is our understanding that these technical amendments, which indefinitely extend current development charge bylaws, effectively restrict increases to development charges and introduce more accountable financial reporting, are interim measures, pending a fundamental review of the act.
The entire question of financing growth-related capital costs was raised, examined and answered during a boom period of unprecedented proportions. The understanding of the problem and the funding policies that were proposed to deal with it were based on assumptions that are no longer valid in the market that exists today nor the market that we foresee in the foreseeable future, and that's quite a long distance that we perceive as foreseeable.
We welcome the announcement by the minister that the government will introduce the new act in 1996, and we also welcome the minister's statement that the government is looking to going back to the original purpose of the Development Charges Act, which is to pay for hard services only.
That's our presentation. Thank you very much for your time. We'd be happy to answer questions.
Mr Bisson: I guess we don't have enough time to get into all of it, but I would say this in support. I don't support your entire presentation, obviously. Our government was responsible for putting in Bill 163 for all the reasons you're well aware, but I will support one thing.
It seems to me that really what we need to strive for is a clarification of the policies themselves, because one thing I hear through developers, anybody who's involved in the development industry, is that what you really want are clear rules. If you know what the rules are going in and that's clearly enunciated, both in the policies and in the legislation in some way, it makes your job a heck of a lot easier, it makes it clearer for bureaucrats to deal with and clearer I think for all the stakeholders involved and I would support you on that. I wish that the government would go in that direction.
I think, however, there's a problem when you're getting into only "having regard for" those policies, because it seems to me we should put the emphasis on making the policies clearer, and if they're clearer, I think that makes it better.
The second thing is that the real problem -- and it's what Mr Gerretsen has said over and over again -- is that it's not so much the act that is a big part of the problem. In all the developments I've been involved with, both in municipal and on the provincial level, you end up with problems in the administration of the approval process, both through the municipality and into the provincial government.
How many times have all of us involved in this had something that you thought was going to be approved? Everything was met, everything was in place, you got verbal sort of approval, you thought everything was going to be fine, but then something pops up in the process that comes back to bite you, and then you're back into the cycle all over again. Then there's the whole question about trying to get the document from one office to the other, from one ministry employee to another. Really, it's the administration process.
I guess the question I have to ask you -- because I know that you're responsible for the people you represent, and I know the people you represent in my community of Timmins want to do a good job. They certainly are responsible business owners --
The Vice-Chair: Just ask the question, please.
Mr Bisson: I will get to the question, but I need to set this up.
The Vice-Chair: We're over time already.
Mr Bisson: Okay. The question is that I have to believe that you believe in good planning, and if that is the case, shouldn't it be a question of really making the policies a lot clearer? It seems to me we shouldn't be trying to run ourselves to the lower standard, we should be trying to make clearer standards.
Mr Ron Robinson: I don't think we disagree that clear policy is to everybody's benefit, but does a policy not sometimes direct -- say, affordable housing in particular; the biggest concern and the emphasis there is in the metropolitan GTA area -- affordable housing as a major attention to some of the more rural communities? If you define it strictly on these terms, then you have that emphasis. Locally, they can deal with it with the "having regard to," but if you detail it too much, you have to be careful.
Mr Bisson: But you'd have to have clear policies is the point that I'm getting at.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Just one comment to the community at large here: If the attending members are an indicator of the interest in the community, then to date this community has overwhelmingly taken a lead.
Certain questioning, presenters and members, would have us think that your interests, when you bring them forward, are going to be -- an interest in goals are at the expense of the environment and the bill as it stands now would further that. Can you comment on that, that it's going to be at the expense of the environment for your self-serving goals?
Mr Robinson: No, I don't think this bill in particular is altering -- we're still going by environmental protection acts. We're not trying to get around it, but our biggest benefit we see here is the streamlining. We're quite willing to go with all the protection. We try to deal with it within our subdivisions, try to beautify it. We have no problem with that. But we can't wait, have these undue delays that all of a sudden we're taking five years to get a piece of land out. That home owner has to pay that expense.
Mr Ouellette: Furthering on that then, also, during your all-candidates debate your former president brought out that from time of purchase of a piece of land to somebody actually moving in, there were 120-odd steps. As you brought up in your presentation in the comparison to the Second World War, that was extremely costly and the end consumer is the one who bears the cost. Do you have any ideas of the calculations as to how the changes will save those steps or times?
Mr Robinson: Other than our one item we noted about the elimination of a repeated public meeting, the steps won't change. What it does is it gives some accountability to the time frames that you have to deal with each of the steps. And you can't come up with a study at the end, after reviewing it, that you want an additional study and all of a sudden that's three extra months. That's the biggest item.
Mr Ouellette: One other quick point then. On page 8 you mention, "We suggest that only the applicant be allowed to refer draft plan conditions to the OMB." Who do you think should bear the cost of that?
Mr Robinson: Given the adoption of this bill, the frivolous claims won't be getting that far, so we won't have the costs that we are concerned with. A person puts a stamps on an envelope to the OMB, and we have to incur significant costs to defend. If we're only getting issues to the OMB that are concerns, I believe, as the court systems are now, each party pays their own cost to deal with issues that are dealt by both sides.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. Third party -- I mean opposition. Sorry; correction.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, we are still the opposition.
The Vice-Chair: That you are.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess we finally convinced the NDP that streamlining the process is important, and now all we have to do is convince the government. I've been involved in trying to streamline the process at the local level for the last 20 years.
I would like to congratulate you, by the way --
Mr Gerretsen: Ask the people in my city, folks.
I want to congratulate you, by the way, on being the 1994 provincial local of the year. This is great. I'm a great believer in the home building industry. I think it's one of the two main industries --
Mr Murdoch: Apartments in houses, too.
Mr Gerretsen: That's right -- that keeps us going. But would you not agree with me -- and I think your comment about the Second World War, the length of time it took that, and to get a project through -- that the real time delays are not those that are in the act but are the delays that take place with planning committees and staff, with councils, with different provincial ministries etc, and what we really need is a set of protocol documents showing exactly what people need and require at various stages along? That would really move the development process along. Because I totally agree, the consumer ultimately ends up paying for all of these delays.
Mr Robinson: Jo can say something, but just for one thing, I still believe, very much so, that you need these time frames. You have to have them defined, and that's the biggest benefit. There's accountability there. And like I said, you put a stamp on an envelope to OMB, whether your claim is frivolous or not, that is, I would say, a one-year delay automatically. None of us can afford that.
Mr Gerretsen: No, but you know as well as I do that when you have a development before a council and you know it's coming your way, you're not, the day after they miss a deadline, going to appeal it to the OMB. You're going to work with that council, right?
Mr Robinson: Right.
Mr Gerretsen: And work with the general public. That's how you get it along when you try to mediate the process.
Mr Robinson: Exactly, and we are finding more responsive -- just as you said in your area you are trying to go that way, we're finding all of our municipal officials doing the same thing, and we see everything going in that direction. But this time frame, with MNR and COCA and all these agencies, there is no accountability and they sometimes are going opposite to each other in directions.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, I'm glad to see that Oshawa and Durham are as progressive as Kingston is.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming forward this morning to the hearing process.
ONTARIO FEDERATION OF ANGLERS AND HUNTERS
The Vice-Chair: Representatives from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, come forward, please. Good morning and welcome to our hearing process.
Dr Terry Quinney: Good morning. My name is Terry Quinney, and I'm from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. We thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you this morning. We understand that your time is very precious and therefore I will not read the presentation in its entirety. I will read some highlights from it. We would ask that you please, at your leisure, though, read it in its entirety.
I think many of the committee members know that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is the province's largest and oldest conservation organization, with 74,000 dues-paying individual members and over 500 member clubs.
One of the objectives of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is to maintain and enhance fish and wildlife populations and habitats on a local, regional and provincial basis and to promote the conservation and sustainable use of these natural resources by all members of Ontario society.
The OFAH supports and advocates a land use planning system in Ontario that encourages efficient and economical development without damaging or impairing the natural environment and the fish and wildlife habitats that are supported on our land base. A planning framework where the provincial government sets sound policies, municipal governments make development decisions consistent with these policies and an arbitration board resolves disputes will accomplish this goal of protecting and enhancing the natural environment. Ultimately, we believe that the goal of any sound land use planning system is to provide a sustainable supply of ecosystems, both natural and built, on the landscape, and that that should occur in perpetuity.
The previous government of Ontario attempted to establish such a system but failed in its implementation by setting policies without adequate definition of those specific features that were meant to be conserved and protected on the landscape. For example, municipalities were required to direct development away from significant woodlots but were not given supportable guidelines and methodology to develop a rationale for or to determine the relative significance of those woodlots within a municipal planning area.
The previous government's attempts also failed because the existing implementation approach we believe placed undue emphasis for the protection of natural heritage features on private land owners. Those private land owners have in fact been the historic stewards of woodlots, wetlands, wildlife habitats, corridors etc, and at the time the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters had suggested an alternative implementation approach that would have required municipal planning agencies to create targets, to create objectives for natural heritage protection and enhancement that would be contributed to through development levies on each and every development proposal, or each and every development approval and proposal. In that way, natural heritage features could be protected and enhanced without unduly restricting land use on specific private lands.
Those failures by the previous government, specifically through Bill 163, don't necessarily mean that the overall intent or package of policy statements and related process established by the previous government would not have eventually accomplished the goals and objectives it set out to meet. In other words, we believe the intentions were good ones.
Ministries involved in the development of policy statements and related implementation guidelines have, between 163 and Bill 20 here before us today, been in the process of refining those statements and guidelines, and decision-makers and applicants were starting to become familiar with the revised set of policy statements. We believe, then, that too little time has passed to make accurately a judgement that the 1994 and 1995 changes to legislation, policies and implementation guidelines in these areas were unduly hampering development, while at the same time seeking to protect the natural environment.
With reference to "shall have regard for," one of the major changes to the Planning Act proposed in this Bill 20 is the change in subsections 3(5) and (6) of the act from "shall be consistent with" to "shall have regard for" all policy statements issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The OFAH considers this proposed change to be a major step backwards. Not only is it vitally important to have a complete set of solid, defendable policies, Ontario needs a mechanism that will ensure that these policies will be fully and consistently implemented. The current wording of subsection 3(5) of the act provides the needed strong implementation.
Decision-makers now know that their decisions must be consistent with provincial policies. The proposed change will allow local decision-makers to "have regard for" provincial policies and then make any decision they choose, perhaps contrary to provincial policies, forcing an adversarial confrontation before the Ontario Municipal Board.
The proposed change, if implemented, will return land development in Ontario to the climate of 15 years ago, a time when there were few ground rules and development approval was decided on an ad hoc basis. Developers did not know how much land would be available for development, under what restrictions, but they were willing to use the adversarial process to maximize their return. We believe that under that process, the natural environment suffered. One needs only to look at the number of provincially significant wetlands that were lost under this system to see the failures.
A return to a "shall have regard for" approach will increase confusion, uncertainty, inconsistency, delays in approvals, and is bound to increase the number, cost, length and complexity of OMB hearings. Our federation is therefore strongly opposed to this change. We submit that a strong, clear provincial standard was established which benefited the natural environment and the people of Ontario. The current wording, then, of subsection 3(5) of the act should not be altered.
Regarding rights of appeal, the OFAH here is also greatly concerned with the proposed changes in the wording of the definition section of the Planning Act, amending and limiting the term "public body." Subsection 1(4) of Bill 20 proposes to limit the abilities of all provincial ministries to initiate an OMB review of official plans, zoning bylaws, interim bylaws, minor variances, etc.
Such an amendment could be looked at superficially as an attempt to introduce some sort of one-window approach to formal provincial response to planning applications by concentrating all official provincial responsibilities with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. However, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing does not currently have the expertise in-house to adequately respond to the range of potential concerns that arise when reviewing a planning application.
Our concern here is heightened by the proposed limitation and removal of other provincial ministries from the list of public bodies required to be notified of an Ontario Municipal Board appeal under subsection 17(36) of the current Planning Act. Without formal notification of appeal, that is, a concrete regulatory requirement that functionally serves to keep provincial ministries involved in the appeal, planning applications under appeal will escape notice or fall through the cracks.
On page 4, we address concerns in Bill 20, with reference to opportunities for public involvement and review in the municipal planning process. Numerous sections in Bill 20 will serve, if implemented, to reduce the amount of time allowed for municipal, public and agency review of planning applications. For example, the approval for official plans and their amendments has been shortened from six months to 90 days. Given the complexity of the issues normally dealt with in official plans and amendments, adequate review and discussion, we believe, is impossible in 90 days. This, coupled with a reduction in the time allowed for filing an appeal to 20 days, makes responsible public review and response nearly impossible.
The end result of the reductions in time allowed for review, notice and appeal periods will be that poorer decisions will be made by planning boards, fewer people will be aware of the decisions made, and more unnecessary appeals will be filed simply to gain more time for analysis and conflict resolution. This is not good planning and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters remains convinced that the natural environment and the fish and wildlife habitats and populations they support will be severely and adversely affected by the changes.
On page 5, we have some conclusions and recommendations. In the second paragraph we say that the recent changes to Ontario's land use planning system that flowed from the recommendations made by the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario, that were contained in the previous amendments to the Planning Act and associated comprehensive set of policy statements which came into effect on March 28, 1995, have yet to be fully implemented and evaluated, both in the level of protection of the natural environment and in the effects on the development industry.
This federation was, however, pleased with the level of mandatory consideration afforded to the natural environment in Ontario's land use planning process, and we believed that the land use planning system would finally begin to provide a planned sustainable supply of healthy ecosystems, both on the built side and on the natural side.
The changes proposed in Bill 20 regarding the natural environment won't improve the ability of Ontario's land use planning system to meet this goal, and on that basis do not have the support of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and should not be adopted.
Instead, the provincial government remains in the position to improve Ontario's land use planning system to the benefit of developers, planning agencies and the natural environment by revising the present implementation of the existing set of comprehensive policy statements.
Revisions to the implementation of the existing guidelines to replace no-development zones with quantitative targets for natural heritage feature protection, enhancement and creation will be more acceptable both to private land owners and conservationists in this province. Under such a system a levy could be collected on each development application to establish a municipal stewardship fund from which habitat stewardship, enhancement, rehabilitation and creation projects would be supported.
In this manner, the municipal targets set in the official plan and zoning bylaws would be met. This would distribute the responsibility for natural heritage feature stewardship to each and every development, not just the land owners whose land is designated "environmental protection."
In closing, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters recognizes that the purpose of development is to supply human habitat, but we ask the government of Ontario not to forget that the natural environment, fish and wildlife habitat, for example, is also human habitat, and that fish and wildlife habitats are in very short supply, particularly in southern Ontario.
This legislation, Bill 20, should be ensuring the supply of fish and wildlife habitats as part of human habitat alongside the development components of human habitat, but it doesn't. Therefore, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is asking the government of Ontario to change Bill 20 as we have recommended. We thank you this morning for the opportunity to be here.
Mr Murdoch: Two statements that you made on the subject of "shall have regard for" and "shall be consistent with": You stated, "The OFAH considers this proposed change a major step backwards," and the other one I noticed here is, "The changes proposed in Bill 20 will not improve the ability of Ontario's land use planning system to meet this goal and, on this basis, do not have the support of the OFAH and should not be adopted."
You also state that you have 74,000 individual members and 535 affiliated local clubs. I would like you to tell us how the members and the clubs had their input into this so that you can make those statements for the OFAH.
Dr Quinney: Yes, Mr Murdoch. I can tell you that the policies of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters are democratically arrived at. With reference specifically to the change to "shall have regard for" from "shall be consistent with" our provincial board of directors, which is made up of elected members from all corners of the province, all of our zones, addressed this issue approximately a year ago and provided that direction for staff at OFAH.
Mr Murdoch: A year ago this bill wasn't formed.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Murdoch. Thank you very much for your question.
Mr Murdoch: My vote was in the mail, I guess.
Mr Gerretsen: I think your presentation clearly shows that it's not just important for a committee like this to look at merely a process document, which is what the Planning Act is, but also at the accompanying policy statements, and you can't really do one without the other. Unfortunately, a committee like this isn't empowered to deal with the policy statements. These sort of appear by magic from the ministry by way of regulations at some point in time.
That's the one message I get out of this, which is very unfortunate because it kind of makes the whole thing look as if something is really happening with a committee like this, but in fact it isn't. Process is one thing; content is something different. A policy statement deals more with the overall content. Any comments on that?
Dr Quinney: Yes, they go hand in hand and what the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is asking the government is that there be a very strong link between the process in the legislation and those policy statements, a stronger link, and that stronger link would be obtained by changing the wording, for example, from "have regard to" to "be consistent with" those policy statements.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much for your presentation. I know we don't have very much time, but I was looking at your saying that it's impossible in 90 days for your organization to be able to respond to changes, that squeezing it down is just too much.
The other area you're saying is that changing the wording is going backwards -- "regard to" instead of "consistent with" provincial policy. You are the second large organization that has come forward this morning representing a lot of people in Ontario. I'm not sure if the Tory caucus members -- we have nine of them here today -- are listening to the recommendations that are being brought forth to this committee, but if they are, we should see some amendments before the legislation gets third and final reading in the Legislature. I'm hoping they are listening to your presentation, because as I said, you're the second group that is representative of large area of the province of Ontario, the agricultural community and now the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. So I'll leave it at that.
Dr Quinney: My comment would be --
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Wood.
Mr Gerretsen: He can make a comment, surely.
Mr Ouellette: John, are you chairing this committee?
The Vice-Chair: Mr Gerretsen, I'm sorry.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm asking for unanimous consent in order for him to respond.
Interjection: You gave him time to respond to Murdoch.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, I don't think this is really meant to be a challenge of whether or not --
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order: Earlier on you said we had a minute and a half to one of the previous delegations, and you allowed three questions on the other side. There isn't a person in the world who's going to believe that three questions and answers can be given in a minute and a half. This gentleman was asked a question.
Mr Murdoch: Is this a point of information again, like you normally do?
Mr Gerretsen: He represents a large organization. What I'm simply asking is for unanimous consent so that we can hear this gentleman's answer to the question.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Gerretsen, I will ask for unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent of the committee? It's defeated.
Mr Gerretsen: The government does not want to hear from your organization.
Mr Len Wood: You guys have been listening to Pat Buchanan for too long.
Mr Bisson: On a point of order: I'd like it reported that the government members did not give their consent for approval to allow the member from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters --
The Vice-Chair: Mr Bisson, excuse me, but that's not a point of order. Everything is recorded in Hansard and I'm sure it will be there.
Mr Bisson: And this is recorded as well.
The Vice-Chair: We have now completed the presentation and I do appreciate your time. We have extended ourselves beyond the 20 minutes and I do appreciate your coming.
Mr Gerretsen: When you don't even allow a person to answer a question, that is totally undemocratic. One of these days you'll learn that.
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. Order.
Interjection: John, you're the one that shut down the democratic process by refusing to give him time.
The Vice-Chair: Order, please.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Whillans, come forward please.
Mr Tom Whillans: My name is Tom Whillans. I'm from Peterborough. I'm speaking here as an individual and I'd first of all like to thank you for this opportunity because I feel that this legislation that you're considering affects fundamentally the way that Ontario progresses. It's an important piece of legislation.
I'm making the presentation as an individual who is frustrated and has been frustrated, both personally and in my professional work, by the failure of land use planning in Ontario to protect land owners, to protect neighbourhoods, to protect prime agricultural land and to protect ecological functions. These are essential to the quality of life here in Ontario. I work most of the time these days on natural resource aspects of community economic development. It disappoints me, therefore, to see in the current draft of Bill 20 a lost opportunity. The bill will actually weaken land use planning in Ontario rather than strengthen it.
Let me begin, and I'm really giving some general remarks at the moment, with the title, which I agree is symbolic, but specifically the part of the title that refers to "to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining." This new title is misleading. It suggests that Bill 20 strengthens the environmental content of the planning and development act of 1994. I could not find any other reference to the term "environment" in the bill. Moreover, and more important, and really the meat, is that the link to the environmental content of the policy statements, which I heard raised just a few moments ago, is seriously weakened by the use of "have regard to" instead of "be consistent with."
Bill 20 also appears to be promoting mainly short-term economic benefits, and those benefits to a few individuals, rather than long-term economic benefits, and certainly at the economic expense of a lot of other individuals, most other people. It allows the destruction of a resource base for long-term economic development by encouraging the conversion of land use without adequate time or intervenor resources for study and for fair community consultation, and also by shifting the decision-making authority to a level of government that may indeed be more sensitive to local issues but that generally does not have the technical capability to address basic natural resource issues, let alone provincial needs.
I have some specific concerns about some sections. In section 3, the "have regard to" criterion for exercising authority is troublesome, more because I don't know how it will be interpreted than because I do. On the one hand, I sense that the Ontario Municipal Board, guided by the intent of the act, will consider cases much the same as it would have under the "be consistent with." On the other hand, a lawyer in front of a local council or a committee of adjustment could use the wording very effectively to argue for destructive development. The council or committee will at best be unable to refuse the proposal with certainty. This should be a special concern because of the devolvement of decision-making power to the local level. The limit on who can appeal minor variances to the OMB is also important here, and the general reluctance of parties to appeal decisions of the OMB because of costs and logistics is also to be considered in this case.
The new wording unquestionably is less clear and, for that reason alone, is likely to result in prolonged hearings rather than streamlining, more appeals, and higher variation among municipalities in interpretation. What we can expect is higher planning costs. We can expect delays. We can expect inequities. These all seem inevitable.
With respect to section 8 and section 4, the proposed changes in the act would leave unclear what should be contained in an official plan. Moreover, what makes this especially dangerous is the power of the minister to delegate powers to a planning board if it has an official plan. I am not in favour of the province specifying all contents of an official plan, but I do feel that the province has core interests that should be addressed in all plans; for example, hazard land, drainage, transportation, groundwater, fish and wildlife issues. These all cut across jurisdictional boundaries and are of provincial concern. It would also seem to be prudent to prevent the reinvention of costly errors from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
With respect to section 9 and section 13, the time frame for the appeal of an approval decision and the notice of a proposed official plan, 20 days in each case, is unreasonably short. A land owner could be away on a normal-length vacation and return without recourse or without sufficient time to responsibly prepare a submission. The 90-day time frame for council or for a planning board to make a decision on a request for official plan amendment is counter to the basic reasons for having an official plan. Many municipalities have insufficient resources to research, to consult on and to meet over complex issues in 90 days, yet they will have to make decisions that will have complex and far-ranging impacts on their communities. Official plans are extremely important because they allow land owners, or prospective land owners, to anticipate what will be permitted in an area in the future and because they allow land owners to hold municipalities and the province accountable for appropriate management of land. If the anticipatory horizon is only 90 days, if accountability is only 90 days, then key purposes of official planning are indeed in jeopardy.
The time constraints are especially problematic when the long-term nature of the consequences is considered. Why allow the destruction of the food production potential of our successors for the sake of several weeks or months of construction time? Why open the possibility that an aquifer will be contaminated for 2,000 years or that a major tourist attraction will be lost permanently or that a brook trout stream will be dried up permanently because we were unwilling or unable to do our homework within the time frame that was made available? In some cases -- and I take as an example of this the protection of key wildlife habitat -- a strong case could be made for information gathering and a delay of a full year.
With respect to section 26, the loss of the automatic right of appeal of the decision of the committee of adjustment is a very serious one. I've seen very little evidence that councils, or for that matter the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, are capable of making such final judgement, and with downsizing, as is happening everywhere, the likelihood is even lower. This is especially problematic if the council is also the committee of adjustment, which the amendments allow. Minor variances can have long-term negative economic and social effects on individuals and on communities and, in spite of being minor, they can be complex. A minor variance can exceed local expertise to examine it and can affect provincial interests. The prospects of a council-driven appeal will be low if the OMB can also bill, as the amendments allow, for the hearing costs.
In conclusion, my strongest concern about Bill 20 is its impatience. Responsible development will neither be prevented nor accelerated by the amendments in the act, but irresponsible development will certainly be enabled. Planning will be reduced to a series of short-term economic and convenience-oriented decisions with the result that development will become haphazard in the sense that no individual or institution will have an overview spatially or through time of the land use in the municipality, and therefore will not be able to control it effectively. In the process, we will have a type of growth that will have no significant long-term benefit in contrast to its long-term negative impacts. Renewable natural resources will have been rendered non-renewable, communities downgraded and choices that our offspring would have liked to have made will no longer be feasible. I hope that the standing committee will intervene and prevent this from occurring. Thank you.
Mr Gerretsen: We totally concur with you as far as the committee of adjustment appeal for minor variances is concerned. I'm a strong believer in municipal government and everything that's associated with it. However, there are times when the interests of the council, the general public and an applicant cannot be reconciled, and then the final appeal ought to be to an independent agency or board like the Ontario Municipal Board.
I'm interested, though, in speeding things along as well. I've seen developments that have sometimes taken years to bring on stream that shouldn't have because of what I regard as basically administrative foulups or people simply not willing to make a decision or a recommendation forward etc, because of interministerial problems or intercouncil problems etc. I'm coming back to your official plan situation. I understand that in some situations 90 days may be too short a period of time because of studies that are frequently done by councils, independent studies where the councillors or the planning staff don't have the capacity to do it. Quite often if you're dealing with a large area of land etc, whether it's urban or rural, it may very well take more than 90 days. There are other cases, however, where it makes eminent good sense to just about everybody involved in that process that a piece of land ought be brought on for development a lot quicker. One could rightly say in a situation like that, why should it take 180 days when everybody agrees that with the way the municipality has developed it, that particular kind of development should now take place? Where do we draw that line that yes, in some situations we're dealing with sensitive land, maybe a much longer period of time is required before you change the OP, but in other cases it should come on stream quicker. Have you got any suggestions in that regard?
Mr Whillans: First of all, I agree with you that there are instances, and many of them, where development could proceed very quickly. If it was possible to get all-party agreement before 90 days even, I wouldn't have any problem with that going ahead. On the other hand, if you can't get all-party agreement, then it seems to me getting all parties to agree to a schedule would be a first step, where we'd say that after a certain point in time a decision will be made, and that would vary from --
Mr Gerretsen: Do you believe in a mediation process in that regard?
Mr Whillans: Yes, that could help. That's a useful approach.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm sorry; I cut you off there. Is there anything else you were going to say?
Mr Whillans: That's fine.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll yield whatever time I've got.
Mr Bisson: On a follow-up of that, there's some appeal to going to a mediation process, but how you do that in planning I think is a little bit to be wondered.
I want to come back to the point that you make in regard to the title of the act, because I think you've hit the nail on the head here. In short, the government is saying that through this bill it wants to promote economic growth, and that leads us to believe that it wants to return back to what was termed "the good old days" where development happened as need be so that developers and people with the want and the ability to develop would go out and do that for the good of the economy. The problem with that is, I think there's all kinds of examples in the early days of planning in the province of Ontario -- and I would say the lack of planning; probably none whatsoever -- we've got all kinds of examples about how construction was done with no regard for the environment, no regard for people in regard to how the development interacted with people. We have all kinds of examples to show us why we need planning.
The question I have to you is a simple one. I think we can all agree -- all three parties in the House and most of the public -- we need to do what we can in order to promote economic development because that leads to employment and leads to the creation of wealth. But at what point does that supersede the need to protect our environment from an environmental perspective -- and at the same time at what point do we allow economic development to go ahead?-does that interfere with our ability to interact with our communities in regard to the development? I don't think anybody's given an answer to that one yet.
Mr Whillans: I live in Peterborough and do a lot of work around the Kawarthas. The Kawartha lakes and the whole Trent-Severn waterway are very important as tourism meccas. Like a lot of Canada, they represent an economy that's based on natural resources. I don't separate environment and economics; they're not separate things here.
Mr Bisson: I'm not suggesting they are.
Mr Whillans: No, no, and I wasn't trying to infer that you were, but I think that you have to consider them not as one versus the other but in terms of the type of economic development that might occur. To me, if you have a resource-based economy, it's crazy to destroy that resource and, in the case of, say, water quality, allow decisions to be made on which haven't had the proper background work done to identify what the problems would be in terms of water quality. That's going to undermine the resource base. There's no simple answer to what you're putting forward.
Mr Bisson: No, I recognize that.
Mr Whillans: It's a problem, and certainly one of the ways of solving it is to have a full consultation of parties that might be affected, to have somebody somehow thinking about what people in the future might want to do with an area. It seems to me the province has to think about that very, very carefully and to have economic development when it occurs, to not be externalizing costs to other sectors of society and, by inference, through the environment to --
Mr Bisson: I would just agree that we need to try to find that balance. I think one of the things we should really get into a debate of is how planning is done overall and how the approvals process works. I agree again with our opposition critic here that we need to figure out how we can make the system work better, and maybe what we should be looking at is district-wide planning boards or region-wide planning boards, rather than leaving them just at the municipal level, with one system of appeal where there are clear guidelines and policies that people could work towards. I think that way it might clarify some of those issues.
Mr Whillans: I agree with that. I think the idea of a regional planning body is very attractive.
Mr Stewart: Two things kind of worry me about what you're talking about: One is the thought of short-term economic benefits or growth and the other is haphazard development. In most OPs, certainly at the county level, they establish settlement areas and so on and so forth, and in fact many of the municipalities do as well, which I believe puts development where it should be. Do you not feel that the municipalities should have that right to establish settlement areas and developments within their own municipalities? What's happened in the past is that we tend to study things to death. In fact, we're now doing studies on top of studies. Where do we stop on this thing? Do you not think that the municipality, which is the closest to the people, does not know anything? I think they do. It seems that in the past we've always had to have direction from Queen's Park and the feds. I believe that your municipal politicians and planners probably have more going for them on knowing what's needed and required and should be developed in their own areas than they do at Queen's Park or Ottawa.
Mr Whillans: I recognize your history in municipal politics, Gary.
Mr Stewart: I wasn't trying to get into that, sir, at all. But it's a concern to me that these guys up there know it all, yet here we in the municipality, who have lived in it and have been involved with it for many, many years, don't seem to know anything. That concerns me.
Mr Stewart: Please let the gentleman answer.
Mr Whillans: I'm not saying it should be one or the other; I'm saying there should be information coming from both ends. In fact, I said very clearly that I thought that municipalities are more sensitive to local needs and so on, but they don't have the capability. Whether or not they have the intelligence is one thing, but they don't have the capability, the training, the background to make judgement on complex environmental issues. They just don't. They don't have the people on staff and they're getting rid of them.
Mr Stewart: We've got some pretty good people in the county and the city in planning departments who have made some, I think, reasonably good decisions and, again, are very concentrated in that area, rather than it being done from totally outside agencies. I guess that's my concern.
Mr Whillans: That's your opinion.
Mr Stewart: Yes, that's appreciated.
The Vice-Chair: There's about one minute left, if anybody has a question.
Mr Gerretsen: Could we bring the other gentleman back?
The Vice-Chair: Hearing none, I would like to thank you very much for coming before us this morning. We do appreciate your participation.
We have now completed this morning's schedule and I would like to move a recess until we resume at 1:20 this afternoon. Thank you very much.
The committee recessed from 1208 to 1321.
The Vice-Chair: Good afternoon. Welcome, all those in the audience, to our hearing process. We're very glad to have you attend our meeting, especially in a small community. It's an honour and a privilege to meet with constituents and those representing other groups.
TOWN OF CAMPBELLFORD
The Vice-Chair: We'd like to start this afternoon with representatives from the town of Campbellford, if Mr Peters would come forward, please.
Mr Jim Peters: Thank you. I've got a brief presentation and then I'm available for any questions the committee would like to ask me. My name's Jim Peters; I'm the planning coordinator for the town of Campbellford. We're a municipality of about 3,500 people in the northeast corner of Northumberland county. Although we're fairly concentrated, we do service an area of about 8,000 to 10,000 in the municipalities around us with the hospital in Campbellford, an OPP detachment and things of that nature.
I've reviewed Bill 20 a number of times over the last few weeks. On Tuesday night I spent the evening with my council going over it, and what I have to tell you today represents what came out of those discussions.
Just a little bit more about Campbellford, to let you know that certainly as a small town we're not facing the same situations that you hear about in the greater Toronto area or even in the town of Cobourg, but currently we're dealing with two developers who want to do two 40-unit subdivisions. We're looking at major redevelopment along the waterfront. The Trent River bisects the town, and in the downtown area where the waterfront is, we're looking at probably new condominiums and combinations of residential and commercial development. We're looking at potential big-box retail, which in Campbellford doesn't mean hundreds of thousands of square feet but means 30,000 to 50,000 square feet, which is substantial, especially when some of our downtown merchants think about it. We're also looking at a major expansion of one of our industrial plants right on the edge of a residential area. So we deal with some of the same issues you've probably heard about in other areas.
As far as the amendments contained in Bill 20, the council is generally supportive of the changes, especially those that grant greater powers for making decisions at the municipal level, especially when it comes to demonstrating that we have appropriate policies placed in an official plan and then the minister having the ability to exempt future official plan amendments or even granting subdivision approval to a municipality our size.
In regard to the changes that return control over second apartments in houses to the municipal level through the zoning bylaws, Campbellford supports that. It won't make a great deal of difference in our case, because since 1988 we've primarily been able to allow that in 70% of our area that's already zoned residential. I think that was done in response to the provincial housing policy statement at that time as a way of increasing opportunities for affordable housing. What happened with Bill 163 didn't affect us and what happens with this bill won't affect us, but we feel it should be left at the local level to make those decisions based on what is needed at the local level.
In regard to the Development Charges Act, we know those changes are already in effect and we know that a review of the Development Charges Act is coming up. We would simply like to say that we hope, in that review, flexibility for financial arrangements for municipal governments is left in tact, because we have had good success in using a number of different options. We've accepted complete reconstruction of a street in lieu of development charges, we've accepted a cash payment that included development charges in return for infrastructure and we're currently looking at other sorts of partnerships where we can provide services, allow development to proceed and make sure that there's no burden on existing taxpayers to bear those costs.
Two areas where the council still has some concern about changes suggested are, first, in eliminating the appeal process for minor variances. I think council's willing to give that a chance, because in Campbellford we don't deal with that many minor variances and we usually are able to resolve any conflicts. We haven't had any appeals for decisions in over seven years, so we're doing well. I think what council would be looking at if the appeal process is eliminated -- because in Campbellford our council sits as a committee of adjustment, so any decision would be final under the suggested changes -- is to have some sort of appeal where perhaps we delegate the next step to a mediator or something like that. We've had a great deal of success using the mediation process in regard to appeals of zoning amendments to the official board and we're usually able to get them resolved when we use that mediator. We feel that's something that can be used more broadly in all planning issues and perhaps is the answer in dealing with minor variances.
The second area of concern is with the removal of the restrictions for all uses or construction within environmentally sensitive areas. The concern there is that we're already seeing, with the impacts on conservation authorities and to a certain degree the Ministry of Environment and Energy, that we don't have the same ability to go to them and get information or get help when we're dealing with development in areas like that. Again, we are in a good position because we've already done a lot of identification of areas such as flood fringe areas along canals or creeks that flow into the Trent Canal, and areas susceptible to erosion. Our zoning already identifies restrictive policies, but it hasn't stopped developers coming to us and saying: "That flood information is wrong. There hasn't been flooding here in a number of years. You should let me bulldoze this hill down along the canal and build an industrial site here." It just helps when we're able to go to other people who can offer support services regarding environmental areas.
I think it's going to place a great deal of emphasis on having strong and clear policies in official plans that identify these areas and identify what can and can't happen. I guess there will still be a way for the province to make sure those are put in place in official plans, but I think that's where it's really going to rest in the future under these amendments.
Finally, I'd just like to refer to the final recommendation in the brief, and that is about servicing capacity requirements. I'll just reiterate what's there, that we've done a lot of work to free up capacity in our community to allow development to take place, and I think we're a bit sensitive to the fact that now the rules are changing and other people may not have to work as hard. We hope that in the policy statements there will still be the strong emphasis that development should take place in areas where services are being provided and not to eliminate all development in rural areas, but certainly to take the pressure off greenfields development, where services may not be as available.
I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak here today and for coming out to Northumberland county. It's great to have a chance to come from a small community and present our point of view and to see some of the people who work so hard for us in Toronto. Thanks very much.
Mr Len Wood: I have just a couple of comments and maybe a question and then I'll leave some time for my partner Mr Bisson. You're saying that in your particular area you don't have a problem with apartments in basements, that a lot of the areas already have them or could put them in.
Mr Peters: We already had the zoning in place. What was happening was that it was permitted, and we found that people were coming to us first to see if it was possible, so we'd know about it in that regard. Again, in a small town that size, it's pretty hard to hide anything. Usually if the people aren't coming in to tell us what they're doing, their neighbours are calling us quite quickly to let us know what's going on. Both before Bill 163 and now, in this case, I don't think it's going to have that much impact in Campbellford; it didn't through the course of the last two or three years, and the zoning was in place to pretty well allow what Bill 163 wanted to do.
Mr Len Wood: Under the Development Charges Act, you've said that the province should provide more flexibility. I guess you're probably looking at a lot of the other municipalities and that, when they're losing 45% to 50% of their funding for road maintenance and snow removal and this and that. And then with changes that are being made to that, you're concerned about how you would raise the money for the development in these particular areas if you're not allowed to raise the money from the contractor who owns the land.
Mr Peters: Yes, I think that's the case. As I tried to indicate, it's worked well with us in being able to negotiate with developers. We want to be fair and we want to see development take place, but we have sort of set a policy that there shouldn't be any costs borne by existing taxpayers unless it's going to be an upgrade to a street along which existing housing takes place.
Mr Len Wood: Are you looking at user fees, like tolls on the highways or gas taxes, for raising money?
Mr Peters: Along those lines, I think the idea that's come up is perhaps a charge for utilities that use the road allowance that don't pay anything to the municipality now, for instance, gas lines, cable TV lines or things like that, which travel within the road allowance but which do it at no cost to anyone except putting the lines in themselves. That's something else, I think.
As far as development charges go and how it pertains to development, I think we simply want to see that if we make arrangements with developers that haven't been done before, that no one is going to come and say: "Oh, you can't do that as a municipality. That's never been done before. You shouldn't be doing that." We want the opportunity to explore all sorts of ideas when it comes to partnerships to make development happen.
Mr Bisson: I have just a very quick question. One of the presenters this morning talked about part of the difficulty in putting programs through planning processes, that at times there is political interference at the municipal level. I'm not asking about your municipality, because I wouldn't want to put you in that spot, but do you think that is a problem that does happen, in your view? A second thing is, would we be better served by doing planning from an area or a district authority rather than having it at the municipal level?
Mr Peters: We have been having discussions among five area municipalities, Campbellford being one of them, and some surrounding townships about the possibility of forming a municipal planning authority to cover areas of common interest and to deal with issues such as servicing across boundaries and things like that. Those discussions are still ongoing, and I think we're waiting to see more clearly what the direction is from the province as to delegation of approval authorities and the role of municipal planning authorities and things like that. A lot of these ideas are new and we're working out how they're all going to work.
Mr Bisson: Political interference?
Mr Peters: Political interference, which is a political process you have to deal with. You either have the skills to deal with that aspect of it or you don't. Usually in Campbellford we negotiate the agreements at the staff level and then come back to council with a presentation. If there are other things to work out from there based on council input or further developer input, we deal with them. I have dealt with political interference and I can say that it has generally worked out in everyone's best interests. It hasn't messed up the process.
Mr Bisson: You're very diplomatic.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation and your supportive comments with respect to the bill. I'm not sure if you were here this morning, Mr Peters, but I came away from this morning's session with a feeling that there wasn't a great deal of confidence in some of the presentations with respect to the ability of local planners and municipal politicians to effectively deal with broader planning initiatives on the regional and even on the local level.
As a committee member, can you help me reconcile those concerns? How would you respond as a planning official in a smaller community to these concerns about your ability to deal with issues that require certain levels of technical expertise?
Mr Peters: Just commenting generally on what I know of Northumberland county, I would say there's good planning expertise and technical expertise on issues such as servicing, and through other bodies, through specific areas. There are a number of consulting firms that I know provide planning expertise to some of the smaller townships where they don't have planners on staff.
In Campbellford what we've been working towards, both through the planning department and the public works department, is getting to a point where we feel comfortable and confident in dealing with development proposals, subdivisions, things like that, so that we can put that all in place ourselves. If there are specific questions we need answered, then we can go out -- and we know exactly what expert we need to bring in -- and say: "Please design a storm water outlet for us. We can't do that ourselves." But generally we feel we can deal with things.
I've certainly had to appear before the Ontario Municipal Board and give planning evidence and I found that a positive experience. It has worked out well for me and for the town and for the development. I think there's a lot of ability at the local level and I think we need to be given the opportunity to prove ourselves. Like I say, we'd like to be able to go to the minister and say, "Please give us the authority to approve our own subdivisions," but only if we demonstrate it through our policies and through our experience and expertise.
Mr Galt: Thank you, Jim, for a thoughtful presentation. I'm curious about your thoughts on the one-window approach -- you talk about the lead ministry; I don't know if we'd really consider it as a lead ministry, which suggests it may have more power than the others -- or rather the one-window effect or process, and you've arrived at your support of this. We've had some groups in that are concerned about Environment, concerned about Natural Resources, concerned about Ag and Food, about not having an opportunity to put their concerns forward. You're not feeling that way. Could you expand on that and tell us how you arrived at this decision?
Mr Peters: I think in the past when we've dealt with the planning process, especially for official plan amendments, I'm sure you've all heard stories about the length of time it could take for some proposals to get through the system. You just think you've got it all straightened out with one ministry and something comes in from another ministry which takes three months to resolve, and the next thing you know there's yet another ministry that has concerns.
I hope what lead ministry means, what I think I mean is that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will coordinate the input of all the other ministries. I know some of this has been done over the last couple of years with the idea of bringing everybody to one table and saying, "What are your concerns? Let's hear them now and let's start working on them all together and resolve them," so that instead of taking 18 months, it only takes three months to deal with all the concerns that might exist.
I guess we see the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as coordinating all the other ministries, coordinating the input, and knowing that there's one place we're going to be able to deal with and get the answers to our questions or get the feedback we're looking for.
Mr Galt: You don't see a great loss to Environment or to Ag and Food --
The Vice-Chair: Dr Galt, I'm sorry, but our time has expired.
Mr Gerretsen: It's kind of like saying that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is just going to be another ministry to approach. It's kind of like saying that Mike Harris is just another member of the provincial Legislature. Let's be honest about it.
Mr Murdoch: His vote is just the same as any other.
Mr Gerretsen: He's just another member. Right.
If they are going to take the lead in this, they're going to be mainly in charge of the process. I'll accept that; that's a fact of life. By the way, Campbellford's a beautiful little town. I've gone through it many times on my way to Peterborough. It's on the canal. I'd recommend everybody go there some day. Your council ought to be really congratulated for having a planner that can actually put it all on one page. This is just great.
I'm a little bit concerned, though, about -- and this is in light of what Dr Galt and Mr Smith talked about -- environmental concerns. I thought your presentation was very fair and honest, that yes, you have planning expertise, but on the other hand, you obviously do not have the expertise in environmental matters that you're getting now through your conservation authority, maybe through MNR and what have you. That may very well be lost as it looks as if conservation authorities are going to be reduced in responsibility and certainly in funding and the number of people they can employ to look after these various areas.
How does a small municipality really deal with the environmental concerns if that kind of expertise is no longer there? We can sort of blush it all over and pretend everything will be all right, but I'd really like to know how you are going to deal with that in a smaller community.
Mr Peters: That's exactly what I was getting at, that we have depended, when it comes to environmental issues, a great deal on the conservation authorities or on being able to call the Peterborough office of the Ministry of Environment and Energy and say: "We're dealing with this. How can you help us with this?" Like I say, I already know that I'm not getting planning response from the Lower Trent Region Conservation Authority because of their cutbacks unless it's something quite severe.
I think if we're going to deal with it, if we're going to be the ones where the responsibility lies to deal with these issues at the municipal level, we're either going to learn by our mistakes -- and you don't want mistakes that are going to create big problems in environmental areas because they could be quite severe -- or we're going to have to do a very thorough job when we do an official plan to identify exactly what types of development, if any, we're going to allow in certain areas, what those areas are, and have very strong policies that identify what we need if we're even going to consider those applications.
Mr Gerretsen: And you need firm environmental policies from the province, don't you?
Mr Peters: Yes, the guidance hopefully will come through the policy statements, and when we submit our official plan for approval to the province hopefully they will be looking to identify that we have those strong policies that identify provincial interests and protect those interests. That's the way I see the process is going to happen.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally applaud your mediation efforts, because I think that's the way to go in a lot of these issues.
Mr Peters: We've had great success with that.
Mr Gerretsen: Thanks for appearing. I appreciate it.
Mr Peters: Just to return the compliment to Campbellford, I spent seven years in Kingston and found it a wonderful community as well.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll take that back to the burghers of Kingston and it will be headline news in the Whig-Standard tomorrow, I'm sure.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
FEDERATION OF ONTARIO COTTAGERS' ASSOCIATIONS
The Vice-Chair: I would ask the representatives from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations to come forward. Good afternoon and welcome to our process.
Mr Ambrose Moran: My name is Ambrose Moran, and with me today is Gord Isbister, our executive director. On behalf of the members of the board of directors of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address you today.
I'd like to preface my comments by explaining that FOCA is an umbrella organization of cottager associations and individual members throughout rural Ontario in areas such as the Kawarthas, Georgian Bay, Muskokas, Haliburton, eastern Ontario and the Lake of the Woods. Approximately 50,000 cottagers belong to FOCA through 500 cottager associations along with another 800 individual members.
Most of our members have cottages on or near the Canadian Shield. Inappropriate development in cottage country could negatively impact the fragile environment of these areas and destroy the local economies which are increasingly so dependent on the attraction of a clean environment. Polluted lakes and damaged ecosystems will not provide for sustainable communities in rural Ontario. Tourism and recreational development are directly linked to a clean environment. Environmentally sound development will support local economies. We firmly object to the regressive notion that the environment must be sacrificed to stimulate the economy. In rural Ontario, the environment and economy are directly dependent on one another.
The high profile of planning reform through the term of the previous government and continued by our current government has raised public awareness of the need for clear legislation providing a streamlined, accessible and fair planning process.
We are here today to share with you some observations about Bill 20 and make some recommendations as to where improvements can be made to address our concerns which have been developed through consultation with several of our member associations across Ontario. This submission has been endorsed by a motion passed bT7AT\t<BVC0SV_ODGR]^U@AYY_^bdV :ID*dhR^+KG'N
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RT+CLUVRYI(h!;IMN \E$D R#h:5\ONFWHEf48e of Bays association, the Georgian Bay association and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and we would like to go on record that we support their stated concerns.
Throughout the previous consultation process leading to Bill 163, we and many others invested a considerable amount of energy in working towards improving the planning process. We were generally supportive of Bill 163, which was developed based on a very broad public consultation and attempted to achieve a fair and balanced approach to resolve competing interests in planning and development issues. With a change in government, it is realistic that changes will follow in legislation and public policy. Like others, we realized that Bill 163 was not perfect and we are anxious to work with this government in making further improvements.
Our first concern relates to reduced public access. Bill 20 severely limits the overall public access to the planning process in several ways.
The purpose of the Planning Act is, among other things, to provide planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient and to encourage cooperation among various interests. Good planning involves early participation by affected stakeholders to resolve conflicts in order to avoid delays and costly appeals. We at FOCA are anxious to participate in partnerships with municipalities throughout rural Ontario to help them make good planning decisions. Planning authorities throughout rural Ontario need all the support they can get and a successful planning process allows for an appropriate notification system, reasonable time frames for public participation and public meetings.
Public meetings on consents and subdivisions are essential in order to provide input into the planning process. New lot creations are not minor planning decisions and views of interested community members and directly affected adjacent land owners should be expressed at public meetings. We strongly oppose the elimination of the requirement for public meetings for consents and subdivisions.
Our first recommendation then is that mandatory public meetings for consents and subdivision applications be reinstated.
Bill 163 imposed various time limits on the planning process. We will never know whether those reduced time frames were even workable. Bill 20, apparently in an attempt to further streamline the process, has made various changes related to time requirements for notices, appeals and making of decisions. Many are unacceptable and problematic.
We have concerns about the following time constraints: reduced notice requirements for public meetings on official plans from 30 days to 20 days; reduced periods for appeals of decisions on plans of subdivisions from 30 days to 20 days.
Reducing notice and appeal times to 20 days causes our membership problems. Most often, our members reside outside the urban area, remote from the cottage areas where decisions are made and notices are posted or advertised. For cottagers located away from where decisions are made, the reduced periods frustrate our membership in their efforts to provide meaningful input into the important planning matters directly affecting lake communities.
The following recommendations are made: that time frames for notices of public meetings on official plan amendments be reinstated at 30 days; and that time frames for OMB appeals on subdivisions be reinstated at 30 days.
Further time constraints are proposed through Bill 20 on planning authorities as follows: approval periods for subdivision applications have been reduced to 90 days from 180; approval periods for consent applications have been reduced to 60 days from 90.
It is our view, and supported by many, that it is impractical to expect the responsible planning authority to evaluate and make decisions on subdivisions or consent applications within the proposed time frames.
Winter conditions will dictate that properties subject to the application are not even accessible during these periods of time. Attempts to meet these time frames would risk new lots and roads being created in sensitive areas where, based on the terrain, basic sewage disposal systems would be unworkable. Agency input during the winter months, especially from health units and the Ministry of Environment and Energy, regarding septic suitability is not possible.
Rights for applicants to go directly to the OMB after a 90-day period on OPA's plans of subdivisions and zonings are unreasonable and potentially will bog down the OMB process. The automatic right to appeal to the OMB very shortly after making an application denies the local planning authority the time to arrange for meaningful input and undermines any opportunity to find resolutions to identify concerns.
Even though the thrust of this legislation is to empower municipalities with more planning authority, their period of empowerment is minimal before the applicant is empowered to apply directly to the provincial OMB. This contradiction undermines the contributions that interested ratepayers can make in assisting planning authorities with finding locally developed solutions to planning conflicts. Planning authorities cannot and should not make decisions without adequate technical information and essential agency and public input. The proposed time frames simply do not provide adequate timing for planning authorities to make defensible decisions.
This leads to another recommendation, that time frames for planning authorities to approve zonings, official plan amendments, subdivisions and consents be reviewed and adjusted, taking into account constraints in evaluating properties during winter months.
Our next concern is related to minor variances in OMB appeals. Bill 20, as currently written, amends the Planning Act so that the traditional rights to appeal to the OMB on minor variance decisions are taken away. This proposed amendment is apparently intended to streamline the planning process, but it would be replaced by a cumbersome process of council referrals tied to a number of stringent notice requirements and commenting time frames which could prove to be problematic.
We are aware of, and agree with, the Urban Development Institute's submission to this committee stating that "property owners should always possess a reliable route of appeal to the OMB regardless of the magnitude of the decisions."
We see the following problems with eliminating the rights of appeal to the OMB on minor variances.
Abuses of the variance process could result as certain councils will enjoy the final authority, leading to more instances of poor political decisions rather than good planning decisions when municipal councils are not subject to review by the OMB.
Where developers recognize the influence of active ratepayers over elected councils, developers will likely make applications for rezoning rather than minor variances in order to provide for an eventual appeal to the OMB rather than having to accept a final political decision from council.
Ratepayers disagreeing with and frustrated by a final council decision on minor variances will possible complain to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the news media and the local MPPs, as they have not had the traditional right for a hearing at the OMB. In the past, provincial politicians have not had to get too involved in planning disputes as their constituents have appeal rights to an independent planning tribunal.
A serious matter of fairness can arise when a developer's application is denied by council and then the developer can immediately apply for rezoning for the same bylaw relief. This will provide the developer with the opportunity to eventually access the OMB, whereas a ratepayer objecting to a variance application has no further steps to take after a final council decision. This is not fair and conflicts with the Planning Act, section 1.1, stating that the purpose of the Planning Act is to provide for planning processes that are fair.
This leads to another recommendation, that appeals of committee of adjustment decisions to the OMB be reinstated.
The next concern is related to official plans. Official plans in the past were intended to provide guidance for growth for communities over the long term. This bill not only removes the content requirements of official plans, as written it treats official plans as something to be changed in 90 days, which again, based on winter months, would not all for access to and consideration of natural heritage features.
In time, official plans will be neither official nor plans, but rather just another site-by-site development application process requiring amendment to satisfy the approval process, likely processed and parallel with an application for subdivision and rezoning.
The combination of deleting any requirement for official plan content and allowing for quick amendments at even lower levels of government without planning expertise significantly erodes the certainty that communities in the past have relied on for long-term orderly development.
This leads to a requested amendment: that the provision to regulate content requirements of official plans be reinstated and, further, that a process be provided for approval times of official plan amendments to be extended to 150 days when the review period includes winter months.
Our final concern relates to the subject of one-window approach. Natural heritage and environmental protection in the planning process has traditionally been influenced in cottage country by the role of MNR and MOEE as commenting agencies that have rights to appeal planning decisions to the OMB. Local councils relied on their objective input and took agency comments seriously, as they have expertise in their respective areas. Bill 20 proposes to restrict provincial agency appeals to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This is of concern to us. The traditional planning clout of provincial commenting agencies will be eroded with a centralized appeal process. Municipal Affairs may not be prepared to assign the ever increasingly scarce provincial staff resources to challenge planning decisions made by local municipalities. This will undermine both the provincial and public interest in advancing good planning throughout cottage country.
We see the merits in Municipal Affairs coordinating provincial agency planning inputs, but we feel strongly that MNR and MOEE should not be in a position of being overruled by Municipal Affairs if they elect to appeal a planning decision to the OMB in their attempts to protect water quality standards and our threatened natural heritage.
Our final recommendation is that the powers of MNR and MOEE to appeal OMB decisions be reinstated through either legislative change or, alternatively, that FOCA be given assurances that MNR and MOEE will be designated by regulation as public bodies, as provided for in subsection 1(3).
In summary, FOCA feels that our concerns are neither extensive nor unreasonable and can be addressed by making further amendments to Bill 20 before it's finalized. In September 1994, we presented our recommendations regarding Bill 163 to the standing committee on administration of justice and we were very pleased that FOCA's concerns were addressed in the final version of that bill. We are hopeful that we can again be in a position to report back to our membership that this government has listened to FOCA.
In closing, I want you to know that we realize the difficult task facing you in finalizing this legislation and we hope that our views will be of some assistance. Thank you again for the opportunity to address you. I would be pleased to answer any questions from the committee.
Mr Ouellette: Thank you for your presentation. I personally don't believe that members of your organization would intentionally go out to do any environmental damage, yet I know biologists who blame the cottagers for loss of fish habitat, shorelines and boats and things like that or for the oil slicks that are caused. I believe it's the same for municipalities, that if they're given the ability to make decisions they won't make decisions specifically designed to negatively affect the environment.
It's good to see on page 3 that you made a note that you're looking forward to working through partnerships with the municipalities in making decisions. I'm glad to hear that. One question I have though is, do you think that this legislation will change your membership's ability to change or restructure any of the shorelines?
Mr Moran: One of the significant things in this bill is the reduced access to the process. The condensed time frames will present problems even in our finding out that an application's being processed or a decision's been made or that our appeal rights are being expired. We feel that the condensed time periods will negatively affect our participation.
In terms of being partners with municipalities, we've encouraged a lot of our members to join the planning advisory committees and the committees of adjustment throughout rural Ontario and bring to them the views of the cottage associations and assisting municipalities. That's worked out very well in some areas.
Mr Ouellette: You don't think this legislation, except for the time frames, will affect the ability to make shoreline changes at all?
Mr Moran: This legislation, as you know, is tied into the provincial policy statements, and we have very serious concerns about what appears to be the abandonment of the protection of the wetlands in the Canadian Shield. They'll be a separate submission. We are very uncomfortable about the downgrading of some of the provincial policy statements that are currently being reviewed.
Mr Hardeman: I just wanted to quickly go back to the issue of the one-window approach and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing coordinating a government response. Do you not see it as an asset to the system that the government ministries have to get together and come up with a provincial policy or a provincial direction or a provincial position before they go to the OMB, as opposed to having provincial ministries ironing out their differences before the OMB, recognizing they all represent one government?
Mr Moran: Initially, through the Sewell commission it was proposed that Municipal Affairs take a lead role in planning and contribute to the coordinated effort. I think we were very comfortable about that at the time. But now, realizing that the Municipal Affairs minister himself may not be very supportive of the OMB, we now don't want a concentration of that authority with a minister who does not seem to be supportive of that process. That causes us some serious concerns.
Mr Gerretsen: We totally concur with the requirement of a public meeting for a subdivision and for a consent, and also that there should be an appeal with respect to minor variances to the OMB. That issue has absolutely nothing to do with municipal planning. Municipalities should be allowed to plan, but also there are times when the general public or a developer or a municipality, each one of them from their own different aspect, may wish to appeal to an independent third body. That's what an appeal's all about.
The assumption on the other side, on the government side, is that the OMB is only there to deal with appeals from the general public that doesn't like a development or something like that, but it could be just as easily the other way around, and they just totally fail to understand this. A developer could be wronged by a municipality; a municipality could be making the wrong decision. It's a three-way street.
I'm just waiting for the day, if this is implemented the way they're suggesting, that the first time one of these things comes up, all of a sudden they realize, "My gosh, maybe there should have been an appeal to somebody else because the right decision really wasn't made," and that's really what it's all about. I totally concur with that.
Mr Bisson: Just a quick comment on recommendation number 4 in regard to only MMA being able to go to the OMB. I agree with you. I think MNR, for example, is probably best situated to deal with issues that deal with habitat and fish-wildlife issues, expertise is not found within MMA. One fear I have, just to put it a little bit differently, is that it may not be that the minister is not supportive, and I think that's one of the issues; but the other one is that there are people who work for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs who are not fish biologists who don't have the expertise in that field. If they don't take seriously the concerns of MNR, some of those issues may go by the wayside, and I think that would be one of the problems.
The question I have, however, you deal on page 7, where you say, "In time, official plans will neither be official nor plans but rather just another site-by-site development application." I'm just wondering on what assumption you base that. Do you base that on the assumption that you'll have municipalities competing for development so they'll lessen their standards, and the official plans will go out the window? Just to clarify so I know what you're saying there.
Mr Moran: In the past, official plans were developed through a public process and they seemed to be in place for a long period of time. They seemed to deal with long-term issues. But the emphasis in this bill is to allow an arrangement where they can be changed quickly, they can be changed at a lower level of government and the contents in them are not even prescribed. If we get to that stage, there was really no reason even to have an official plan.
Mr Bisson: Oh, I see. You're coming at it from the other way. Last, what I'd be looking for some comment on from you is that there is a sense within this bill and within the government that the public shouldn't play as great a role as they do now in regard to objecting to developments put forward by developers and going to the OMB, and because of that they've restricted, as you said in your presentation, many of the safeguards we have now to protect the public right to access or to appeal a decision. Should we regard public access as a hindrance when it comes to development?
Mr Moran: As what?
Mr Bisson: As a hindrance. Should we regard public access to that process as a hindrance to development? Is that sort of the tone of what the act is all about?
Mr Moran: We feel that some of the traditional rights of access and rights of appeal have been eroded in this bill, and we feel that we could come as partners and make a contribution to the process, but first of all, we've got to know about it and then we have to the right to participate.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming forward this afternoon.
The Vice-Chair: I ask that Max LeMarchant please come forward. Good afternoon.
Mr Max LeMarchant: My name is Max LeMarchant. I'm a private, independent land developer. I provide services to both the construction and the development industry. My presentation this afternoon I'm going to try and keep on a general level. I have not prepared a written brief. I'm sure everybody has plenty of paper. I hope I will be able to convey some ideas that will be of help in a clear enough format and in a simple enough manner that they may be of some assistance.
First of all, I'd like to say that I very much support what is being attempted with Bill 20, as far as reducing red tape and streamlining the process are concerned, as I supported what was being done by the NDP government for five years in the same direction, to attempt to streamline the process, reduce red tape, have the system work better and boost the economy. So I'm very supportive of this objective.
However, I am not going to address the specifics of Bill 20, because I think that possibly, in addressing the specifics, the fundamental points are being missed. The matter of "have regard for" or "be consistent with" reminds me of the controversies in the Middle Ages with people over the Holy Trinity and the relationship of the Holy Trinity, as they merrily went off to war and slaughtered each other. It wasn't a matter of what the relationship was; they kind of missed the fundamental point of what the substance of the issue was.
I think what is happening here tends towards that very quickly, with the immediate digression into masses and masses of process and legalese and documentation and more process. The fundamental requirement to have a system that works well and that is operable is lost somewhere along the way, somewhere in the debate of those fine-tuned words.
The point, as far as I see it, is that the planning system isn't working. That is the fundamental issue here: The planning is a shambles. The experiment of planning to a larger degree has failed and I don't think anybody disagrees on that. The NDP government recognized that there were major problems and moved immediately to step in and have public meetings to address those problems. They realized it was critical. They spent a great deal of money to try and address those problems.
However, after five years, the problems are still problems, and now we have a new government which has taken up the mandate of addressing those problems. I wholeheartedly support that because for the period these problems have been outstanding the economy has been strangled. We're descending into a depression in Ontario. The last seven years in business in this province have been a nightmare. We cannot operate business. As somebody in the land development industry who is actually trying to bring a product to the community, who is actually trying to run through the gamut of what's being debated and theorized on, it's impossible. Nothing goes through the process.
This morning, Jo Casey made reference to the fact that the Second World War was fought in a shorter period of time than it takes to get a land development project approved. Never mind the Second World War, the railway across Canada was put in by hand in shorter time than it takes to get a development project approved.
We don't even think in concepts of doing anything even remotely close to that magnitude, but for sure, 100%, it's undoable. In the final hours of the 20th Century, we can't do it. We can go to the moon, we can do all sorts of other marvellous things, but we can't develop any more. We can't build houses; we can't have jobs; we can't create new businesses; we can't have a system to do that. All of a sudden it's become impossible. I think that's a fundamental problem. When we're debating the matter of streamlining the system and looking at ways to streamline the system, maybe it's time we started looking at what some of the fundamental assumptions of that system are, in particular, what is planning and what is the actual correct mandate of planning.
Planning has not negated corruption, planning has not produced good development, although that is what it was put into place for, to make sure that everything was organized and there was no corruption at any level and everything was fair and orderly and worked beautifully. It hasn't done it. It's done the opposite. Everywhere you look there's terrible development that people are obviously unhappy with. I don't think I'm being presumptuous when I say that, because there are a lot of people who look at the last 30 years of development and want to hang developers from trees because of it. It's not the developers that produced that; it's the planning process that produced that. That is what that structure has been extruded through: planning, official plans, and every level, more and more.
We look back on the communities that everybody loves and say, "Why can't we get back to this beautiful environment here where the architecture was so picturesque and everybody had a nice time?" and so on and so forth. The reason we can't get back to that is because we're operating in a straitjacket of planning procedures, and that straitjacket is becoming more and more constrained and the system, instead of correcting itself, is building on itself and feeding on itself.
The problems are identified and the solutions always come up the same. What do we need? We need more planning. This isn't working correctly? We'd better have a study, we'd better have another plan, we'd better have more legislation, more, more, and it all gets piled on top. When can we stand back and say, "Wait a minute; this is the problem"?
With my interpretation of what I see in Bill 20, Bill 20 is attempting to do that, and it's attempting to do it in an expeditious fashion. I would have to say that I personally and a lot of people who are in the industry are just praying that this will work, because if somebody has their hands around your throat and you're choking for air, you want them to release it. Maybe the bill isn't perfect, but wouldn't it be better to take a step and actually implement something this year than to take five years debating it and find out that nothing happened?
My recommendation is this: The overall planning system, which is actually land use control -- I think it's difficult to refer to land use planning as actual planning. When you're talking about planning, it's a pretty dynamic subject to actually contain and what actually it becomes boiled down to is a system of land use control. What is the appropriate area for land use planning to deal with? I think the correct areas have to be moved back to health, safety and economy. Those areas have to be focused on.
The concerns with the environment and planning: The planning process hasn't necessarily protected the environment. There are many examples, when you get into central plan situations, where the worst catastrophes to the environment occur. The matter of that is well documented. I think that moving to reduce the mandate of planning is at the heart of the solution -- by reducing it; not more legislation, not more public input, not more consultant input, but less.
The other problem I see with the existing system, beyond its fundamental mandate being too expansive, is that the components of the system are not synchronized towards the desired objective. The components of those systems, the actual motivators, are the reverse. In other words, for many of the people who are in the land use planning and development system, their motivations are not to produce good housing for people, they're not to expedite and streamline the system; their motivations are exactly the opposite and they're being compensated for doing exactly the opposite.
The more planning, the more OMB trials, the more studies and the more complication, the more a whole industry of consultants, lawyers and associates is paid. That is not something that's a side issue; that is a fundamental driver. To have that particular situation, where you're dealing with a team and that team is not all focused on moving that ball down the field, but 90% of the team is to make sure that ball goes nowhere and they're getting paid to do that, is a big problem. When we come and ask for solutions and we say, "Okay, industry, how can we arrive at solutions, please?" the developers immediately -- their opinion is biased because of their financial gain. So they're put in this marginal area over here.
The only people who are being accredited with supposedly unbiased opinion is this industry of consultants. This industry is not unbiased. This industry has been rewarded beyond anybody else because of this process. They have been rewarded and continue to be rewarded because of the complications in this system. The consultants that work for us, when they find that we have to go to the Ontario Municipal Board, that is not an unhappy day.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Pay day.
Mr LeMarchant: And I hate to say that, and it's not the consultants' fault, it's the system's fault, because in a market economy, we have to pay our phone bills and we have to pay our rent, and it's individual business's mandate to maximize their profit.
Where the problem comes in is the system that promotes a situation where individual interests are counter to the collective interests, not consistent with them. Unless we can introduce some accountability into this system of consultants, studies, it's going to perpetuate itself, because it's similar to trying to get a snowball to slide down a hill rather than to roll down it to suggest that the consultant industry is going to be convinced to streamline and expedite the process while they're getting paid to do the reverse.
My next point is that there has to be some sort of accountability introduced into this system. We can't continually be paying and paying for the complication. There has to be some accountability. Consultants have to be held responsible for their work. Three or four different consultants reviewing the same thing, coming up with diametrically opposed views, all being paid for it and the process being delayed because of it. Somewhere there is something seriously wrong with the professional criteria of that system. People have to be held accountable and there has to be a proper reward and benefit.
My next point is to do with needs. With respect to needs, I think in a market economy the suggestion of needs studies being introduced into that is very pernicious. I believe that we live in a free market economy in Canada, not a centrally planned one. I think that when you have, all of a sudden, your economy being regulated by needs studies, whether it comes down from the top, as it does in centrally planned economies, or whether it percolates up from the bottom to result in exactly the same thing, central planning regulated by needs studies produced by government authority, that is contrary to what we're dealing with. It hasn't worked anywhere. It hasn't worked in business. The needs studies have been incorrect; they haven't worked. It hasn't worked in economies that have tried it. It hasn't worked; it's failed. So why are we doing it here in planning? Why are we saying, "You're going to have to have a needs study before you're going to be allowed to do business"?
My last point -- and I'm going to cut off two other points because I think I'm going over --
The Vice-Chair: No, not yet.
Mr Gerretsen: We want to ask you some questions.
Mr LeMarchant: I won't skip the points. Thank you for your indulgence.
With respect to the planning system and official plans, everybody takes as motherhood that yes, planning is great and we must have more planning. Nobody will dispute that planning is important. However, over the 30 years that this planning process has been growing and gaining momentum and coming into being, it has been in a state of disaster. The official plan process in these communities is not working.
The planning horizon for official plans was stated as being five years. It takes five years just debating what is going to be in the plan. It's taking upwards -- well over five years, eight years, 10 years, sometimes never -- to get an official plan approved. That is a state of default. Why are we still talking about what is going to be in the official plans when the official plans themselves don't work? They're not working. The evidence of these official plans is in a state of disaster.
My next point is with respect to the politics of the system. I think as the consultants and the consultant industry have a reverse incentive which is hampering the desirable objectives of the land approval system, the politics as well are hampered by that system and perpetuate the undesirable. By having this level of planning and this level of complication and this level of obscurity that's introduced with 40 different ministries, five or six different levels of planning etc, unfortunately, the accountability for decisions is removed. Nobody knows who's accountable.
If it's a political decision, the political people should be responsible. If they say, "Yes, I'm elected. I think this should go. It's my view. That's what people are elected for," can we not have that? That way, at the next election somebody can say: "I'm sorry, we didn't like what you did. Goodbye." But at least the politics is identified and not obscured in some technocracy. The level of accountability is identifiable. I think in this system that is an important thing that has to be identified. Ultimately, some development decisions will have to be left to the politicians who are elected to decide, based on their best judgement and their opinion or their bias, or whatever.
If I seem very committed to what I'm telling you, I am, because this is my business, this is my livelihood. I made the choice of pursuing this livelihood in a very hostile environment over the last seven years in the belief that it was worthwhile pursuing because this is a good place to do business.
The Vice-Chair: We have about 10 seconds left.
Mr LeMarchant: When I look over my files -- and I have a stack of résumés from people who are looking for jobs -- and I leaf through them and wait and wait because we cannot do business, it's disappointing. I have résumés from planning students, project managers, construction people who are the best. We had a girl who worked for us who graduated top of her class in planning. She worked night and day for us doing historical work etc. When she got out, there was no job for her in planning. She graduated at the top of her class; there was no job. We couldn't give her a job. We could give her a job if we weren't held up for seven years. We could hire people.
But we can't. I have literally a stack, and every day people phone me because when they hear of the projects that we're working on or that I'm involved in, they're interested and they're just hoping that maybe there will be a job for them, maybe there will be some employment for them. But the only thing that I can do is tell them: "I don't know when their projects will be approved. There's no definable time line. We're hoping that it will be some time soon." So please, in your consideration of Bill 20, to the present government and to the opposition, can we please have some sort of agreement to do something that will give us an opportunity to work?
The Vice-Chair: I thank you very much for coming this afternoon, sir. Unfortunately, there's no time for questioning.
The Vice-Chair: I would ask Mr Tredree to come up, please. Good afternoon, sir.
Mr Dave Tredree: My name is Dave Tredree. As it says in my brief that I've handed out, I am a citizen of Northumberland. I currently reside in the town of Cobourg and have done since 1966. I'm a retail businessman and as such I'm also a husband and father. I've purchased some properties over the last some 20-odd years. Of the properties that I've purchased, two of them that will be in your brief. One of them is in the town of Cobourg. It is zoned, in the official plan, medium-density residential. The other property that I'm referring to is in the township of Hamilton. It is in an official plan which was approved in 1986 as hamlet.
I can do one of two things. I can either read to you or I can talk to you.
Mr Bisson: Talk to us.
Mr Tredree: All right. It's easy for me to talk to you, because what's in my brief I've lived. This isn't something that might happen, could happen, shouldn't happen; it happened and it's happening.
I guess we have somewhat similar things in common. As you are members of our provincial Legislature, you weren't always members of the provincial Legislature. You decided to be that and you convinced people to back you and you're there to do what you believe is correct. I'm not a land developer. I've become a land developer, but I don't rely on it as my income. If so, I'd be the thinnest skeleton you had ever seen in your life sitting before you.
My real problem is not with you as politicians or with councillors, because over the period of time that I'm dealing with here, which starts in approximately 1986, I've seen mayors, councillors and so on come and go, but the one thing that never changes is the employees they leave behind. They are the ones I have to deal with. Regardless of how good and positive their feelings are, when they come and go, the same people are left.
So I'll talk to you and I'll try and go over places you can find. The pages are numbered from 1 to 8, and on page 9 there is a schedule of times. We'll get to that after the first point.
One thing I'd like to remind you all of is that my definition of the system is that the system will only move as fast as it has to, not as fast as it can.
The first part I'm going to discuss is the official plan, a proposed amendment or current plan. I told you I have a piece of property in the township of Hamilton. An official plan was adopted in 1986 and it is what's known as a provincially approved plan. In 1992, the township council of the day decided it would look over and see what things needed to be changed. In 1993-94, the council adopted amendments to that official plan. There was a redesignation, without my request, from hamlet to service-commercial. The official plan was presented to the provincial Legislature, provincial government. The province suggested that it accepted things, and things it didn't accept it sent to the Ontario Municipal Board. In 1993-94 was when they got the material.
On March 7, 1996 -- this is three years later -- there's going to be a conference at the township office to discuss preliminary and procedural matters to the various objections, including mine. I'm trying to get a piece of property rezoned to bring in some industry and create employment. Under the current official plan designation, which is hamlet, I'm allowed to do that. But then there is this proposed official plan amendment that says it's service-commercial. My problem here is not with the councillors; my problem is with planners.
I've had now five planners, all of whom I'm paying. I pay to fight myself, because the rule says I have to pay the township's costs, so the township hires a planner at my expense to fight the planner I'm paying for. It's a love-in going on as far as planners are concerned, because what's happening is the council wants to make a decision but it wants to make a decision that can be substantiated by planners. So they're completely stifled. What do they do? Do they overrule the advice of their current planner or the planner from two times ago? Which planner do they do? They want to do something, but the planners are stopping them simply because they can create arguments. Arguments equal profit in the planning game. But they also create indecision.
So what I'm saying is that the government, in your Bill 20, can simply tell people clearly which is the right official plan. Is it the official plan that has been adopted by the province or is it the official plan that is being challenged and appealed to, referred to the Ontario Municipal Board and may not in fact ever be law? How long are people like myself expected to wait? I'm just one, and this must be going on across the province. There has to be something you can hang your hat on. Right now, there's nothing, and the way it's going, I won't have to worry; there will be no hat.
You can answer this and deal with this very quickly in your bill. Tell us which is the right piece of legislation. Is it what we have or what we don't have, what we might have?
Secondly, an amendment to an official plan -- it's on page 3: A person in our community, the town of Cobourg, bought a house and decided they wanted to put in a business, a little foot-care clinic, in the middle of a residential area. At the time, the planner of this community and myself agreed that the whole area should be changed in the official plan from residential to allow business. But the cost would have to be borne by the one who applied for the official plan's amendment. Therefore, he had a spot OP change and, as such, a spot zone change. This was in January of 1993.
I went to the public meeting and I said I didn't want that. What I wanted was the whole area, not just one little tiny piece of it, some 50-foot lot or 60-foot lot; do the whole thing. I'd have no problem with that. So I was supportive of doing everything but not supportive of doing one little piece. I opposed the official plan and I opposed the zoning bylaw.
On February 3, a letter was sent out stating that the council of the day had approved the zoning bylaw, and I was advised by mail that I would have until February 23 to lodge any objection.
I refer to the schedule of dates, which you would know as page 9. For 423 Division Street, the council adopted an official plan amendment on January 18. Notice of the OPA adoption was sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on February 1. They sent a notice of the passing of a bylaw on February 3. Municipal councils don't have to advise anybody, you know, in writing that they'd passed an amendment to an official plan. They sent the package to the ministry on February 17. This is the official plan. The last date for appealing the bylaw was February 23. I appealed the bylaw and I appealed the official plan. I went to the town offices and was told that the official plan had to go to, at that time, David Cooke, so I sent off a letter to David Cooke voicing my objection.
This is where the situation comes up. The town sends, on February 17, by some method -- I assume it would be courier or mail -- a package, a change of official plan. The last date of appeal was February 23 on the zoning bylaw. The OPA was approved by the ministry on February 24. That's, what, six days. No one works six days straight. You work five. So two of those six must have been a weekend. So in four days, that parcel left Cobourg, got right to the minister, who hammered it in four days. Now, how do you expect anybody to use the mail to send an objection to the ministry if he's going to approve the thing before the mail has left town?
My situation here is, the ministry should be made aware by the municipality that there was someone speaking as an objection so that they could wait for the regular mail. Give them 10 days, two weeks. What would have been so wrong if this has gone two weeks? They would have received my objection. Maybe nothing would have changed, but at least I wouldn't have had an objection that arrived a day early or a day late. This is incredibly fast, folks, for the ministry to react: 24 hours. In twenty-four hours the ministry approved this OP change.
The problem here was addressed, and you'll see there was a hearing on the zoning, but the fact that the official plan was changed made my objection to the zoning unimportant, because now the zoning did meet the official plan.
We go on to the next one. Each one I have a suggestion on here which I believe would be a good idea and you could put it in.
The next one I'm going to discuss is lack of motivation, lack of motivating reasons. You have placed in your bill and in previous legislation many motivating reasons for municipal councils to react, but you've got nothing in there that says their employees have to react.
I bought a piece of property that I told you about in the town of Cobourg. In 1989, a bylaw was approved by the municipal council to support the rezoning of property. Notice was sent out, as required, to the people in the area and they objected, which was proper. After the objection was received and I was advised that there had been objections lodged, I asked how long it would wait. Who did I ask? I asked the clerk's office, I asked the planner, I asked my lawyer and I asked my planner, and they said, "It's probably going to take four to six months before you get your hearing." "Fine." Every now and again, I'd phone up and, I'd ask, "Anybody heard from the Ontario Municipal Board when this hearing..." Nobody ever heard.
I waited seven months, folks. Seven months, I waited. I thought: "Well, what are members of the provincial Legislature for anyway? They run offices in town. I'll phone them up and find out what's going." So I phoned up the office of the member of provincial Parliament. They investigated. They got hold of the Ontario Municipal Board. They didn't know about anything. They'd never received any package.
Mr Gerretsen: It probably got lost.
Mr Tredree: Well, I wish it had got lost.
Mr Gerretsen: Who's in charge over there at the OMB?
Mr Tredree: I went back to the municipal office. After some looking around, it had been misplaced. They'd misplaced the darn forms in the town of Cobourg. It never went out.
What am I going to do? There's nothing in the current laws which state I have any rights to go after anybody, other than I can jump up and down, I can get mad, red in the face, have a heart attack or otherwise. There's nothing in there to say that any municipal official or any servant of the municipal government has to within a certain time do his job. If you give them 45 days, they could have -- and this was a much-publicized zoning thing, there were groups of people. I mean, it wasn't some quiet little affair. It was well publicized.
So you've got to enact legislation which says that the municipality and its officials have got to be responsible to see the work is done. How can you be blamed for being slow if you haven't got the thing to act on?
I say 45 days, and they should tell the applicant or the one who is wanting the rezoning that it's been done. I should never have had to rely on that. I should have known, in my heart of hearts, it was done. And if it isn't done, I believe it's in section 67.1 you have penalties that are imposed, and the penalties should be imposed on the official, the people, not on the municipality, but the people who aren't doing their job should have to be responsible. I know it is in health and I know it is in other things, but it should be done at the municipal level.
My last section has to do with motivation of provincial government agencies, including municipal, environmental, health, conservation and transportation. What's happening is, when you make application for rezoning, the municipalities send these forms out to some 30 or 50 agencies, and they all are supposed to reply. What if they don't? What if they don't reply? What if they're too busy? What if they're understaffed? What if they're worrying about budgets? What if they're doing all these things? How are they going to find time to do their job?
My suggestion is based on the following: Once I had the rezoning done, it was naturally -- as you know, in the previous Planning Act, you can put it in a holding zone pending site plan. Also, there was some concern about stormwater management. The engineer of the day said, "Got to have a storm sewer." But things have changed. A lot has changed. Environment has changed and the rules have changed and the focus has changed so that the people who create stormwater have got a management on site.
We had an engineering survey and report done. It was handed to the Ganaraska conservation authority and the town in September of 1994. You have a covering letter in your package which gives you exactly the date and who it was sent to and who it was sent by. After some discussion, the engineer, in June of 1995 -- June of 1995; from September 1994 to June 1995 -- approved it. The town approved it 30 days later.
My point is, what you're doing with budget cuts, you give conservation authorities tremendous authority over development, then you cut their budgets. Who's going to do the work? And if they can't do the work, they should be required within 30 days to tell somebody. "We just can't do this work." But, you see, they're not.
There's one water resources engineer in our local Ganaraska conservation authority. She was responsible back then for three conservation authorities. So she'd look at my file on Monday, plus however many others, then she'd be gone to Peterborough or somewhere else on Tuesday and she'd be in Lindsay or somewhere else on Wednesday and Thursday and then maybe back for half a day in Cobourg or Port Hope at the Ganaraska on Friday. It's a wonder I'm still not waiting. The thing was, she was responsive, and I'm convinced they were doing their job to the best of their ability and to the best they could under the circumstance.
If the government of the day is not going to give these people the tools to do the job, don't give them so much authority. But for heaven's sakes, there's got to be a minimum amount of time, 30 days.
If I ask my lawyer a question or if I ask my planner a question or if I ask my engineer a question, or if you ask yours, if you were in my position, do you sit down and wait for six months to get an answer? I doubt it. If you did, you'd have another one, but I can't go and pick and choose who I'm going to have. I can't go and say: "Well, I like what's going on in Victoria-Haliburton a lot better than what's happening in Ganaraska. I'll use their people. Or maybe I'll use somebody in Windsor or somebody else somewhere else where they've got more research staff."
All I'm saying, folks, is that you can change these things. You can make the employees responsible. Within 30 days, they should have a report sent back.
This is still ongoing, but at least we're at site plan, and I can't blame the politicians because they're trying, and you folks are in the same boat as me: You can only go as fast as the slowest person working for you. And I tell you, I don't know how you're going to get rid of that slowest person. I assume you're trying, with the way you're going. But I'll tell you, fellows like me, it's a darned good thing that I'm not, like I told you, depending on my livelihood.
I've summarized on page 8 remedies for the situations that I have currently gone through and am going through. I'd like to read them to you, and I'd like to read my summary. I'm trying to present to you in an honest and simple manner -- I'm not a lawyer -- six ways that I believe shall be of use when you're trying to accomplish your goals as you're setting out in Bill 20:
(1) Remove any uncertainty as to the fact the ministry only recognizes the provincially approved official plan and provincially approved amendments to it. Require all municipal governments to do the same. Don't leave it to the planners, for God's sake. Don't do it. If so, they should be here at this table. You have got to make the ultimate decision. Don't let go of the reins.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Tredree, I should remind you you have half a minute left.
Mr Tredree: I'll speak fast.
(2) Land owners should be informed by certified mail should the council adopt an amendment to a provincially approved official plan in the case where the land owner did not request such an amendment.
(3) All those who present themselves at a public meeting for an official plan amendment must be notified by mail of its passing and the complete procedures for making an appeal to the amendment.
(4) No amendment to an official plan can be approved by the ministry until 10 business days have passed to allow mailed appeals to be received.
(5) When an objection is filed within the required period, the municipality must forward the required documentation as currently specified to the OMB within 45 days of the last day for accepting objections.
(6) All agencies funded fully or in part by a municipal, county or provincial government that are required to report under any section of the Planning Act must make a complete analysis, then request specific appropriate additional information required to complete the report, if necessary, within 30 days from the date the request is received.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your indulgence. I really appreciate the opportunity to come here. I hope you really will take a hard look at some of the information that I've given you, and have your people take a real hard look at it. It really is simple, and you will remove the places for people to hide. Don't let them hide any more. Make them get out, make them be responsible. Government is a business and people in it have got to be responsible. I thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Unfortunately, we've expired the time. There won't be any opportunity for questions, but we do thank you very much for coming this afternoon.
TAXPAYERS COALITION BURLINGTON
The Vice-Chair: I would like to ask the Taxpayers Coalition Burlington to come forward please. Good afternoon, sir.
Mr Ray Rivers: Good afternoon, Madam Chair. I would like to thank the committee for fitting me into this slot. I found out yesterday about 10:30 that I could get in here because the spaces in Hamilton, close to Burlington, were all filled. So we're pleased to be able to come forward.
The Taxpayers Coalition has about 600 members on our list. We believe we represent more people, those in Burlington who are concerned. We have worked on issues like development charges, where we are strong advocates. We worked to fight market value assessment, which we believe to be unfair, unstable and costly, and we have fought many proposals that deal with continued urban sprawl. That will be some of the gist of the paper.
My comments are almost entirely directed to the draft policy statement on land use, which, if accepted, would become the major policy direction for municipalities to follow under the new act. Given the potential significance of land use planning in Ontario, I was very disappointed when I reviewed the draft policy. The paper looks as if it had been written 30 years ago, in the age before we all discovered that there are costs in destroying the environment and subsidizing new development on the backs of existing taxpayers. Adoption of this policy statement would lead to a repeat of the highly wasteful and inefficient development pattern that has historically plagued this province.
The idea of sustainable development was best articulated by the World Commission on Environment and Development. Its definition is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development is about how the choices that we make today will impact on the future, on our children and their children. Sustainable development is not just about the environment; it is also about sound long-run economic development opportunities that will ensure that all of our economic resources, be they anthropogenic or natural, contribute to the highest standard of living that we can attain.
The concept that all development must take place only on a greenfield may have been convenient in the 1950s and 1960s but has no place in urban planning for the 1990s and beyond. Urban sprawl is the most costly form of development. Pamela Blais, working on behalf of the Greater Toronto Area Task Force, has confirmed earlier work on development options for the greater Toronto area -- and work, I might add, that's happening throughout the United States -- that demonstrates beyond any doubt that urban sprawl is the most inefficient form of urban development. I encourage this committee to review that work before it concludes on this matter. Ontario's sprawl has led to a lower quality of life as manifested through increased traffic congestion, increased pollution, struggling downtown city centres and higher taxes.
While urban growth and urban spread may have been desirable goals for a Canada that was growing into nationhood, growth for its own sake is unsustainable on a finite planet. Thus, any rationale that senior levels of government might have used for subsidizing development in the 1950s and 1960s is no longer relevant. Similarly, cross-subsidization at the local level by existing taxpayers is inappropriate -- cross-subsidization where existing taxpayers pay the costs for new development. Subsidies distort the marketplace and lead to poor and inefficient decision-making. As a result of this cross-subsidization, the history of urban sprawl has been costly in terms of increased property taxes. The requirement for development charges that reflect the full costs of new development, both hard and soft costs, must be part of a new land use policy.
There's one other policy area that I will talk about, which is the area of agriculture. Given that I had about 26 hours to consult the rest of my board -- that is the one area that we haven't had extensive discussions on -- I prefer those comments on agriculture to be seen as my own. I was raised on a farm and also farmed for about nine years.
Let me deal with the principles: The idea of land use policy to stimulate economic growth, as defined in principle 1, is outdated and it's flawed. Land use should support socioeconomic development, including growth; it need not stimulate it. The idea that the economy will boom if we can only convert more farm and natural land to buildings is flawed; it's outdated. This strategy will only exacerbate a recession. An economy responds to the market forces of supply and demand. Developing land in the absence of a market for housing is not only environmentally irresponsible, it's also bad economics. Adding more houses to a saturated market will just lower the value of everybody else's house -- the entire community's housing stock.
Principle 3 is inadequate. It fails to address the costs and risks of urban sprawl in terms of greater transit and other living costs, social costs of fractured communities, air and other pollution, traffic congestion, personal safety and loss of green space that, all together, contribute negatively to the quality of life for residents of Ontario.
The principles that are proposed ignore the wishes of the population for healthy and sustainable communities. Once land has been committed to development, it is extremely difficult and costly to ever reverse that. I suggest that the current principles are poorly considered, biased towards development at any cost and apparently lacking in an appreciation of the long-term impacts of urban development.
Below is an alternative set of principles that better reflect the age we currently live in and the knowledge we have accumulated on the relationship between economic development and environmental protection. I suggest that emerging studies on the high cost of urban sprawl be recognized by this committee. It is most ironic that such different papers as this draft policy, which aims to increase urban sprawl, and the report of the GTA task force, which proposes measures to minimize it, were released almost simultaneously by the province.
I'll just read those principles briefly. Ontario's long-term economic and environmental health with regard to land use depends on promoting development that ensures that the needs of future generations are not compromised by any changes to current uses of land -- my highlight is on "changes to current uses of land" -- in the province. This can best be effected by observing the following principles: (1) protect, preserve and promote conservation and restoration of natural areas of fish and wildlife habitat, including forests and wetlands; (2) protect and preserve agricultural land for future generations to use as agricultural land; (3) encourage the efficient use of land in builtup areas of the province, and new development as redevelopment within the existing urban footprint of Ontario, and (4) ensure that the full and long-term costs of new development are fully paid for by those undertaking changes in land use.
With regard to the policies, first of all, the current use of existing developed land is extremely inefficient. There is probably a 100-year supply of development and redevelopment potential within the current urban footprint. So the need to have a 20-year supply or even a 10-year supply is not there.
Regional planning that accompanied regional government brought in by another Conservative government some 20 years ago was partly intended to restrain urban sprawl. It had the very opposite effect as regions designated and then almost immediately converted huge tracts of farm and natural lands into urban sprawl. Let us learn from that lesson. Now is not the time to repeat the mistakes of that exercise. There will never be enough land if we continue to use it inefficiently.
Thus, there is no need to set up specified greenfield land reserves at the municipal level. Second, there is no need to remove any land from agricultural uses for other forms of development. Expansions into and conversion of agricultural land to uses other than restoration of natural lands should be prohibited. All references to providing sufficient lands over a planning horizon of 20 years should be removed from the policy statement.
Second, if the term "cost-effective" is to be meaningful to taxpayers, then developers must pay the full cost of development. A requirement for development charges must be included in the policy statement, I believe.
Third, it is arguable to suggest that some municipal planner, and not the marketplace, is the best allocator of housing supply, ensuring the best mix and range of housing types. This is particularly true if the developer has to pay the full market costs.
With respect to resources, I reiterate the point about agricultural land. There should be a clear and total prohibition on converting agricultural land. It cannot be justified that more land needs to be converted into housing stock. The exemptions proposed in the draft are just not necessary any more. The era of farmers retiring on to a lot from the family farm is ancient history. That era is almost completed. There's a greatly diminished need for maintaining that loophole to sound land use planning.
The concept that mineral extraction in prime agricultural lands could be followed by rehabilitation of the site is ridiculous. It is not conceivable that one could convert a three-storey-deep quarry hole back into a corn field. It just won't happen. This clearly requires more thought and another process that would involve weighing the options between mineral extraction and agricultural use.
It appears that the permission given under this draft policy for developers to destroy fish habitat may be in conflict with federal policies that dictate no net loss of habitat.
In conclusion, empowered municipalities should lead to more responsible local planning decisions. We support the move towards further empowerment of local municipalities, but only if they have clear and unequivocal direction from the province on sound land use principles. This draft policy statement fails badly in that regard.
In addition, empowerment is threatened by the role of the Ontario Municipal Board. The board exempts, distorts and absolves responsible decision-making by municipalities every time it lays down a final decision, thus disempowering municipalities. The role of the board must be redefined to encompass only issues of process at the municipal level. This unaccountable special-purpose body should no longer be the final decision-maker on the substantive issues of land use when we have professional municipal planners and elected politicians to do that job.
In conclusion, this draft statement requires considerable work to bring it into the 20th, let alone the 21st, century. I recommend that you commence by rewriting the principles to reflect sustainable development. I suggest further that you focus on efficiency, as you appear to want to. Efficiency is not simply a matter of ensuring that there is abundant cheap farm land available for conversion into urban sprawl. Efficiency means respecting the economic principles of demand and supply, it means long-term thinking and it means that development decisions taken today must be sound enough to not present the kinds of problems that we see with the grown-up plans of yesterday. Land use plans must lead to a better kind of development -- sustainable development. This draft does not.
The Acting Chair (Mr Bruce Smith): Thank you very much for your presentation. We have just under three minutes per caucus for questions, and we'll start with the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Rivers, for a very interesting presentation. We certainly haven't had this kind of presentation during our deliberations over the last couple of weeks.
I'm struck by one statement you make in there, and it leads back to the two previous presentations that we had. It's that we can talk about process all we want, but unless there is clear direction, not only from a policy viewpoint but also from an internal process viewpoint, we basically get indecision, which is I think what the other two gentlemen were talking about, the thing being up in the hopper for years and years, and what do you get? Nothing. Indecision. It's a self-propagating kind of situation. How would you see that working with respect to the notions that you have encompassed in your brief?
Mr Rivers: I think when you want to empower, when you want to get to quicker decision-making -- and I do sympathize with those comments because I think they're absolutely on the mark -- what we need to do is to clearly have empowerment of delivery at the municipal level, but clear direction as to what they deliver coming from the province.
I think on the land use, my comments, as harsh in some cases as they are, are really because I would like to see a land use policy paper that is very directive, that says, "These are the things that you must do in terms of absolute absolutes." Then there is no indecision on the part of the municipal decision-maker. There is no ambiguity. If you minimize the ambiguity that the municipal decision-maker, who's been elected to make it, has, then he or she has a lot better chance of making the right decision. I think that will simplify the process. That will prevent the kinds of appeals that have been going on.
My comments about the Ontario Municipal Board -- I have watched development proposals that go up and people are afraid to do anything about it. They simply let them pass because they think the OMB will overturn them, or they think the OMB will add to them or they think the OMB will approve them. I think that's the wrong way to have planning in this province.
If the OMB is to be the final planner in this province, then we should get rid of all the planning staff at the municipal level. We clearly need to have one system of planning and that should be at the local level, responsible to local politicians who are elected to make those decisions. I think the more we can do to move in that direction, the better we will be. But they clearly need to have an overall provincial standard, a clear provincial direction in terms of what they should be doing and not be doing. That's where the role of the land use policy paper comes in.
Mr Bisson: I never thought I'd see the day where I'd come to a meeting and agree with a taxpayers' coalition.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Normally you're not supportive of taxpayers?
Mr Bisson: No, it's just I have a bias, obviously, on certain issues. I think you've actually touched the problem. The problem is as you describe it. I have a couple of concerns, however. I could agree with what you're saying if you had really clear policy and you could set out a clear direction and everybody understood what the rules were. Then you say at the local level or regional level or whatever: "Go out and do the job. You're entrusted to do it. Do it well." How do you deal with the situation, as it happens now, where a decision is made at the local level that might not be in keeping with the policies? You have to have some sort of an appeal format. How would you deal with those?
Mr Rivers: I think that is the role of the Ontario Municipal Board, or if you wanted to get rid of the board entirely, there would be a legal process that could be involved through the courts.
Mr Bisson: So you would still favour some sort of an appeal process.
Mr Rivers: Oh, absolutely, but on process; strictly on the process side of it.
Mr Bisson: Okay, I agree, because I've seen it from both sides, both the developer's side and the people who raise concerns where, for whatever reason, a municipality decides to turn a blind eye or turn an eye to an issue one way or another.
The other thing is that you made a comment in here that needs some explanation. You talk about, "There is no need to set up greenfield land reserves at the municipal level." I'd like you to explain that a bit in light of your presentation. I don't want to leave here misunderstanding what you're getting at here.
Mr Rivers: My point is that the whole planning process we underwent from the 1970s on was intended to go on and on through a large number of years, almost indeterminately into perpetuity. We'd set up land divisions: This land would be for development land, residential, industrial; that would be for agriculture; and that would be for other purposes. That process simply fed the whole urban sprawl process and we ended up with a tremendous growth in urban sprawl happening.
Mr Bisson: Don't you still need some sort of an official plan to say, "This is where it makes most sense to have that subdivision go up, rather than next to the aquifer" or whatever?
Mr Rivers: Absolutely, but I think where we should be looking for land is within the confines of our own inefficient development today. The potential for redevelopment is so great and is so needed. That is where we ought to be focusing. The high density models, the forms of development that are efficient in terms of giving us a lower cost of living in our communities and a higher quality of life are the ones this policy should be focusing the municipalities towards.
Mr Bisson: I understand where you're coming from. The last question is, you're talking about development charges; you're saying that development charges should be passed on to developers, not in the tax base.
The Acting Chair: Mr Bisson, sorry for interrupting. Mr Carr.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Thank you very much, Ray, for making the trek all the way in from my area of the country, from Burlington. We're sorry you had to do that, but we appreciate it, because as was mentioned by my colleague, you did bring a different spin that we hadn't heard. I think you're right too about the policy statement being the most important part of this.
In terms of putting it together, if you get the changes you'd like to see in the policy statement, in conjunction with Bill 20 -- I recognize that's a big if, if you get some of the things in there -- those two combined, do you think we can come up with something that you and your organization can then find acceptable to support, if we were to do that?
Mr Rivers: I do. I think the semantics about "with regard to" and "consistent with" are one thing we have to deal with. I would see a strong policy statement, a set of statements perhaps, that clearly require that municipalities pay attention to them and respect them. Then, having said that, it's clearly their responsibility to implement them and we don't constantly have to have them going back for approval to the provincial level or, God help us, if the regions still continue to exist.
Mr Carr: That would be a debate for another day, I guess. I take it your organization's position is that the lower-down levels are far better, that decisions in Burlington would be better, made with the input, because I know you and your colleagues are there on a lot of things, that you can have more input than you can by some bureaucrat in Queen's Park making the decisions.
Mr Rivers: That's absolutely correct. We see the Halton region's role in planning as having been dysfunctional to planning processes within our community. We think that we would have had a lot more accountable decisions being made had Halton region not been playing a role in planning and not been involved in planning.
Mr Carr: Good. Good luck and have a safe trip back.
Mr Hardeman: Carrying on with what Mr Carr was talking about, going back to his if the policy statements were written in such a way as to meet your request, would it still require "to be consistent with" or do you feel the local municipalities would be able to deal with "having regard for" those and then be able to adjust or deal with them as they meet their local community? Would you have enough faith in your local politicians to have that happen?
Mr Rivers: I think you need to give clear direction. That's the important part. When you come down and say, "It has to be this way," who is going to respond to it, the people who elected the politicians, who have been given clear direction that they are seen to violate? Is that going to be the response or will it be some other process with the province?
The other question is, if there's an appeal to the OMB because someone deems the municipality has not given due regard or been consistent with, how is the OMB going to respond? I think you need to weigh those. I would prefer the stronger one, quite frankly, because I think it gives a much clearer signal to the municipalities.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Rivers, for your presentation and for appearing today.
COBOURG AND DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Acting Chair: Our next delegation is the building industry network and environment committee of the Cobourg and District Chamber of Commerce. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Mr Bob Clark: My name is Bob Clark. I am co-chair of the building industry network and environment committee of the chamber of commerce, and with me is Frank Godfrey. Our presentation to you will be a two-part presentation. I believe you have some written material in front of you; I'll go through the first part of it; Frank will follow up with the concluding remarks.
I'd first like to explain that the building industry network and environment committee is a standing committee of the Cobourg and District Chamber of Commerce. Our mandate is to reflect the interests of the chamber of commerce members on issues related to the building industry and the environment. The juxtaposition of these two apparently conflicting points of view -- and I underline the word "apparently" -- has opened a rather interesting and I think valuable discussion on the issues that face our community of Cobourg.
By way of background, we've been involved -- certainly I've been involved. I'm a professional planner. I've been involved in the discussions leading up to Bill 163 and would reflect on the fact that there was considerable public input to that, beginning with Crombie's commission and finishing with the Sewell commission and ultimately the bill itself.
The concerns which have been expressed by members of our committee in the discussions we've had with them have been highlighted in the four points provided here: the lessening of the importance of the environment; the ability to ignore provincial policy is another concern we have; the apparent withdrawal of the province from the planning process, and I again underline the word "apparent"; and the potential for confrontation and appeals, which we believe the amendments to the Planning Act have the potential to set up.
By way of elaborating on those points, with respect to the environment and environmental reform, there is a perception in the material that I've read that there is lessening importance of the environment. I think we need to be careful because, as we'll reflect here and as also the previous speaker has indicated, we believe that what is required is a solid set of guidelines or rules within which we can operate.
It has been accepted, and even from the development industry, I believe what they're telling us is that working within a set of guidelines is what -- they want to know what the rules are going in. They don't have any problem meeting the expectations as long as they understand them and they don't change as they go through the process. So what we're looking for, and the suggestion at least here is, a proper balance be maintained between development interests and the environment.
We've reflected on the issue of guidelines and one of our thoughts was that the province, through the Sewell commission and Bill 163 and the comprehensive set of policy statements, started down the road to prepare a set of comprehensive guidelines. We don't claim they finished the exercise by any means, and we're not altogether satisfied with the result as it existed, but at least it was a start, and abandoning that approach, for its comprehensiveness and for its reliance on guidelines, we don't feel is the correct way. We feel it can have dramatic consequences, and particularly we reflect on our own community which is a smaller community without the benefit of a regional level -- we'll talk about that in a moment -- of government to provide the broader context within which local planning can be done.
With respect to our comments on the province appearing to remove itself from the process, it's not clear how effective this removal will be because in our reading of Bill 20, there is still a lot of Bill 163 in place. The biggest move seems to be the re-establishment of the "have regard to" approach, and as we'll reflect on in a few minutes, we're not so concerned with the wording but with the attitude the wording brings with it. If it's an attitude of being able to ignore, then we have concerns.
The delegation of authority causes us some concern, and as was reflected by the previous speaker, some levels of regional or county government have not been as accountable as local governments have been.
Consultation with agencies has been an ongoing problem. We are concerned about a shortened timetable for that consultation if it means we won't get consultation or effective consultation. If there is a limiting of the means of addressing the agencies, we are concerned about that and we are particularly concerned about staffing limitations, which has nothing to do in particular with Bill 20, but has to do with a lot of what's going on these days in provincial staff.
Again, and we'll emphasize this several more times, we are asking what the rules are, and need to know what the rules are, and the delegation and removal of the detailed guidelines is a concern, and local autonomy, but we ask the question, how much and within which guidelines?
Again, reflecting on the issue of guidelines, the quality control measures were being addressed in Bill 163. We acknowledge that work remained to be done, but at least they were building on a broad consensus.
In summary, we believe there is a legitimate role for the province in the planning process, but that does not remove or mitigate against local autonomy. What is required is the establishment of clear rules and the examples that we have used are floodplain policy or food land guidelines where we've seen implementation at the local level which establishes that autonomy.
One question we would suggest to you is that in your consultation you might consider asking municipal representatives when was the last time they discussed the effectiveness of their own planning program with a provincial representative. What we mean by that is we seem to be focused on issues, focused on particular problems, but in my experience do not often back up and look at the effectiveness of the planning program itself.
Very briefly, intermunicipal guidance is required, and if it's not available at county or municipal planning authorities, then who provides it if it isn't the province? To re-emphasize, in point 7, we believe there is a legitimacy to the province as a planning authority. We believe that one of the results of Sewell's work was to say that there is a legitimate policy approach, and the previous speaker was quite eloquent in putting forward that point of view.
We foresee the opportunity for appeal and confrontation if the issue of delegating to locals is without a framework for discussion. If there is not firm guidance and policy, we believe that delay is a legitimate tactic -- as you've heard from the earlier speakers a couple of speakers ago -- that delay becomes a legitimate tactic for defeating a proposal. The proposed changes, as we see it, are more to the issue of attitude: What attitude are we bringing to the table? Our suggestion is that perhaps Bill 20 under the issue of attitude will lead to protracted site-by-site battles, with increases in costs and in the frequency and length of hearings.
Just so we're not totally negative, we do comment very briefly on some of the details.
The appeal period shortening we support. They're not as short as they were before Bill 163, particularly with regard to referral of private official plan amendments to the board.
We support the removal of a public meeting for subdivisions.
We support the complete application requirements, but are not clear on how that's to be expressed.
The provisions for sewer and water allocations in subdivision approval we believe are reasonable, but we need some direction.
As to the removal of the prescribed contents of an official plan, we're not sure that isn't a backward step.
We support the removal of prematurity as a basis for refusal.
Also, we're concerned about council as the final arbiter for minor variances if that will limit access to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mr Frank Godfrey: I'd like to mention that two of the previous speakers, obviously disgruntled developers, are also members of our chamber of commerce.
We'd like to engage you in a discussion of the one issue which is, in our opinion, fundamental and sets the tone for Bill 20. In our opinion the major concern in Bill 20 is the attitudinal shift as expressed in the change from "be consistent with" to "have regard to." We acknowledge that the change, as it applies to provincial policy statements, reflects the wish to fulfil promises towards disentanglement, municipal empowerment and, ultimately, local responsibility or stewardship.
In our opinion, these are worthy goals. Wise land use decisions can be accomplished at the local level, provided the province continues its role as the collector and developer of best practices and policies as expressed through provincial policy statements, and further, that these policies adhere to the principles of sustainable development. The ongoing necessity to develop best practices and policies is a concern which falls within the realm of provincial ministries. Clearly, municipalities in Ontario, most of which have less than 5,000 in population, as I understand it, do not have the resources in-house for these matters. We believe the people of Ontario fully expect the province to handle matters of provincial interest.
For the development industry, clarity and consistency in land use planning is of paramount importance. Successful developers are extremely focused people, with stringent time lines and clear goals.
When passing through the various stages or gates of the regulatory maze, no good developer would ever complain if he or she were confident that the best interests of our society were being addressed. The product of the industry, be it a house, condominium or country club, must epitomize the best interests of the buyer in the fullest sense of the phrase. If development in the abstract is advancement from a lower to a higher state, a growing, evolving kind of thing, is it appropriate to expect the necessities of ecosystem or watershed approaches in land use to be protected by individuals, without clear rules? Individuals are parts of systems.
In the 19th century, our society built charming communities, often building over streams and filling in wetlands. In those days, we were not forced to consider the health of the ecosystem. Times change. A friend asked me once, "What's so wrong with what we did then, considering the charming towns we have now?" Well, in those days we also pumped raw sewage into our streams, something which is, or should be, unthinkable today.
Regulations should make us do the right thing. Deregulating without clear guidelines solves nothing. Reducing all the complexities to the philosophical dialogue of public interest versus property rights is useful only in the sense that sustainable development is the only goal that can possibly work. The balance has to be struck between these two forces, and it can't be achieved if the province steps back. These are our concerns.
Mr Len Wood: On the wording change to "have regard to" from "be consistent with," we've heard, in the two days I've been involved, 90% of the presenters say that the province should have a policy, it should be laid out clearly, and any development should be consistent with that; never mind having the fuzzy words "have regard to" and letting the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing dictate from the top. And they can just ignore that; they've had regard to, but that doesn't mean anything. Everything is going to bulldoze ahead, like they did with the bully bill, Bill 26, with no public consultation, just ram it through. I just wanted to make that comment in support of your presentation.
Mr Bisson: I don't know what to think about Cobourg. First the fair tax commission, next the chamber of commerce, and we're in agreement. That's pretty interesting, for New Democrats anyway.
I'd just echo the comments of my colleague Mr Wood. I also want to bring your attention to page 2 and make sure I understand what you're saying. You say, "The province appears to be removing itself from the process," and then: "It is not clear how effective this removal will be. There is still a lot of Bill 163 in place." Your brief seems to be not so much in support of Bill 163 but the principles, I take it is what you're getting at.
Mr Clark: I think what we're getting at is that 163 led us down the path of looking at specific guidelines. What we're concerned about is that we seem to be moving back from that. That's the issue here. But a lot of 163 is still there. Provincial policy interests are still established there. In our opinion, the most significant part is that the wording change seems to suggest an attitude towards policy, and it's the attitude we're concerned about.
Mr Bisson: You said you're a planner by trade, and there were some comments before. I don't think the problem is the planners. I think the problem is that we need to have consistent policies that the planners work towards. I tend not to blame the planners and the bureaucrats for the biggest part of the problem, because they're only following the direction set out under the Planning Act. I just put that on the record. We need clearer policies. That's what it comes down to.
Mr Clark: On behalf of planners, I thank you for that.
Mr Murdoch: I guess I must have been in a different committee from Mr Wood for the past few days, because his figures are a little distorted. That's fine. He thought he got a 90% approval rating, but I'm afraid he must have misunderstood a lot of people.
On page 2, you mention severance policy and use the example of Grey county. Maybe you could explain that, because I happen to come from Grey county.
Mr Clark: The issue with severance policy, at least from my experience, has been that there's been a lot of ability to deal with it locally without absolute or firm guidance from the province, and then the province, for whatever reason, decided it needed to step in. It made an example of Grey county; that was the most obvious place, which is not to say it was the only place. I don't believe it's good enough to step in after the problem. I believe there needs to be the guidance up front. What I have learned through my experience as a planner is that the province's role is to provide some of that backup and support for the local decision-maker.
Mr Murdoch: There wasn't a problem there; they didn't need to step in. I'll remind you of that. There wasn't a problem there. The province created the problem in this case. I could point out that Hastings, which isn't that far away, actually had more severances than Grey county. Unfortunately, as you said, they picked Grey. I don't think it was the obvious choice either. Well, with the socialist government, it might have been. I just thought we'd better clarify that, because there were a lot of other places, and the government thought it could make an example of us.
Mr Clark: I accept your clarification.
Mr Murdoch: It didn't work either; they tried to take over, but it didn't work.
I think the new words will give back local autonomy. I know you're concerned, but before they changed it so you had to be consistent with, the province had then, as it does now, the chance to take someone to the OMB if it's felt they do not have regard for. The problem we hear time after time from developers, and other people too, is that the process is too long. We're trying to streamline it with a one-window approach through Municipal Affairs. That's not to say that the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources can't sit down with Municipal Affairs and say, "Look, this is not adhering to what we'd like to see, so we'd better either take this to the OMB or sit down with the developer and try to work it out." But it still does give some local autonomy, and if we don't get back to that, I think we're in real trouble. The people who get elected in local municipalities are closer to the people than anybody, after all, and this is what we're trying to do here.
I will agree with you, though. I think there's too much of Bill 163 in Bill 20. I'll agree with you on that.
Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to first of all congratulate the chamber for coming up with a brief like this. When you go around the province for a while, you pretty well know where every interest group of a particular kind is coming from, and yours is totally different from what would normally have been expected from a chamber of commerce, which is very refreshing. It's maybe because we're in Cobourg, which is a very historic and beautiful city, especially its downtown. It's obviously a situation where the development community, the general public and the municipal council have worked well together over the years to make sure you retain the kind of downtown you have here, of a very historic nature. What's probably made it happen is that people have stepped out of their expected roles into something better than that, to try to actually work things out.
That's the kind of thing I've been talking about over the last two to three weeks, particularly this whole notion of guidelines. There have to be guidelines, and there have to be internal protocols within ministries so we can make it work, not to have the kind of experiences the other two gentlemen had. I know nothing about their developments; their developments may very well have been totally inappropriate. But somebody very early on in the game should have told them that, rather than just stringing them along, indecision, nobody knows what they're doing, and it just piles up, money after money, and doesn't do anybody any good.
I want to congratulate you. It's not the kind of presentation we expect from a chamber of commerce, but it's highly refreshing to get it, because it obviously means it's working in this community.
Mr Clark: May I make one or two comments on that? My experience in this community is that there is an ability to discuss across lines. I support your notion, but I would phrase it that way. I find that the level of discussion here about municipal issues is quite open and quite thorough.
Second, I would like to go back to an earlier statement, and I think it relates to yours as well. The area of support that I believe a municipal council is looking for is access to provincial expertise and, as Frank has expressed it, maintaining the best practices in a catalogue so that the municipality can know it's on solid ground and proceeding in a reasonable way. I believe they do need that level of support to be able to continue.
Mr Gerretsen: We also have to get to the notion that the general public, in making comments on development, aren't always negative comments. Quite often they can make a development a much better development at the end result if their comments and attitudes and approach to this thing are taken into account. Too often, I think the development industry in general -- there's this notion that if the general public gets in, it's something negative. That's at least been my experience, having sat on all three sides of the fence over the last 20 years: from a municipal viewpoint, from a developer's viewpoint and from a general public viewpoint. It can work well together if the parties really want it to work.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your presentation today.
SAVE THE GANARASKA AGAIN
The Acting Chair: Our next delegation is SAGA, Save the Ganaraska Again.
Mrs Katherine Guselle: I'm going to introduce myself by saying my name is Katherine Guselle, and I'm chair of the group called SAGA, Save the Ganaraska Again. I also have Niva Rowan, our secretary-treasurer; she'll be participating in any questions you might have.
Just so you'll have some idea of where we are coming from, I brought a picture which I'm going to pass around. This is Lake Ontario. This was taken from four miles out in space, and this dark area here is the Ganaraska forest. You'll see, as you get a closer look at it, the river coming through all the fields down to the lake. This is Port Hope, and that's Cobourg, where you are right now.
We really appreciate this opportunity to speak to you today. SAGA was formed in 1988 by citizens concerned about bad planning. We were incorporated in 1989, and our current membership of 334 people and two large groups is drawn from Durham region and Northumberland county. Our objectives are attached. They're on the very back page of our package.
We're restricting our comments to the Planning Act section of Bill 20. Our comments on the rewritten policy statement will be submitted separately.
We've done our submission in five sections: We'd like to tell you why we are concerned; we'd like to tell you about SAGA's participation in the land use planning system; general observations on streamlining the system; some specific comments; and some conclusions.
Our home base is in the headwaters area of the Ganaraska River, which is the last pristine watershed in the greater Toronto area. Because of deforestation and insensitive agricultural practices in the last century, the area had become, by the 1940s, a desert of sand dunes, denuded landscape and flooding river. The Progressive Conservative government of the time then commissioned a study of the area, which culminated in the reforestation of a large portion of the watershed -- 11,000 acres -- which is now the Ganaraska forest in the picture, the dark area in the picture. It's amazing that it shows up from four miles in space.
This was the first conservation project in the province and the model for all conservation authorities that followed. The passing of the Conservation Authorities Act and the creation of the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, are the direct result of the last environmental crisis in this area brought about by inappropriate land uses.
Our home base headwaters area is also on the south slope of the Oak Ridges moraine. The Oak Ridges moraine is a land form of far-reaching hydrogeologic significance in southern Ontario. It serves as an important groundwater recharge area and filtration system which many rural communities and farming areas depend on for their drinking water. It also acts as the source for 18 major watercourses that flow into Lake Ontario and 12 which flow into Lake Simcoe within the greater Toronto area alone. One of those, the Don River in Toronto, is a prime example of the inexcusable destruction of our valuable water resource as a result of inappropriate urban development and related activities.
Durham's population is slated to grow to 1,100,000 in the revised official plan of June 1991. In 1988, over 1,000 acres in a very small, sensitive area in the headwaters, far from any other settlement in our region, was land-banked by developers hoping to cash in before the plan was approved. With almost no environmental data against which to measure or predict what this change in use could mean, and concerned about the lack of planning controls, we formed an organization to participate in the land use planning process and bring about sensible change. Hence our name: SAGA, Save the Ganaraska Again.
Today, we have as our economic base one of the most diverse farming areas in Ontario, because our water source allows us to farm successfully. We need our food lands; we cannot afford to compromise them. We have never been against development, just against bad development. SAGA has always supported comprehensive planning on an ecosystem basis. To us, that means looking at the context in making planning decisions and predicting and monitoring cumulative effects. We believe that given the right environmental framework, we can have ample responsible development and the prosperity it brings. Particularly in these days of tight budgets and huge deficits, we understand the importance of wise development.
We've come today to speak from several years of experience in the land use system in Ontario.
At our beginning, we realized that environmental considerations were shockingly weak in the Planning Act of 1983, and applied for designation of the headwaters area under the Environmental Assessment Act. Instead of the designation, the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee held a full type-A hearing on the planning and approvals process in the Ganaraska headwaters area. Their report was damning of the planning process in Ontario, was widely circulated for comment and received unprecedented public support for its recommendations.
Several other initiatives have followed, largely on the strength of report 38.
The Liberal government named MPP Ron Kanter to do a greenlands study of the GTA and expressed a provincial interest in the Oak Ridges moraine, with implementation guidelines to be followed while a planning strategy was developed. The Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto Waterfront, led by the Honourable David Crombie, in its interim report enlarged the area of study to include recommendations on the Oak Ridges moraine. This report endorsed the ecosystem approach to planning.
In June 1991, the Minister of Municipal Affairs of the then-New Democratic government announced the establishment of the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario, to be chaired by John Sewell. In her response to report 38 from the EAAC, minister Ruth Grier refers to its direct relevance to planning in the Ganaraska watershed.
SAGA has actively participated in all of these policymaking initiatives. We have also had successful input into the reviews of the Durham regional official plan and the municipality of Clarington official plan. We've twice fought development applications at the Ontario Municipal Board, one of which was a test of the Oak Ridges moraine implementation guidelines. When it comes to planning, we've been there, done that.
Before I begin to highlight some sections of the bill, I'd like to dwell for a few moments on some concepts that are being touted as the rationale behind Bill 20. These concepts are based not on logic but on fallacies, and like many fallacies, they're being used to promote biased, self-serving intent.
One fallacy is that to remove controls will actually streamline or speed up the planning process. With the weaker language of this bill, which I will address in a minute, the lack of requirement for compliance with policy takes away the element of certainty and creates a climate for greater confrontation, slowing down approvals and increasing costs for everyone involved.
The second fallacy is to think that it will restore the balance between environmental and economic concerns. These concerns were never in balance until Bill 163. The balance was always skewed in favour of ad hoc processing of applications that gave no weight to environmental considerations.
A third fallacy is that environmental planning is bad for business, that business interests supersede the public interest in a healthy environment. In discussing Bill 20, Tom Stricker, president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association, is quoted as saying: "Less is better. There will be fewer obstacles to building, and that is good. We need confidence that if you purchase a piece of land, you can do something with it."
I was taught by politics professor J.A. Corry, later principal of Queen's University, that any man's right to swing his arm ends where the other man's nose begins. This precept, upon which our society is based, means that you can only do something with a piece of property you purchase if it doesn't affect your neighbour adversely. That requires the land use planning process to ensure, through a system of checks and balances, that every form of development is environmentally benign.
Robert F. Kennedy has been quoted as saying: "We've been told time and time again that we have to choose between economic prosperity or environmental protection. That is a false choice. Good environmental policy 100% of the time is identical to good economic policy if we want to measure our economy on how it produces jobs over the generations. If, on the other hand, we want to convert our natural resources to cash and have a few years of pollution-based prosperity, we can do that. And we can produce the illusion that we're doing well, but our children are going to pay for our joy ride. And they're going to pay for it in terms of denuded landscapes, contaminated environments that they're not going to be able to regenerate."
And to quote from a Toronto Star editorial: "Good planning is in fact a spur to economic growth, while bad planning costs taxpayers. It encourages inefficient use of existing infrastructure and forces up the demand for more -- sewer lines, highways, transit -- to service far-flung developments."
A fourth fallacy, and a major thrust of this bill, is that municipalities can be relied upon to have the expertise and the political will to ensure that environmental issues are adequately addressed without provincial prescription. This is flying in the face of past experience, and at the very least will bring about inconsistencies that are so disastrous for cross-jurisdictional things like watersheds. There's always someone downstream or upstream, and they might have a different set of values that ignore the greater good.
A fifth fallacy is that our current Planning Act doesn't reflect what the taxpayers of Ontario want. The work of the Sewell commission on new planning for Ontario has to be seen as an admirable compromise between all competing interests. Bill 163 was reached with a great deal of public input, nearly two years of intense public discussion and compromise. By the time the final report was issued in 1993, 23,000 people had spoken directly to the commissioners. It is arrogant to assume that disregarding all this effort is really better for the province. It is irresponsible to scrap a lot of promising work based on those new policies. Clarington's new official plan is proving that the policies are implementable, to give but one example.
Bill 20 was devised without any public consultation. You've arranged these hearings now. We hope that you're not only listening but also really hearing what we are saying. What we're saying to you is that to proceed with Bill 20 is shortsighted in the extreme, callously disregarding of the needs of the people of this province, and will set Ontario's land use planning back 40 years. In short, it's just plain wrong.
Now I'd like to address some specific comments on the bill. Based on all of the above, I will briefly touch on sections of the bill that are our chief concerns.
Section 1, narrowing the definition of "public body" to exclude all the ministries other than the Ministry of Municipal Affair and Housing. This so-called one window approach, which will have the effect of removing the ability of other ministries to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, is wrong. Other ministries, such as the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment and Energy, deal with environmental and land use issues and need to provide meaningful input into the land use planning system. Presumably the intent is to filter their comments through MMAH, but that circumvents the public and makes the process more cumbersome.
Section 2: The power to prescribe other matters to be of provincial interest has been removed. It's imperative that the minister have the discretion to put on hold such things as controversial development to allow for further assessment. This is an important aspect of the checks and balances of our system. As stated above, local governments, particularly rural, don't have the expertise to assess sensitive areas, and often the political will is easily influenced.
Subsections 3(5) and 3(6): "Be consistent with" is changed back to "have regard to policy statements." To return to this ineffective wording is one of the greatest follies of this bill. In the past, municipalities have interpreted this inconsistently. Some have taken this to mean they can apply policy statements with flexibility, some not. All they have to do is look at the policy and do what they want.
SAGA has had its own experience of this. As previously mentioned, one of our cases before the OMB, although not relative to a policy statement, was a test of the guidelines for, and provincial interest in, the Oak Ridges moraine, which the chairman had to have regard to. The chairman stated that he had regarded the guidelines and then made the decision that they didn't need to be applied in their entirety.
The loss of this specific language means the inability to achieve upfront planning, a return to site-specific battles, increased uncertainty, needless delays, and costly and protracted OMB challenges. This is a return to "let's make a deal" development, ad hoc decisions, rather than comprehensive planning requiring consistency with provincial policy.
Section 5: The minister is authorized to relinquish approval of plans and official plan amendments. The province is not delegating its responsibility to approve plans to upper-tier municipalities; it is abdicating that responsibility. With the removal of the necessity to have official plans be consistent with provincial policy, this abdication will undoubtedly result in plans being developed without sufficient environmental protections.
Section 8: The power to prescribe the contents of official plans is removed. For the sake of clarity, consistency and certainty, it's extremely important for the province to give direction on the issues that need to be included in official plans. Only in this way will all major planning issues be addressed.
A background study for the Sewell commission had the following findings:
"Perhaps more significant is the fact that close to 87% of all applications for OPA applications to municipalities were approved and that only 3% of these were refused by the minister. Clearly many of the official plans involved were either provided little planning guidance and/or were used primarily as development control documents."
Also, they summarized from their interviews:
"Municipalities with high growth rates generally thought that official plans could or should be more specific to avoid or prevent numerous ad hoc changes."
Section 13: Regarding time frames for appeal rights, the right to appeal to the municipal board if the council or planning board does not make a decision on a request for an amendment within 90 days, this is far too short a time, as it does not allow adequate time for study by the municipality to determine the rightness of some applications. Pressure is put on municipalities to make hasty decisions on their future directions, and worst of all, by doing so, assumes that amendments are almost a matter of course.
Sections 29 and 30: The authority to acquire public meetings is removed for consents to sever land and for plans of subdivision. Again, public input is necessary to retain the checks and balances of the system. This is not democratic. A community has a right to know where development is proposed. Also, the shortening of the time frame for appeals in respect of a proposed plan of subdivision or for a consent is putting undue pressure to make hasty and ill-considered decisions.
Mike Harris wants to "clear away obstacles to economic growth in Ontario." We fail to see what obstacles, particularly as it pertains to planning. The "greened" Planning Act has not had a chance to be tested; the Sewell commission recommended a five-year period for the workings to become smooth. It is likely that some of the guidelines need reworking, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you want to be a Progressive Conservative government, you will not proceed with these retrogressive steps.
As politicians, you must be constantly aware of the terrible power you hold to regulate other people's lives. But you must realize that your lives and your children's lives depend on healthy water, soil and air, and these depend on proper environmental protection in our planning legislation. I think Robert F. Kennedy said it well:
"My hope is that we'll be able to preserve nature. It's the foundation of our economy. If we destroy those things, we are going to leave our children a world that is impoverished intellectually and spiritually and economically."
Thank you very much for listening.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. Unfortunately, we've used our entire 20-minute allocation. Thank you for appearing.
Mrs Guselle: Best of luck with your work. You're all very attentive. Thank you.
TOWN OF COBOURG
The Acting Chair: The next delegation is the corporation of the town of Cobourg, if the representatives would like to come forward, please.
Mr Bill MacDonald: My name is Bill MacDonald. I'm the coordinator of planning and development on the council of the town of Cobourg. With me is Mayor Joan Chalovich. I'll be speaking today. The mayor unfortunately has a bit of laryngitis and may restrict her comments to answering any questions afterwards.
Mr Bisson: Surely not because she's short of words.
Mr MacDonald: No, no. Politicians are never that.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to address the standing committee on resources development on Bill 20. In speaking here today, we are voicing the opinions of the Cobourg council and members of some of the advisory groups that we've had the opportunity to consult with.
We'd like to commence by stating that generally, with some exceptions noted hereafter, the Cobourg council supports the position taken by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. We feel that authority to plan should be given to municipalities so that they can develop and implement the priorities which, in consultation with local citizenry, they have envisioned. We feel here in Cobourg we have the resources and the expertise to develop well-rounded, comprehensive plans that make sound use of good planning practices.
As I have previously mentioned, there are several areas where the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has either taken a position we disagree with or is silent on the issue. I'd like to take the opportunity to elaborate on these issues.
We wish to specifically comment on the streamlining changes proposed in the bill. We see the need to establish, either by bylaw or official plan policy, the definition of what constitutes a complete application. In this manner, we see that we have an effective tool which will eliminate needless haggling with developers as to what is a complete application. This may avert needless appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board and will provide staff the maximum allowable time to evaluate proposals under the new time frames. This, in our judgement, is a necessary tool for good municipal planning.
The next issue relates to the provision for delegation of plan of subdivision to local municipalities that have permanent planning staff. Cobourg had applied for this right under the previous government, but this application was deferred with the passing of Bill 163. We would like to see this provision reintroduced in the legislation. We feel that we have a strong, effective staff that has the knowledge and the resources to effectively guide this process. This would be of particularly effective use in Cobourg as Northumberland county, the upper-tier level of local government here, does not have an official plan. Neither is it likely to develop one in the short or medium term, as the county was not one of those listed as a priority in Bill 163.
We have been advised by our environmental advisory committee that it fears that there may be some weakening of the protection of the environment in the official plans. We support their concerns to the extent that the province should continue to have due regard for protection of the environment and not disband the safeguards presently in place. The current Cobourg council is committed to maintaining existing practices and relies upon our environmental advisory committee to provide advice and comments on environmental issues relating to new development plans. We cannot, however, bind future councils to the same commitment. We feel these new policies will only lead to conflict over the environment, attitudes to development and different senses of protection levels. This will have the opposite result to the one you are seeking: Development costs may rise because of the cost of conflict.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario is suggesting that variances be delegated to staff. Our experience leads us to believe that this delegation may not be appropriate. Cobourg has used our free-standing committee of adjustment, and we prefer this non-biased approach to variance applications. If this bill were to be amended to allow for this, it would be preferable to leave it as an option rather than a requirement.
Representatives of Cobourg council have had several meetings with west and central Northumberland municipality representatives to discuss the formation of a municipal planning authority. It is obvious already from our discussions that the rural municipalities have concern with an urban-rural municipal planning authority mix, particularly the weighting of voting powers to give representation by population count. On the other hand, we're not interested in having our town become part of a planning authority if the voting is to be skewed with respect to overrepresentation of rural interests, as currently exists in the county of Northumberland. County politicians have been aware of this inequity for many years but have made no moves to remedy this, as is evidenced by the county's private member's bill currently filed with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, a copy of which is on file with our local member. In this regard, we strongly support the provision which will allow the minister, on request, to establish a committee or commission to examine local boundary situations with regard to providing a solution where all local attempts at compromise have failed.
It is also our understanding that all of the policies and regulations have not been put in place with regard to Bill 26 relating to amendments to the Development Charges Act and, in addition, that further amendments concerning the act are under consideration for this bill. We suggest that such changes should be clearer, allowing municipalities to develop formats easily, without undue cost and complexity, keeping in mind that the government has already significantly reduced funding for municipal government while at the same time theoretically expanding responsibilities to municipalities. Given the new situation, lower-level governments need flexibility to meet expanded demands and responsibilities. Complicated formulas and account requirements may require additional accounting time and outlay for accounting expense. In addition, if there are restrictions on what can be used to justify development charges, this further restricts the flexibility of municipalities to meet the legitimate needs of communities as they expand. We would strongly advise that municipalities be allowed as much flexibility in this matter as possible.
In summary, we are generally supportive of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario position regarding Bill 20 and the pertinent policy with the noted exceptions of: (1) the delegation of subdivision approval; (2) defining a complete development application; (3) strengthening environmental protection; (4) minor variances. I've added on my own copy here, and you could in yours, development charges.
I would again like to thank the committee for the opportunity of addressing you on this matter. I will not read from the text, but we also gave copies of our environmental advisory committee's concerns, which I covered to some extent in here as well. That completes my presentation and I'm available for questions if there are any from any members of the committee.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have just over four minutes per caucus for questions, commencing with Mr O'Toole.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much for an interesting presentation. I gather you are involved primarily in planning with Cobourg council.
Mr MacDonald: Yes. We work with I guess I could call it a cabinet type of situation, and each member has an area of responsibility.
Mr O'Toole: I will just ask you a very specific question. Do you think that planning is an exact science, whether it's policy-driven or regulation-driven?
Mr MacDonald: I don't think it's an exact science, no.
Mr O'Toole: Do you think that when you go to an OMB case you're going to see two planners, both perhaps with graduate degrees, arguing the opposite sides of the same issue?
Mr MacDonald: I'm not quite sure that I'm following you.
Mr O'Toole: When you're at an OMB hearing and there are an applicant and a person opposing it, you have two planners and theorists arguing on opposite sides of the same issue, how can it be an exact science when it's a matter of perceived outcomes in planning?
Mr MacDonald: To answer your question, I wouldn't say that it is an exact science, that there's going to have to be --
Mr O'Toole: Do you think that Bill 20 and/or Bill 163, for that matter, are centralist views of planning?
Mr MacDonald: Bill 163?
Mr O'Toole: Yes, and some of the parts of --
Mr MacDonald: In my philosophy, I guess I would say it's more centre-driven. It's much more extensive, my understanding is, in terms of the laying out of policies and guidelines, in terms of trying to achieve consistency throughout the province and trying to meet certain minimum standards. I believe that was the rationale for the bill.
Mr O'Toole: Yes, to have centred policies, provincially-driven. Now who are the primary decision-makers of first choice, local councils or the provincial government, for a community like Cobourg? Perhaps the mayor could respond.
Mr MacDonald: Sure.
Mr O'Toole: Would you like the local community to account to its community or Queen's Park?
Ms Joan Chalovich: I would like the local community to account to its community.
Mr O'Toole: Do you think Bill 20 suggests that the local community has much more of a role in planning in Ontario than Bill 163 did?
Ms Chalovich: This is the reason why we can say that basically we are supportive of what you're endeavouring to do. However, we think that you have some fine-tuning to do because we feel that our town of Cobourg, with our planning department and our staff, can do even more than what we're doing now. We're saying, give us the opportunity, fine-tune it a bit and let us get on and do our job. But we're also acknowledging that we can't hold future elected representatives to the philosophy of our current council. So it's probably not a good thing for the province to feel that all local governments can act with the same level of responsibility. There have to be some safeguards. So don't throw them all out.
Mr O'Toole: I can kind of agree with that. We're always looking for balance, and not always a political balance. There has to be some basis in theory, and the motives for those theories are also subject to change, as the economy is and people's needs to exist change.
I guess the last question I have is, would you believe that development has a rightful place and it shouldn't be termed as a bad thing?
Mr MacDonald: I think development and developers have a place in the community. I would agree with that.
Mr Gerretsen: I would hope that developers and development have a place in our communities or else we'd still be where we were 100 years ago. But that's not the issue. The issue is how many --
Mr O'Toole: Where has it been for seven years?
Mr Gerretsen: The issue is, what role does the general public play in this, what role does the province play in this and what role do municipalities play in this? You're very fortunate here in Cobourg to have a very good planning department, but there are a lot of small communities that don't have. Don't you think it would be helpful for the province to have guidelines, for a provincial policy statement to be as directive and as firm as possible?
Mr MacDonald: Certainly it would reduce ambiguity. I think, especially in the environmental area, we did point out that ambiguity may lengthen the process and increase the costs as you get not only planners but lawyers arguing over the vagueness of certain policies.
Mr Gerretsen: Exactly, and it's the ambiguity of those statements that allow these matters to come before the OMB. The less ambiguity the less money myself as a lawyer and other people around here as lawyers would make in this thing.
Let me ask you this. I've been dying to ask somebody this the whole day. We're sitting here in a beautiful development, but I'm sure that some of the people downtown had some other ideas about this when it was built. Is that correct? Yes or no?
Mr MacDonald: It's a little before my time on council, but I think I can --
Mr MacDonald: I would suspect that at the time of the development --
Mr Bisson: The answer's yes. Say yes.
Ms Chalovich: I'm going to speak up and say yes because we're the test case for the province where there were some councillors who were sued for conflict of interest opposing the mall.
Mr Bisson: That's right.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm not thinking of a conflict of interest so much. What I'm saying is that good planning is like beauty, you know, it's in the eye of the beholder. Some people love this development and some people downtown maybe love something else, so it's not as exact a science as Mr O'Toole would like to suggest.
Mr O'Toole: I didn't suggest that it was.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm curious. How many appeals have you had for minor variances in this community over, let's say, the last five years?
Mr MacDonald: I'd say two or three.
Mr Gerretsen: Two or three. Did the OMB do the right thing in those two or three from a municipal viewpoint?
Mr Baird: They haven't heard back yet.
Mr MacDonald: Quite frankly, given the cost of appearing at OMB hearings, the town has taken a policy position that if an individual appeals a decision of the committee of adjustment to the OMB, we just let it stand and we don't appear.
Mr Gerretsen: Okay. I just want to know where your brief is coming from. You're basically talking about a committee of council in council, but you don't really address the issue. Would you be opposed to having a final appeal from a minor variance go to the OMB?
Mr MacDonald: No, we would not be opposed to having a variance appeal go to the OMB. The town has taken a position, again related to cost, that minor variance decisions made by our free-standing committee are not appealed by the town. The only appeals that have occurred in the last four years that I can speak of have been the two or three people who didn't like the decision of the committee and we just let it go and we sent our research in and let that be.
Mr Gerretsen: Right. So the town doesn't take a position on it. It's basically between the applicant and whoever objects to it.
Mr MacDonald: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: Or the other way around.
Mr MacDonald: Yes, sort of thing. I guess our thrust, and perhaps I misunderstood what the AMO policy statement was, is that we don't see minor variances as being an administrative thing. It still needs to be a political process. That may be the thrust of --
Mr Gerretsen: It depends how minor it is.
Mr MacDonald: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: If it's six inches off, couldn't it be an administrative thing?
Mr MacDonald: I suppose so, but when you're dealing with property rights, people tend to like to think that they have an accountable process in place.
Mr Bisson: Maybe you can help me a little bit here because I think there is a bit of confusion that might be set here in regard to this particular presentation. I just want to make sure I'm not misinterpreting what you're saying.
You're saying in the summary of your brief that you believe that there needs to be, in your words, "strengthening environmental protection" in the planning area overall. At the same time, I heard the mayor saying -- I don't have the exact quote -- that if we don't have clear and consistent policies, you're going to end up with quite different things happening in different municipalities across the province. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think that's what you said.
But where I'm a little bit lost, I can understand if you want to support the general direction of where Bill 20 goes, but you were silent on the question of "have regard to" and "be consistent with." You tend to argue for "being consistent with" and talk about "having regard to." I wonder if you can clarify that because you seem to be saying two different things here.
Mr MacDonald: I think our thrust with regard to "being consistent with" is that we're looking at a specialized area here. We feel that the environmental issues should be stronger. In other areas we think that there should be some delegation of authority to allow variation in the local content and input, but the environment is an important area that needs to be a little stronger than the rest of the policy-driven areas.
Mr Bisson: What you're saying then is that the province should work not through policies but through laws?
Mr MacDonald: Either legislation and regulation or policy.
Mr Bisson: But if it's legislation, you have no ability to do anything else but follow it, and if it's policy, you're saying you want to "have regard to" it, you don't want to "be consistent with" it. Do you follow where I'm coming from?
Mr MacDonald: I think so. I'd say that in the area of the environment, we would see the need for stronger -- I don't know if we would say it's a legislative thing but at least stronger policy, more specific policy.
Mr Bisson: Should the council follow the policy? That's what I'm asking.
Mr MacDonald: In our regard, yes. In that area, yes.
Mr Bisson: So you'd have to be consistent with the policy?
Mr MacDonald: In that area, yes, I would say okay, but in other areas let the council and the local citizenry develop their plans, keeping in mind the strong regard for the environment.
Mr Bisson: Okay, I've got you. I just want to say -- and you might not have been here this morning -- but the more and more I listen to this debate, and this is the second time around on this issue, the more and more I'm starting to become convinced that really what you need to have is a clarification of the policies and then give them to the municipalities and people responsible for local planning so that both developers and the people who are enforcing the Planning Act clearly understand what it is they've got to do and what is the litmus test they've got to meet to get their project through.
The second thing I would ask you, would you favour -- and I take it you already spoke to that in your brief -- but would we not be better served if we went to a regional or an area or a larger planning body of some type other than just the local municipalities themselves having that responsibility shared over a larger geographic area? Then you'd have regional planning authorities and they would follow the policies through the Planning Act with some sort of an appeal process. Would you favour that?
Mr MacDonald: I think you've touched on a touchy subject in this area.
Mr Bisson: The boss wants to talk.
Mr MacDonald: I'll let the mayor answer.
Mr Bisson: The boss wants to talk.
Mr MacDonald: Yes, I realize that.
Mr Bisson: Let's get her in there.
Ms Chalovich: I'll try my voice on this one. The problem is when you get out through the rural areas, we have situations where you have towns that are part of counties. We have a skewed voting power at the second level and, unless you're able to fix that up, it won't work.
Mr Bisson: That's the challenge.
Ms Chalovich: That's right. You're really into a situation that unless we can deal with the boundaries across this province and get ourselves into working clusters of common interest, we've got a problem. You can't fix the Planning Act up unless you fix up the representation.
Mr Bisson: If you can fix that, you'd support it.
Ms Chalovich: That's right.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for coming forward today. We appreciate your presentation.
TOWNSHIP OF HALDIMAND
The Vice-Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to our hearing process this afternoon. I invite you to introduce yourselves, please.
Mrs Jane Kelly: Jane Kelly, councillor, township of Haldimand.
Mr Bill Finley: My name is Bill Finley, the reeve of Haldimand township. I will go first. I asked Jane if she'd like to go first, and she said no.
My presentation, which I have handed in here today, basically covers seven areas. Before I start that, I want to say that I've been in municipal politics for approximately 17 years. I've gone through where we had more county involvement. Then we went into what we called the central Northumberland planning area, which is something like they're looking at now where it's a municipal planning area. We were part of a five-municipality group. The last X number of years, most of the planning has been done right in our local municipalities. So I've actually been able to wear three hats, and many of the things I say here go back to what I've experienced.
The first area of change is delegation of approval authority for local official plans to the county of Northumberland or a master planning authority.
The confusion surrounding this proposed change has already caused concerns in many rural Ontario municipalities. The reason is that initially we were told that we must have a permanent planning department with estimated costs somewhere in the figures of $100,000 to $140,000, and I was very concerned about this.
This approach seems contrary to the current Ontario plan to reduce the costs of government. In order to afford these costs, many of the planning functions currently handled by local governments would be more expensive. We don't need larger cost structures. We need systems which allow us to pay for the services used. Permanent staff is not the way to go. Contract employees, ie, planners, specialists etc, should be used as needed. As we go through these recession-and-boom periods, how are we going to pay a permanent staff if we're not getting money in? I'm very concerned about this. I have been told that possibly we would be able to use contract, and I hope I'm right on that.
An additional concern is the official plan update. The local plan must adhere to the county of Northumberland or the municipal planning authority. Who is going to pay these additional costs to bring our plan in line? We've just gone through many years of totally rebuilding our own plan. We've had people into the ministry and we've just got it so we're within a matter of a few days of being approved. Now we're going to have to go back through and, within a certain amount of time, we're going to have to have that plan come in and conform to this new master plan authority. Where's all this money going to come from?
The township of Haldimand has already operated under a joint planning area, which was scrapped because it was not receptive to local needs. When you move planning away from the local government level, the degree of public input decreases to the stage at which public input is almost non-existent. If you want to streamline planning, reduce the delays at the top layer, because that is where the current problems are. I want to say that in the last six months I have seen a vast improvement in things moving through the system, and I have to give the man we had working with us in the last six weeks a lot of credit, because it was just actually beautiful.
A second area of change, reduction in the time appeal periods, is a step in the right direction. Most people wait until the last possible minute to enter their concerns anyway, so if we cut that back, it means you've got to move quicker.
A third area of change: Our council is already acting as the minor variance committee, and this works very well. We also, as part of our severance approval process, include the conveyance of whatever lot frontage is required in order to correct road deficiencies. We've been doing this for years and it has worked very, very successfully. I can't ever recall a minor variance going to the OMB. I'd have to go back and check.
Next, I do not agree with the proposal to not have a public meeting whenever a plan of subdivision is proposed, and I hope I'm correct on that. A subdivision means a significant change in the normal lifestyle and activities of an area and people must have the opportunity to present their concerns or support.
The next one is section 2 of the bill. Changing the wording "be consistent with" to "have regard to" may make it easier to overcome the issues where specific regulations appear to be cast in stone. I think we're looking for a little bit more flexibility, that hopefully you can work things out.
The next one is that section 30 of the current bill in our municipality did not appear to be a problem. As long as our current system was followed and an effort made to communicate with property owners adjacent to or near the proposed severance, we found the current system worked very well. We have been handling all our severances within our own municipality, and I can say that our council members go out and actually check, walk through the lands, to make sure these severances are what we are actually being told, and that's why local involvement is very important.
I have grave concerns about the ability of school boards to impose a fair level of development charges. At a time when we should be easing off on the financial pressures that private individuals have imposed on them, the school boards will push for every dollar they can get. There is not enough money in Canada to supply our school boards' needs. This is due to the fragmentation of our school system in areas such as buildings, boards, school buses etc, which require financial levels beyond our abilities to pay. I'm not laying blame here, I'm just saying we've got so much fragmentation, and there's talk of even more. I don't know where it's going to all end.
I want to give to you example. When Haldimand township imposed our current lot levy, approximately $2,850, our planner recommended a $7,000 figure, and we fought him. We said: "No way. We're not going to shut this township down." My experience is that they go for the top dollar. This shows that even our experts have very little concern at times about the costs and how it affects our taxpayers.
In summary, many of the changes being proposed are good, but the one that affects our taxpayers the most, ie, the removal of subdivision approvals, official plan amendments and site plan approvals to a permanently staffed, full-time municipal planning authority, can only increase costs which are already too high. The municipal planning authority must not become the new mini-school board or the conservation authority. Those also started small and just kept growing and growing, and that's the whole thing. You've got to be careful. They ended up expanding to the stage where funding became a burden.
We need user-pay systems, and contract employees at municipal planning authority levels who charge known rates so that whenever their expertise is used, the local municipality and the private developer pay only for work needed.
Any attempt to remove severance approvals from the local municipality to an upper-tier government will take us back 20 years to a system which didn't work, didn't investigate, didn't communicate, and was viewed as an obstacle to all who tried to operate under the centralized system.
Thank you for this opportunity to express my views.
Mrs Kelly: My approach is perhaps a little more philosophical. In 1994 I ran for municipal politics, and I'm presently a councillor at the township of Haldimand. I don't pretend to be a planning expert nor a legal expert. I am, however, dedicated to my job and to my community.
Our council is in touch with people, perhaps more so than in many urban municipalities. Above all, our council listens to local concerns, translates rules and governs local development. In order to function as effectively as we do, we are dependent upon support systems, our official plan, and of course provincial agencies: the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and the conservation authority. These agencies have in the past given direction as well as support, guiding the municipality through difficult decisions and helping with conflict resolution.
At present, provincial services are being withdrawn, leaving municipal governments without backup. Time and time again we are hearing that these agencies are no longer in the service delivery business. In the past, when a municipality was weak, these agencies could step into the void to ensure that proper planning took place by appealing to the OMB. The best planning decisions are not necessarily the easiest, and many councils need support to make these difficult long-term decisions.
Although here I'm not being critical of professional planning agencies, I don't feel they have a vested interest in the very long-term planning decisions of this province. They're interested in perhaps making their year-end budget and that sort of thing. I question whether they're developing long-range plans for the province.
The provincial government should have planning direction well into the 21st century. Planning for our children should not be left to the municipal planning authorities, which are political and which need only refer to the planning act.
This government is abdicating its planning responsibilities and at the same time withdrawing structures which allow municipal councils to operate within the community. We are on our own.
I'm here today to ask you for leadership. Please provide us with a decisive framework within which to work. As you know from history, strong leadership and trust are essential to the survival of communities. Lest we forget, you and I are sailors on the ship called Community. One would hope that Captain Leach is at the helm with a proper set of charts. With a sturdy ship and a united crew, we will then reach the port and enjoy prosperity. Please do not impose planning reform so vaguely as to jeopardize the relationship enjoyed between lower-tier municipalities and their constituents.
I stressed at the beginning of this presentation that I was not a planning authority. I do, however, take my job as councillor seriously, reading and studying documentation as it comes to my desk. What I read is an eloquently worded planning act, written in isolation, without the commitment to future generations of Ontario. At the very time when Canadians need stability and trust in their systems, you seem to be intent upon undermining the one level of government that is efficient and cost-effective.
Thank you for your time.
Mr Gerretsen: I don't know about Captain Leach, whether he's at the helm. Certainly we've had our concerns about that. Maybe somebody else should take over the ship of Municipal Affairs, maybe Captain Ernie or somebody. I'm not sure.
Anyway, your presentation is right on. The document deals with process, but you also need policy guidelines with it.
Mrs Kelly: When I came here, I didn't wish to be political at all. I would hope this would be a consensus-making board.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, we've been hoping that, but there's something wrong with our system, I'm afraid.
I agree that if the policy statements were clear and concise, there would be much less argument about it, both at the planning development level and perhaps later on at the OMB level. I totally agree with that thinking.
Mrs Kelly: I was at ROMA a few weeks ago. The Honourable Mr Leach spoke and said that if we wished to go off to the PEI Room and discuss planning with one of the consultants there, they would be more than willing. I came out with the feeling that I probably knew more when I went in to talk to the consultants than when I left. There was so much confusion about whether as a rural municipality we should be joining an MPA, and why were we considering joining an MPA when we hadn't annexed with anybody, and hadn't we considered annexation? We've had no policy statement on annexation or, for that matter, municipal planning authorities.
Mr Gerretsen: With regard to this notion of having a public meeting when a subdivision comes for approval to a municipality, let me ask you or the reeve this: How precise do the plans have to be before you allow a rezoning to take place? I'm not talking about a subdivision plan now, because that comes after the rezoning -- or do you deal with both at the same time? How do you deal with that in your municipality?
Mr Finley: What we look at first of all is the scale of the change. If I see something that I feel is going to have quite an effect or a change in that given area, I actually try to go further than I really have to. I want to make sure that right from the lowest level, day one, we get that initial input.
In fact, we tell people who come in to us and want to do something: "First of all, we want you to go out and talk to the people in the area. We want you to cross those roads beforehand and get the people on your side and overcome those issues." Then it makes it a lot easier. It saves times and I believe it saves money.
I guess that's why we've stressed here today that if you work with the public, a lot of the time it's amazing how things will move ahead, but right off the bat. The last thing people want is to have something sprung on them and they don't get the chance to be part of it.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree. The general public's input in a subdivision is extremely important. Would you agree with that?
Mr Finley: Very much so, because it changes everything in that area.
Mr Bisson: Thank you very much for your presentation. I just want to clarify so I don't misinterpret what you've said here, Reeve Finley. You say in your summary that you want to move to a user-pay system. You say on the one hand that you would like to get to a fixed-cost system when it comes to moving through the planning process, but when you talk about a user-pay system, are you also talking about the costs to the developer as well, or just to the municipality?
Mr Finley: I have to look at it from both sides, because any development, once it gets to the stage that it's not feasible because of the cost factors, is going to go down anyway. It's got to be a win-win situation. What I'm basically saying here is that I understand they want to cut back in some of the ministries and I understand that a lot of these responsibilities, especially the initial work, would be transferred either to a county or a municipal planning authority, but whoever is doing it should pay the cost, and I want it to be that cost, not large, full-time costs.
Mr Bisson: There are supposed to be changes in the spring to the Development Charges Act to move the soft services off development charges and put it through the tax base if the municipality wants to do that. Do you support that general direction or do you think developers should pay for the development charges, hard and soft services?
Mr Finley: I have to be very careful. I think they have to pay all the way through, as far as what it costs to go through the system. But I'm very concerned in terms of this Development Charges Act; I've seen some of the figures. At the same time we're talking about putting this against a lot or a plan of subdivision or whatever it is, do you know property values have dropped down to half in this area? If you take a lot that's, say, worth $20,000 and you slap a $5,000, $6,000, $7,000 development charge against it and we've already got a municipal -- as far as roads and recreation --
Mr Bisson: But the specific question I'm interested in is that if you as a council decide you're going to build a library or a playground or whatever it might be to provide services to your community, there are only two ways of paying for it: either through development charges or you put it into the municipal tax base. I'm just wondering which one you would support of those two.
Mr Finley: Up till now I haven't been faced with that, but certainly from a road standpoint, we go out of our way to make sure that developer pays his full share towards any improvement on the roads and water services --
Mr Bisson: We know they have to be there. I'm talking about soft services.
Mr Finley: Soft services. I would have to look at, first of all, do we need it? If I already have those facilities and that new development means that we're still serviced enough, even with that additional number of people, I think we've got to be very careful. I can't give you a full answer at this time, because I'm from a small municipality and I have not had this issue in terms of large-scale libraries, things like that. I can strictly look at the area I've been exposed to.
Mr Bisson: I've only got a couple minutes, and I just want to ask --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mr Bisson. We're past that couple of minutes. I'm very sorry.
Mr Bisson: I would have loved to ask you a question.
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Thanks, reeve and councillor, for coming today. It's enlightening to hear somebody use some words -- I know the opposition doesn't want to hear the common sense of the thing, but it appears that you people are dealing with these planning matters as they come before you and do not waste a whole lot of extra dollars on having things done that aren't always required.
One of the things I would like to ask you is in regard to the environment, and regardless of how it's written in the bill, we're always conscious of that. Do you have a problem with some environment issues that have come up before you, or how have you dealt with those?
Mrs Kelly: I prefer the "consistent with" approach. I liked the land trust system that the previous government was considering. I thought it would end up protecting some of our significant environmental features and I thought that was an idea that could have been more developed and could have been associated more with the Planning Act. In other words, I can understand people's concerns if environmental controls are too strong, but on the other hand, I don't like a bill that is so weak that-if you back off, the whole system falls apart.
Mr Rollins: Another thing I would like to think too is that you people feel that it will be workable between you and the upper-level government to be able to make those decisions so that you have most of those decisions left in your own municipality to make that decision to say, "Yes, go ahead," "No, don't."
Mrs Kelly: No, I don't agree, actually. I think that we need support, and you are in fact taking away -- I don't mind user-pay, that sort of thing, but I'm concerned that we have a regulatory agency to support us in our decisions, and we don't have regulatory agencies. I agree that the conservation authorities have been fat cats for a long time and they've had to trim their budgets, but sometimes you need a regulatory agency to support council and say, "If you're going to push this and virtually go against what we say, we only have a bylaw enforcement officer to enforce our -- " We need somebody who'll say, "We're going to take you to the OMB," because in many cases, we don't have the funds to take people to the OMB. If we had the conservation authority or the Ministry of Natural Resources, they acted as a regulatory arm of government and helped us with difficult decisions. You're not offering us that now.
Mr Rollins: You want us to show you some guidelines too.
The Vice-Chair: Mr Rollins, I'm sorry. Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon. We've enjoyed it.
Mr Bisson: Madam Chair, just with the committee's indulgence, both my colleague and I have to drive back into Toronto for another engagement that we're both attending. So I would ask that the other presenters, we get their brief passed on to us, and extend our apologies.
Mr Gerretsen: Are you yielding your time to us?
Mr Bisson: And I yield all my time to the Liberal caucus.
The Vice-Chair: Nice try.
Mr Carr: Some friend you are.
Mr Hardeman: In all fairness, I don't think we can stand a double dose of that.
Interjection: Please, have some regard to our health and safety.
Mr Bisson: Be consistent with that, not in regard to.
Mr Gerretsen: We're staying till the end. We want to make sure you don't pass anything while we're gone.
The Vice-Chair: I just want a point of clarification. Is Mr Bisson saying both himself and Mr Wood had to leave?
The Vice-Chair: Thank you. I didn't realize who he was talking about there.
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that our next presenter, Mr Wood, come forward, please. Good afternoon, sir.
Mr John Wood: I'm familiar with the structure and quite prepared and organized, hopefully, to adhere to that. I've given you the written brief. You can all read; I have no question about that. All I'm going to do is to -- I'm making an assumption -- go through some highlights but to also accentuate a few things as we proceed.
Also, of course, to start, I assumed that the seating around the table was alphabetical, and I realize that someone has stolen my theme for years, which has always been one of common sense.
Mr Gerretsen: So was mine.
Mr John Wood: It's like there have been many interpretations. Anyway, thank you, Madam Chair, if I may proceed at this point?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, please do so. But it is not seating alphabetically, as you might notice, by the name tags.
Mr Gerretsen: Those are the bad guys; here are the good guys.
Mr John Wood: I'll rearrange it mentally, yes.
Mr Carr: How come there's more of us, then?
Mr John Wood: I thank you for the opportunity to be here, because I've been through a lot of this process myself in a very direct way with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario back in about 1980, 1983. This last planning review, I had a lot of other things on my mind and I didn't address too much attention to it, although I did attend one of the earlier meetings. From that meeting, myself and others felt that somehow they really weren't listening or prepared to listen to the local citizens and people, that there were philosophies that they were trying to present. When Bill 163 finally came down, to me, there were a lot of very unmanageable things. A simple one that I've highlighted in here is that there's no provision, once a bylaw is passed, that the clerk ever give notice. I mean, it's just simple things, and I see that this is being corrected in the new legislation.
Anyway, I'll go through this. As my background, I was a planning director for 16 years, also in the private sector -- and I don't wish to be labelled as a consultant or a real estate etc. I just find myself involved in the process all the way from the private sector to social involvement.
But I do like to keep things simple, and I've used that word and I'd like you to keep that in front of you. On page 2, the heading is "Simplicity." And you can't legislate simplicity, but there are little things that can be interjected to address that.
In the first paragraph there, for example, I'm really concerned now with -- and this is not just this Planning Act but the previous one -- the number of things that are about to be prescribed, the regulations that are going to be issued and the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulation etc, on and on and on. In fact, I think it was estimated that there were going to be 600 pages of forms alone, and that's a long way from my initial introduction to the Planning Act of having one or two pieces of paper and getting on with the applications. In fact, in simplicity, in terms of an official plan, I've always maintained that you could probably get away with a map and two or three pages of text. I really have no quarrel whatsoever with that, keeping it to the very basic document, and I'll come back to this several times throughout this presentation.
Then at page 3 is attitude. Again, you can't legislate it, but I had an example of attitude in the last couple of days. I'm on the political affairs committee of the real estate board, and we finally got the health unit to agree to some clauses that we could put into an agreement of purchase and sale so they could release information. It's great. Unfortunately, in terms of the vendor, in this particular case, and the purchaser, we had to rewrite something a little different. I took it to the health unit yesterday for release and one person said, "Yes, that's great, that's the authority we need," and today the first page I got was, "That's not good enough."
Now, we've got a language problem, and the person living in Trenton, Korean background -- trying to wave more things like that in front of him is ridiculous. I said, "Well, what are the other procedures?" "Well, get their lawyer to write a letter," or "You can take the standard process through the release of information."
I mean, it's ridiculous. That is the most public information you can probably have, because I, as an adjacent property owner, should be able to examine the certificate of approval for an adjacent property, because I would be concerned whether or not there's been approval given and whether or not the septic system is going to leak into my property. That has got to be basic open information.
I've quoted things there, and those are actual quotes of attitudes that I've had thrown at me now, I suppose, in the private sector.
But onwards to provincial role and policy statements, and these are essential. In fact, I was with AMO when I suppose we drew up the province to say, "If you're going to issue a policy statement, then let us know that it really is a policy statement and that you're behind it and you think this is good and you're prepared to defend it." So we had them put it into Bill 159, the Planning Act of 1983. However, it's like anything else that can be abused, and the policy statements become too elaborate and too disjointed etc.
But, as I say in the second paragraph there, in this debate over whether it's "consistent with" or etc etc etc, the intent is there. Lawyers will argue forever and a day, but let's get on with it and let's not worry about some of the language. My only problem over the years has been that whenever someone has been challenged and an adverse decision, someone runs around to plug the loophole and creates two or three more.
Page 5 is a critical thing, in my mind, and I believe everybody else's: Who's in charge at the province in terms of the planning administration? We believe it should be right in the act that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is the lead person. As you'll note below there -- and that's why I gave up under the preceding one -- they thought it would be a consensual and consultative process, but that doesn't work. Someone has to make a decision.
Below that I say, and you can mark about the fourth line up, that I think decisions can be made within seven days. That's not being unreal, because people have been working on things before they get there for a while and the staff should be alerted to the issue arising and, simply, if someone writes to the minister, the minister will give an answer in seven days.
I've got some other timings in here too that might appear to be tight, but I think they're very realistic from my personal experience, because we've tested a lot of these things in the city of Peterborough back in the early 1970s before they were legislation. We introduced most of these items and accepted them and worked with them.
Page 6, the municipal role -- and I've heard the preceding speakers -- planning is essentially a municipal role. That's where the action is. That's where the attention is given. That's where people feel the effects of planning.
If you look at how the Planning Act evolved, you'll realize the province was always in a reactive position. They usually created legislation based upon demands coming up from the local municipality. When I arrived on the planning scene in 1969, 1970, municipalities had put forward about 10 or 12 private members' bills on municipal property standards. Enough of those came forward to convince the province to put a section into the Planning Act. In the mid-1970s, there were enough private members' bills coming forward under site plan control that site plan control was put in the Planning Act, and on and on it goes. So really the province has been johnny-come-lately to a lot of this planning, and perhaps a more responsible role of policy statements was identified in Bill 159.
At the bottom of page 6 I've thrown in something which I'd ask you to consider: Delete section 28, which is community improvement. A lot of the legislation is really wasted paper and the reason for it being there has been forgotten. For example, community improvement was in the days of neighbourhood improvement and redevelopment plans etc, and the province wanted these plans when they were in cost-sharing agreements with the federal and provincial and municipal governments and perhaps the private sector.
After the heat was off on redevelopment, we were doing a marina improvement. We had some federal money involved, and there was even some provincial, but we wanted to do a redevelopment designation and a redevelopment plan because we thought it was good, common public sense. The minister was reluctant to approve it, because he said, "We're not a party to this, and we're worried that if we approve it, you'll force us to be a party to it" etc.
We've got a few lying around, and the province put us through a lot of hoops to be able to do neighbourhood improvement. But why? As I said, it could be very simple under the Municipal Act: Let the municipality get on with making agreements and doing what has to be done. Keep that in mind in terms of the contents of the Planning Act.
Page 7, Bill 120: Well, that was a rather pathetic injection in terms of the second residential unit. I know I personally and many other people pleaded that it was incredible. I commend you for certainly stopping that. There's some confusion -- I know municipalities will address it to you -- on when the situation should be grandfathered because there was some delay of getting information out and some people received advice etc.
However, I'm concerned with the legislation you put forward trying to remedy the situation, because there are fairly simple legal remedies available in the private sector and I'm always worried when government tries to remedy a situation through legislation when it can be done municipally. It's a fascinating area. I just wouldn't want to see you protract it, especially when someone says about restraint and you're asking for a registry system and a registrar; that's a little much.
Is this really a Planning Act or what is it? We've lost the essence of a Planning Act or we've interjected a lot of things into it. Perhaps let's get back to it being planning, official plan zoning and subdivision.
The Planning Act has continued to expand, and to me, it hasn't provided opportunity; it has simply provided more and more constraint and confusion. I am one who has to work with it and I have great difficulty even being able to read it any more or to know what we have in front of us.
By the way, I commend the deletion of the request for prescribing the contents of an official plan. That's got to be a variable document and a fundamental document that is to be prescribed by the municipal council. Once that's in place, then let's get on with it.
The bottom of page 9 is perhaps an example of the situation that has evolved. I call it the clutter or intertwining of legislation, which mean that the Planning Act is far from being able to stand alone, and perhaps let's get some of those pieces out of it so that the Planning Act can stand alone. For example, why not move the minimum property standards into the building code? Retrofit legislation and regulations etc for fire code and building code have all been brought forward. There are minimum property standards under rent review etc.
It's coming at us from all directions and let's simplify the administration under the building code. Signs, for example, moved from being under the Planning Act into the Municipal Act. Let's keep that in mind to review just what legislation you want in the Planning Act.
Incentive for administrative action: I commend you for correcting that oversight in Bill 163 of introducing the 15-day requirement after passage. But below that I say, "Why not five working days?" Let's get some up-to-date terminology that means something, because you can't say 15 days if we're over the Christmas season and everybody's closed down for about two weeks in municipal administration. What's wrong with five working days? I know that from personal experience. No problem whatsoever: 48 hours maximum for turnaround of labels and you should have the notice in the mail within three days, so five days is giving an extra two days. Let's get on with it.
On the next one, I'll give you a formula from my experience. It's called the two-weekend formula in giving notice. Citizens demand two weekends. The first week, get the notice out before it goes before the council so they can talk to their neighbours and express their concerns to each other. The following week, they contact the municipal office for information, and the final weekend they get organized for the council meeting and to review the information that's been brought forward.
With the formula of adequate notice of the two weekends, why not a minimum of 10 working days prior to the public meeting for the passage of a bylaw or giving notice of any planning matter?
That's really the main part of my presentation. On page 11, I give you a section which asks, are we ready for a provincial zoning code? This might sound contrary to some of the things of saying it's a municipal responsibility, but I'm not talking planning here; I'm talking the zoning code, and I use the parallel to the development of a building code. Certainly when I joined the city, the city had its own building code and we quickly realized why there should be different structural details in the city of Peterborough to building in the township of North Monaghan. That went to adopting the national building code and eventually now a provincial building code which is really just a similar national building code.
For example, I experience it now, and I didn't bring my own bylaw that I helped write in the city, but if there are 800 municipalities, I'll wager there are 347 different definitions for building, building area height and anything else you can imagine, and there is absolute chaos and confusion in crossing that boundary. I have to deal with several municipalities myself with properties I deal with.
There's a summary to that which you can all read through, but basically keep it simple. Planning is a long way beyond legislation because it has to be an attitude situation. It has to be proactive, positive, and as I say from my experience, that message has to get down very quickly, that people have to be able to respond. The ability to make a decision, whether it's an administrative decision or a legislative decision, is there. Make a decision. Don't procrastinate. Let's get on with it and let's build healthy -- I think we can build healthy communities because, as I've stressed, it's at the local level and that's where the people are more accountable, the elected representatives at the municipal council.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the very interesting presentation, quite different than some of the others we've heard. I applaud you in your recognition that planning should really be a municipal activity, not central. It's certainly something we're looking at. Playing around with words, whether it's "regard for" or "be consistent with," certainly if the attitude is not right, it's not going to happen. From what I'm seeing in environment, there's a tremendous amount of peer pressure coming particularly from our children coming home from school with real environmental ideas, and they're not going to allow a lot of environmental degradation that has occurred in the past.
Mr John Wood: That's right.
Mr Galt: But my question to you relates to when the legal beagles get hold of it and is the "i" dotted or the "t" crossed, how do you go about maintaining the attitude that's right? They play with all kinds of games and it really makes a mess of the legislation we've been struggling with.
Mr John Wood: I made one reference to lawyers in there and I was about to write another one saying keep the lawyers away from writing the Planning Act, but I decided to back away from that a bit, although I'd be quite serious in that regard because if you think of the parallels in the insurance industry, they got rid of the back side and rewrote the policy so people could read it. Let's write it in very simple terms. That's why get rid of a lot of that stuff.
In terms of Bill 159, I could identify which civil servant wrote a particular paragraph and just where certain things came from. That's how familiar I am with why those are in there, and there's really no need for a lot of that stuff. It's redundant. A lot of the paragraphs are extremely redundant. The more paragraphs you create, the more opportunity there is for the legal people to get hold of it or someone to wave it, that this doesn't comply with that. So get it simple, get it back so it is simple. What's wrong with a little interpretation when you've got the local municipality dealing with it?
Mr Gerretsen: Well, of course, "What's wrong with a little interpretation?" that's why cases end up in court and before the OMB. I don't think you should slough it off that quickly. Planners write just as nebulous a document as many lawyers probably write too precise or too articulate a document.
From your own personal experience in the sense that you've seen it from the municipal side and from the development side, would you not agree that most of the delays in the planning process or getting an application through are with the administrative delays that happen at both the planning staff level, the council level and the various ministry levels? If you followed all the sequences in the acts, then presumably within nine months you should have a development through. In most cases, we're talking about five years, as we've heard about today etc. Isn't that where the real problems are? This is only a little piece of the puzzle, the act.
Mr John Wood: The first thing you did was to label me as a planner. I tried to avoid that but it's nice to --
Mr Gerretsen: I didn't label anybody as a planner.
Mr John Wood: You did because you said planners can write just as obtuse a document, and I would agree with that because my fellow --
Mr Gerretsen: I wasn't talking about you.
Mr John Wood: No, I'm not; I'm labelling planning. I've never taken anything personal. I've been through the public sector for too long. Now in the private sector, it's the same thing. There's really no difference.
For example, the municipality of Scarborough was chastised by the Ontario Municipal Board for writing official plans that looked like zoning bylaws. Now they have density provisions that are 24.256 units per acre, which is ridiculous. What you're trying to talk about is you want to put high-rise apartments there. So there you go, that's simple. You don't need to get into much more beyond that. Yes, you can put some density, up to a maximum of 100 units and play with some of those, but that's where planners really missed the boat in terms of going from planning to perhaps some type of very technical planning which is what you're alluding to.
What I was getting at in terms of timing is the lack of response, if you could label it that. I've encountered it from many areas of government, not just in planning but in terms of, "No, we can't give advice." I sit as a chair of a board that referees the Unemployment Insurance Commission, and we're so frustrated at times because if they just talked, the information was there, no secrets, put it on the table.
I had a personal experience in that area, going to another field, of saying, "I know there's a program out there." I went and asked for it and I got a letter back trying to explain what it was and how I wasn't eligible. I didn't ask for that. I asked for the information. We're all capable people, and as you say, your children are educated and aware of what's going on. As you said, nine months for a development. Why? It's like the clerk saying one day to me about, "This is pretty obvious and straightforward." Then he suddenly realized what he had said because he was saying, "Why do we have to go through it?" Don't question it, just do it, put it through, let's get on with it. So it's not nine months; you should be talking, as I say in here, about 33 days.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Wood. We've enjoyed your presentation this afternoon and I'm glad you've taken the time to come here.
Mr John Wood: I appreciate the opportunity, and by all means, if there are any questions or follow-up or an opportunity, I'll be watching, so thank you.
NORTHUMBERLAND COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE
The Vice-Chair: I ask the Northumberland Community Legal Centre representatives to come forward, please. Good afternoon and welcome to our hearing process.
Mr Garth Dee: My name is Garth Dee. I'm a lawyer. I'm almost afraid to admit that after the last discussion, but I'm with the Northumberland Community Legal Centre. Our clinic provides representation to low-income clients, primarily in the area of social assistance, landlord and tenant matters and workers' compensation.
I'd like to speak to you today primarily about the provisions of this bill that would allow the inclusion of official plan prohibitions on two-unit residential houses. The clinic has some very real concerns with this provision of the bill and is asking you to reconsider whether this is an appropriate thing to include in this bill.
In our view, the inclusion of this provision in the bill will lead to a number of negative consequences. It will certainly affect the availability of low-cost housing. The prohibition of apartment units probably, if they're second units within houses, in all likelihood will not lead to their elimination. We know they proliferated even when they were illegal before, but it will certainly lead to a reduction in the number of apartment units. Some of these units are low cost, and particularly for the type of clients we deal with, they are the type of accommodation that they can afford on their limited resources. This provision will limit the availability.
It will also limit and negatively affect the quality of these housing units where they do exist. If they are illegal, they will not be subject to minimum criteria and minimum standards. Under the former legislation -- I'm talking here the previous version where the basement apartments or second apartments were illegal -- no standards applied but they still existed in great numbers. There was nothing you could do about the poor quality of the housing where that housing was of poor quality.
The people who live in those illegal units will have no access to the law to be able to enforce any legitimate standard. Any complaint by a tenant of an illegal unit could lead to the shutting down of that unit and being put out on the street. There is no ability for the people living there to expect any type of assistance in enforcing a reasonable standard of accommodation.
This revision will also affect the ability of seniors and the disabled to live in their homes. Many people who are older, who are disabled, wish to live in the house, perhaps the house they've lived in all of their lives, but with somebody else there to assist them, perhaps somebody to keep them company, perhaps somebody to help them bear the expense of maintaining a house. These people have no desire to move out of the house they've lived in for many, many years, yet if they can't set up a second unit in that house for someone to live in with them, they have no other option but to move out.
It will also affect the ability of first-time home buyers to buy houses; many first-time home buyers rely on this type of income in order to allow them to purchase a house. Particularly of importance to the people our clinic serves, when you combine this restriction on low-cost housing with the cuts that have been brought into social assistance, what we are seeing to some extent in our clinic is that people are moving out of the more urban areas into rural areas; they are moving into non-winterized cottages, they are moving into trailers, on to farms. This is a real problem with some of these people because they are employable, they would like to work, but once they're out of town with no immediate access to jobs and no transportation because they can't afford the vehicles to get them to the areas where there are jobs, all of a sudden you've got an increased problem with the employability of someone who should be employable. It is a move that takes place out of economic necessity to find a place to live but in the long run is destructive to the long-term interests of anyone, which are to return that person to work.
If you look at all those negative consequences and look at why this legislation is brought in in the first place, why this proposal is being made, the only rationale I can come up with is, to assist in maintaining the homogeneity of single residential use. The clinic believes that's not a good tradeoff when you look at the tremendous negative effect that will come from the changes proposed.
I'd like to point out what I see as two inconsistencies with this provision. The first inconsistency is, I'd like to compare the manner in which cuts to social assistance have taken place with the manner in which cuts to municipalities have taken place. Everyone recognizes the priority this government has set on improving the financial situation of the province and the cuts that have taken place with the desire to do that. Where the cuts took place in the municipalities, there has been a lot made of providing municipalities with the tools to handle that reduced level of funding. You free up the municipality, you give it additional powers, you give it additional flexibility in order to be able to handle that limited budget. But where the cuts have come into social assistance, we haven't seen a similar expanding on the flexibility of those people to be able to deal with the problems put on them by the reduced level of funding. There has been some increase in the ability to keep employment income, which does assist somewhat in trying to make up for the cuts. It doesn't allow you entirely to make up the difference, but it does assist somewhat.
But what is more relevant to what we are talking about here is that this change, which has the impact of reducing low-cost available housing to welfare recipients, acts against and further compounds the cuts to welfare when you combine this change with other changes to the welfare legislation that pretty much prohibit some living arrangements as a result of the change to the spouse-in-the-house rule. The spouse-in-the-house rule has been changed to prohibit living arrangements that go far beyond what any reasonable person would consider a spousal relationship. But in order to get at the perceived problem of people living as spouses and not claiming that status, the definition of spouses has been cast so wide as to prohibit all sorts of alternative living accommodations that assist people in getting by on lower levels of income.
So what I'd point out to you is, where this government has seen the need to cut back on funding for the municipalities, it has at least taken the steps that allow those municipalities to try and adapt to those changes. Where this government has seen the need to reduce funding to social assistance recipients, instead of seeing a similar expansion of the ability to be flexible in order to handle those cuts, we've seen us going the other way, restricting the ability for alternative living arrangements, perhaps with a person of the other sex or perhaps in a second unit within a residential area.
The second inconsistency I'd like to point out is within the legislation itself. I'm not an expert on the Planning Act, and many of the changes in here are beyond my expertise -- and I readily admit that -- but if I understand the gist of this bill, it is to stop government from interfering, or at least to reduce the level of government interference and red tape that developers and others face when they try and use property in a way that they think makes good economic sense and they bring forward a proposal to do that. The one provision of this bill that goes the opposite way and says, "We're going to allow more barriers to your doing what you want to do with your property and doing what makes economic sense to you", is this one provision on residential premises.
So within this bill that's intended to get government off people's backs, or at least reduce the level of government on people's backs, you have one provision that stands in stark contrast. In this provision dealing with second-unit residential accommodation that's primarily of benefit to low-income people, you say, "In this case, more government intervention, allowing government to stand in and say this is prohibited, somehow becomes worth while." Now that's an inconsistency. I'd ask you to take a look at your philosophy; I mean, the philosophy that you brought to government, that less government is better government. If it applies in the case of developers, and if it applies in the case of wealthy people who can go out and bring forward plans for development with all the positive spinoffs, why doesn't it apply for other people on the lower end of the spectrum who need this type of accommodation, who benefit very much from these provisions and don't want to see them taken away? So I urge you to take a look into your own philosophy that you bring to government, and see whether or not this provision prohibiting people's use of property in this manner is consistent with that philosophy that you do bring to government.
My final comments here are about process. In my past, I have had a close familiarity with this process and with legislative committees. I understand that sometimes these committees are very worthwhile and I understand that almost always the MPPs who sit on them are desirous of listening to the presentations and take their jobs seriously. But I also know that depending on the manner in which the committee has been set up, sometimes they're not terribly useful. It's my belief that it's up to the committee members themselves to decide whether or not this process will be a useful one or whether it's just an exercise in public relations.
I urge you to do a number of things. First, and I'm speaking particularly to the government members here, I urge you, following the completion of public hearings, to caucus among yourselves and decide among yourselves, without the assistance of others who have an interest in this legislation, what are the concerns that you've seen in this bill, what are the things that you would like to see done with this bill.
Second, I urge you to meet directly with the minister -- not through an intermediary, not through anyone else -- and meet with the minister in time to allow for the drafting of amendments prior to clause-by-clause consideration in this committee, or prior to clause-by-clause consideration in the House. If you don't act as a group, if you don't meet directly with the minister, if you don't do it in enough time to draft the amendments, you have no authority over this legislation, you have no power over this legislation. I'd ask you very much to make this a real hearing, to take those actions in order that your concerns can be addressed.
Finally, I think the real test of whether you have any influence is, if you want to see changes made to this legislation, particularly significant changes to the legislation, can you get them done or not, and what happens if your views of this legislation are different to the minister's? I mean, the differences do occur. Do you have the right to take those to caucus? Will you be allowed to take them to caucus and have those differences aired.
I ask the members here to pay close attention to the provisions of this bill which would allow the inclusion in official plans of prohibitions on a second unit in a residential house. I would ask you to recommend to your government that they delete this provision from the bill in order that the benefits, particularly to low-income people but also to others, of second units in houses are allowed to continue.
Thank you for the time you've allowed me here today.
Mr Gerretsen: I think your last point is very well made, Mr Dee, as is your entire presentation, because as a new member here, let me tell you, this is a very frustrating process. If the government had set up a committee that basically said, "Go out and find out how people feel about second-unit apartments," that would be one thing. But I can tell you this is a fait accompli. To that extent, I don't know how much can be done -- and I hope the government members will prove me wrong -- with respect to the specific wording as it relates to the Planning Act. But as far as second units are concerned, that's gone, that's history.
We've had many presentations, and it's a very frustrating process for me and undoubtedly for some of the other people as well, irrespective of party, because the kind of process that we're involved in, which is so-called public consultation, I can tell you from just one member's viewpoint, is not the kind of consultation that I'm used to. Then there would be a lot more give and take on various things. I've only sat on one other committee and I know how much give and take there was there when it came right down to it, and there was none. I wouldn't expect there to be any more here, other than those amendments that the government somewhere along the line feels are appropriate. That's all that's going to get passed.
It's a very sad commentary on our system of government, to come to that conclusion within eight months of being here. We live in a democratic dictatorship where every four years we go to the polls and whichever party gets elected with a minority vote across the province, if it just happens to get lucky and all the votes are split across the right way, it gets a huge majority and every party -- my party had that happen in 1987, the NDP had it happen in 1990 and they've got it this time around. That's why you get these wild swings from one to the other, and I'll tell you, in the long run and no matter which side of the fence you're sitting on, it does not lead to good overall public policy.
You've made a very eloquent presentation, but I'm afraid that issue is gone. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first to admit it openly and publicly in the House. I can tell you, I'm not.
Mr Dee: If I could perhaps hold out some hope, I am familiar with this process and I've seen government members act on committees to quite an extent. The legitimacy of this process really does sit with the people here. If they demand to be heard, if they demand to be heard in time that changes can be achieved, if they demand the audience with the people who can make those changes happen, the process can work. I've seen it work. I've also seen it go the other way, where you go through the motions.
What I was trying to say here today is, make an argument about why the second units are important to a large segment of the society and how this provision is inconsistent with a lot of the other things that this government is claiming to do. I really think it's up to the members here today to decide whether or not this is a legitimate process or a public relations exercise.
The other thing I wanted to say is, as members become more experienced, I've found they're much more willing to exercise that authority they do have.
Mr Gerretsen: I hope you're right.
Mr Lalonde: I have a question. I understand the reason behind why we have to register the second apartment in the basement security-wise, because I know what your duties are whenever the people are not satisfied with the quality of the apartment they have. But would you be happy or satisfied if the last sentence of the paragraph here, which reads, "and can fix fees which may be charged for registration and inspection" -- because I do believe that the inspection has to be done for the security of the people.
Mr Dee: There's a concern that provisions that are intended to be there to protect the tenants and to ensure quality could be used as a barrier to the creation of second units. But I think far more important is the ability to prohibit the second unit altogether. If the second unit is prohibited altogether, you don't even get to that registration phase. Perhaps something can be done to ensure, let's say, that municipalities are not allowed to prohibit second units but are allowed to license and require inspections; I'm not sure how necessary it is. But I would support wording that would prevent the use of rules to protect tenants and others from being used to stop the process.
Mr Lalonde: I believe with the official plan right now, any municipality could have that in there. It doesn't require the zoning change as long as it is in the official plan. But just the fact that in the previous bill it was accepted to have the basement apartments, the fact that there will be a fixed fee after, that could be exaggerated by the municipality.
Mr Baird: With respect to some of your thoughts, I can tell you -- I assume I can't speak for all members of the committee -- I know I've met with Mr Leach on this issue more than once. I've talked regularly with his parliamentary assistant Ernie Hardeman, who has been travelling around the province with us, and I'd just like to put forward the view that we're not all a bunch of trained seals, that there might be some support in our caucus for the elements in this bill that you spoke to; that this should warrant some thought, that our views could be in concert with this bill and that might be one of the reasons why it's being brought forward, with great respect. We are here listening, though, and we're certainly, I think, open to not only just listening but hearing what people say.
With respect to the comments from my colleague John Gerretsen -- I have great respect for him and for Jean-Marc Lalonde; they're both good, hardworking members of the Liberal caucus -- he used the phrase "sad commentary." I think the sad commentary is that the Liberal Party was against Bill 120; they were against basement apartments; they were against accessory apartments in the legislation Bill 120. Then they changed their mind after the election campaign.
Mr Lalonde: I never said that.
Mr Baird: Not you; their party in the last Parliament.
Mr Gerretsen: It's a right now. It's a right that people have. It was different before.
Mr Baird: Having said that, there has been that change, and that's important to note. I would also clarify that this doesn't ban basement apartments or accessory apartments; rather, it returns that zoning right, that authority, to the local municipality.
I was very struck by what one of the previous presenters had said. I'll quote her from her brief: "Our council is in touch with people. Above all, our council listens to local concerns, translates rules and governs local development."
I just think we place a lot more trust in the folks whom people in their community elect to government to best be able to make these decisions at the local level. That's just a comment that I would make.
Mr Dee: I have two brief comments. I very carefully did not use those words "trained seal." It's an insult to the role of members. I know most members try to execute their jobs with a lot of diligence, and you don't enjoy being in hotels away from your family and all the rest, but it's up to you, whether or not the process means anything. That's all my comments were intended to address.
As far as any comfort to be taken from the fact that the authority to make this decision rests with the local community, it doesn't really matter to me who is telling me I can't do it or who is taking away my rights; if it's the municipality or the provincial government or the federal government or the Queen, I don't care. People in low-income situations need as much flexibility as possible in making arrangements for their accommodation. Local councils need to listen very strongly to the people who elect them.
Mr Baird: I think they do. We met the mayor of the town and a councillor. They both do that.
Mr Dee: Yes, I know they do it. But what you end up with is a patchwork quilt where some areas allow these units and some areas don't allow these units. You end up with a concentration of these units in particular areas and excluded in other areas.
If there are concerns with how these units go in, with the safety of them, with building codes, that type of thing, by all means address them. But allowing municipalities to determine, "These types of units will not be here; we don't want people not within the economic framework of the rest of the neighbourhood living here," I think is a very harmful thing. To allow municipalities to say, "Only people with certain levels of income and with access to certain levels of money can live here; if you don't have access to that level of money, if you have to rent an apartment, you can't live in this particular area," is very wrong. It drives up the price; it reduces the accessibility of low-income housing for people.
This is taking place at a time when many of the other resources that used to be available to these people have been taken away. The reductions in social assistance in particular have had a tremendous impact on the ability of people to afford accommodation. This is one very real source of low-cost accommodation for those people that is being cut back on.
The ironic thing is that as much as the financial pressures are that you are under and your government is trying to address, this is a provision that doesn't affect those financial responsibilities at all; this is one thing you could do, or you could refrain from doing, that would assist lower-income people in this province without costing the province a nickel.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Dee, for your presentation this afternoon.
NORTHUMBERLAND ACCESS TO PERMANENT HOUSING COMMITTEE
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that the representative from the Northumberland Access to Permanent Housing Committee come forward, please. It's getting pretty close to evening, but we'll say good afternoon for now.
Ms Elisabeth Ziegler Simmons: My name is Elisabeth Ziegler Simmons. I'm the chair of the access to permanent housing committee here in Northumberland. To save a little bit of time, in our submission we've included some demographics about Northumberland county as well as what we do as a committee. In part, we're addressing the same section, section 59, of the proposed legislation as did Mr Dee, from a slightly different angle.
As the name of our committee implies, the mandate of the committee is to do whatever we can to improve access to permanent housing in the county. Section 59 goes counter to that, and that's why we appreciate the opportunity to make a submission today. What we're concerned about is the short- and long-term future of housing stock planning and housing stock in the county, based on what's happening in the province in other areas, the people who use the housing, and that all efforts should encourage rather than inhibit planning for that purpose. That's why the committee would like to make a recommendation as far as that section goes.
Our housing committee has been concerned in the last year with housing trends as they affect certain groups of people, which I've outlined in the submission. First of all, people with developmental disabilities are requiring more and more independent housing as they're being released from group homes and institutional housing. These are single people who require appropriate-size units and have limited incomes, whether they work or not. As more and more people in other segments of the population require housing such as apartments in single-family dwellings, the proposed legislation will inhibit their ability to have a place to live. Similarly, people with psychiatric disabilities as they're being discharged from institutions are in the same situation.
Low-income earners generally, while employment leans more towards short-term, contract and temporary positions, will require housing that better suits their consequently smaller incomes. Smaller incomes mean smaller units and in some cases apartments in single-family dwellings; similarly for seniors and, as Mr Dee mentioned, social assistance recipients, with the 21.6% cut to their benefits. In terms of numbers, if the maximum entitlement a single person can receive is $520 per month in benefits and an average apartment in Cobourg in an apartment building is $400, that doesn't leave a whole lot, which means that he's going to be looking for another kind of housing, such as apartments in single-family dwellings. Further, more families are, for economic reasons, needing to come together and likewise will require this kind of housing.
Bill 20 proposes to reduce that possibility. Not only does it reduce the possibility, it allows municipalities the option not to look at ways to address housing needs for their communities. It imposes unnecessary burdens on municipalities to enforce the legislation, it creates duplication with existing regulatory bodies and it increases government involvement unnecessarily in what is otherwise an effective and efficient system of maintaining housing. So, in short, the recommendation of the Northumberland Access to Permanent Housing Committee is to exclude section 59 altogether.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much for your presentation. I know the concern expressed previously was asked by my friend Mr Baird. More specifically, when I was on local council -- I think where this provision for basement apartments came in was that it was illegal, non-conforming and all over the map -- the municipalities' biggest problem, and I saw it first line, was that there are inappropriate areas, not for any kind of societal reason or hierarchy of position in society.
It wasn't appropriate, the narrow streets, older central areas, and if for example second units were allowed in those homes, then parking, perhaps the servicing, the old pipes etc -- can you understand that it is, in our legislation, going to be a municipal right to regulate if they want? And they should regulate. So can you see the need to regulate for safety, which was brought up before -- not right across a whole area -- that each site should be looked at, the municipality, the capacity of the streets, the parking, the other amenities? Do you see that it's in its proper arena at the local level?
Ms Ziegler Simmons: I basically agree with you completely, as long as the ability for municipalities across the province to look at creative solutions toward housing exists. To me, as Mr Dee pointed out, this seems to be more inhibitory rather than encouraging that kind of housing. What I'm not suggesting here is that everyone, people in single-family dwellings, go into the rental business. I don't think that's what the families are going after, so you're not talking about that kind of a load on the municipality as far as the infrastructure goes. As far as the quality of housing, that can already be enforced with what the municipalities in the province have as regulatory tools.
Mr O'Toole: Without getting into a dialogue, I want you to understand that a municipality has a certain population base and services, libraries etc to supply that. If everybody in new subdivisions -- the point was made before that new home buyers were just moving in the second family, and that was never the original design intent for that subdivision capacity, for traffic control and schools and the rest of it. So you see the implications for an unregulated environment. It was just all over the map. It wasn't good for the persons with the need and certainly wasn't good for a realistic approach to services in a community. It's a dilemma; the municipalities should have some right to step in and administer it. I don't disagree with your point.
Ms Ziegler Simmons: If I can respectfully suggest that if that kind of a section is needed in the legislation, it's written in such a way that it creates the tools for the municipalities to look at creating the housing rather than finding ways to stop it that still works within what the municipalities' resources are.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon. Going back to the previous question, I think some discussion or a question on it. Do you feel concerned that municipalities would use this as a restrictive approach to second units, as an intent, that municipal politicians somehow have a dislike for this type of housing?
Ms Ziegler Simmons: In my experience in the county, it's been very difficult to look at alternatives other than apartment buildings for smaller households, if you want to call them that, single people or single-family dwellings. I'm not trying to paint all municipalities with a brush of restriction, but recently in Hamilton township here in our county, the planning committee made a recommendation about granny flats and allowing them and providing the vehicle for residents in Northumberland county to have granny flats on their property for their family members. Before that, it wasn't something that people looked at as a realistic solution. In a way I would have to say, yes, I think that municipalities aren't going to look at those situations as positively as they would obviously revenue-generating housing developments.
I think the intent of the legislation has to look at encouraging rather than regulating further and diminishing housing stock.
Mr Hardeman: Looking at the start of your presentation, you speak of your board or your organization that you represent, and it does contain elected officials. I presume those to be municipally elected officials that are appointed to that board.
Ms Ziegler Simmons: Yes.
Mr Hardeman: What are those municipal representatives -- what is their position on your board, as we deal with your presentation? Do they feel it appropriate that it should be a municipal option or do they feel that they could not go back to their municipal authority and make that decision?
Ms Ziegler Simmons: I don't think it would be a safe thing to speak for the mayor, but the mayor who sits on our committee has always been fairly open to looking at solutions that she can take back to her council. The access committee itself is not engaged in dialogue with the town of Cobourg specifically, so I really wouldn't feel safe in commenting on that.
Mr Hardeman: I don't want you to comment on what their position may or may not be, but I guess I really question why we have concerns that the same concerned people representing their community will volunteer their time and efforts to serve on your committee to look at the needs of the population for affordable housing, and then to suggest in the next breath that they could not be or should not be put in the position to be able to pass zoning bylaws to accommodate those needs that they're working so hard for. I guess I have some concerns trying to rationalize those two options being the same person.
Ms Ziegler Simmons: Considering that we're a county-wide organization, which means that we're concerned with all the municipalities in the county, and as part of a network of access to permanent housing committees, we're not just talking about Cobourg or all the municipalities in the county, for that matter, what we're looking at is provincial legislation that's going to affect the municipality, and that's what we're concerned with.
Mr Gerretsen: Of course, the main difference is that people now have a right to put it in their houses and once you take that right away, you may or you may not get it back through local control, and that's where I come in. It wasn't the right before, and the previous government and the Legislature, by majority vote, rightly or wrongly, decided that people had a right to put it in. You've got this dichotomy now where in a subdivision you can have two identical houses and somebody that had a basement unit put in three or four years ago, it's legal now. In effect, the person next door could be told by a municipal council, "You can't put it in," and that's where I have some problems by taking the right away, quite frankly.
I think there's one other thing to remember, and it just deals with Mr O'Toole's problem, or the point that he was trying to make, that the demographics, particularly of subdivision living, have totally changed. Twenty years ago an average family was 3.5 members in the average house, now it's 1.9 and all you have to do is drive through some of the older subdivisions in our various communities -- I'm talking about subdivisions that are 30 years old -- and see how empty the streets are because all the kids have moved away. That's in a lot of cities that way, and nobody is suggesting that building codes shouldn't be adhered to. Nobody should be allowed to build one of these units if they cannot adhere to the parameters of the building code.
Ms Ziegler Simmons: I have to agree.
Mr Gerretsen: In other words, you don't want illegal units or units that aren't safe to be built. In Northumberland county, do you have any idea how many second units there are in houses?
Ms Ziegler Simmons: I wouldn't. The stats that we have are based on registered apartments in single-family dwellings, so unless we polled each municipality for the units that they knew about, there wouldn't be really any way of finding out.
Mr Gerretsen: Is it your general impression though that the rents people are paying in basement apartments, or second-dwelling apartments, are less than what they would be paying in a regular apartment?
Ms Ziegler Simmons: Absolutely. The purpose of our being here -- and this may or may not be the appropriate arena for us to do that -- is to show that the legislation isn't just affecting municipalities, it's not just a planning perspective, but you're talking about thousands and thousands of people who otherwise would not have any housing at all. We're talking about people with the least amount of physical or other resources, abilities, to access housing. There should be another means of addressing it in legislation that is going to, as you said, address the fact that what was before a perfectly viable option no longer exists.
Mr Gerretsen: That's right.
Mr Lalonde: Coming back to this last sentence, subsection 207.3(3), I think it would be wise for the government to say at the present time that there will be no fee fixed for inspection. It's like if you were allowed to drive at 80 miles an hour a year ago and today the speed limit is down to 50, and because you had driven at 80 miles in the past, you would be paying a fine. People who have gone as far as getting their basement renovated to accommodate this second apartment really are going to be penalized at the present time. It was permissible in the past, but today it won't be permissible if you don't meet the requirements.
But there's one thing we have to remember. The person who was here previously to you represented those groups many, many times, and I've seen them come into my office too. They complain that the apartment is too humid, the people have to go to the hospital, they have arthritis, and this is why it's very important that the municipality does inspect those apartments.
Ms Ziegler Simmons: Absolutely.
Mr Lalonde: I'm not against a second apartment in the basement as long as it does meet the construction code, and also the services are available for those areas. Mr Gerretsen had a very good point: In the older areas where in the past we used to have 3.9 per house, probably there should be something in this new bill that protects those areas, that would allow them automatically to have a second apartment in the basement.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for waiting us out and making your presentation.
For the sake of the committee, the 5:20 delegate has cancelled and our 5:40 has not yet shown. What is the pleasure of the committee?
Mr Lalonde: Five minutes.
The Vice-Chair: Do we have the committee's consensus on a five-minute wait?
Mr Gerretsen: And then if he's still not here, that Dr Galt remain behind tonight.
Mr Galt: Could I make a comment, Madam Chair, just prior to going to the recess? In relation to the observation here today -- and I think I reflect the feelings of the committee -- in general, in a small town or a town of this size, the response we've received has been an experience for the community as well as I think an experience for the committee members in all three parties to participate in a place other than Hamilton, London, Thunder Bay, Ottawa -- not that there's anything wrong with going there. I suggest that maybe all committees should look at at least one town stop, the Brockvilles, the Bellevilles, that kind of thing.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, of course, Belleville.
Mr Galt: Sure. Trenton, whatever. I think as a government we owe it to people in small towns to go and visit periodically. I know some committees do, depending on their activity, if it's very agricultural they do go to small communities, but for some of the others I think it's important that we do make a point to go to small-town Ontario to have our hearings.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Dr Galt. We will recess for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 1746 to 1751.
The Vice-Chair: Given I see a quorum present and no presenter has come forward, I adjourn for the day.
The committee adjourned at 1752.