Monday 26 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
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ken Kelly, vice-president
Regional Municipality of Niagara
Corwin Cambray, manager, policy planning
Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society
Dr John Bacher, president
Laura Dodson, president
Conserver Society of Hamilton and District
Peter Hutton, president
Preserve Established Neighbourhoods Society
Gail Benjafield, co-chair
Steve Balz, co-chair
Norfolk Field Naturalists
Tom Campbell, executive member
Mary Gartshore, member
Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
Elbert van Donkersgoed, research and policy director
John Markus, president
Hamilton Region Conservation Authority
Alan Stacey, chair
Darcy Baker, senior planner
Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association
Larry Szpirglas, past president
Adi Irani, board member
Social Housing and Access Committee
Jackie Gordon, vice-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, Barbara (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:
Bradley, Jim (St Catharines L) for Mr Duncan
Carr, Gary (Oakville South / -Sud PC) for Mr Maves
Conway, Sean (Renfrew North / -Nord L) for Mr Hoy
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Ross, Lillian (Hamilton West / -Ouest PC) for Ms Fisher
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
O'Toole, John (Durham East / -Est PC)
Pettit, Trevor (Hamilton Mountain PC)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
Murray, Paul, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 1028 in the Sheraton Hotel, Hamilton.
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.
ONTARIO FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning, all. Welcome to our second-last day of public hearings into Bill 20.
Our first presentation this morning is from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Gentlemen, I will remind you that you have 30 minutes for your presentation, which you can divide as you see fit between a presentation and a question-and-answer period. If more than one of you are speaking, I'd appreciate if you could introduce yourself for Hansard.
Mr Ken Kelly: Thank you, Mr Chairman. My name is Ken Kelly. I'm a vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. I'd first like to introduce the delegation I have with me. Jeff Verkley is a member of our land use and farm practices committee. Ben Walpot is a member of our executive committee and comes from the Haldimand region. Peter Jeffery is one of our staff support people from the research and policy analysis department.
I would ask if we could have our brief entered on the record; that will free us from the necessity of reading it and we can just get into it and discuss it. I just got some wise words of caution from my cohorts here to keep the introduction and our presentation brief. I hope to do it in about 10 minutes, and then we'll try to deal with some questions, if we could.
As you probably realize, Ontario farmers are stewards of some 13 million of the developed acres in this province. Ontario farmers require a system of land use controls that respect their right to farm free from conflicts with non-farm neighbours over normal farm practices. We request that provincial right-to-farm legislation, the Farm Practices Protection Act, be strengthened to include not only agricultural odour, noise or dust, but also light, vibration and the issues of animal care and animal housing.
At the OFA this year our theme for the year is Farmers Mean Business, and you can take a number of things from that motto. The first thing is that we're very serious about land use planning, and one of the more important things is that within the economy of the province, agriculture and the agrifood sector mean a lot of business. We have annual sales of almost $40 billion in the agriculture-agrifood sector and $6.2 billion of that is farm-gate receipts. We provide some 640,000 jobs in the economy. Recent material from McGill University indicates that for every $1 million of farm-gate receipts, 31 jobs -- 19 direct, 12 indirect -- are created within our economy. We believe that agriculture therefore is one of the very strong engines that will power the economy of this province to the year 2000 and beyond.
Any of you who were at our presentation at the pre-budget consultation two weeks ago will have that information in that brief, and certainly there's no need to repeat it. Twenty-five per cent of the agrifood industry in Canada is centred in Ontario. In Canada, agriculture and agrifood exports account for some 55% to 60% of the balance-of-trade payments. Those words are to centre and focus on the need for strong, vibrant agriculture based on a strong, vibrant agricultural base.
In our view, the provincial government has a strong role to play by helping farmers acquire the necessary tools to get on with the business of building not only a strong rural economy but a strong Ontario economy. We recognize that the business of agriculture is dependent on land, and the maintenance of that land base that supports Ontario agriculture is vital to Ontario's future growth and development. Certainly, we would encourage within changes to the Planning Act that we look very strongly at underutilized, underdeveloped and vacant areas of urban areas that could be very quickly and very easily used and put into production, instead of gobbling up more and more farm land to do more and more and more development that may well be done in better ways. If nothing else, I would like you to believe, leaving this presentation today, that agricultural land is not land that is being farmed until something better comes along. Agriculture is one of the better things that can be done with land.
Regarding the changes in policy that would make the Ministry of Municipal Affairs the sole agency that can appeal a planning decision to the OMB, we support a streamlined approach to the planning process, provided there are adequate safeguards for agriculture. Certainly, we don't, as I said earlier, want to get into a situation where development runs rampant over the countryside to the detriment of our economy and to the detriment of our industry. The streamlined approach, though, does make a lot of sense to us, and the balance of that is in the brief here.
When we get to "shall have regard to," 4.0 in our brief, we support the change in the context of a strong provincial policy promoting the preservation of agricultural land, not at all costs, but in a reasonable way. To prohibit orderly growth and development in rural communities is to deny those rural communities the opportunity to manage and direct their own destiny, so we are very supportive of the terminology "shall have regard to" versus "shall be consistent with." We want to see a balanced situation here. We know that local communities need to have the flexibility to implement the larger policies and the larger visions of the province, but that's best done at the local level. It's best that it's not crammed down from 801 Bay or from anywhere within the bureaucracies of government.
The adoption of "shall be consistent with" imposed a cookie- cutter approach to land use planning. The restoration of "shall have regard to" empowers rural communities. It provides councils of these municipalities with the flexibility to protect agricultural land for future generations. But we want to see this change done, as I said earlier, in the context of a very strongly worded policy that deals with the preservation of agricultural land.
We have some reservations with the provision that would give counties the power to approve subdivision applications. While that is quite consistent with giving and delivering more flexibility to the grass-roots level, we still have to have some overall direction that would ensure that when these things happen they're done in a realistic way and done in a way that, at the best of times and at all times, if possible, provides for agriculture.
Regarding the shortened time lines for the approval process, we support streamlining that removes unnecessary duplication in so far as there are concurrent safeguards that ensure adequate opportunity for public comment. The shortened time lines, I think, are going to do two things: They are going to hasten the development process, but on the other hand, it's going to make it more difficult for opponents to appeal. We'd like to see a balance there.
As you probably realize, Mr Chairman, agriculture is very intensive in its need for labour and for attention to the farm when seeding and harvesting and haying, and we certainly would not want to see a planning process that people could use to expedite things at times when they knew the people who may have legitimate opposition to a proposal would be tied up in the fields and would not be able to attend or get involved or get on a list or make a representation.
Regarding the appeals issues to the OMB, again we generally support the amendments pertaining to appeals to the OMB. However, we're a little concerned with what we see in there that deals with, "Gee, if you didn't get up to the plate with your bat at the right time, you have no right to appeal." We believe the OMB should either accept or dismiss appeals based on the merit of the appeal, not whether you saw a half-inch ad in the back of the local paper in the middle of seeding and knew to get to the right meeting on the right day to get your place in the line. An appeal that has merit is an appeal that has merit, and I think merit should be the basis on which the OMB either accepts or rejects an appeal.
When it comes to agriculture and the vision we have of agriculture and what we can do, a lot of what we're doing here today regarding Bill 20 hinges on two things that we consider more important perhaps than even Bill 20. The comprehensive set of provincial policy guidelines need to be very carefully considered, and we'll be making further representation in that area within the next two weeks. The implementation guidelines again are something we would expect to be consulted on. When we tie the comprehensive set of policy guidelines together with Bill 20 and then start to implement that at the local level, agriculture wants to be at that table to make sure that our goals and our vision are accounted for in that way.
Exempting municipalities from requiring ministry approval for their official plan or official plan amendments -- we have some reservations with that proposal. Certainly there needs to be some level of safeguard to ensure that within the political guidelines, people are reminded of whether they had sufficient regard or didn't have sufficient regard, maybe almost like a senatorial situation where a level of second thought may be helpful to ensure that the province's vision is reminded, if it looks like something's being done locally. We're not talking about a cram-down approach here. We're just saying: "Hey, guys, take a look. We have a policy. Here's what it's supposed to do. Have you fully considered it?"
One of the things that we're constantly aware of is municipalities that begin to switch from a rural population to a mix of urban-rural population. We're continually confronted with municipal bylaws that mitigate against agriculture in areas that are still agricultural, and we believe that within government there should be some method -- we will be making representations regarding the Farm Practices Protection Act -- where bylaws that mitigate against normal farm practices should go to that panel for a ruling on whether they're normal farm practices or should in fact be controlled.
There's one more item I would like to point out having to do with the Development Charges Act. We believe that new agricultural buildings do not tax municipal and education infrastructure, and we recommend that all agricultural building construction be exempted from either development charges or education development charges.
With those few comments, I'd prefer to deal with some questions.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation. I am concerned too for the farming community for the whole of this province and also the country.
On page 4 you have shown some concern about the distance requirements. In our county, farmers do face a major problem at present with the farming community versus the residential area which was constructed within the area. To your knowledge, what would be the acceptable distance between the livestock facility and the residential area?
Mr Kelly: I'm not going to try and pretend to be an expert witness in this matter. Certainly conflicts between rural farm businesses and those we would consider urban dwellers in the rural countryside have to be mitigated against to the best of our ability. As to what the proper distance is, my personal opinion would deal in terms of, "Gee, if you want to move to the country and soak up the ambience, that is part of the ambience you're paying for and it shouldn't be a problem to you." However, that has proven not to be the case.
We do need some flexibility in there. I think we're now into a formula situation, and that's one of the reasons we mention in our brief that having the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs continue to be a commenting agency would be an appropriate thing. They are the professionals at dealing with the separation distances and understanding those and giving advice to farmers and protecting those farmers when it comes to siting residential housing in an agricultural area.
As to what the distance is, probably we need some more flexibility within those separation distance guidelines. With technology, with mediation and remediation factors, buffer strips and so many of the things that can be done out there, we need some flexibility within those distances quite simply because, whether it's prevailing wind or where you site your fans or a number of things, a set distance probably isn't the best way to deal with it.
Mr Lalonde: But there's nothing in Bill 20 that would protect the farming community existing at the present time. The problem that most of the farmers are facing at this time is that whenever a residential area is developed within the farming community, they're bound to go directly to the Ministry of Environment and there was no contact with the Ministry of Agriculture -- or Municipal Affairs, in this case -- and this is creating a lot of expense to the farming community or the farmer himself who is brought to court to defend this case, and the legal fees are paid by the provincial government. I really thought that in Bill 20 we would have had a clause that would have a study made before a subdivision is approved within a farming community.
Mr Kelly: In part of our brief we talk about not necessarily being too happy with the idea of a county or a region being able to create a subdivision, for instance, without Ministry of Municipal Affairs authorization.
Mr Lalonde: Just before my time runs out, there are times, though, that the farmers are really keen on selling a piece of land, and there are three areas within my county at the present time. The farmers hold a piece of land. All of a sudden, there's going to be a well drilled over there and they all appeal the decision of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and also Environment, because they allowed a well to be drilled within that area. But the farmers were really in a hurry to sell that piece of land to collect a little money. I think both places should play a role in there.
Mr Kelly: If I might, just a couple of --
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): We've only got one minute, so one quick question, if I can. It indicates that only the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be able to appeal to the OMB. Do you believe it would be more advantageous to have the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs with that ability to appeal to the OMB should there be something that that ministry feels is of concern about a potential development?
Mr Kelly: Thank you, Mr Bradley. The whole tenet of our presentation deals in terms of a balance that brings about good decision-making. Certainly we would like to see the Ministry of Agriculture and Food around the table protecting agricultural land and protecting the farmers from non-agricultural encroachment.
We like the idea of the streamlined process. I don't think we want to see that streamlined process used as a cram-down process. We still want to ensure that there is adequate time and ability for people who are seasonally run off their feet to get in there and make their representations, point out issues that they believe to be important, and certainly we would like to see the Ministry of Agriculture and Food involved in the decision-making process. My anticipation is that at some point in time -- and Mr Chairman, you may correct me on this -- there may well be a protocol of understanding between different ministries as to when and how and to what level they'll be able to make their presentations and representations.
To answer your question, Mr Bradley, we're kind of, I wouldn't say uneasy, but we're a little apprehensive here because we are talking about Bill 20 today in the absence of the comprehensive set of policy guidelines, in the absence of those interministerial protocols of understanding and in the absence of any draft of the implementation guidelines. We believe the government will open the doors for good and legitimate and sound consultation as we continue to evolve this process with our organization and the organizations we represent. We believe that in the fullness of time we can get this worked out, but we certainly want to put on the record that consultation is absolutely critical if Bill 20 is going to work.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thank you very much for your presentation. Good to see you again. I certainly am quite taken with your theme this year: Farmers Mean Business. It looks like the sort of thing you could almost adopt as a permanent theme for your organization.
My sense, representing downtown Hamilton, is that more and more urban dwellers are beginning to realize that it does mean business, particularly in terms of the economy, and that you don't have to go all that far from Hamilton to be right into the heart of what you're talking about. I don't think it was all that long ago that most people thought you had to go to Saskatchewan or further afield to really get into the agricultural world. Being in government, sitting around the cabinet table, that becomes apparent as issues that affect farmers and other agricultural interests take centre stage.
I obviously don't agree with your position on changing back to "have regard to." I understand your position; you certainly understood ours. I wanted to make a couple of statements and then get your response to those statements.
First, your comment -- if I'm wrongly paraphrasing you, forgive me -- that this process is made somewhat more difficult without having the policies and guidelines completed. We've heard that in other places across the province. Particularly for us, who believe that moving to the "have regard to" is going to water down the effectiveness the province really should have in this area, without seeing the policies they're having regard to, since that's the only link there is, tenuous as it may be, it's very difficult to know exactly what it is we're moving to. However, that's the way the government's decided to do it and we'll have to live with it.
With that in mind, knowing now that we're going water it down to "have regard to," I would suggest that in some areas it'll have the effect of meaning the province isn't even playing much of a role at all. What we'll have is the ministry responsible for being not only the final check and balance but the only check and balance, yet we know there are cutbacks in all levels of government and I don't think there's any assurance that the expertise and the monitoring that should be taking place inside the ministry will be there. Your thoughts on that, and linked with that, there are many municipalities, particularly in the smaller townships, that do not have the staff infrastructure -- and they would offer that up -- to adequately deal with the complexities of modern-day planning and therefore do look to the senior levels of government to provide some of that assistance.
If they don't have it at the local level and the link to the province is tenuous through "have regard to" and the only ones actually responsible for monitoring are the ministry and they're under cutbacks right now, is it not fair to say that in some places there will be no provincial role whatsoever in the final analysis? Is that not potentially bad for all of us when we stand back and look at overall planning needs, particularly as it affects the loss of good agricultural land to future generations? There are a number of things in there, but just your thoughts on some or any part of that.
Mr Kelly: First and foremost, we have supported, under the present government and the former government, the concept of "shall have regard to" over "shall be consistent with," for the simple reason that what makes sense in the Golden Horseshoe, what makes sense in Dover township, what makes sense in Rainy River, what makes sense along the Ottawa border, what makes sense in New Liskeard are light years apart. The concept of a cookie-cutter policy that says, "You will do this or will do that" doesn't apply evenly or apply well across the province.
One of the things we need to point out here is that historically, the most accountable people in our chain of democracy are the local politicians rather than the provincial politicians, so we believe there should be a higher level of accountability when local people can hold local people accountable for bad decisions or reward them for good decisions.
As I said all along through this presentation about this balanced approach, we need a very strong provincial statement that respects and honours agriculture for its role in this economy and a policy statement that would indicate a very strong bias towards the preservation of agricultural land and -- "supervision" is not the right word -- a level of checks and balances that ensure that local municipalities, when they make these decisions, have looked broadly and totally at the policy statements in the context of their local plans. We believe that balance will give us what we need in the line of good land use planning documents.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): You've answered my first question in your most recent response. The Northumberland Federation of Agriculture, when we were in Cobourg, really was not supportive of "have regard to." They felt more they would like to see it "be consistent with," but I think you've expressed that very well.
I've been involved in agriculture all my life and grew up on a dairy farm. I guess what I've struggled with is what I refer to as the reverse reward. When it comes to severance of land, if you can get a lot severed you can get $30,000 for it, but if you can't get it severed, it's still worth $500 to $1,000 as farm land. If we allow severances on poor quality, that's sort of a reverse reward compared to quality agricultural land.
Two questions. One is maybe a little off-topic but relates to policy, and that's looking at centres of agricultural activity versus looking at individual, little few-square-footages of quality land. Are you comfortable in severance policies, subdivisions, whatever, looking at centres of agricultural activity versus looking at the individual little quality ground here and there?
Mr Kelly: My granddaddy used to tell me, "Look after the pennies and the dollars will look after themselves." I'm a little concerned about saying a centre of agricultural activity, for instance, is anything 300 acres and larger, which would make anything 300 acres and smaller fair game for development and planning change. Agricultural land is agricultural land. You'll notice throughout the brief we do not talk about class 1, 2 and 3 land. We do not talk about prime agricultural land. We talk about agricultural land, because land that is and can be farmed has a use and has a value as agricultural land.
I want to talk a little about perhaps the error of making land use planning decisions based on historical agricultural production rather than having a visionary understanding of agriculture that deals in terms of agriculture as an evolutionary industry. A lot of the things we grew 50 to 100 years ago we don't grow any more. When you look at the fact that 95% of this world's population does not eat a North American diet yet 100% of North America is geared to providing surpluses for the 5% of the population that eats that diet, you take a look at the changing demographics within society and around the world and you take a look at the global markets that we want to use to power the economy of Ontario, you have to look at agricultural land, be it for fish farming, be it for non-traditional agriculture, be it for intensive agriculture having to do with vegetables and fruit and that type of thing.
Mr Galt: Basically, the efficiency of the economy is what you're really saying in connection with what land should be preserved or not, is what I'm hearing.
Mr Kelly: Yes, and it's a very simple concept. If you want agriculture to be all it can, you have to understand that one of the major ingredients agriculture needs to power this economy is access, unchallenged, to agricultural land.
Mr Galt: My other question would relate to the wetlands and the real concerns around the buffers around wetlands. To preserve that, who pays? If you lose your rights to using it, or potential rights down the road, who's responsible and who should pay? Is that the farmer's responsibility, the local municipality, the province, the federal government, Natural Resources, interest groups? Who pays?
Mr Kelly: I'm going to back up and come at it from a little different angle. I think we need to understand that farmers are good environmental stewards. The farmers of Ontario are viewed worldwide as being the leading edge of environmental responsibility and stewardship on their farms. We are not for the most part environmental preservationists, but we are certainly good environmental managers and good environmental stewards.
When it comes to who pays, we've had many go-rounds over the last number of years, and again this is where the flexibility becomes very important. If someone were to sit south of Highway 401 and make a decision that would negatively impact my ability to pursue normal farm practices or to utilize an area of the property that I bought as part of my business to make money on, somebody would have to pay for that, and it certainly should not be the farmer.
But where we're at in this province and have been for quite some time, the province wants pure air, somebody has to pay, but the province doesn't want to pay. People want clean water -- and certainly we don't believe that we as farmers should be allowed to pollute at will; we don't believe in that, and those are the two bad examples. But when somebody wants to fence off 400 feet along a ditch you dug to drain your farm, pretend it's a buffer zone and call it a wildlife habitat, the farmer ain't gonna pay for that. If somebody wants to do that, I think they should get out the chequebook and then we'll sit down and have a chat.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Kelly and your associates. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation, a very thorough one.
Mr Kelly: In summation then, thank you very much for this opportunity. We appreciated being here. We thank you very much for your attention, for the good quality of the questions that you've had for us, and we ask that you give full consideration to not only our comments but to the brief that we have prepared for you.
The Chair: We certainly will.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF NIAGARA
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the regional municipality of Niagara planning department. Good morning. Again, we have 30 minutes available for you to use as you see fit, divided between a presentation and question-and-answer time.
Mr Corwin Cambray: Thank you very much, Chairman. My name is Corwin Cambray. You have the agenda. I'm a professional planner with both the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. I'm here to make a presentation on behalf of the regional municipality of Niagara. You have our submission, which was approved by regional council on February 15, 1996. Unfortunately, Councillor Bill Smeaton, chairman of the regional planning and development committee, sends his apologies. He wanted to be present, but work commitments prevented him from being here today. So I will highlight the brief. I don't propose to go through it all; some of it was for the information of the planning committee and council.
Starting on page 1, though, looking at the summary, I think -- and your previous discussion had this -- probably the most prominent of these changes is returning to "have regard to" the provincial policy statements from "be consistent with," which was put into place in March 1995. Also, we wish to highlight, and I'll point these out later, three significant changes that have the effect of reducing the role of municipal councils and official plans and deserve some reconsideration. Then other notable changes related to reduced time frames for reviewing applications and dropping the requirements allowing accessory apartments as of right are highlighted, but we're not making comments on those other than to say that we don't find the reduced time periods to be too difficult.
The last paragraph: I wish to point out that the comments on the Planning Act changes are made in the belief that the provincial government supports the development of quality communities in which people want to live and work. This is achieved through the public planning process, which provides a framework for integrating individual decisions to achieve the public good. So it's an overall framework, and that's an important concept of the public good.
Turning over the page, I'll go through this. These are detailed comments. First, on "have regard to," in exercising any authority that affects a planning matter, municipalities, ministries etc are to "have regard to" the provincial policy statements, which are also out for review. The reinstatement of the phrase "have regard to" replaces "be consistent with." The province expects that the reversion to "have regard to" will give municipalities more flexibility and the province indicates the focus is on results rather than how these results are achieved.
The significance, I believe -- and there's a lot of debate about this -- of this change will depend on its actual application in preparing official plans, reviewing development applications and OMB hearings. I know the "have regard to" phrase was interpreted fairly strongly at the Ontario Municipal Board.
Specific comments relate, first of all, to the official plan's relationship to policy statements. The present Planning Act makes provision for recognizing official plans as, in effect, the policy statements for a municipality once they have been approved. This is an important point, and that's subsection 3(8) of the existing Planning Act. The provincial policy statements would, in effect, no longer apply to that municipality, at least not to topics covered in the official plan. Bill 20 proposes to remove this section of the Planning Act.
The removal of subsection 3(8) is of concern. Uncertainty is introduced. The provincial policy statements would still remain on the table in reviewing rezonings and subdivisions, for example. This creates the unfortunate possibility that a development proposal agrees with the official plan but, someone believes, not with the policy statement. To remove this difficulty, subsection 3(8) should be retained with suitable rewording, to "have regard to" from "be consistent."
The regional council recommends "an official plan or part of an official plan approved by an approval authority or the municipal board after this subsection comes into force shall be deemed to have regard to the applicable policy statements issued under subsection 1." Therefore, when you have an official plan approved for regional Niagara, Timmins or wherever, that is the policy statement for that area, and not the policy statements. This will remove this area of concern and uncertainty that will occur if both of them remain on the table for that area.
The next point is exemptions of official plans from approvals. The possibility of exempting official plans or amendments from provincial or, in Niagara's case, regional approval introduces, again, uncertainty and the prospect of more Ontario Municipal Board hearings. The intent of exemptions may be to speed up the planning system; however, a faster planning system is being achieved by shorter review periods and delegation approvals to regions. Regional Niagara's initial experience indicates a very short approval time for official plan amendments and thus little need for exemptions.
What the proposed changes do is raise some doubt about the status of an official plan or amendment if it is only adopted by a municipal council. Without approval, it may be questioned whether the official plan either had regard to the policy statement -- it wasn't approved by anybody, so did it have regard to the policy statement? -- or is in conformity with the regional official plan. It's adopted by a local council, but is it approved? It wasn't approved by the region; it wasn't approved by the province. What is it? Subsequent rezoning bylaws implementing the official plan, for example, then may be subject to questions related to the policy statements or conformity with the regional official plan.
Another concern involves more appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. Under Bill 20, if you have a concern about an official plan amendment, the only option is to appeal it directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. This is costly and time-consuming. Under the existing Planning Act, the approval authority has the opportunity to try to resolve conflicts, thereby either removing or reducing the issues referred to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Regional council recommends that official plans and amendments still be approved by the appropriate approval authority in order to avoid or reduce uncertainty and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The next point relates to regional council authority to the OMB, on the bottom of page 3. Bill 20 removes regional council's authority to consider and, if appropriate, refuse requests for referral of an official plan or amendment to the OMB; that's subsection 17(36). Under Bill 20, there is only the appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. The existing Planning Act sets out some criteria on which regional council may refuse or refer all or part of an official plan to the OMB. These criteria include no apparent land use planning grounds; not made in good faith or is frivolous or vexatious; only for purposes of delay; premature due to lack of servicing; or no oral or written submission. The results of the change -- namely, that if you appeal it goes directly to the OMB -- will be more amendments before the Ontario Municipal Board. Also, the opportunity to resolve issues locally is removed.
The recommendation of regional council: That the opportunity for regional council to consider and, if appropriate, refuse requests to refer official plans and amendments to the Ontario Municipal Board be retained as provided for in the existing Planning Act.
We turn over to page 4. The last specific point that council wishes to make is this issue, which is kind of startling -- transfer of unappealed official plans to the Ontario Municipal Board. Bill 20 proposes that the OMB may require a municipality or approval authority -- regional council, for example -- to transfer other parts of the official plan to it for approval even though the original appeal did not include these parts of the plan. This section is new; it's subsection 17(49). It's sort of a zinger hidden way back there. This provision is a clear transfer of responsibilities from municipal council, any municipal council, to the Ontario Municipal Board. For example, the OMB may require that a draft amendment not adopted by council be transferred to it because it is dealing with another amendment adopted by council and appealed. This draft amendment, which would have undergone local review and possible revisions, is now transferred to the OMB for revision, approval or refusal.
Regional council recommends that subsection 17(49) of Bill 20 on the transfer of unappealed official plan amendments not be included in the Planning Act, as it reduces the opportunity for local review and municipal councils' responsibility.
The other points here are highlights for the information of council, such as the reduced time periods, which we're not making comments on.
The second point: Failure to meet the review periods, such as 90 days for official plan amendments, means the applicant may appeal to the OMB. The applicant may choose not to appeal at this point, particularly if the municipal review is proceeding and the prospect of an OMB hearing is far off and costly, so that the review can continue.
The next point is about prescribed information, at the bottom there. Only certain prescribed information is required. More specific information about the characteristics of the site or the effect on traffic, for example, may also be necessary to evaluate the suitability of the application for the community. It's anticipated most applicants will be willing to provide this information rather than risk an appeal to the OMB, where the information likely will be required in any event and the prospect of a hearing is months away.
We have further comments, and then the last point on the last page, the conclusion, page 6. The effect of the proposed Planning Act changes to Bill 20 hopefully will not affect a municipal council's ability to consider the pluses and minuses of an application as it may contribute to the community. In most cases, shorter review periods seem acceptable, although there will be larger or more difficult applications requiring more information or time.
That's the submission of regional council on Bill 20.
Mr Christopherson: Unfortunately, most of my comments and questions would come under the category where you've chosen not to make any comments. I don't know whether you're prepared to take a stab at those or whether you would try not to.
Mr Cambray: Sure, anything you want.
Mr Christopherson: The issue of public meetings no longer being required for subdivisions: Given the time that I spent on local council here, I was on the planning committee that entire time and I know that along the way we were constantly beefing up our ability to advise citizens of public meetings, making sure they knew the details of what was happening and encouraging them, because many times people would find out after the fact and legitimately, from their perspective, feel left out of the process. Now, at one of the key, final decision-making stages, the public will be completely out of the loop. Do I gather from your lack of comment on that that you agree with the change, or do you have some concerns about that?
Mr Cambray: The short answer is no, I don't have a concern. That's reverting back to the way it was. Also, some of the local municipalities do hold informal public meetings on the topic. In regional Niagara, we post a sign on the property indicating the application and the nature of the application, as well as allowing individuals to appear before the planning committee if they have a concern.
Mr Christopherson: We do the same thing here. I guess my concern would be that you say "council may," and in your community it may not be a problem, that you would indeed offer up a lot of informal meetings, as many as you choose to have. Our concern, looking at a province-wide set of rules, is there are municipalities that may decide not to, for whatever reason. We think there's a real loss of public input into this decision-making by taking this out of the provincial realm.
Accessory apartments: From my own experience, one of the benefits of providing a province-wide, as-of-right provision was that you didn't have one municipality being what I would characterize as very progressive, and ensuring they're providing affordable housing and doing everything they can to meet the needs of all their citizens, and there can be neighbouring communities that choose to take a different approach and that puts enormous pressure on that first municipality, both political and real, in terms of what's happening on the streets and in the communities.
Do you not think we lose something overall, not just from your own community but overall, in the provision of affordable housing by now reverting back to individual municipalities deciding, where we may actually have them side by side, where some are providing and some in effect are putting up walls and excluding what I would call certain classes of people.
Mr Cambray: In that case, I think there is a concern here. Regional council did support accessory apartments, and several of our local municipalities, even before it was required, did make amendments to allow accessory apartments; others did not. I think it is an area that is a concern. There was intense opposition from some local municipalities on a provincial basis, but it is a concern and that concern is carried over into the policy statement which does not use the words "affordable housing," unfortunately.
Mr Christopherson: That's nice to say going into my last point, because once we start talking about the policy statement, now that we've moved back to or the government's planning to move back to "have regard for," in effect they're watering down the ability of the province to ensure that these policies are being met. I keep seeing time and time again, in all the communities we go to, that it provides more municipal flexibility. If that's the only goal, why bother having provincial policy statements, I would submit?
Mr Cambray: That's a good question. It depends on the spin. There's quite a debate about how you look at this "have regard to" and "being consistent." "Consistent" was only in for a very short time, and as I said in the comments, "have regard to" was interpreted quite strongly by the Ontario Municipal Board, that you had to consider it and take it -- you just didn't look at it and discard it. You considered it and weighed it and had to adapt it. I think if past practices continue, that "have regard" will allow some flexibility but still allow the use of those provincial policy statements.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you very much for your presentation. I want to revisit page 2 of your presentation, and Mr Christopherson has mentioned this already, the "have regard to." Unless I'm reading this incorrectly, it's presented as if regional council really doesn't have a position on this. You recognize the flexibility component, the ability to address the "have regard to" based on past practice, and to a certain extent you suggest that the flexibility is inherent in the actual application and preparation. So to me you're suggesting it depends highly on individual applications. Does it?
Mr Cambray: That's correct.
Mr Smith: Is that correct?
Mr Cambray: Yes.
Mr Smith: My question: (a) Is regional council not taking a position on this? (b) I'm still struggling to see, given your comments about "have regard to," how future practice won't see the flexibility and balance that we're attempting to achieve with this particular change.
Mr Cambray: On the (a) point, the council has not made a recommendation on that topic and has not chosen to do that, and therefore based on the presentation, they accept going back to "have regard to," which is the way we were working before.
The second question?
Mr Smith: The second question was more in line with your concerns regarding the flexibility. As a professional planner, would you not, from your position, agree that the "have regard to" provides you the flexibility in terms of evaluating and administering various official plan amendments and future planning documents for your community?
Mr Cambray: Yes, I think it does provide more flexibility than "be consistent with."
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Thank you very much and good morning. On page 3, you discuss the issue of direct appeals to the OMB, and you express concern about a lot of issues going to the OMB that could've been resolved locally in the present system where it's a referral. So there's a lot of local discussion goes on as the OP amendment is lying on the minister's desk, because waiting for the minister to refer it, the local municipalities continue to negotiate with the applicant to try and achieve a consensus.
Would you not see, in your municipality, that that negotiation would now go on prior to the applicant wanting to appeal it to the OMB? Could you see the applicant wishing to be in discussion with the municipality and even see the light at the end of the tunnel, see that we can come to some type of consensus, but still rushing out to appeal it to the OMB?
Mr Cambray: As I said earlier, the applicant in doing the time periods and for review would probably, if it's progressing, wait to see how the review came out, but I think that in certain cases they might wish to appeal it to the Ontario Municipal Board and this allows for that appeal directly. It removes responsibility from the regional council, in this case, as the approval authority because the council could, just as the minister does now, hold it and allow discussions to go on to see if some resolution of the conflict, a mediation, could occur to solve the issue, whereas once it goes to the OMB, it's in the OMB's court and you remove it out of the council, the local consideration at that time.
Mr Hardeman: But in those cases, and correct me if I'm wrong, the request to send it to the OMB on an appeal would not be made by the municipality, but would be made by the applicant. Would they not be very anxious to resolve it locally prior to requesting it be appealed?
Mr Cambray: I agree with your statement, but the way Bill 20 is, it's not a request; once you have somebody saying they want it referred to the OMB, it goes to the Ontario Municipal Board. Before, the way it is now, you request the approval authority, being the minister or the regional council, to refer and they consider it based on those criteria that are in the plan right now. Maybe the difficulty is that I've heard some people not like all the criteria. That might be dealt with, but it allows for local discussion. It's on the table. You can discuss it.
The way it is now an appeal is an appeal. The council has no authority to hold it back. They must refer it to the Ontario Municipal Board, the way it's proposed in Bill 20. It's a very significant change, sir.
Mr Bradley: My first question relates to the fact that after November 16, new development charges, bylaws or amendments to existing development charges will require the approval of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Dr Joseph Kushner, small-c conservative economist from Brock University, has done an excellent paper demonstrating that despite what many people think, with development particularly of a residential nature, the assessment gained from that does not in net benefit a municipality, particularly when its a bedroom community such as the Niagara region is beginning to be for Metropolitan Toronto.
Are you not concerned that now that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has the right to say what new development charges you shall have, the regional municipality is going to have to assume in its tax base, among all its taxpayers, even more of the cost of development as opposed to having the development itself incur those costs?
Mr Cambray: That's an excellent question. Unfortunately, the council's brief doesn't deal with it. We haven't dealt with the development charges, but it has been discussed and there is a concern along the lines you mention.
Mr Bradley: I won't get into the battle over "consistent with" and "have regard to" right now. Would you not believe that argument could be resolved only when we have the provincial statements before us? Apparently they go under revision, because of course some people are itching to build on the escarpment and get right on those wetlands and so on, because they're nice places to build, it's nice to have estate houses in there. Is there a concern that the government shouldn't move forward until such time as we see these actual statements, so we know whether "have regard to" will be sufficient or not?
Mr Cambray: That's a good point also. We have the draft, as you know, and the region has a report on the draft, and it depends what the final form will be. I think it also depends on two other things: the implementation guidelines, which we haven't seen -- we've seen the previous ones but we haven't seen the new ones. The last point, it depends on how many provincial staff are around to oversee those provincial policy statements.
Mr Bradley: How can development approvals be speeded up at a time when governments at the provincial and local level are in fact cutting their staff and limiting the ability to carefully scrutinize the plans while at the same time speeding them up? How can that possibly happen when there are such drastic cuts taking place?
Mr Cambray: That is another good question. I would like to answer it this way, which may not be directly, Mr Bradley: Under the past systems, whatever system we were in, in Niagara we have lots of room for development. We have over 55,000 units on sites available for housing within the urban area. We have over 17,000 sites approved for housing. We have 7,000 acres for industrial land. So the past systems did allow and did provide for development and we have more than enough, while at the same time trying to preserve agriculture and environment and the Niagara Escarpment.
On a regional basis in the past systems and this system, we believe we can meet the time frames, but the past systems also allowed more than enough opportunity for economic development.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Cambray, for taking the time to make a presentation to us today. I appreciate it.
PRESERVATION OF AGRICULTURAL LANDS SOCIETY
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Dr John Bacher. Good morning, doctor.
Dr John Bacher: Good morning. Thank you very much. Also with me is the treasurer of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Gracia Janes.
I want to say that I've been involved in farmland preservation all of my adult life. I have had some opportunity to review now three changes to the Planning Act. This is quite different than the other two. In addition to the lengthy process that the Sewell commission underwent, in the government of William Davis the Comay task force went about I think it was at least a five-year process, it seemed, of examination of the Planning Act before the 1982 Planning Act changes were made. This hurried approach to changes is really quite unprecedented and I think dangerous.
Regarding this matter of the "shall be consistent with" or "have regard to," our concern about this is that the "shall be consistent with" is less ambiguous. I think that's a very commonsense dictionary comparison of what the two terms would mean. It's interesting that when the Sewell commission was looking at what it would use, it was thinking of the term "compliance" and the "shall be consistent with" was developed as a compromise.
Another point about this matter of the "have regard to" or "consistent with" that was brought to my attention by Elbert van Donkersgoed of the Christian Farmers -- and he will be appearing before you later in the day. He made the point that in the past there have really been only a few policies under the Planning Act. Until five years ago, the only policy that caused contentious hearings that would get to the OMB would be the aggregate policy. He made the point that under a circumstance like that, where the aggregate industry was a powerful group, the term "have regard to" would tend to be given a much stronger interpretation than it would be for the newer type of policies that have been developed since the wetlands policy was introduced only five years ago.
I certainly think Mr Cambray made a very good point just a moment ago about this emphasis on red tape and delay as causing problems. The very same point he just made, I made to the Sewell commission myself a number of times. Unfortunately, they didn't take it seriously enough so I was glad he just made this comment, because it was something that he did in his own research at one time and seemed to have ignored in his older years. It was that I think if you look at any part of Ontario, there are already areas where development can take place where all the regulatory barriers have been broken, where you could get a building permit. This is in quite a number of different areas.
There's lots of record all over the countryside and there are registered plans of subdivision that have a large number of lots throughout Ontario where building permits could be gotten. So theoretically, you could have a huge explosion in development activity on all the areas where you have development approvals. I'm very heartened that Mr Cambray made this comment, because it was something that was missed by the previous examination of the Planning Act. I think this point was ignored because of the point I made in this brief that the commission was very much wanting to try to achieve a politically acceptable compromise.
An important change that's been proposed is the end of the requirement that upper-tier municipalities bring their official plans up to conformity with provincial policies before there is any delegation of the approval policy. This was sort of the heart of the compromise that was struck in the last Planning Act. The theory was that, "We'll delegate these powers to the municipalities, but in exchange for that they will bring up their plans to conform to provincial approval." This is where I go into greater length in the brief on pages 3 and 4, because this is what is really critical to us.
Apart from the historical matters which I'll refer to in this brief, a matter that struck me this morning about the importance of provincial approval powers, these often give people who are concerned environmentalists in the community enormous influence to improve municipal plans without getting to the expense of a hearing.
There are farmers who are members of our group -- the Grandonis in Niagara Falls -- and they commented extensively on the Niagara Falls official plan. Now, when they made their comments to the province, the province would then later say that they'd received these concerns, and the municipality would be happy in most instances to modify their plan. This is an example of the power not causing a great expense, and I think if this is taken away what you would tend to encourage is instead a costly hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board.
What we focused on in the brief on page 4 is this matter of the historic lack of conformity to provincial policy in the area of food land preservation. The Food Land Guidelines came out in 1977 and they provide a very good model for municipalities to preserve food land if they want to. As we show in this brief, there are many municipalities in the province that did: in the Waterloo region, in Perth county, in Huron county, Oxford county, the region of Waterloo.
There are other municipalities where the Food Land Guidelines have just been a dead letter, and they would have been a dead letter in Niagara if we didn't have the experience of what we called the monster OMB hearing. This is a hearing that went on for two years and cost $2 million. It's generally these monster hearings, I think -- people who are eager to cut red tape and save costs, they always point to these as the example of the need for change or reform.
This is, I think, a hearing that was caused by the ambiguity of the situation which the Planning Act reforms tried to address, because then municipalities wouldn't try to gamble and think that they could defy the provincial policies. It would all be clear that if they wanted to have these approval policies they would bring their plans into conformity with the provincial policy.
On page 5 we point out that this is what worked very well in the state of Oregon. Generally, for people who are concerned with farm land preservation they talk about what models work for farm land preservation. In terms of zoning -- there's other methods -- but when we deal with zoning, what is seen are the two models at work called the Oregon model and the reserve model. The reserve model is a system in Quebec and British Columbia where the municipalities essentially lose zoning powers over agricultural land and it's transferred to a commission.
As an alternative, there's essentially the system we have in Ontario. Where it would work is if used the same procedures that are applied in Oregon. This was adopted in the last changes to the Planning Act. It's important to note that these weren't in the original draft of the Planning Act, but when this point was made, it was understood and the act was amended.
What the system in the current Planning Act and in the state of Oregon requires is that there be conformity within five years in terms of the policies in the local municipal plans being in conformity with the policies of what in Oregon is the state level. An examination was made in Oregon that yes, all the municipalities did conform five years afterwards, so you didn't get this odd situation we have in Ontario, where there's this checkerboard system across rural Ontario of what municipalities abide by provincial policies.
I would also like to point out the comments that were made by the Waterloo regional planning department. Waterloo region has one of the best economies of the province, I think the lowest level of unemployment. They made an interesting comment recently. The department found that their plan: "was approved in full conformity with the comprehensive set of policy statements under the authority granted to the minister by the Bill 163 Planning Act reforms. During the official plan approval process, provincial, regional and area municipal staff worked cooperatively with the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture and the representatives of the Mennonite community to ensure that the interpretations of the new policy statements were reasonable, and that the policies protect both the agricultural resources of the region and the economic vitality of the rural community."
I wanted to quote from that because I think it demonstrates what a lot of people think is impossible. When these Planning Act reforms came out, these were dismissed often as pie-in-the-sky things, that the municipalities would never have the resources to implement the reforms, wouldn't be able to undertake the studies and there would be no consensus in the community as to the desirability of the reforms. Well, here Waterloo region has actually brought its plan into conformity with these policies, with the support of the farm community. Had the existing regime gone forward with the Planning Act, I assume they would soon have been given delegated approval policies.
I think this shows that the type of Planning Act system that was legislated a little over a year ago was a practical and feasible one that will protect the interests of the environment and the economy and the farm community in the province. With that, I'll end and go to questions.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Thank you very much, Dr Bacher, for your presentation. In your introductory remarks, you suggested that there seemed to be an inordinately speedy process with Bill 20. I just remind you that there was an exhaustive consultation process just recently with the Sewell commission, which you've commented on. In that respect, I believe that what is being attempted is more of a balance in Bill 20, an opportunity to allow the local municipalities to have the input they've so dearly requested through AMO and ROMA and other groups.
Your statement on page 6 reinforces exactly that. You've said that the Waterloo region went through a lot of consultation with the agricultural community to come up with consistency with the policy guidelines. If the process worked and it was the local municipality that was able to do it, and when I look at what was referred to this morning by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture as the cookie-cutter approach, the centralized approach of planning that was proposed in Bill 163 in being consistent with the policy, which do you think works better: when you work with the local municipality with the right sets of policy guidelines or when you have a centralist map of every piece of agricultural land in the province and you must conform? Which is a more reasonable and realistic partnership in stewardship?
Dr Bacher: The point about Waterloo illustrates the key point in my brief, that Waterloo conformed with the Food Land Guidelines right in the late 1970s. For a municipality like that, you would not have needed changes to the Planning Act; the 1982 Planning Act would have been fine. The problem is that historically other parts of the province have pretended that the Food Land Guidelines don't exist. In order to get them operating there, there needs to be the sort of changes that were made recently to the Planning Act or else they'll never be in conformity with the Food Land Guidelines.
Mr O'Toole: I would concur, as many do, that there were many strengths and extreme consultation with Bill 163. In fact, we're building on that and looking for the balance, the balance that it was suggested was missing. Do you feel the best place to make a decision is in the area where the decision is most applicable or do you think it should be removed to a court-type system, ensuring that the printed documents are conformed to, whether it's in food land or whether it's in housing? Don't you think the local people are responsible stewards?
Dr Bacher: It depends. In some areas it's been shown that the local people are responsible; in some areas it's not the case. If all the municipalities in 1980 had come into conformity with the Food Land Guidelines, we wouldn't have been lobbying for changes to the Planning Act and a lot of what later transpired wouldn't have happened.
Mr O'Toole: As you said, that set of OMB hearings, which cost a lot of money, certainly that type of process has got us to where we are today. I think people are more aware of the need to balance and recognize the sustainability and the environmental issues and land stewardship issues that you expressed in your presentation.
Dr Bacher: This is a key point, because Niagara is a municipality where the local plan does conform to the Food Land Guidelines. This is the only one that came about through a litigation type of process, and that was because of our society. It's very difficult to expect a local group to influence -- and this is why it hasn't happened in other parts of the province. The Food Land Guidelines essentially are a dead letter.
Mr Bradley: My first question relates to the inability now of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Natural Resources and, say, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to appeal to the OMB under the new provisions of this act. Now all appeals, when the government has concerns, must be undertaken by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Does that concern you, that the other ministries will not have that authority today and it will be the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing?
Dr Bacher: It is a concern. For one reason, I don't think some of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing people who would be making the decision would necessarily have the technical expertise. Let's say it's a decision about groundwater. What would some person in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs necessarily know about that?
Also, it would seem to almost institutionalize the political processes that already go on to see if something is appealed to the OMB by ministry. I know from experience that often if you're going to launch an appeal, it's discussed with a cabinet minister; this isn't totally a civil service-driven process. It would be very much a concern that it would almost create a second barrier to an appeal being launched, other than the real vetting process that already happens.
Mr Bradley: In terms of development charges and the cost to municipalities when development does take place, often a hidden cost is picked up by the community as a whole when you don't have development charges. Are you concerned now that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing will now have the final say for new development charges?
There's a suggestion that perhaps those development charges would not have to apply to so-called soft services -- some people would define those as educational services, perhaps parkland, perhaps libraries and so on -- and may refer only to hard services such as sewer and roads. Does that concern you that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will have the say on that and not the local municipality?
Dr Bacher: One thing that comes to mind immediately is the parkland dedication. Is this part of these charges? I know in the Niagara area parkland dedication is often very important in preserving a woodland that's threatened by a subdivision. This would seem to leave what's a very sort of ironclad parks dedication feature to be completely open-ended. That would be a concern because I know it's worked fairly well and I wouldn't want to see it eroded in this fashion.
Mr Christopherson: I want to thank you very much for the presentation. Obviously your experience in this area and your expertise comes through very clearly.
In your opening remarks, you talk about the speed with which this is moving through and the secretiveness that seems to have taken place in pulling the policy together. I think it's fair to say when we look at the track record of this government with regard to Bill 7 and Bill 26 that there's a consistent pattern of ramming things through, particularly those things that are of an ideological bent as opposed to any attempt to try to reach a consensus, and this is just another example of that.
I want to ask for your comment on what you think the long-range, worst-case scenario is under these proposals in terms of how it will affect planning in Ontario. What could the result be, in your opinion, using examples and language that the average person would understand, if you could, removing us from the details of the process themselves? What is the possible worst-case outcome, in your opinion, for the people of Ontario, particularly those who stand to inherit the Ontario that we all love down the road?
Dr Bacher: I think what's more disturbing is when these are combined with other things not in the act. The biggest feature I'm concerned about -- it came up at a OMAFRA consultation in Guelph on the new agricultural policies. The farmers there said, "These policies are not that bad, but is there going to be the money to enforce them?" There doesn't seem to be; the land use planning branch of OMAFRA is already experiencing cuts. The person who does the Niagara region is losing her position, so it would mean that Niagara would be combined with the larger area. Before, it was combined with the Haldimand-Norfolk region, which has its own very severe problems of land fragmentation. If there isn't the budgetary provision to enforce the provincial policies under the Planning Act, it could be a mess of urban sprawl if that is the case. This is our biggest concern.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation here today. We appreciate you taking the time.
Our final presentation of the morning will be the Conserver Society of Hamilton and District.
Mr Bradley: "Conserver" or "Conservative"?
The Chair: Did I say "Conservative"?
Mr Bradley: No. I was just wondering.
The Chair: Is Mr Hutton here this morning?
Mr Bradley: Maybe he thought we're on strike.
The Chair: So there's no one from the Conserver Society with us yet.
Mrs Laura Dodson: I'm next in line, and I'd be delighted to move up.
The Chair: We'd be delighted to have you move up. Thank you.
The Chair: Ms Dodson, from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy, We appreciate you helping us stay on schedule.
Mrs Dodson: I'd be glad to get home. I have to go to the council meeting tonight, and prepare for that at home.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you of our concerns about Bill 20. I represent the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy, a citizens' group with approximately 650 members, most of whom live in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Our mandate is to preserve our town's rich heritage. We have grave concerns about the effects of Bill 20 on our town and on our heritage.
First, the description of Bill 20 is contradictory. It's called "An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system" etc. One does not protect the environment by speeding up development, by permitting a farm retirement lot, a surplus on-farm residence and infilling between existing homes on prime agricultural land, including tender fruit lands; by allowing expansion into prime agricultural areas "where there are no reasonable alternatives which avoid prime agricultural areas"; by going back to permitting -- endorsing, really -- urban sprawl; and by allowing municipalities to pay little attention to provincial policies and guidelines such as those which are supposed to protect such places as natural heritage sites like ravines and marshes.
Bill 20 says that municipalities need only "have regard to" provincial policies, and my Shorter Oxford Dictionary indicates that this could mean "glance at," "look at," "refer to" etc, rather than Bill 163's "be consistent with," a firm statement assuring a high measure of compliance and consistency in the municipality and throughout the province.
Town planning cannot be looked at in isolation. Preserving our fragile heritage in old-town Niagara-on-the-Lake -- and I must stress that our deep concern is with this small area of old-town Niagara-on-the-Lake, although naturally we're concerned about our whole town -- of buildings, open spaces, streetscapes, rural town atmosphere etc is difficult enough under the existing Planning Act with its requirement that decisions be "consistent with" its sound provincial policies, because that act of course also, as you know, sets specific guidelines for times for planning decisions.
Under pressure from individuals and developers, we lose our heritage bit by bit: a demolition here; a historic house moved to make way for a nondescript building; a rezoning to permit what we call "commercial creep" into a residential zone; the sale of a town-owned waterfront lot on which a monster house is built despite town policy that the town will, wherever possible, acquire waterfront property for public use. Giving more local control over development to local governments creates more development, since local developers can put much pressure on councils whereas the province is at arm's length and less subject to such pressures, and Bill 20 hands over such control.
More development may create some jobs, short-term ones, but it is becoming increasingly clear that more development also costs the community, and hence the taxpayers, more money. Intensification requires perhaps more soft services, and urban sprawl more hard services.
Streamlining the land use planning and development system means speeding up development. Bill 20 reduces time requirements of 30 days to 20, cancels the requirement for public meetings in some planning matters, and reduces the number of times notices are to be published in local papers. And this speeding up has other very serious implications. There will not be enough time for ministries and agencies to report their concerns and requirements, ministries as important as Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the conservation authority -- should it still be in existence -- will not be able to make a thorough investigation. These ministries and agencies are also being shredded. Layoffs of employees are reducing staffs to the point that they cannot do the necessary work.
The previous government was able to involve all ministries in planning matters in a cooperative fashion. These ministries could appeal decisions to the Ontario Municipal Board where deemed appropriate. Bill 20 stops all that. Only the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing can ask for such a referral. We have to ask, why?
We have another very important heritage resource in Niagara-on-the-Lake, that is, our prime agricultural land, along with our unique micro-climate which creates a longer growing season than exists, for example, south of the escarpment. The Conservative government's decision not to pursue the agricultural easements which the previous government had negotiated with the farm community puts great strain on often hard-pressed farmers to sell to developers who often knock on the door. Bill 20 does very little, if anything, to protect that most vital resource. We felt that great progress was being made and that a solution had been found, and that was of course largely due to the hard work of PALS, but this government has failed to deliver.
We are working very hard on a new official plan for our town, and in Bill 20 we see that the minister may allow municipalities to be exempt from having the plan approved by MMAH. This will also apply to official plan amendments. I may not quite understand this part too well, so forgive me for my inexperience and if I'm not quite right here. Surely an official plan should be consistent with provincial policy or else planning decisions will vary widely within the province.
Bill 163 also allowed the province authority to say what should be in an official plan, but that requirement has been done away with in Bill 20. We are very concerned about our environment, our creeks, our river and our lake. We also have extensive wetlands and a beautiful common. We have parks and conservation areas. We feel that Bill 20 threatens to water down environmental protection for such treasured natural resources.
I have said that Bill 20 speeds up development and creates much pressure on municipalities to develop. Development is fine if it is appropriate to the neighbourhood and does not destroy a people's heritage, but the recent cut in transfer payments will put even greater pressure on municipalities to develop, in the belief that such activity will make up for shortfalls. Our council has such a belief. One of our alderman said recently that he wanted to see the shovels going into the ground as quickly as possible. By the way, I think we have 20 development proposals in the works in Niagara-on-the-Lake, from a 1,700-unit subdivision called Niagara on the Green, to a huge apartment complex on the Niagara River. All of these are in the works, so we are certainly doing our bit as far as development goes. With the flabby aspects of Bill 20 and its shortened time frame, and with developers champing at the bit, we are under a great threat.
Michael Kirkland, a Toronto architect, said something about municipal councils which applies to all levels of government, when he said that instead of looking at their constituency as a commonwealth, elected officials see it as a Monopoly game board. To quote Mr Kirkland, the players in this "sordid game" are municipal councils, who have lost the idea of stewardship that once came with being a city father; architects, some of whom believe they are just part of the industrial apparatus -- they find out what somebody wants and get out there and do it; planners, who have no sense of the physical world and who are all about process -- they don't care where you're going, they just care how you get there; and finally, there are the developers, who play the game with their benign or even self-congratulatory language. In their arguments, they use words such as "free markets," "choice," "economic stimulus," "progressive," "modern," "popular" and "feasible." "Feasibility" implies that what they do is feasible and what you want them to do is unfeasible. They want to turn the environment into a commodity. They should be asked: "What are you contributing to the town, not economically, but culturally, physically, in terms of the idea of the town? What are you giving us? Why should we want you here?"
A good planning act is a mark of good stewardship on the part of the provincial government. We believe that Bill 163 has such a quality about it, although it has not had sufficient time to be tested. Certainly the months of wide and intense consultation indicated the government's attempts to be good stewards of the commonwealth which is Ontario. We believe that Bill 20, in its frenzied revamping and deleting of good planning principles, fails on many fronts. Its effects, we fear, will be chaos in planning within the province. Thank you.
Mr Bradley: Thank you very much for your well-thought-out presentation today. The first question I have for you is in regard to the agricultural land itself. There is a proposal -- and this is in the field of planning. That's why I'm concerned about the Planning Act changes. There is a proposal for what are called economic severances. We recognize that farmers in the Niagara region are having a difficult time because of many challenges they face, and all of us would be supportive of them. Some of the farmers are seeking what are called "economic severances" so they can continue for at least a short time, with the hope they will be able to make a comeback. So far, by the way, the provincial government has resisted this proposal. What do you think the consequences would be of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs approving the proposal for economic severances in the Niagara region?
Mrs Dodson: I think consultation with farmers should take place. I live in the farm area, in among the farms. I have seen at first hand the devastation farmers have suffered as a result of severe weather conditions and so on. I have deep sympathy for the farmers. I'm also aware, of course, that there are farmers who also work and are part-time farmers, who seem to want to balance both sides.
I would perhaps have to defer to PALS to answer that question. I really haven't enough expertise. I would be sympathetic to the farmers' requests as long as it were just a one-time thing, but I can see that it could be abused if not very carefully looked into as far as the farmers' economic situation were concerned. Maybe if he opened his books or something --
Mr Bradley: What is attractive about the Niagara Peninsula, in many cases, is its rural nature. Despite the fact that there has been some considerable development taking place, there is the rural nature: the conservation areas, the Niagara Escarpment itself, which is quite unique, recognized by the United Nations as having special significance. Do you believe that the Niagara peninsula would be as attractive to tourists and to those who reside there if indeed we were to allow considerably more development to take place across the Niagara region, or would it lose its uniqueness?
Mrs Dodson: It certainly would lose its uniqueness. I'm old enough -- much older than you, Mr Bradley -- to remember having been born in Hamilton in the days when, as a child, I was driven in the old car down Highway 8 to Cherry Beach or Stoney Beach, down these long roads to the lake through this magnificent farm land. I also was working for the Bell at the time that the Queen Elizabeth was being put through, the later stages of it, and drove through, only to be horrified by what was happening: every now and then some lovely orchards, but for the most part, development all along the highway. People are yearning for peace and quiet and beauty, and you certainly don't find it with industrial and housing developments all along a major highway where there were wonderful farms at one time.
Mr Bradley: I think I drew this conclusion from your presentation, but is it your view that the transferring of more authority to local authorities would mean that local authorities would be more easily influenced by development proposals, particularly in difficult economic times, than would a more neutral, objective provincial authority?
Mrs Dodson: In our particular case, that is doubtless true. In our small community, people go to the same church as the mayor and some of the councillors and attend the same social functions and so on. We have a very small social community, as it were. We are very disturbed at our local councils, the fact that they are there. We are trying to do something about this at the OMB. We are in hearings on a possible ward system to, we hope, correct a block vote, which we cannot seem to overcome -- tremendous influence on members of our council, I'm sure inadvertent in many cases, but it's there.
Whenever I go to see the mayor -- well, I don't go to see him very often, but the staff in the town, a developer is there chatting him up, taking him out for lunch and so on. That's all right, but as a member of the conservancy, I worry about that because of the implications it could have and I believe has had on planning in our town.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much, Mrs Dodson. I enjoyed your presentation very much and agree with all the points you've raised. On the first page you talk about what you found "have regard to" to mean in terms of looking it up in the dictionary and seeing "glance at, look at, refer to." In fact, in one community a group came forward to say that they thought this was akin to a rule that you had to have regard to the speed limit signs on the highway, and as long as you glanced at them and read them, you could then proceed to drive as fast as you pleased. I thought that was an excellent suggestion of what's going to happen here, also given the fact that the government is putting forward these major changes and making reference to policies that aren't even finalized yet.
It's my sense that an objective review of this would clearly lead one to believe the provincial government wants out of the planning business as much as possible. They've left a few of these little threads in there so they've got some defensive ground, but the reality is that they're getting out of the business of making sure that there's a consistent, effective planning policy across the province of Ontario, in my opinion. Your thoughts on that would be appreciated.
Second, you're hearing from the government members, if not today, then in earlier questioning or following this one, that the whole idea is to give a flexibility to local municipalities because they understand the local condition much more than does the bureaucracy at Queen's Park, therefore it makes good sense that they should be severing these kinds of ties. I wouldn't mind your thoughts on why you obviously don't think that is the most effective way to be planning the land use in this province.
Mrs Dodson: I guess I've always believed that higher levels of government, upper levels, were a marvellous protection for the general populace if a local government was not acting too responsibly. For example, the OMB process has been, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a very important vehicle for us, and we can refer to it as another level of government, because we have been able to do certain things that threaten very definitely the shore of the Niagara River; and we're still fighting that one of a huge Canada Square development plunked below our fort -- between the two forts -- so I believe that higher levels of government can afford for the average person a sort of second level of protection where the local group fails in its responsibilities.
The other point about the province trying to get out of the planning, it does seem to be that way, and that would concern me greatly, because I can see great inequities between municipalities and so on depending on the concern that these people have for following guidelines and principles of the provincial government. That would worry me very much.
Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): Good morning. First you made the comment that you had to get back to make a presentation to council, so I thought maybe you were a council member. Obviously, that's not the case.
One of the questions going through my mind -- this is my first day to sit on this bill. I'm a little concerned by your comments on the bottom of page 3, where you talk about elected officials seeing it as a Monopoly game board, that "the players in this sordid game are municipal councils." I wanted to talk to you a little about that. Do you not believe that people who are elected are most responsible to the people who elected them?
Mrs Dodson: Responsible? Of course we can re-elect them or put them out of office when the next election comes along. I don't know about "responsible." I suppose "responsive" maybe is more a question than "responsible" -- responsive to listening to what their constituents have to say to the needs.
Mrs Ross: To the needs of the community.
Mrs Dodson: I think that's where our problem lies more than in their being irresponsible. The answer I get, as I think I hear from this government all the time, is, "You elected us to do a job and we're doing it." What we're saying is that you're not God. You don't know everything. Keep your ears open and we'd like to confer with you about things. We find in our community that is not a very easy thing to do even though we have tried, and do try, many times.
Mrs Ross: Mrs Dodson, I'm sure you'll agree with me that Ontario is a huge province and that the needs of the community vary from Elliot Lake, Hamilton, Toronto, so wouldn't you agree that those people living in their community, working in their community, elected by the people in their community have the ear to the community and know their community better than somebody sitting in an ivory tower in Toronto?
Mrs Dodson: The ivory tower in Toronto -- maybe I can answer your question by saying that our group actually proposed legislation to the last government to ask to be a special planning area. I think perhaps this is one of our problems, that there's great diversity, as you've said, among the communities. We happen to live in this very historic town, and you know how easily these historic towns become something else because developers gravitate to them, it's a nice address to have and you've got two million, three million tourists coming and going all year.
We found even the Planning Act to be insufficient to handle our requirements in the heritage area and we asked for special planning. The argument was, "You're going to have somebody up there in an ivory tower, maybe not even wired for sound, who is going to deal with the planning." But we had an arrangement; we felt we had a plan whereby members of the provincial government who are also elected by us would be sitting on a council with elected local members and community members to overlook the planning of important developments in the community. So I don't see this sort of ivory tower situation.
For example, my MPP lives on the farm just around the corner from me, so I have ready access to him if I want to speak to him. I'm fortunate that way. Our last MPP, Christel Haeck, was extremely approachable. She was simply wonderful in talking to us, listening to us all. So we had a very good rapport with the provincial government, I guess, better than I ever thought was possible, and I hope we continue that through Mr Froese, our local member.
I don't know whether I've answered your question.
Mrs Ross: Being married to a municipal politician and knowing how much he cares for his community and how he takes into consideration not just development but the environment, the needs of the community, it struck me as I guess a little bit harsh that you have this strong feeling that municipal councillors do not take into consideration, and it kind of makes it sound like -- I don't know; do you understand what I'm trying to say here?
Mrs Dodson: I know, and I read about your husband. I read the Spectator every day because I'm a Hamilton person. I don't know whether I taught your husband or not -- I might have -- at high school. Anyhow, we have two members of our council who are extremely public-minded and who are new. All our other members have been there for ages. Our two new members are very approachable and so on; I am merely quoting Michael Kirkland, who spoke to us a couple of years ago about new planning and so on who said this. I don't believe that's true by any means of all politicians, but it's certainly true of quite a few I know, I have to say -- not Mr Ross.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mrs Dodson, for taking the time to make a presentation and for filling in this slot for us.
With that, the committee stands recessed until 1:30.
The committee recessed from 1226 to 1334.
CONSERVER SOCIETY OF HAMILTON AND DISTRICT
The Chair: We welcome the Conserver Society of Hamilton and District. Mr Hutton, I assume.
Mr Peter Hutton: Yes, I'm the president of the Conserver Society of Hamilton and District. I thank you for the committee's indulgence in rearranging the schedule slightly because of timing problems I experienced this morning. My presentation will be fairly brief, so I do hope that I will have a chance to get into a little bit more dialogue with members of the committee maybe than you've had with some other presentations. I believe the clerk of the committee has distributed a copy of the presentation on your desks. It is headed with today's date and, "Brief to the resources development committee" etc.
I must admit that I had to debate for some time with myself about the worth of spending this time with you today. I will give you some personal reflections at the end of the presentation about that.
I am speaking today on behalf of the Conserver Society of Hamilton and District, which is a voluntary citizens' organization with approximately 200 members spread across the Hamilton-Wentworth region, Burlington, Oakville and Grimsby. We are all volunteer; we don't pretend to be experts. Why I'm here today is to try to share some of our experiences and share some of our thoughts based on things that we have read about Bill 20 and the proposed amendments. The conserver society has existed since 1983 under its current name and traces its roots back to 1969 when its predecessor organization, Clear Hamilton of Pollution, was founded in this city.
The society seeks to promote education, research, fund-raising and action on environmental issues in this area. There are two areas of emphasis: (1) to encourage individuals to take action to change their lifestyle to one that is more environmentally friendly and sustainable; and (2) to encourage local government to make positive decisions to support a more sustainable local economy and society.
To that end, we operate in a decentralized fashion through a series of local committees or chapters located in various parts of the region. The society is one of several citizen-based organizations working to promote environmental concerns in this region. Part of the dialogue that we have had has been with individuals in some of those other organizations you'll see listed on the brief.
Our interest in planning and provincial legislation concerning these matters comes from our local experiences working to protect natural areas in the region and to promote the vision of sustainability that the region has adopted. I'll say more about our local experiences in a moment.
Through the networks of citizens concerned about the environment in Ontario, our members participated in the three-year process that led to Bill 163, the planning legislation passed by the previous government. A great deal of time, energy and funds were allocated by all concerned to make that process work. Through that process, which involved all sectors of the community, we feel that we ultimately got a document and legislation all parties in the community could live with. No one got everything they wanted. No one wants to have to revisit the expense that was involved in developing that document.
That's why we as an organization take the position at this point that the existing legislation does not cause undue or overly restrictive limits on what we see is sustainable development and feel that it deserves to be given a chance to be put into use over time and adjusted as necessary. In that sense, we question the need for any of the amendments that are being proposed in Bill 20 at this time.
That of course is not reality and that is not the situation we face. In fact, we see three areas of changes that we do need to respond to and that we feel will recreate more confrontational situations and lessen the capacity to resolve decisions in the planning process through mediation and other means. I'll speak to three issues that we see specifically.
In Hamilton-Wentworth we have a document that was developed over a number of years called Vision 2020. That document, like the Bill 163 Planning Act process, was developed through intensive discussion, debate and compromise by community volunteers from all sectors: industry, business, community groups, elected officials, administrators, community social service organizations and so on. Much of that document has been incorporated into the official plan of this region. One of its most important provisions for us in terms of planning a sustainable future are provisions that limit the progress of urban sprawl to existing rural Hamilton areas and urban boundaries within this Hamilton-Wentworth region. Anything that damages the ability to build the Vision 2020 of the region in terms of limiting urban sprawl we see as being a black eye not only for us here in this community in Ontario but internationally as well, given the region's involvement in the UN model community for sustainability program.
The amendments concerning eliminating urban sprawl mentioned above would do just -- Oops, what am I doing here? This is not my day. I think I skipped a page or a page got out of order. I'm sorry. Yes, I've got it, so this now makes sense. I'm reading from the top of page 3 of the brief.
There are three sections of changes within the act that we see as a problem:
(1) The lack of an enforceable framework of provincial policies will recreate the situation where people in local communities will be forced into long and involved hearings where interpretations of local and provincial planning decisions will be debated. This will be extremely costly to all parties. We don't see that it makes fiscal sense; not in our view.
(2) We are deeply concerned that Bill 20 will limit municipal powers to control the spread and pace of development. It does this in several ways, as we understand it. It removes legislative authority for a municipality to refuse approval of an official plan or development if supporting infrastructure is not in place. It also reverses progressive decisions of the previous government to encourage intensification of development through multi-unit dwellings, or the creation of apartments in existing housing, all of which are developments that support more sustainable municipalities through better use of existing infrastructure.
(3) The bill reduces a number of provisions for review of planning decisions, such as that required for an official plan from 150 to 90 days or the weakening of the requirement for public meetings on plans of subdivision. For our group, this concerns us because of the pressure that will put on legitimate citizen input and the ability to resolve conflicts before they turn into long and costly OMB hearings. We are great believers in the concept of mediation and have hopes that it will be used more frequently to resolve disputes over new and revised developments. Limits on access to information and participation, and the time to respond to individual interests, will re-create more confrontational situations and lessen the capacity to resolve decisions through a mediated process.
I'm returning to speak to the three specific issues. I spoke to you about the Vision 2020 document.
A second issue that has recently come to my attention concerns the provision of development charges in this very region. Large additional fee increases are being proposed by the region in its upcoming budget. For example, $10 or more will be added to the water and sewer rate to cover a shortfall in the financing charges for previous infrastructure development in this area. Simply put, the region has a lot of empty, already serviced land for which the development charges to pay the interest costs are not being received. New development is not happening. While a onetime charge which increases the base of the sewer rate, which they hope won't have to be repeated, is going to be put in place, it disturbs us that it has to happen at all. With the provisions of Bill 20, the region, which has adopted a policy of curtailing new infrastructure expenditures in order to put its fiscal house in order, will be opened up to pressure from developers with land beyond the range of that existing infrastructure through challenges to the municipality at the OMB level. Again, we don't think that makes fiscal sense. Here's also another example: the cost of sprawl and how it impacts local tax rates through hidden subsidies to development.
A third issue concerns our organization's recent experience with the Ontario Municipal Board process in Dundas, Ontario. I raise it to indicate that we have some experience with the difficulties of the planning process. The issue concerned a rural area in Dundas known as the Pleasantview neighbourhood. It's the last open rural area inside that town, which has been in a special planning area for a number of years because of the polices of the so-called parkway belt west plan related to the Niagara Escarpment.
To make a long story short, the Conserver Society appealed a proposal for development in the area and won our point when we were able to show that provincial and municipal officials were not aware of the full implication of the special regulations governing the area. While admittedly a complicated area of policy and regulation, it does illustrate the problem of the old situation, which amendments in Bill 20 will bring to us again, where officials and developers will only have to "have regard to" provincial policies and regulations rather than the current "be consistent with." More multi-year processes before the OMB and other tribunals will take place as citizens try to stake out their legitimate rights within the development process. Citizens do care about what happens in their communities.
I would also like to mention that the conservers practised what we preach in that situation. Arguing successfully, we convinced all the parties to come to the table for several sessions of mediation, which were ultimately cut short by the municipality before they reached success. There were possibilities where the process could have come to an agreement over a process of development in the area that all parties could accept. Creative solutions were in process. Instead, we were forced into a traditional adversarial process which ultimately resulted in the decision to reverse all but the very minimal amount of development. The decision is under appeal.
I guess what I'm trying to say with this particular example is essentially that any kind of process which is confrontational, such as what I think we'll be going back to, doesn't allow for a negotiated process. We ended up in a situation where we could have lived with some development in this area, and it ended up that we got all we wanted and the developers didn't get anything they wanted. We're not sure that's a situation that is healthy in the long run -- winners and losers rather than everybody having a stake in the ultimate decision.
In conclusion, some personal comments, and I think these comments reflect some things that I've heard within my organization and the trepidation about coming here today. We're not experts on these things. We hear a lot of things that have been happening and we hear rumours that indicate that some decisions about how this is all going to go are already made. We hope that's not the case. We hope we're not wasting our time expressing our opinions here today.
I do hope that all members of this committee will in fact be able to get this brief and all other briefs and be able to consider them. I guess I would reiterate again our point that at this point in time we don't see the need for Bill 20. We think the existing Planning Act should be allowed to demonstrate whether it will be able to function in the interests of all the people of Ontario as it was originally negotiated to do. Thanks.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much, Peter. We appreciate your submission. You mentioned at the end your trepidation at coming forward for fear that things have already been set and decided ahead of time. I would again, as I have earlier, point out that this government has a track record of rushing things through and not seeming to want to give adequate opportunity for people to have input.
We know how long it took for Bill 163 to come about. We compare that with what's happening here with Bill 20; also just recently with Bill 7, the new anti-worker labour legislation which was rammed through the House with no public hearings; the omnibus Bill 26, where Alvin Curling literally had to hijack the House in order to allow some nominal amount of public hearings. This is consistent with that.
I do not deem any of this to be rhetoric. I think the track record of the government speaks for itself. So I think your trepidation is well placed. This government does the very minimum possible in terms of public input and just rams things through as quickly as it can. They're not interested in listening to everyone; they're more interested in having their ideology etched in legislation.
I want to now turn to your comments about "have regard to" and "be consistent with," because I think this is the key to unlock the entire approach this government is taking to planning in the province of Ontario. It seems to me that it makes a great deal of sense -- and on this I'll ask your comment -- that where you have a policy set in place that's meant to be province-wide, and you have legislation that says to municipalities, "You have to make decisions that are consistent with this broad policy," clearly that's a provincial government that wants to have a say and recognizes their responsibility to planning across the province. I would submit that where we don't even have the new policy in place yet, and language that now reverts back to "have regard to," clearly this is a government that does not want to take up their responsibilities for planning, and under the guise of local decisions, are backing away from any responsibility they may have. Do you think I'm being overly harsh in that criticism or do you see it similarly?
Mr Hutton: I see it somewhat similarly. I think the view that we take, and what I'm trying to express, is that within the range of individual local community decisions there are broader interests that could be lost, and the province has a role to be safeguarding those. I think that's what the previous government was trying to do in terms of identifying ways to set policies in place that are in the interests of all of the people of the province but may not necessarily be in the interests of any one individual municipality.
I think of the concepts like protecting particular natural areas, where there may be an economic interest to develop a particular area for a particular municipality, but broader provincial interest in terms of that development says that a different kind of direction should take place. I think that's the kind of framework that you need. I don't necessarily disagree that you should have as much of the decision-making taking place at the local level within a context that says: "These are the general rules of the game. These are the rules that sort of make things equitable for all parties to the decision." I think that's one of the problems that we've had in the past, that without that framework you get more disputes at the local level because it's all a matter of interpretation.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Thank you very much for your presentation. I had a question relating to a little bit about -- and I think everybody agrees in what you said on the last page about the adversarial process. As you know, much has been made of the policies and what will happen in that regard -- and that's a big "if." What we do in terms of the policy area are some of the things that are acceptable to you. That, in conjunction with Bill 20, do you think it's something -- because that's a big part of it -- that your organization could support? If in fact we get that right in conjunction with Bill 20, can we still make it work, in your eyes?
Mr Hutton: I don't believe so. I believe the track record of the past 30 years in Ontario is lots of different policies, but if there's not a way to make a fairly narrow range of policies absolutely stick and have those negotiated out, then we're in trouble. I'll reference exactly the OMB situation in Dundas that I mention in the brief.
Everybody involved in that process was stumbling over policy document after policy document after policy document with lots of different contradictions in them. In a situation with particularly "with regard to" versus a "consistent with" clause in Bill 20, I think you open yourself up to a situation of continuing problems around that area. So in that sense I can't see it.
I know that there are drafts of the policy statement which are out for review, but I haven't had a chance to personally review them and I might qualify that after doing that, but at this point that's my answer.
Mr Carr: With regard to some of the local authority -- and you've been actively involved -- the thrust is to try to let people in local areas -- and I admit at the back there you said you've had some problems regarding that process, although, having said that, the process is there to get involved and to elect people from your organization on to the councils and so on. Are you a big believer, though, that a big part of the voice should be in the local communities, notwithstanding the fact you may have had some problems in some of these circumstances? Isn't, as a general principle, local authority a lot better off than trying to impose things from Queen's Park?
Mr Hutton: Yes, I would agree that imposing anything ultimately has its problems and ultimately decision-making at the local community level is best. In the ideal, that's one thing. In the practical, that's another. This region is going through that kind of decision-making right now about what's best. Local decision-making: Is that the local decision-making at the neighbourhood level, the local council within our regional structure or the regional structure? Ultimately, where does it all end? I don't know.
What I think you do need is an open enough process to allow as many people as possible and as many different sectors as possible to agree on frameworks that will regulate activity, ultimately.
Mr Bradley: You expressed a concern, sir, to begin with that the government may not listen to the representations which are made. Just on making representations to the government, I might have a recommendation for you that could be helpful. You should never say that you agree with something the previous government did, because these people think the previous government was evil and that virtually everything they did was incorrect, so the best way to make the approach is to pretend you're neutral at least. You may find that is the case.
Do you believe that -- there's a different philosophy that emerges here on who owns what and I respect, certainly, all points of view on the committee in this regard, but do you believe that the natural assets that we have in the province such as the Niagara Escarpment, I use as an example, prime agricultural land, certain conservation areas indeed should be for the entire province and should have some ownership by all of us who are in the province and not simply be controlled by those who are either adjacent to or have a direct financial interest in that natural asset?
Mr Hutton: I would agree basically with that statement. I would probably personally and I think many of the members of our group would even take it in a much broader context, that those are assets not only for the province of Ontario but for the people of the entire Earth. But yes, essentially I agree with your statement, and that's one of the reasons why provincial policies I think would be needed.
Mr Bradley: One of the hearts, I guess, because it has more than one heart, in this legislation is the change from "consistent with" to "have regard to." Would you feel a bit more at ease with the change to "have regard to" if you had seen or if we all were to see in the province the policy statements in their final form before that change is made?
Mr Hutton: Speaking personally, I think I might. I think I would still have to return to an earlier comment that from a legal perspective, and having had some experience in terms of trying to deal with these issues from a legal perspective in working through an OMB hearing recently, I still would have some worry about that particular use of language that's being proposed.
There may well be another alternative out there that is not the "be consistent with" or "have regard to." I'm not a sufficiently legal enough mind to know what would accomplish the objective of making sure that basically there's policy out there that is clear, that will have a need for a minimum of interpretation, so that everybody can basically get on with the job of doing and playing the role within the process that they need to play, whether that's a developer who's seeking to do a proposal, he's got clear guidelines: "This is what I can do; this is what I can't do. I'm not going to spend all this amount of time fudging around trying to figure out how I can do my proposal to infringe a little bit on this wetland or that one. This is what I can and can't do."
Make the options clear and that way I think there will be a lot more room for mediation and coming to agreement of people within communities around how their communities develop.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Hutton, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
PRESERVE ESTABLISHED NEIGHBOURHOODS SOCIETY
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from PENS. Good afternoon to you both.
Mrs Gail Benjafield: I'm very nervous. I must tell you I've never done this before. I'm quite intimidated by the suits around the table.
Mr Carr: We're all friends here.
Mrs Benjafield: Yes, right.
I'd like to introduce myself and tell you that I will be doing the first part of this submission, and allow Dr Steve Balz to do the second part.
Just a little answer about what PENS is. We developed a group about five years ago and it's a very active and well-known group in St Catharines, Ontario. Its original name was Preserve Established Neighbourhoods Society, but what we've found is we have become more of a group that works with local governments to help educate the public as to how local governments work.
Our comments regarding Bill 20:
PENS is a volunteer community group, which works together to facilitate and enhance communications between the citizens of St Catharines and local government. Attached is a copy of our mission statement and objectives. Over the past five years, we have provided information and assistance to individuals and other groups regarding the procedures of municipal governments as well as making suggestions to improve the accessibility of municipal governments and their boards and commissions to the public. We have been most fortunate to have members of municipal and regional councils attend our meetings and work with us on a regular basis. Underlying our efforts is the belief that government works best when public input is both encouraged and considered.
It is with this belief in mind that we wish to bring the following concerns to the attention of the committee. Our concerns regard the effects of streamlining the planning approval system on the public's ability to participate in the democratic process, as well as the loosening of environmental protection and the increased urban sprawl that will result.
Streamlining: Public meetings: Section 13 of the bill deals with requests to amend an official plan. Specifically, it eliminates the requirement to hold a public meeting if the council or planning board refuses to adopt the amendment. This change to the legislation would create a situation in which an approval authority could debate and make a decision regarding an official plan amendment before a public meeting is held. If the decision is to approve the amendment, then a public meeting would be held after the fact. In the past the Ontario Municipal Board has ruled against decisions that were made prior to a public meeting because they short-circuit the public involvement component of the planning process.
Although we find Bill 20 to lack clarity in this regard, section 29 of the bill appears to remove the authority to require that a public meeting be held in regard to a proposed plan of subdivision in some jurisdictions. PENS believes that a public meeting should be held in all jurisdictions whenever an approval authority makes a decision regarding approval of a draft plan of subdivision.
Public meetings provide the opportunity for individuals who are affected by a proposed plan of subdivision to address the approval authority regarding any concerns they may have. A plan of subdivision addresses such issues as traffic flow onto adjacent municipal roads, the orientation and location of buildings, including multistorey apartment buildings. In the case of a large subdivision, these issues can have considerable impact on adjacent or nearby land owners, even more so than zoning changes, which still require a public meeting. For example, adjacent property owners may be concerned that the plan of subdivision eliminates the possibility of future development of their own property by restricting access to municipal roads. Others may have suggestions for changes to the plan which may reduce potential conflicts with existing land uses. These changes may be as simple as moving the taller buildings in the proposed plan to a different area of the subdivision or the provision of a pedestrian access to a public park.
It is important that concerned individuals have an opportunity to make their arguments at a public forum before those officials who must make a decision on the matter. The public meeting process provides incentive to all parties to cooperate and resolve as many conflicts as possible before the public meeting, resulting in improved land use planning. By resolving conflicts before a decision is made, the need to appeal decisions to the Ontario Municipal Board is reduced and the corresponding costs of hearings are reduced.
The removal of the requirement for a public meeting in respect of a consent to sever land, that is, section 30, raises similar concerns. The distinction between a consent to sever and a plan of subdivision is not clear and the practice of treating borderline cases as one or the other differs from one municipality to the next. Therefore, the same requirements should apply in either case. Because the decision process must be public, the public meeting requirement is not overly onerous for either the applicant or the approval authority.
Notice of public meeting: Subsections 9(16) and 9(17) of the bill reduce the time required between public notice and the public meeting regarding an official plan as well as the amount of time that the plan is available for public review. The time periods are reduced from 30 days to 20 days. An official plan is an extensive document providing a foundation for long-term land use planning. We would suggest that no less than 90 days are required for adequate opportunity to review a plan, discuss alternatives with municipal staff and prepare for a public meeting. In the case of amendments to an official plan dealing with one specific geographic area covered by the plan, 65 days should be adequate notice. By providing less than adequate notice, the approval authority risks having an increase in poorly informed comment at the public meeting while reducing the level of constructive comments, as well as an increase in the number of appeals to the municipal board, increasing costs to the province.
Under notice of approval, there are three similar things. I'll just read them off as I have them here:
-- Subsection 20(7) removes the requirement that notice of the passage of a bylaw given to interested parties include information regarding the last day for filing a notice of appeal.
-- Subsections 29(9) and 29(12) remove the requirement that notice of the approval of and changes to a plan of subdivision include information regarding the last day for filing a notice of appeal.
-- Subsections 30(5) and 30(9) remove the same requirement that notice of provisional consent to sever given to interested parties include information regarding the last day for filing a notice of appeal.
One can only imagine that this requirement is being removed in the hope that some individuals will unwittingly file appeals after the appeal period has expired, thereby reducing the number of appeals before the municipal board. This is a very inappropriate action on the part of the government. In a democratic state individuals must be informed of their rights and responsibilities, and the notice of passage of a bylaw or approval of a plan of subdivision is a convenient opportunity to provide just such information. It should be noted that a statement regarding the individual's right to appeal the bylaw remains as a required part of the notice. Why not also specify the last day for appeal?
Similarly, notification of the approval of an official plan or official plan amendment is required to be provided to interested parties having made a request for notification: subsections 9(23) and 9(35). Notification should also include information regarding the right to appeal and the time frame for appeal.
Where a notice of approval is required respecting an official plan, zoning bylaw or plan of subdivision, the notice should include information regarding the proper procedures for filing an appeal. This is essential considering that the procedures differ from one jurisdiction to another depending on the level of government that has been granted approval authority.
Subsection 29(8) removes the requirement to provide notice of approval of draft plans of subdivision to persons who have made written submissions, limiting the provision of notice to those who make a specific written request for notification. It would seem that notification of approval would be a matter of courtesy to those who made either written submissions or oral presentations at a public meeting. Clearly both are interested parties.
Subsection 29(15) grants the municipal board the authority to dismiss an appeal if the appellant made only an oral presentation at the public meeting but not a written submission.
It is unclear why persons who made oral presentations at a public meeting should be required to make a written submission as well as a written request for a notice of approval. It has been our experience that those who sit on the council or committee having approval authority generally appreciate the opportunity to ask questions of those appearing in person to make oral presentations and often give greater weight to oral presentations than written submissions. Some people prefer to communicate orally, in person, and should not be penalized for that preference. Persons making either an oral or written submission should receive notice of approval of draft plans of subdivision and retain the right to appeal to the municipal board.
Under the existing legislation, persons who have made a request to be notified of a decision regarding a plan of subdivision would also be notified of any changes to the condition of the plan of subdivision. Subsection 29(11) removes this requirement for notification. Again, it would seem that parties who have expressed an interest should be notified. To require that interested parties not only request in writing to be notified of a decision but also request to be notified of changes suggests an attempt to limit public involvement in the planning process through some form of chicanery.
Similar amendments regarding notification of provincial consent to sever are contained in subsections 30(4), 30(8) and 30(13).
Reduction of time frames for appeal: Subsection 9(24) reduces the time frame for appeal of approval of an official plan from 30 days to 20 days. Subsections 29(10) and 29(13) reduce the time frame for appeal of approval of a draft plan of subdivision or changes to a plan of subdivision from 30 days to 20 days. Subsections 30(6) and 30(10) reduce the time frame for appeal of provisional consent to sever land or changes to provisional consent from 30 days to 20 days.
Considering that notice can be given by mail and the 20-day time frame begins when the notices are mailed, this leaves very little time for the recipient to consider the option to appeal, assuming that he or she has received the notice before the appeal period has expired. The recipient may also wish to seek out professional planning advice and legal counsel before making an appeal. The proposed time frames do not permit careful consideration of the appeal. Our advice to anyone facing such a short time frame would be to appeal the matter first and then try to work out the problems with all interested parties. If enough people follow this advice, the result would be an increase to the municipal board's workload and the corresponding cost to the province.
We have frequently heard the argument made by those seeking approval for a development that the approval process is too lengthy and delays the creation of jobs that would be involved in construction of the development. However, it has been our experience that many of these same developments are proposed by land speculators. The site of the proposed development sits idle for years after the approval has been given while the proponent sells the land to some other developer. The development may never be constructed in its originally proposed form, and municipal councils and other interested parties are left without an opportunity to have input into the final version of the development. Frequently, the argument regarding the length of the approval process is used to push through a development plan before others have a chance to carefully examine the plan. We would advise the government not to sacrifice the public involvement component of the planning process for the sake of speeding up the approval time by a few days when the time it takes to receive approval is not the real issue.
Steve will take over at this point.
Mr Steve Balz: Environmental protection and urban sprawl: Provincial policy statements: The policy statements issued in 1994 under section 3 of the Planning Act lay out the guidelines for land use planning in the province, including housing and infrastructure policies, with particular emphasis on requirements dealing with protection of the environment, agricultural lands and policies regarding natural hazards such as flooding. Bill 20 retains the use of policy statements but changes subsection 3(5) to read:
"In exercising any authority that affects a planning matter, the council of a municipality, a local board, a minister of the crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the municipal board and Ontario Hydro, shall have regard to policy statements issued under subsection (1)."
Previously, the subsection 3(5) required that planning authorities shall "be consistent with" the policies adopted under the act.
Having reviewed the policy statements issued in 1994, we found that they simplified the planning process by providing reasonably clear and consistent guidelines for development. For example, the guidelines regarding provincially significant wetlands provide definitions of wetlands and specific requirements regarding separation of new development from significant wetlands. While we believe the policy statements could be further extended and refined, in their current form they not only provide significant protection for the environment but also ensure consistent application of environmental principles regarding planning matters across the province. Removing the requirement that planning authorities "be consistent with" these policies significantly reduces protection of the environment provided for in the current legislation. The revised policy statements issued in January further reduce protection of the environment, particularly wetlands.
Removing the "be consistent with" requirement also introduces uncertainty into the planning and development process. While many land developers would welcome this opportunity to challenge the policies, they will be the first to claim that the planning process is unfair when they are denied the opportunity to develop a piece of property that they had purchased in the hope of pushing the limits of said policies.
Uncertainty may provide opportunity, but in the long term clear and consistent application of the policy statements will be best for the environment as well as the development industry. Surely there is enough undeveloped and underdeveloped land in Ontario to warrant the protection of environmentally significant features.
Section 16 of the bill states that when considering the need for a five-year review of an official plan, the council "shall have regard to policy statements issued under subsection 3(1)." We would suggest that as part of the official plan review, municipalities should be required to ensure their official plans are consistent with the policy statements for the reasons stated above.
Principle of prematurity: Development of a parcel of land is said to be premature if it is currently lacking in urban services but it is anticipated that the land will one day be suitable for development as urban services are extended to the area and the need to move beyond the current built-up area of a municipality requires expansion of its urban boundaries.
The sections listed in the brief, and I'll spare reading them to you, remove the Ontario Municipal Board's ability to dismiss an appeal without a hearing regarding amendments to an official plan, zoning bylaws, plan of subdivision and consensus to sever.
These amendments to the Planning Act would remove the Ontario Municipal Board's opportunity to reduce its workload and costs to the province by eliminating the need to hold a hearing into a proposal that has been rejected by the approval authority and is clearly premature.
It is important from an environmental and planning perspective to discourage premature development. Allowing premature development of lands on the fringe of urban areas encourages urban sprawl and urban blight. Urban sprawl occurs as urban land uses extend along roadways into the countryside, putting pressure on environmentally sensitive areas and creating conflicts with rural uses such as farming. In the Niagara region, urban sprawl results in a reduction of prime agricultural lands. Urban sprawl also increases the cost of providing urban services to these outlying areas. This increased cost applies to hard services such as sewers, as well as soft services such as policing and education.
Urban blight is the result of an exodus away from the older downtown areas of a city towards the fringes where land is cheap. By permitting premature development of lands on the fringe of the urban area, there is a reduced pressure to redevelop the core areas, which slowly decay as a result.
While the government's goal to streamline the development process is, in principle, a worthwhile endeavour, the consequences of certain changes to the Planning Act may result in poor planning practices. Unfortunately, when poorly planned developments are constructed, they have very long lasting effects on the communities in which they are located. By sacrificing good planning principles in a quick-fix attempt to improve economic growth, the government is exchanging short-term gain for long-term pain.
We have a couple of questions at this point which we'd like to put to the members of the committee and I'll ask them now.
Mr Bradley: Let me answer them.
Mr Balz: The first question, to be fair to the government, I'd like to ask is if we are correct in our assumption that the reason for limiting the notice of planning approval and removing the requirement regarding notice of the last day to file an appeal, as well as the shortening of the time frame for appeal, has to do with an attempt to reduce the number of appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board?
Mr Bradley: Yes.
Mr Balz: The second question: How does the government propose to protect environmentally --
Mr Balz: I assume you'll answer both questions after I finish.
How does the government propose to protect environmentally sensitive areas such as the Niagara Escarpment, significant wetlands such as Martindale Pond in St Catharines, and agricultural lands from development under this new legislation?
Mr Bradley: It doesn't.
Mr Christopherson: They don't.
The Chair: Thank you both. We're 21 minutes into our presentation, leaving three minutes per caucus. We'll start with the government.
Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): Thank you for your presentation. A couple of questions right off the top: How many people are actually in your group?
Mrs Benjafield: We have a membership of about 20 that meet once a month at city hall in St Catharines, and we have a mailing list of about another 40 and that's throughout the province.
Mr Pettit: How long has your group been in existence?
Mrs Benjafield: Five years.
Mr Pettit: It's pretty clear to me that the municipalities have been asking to become more responsible for local planning decisions. If that power is handed over to them, do you see them abusing this?
Mrs Benjafield: The local governments?
Mr Pettit: Yes.
Mrs Benjafield: I think I'll let Steve try to answer that. He's been more involved with this.
Mr Pettit: I guess what I'm saying is, why would they be any more abusive than someone coming from Toronto?
Mr Balz: Why would the municipality be more abusive?
Mr Pettit: Yes. Don't you think, regardless of region, that they would know better themselves what's best for their community than the Toronto politicians?
Mr Balz: In times of slow economic growth or recession, there's a situation that develops in which municipalities frequently try to compete with each other for development. In those situations a municipality is inclined to, I guess, give as much leeway as possible to developers in order to create a handful of jobs, even if it's only short-term construction jobs. For that reason, I think a province-wide approach would be much more successful in protecting significant areas. As well, there are environmental features which are deemed to be provincially significant, that is, significant to all the people of the province, the Niagara Escarpment being one of them. In fact, it's actually been designated an international biosphere, I believe is the correct term.
Mrs Benjafield: Yes, that's correct.
Mr Balz: So I don't think it's necessarily wise to leave the protection of these features to a municipal government.
Mr Pettit: In regard to the "have regard to" and "be consistent with" clause, I think the week before last there was a group at one of the hearings in Toronto -- I think it was the Canadian Bar Association, if I'm not mistaken -- that felt the "be consistent with" clause was not really definable. They were obviously pro the "have regard to."
I wonder what your thoughts are on the definability of "be consistent with," and secondly, relative to the environment, why do you feel that the minister or the ministry would not still be held accountable or monitor any changes in that area, even though it may be passed on to the municipalities? What are your concerns there? I get the opinion you think the minister's just going to walk away from it all and toss it aside. Why do you feel that he would do that? Why would he not monitor anything that's of concern to anyone in the province?
Mrs Benjafield: One of the things I believe in is strong provincial policies, and I feel that in the last decade we've seen some very strong environmental policies being discussed by the various governments and put into place. I do feel that unravelling some of that and giving the local municipalities, the local governments, sort of a piecemeal attack at things isn't a good idea. I believe that wetlands and the Niagara Escarpment and all sorts of natural heritage sites should be held in trust for the people of Ontario and that you need to have a provincial policy to define that.
Mr Bradley: My first question relates to a rather interesting statement you make: "Urban blight is the result of an exodus away from the older downtown areas of a city towards the fringes where land is cheap. By permitting premature development of lands on the fringe of the urban area there is a reduced pressure to redevelop the core areas, which slowly decay as a result."
If you walk down virtually any downtown community in Ontario -- I don't want to zero in on any one -- my own, if you walk down the main street of St Catharines, you see a lot of empty stores and you see this virtually everywhere. Even if you walked out here, there may be some in downtown Hamilton even. One would have to look to see. Do you believe that if this bill passes as it is now, that in fact will accelerate and we will continue to see development of land on the fringes of cities to the detriment of downtown cores?
Mr Balz: Yes. We're not in the business of predicting the future. There are many factors that affect the growth of a city and so on, but certainly that would contribute to that particular problem. Regarding St Catharines, I'm sure Mr Bradley is aware that while we have some empty stores downtown, and we're now making a concerted effort to revitalize the downtown, you also have seen in past years a great deal of construction on the fringes of town, strip malls and so on, obviously commercial activity that could be taking place in the downtown if there were pressure to redevelop instead of sprawl.
Mr Bradley: What do you think would happen to the Niagara Escarpment if the enforcement of the plan was removed from the Niagara Escarpment, it was abolished and it was turned over to local municipalities?
Mr Balz: I can only speak with regard to the Niagara region where I'm familiar with the municipalities in that area. Certainly, I would expect to see some parts of the escarpment developed heavily and others protected by the municipality. It really depends on the municipality you're in and who's on council at that particular time from one year to another.
Mrs Benjafield: I entirely agree with that. I have nothing to add. Yes, the council members drive the municipalities, and yes, it depends on each municipality. In Niagara we have two-tiered government, as you well know, with 12 municipalities under the region and then each municipality. I feel it's a very fractured process.
Mr Christopherson: I particularly liked your answer to the question from Mr Pettit regarding do you see local government being more abusive or being abusive with this authority that's being given them. I also was pleased to see your last sentence as a comment I've been using in other communities across the province, that very much we're looking at a short-term gain for long-term pain. The two go together clearly because I don't think there's a suggestion at all by anyone that local government -- I used to be part of local government -- is any less caring about their communities or about the environment. It just makes common sense that they would care.
But there are pressures, and I've been there, particularly during tough economic times, to make short-term decisions at the expense of the environment, at the expense of good planning that you otherwise wouldn't make, because you have that short-term need. While that's fine in and of itself, in the long run that doesn't give us the kind of communities we're entitled to. That's why we moved to put the province in a strong position to defend those things.
I can say too that politically it's easier to be able to say, "Well, we can't do that because the provincial policy prevents us," and I can tell you there are many politicians who are pleased that's in there because when you've got a room with 200 or 300 people, it's very difficult to not go with the immediate pressure that's in front of you, and so the long-range responsibilities become the part of the senior level of government.
My question to you would be, in terms of the linkage with moving to "having regard to," away from "consistent with," do you see a deterioration of good planning in our communities as a result of this, because the government would offer up the exact opposite?
Mrs Benjafield: The term "in regard to" for me is an unfortunate phrase because it just means that I can say, "Yes, I have regard to this submission and I've heard it today and that's it." I feel that is not my submission, anyone's submission or any proposal. "In regard to" just means you just have looked at it and it has no teeth to it at all.
Mr Balz: If I could just follow up on the comment regrading short term and long term, clearly land use planning is something that needs to be looked at with a long-term perspective. That's why they call it planning.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation and coming to Hamilton here to speak to us today.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Ms Anne Redish. Good afternoon. Welcome.
Mrs Anne Redish: My paper says I'm going to begin by telling you something about myself. Not to blow my own trumpet, but since I'm not representing anybody, I felt it was important you should know the interests and background that bring me here today.
I spent eight years as a member of Dundas town council -- Dundas is a small town of about 20,000 people slightly west of here -- and for three of those years I was the chair of the planning committee; I then spent three years as a member of the committee of adjustment. Second -- a slightly different facet -- I have for the last 10 years been involved with the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, sometimes as a member of the authority, sometimes as a member of one of its advisory boards. Third, as some of you may know, I'm a member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
I hope from that you realize I do have experience in both the environmental and the planning fields, but as I said first, I'm speaking for myself and not for any organization. I should also say that I'm not a member of any political party.
As that individual, what would I like to talk about? I want to talk about three things. I want to talk about the environment, the OMB and committees of adjustment.
First, and most importantly, the environment. I believe the protection of the environment should, indeed must, rank as one of the heaviest responsibilities laid on the shoulders of a government. While environmental actions may not have such immediate effects or be as eye-catching as activities involving taxes, hospitals, social services, environmental actions have far-reaching effects that will determine the fate of the citizens of Ontario for generations to come.
I know the pressures that lead to development. I know the benefits that many municipalities believe they will get from development. I know the construction industry is an engine of economic recovery. But I also know the enormous risks we run if we succumb to those pressures indiscriminately. Those risks lie in the loss of the biodiversity of our province on which, ultimately, human life depends.
Our ecosystems, wildlife habitat and native species are not only intrinsically valuable but they provide a genetic diversity of immense importance. Agriculture and scientific research depend on them. Wildlands and the wetlands support industry, such as recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing. Our native species are dependent on the preservation of appropriate habitats, and already far too many, especially in southern Ontario, are on the threatened and endangered lists, and increasing threats of development to wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas can only make the situation worse.
As you've been hearing, the greatest risk to the environment through this proposed act lies in the limited requirement that the development shall "have regard to" the provincial policy statement on matters of provincial interest in land use planning and development. It's so easy to "have regard to" a policy. It's so easy to say: "We regarded it. We even considered it, but of course it didn't really apply in our case." There are conscientious councils who follow the good advice of the policy or even go beyond it, but they're a minority. I'm glad to say our own region of Hamilton-Wentworth, through its Vision 2020 document, which was incorporated into the official plan, has done a very good job, but it's not everybody who's done that.
If this committee is truly concerned with our natural resources, which is your mandate, and with the protection of the environment, which is stated to be one of the purposes of Bill 20, you'll strongly recommend to the minister that the existing wording in Bill 163, in the existing Planning Act, will be retained, the wording which requires that development "be consistent with" provincial policy statements, for it's only by legislating compliance with the policy statement, a legislative requirement of consistency, that we can protect our resources, their "environmental and economic benefits," as the proposed policy statement puts it. That's one subject.
The second one is the OMB and planning. There's a proposal in Bill 20 that the various ministries should no longer have the authority, the right, to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board but that this should all be done through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The idea is that this will enable the province to speak with one voice before the board, but I don't think that's really a good idea.
It's important that a board should be aware of all aspects of a matter before it, and different ministries are often the best-qualified bodies to present appropriate information in a particular area. Each ministry has its own area of expertise, whether it's Agriculture or Natural Resources or whatever, and may have a legitimate view on a particular issue which doesn't jibe with the views of another ministry. Unless cabinet wishes to resolve all those issues, and obviously cabinet's got better things to do, the OMB is in the best position to decide the matter and the ministries are in the best position to provide the appropriate evidence.
If the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is merely going to act on the advice of a sister ministry and use its personnel to support an appeal, you've got an unnecessary step in the process. On the other hand, if Municipal Affairs is going to be the ministry which decides whether an appeal should occur, it's going to require additional technical staff to make the decision and then present the case. Either way, I think this is a mistaken proposal.
There's another problem in the proviso that an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board can be dismissed if "an apparent land use planning ground" is not established. That's section 9. It's by no means clear what is meant by this and I can foresee a great deal of litigation being required to clarify this issue. In particular, the question of whether the board can dismiss an appeal because there's a lack of public water or sewage or road services already onsite is apparently open to question. Yet rulings of that nature by the board, saying, "If you haven't got services, then you can't develop there," is one of the strongest protections against urban sprawl, and consequently, it has both economic and environmental benefits.
There's one other comment I'd like to make which sort of falls into this direct planning area, though it's not an OMB one, and that's the question of whether you need a public meeting before approving a subdivision. The previous speaker touched on this rather more eloquently than I do. But she's right that this rides over the interests of a local population, who are often very knowledgeable about a specific site, and even though council approves the subdivision, there are often many good improvements made to the development because of the local input made at that meeting.
The third area I want to talk about is committees of adjustment. I'm concerned with the ruling that decisions of a municipal council acting as a committee of adjustment are final, that there'll be no appeal of their decision. I'm sure the decision is that the OMB doesn't want to be bothered with picayune things like committee of adjustment matters, but I do know that for individual citizens, although it's a small thing, it's a matter of considerable importance, and to refuse the right of appeal really goes against the principles of natural justice. Where there's been a citizen committee of adjustment which is appealed to council, I would still allow an appeal against council's decision. Those of you who come from small municipalities know very well that a small town, a small area, can be riven by something like this, and it's very hard for anybody to get an unbiased decision in those circumstances. For the sake of peace in small communities, I would like to see this still being able to be appealed to the OMB, or even to somebody else, but somebody away from the local municipality.
In general, I can see some good things in this bill. I do think there is a place for shortening some of the time frames. It's a bit of a two-edged sword, but having sat and waited for responses from various people at various times, I do think there's something to be said for shortening responses.
My real concern is that the protection of the environment, which is stated in the title, seems to have got lost. While I understand the minister's wish to give more leeway to municipalities, I fear he's forgotten the attitude that underlies many municipalities' actions. For that reason, I urge you -- if you take any notice of anything I've said -- to give the strongest weight to my plea to delete the phrase "have regard to" from this bill and allow the requirements of consistency with the provincial policy statement to stand.
I'll repeat what has already been said. Remember that what we do to our environment this year will affect it for 100 years. There's no better example of short-term gain for long-term pain. Thank you for listening to me. I hope, if I have bored you, it's because you've heard the same comments over and over again and that you'll take them to heart.
Mr Bradley: I would like to explore with you the lack of ability of ministries other than Municipal Affairs and Housing to appeal to the OMB. Having some experience in government for some time, I well recall that there was not always a consistent view between various ministries as to proposed developments. It was encouraging to see, in my view -- not all my colleagues agreed -- various ministries put forward a point of view from that ministry, because that's where the responsibility was: to protect the environment, in the case of the Ministry of the Environment; agricultural land in the case of OMAF; Natural Resources had jurisdiction over such things as conservation areas and so on.
I take it that it is your belief that the process would be enhanced if that opportunity were allowed to continue because of the expertise and commitment that individual ministries have in this field.
Mrs Redish: Yes, that's correct. I'm a lawyer by training, and a solicitor is a member of a court of justice and it's his responsibility to see that all issues are brought before the judge, not necessarily those he thinks will enhance his own case. I think there's a rather parallel situation for the OMB. They need to hear all sides of the question. Even in a single ministry, the Ministry of Natural Resources,on one hand it's concerned with getting as much aggregate as it can, and on the other hand it's concerned with preserving ANSI as environmental areas. There's a head-on clash. If you get that in one ministry, it's not surprising you get it between different ministries.
Mr Bradley: The other question I have is one which I've asked previously as well. You've had some experience in this regard, both municipally and as a member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Do you believe the Niagara Escarpment plan would be consistently and fairly enforced if you turned it over to local municipalities rather than having one commission consistently enforce it?
Mrs Redish: No. I think it's important that there is one enforcement organization, one development permit-granting organization, the whole length of the escarpment. Even with goodwill, there can be differing interpretations up and down an area, and the escarpment is so vital to Ontario that a consistent interpretation is essential.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Thank you, Mrs Redish. I've been very impressed by your brief. Just a couple of quick observations. I really liked your comment about the department of Natural Resources and the fundamental contradiction that rests within it. Unlike many of my colleagues on this committee who've sat on local councils, I never have, but I've been really taken by this rather naïve belief that abounds that in an operation as large as the Ontario government we can legislate a mechanism where there will be one voice for the several often antithetical interests that are to be contained within it. Surely it is a lot to expect that the Pentagon and the State Department are going to speak with one voice on a number of significant issues which come before it. How do we resolve that tension?
Mrs Redish: I think at the major levels, that is cabinet's job to lay down the broad policies. A lower level can be the provincial policy within that cabinet framework.
Mr Conway: A final point, as I'm sure time is running out. You make a very powerful argument for the "shall be consistent with" as opposed to "have regard to." Have you ever read Burmese Days by George Orwell?
Mrs Redish: Not for a long, long time.
Mr Conway: I live in a rural part of Ontario. My point is that while you make a very powerful argument for the "shall be consistent with," one of the great difficulties some of us have is, how do you then avoid a situation where you, as the agent of empire, are left like George Orwell in Rangoon trying to defend an imperial policy that might have made a lot of sense at Whitehall but looks perfectly ridiculous, not only to you as the imperial agent in Rangoon but to everybody with whom you deal on a daily basis?
Mrs Redish: We're none of perfect and we shall none of us achieve the perfect policy, but I do believe that a policy that is based on sound principles, such as protection of environmentally sensitive lands, will give us the best result in the long run.
Mr Christopherson: Anne, I want to welcome you, and I assure you my comments won't contain a skill-testing question. We'll move straight to the issue.
We've heard, not just today but in numerous communities across the province where I've been part of committee hearings, from groups that are not opposed to development. They understand that there needs to be development as an important part of our economy but have real concerns that the changes being made are tipping the balance away from the environment and our long-term concerns. We're hearing over and over again the phrase "short-term gain for long-term pain." Vis-à-vis that comment, your position on the Niagara Escarpment. Do you see any threat to our Niagara Escarpment as a result of the changes contained in Bill 20?
Mrs Redish: I understand that the proposed policy statement under Bill 20, under the Planning Act, specifically leaves the Niagara Escarpment plan in place in so many words. I suppose because it's a change in thrust throughout the province and a change of attitude, maybe there will be stronger pressures on the commission. I hope the commission will continue to have the fortitude to stand by the plan and see that it is truly enforced.
Mr Christopherson: I'm asking you this question that I don't know the answer to, which normally politicians don't --
Mrs Redish: Nor do lawyers.
Mr Christopherson: -- but here goes, let 'er rip: Does the change from "be consistent with" to "have regard to" affect the decision-making process of the commission?
Mrs Redish: No. The commission is bound by the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act and by the Niagara Escarpment plan which, you will recall, went through several years of rehashing and is now in place once again about a year ago.
Mr Christopherson: But it will affect lands that are adjacent to it that are not captured by it, which could have an effect on the overall natural --
Mrs Redish: Yes, on the boundaries.
Mr Galt: Thank you for your thoughtful address. You express yourself very well in your concerns for the environment, and I think you reflect the concerns environmentally around this table. We're all vitally concerned about that, and we struggle with the wording "be consistent with" versus "have regard to." You might be interested to know that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture was here first thing this morning and they agreed with the change to "have regard to." However, last Thursday back in Cobourg, one of their subgroups, the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture, disagreed. They felt it should be "consistent with."
As we wrestle with all of this, whether it's wetlands, whether we're struggling with the Niagara Escarpment, whether it's agricultural land or forest land, it comes down to, who pays? Is it the farmer who should keep it for the rest of the world or Canadians or those in Ontario? Should it be the municipality? Should it be Ontario? Should it be the federal government? What we're really struggling with is, who pays? When you take rights away from people who have wetlands and that buffer zone around it, they're paying for it. Is that right? I think that's really the bottom line of what we're struggling with here. Somebody suffers when you say, "You can't use that land as you originally purchased it for," whether it's a farmer or a land developer or someone else who happens to own that land. Who pays? Do you have any answers for that, any suggestions?
Mrs Redish: I don't think you can give a broad, sweeping answer. One of my major personal concerns is the loss of the agricultural lands. I was very pleased, in spite of what you said earlier, Mr Bradley --
Mr Bradley: It's dangerous.
Mrs Redish: I did feel that the recompense the previous government was proposing for farmers was a worthwhile project and one I would have sort of paid for out of my own pocket very happily, because I believe it's very important philosophically that a country be able to feed itself. When you have a very small area of agricultural land, particularly tender fruit land, I think it's very important that be preserved. If the whole community has to pay, it's the whole community that's going to eat that food. That would be one answer anyway.
Mr Galt: So you're saying basically that in some way society should be paying for that, not the land owner?
Mrs Redish: Not only the land owner. There are times, yes.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much, Ms Redish. I'm impressed by your credentials. You've spent eight years on council, chair of planning for three years, and now on the Niagara Escarpment Commission, so I'm very much impressed. However, on page 3, you don't have a very high view of councillors.
Mrs Redish: No, that's true.
Mr Galt: That's sort of a contradiction there. That's really where I'm coming from. You really are saying that local councillors, of which you were one, on the escarpment commission, kind of non-elected -- are they competent decision-makers? It's a tough one, I know.
Mrs Redish: No. It's a fair enough comment on what I've said. I do have concerns very often about --
Mr O'Toole: Which? At the commission level or the ministry level? They're all people.
Mrs Redish: No. I'm talking about councillors, municipal councillors, who are often driven by very localized pressures --
Mr O'Toole: I would say one comment just to focus a little on what I'm trying to get to. You were chair of planning. Councillors do not write the reports. Councillors tinker with them, if you will; however, they do not write them. They are written by planners of ethical professional training. Are you saying these reports at the local level are incompetent, have no value?
Mrs Redish: No. No, no, no.
Mr O'Toole: They're better at the province, is that it?
Mrs Redish: No. What I'm saying is that the report the staff provides at the municipal level is often excellent and it's often disregarded by a councillor.
Mr O'Toole: And then it would go to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mrs Redish: At the commission level, again there are excellent reports from the staff. The commission often accepts them, but doesn't always accept them. Occasionally we're soft-hearted. We try not to be. We try and stick to the rules, but just occasionally somebody manages to tell us a very sad story and we succumb, but we know we shouldn't even when we do. I guess it's the same thing at your level. You get good reports, occasionally not so good, no doubt. But you have to make the decisions, and how good you are is how well the province is governed.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Redish, for taking the time to make a presentation today.
NORFOLK FIELD NATURALISTS
The Chair: Our next presentation will be the Norfolk Field Naturalists. Good afternoon.
Mr Tom Campbell: I'm Tom Campbell. I'm the executive of the Norfolk Field Naturalists. I'm also chair of the Haldimand-Norfolk Round Table on Environment and Economy. I see the need for both sectors, environment and economy, and the societal or the health sector, community sector to work together. Since founding the round table, with strong support from the community, consensus has been the word. I hope I don't become abrasive with some of the comments in here. I certainly am not intending to offend anyone, although I do put some rather interesting comments.
Usually, you start from the beginning, but Premier Harris sort of rattled me a little bit in the sense that I apparently am coming here for no purpose. Just going to the appendix, reading the top there, Premier Harris states -- now I know he considers he has a strong agenda, but when you say, "No special-interest groups or lobby will stop us," from our agenda, Mr Harris is certainly a man of convictions and it's sort of a little frightening. This appendix was added afterwards, but it's directly related to the comments as you look at the references there.
There's quite a wide spectrum of resources that I've referred to, everything from economics to futures books: by Jeremy Rifkin and Alvin Toffler and Herman Daly; the Sustainable Communities Resource Package from the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy; Steven Wilcox, a university grad who did work on the local area for ecotourism; getting into scientific and political philosophy with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, near the bottom there -- that would be interesting to the Common Sense Revolution. It is a social revolution, and when you get into social revolutions you have to be extremely careful, because you're getting into a paradigm shift and you don't know where it's going to lead. Finally, back to my university days, the political philosophy of Jacques Maritain at the University of Toronto.
So I have followed this particular topic of economics, environment and community development for over 30 years as a geography teacher, now retired. So I think you should maybe know where I'm coming from.
Getting to the appendix, we are obviously in a very critical economic situation and I just list down 12 topics there that could be called the dirty dozen, if you wish, but we won't put that in print. Everything has been extremely complicated and fitting together, unfortunately, in a negative manner for us since 1949. I'll just touch on a couple of them. They directly relate upon the second part of our brief, which examines ways in which we can raise local community funds.
Free trade, the branch plant economy, the world recession, everything combined to really wallop the province in the last five years or so, because it just doesn't make any sense to keep an inefficient branch plant up here when there's no tariff wall as one of the important locational factors. Rationalization by head offices and governments across the province, computers and automation, the natural attrition because of the recession, the problem that the urban infrastructure is deteriorating and must be repaired, the environmental crisis that the United Nations and the world's leading scientists are reminding us about, the stock market -- it's too good, and let's hope it continues to be good, but the real estate market was too good for a while too, so this could be just another below-the-belt. Then we've got the complications because of Quebec.
In other words, we are living in very critical, difficult times. I appreciate the government's need for restructuring, but am concerned about the supply-side economics, which goes into early economic thinking. It's been tried in the United States with President Reagan and President Bush and continuing, really, with the present President. It doesn't reduce the deficit; the deficit is skyrocketing in the United States.
But there is the perception, and it's a reality, that it does benefit a certain class of people. This is one of the concerns that we have as field naturalists, that as a result of particularly the promise for a 30% tax reduction, this is going to severely hit services and jobs and destroy the things that we think we're proud of in our country. While we're on there, everyone in here owes me money. I'm one of the ones who has bonds, and at 27 cents an hour I'm being repaid -- not quite the million. All I'm saying is that there's a wide spectrum of people in the country who own these bonds and my chief concern is the amount of foreign ownership of those bonds. If we can, if possible, borrow as much money locally, then the dividends are spent and respent in the economy.
I do not wish a tax reduction. If I get a tax reduction, I'll probably just invest it in more GICs, mutuals or something. I don't need it. I'm not going to rush out and buy something because of that. So I just mention that, my own personal observations. Reading in the Toronto Star the situation, I believe, in New Jersey, where there's a 30% tax reduction, the people are not going out and buying; they are reinvesting it. If you're a business, certain concessions are going to be helpful. But again, they will go to the banks for their major funding, right?
So I push on these topics a little bit. Just flipping over, I'm certainly not going to read the rest of the brief, but I think this is important because of what Mr Harris said. So I have to convince you that yes, you should seek consensus and that yes, we consider and are very cognizant of the fact that a very serious situation exists in the province. But we are a pluralistic society, as I mentioned. As a pluralistic society, we should all be considered in the solutions of these particular problems.
Locally, to show you that we're not an organization that's knocking, we are interested in the economy. As chair of the round table, I also have the responsibility as sort of the liaison with the field naturalists and I also am a liaison with local economic development groups. I work with local think tanks and local development groups pushing for community-type development.
Right now, our major project with the round table, and supported by many groups -- number 1 under "Supplementary Remarks" -- we're pushing for a marine museum to bring up artefacts, hopefully, from the SS Atlantic. The case is before the courts, so I caution everybody, don't speak too much about it. One of my former students, Mike Fletcher, and the provincial government are combining, more or less, to gain ownership for Canada against an American company that's trying to claim the wreck. As I say, we're pushing for this particular marine museum, which will be a major demand-generating, all-season tourist attraction that will certainly help the local economy.
Likewise, the Norfolk Field Naturalists and the round table and the Haldimand-Norfolk region are pushing for equal tourism. We live in the Long Point area, which has many fine natural resources. Mary Gartshore is the expert on that expect; you might have questions for her a little later. We believe that some of these natural areas could be threatened by changes in the development act.
Mr Campbell: Does that mean anything?
Mr Bradley: It's just a cell phone.
Mr Campbell: Oh, okay. I thought it was a warning, "You better stop and give people the chance to question."
We are interested in the local economy. That was an afterthought, but it's directly related to everything and I think it lets you know that we are aware of problems.
We are concerned that we've spent -- how long did we spend, the club, on preparing briefs for the commissions for the last Planning Act? -- days and weeks preparing briefs, taking time to come to speak, and then all of a sudden we find that everything is thrown out. This is discouraging -- we're volunteers being paid nothing for this -- to see something thrown out before it was given a chance to be tried.
I had a summary for us here. The policy statements that came out from the previous government, last February or so, seemed to make sense. Obviously, not everyone would agree with them. But why weren't they given a chance to be tried? Why didn't we work a year or two with "must be consistent with" to see how it worked? I can understand where the farmers are coming from. They say they want the other because they might want a land severance, and it's always for a father or a son or something like that, but somehow these land severances end up with families with lots of children and garbage that has to be collected, and it's not always the immediate family that lives in them. But I understand there are economic reasons why they would like a little looser interpretation. But why wasn't it given a chance, you see?
There are many other statements in there which we won't go into, but that's certainly an important one.
On page 2, a concern about not adequately protecting agriculture and wetlands; certainly a concern.
What you don't want is someone reading pages paragraph by paragraph. Let's go into part II.
We didn't have the time to go item by item in the amendments, but we did identify one item in part II. Since municipalities are now being expected to raise more money locally with the reduction from the federal level and then the transfer reductions from the provincial level, we have to use some ingenious means. Section 7 of the Development Charges Act refers to the lot levies, particularly, and the concept makes sense. A new neighbourhood is being built over here; they're going to need extra services. The rest of the community has already paid for those services, so it seems logical that the new community pays a good chunk of the new services.
The concern is that rather than having this lot levy fee or development charge fee decided at the local level, it is our perception that the minister will have the final okay on that particular lot levy, if it's to be increased. Now, if the local community wants to decrease it, that can be decided, evidently, at the local level. Funds are going to be very short, and as field naturalists and conservationists, we're concerned because we fear that there's not going to be enough money left to pay for the upkeep of these and that they're going to be sold off. The local municipalities now have the right, from a previously passed bill, to sell these off, and to whoever has a plan or whoever is willing to buy it and then come up with proposed plans later. So if municipalities can raise more money through lot levies, which can be used for education purposes also, then they won't have to be increasing taxes across the general spectrum of the population in order to pay for some of these services.
I have followed this topic with particular interest since I live in the Haldimand-Norfolk area and the government does have a public land bank in the sense that the community of Townsend is owned by the province. I hope they haven't sold it all off yet, but that community is the regional headquarters, and it's close to Stelco and Nanticoke and the great industrial land down on that south Erie shore. It's the logical place for growth. If the local people, in their wisdom -- local municipality officials -- decide to raise money, they could, since the government owns the land -- they got it at about $2,000 an acre-put a good, sizeable, hefty lot levy on there which would still keep the houses competitive with the neighbouring communities. That could go into a heritage fund for education and other community infrastructure, and when it comes time for the threshold to determine when a new school or library has to be built, they could dip into that particular heritage fund and not into the regular taxpayers' pockets quite as deeply.
You follow the logic; I'm not going to elaborate on that in any more detail. I was one of the ones who proposed this. I strongly proposed the public acquisition of that land, sort of a voice in the wilderness. No one said it would be done, but the government, in its wisdom, decided it would be a good thing. And it still is. It has potential.
I think those are the major points. As a teacher, and as a person who's sat in on committees such as this on your end, I realize it gets kind of deadly when you get going too long. Anything else I should mention, Mary? Did you want to elaborate on the naturalist's aspects?
Ms Mary Gartshore: I agree with your point that a lot of us spent a lot of our personal time, backed by the expertise gained from working in the natural heritage community, but actually giving the time over to developing the data, the expertise data body, and then going and looking at policies and seeing how they mesh with the kind of information that had been collected. I sat on a lot of committees, a lot of municipal meetings, and behind the scenes reading over and dissecting policies. We're working for the people of Ontario too, in our own free time.
I feel it's a bit of a slap in the face, when you've worked all these hours and have watched a policy grow over the years, not just with the NDP government but with previous governments realizing that this has to come down, to see things now go the way they've gone, to lose the possibility of protecting some important natural heritage areas, protecting ecosystems, and not using the expertise and the data and the ability we now have with science to protect areas. That's very regrettable.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. I want to thank you for spending some time setting this issue in a broader context. Unfortunately, with so many thing happening in the province right now, there's not nearly the attention being paid to this, in my opinion, that it deserves. That comes through to the greatest degree when we have individuals who come forward from volunteer community agencies and community action involvement, because you have given of yourself and sacrificed your own personal time to care about your community and to give input. In many cases, it's expertise input that otherwise would have to be paid for by the government, and here it is being offered up for free. To see that work being dashed I know is very difficult. I don't mind saying I feel that way myself some days as certain things that I think are important come tumbling down.
It's important that we set this on the broader stage. Indeed, when you add everything up, it would seem there are going to be fewer and fewer people who will have an influential role in the decisions that affect our lives, whether it's the economy, social services, health services or land planning, as we're looking at today.
I would also agree with your submission -- and I try to do it dispassionately, although I can't do it entirely -- that to have not given 163 a chance when there was so much work trying to reach a general consensus across the province, to merely set that aside and then drop something else in really raises a legitimate question about how much the government wants to listen to differing points of view versus just enacting the things they believe in and assuming June 8 meant they could rule supreme for four years and don't need to talk to anybody else until they decide to go back for a general election.
You raise, in your submission, the issue that I still believe to be the cornerstone of all this, and that's the move from "be consistent with" to "have regard to." Could you embellish a bit, either or both of you, on that particular aspect and why you're so concerned about that?
Ms Gartshore: In the experience I've had with dealing with municipalities, "have regard to" can mean "ignore" or "We don't have to." Mostly what you hear is: "We can make a decision about whether we'll have regard for it or not." "Be consistent with" is a much more powerful tool whereby the proposed development or whatever will have to develop an EIS or environmental plan which does protect the natural features there; it doesn't always protect it very well. But "be consistent with" implies that there is a protocol that this developer and this developer and the next one will have to follow, whereas "have regard to" could mean your buddy gets off because he knows members on council. I think this is a fairer system, and we've called for it for a long time. "Have regard to" has been tried, and we know it fails.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate the time you obviously took preparing it and coming here today to discuss it with us.
I want to address my first remarks with respect to your comments at the outset of your statement. I can certainly tell you we're not spending three weeks going to all corners of the province to simply go back and do what we were going to do at the beginning. We're here to listen and hear what people have to say and are certainly prepared to take that back in our discussions. We have two full days in clause-by-clause, and we've heard a number of useful comments and suggestions from presenters around the province. I just wanted to make that clear at the beginning.
With respect to your appendix, you go on about free trade and supply-side economics. To refute what you said, I think there's widespread consensus that free trade has done wonders for the Ontario economy. Even Mr Chrétien and the Liberal Party are big supporters of it now and haven't abrogated it, and if it was doing the devastation, I would assumed they would have.
In respect to supply-side economics being tried in the States, a big part of that was capital gains tax reductions, which is trickle-down; that's why we're not proposing that in Ontario. Of course no spending cuts came through the United States, and we recognize there has to be a reduction in public expenditure, and governments across Canada, of all stripes, are following that course. Finally, of course the difference between Ontario and the United States is that the provincial government has no intention of a trillion-dollar military buildup, which also was partly responsible.
Having said that, I have one particular question. On page 4 of your document, the second-last paragraph, you say: "If amended, we are concerned that it would give too much power to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. There is a concern that developers, by simply stating, `We will build somewhere else,' could put pressure on local MPPs to recommend to the minister that any development charge should be reduced."
How does this interact in terms of a local council? If a local council were given greater authority in a streamlined process in other areas, many of the presenters have suggested that local councils couldn't be accountable for that type of effort, yet in another area, if it were taken away from the local council and put on to the minister, there's a concern that someone could end-run the process. Is that a contradiction? What are your thoughts on that?
Mr Campbell: Locally, there's one municipality surrounding our municipality that doesn't have lot levies, or if there are, they're very low, and the developer sometimes will go there, but obviously, if there's a market locally they'll build wherever they can sell a house at a competitive price. But there is a concern that this could be used -- I mean, it's a legitimate lobby. There's no insinuation or indication that all this is not something that's legal. This would be a lobby.
If this person happened to be in more favour with the MPP, his lobbying might carry a little more weight, if you can follow the reasoning. I don't want say anything that's going to hurt my cause by getting you people angry at me, but politics being what it is, if you can put legitimate lobbying pressure on someone by saying, "We're not going to pay this $3,000. It's too much. We'll move someplace else," then this person will say, "We're going to lose this developer," and it could be a bluffing game, and then the minister could say, "Okay, we'll reduce it." Meantime, the municipality loses what it considers a legitimate source of funding. Does that indicate my concern?
Mr Baird: To conclude, because I see my time is up, it's problematic at either level. I think in the end, there's no substitution for public accountability. Albeit from someone with only eight months' experience, certainly the folks on all sides of the House that I've met here in my experience are not a group of corrupt people.
Mr Campbell: No. Corruption is not even --
Mr Baird: At least at the local level there would be a plurality, more than one person to --
Mr Campbell: No, this is just lobbying, straight lobbying; there's no corruption. But what I'm saying, let the local municipalities decide on the lot levy, not the ministry.
Mr Lalonde: Thanks again for your presentation. I fully agree with you that the development charges should be left to the elected officials because they are the ones who really know what's going to happen in their community and what the needs are going to be. The only thing I'm concerned about is the hard services expansion. When I say hard services, I mean expansion of lagoon systems and all those things. This should be left within the development charges, but who do you think should be responsible for the upkeep of the services after?
Mr Campbell: Once the services are in and the capital costs have been accounted for, then the general levy.
Mr Lalonde: What is your feeling that on minor variance there's no way to appeal except that a municipal council could appeal to the OMB at the cost of the municipality, not the person going against that minor variance?
Mr Campbell: There were so many items in there for us to comment on that that is one we didn't look at in depth.
Mr Lalonde: But as you know, only a municipal council can appeal to the OMB.
Mr Campbell: I'd rather not make a comment on that, since I am speaking for the field naturalists and I wouldn't want to state a position that we hadn't as a task force examined. I do have my own personal opinions, but I'd prefer not to mention them right now.
Mr Bradley: I heard your comment on the tax cut. Are you aware that the Ontario government is going to borrow over $20 billion and pay over $5 billion in interest to give you and me a tax cut when the deficit is allegedly the problem? I heard you make reference to the tax cut; that's why I ask that question. I wasn't going to ask it otherwise.
Mr Campbell: The deficit is one of the serious problems.
Mr Bradley: Well, we're going to borrow money to give you and me a tax cut.
Mr Campbell: Yes. I can't see that rationale. As I explained, personally -- I can't speak for the other taxpayers of the province -- I don't need it. I'd like the money, but I'll invest it right now. I'm not going to go out and buy something I don't need. When I need a new car -- it was okay coming down, wasn't it?
Ms Gartshore: Well --
Mr Campbell: Unless you complain about the noise.
Ms Gartshore: It could be smaller.
Mr Campbell: It's a 1984. When I do need a new one, I'll just cash in some of my investments and I'll buy it when I need it.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation. We appreciate it.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Derek Graham. Good afternoon.
Mr Derek Graham: Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on Bill 20. The Planning Act and the manner in which it is proposed to be revised by Bill 20 needs some serious revision beyond the scope of Bill 20. The Planning Act's policy implications are enormous for the commonsense development of Ontario. I will only touch on a few matters which the layperson should be able to see as an indicator of the need for a closer and more careful technical review, at least, of the whole act.
I've been involved with the act in its various forms since the early 1970s. This includes my appearance before both committees for the Comay report and the Sewell commission.
With some exceptions, there is still little actual change seen in the process of orderly planning documents in Ontario with Bill 20. As land use planning in Ontario has such a great impact in and on Ontarians, should we not be at least getting the process closer to a more commonsense, practical mode?
I follow with a few examples of rather simple situations which presently exist within the act that either policy branch doesn't understand or legislative counsel cannot fathom the language necessary to include to make the process work without reinventing the wheel or, if neither of the above, I'm suffering from the ABM. These are not unique examples to our land use planning practice alone, as I believe that some of these have been brought to the attention of the ministry staff by ourselves, AMO and other legislated bodies; however, apparently yet to no avail.
I feel that the time line for official plan approval is overly optimistic, given that the various commenting agencies rarely meet the proposed time line now for the ministry. Downloading to the local municipality seems very reasonable from a political and fiscal standpoint, but the technical expertise in planning matters is generally sadly lacking at the municipal level.
By bumping down the responsibility for overall planning to the county level, a new dynamic of frustration becomes a portion of the equation. The legislation and the ultimate power to enforce it comes from the highest tier and the next tier down is supposed to implement it.
In Wellington county, as a practical example, the director of planning has provided an excellent resource to act as a mediator when ministry concerns were raised, even at the OMB level. By placing his office as the only available lead tool of overall planning in this county, it places the county planning office in an inexorably difficult position in trying to be planner, conciliator, judge and jury between the various forces in the overall planning mode.
A recent example of this difficulty was the circumstance of an application for annexation of approximately 60 acres from a rural municipality to a more urban one for industrial expansion. There is no statute-bound provision for notice in the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act to the parties adjacent to the lands under review, as there is in the Planning Act. The mass of land on which there is to befall the "wisdom of best planning" is not subject right from the start to notice provisions, as there is in the Planning Act. Our tax-exempt, one-acre client adjacent to the four acres at the corner of the checkerboard of the total 65 acres at the intersection of two county roads, under which there already were certain buried municipal services flanking our lands, was never notified of any change in the municipal boundary status of its neighbour until the newspaper printed the official notice.
The county planning staff provides planning support to the two municipalities. When the objections were put to the proposed annexation notice set out under the MBNA, as the parties adjacent were never notified, the political atmosphere placed the whole matter into an eventual nullity. By an appropriate notice under the Planning Act, the objectors and their respective planning counsel could have assisted in the negotiations. Even after the second time at attempting to describe the lands involved in the annexation agreement bylaw of the two municipalities, the land in question did not include all the urban municipality's existing buried municipal services, nor did it provide for any room for the expansion of the already crowded, land-poor sewage plant.
The warden of the county is the reeve of the annexing municipality and has the AMCT designation.
This is a simple example of three things:
(a) The lack of the power within the Planning Act to support the mechanics of good planning and the incompatibility of the act in relation to other acts.
(b) The impossibility under Bill 20 of the inclusion of a neutral referee-facilitator in the Planning Act process, as the local planning authority is in an untenable position, unable to propitiate the matters at hand.
(c) The lack of practical knowledge at the lowest-tier level of the process and the political inability to identify the resolutions required.
One of the key tools of planning should be a sufficiently universal, province-wide mapping database: "should," as it does not exist. When various mapping is prepared intraministries, it is done for one-user reasons at a poor government-wide cost-benefit level. What is needed, as indicated during our recent meeting with the Honourable Norm Sterling, is a common base for all land information system users. Existing and recently generated unipurpose drawings and data capturing does not interface well enough with a second user, leading to a gross waste of money and resources.
As indicated in our recent meeting with the minister, his ministry's land registry office Polaris program, which is unfortunately continuing, is recognized by his staff, by career lower-rung civil servants and even by the persons actively preparing the mapping portion as a low end use and an unreliable product which serves a very narrow utility at great cost because it fails to work with the other ministries' mapping and land information programs.
The net profit from the service fees alone in MCCR's real property registration branch has exceeded in past years $21 million, yet none of this is reinvested in adequate, reliable base mapping which could be used for all planning modes. The Polaris system's profits appear to be siphoned off by an unavailable secret contract with Altamira Corp, using a company called Teranet, with demonstrably little regard for the client-user of the system. I am unable to determine the breakdown of the split in the profit between the public-private sector company, Teranet, and the province. It would still seem that a province that is so fiscally in hock should be securing the profit from this area for the running of the province rather than splitting it in any way with a company whose principals created the Polaris program when working as civil servants in MCCR and then retired and moved into Teranet. If Polaris continues, as it appears to be doing, without review by the users, Mirabel will look like a mere blip of ineptitude in public policy when compared to the Polaris program.
There appears to be a complete lack of clarity in the need for interministry cooperation and cofunding. MCCR should have absolutely nothing to do with the preparation of any mapping in Ontario. It, along with MMA, should be a user-contributor in the vote towards land information mapping, not a generator.
It would appear that Bill 20 still has not recognized a number of impractically legislated situations in spite of a number of representations to MMA staff by ourselves and others.
The consent process under section 53 needs serious review. There should be ministry guidelines as to how the consent process works so the myriad of committees of adjustment, minor variance committees and land division committees have a commonality of procedure. At the present time, the act is very silent as to guidelines for these tribunal bodies.
In our past discussions with MMA staff, we gained the impression that there seemed to be three groups within the ministry individually putting Bill 163 together with little discussion between each group. Is this Bill 20 just a further effort by the same parties in such a short time which may have been a minority report in another government's life?
One of our main concerns is subsection 50(12) of the act, which in effect says that you can only deal in the future with an identical parcel created by a consent or if created otherwise prior to the act.
As an example, if a parcel created by consent is identical in nature to a lot created by a registered plan immediately adjacent thereto, and if both the consent lot and the registered plan lot are widened by an expropriating authority then, subsequent to the expropriation or conveyance of the widening, neither the consent lot nor the registered plan lot is the identical lot or parcel. However, one can continue to deal with the remainder of the registered plan lot by using clause 50(5)(e). But one cannot deal with the remainder of the consent lot without going back to the land division committee and asking for a further consent. This in effect creates second-class properties in Ontario. A simple amendment to 50(5)(e) by including the words "or by a lot created by a consent under section 53" after the words "after coming into force of this section" would solve a goodly portion of the problem.
There is a problem with 50(12) in that if one wishes to add to a previously consented parcel, because of the wording of the act, there have been interpretations by the courts and the land division committees that because of the "identical parcel" provision, the original parcel will stand on its own in perpetuity as an identical parcel even if one were to add a minimal strip to it. Because of this interpretation, we've had to parade through a long, expensive, circuitous and rather silly performance to achieve something which common sense would take care of expeditiously without the deeming of lots as well.
As an example of the planning gymnastics we are subjected to, we draw from our recent files an application for consent to the Wellington county land division committee. A number of years ago, a farmer retained a small piece of land, described on paper in his deed, on which to build his retirement home. He and his wife sold the farm to his son and daughter-in-law, and he did build the house and he did live in it. The wording in the deed was very specific and unambiguous. Through error or oversight, what was used and built upon, however, was considerably more than what was on paper.
In order to attach the correcting amount of land to the original paper title, we had to create a fictional consent to undo the original consented parcel. We then had to apply for another consent to detach the correcting amount of land from the bigger land holding. Then we had to apply for another consent to join all the parcels created by the two previous consents so the final portions would all be able to stick together, as none will then be the identical parcel and able to live on its own. This is the same type of fictional nonsense we must go through for a lot line adjustment if you wish to add two inches to your property.
Again, very simply, I would suggest this legislated situation can be handled without any harm to good planning or good law by placing a further clause 50(12)(a) stating -- and I think you can read that.
If one were to glance through subsection 53(1), you would find reference to "a consent as defined in subsection 50(1)." Try and find it. Try and find the definition of a consent anywhere in the act. One should think of a reasonable person who has never dealt with a consent trying to determine from the act what a consent is. Try and find out what a provisional consent is under subsection 53(17). It's not defined either.
Try and find out what a plan is as used a number of times in the act. Is it the official plan, the draft plan of subdivision-condominium, the plan of subdivision-condominium, a plan to illustrate something with or without legal basis under the Surveys Act, a reference plan, or is it really a sketch?
There are very few definitions in the act, and as the use of words not normal to the vernacular are interpreted rather than read as defined, it adds much to the cost of the process.
It is hoped that you will be able to see that I am trying, now for the third time, to review the act and to make it better with adequate reasoning and solutions. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We've got approximately five minutes for each of the caucuses, and this time the questioning will commence with the government.
Mr Graham: As long as it's understood there's more wisdom on that side of the mike than on this side.
Mr Baird: Wait till the answer first.
Mr Smith: You've raised some interesting points, some very technical, and certainly some general comments. I couldn't agree with you more about your position with respect to official plans and the Municipal Boundary Negotiations Act. I guess when you're the member from London-Middlesex and you have recently seen the annexation of 26,000 hectares, only to find out three years later that the community's needs are around 3,100 hectares, it really puts into place the relationship that should exist between those two processes. I was also pleased to hear that you've had the opportunity to meet with Minister Sterling. I'm pleased to hear that he's consulting with people on various concerns, and particularly as it applies to the Polaris system.
One quick question: As a practitioner, obviously under Bill 20 we've addressed the issue of removal of right of appeal with respect to minor variances through the committee of adjustment. I was wondering what would be your view in this regard: Should the government proceed with the bill as printed -- we've heard argument regarding denial of natural justice -- should we retain the status quo in terms of the current appeal mechanism, or is there another alignment or structuring process that you feel would adequately address the minor variance process?
Mr Graham: As I indicated herein, there's the ABM and the BBM. The BBM is the below Bloor Street mentality and the ABM is the above Bloor Street mentality. In my experience in minor variances that are not in a highly urbanized area, they kind of go and there are very few appeals where people get really excited about it. There's also the recourse, judging the politics of the matter. If it really doesn't work and you see it's not going to work as a planning practitioner, I would suggest going for a zone change and then you really have it. It's a judgement call. The loss of natural justice to me is after the 10th commandment.
Mr Smith: Do you have an impression that under the current provisions of the bill, without an appeal mechanism to the OMB for minor variances, there will be a significant increase in the number of rezonings that take place?
Mr Graham: I don't see it as a great issue in the majority. I can see it can happen, and that maybe is the judgement of the people going for the minor variance. To try and take three dimensions, or the fourth dimension in planning, the whole environment of the matter, and stick it on two dimensions doesn't work. It's the same with cadastral land surveying. You can go to court with the case, but unless the parties have actually seen what's happened and can kind of look at it, sometimes it's, "Why are we here?"
There was a recent board case in Wellington county where it was absolutely ludicrous to put private services immediately adjacent to an urban municipality for a residential development, particularly when 300 or 400 feet away there was a swamp, and yet that's where it was engineered to put the tile beds. In essence, what's written on paper, there should always be a little mechanism maybe to fix it on the local level, and as I said in here, maybe the best thing is for rules for the minor variance committee. There aren't any.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you to the presenter. You are the first presenter who has spoken to the issue of the computerized mapping and being consistent throughout the ministries so we can put it all together so it could be used by municipalities and everyone else involved in the industry and they wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel every time they needed this information. But in your presentation you refer to the $21 million that Polaris had somewhere along recognized as profits, and it doesn't seem to have turned up anywhere, and you go on to talk about the Teranet and where the profits from that would go. My understanding was that Teranet was not only not making a profit but was having some considerable difficulty making ends meet, that not enough contracts had been signed with municipalities to utilize the service, that it was having trouble becoming private sector cost-effective. Could you give some comments on that?
Mr Graham: I was in Middlesex last week and the head of Teranet gave a presentation. I happened to have written my exams with him. I've known Ron for quite a while: a really nice man. The difficulty with the mapping within the ministries -- and having worked in the surveyor general's office in the early 1970s, you've got to realize that there's more politics played behind in the Whitney Block than there is in Queen's Park. The various ministries guard their own bailiwick all to their own, and if everybody had the same base to work from, it would work.
The $21-million profit is the net profit from expenses and revenue in the real property registration branch. It goes back, I believe, into the consolidated revenue fund. Now, if a portion of that money was taken as an income generator, set out -- and I have my favourite. It's MNR. That's the body that should be doing the land information system in Ontario, period. You can't convince me otherwise except with a hammer. Then all the various ministries supply with their vote and they buy the service. Why we are splitting the profit of Teranet, when you cannot find out what the contract is, you can't find out the split -- why, if we're in hock, are we splitting it with a private company? That was what I put to Norm Sterling, and I'm afraid the answer was somewhere.
Mr Conway: A very interesting brief, Mr Graham. Someone said, "The devil is in the details." You certainly have the devil well cornered in this excellent presentation.
On page 1 of your brief you make a point about the technical expertise in planning matters rather lacking at the local level. I think it's clear that a measure of the general direction in this bill and the policy that informs it is to provide more decision-making at the local level. Given what you've observed over the years and what we know is coming in terms of smaller governments, governments probably with fewer resources, what's going to happen three to five years from now in places like Wellington and where I come from in Renfrew? We may not even have a county left; who knows? What do you see as the capacity of local government to meet some of the obligations that are going to devolve to them?
Mr Graham: Are you asking me as a planner or as a cadastral land surveyor?
Mr Conway: You made a presentation. You were talking about the want of technical expertise at the local level. My impression is that we're probably going to have no great increase in technical expertise at the local level.
Mr Graham: If you don't make the rules, you shouldn't be playing the game. The rules are made by the upper tier, being the province. To me, it would have been brighter to say, instead of closeting all the planning experts in MMA or Housing in Toronto, put them out in the district, as Ag and Food does. Put the experts out there right at that point. If you're downloading it to the county level -- and Mr Cousins is a very bright and a really nice man --
Mr Conway: The Reverend W. Don Cousens?
Mr Graham: No. You're close. Gary Cousins. But if he's supposed to be able to be judge and jury and try to find a solution from rules that are set down to him and still advise the municipalities, a person only has one head, and you're raising a point that --
Mr Conway: And you think the Royal Bank manager in Aberfoyle or Salem will be more sensitive to --
Mr Graham: West Salem, yes.
Mr Conway: You think they'll be more sensitive to the needs of Aberfoyle or Salem than they might be to head office in Toronto.
Mr Graham: I'm saying that you put your provincial experts in the local area. We have plan after plan after plan that are never seen by provincial staff, so their utility and the expertise they have in viewing the whole of the province is insular.
Mr Conway: A final question. I was struck by the example you cited on page 4 about the farmer and his wife who had the problem with the small piece of land. Just as a matter of interest, who made the mistake in the first place? I ask the question because I'm increasingly impressed by the number of people with good, professional credentials who seem to be making these mistakes, and there doesn't seem to be very much recourse.
Mr Graham: I honestly cannot speak to who made the mistake other than, naturally, it wasn't any Ontario land surveyor.
Mr Conway: Well, I'm sure not.
Mr Graham: Or any member from Renfrew.
Mr Conway: I'm not so sure that would be a given.
Mr Baird: There are two members from Renfrew.
Mr Graham: My deepest sympathy. The concern that you have is, why did it go wrong?
Mr Conway: Yes, I was just interested. You make a good example. One of my questions, though, in cases like this, because I've seen my share of them over many years, is who made the mistake in the first place.
Mr Graham: I would suggest the individual, because unfortunately not all of us are educated in everybody else's business, and so we don't know. It seemed reasonable to put the house there. How much have you bought? At that time there was no requirement; it was more of a rubber-boot-per-second measurement. Now it's a little better, but if I go into Wellington I know what their game plan is in the consent process. It's an arduous and, as I pointed out here, a silly process because of the law as it's written. If I go into Halton I know they'll say, "Well, that's kind of dumb; let's do it this way." If I go into Dufferin, it's handled sort of more at the minor variance level, that common sense overcomes.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation before us this afternoon. We really appreciate it.
CHRISTIAN FARMERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. Mr Christopherson had to go out to return an urgent phone call and he asked your forbearance for his absence.
Mr Elbert van Donkersgoed: Thank you, Mr Chairman. My name is Elbert van Donkersgoed. I'm staff with Christian Farmers Federation. I have with me John Markus, president of the Christian Farmers Federation, and Jasper Vanderbas, one of the vice-presidents of the Christian Farmers Federation. Mr Markus is a dairy farmer and Mr Vanderbas is a pork producer.
I'm going to go through our brief. I won't read it all, since there's a fair bit in here. I'll read the highlights and the gist of what we want to say to you about Bill 20, and we also want you as our legislators to be aware of how we feel about the policy statements. I assume the plan is, as it was with the previous government, to adopt the policy statements at the same time as the Planning Act. So in that context we want you to be aware of how we feel about the policy statements as well. Even if you don't focus as much time on them as on the act itself, from our perspective, agriculture's perspective, the policy statements are probably more important than the actual procedures under the Planning Act.
Mr Bradley: That's true.
Mr van Donkersgoed: To begin with, why is CFFO interested in land use planning? The members of CFFO are primarily family farm entrepreneurs who make most, if not all, of their family income from the business of farming. We and our fellow farmers own much of the prime agricultural land in this province.
The members of CFFO have a history of keen interest in land use planning. We see ourselves as stewards of this gift of good land. We are committed to long-term stewardship of this land, but we need the support and blessing of our provincial and municipal governments if our efforts are to be effective. We need a provincial policy statement that recognizes agricultural land as a valuable resource and provides for its long-term stewardship.
We were encouraged by many of the previous administration's changes to the Planning Act and by its adoption of the Comprehensive Set of Policy Statements. The agricultural content of these statements was a great improvement over the 1978 Food Land Guidelines. However, they also contained some serious shortcomings, especially with regard to keeping rural Ontario open for the business of farming.
We are pleased that the revised draft policy statement as it relates to protecting agricultural land and the business of farming retains many of the improvements that the previous administration made. There is some retreat from protection of our best land. Significant parts of the revised policy are simply steps sideways, and there are some clear-cut improvements. Some of our basic concerns with regard to keeping rural Ontario open for the business of farming remain unmet.
The future of our farm businesses includes more intensive production activities and more value-added activities on our farms. In recent years we have experienced a growing number of official plans and zoning bylaws that describe the countryside as a place for pastoral activities, not the intense and productive enterprises that are the base of our rural and small-town economies.
We strongly prefer the phrase "be consistent with" for the following reasons.
The biggest reason for the slowness of the planning process in the past was the existence of the phrase "must have regard to" in the Planning Act. It leads all participants to try to second-guess what the provincial policy or an official plan clause or a zoning bylaw statement means. No one feels bound to accept as a precedent previous interpretations of the language in planning documents. This phrase, more than anything else -- and we can't emphasize this enough -- led to debate after debate and slowness of process.
Municipalities become beholden to professional planners and their interpretations of the language of planning documents rather than citizens being able to understand the plain language of policies and bylaws. Words that set a lower standard of compliance with the plain language of the provincial policy statement -- and thankfully the draft is written in fairly plain language -- will be great make-work projects for lawyers and planners at the expense of all citizens. The underlying purpose of the provincial policy statement is to help municipalities get the planning job done. If you make the context vague, leave it at "have regard to," the policies will not help. A vague context will require extensive implementation guidelines for the provincial policy statement. This was the biggest mistake of the previous administration, the creation of a four-inch-thick implementation guideline.
We favour keeping the policies clear and precise and letting the municipal official plans be the guidelines to the interpretation of the provincial policies, ie, very limited guidelines from the province. There is not much sense to putting all this effort into creating provincial policies and then not making serious use of them.
Bill 20 drops the concept that regulations can specify that official plans will be required to address important planning issues. We object. The protection of agricultural land should be required for all official plans. We need some consistency from one municipality to another. There is nothing worse for a municipality's local commitment to agricultural land protection than a neighbouring municipality that scatters development up and down every concession regardless of the productive quality of land.
The proposed 90-day period for a municipality to deal with an official plan amendment is too short. Understanding official plans and their implications is a challenging task for many citizens. They need time to consult and be consulted. If an official plan can be changed on such short notice, it really doesn't mean that much. It would not be a plan. A plan is meant to last for a while. The shorter the time frame for amendments, the more amendments there will be, and the proposal reduces official plans to temporary documents just waiting for the next round of changes.
The proposal to withdraw the province from approving official plans passed by upper-tier municipalities leaves us uncomfortable. In a democracy we need checks and balances. If the requirement was to "be consistent with," we would have less concern. We support the idea of municipal restructuring and are very willing to consider a future with only one tier of municipal government; we think two tiers are expensive. Let's not hand the upper tiers more reasons for justifying their existence.
After extensive discussion in our think tanks, we have decided to support a one-window approach to provincial reviews of municipal planning initiatives and we have decided to support the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as that window. We realize this means a much reduced direct role for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, but we assume that OMAFRA will retain an advisory role to MMAH. We believe that MMAH can become an effective watchdog for agricultural land protection. We are willing to give them a try.
The past, with OMAFRA as the prime watchdog for farm land, was not that great. OMAFRA was not able to break the economically damaging waves of scattered rural development that have occurred in most municipalities. Only five counties or regions were helped to break the pattern of scattered rural severances. OMAFRA tended to focus on keeping incompatible uses away from each other. The need to refocus on keeping the countryside open for the business of farming may be easier to emphasize with a new approach. We are willing to become more serious in our own role as watchdog of agricultural land. We also hope that municipal restructuring will result in fewer municipalities to watch. We are very conscious of the reality that agricultural protection policies need good local support to be guaranteed success.
The existence of a real provincial policy statement on the protection of agricultural land will make our efforts to protect these lands more effective. I just want to put in context that the Food Land Guidelines did work to some extent, but we fully assume that the policies, once adopted, will do more than the Food Land Guidelines ever were able to do.
We are disappointed in the choice of words for the three principles of planning as they appear in section II of the provincial policy statement. The language, especially in clause 2, is that of short-term economics and benefits. There is no commitment to protecting resources for the long term. As stewards of the land, we are committed to protecting the long-term productivity of the land and the intrinsic value of the soil for the common good. But why would we maintain this stewardship attitude if the province and our municipalities do not protect resources for the long term in their planning documents? If municipalities are not expected to put the common good before short-term economic interests, how will we be able to maintain our stewardship principles?
The choice of language leads to a plain language interpretation that resources are protected only for their highest and best use, economic use, in the immediate future. Resources like farm land need more than protection. There are opportunities to enhance and expand the renewable commodities it can produce. We request the inclusion of a clause that makes it clear that municipalities should pursue the long-term common good and uphold stewardship principles for resources, not just protect resources. We suggest the following additional principle, that Ontario's long-term economic and environmental health depends on areas of prime agricultural land being maintained and enhanced for the intensive production of food, fibre and other renewable commodities.
Some specific points in connection with agricultural land in the policy statement: the definition of "prime agricultural land." The proposed definition needs to be clarified. We strongly endorse the inclusion of the phrase "in this order of priority for protection." The accuracy of the existing Canada land inventory classification system is often disputed in the planning process.
By itself, this classification is good, but it is not adequate. We need an additional officially recognized method of determining the quality of food land. The approach used by previous administration is acceptable to us. Over time, we need to develop a land evaluation system that is delivered by an independent third party, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, so that many hours are not spent in disputes over the productive quality of food land.
The provincial policy statement in section 2.1, "Agricultural Policies," provides some good protection for our best land, but what about the food land east and north of Toronto that is not prime agricultural land on a provincial scale but is the best land in those areas?
These lands and established farms in these areas also need protection in the planning process. We request that a second category of agricultural land be included in the policy statement. This should include all the lower qualities of food land if it is actively and continuously farmed. It should also include small pockets and all existing established farm enterprises.
These lands need the protection provided by the minimum distance separation formulae. They need the right to farm protection, they need to be eligible for farm program benefits such as property tax rebates, they need to be included in the development of environmental farm plans and they need the benefits provided by the Drainage Act. But this second group of lands does not need as much restriction on severances, and we support the use of a justification procedure to allow the development of non-agricultural uses, such as golf courses.
All food land is very important and needs protection, but we are very willing to put more emphasis on the most productive lands, Canada land inventory classes 1 and 2 and specialty crop lands. We are willing to move class 3 out of the prime agricultural group, the group for which we want absolute protection, and put it into the secondary agricultural land group, the group for which we seek a more flexible level of protection.
We balance our desire for absolute protection for the most productive land with a more flexible approach to class 3 and less productive land. If official plans and zoning bylaws provide firm protection for the most productive land, most of agriculture's long-term interests will be well met. It will be easier for municipalities to support the provincial policies on the most productive land if it is clear that there is more flexibility on the less productive land.
We do not support the inclusion of clause 2.1.3 in the provincial policy statement. Its implications include the possibility of a golf course being justified on prime agricultural land. It also raises the possibility of non-agriculture-related industrial and commercial developments scattered across the countryside.
These developments do not belong on the most productive agricultural land as a matter of principle. We are pleased that no scattered residential developments are contemplated. These belong adjacent to existing towns and hamlets. We would support the inclusion of this justification clause if it was clear that it only applied to less productive land. In other words, we accept that golf courses could be justified in an area of secondary agricultural lands. Mitigation will be an important part of justifying any of these developments.
The justification clause is also acceptable to us for locating estate residential developments in secondary agricultural areas.
We support the inclusion of compliance with minimum-distance separation formulae with caution for both primary and secondary agricultural areas. The existence of the formulae for new severances suggests that severances are expected near existing farm enterprises. The application of the formulae to existing rural residences creates an urban shadow around each of these. We need them because so many scattered severances have already been allowed in the countryside and the formulae are a short-term compromise to accommodate an existing situation. To keep the countryside open for the business of farming, we need to be able to take our extensive activities close to existing rural residents.
The formulae leave much to be desired. They do not take into account prevailing winds. They assume that all farmers are poor managers of dust, odour, noise and other nuisance factors. As the policy now stands, much of our food land east and north of Toronto will not receive the protection of these formulae as the agricultural policy section does not apply to these lands.
We support the inclusion of protection and promotion of normal farm practices in both primary and secondary agricultural areas. As the policy now stands, much of our food land east and north of Toronto will not receive this protection and promotion as the clause is limited to prime agricultural areas.
There are well-established and commercial farm enterprises in secondary agricultural areas. They need this protection just as much as those enterprises in southwestern Ontario. As the number of farmers in rural Ontario shrinks compared to rural residents, this protection will become crucial to keeping the countryside open for the business of farming.
We are aware that our approach will make it difficult for some townships with predominantly prime agricultural lands to expand their tax base or to pay for new services by adding new development. We share this concern but look to municipal restructuring, provincial transfers to townships and, if necessary, new revenue sources, such as sales taxes, for solutions. Continued fragmentation of the farming countryside will limit severely the ability for agriculture to develop. Continued scattered development will undermine the wellbeing of rural towns and villages. Any further scattered development of any kind will compromise our ability to maintain our intensive farming activities in these areas.
We need the best land for our present and emerging technologies. It does not pay to take $200,000 combines and harvesters across class 4 agricultural land. There's only so much economic development money available in rural Ontario. If development scatters, it will not be available to towns and villages. Many towns and villages have already suffered at the expense of scattered development of the past 25 years. There has not been enough development money to modernize many of their downtowns.
Adding 10 businesses to an existing town creates a potential that promotes further development, such as the establishment of a doughnut shop. Ten businesses, scattered one per concession have no possibility of developing the critical mass essential to economic growth.
If after all the above have been tried and some prime agricultural land must be taken, we agree to the following: It must be adjacent to an existing town or village with a clear preference for the development having access to full services; the justification process must be used; the land with lesser productivity must be taken first; the proposal must not be driven by flat food land being the cheapest to build on; additional costs to move the development to poorer land is not accepted as proof that "there are no reasonable alternative locations."
There is not enough development activity across rural Ontario to support both scattered rural residential, industrial and commercial activities and have a healthy redevelopment of our towns and villages. Allowing the development to scatter will guarantee a further decline in our town and villages.
The previous administration included the phrase, "Lot creation in prime agricultural areas is generally discouraged." This provides an appropriate context for the policy on severances. We request that these words be put back into the revised version.
We do not support farm retirement lots in prime or secondary agricultural areas. We do not support the severancing of residences surplus to farming operations in prime or secondary agricultural areas.
We are uncomfortable with the proposal to allow infilling in prime agricultural areas, but we have agreed to support them if they are limited to infilling those areas where there is room for one more residence. We request a change in the definition of "residential infilling" to "significantly less than 100 metres to a size that accommodates only one additional severance." The policy should also apply to secondary agricultural areas. We recognize that the farming business is already jeopardized, but each residence makes the urban shadow that much more intensive.
The previous administration prohibited public service facilities in prime agricultural areas. The new version leaves this out. We object. We believe it belongs in there.
Finally, we do not support a special status for agriculture-related uses when it comes to severances in prime and secondary agricultural areas. Development is development and we oppose scattered rural development. The economic benefits of agriculture-related uses are much greater if they occur in or adjacent to towns and villages.
Our thanks for this opportunity.
Mr Bradley: I want to compliment you on a very thorough brief that is presented to the committee. I agree with most of what's in it; not all of what's in it. There could be a series of questions that could be asked on this, but I am heartened by your stand on severances. I know somebody who I could send a copy of this brief to on severances because I have seen them divvied out in a rather interesting way in certain parts of Ontario.
Is it your belief that severances, in effect -- let me put it this way -- while taken by themselves may not appear to be serious, really represent death by 1,000 cuts for the agriculture industry in this province?
Mr John Markus: I would like to respond to that. It does over the long haul, because severances have been proven that the original owner lives in them for two or three years, and now with the recent MDSs coming down -- plus agriculture has also been identified as an economic engine, as you are well aware; we are 20% of the economy.
Let's just take my own operation. A house was put up and it's no problem right today, but if we lose the NAFTA panel or in 10 years we lose our tariffication and I have to build a barn with 200 cows in it to survive, which I have no problem doing, the MDS formula and my next-door neighbour could put a damper on that expansion. Does that mean I close shop and go somewhere else because he's sitting there, or am I going to go and bend the rules? What am I going to do at that point -- or I'm going to put the barn in the centre of my 130 acres and cause a whole lot of other grief.
So I'm asking that question, as we have been identified as an economic engine, we've also been identified with our ability to export. As a matter of fact, Ontario exports 45% of Canada's exports in agriculture products, so if we were going to be that kind of an engine, we sure do not need any roadblocks in the way to make that happen. We all know we need that engine if we're going to get out of this debt.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. There's not a lot of time available, but under 5.2(b), you talk about being supportive of "granny flats and temporary trailers" for retirement purposes as opposed to seeing the land permanently gone. Can you just expand a bit on that for me? I don't know a lot about this issue yet.
Mr van Donkersgoed: My mother is 87 years old and she lives in a trailer on my sister's farm. That's a township that accommodates retiring people by that fashion and it's a wonderful way to handle that, if that's the choice of senior people. It also works for bringing a young family on to the farm if the farmers themselves aren't ready to leave the property itself.
The concept is, you put a trailer on the property, tied to the person, tied to the family. If the family moves, the trailer moves. There is no reason to create a permanent severance in order to accommodate that need whether it's a two-, five- or 10-year temporary spot for an additional family member. We believe that works fine for agriculture.
Mr Christopherson: Are there many regulations involved in --
Mr van Donkersgoed: Those townships that have accommodated that across the province -- there are not many, but those townships that have accommodated that have not had serious problems with it and it's a one-page regulation.
Mr Christopherson: Excellent. It's along the same sort of lines that we tried to do in urban settings and maybe there's a model, an example for us there.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon, gentlemen. It's nice to see two out of the three coming from the agriculture or the milk capital of Canada at least, Oxford county.
I wanted to go quickly to the part of the presentation about shall "be consistent with" as opposed to shall "have regard to." We had a presentation this morning from the federation of agriculture who felt that the change to "have regard to" was appropriate giving some flexibility to municipalities to judge the provincial policy statements to their local needs.
The next presentation suggested that it should "be consistent with" because the record shows, as your presentation shows, that not many municipalities have been able to actively protect the farm land and restrict development. I'm proud to say that Oxford is one of those counties that has done that. They suggested that it should "be consistent with" to make all do that.
I wondered if you could give me some indication why you feel that the other areas, planning jurisdictions, have not been able to do that. I just can't see the difference in the decision-makers being that great. Why is it that those who started years ago are able to maintain it, but we can't seem to get those types of local decisions in all areas?
Mr van Donkersgoed: The circumstance goes back to 1978 and the adoption of the Food Land Guidelines. Basically, what the Food Land Guidelines were -- they're kind of a policy statement, but they weren't a policy statement. Any municipality that said: "We're going to adopt this. We want to do this" -- basically what this document said is, "If you want to protect agricultural land, here's how to do it." There are four municipalities who did it voluntarily. There's a fifth that got into it because of a major Ontario Municipal Board decision in 1972 and basically adopted this within their official plan.
So a municipality took the approach that if they want to do it, here's the way to do it. The existence in the past was simply if you don't want to, there's nothing says that you have to. Now the question becomes for the future, now that we have a real policy statement -- we have the policy statement from the previous administration -- the proposal and the revised version in front of us leaves much of it intact, modifies it here and there, improves it, weakens it, but leaves much of it intact. We are going to be in a very different position in the countryside. Then our position is, let's "be consistent with," because that will give us lots of confidence that what's going to happen in five municipalities is going to happen in the rest, but more importantly, we will all understand the rules of the game. We will be able to read the plain language of the document and know what the rules are.
If you leave it with "have regard to," we will all be fighting about what the plain words mean at every hearing, at every conversation, at every debate, because -- I'll let you know right up front -- if you leave it with "have regard to," we will feel, as an organization, the need to go into every county and argue that the plain language says they must do it. I think the plain language and the Planning Act should say they must do it, not leave it up to me to go in and argue it.
Mr Hardeman: Based on the Ontario Municipal Board decisions, and I guess going back to the Oxford situation, using the words "shall have regard for," are you aware as to how successful that has been when those applications have been appealed to the Durham municipal board?
Mr van Donkersgoed: If the municipality has adopted this document as the basis of its official plan, the Ontario Municipal Board almost invariably has supported the policy of this document.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us.
HAMILTON REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY
The Chair: Next will be the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Mr Alan Stacey: Thank you very much. Just for the committee's clarification, we have had one change of personnel. I'm Al Stacey, chair of the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority. We have Mr Darcy Baker, who is our senior planner, with me this afternoon.
Mr Bradley: You mean you still have a planner after the cuts?
Mr Stacey: We have. I would like to thank the committee on behalf of the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority for the opportunity to appear today. The HRCA will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 1996. As well, the Association of Conservation Authorities of Ontario is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Over the past three decades, we have worked in partnership with local municipalities and the regional government to promote wise planning and sustainable development.
As you may know, conservation authorities have been significantly affected by recent changes in the way the province does business. We have acknowledged these changes and accept the challenge to reshape our organization to meet the needs of our constituency.
The HRCA supports the objectives of Bill 20, such as speeding up the planning process and providing greater flexibility for local municipalities while safeguarding the environment. However, caution should be exercised to ensure that we are not speeding up the process at the cost of wise planning. Clear policies and implementation guidelines will be required to support the changes recommended by Bill 20. Without direction, the planning process could be mired in conflict and long delays in processing applications. So in fact we'd be no better off than we have been in the past.
Background: Impacts to natural systems are not confined to municipal boundaries. Conservation authorities have been involved in resource management throughout the province of Ontario since 1946. We have worked with local municipalities and the provincial government to ensure that the actions of one community do not adversely impact downstream communities. The draft provincial policy statement recognizes the dynamic character of natural systems and recommends a "coordinated approach to issues which cross municipal boundaries, including riverine and watershed related issues." Certainly that's the position that we have always strongly endorsed in terms of watershed planning.
The health of a community and its residents is directly influenced by the health of the ecosystem in which it is found. Conservation authorities are organized on natural watershed boundaries, which are ideally suited for resource management. The draft provincial policies identify the need for ecosystem-based planning studies and recognize the benefits of coordinated resource management.
Ecosystem-based planning considers the social, environmental and economic factors of land use decisions. This approach to planning is the foundation of sustainable development and wise resource management. In addition, ecosystem-based planning will help avoid planning decisions which require further remediation.
Discussion: Although the HRCA supports the objectives of Bill 20, the draft provincial policy requires significant clarification in areas to ensure effective results.
Bill 163, the previous planning document, provided clear direction on matters of policy and generated detailed implementation guidelines. While this process may have been prescriptive, all parties involved knew what to expect. Changing the wording in the provincial policy from "be consistent with" to "have regard to" may lead to more confusion and lengthy appeals. Stakeholders will be looking to municipalities for policy direction, and developers may be forced to deal with inconsistent application from local planning authorities and, I would say as an addendum, different interpretations of what "be consistent with" or "have regard to" actually involve.
Recommendation: Thorough public consultation is required before finalizing the draft provincial policy statement. The policy statement and subsequent implementation guidelines must provide clear direction to municipalities, review agencies, developers and citizens.
Discussion of planning reform often breaks into separate camps surrounding economic, social and environmental issues. The province of Ontario cannot afford to follow this approach when we are surrounded by examples of poor planning. Ecosystem based planning strikes a balance between social, economic and environmental considerations. These planning decisions benefit the overall health of a community and contribute to long-term sustainability.
This government has criticized Bill 163 for focusing on the environment and ignoring the economic benefits of development. Care must be taken to ensure that the pendulum does not swing in the opposite direction. Poorly designed infrastructure and resource depletion could pass additional costs to the taxpayer in the long term.
Recommendation: Encourage consultation among all interests and design implementation guidelines which promote a balance between environmental, economic and social issues.
A great deal of good information was generated during the previous planning reform exercise, as a lead-up to Bill 163. This should be used as a base for further discussion and consultation.
The draft provincial policy is based on minimum standards, which have been designed to protect provincial interests. The policy is not intended to prevent planning authorities from going beyond the minimum standards, but it also does not encourage them. Areas on the fringe of provincial interest would benefit from additional protection. For example, regionally and locally significant wetlands are not afforded the level of protection the provincially significant wetlands receive in your document. Encouraging local municipalities to look beyond the minimum standards will help planning authorities protect sensitive and threatened natural areas, providing an opportunity for further enhancement.
Recommendation: Wording in the draft provincial policy should be amended to encourage planning agencies to go beyond the minimum standards established by policy.
As we have stressed, clear policies and implementation guidelines will be required to provide guidance for the planning process. Public consultation early in the planning exercise will help to clarify policy and guideline requirements and reduce the possibility for future conflicts.
The policy must be clear about matters related to impact assessment for planning applications near natural heritage features. Impacts should be investigated by qualified professionals and supported by technical studies; otherwise the planning process would rapidly deteriorate into conflicting positions.
The HRCA has worked extensively with two policy statements under the Planning Act: the floodplain planning policy statement and the wetlands policy statement. These two documents have proven to be effective in protecting natural systems and reducing the threat to life and property.
Recommendation: The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing should consider reintroducing the 1988 floodplain planning policy statement and the 1992 wetlands policy statement, without amendment.
In the event that this is unacceptable, the draft policy should be amended to provide clear direction on impact assessment, floodplain management and wetland protection.
The Association of Conservation Authorities of Ontario, ACAO, has considered the possibility that the reintroduction of the 1992 wetlands policy statement and the 1988 floodplain planning policy statement, without amendment, is unacceptable to MMAH. The HRCA has reviewed a preliminary draft of the ACAO proposal. We will be adding our support to the revisions recommended in the ACAO's final submission.
That is our report. Mr Baker and I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Mr Baker is our senior planner and prepared the document.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. Good to see you both again. When I stand back and look at what's happened so far -- this is not the first time we've seen conservation authorities come forward to comment on the agenda of the new governmen -- I see a triple hit. We've seen cuts up to 70% in the funding of conservation authorities. We've seen changes in Bill 26 that will have, in my opinion, a detrimental effect on the environment, and now with Bill 20, a further eroding of the protection that's been in place in Ontario. I wonder what your thoughts are on that comment.
Mr Stacey: You're correct, Mr Christopherson, that we made a presentation with regard to Bill 26 last year here in Hamilton. I guess if you're paranoic, you would think that the agenda of the government is to come down especially hard on authorities. Without speaking directly to that, because I'm not sure what the agenda may be, I think the challenge to authorities, and the one that our authority has accepted, is to deal with what is being presented to us by way of fiscal restraint and cuts.
Personally, I think the changes in Bill 20, because much of the hidden part of the authority's business in the province has to do with planning, and Mr Baker perhaps can follow up on my remarks, perhaps strike more at the heart of what we do, what I think we've done well for the past 50 years, than dealing with the fiscal restraints.
Obviously everybody is dealing with those, so we're no different. However, changes in Bill 20 which may not protect environmentally sensitive areas to the extent they have been protected in the past are of perhaps greater concern than the fiscal cuts we have taken. Perhaps Mr Baker, who deals with these on a daily basis, might be able to add something to that question.
Mr Darcy Baker: Yes, I would agree. It has certainly made our job a lot more challenging in the last little while, with the changes to legislation, especially Bill 20. There was, last bout of planning reform, a great deal of hope on our part that the changes that were made were providing us with the tools required to carry out our mandate.
What's happened is, while the actual process was provided, the changes from Bill 20 are going to remove a great deal of the certainties you had during that process and replace them with, I can see, quite a bit of questioning and squabbling because it's not as clearly defined as it once was.
We're left to try and deal in this particular case with assessments that don't refer to technical details, technical information, and as a planner it's very difficult to try and come to terms with just differing positions without having that technical background to help support.
Mr Christopherson: I want to say too, given that we have the time, that I think our conservation authority has just done an outstanding job in preserving the environment and playing a key role. I think it's also been a balanced approach; I haven't sensed anybody seeing our local conservation authority sort of blinded by the environment only. There has always been a realistic approach and I think you've served our citizens well. As one member in this area, I want say how disappointed I am to see much of your ability to represent the interests of our community so badly hobbled by what the government's doing.
Also, one of our earlier presenters brought in a quote, and I didn't hear anybody refute it on the government side, from Premier Harris, on February 24, that, "No special-interest groups or lobby will stop us."
Given that we've heard that many times and that's not news to those of us who listen carefully to what this government says, what would you say to government members here in terms of, "Don't see us an interest group; we represent something broader than just a narrow focus"? Because that's something, in my opinion, this government has done fairly successfully, to label anybody that's come in as a special interest group and then they can be disregarded. I assume you see yourselves playing a much larger role than that and maybe you could give us your thoughts on that.
Mr Stacey: It'll be tempting to use some extra time to talk about what constitutes a special-interest group. As a teacher of history, I would argue that political parties are perhaps the ultimate special-interest group. Whether you're talking about authorities or unions or bar associations or medical associations, every group of people who share a common interest is a special-interest group.
That aside, I think one of the tragedies -- that's perhaps too strong a word -- of this whole planning exercise, and perhaps focused on Bill 20, is the fact that authorities are seen as some block to development. I sense that, whether it's true or not, and I'd perhaps like to hear from the government members now or later on this, whether that in fact is their perception, that somehow authorities and various aspects of the Planning Act block development or are keeping Ontario from reaching its potential.
I would argue that quite the contrary is true. I think I can speak with some experience on our authority, over 20-odd years being on the authority and hearing various developers and submissions come before us, and I think the development industry, representing one of the special interests in the province, has been very fairly dealt with by authorities.
Sure, it's part of the red tape, but it's there for a reason, and I think it does protect the public good and I'm quite proud of our staff and our authority's dealing with submissions for development permits and so on in an orderly and expeditious fashion. Our turnaround period is very quick, and I think people know what to expect when they come to us.
The problem with Bill 20 is there are some fuzzy areas that leave, we would suggest, more open to interpretation.
Mr Christopherson: I would add to that from a personal point of view that if one takes a look at what happened right here in Hamilton over the weekend, I think quickly one learns that when you talk about interest groups and you do that to everybody that comes along, ultimately there's no one left, because to one degree or another, we all belong to an interest, whether it's our kids, our health care, the environment, the economy, we all have an interest. I find it very upsetting to constantly see any part of our community just set aside and disregarded because someone's put a label on them that says "special-interest group."
The last thing I want to say to you is that for all the attack that you're under, and I can be stronger in my language than you can, I do hope you'll keep morale as high as you can in your organization. You play a vital role in making this a great place to live; certainly in this community you have, and I urge you to do everything you can to try to survive as we look for better days ahead.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much. I appreciate the balanced report. I think it's a very fair and professional summation of your view, and I'd like to think of it as generally fairly supportive. I'm picking up on one phrase here that I just want to clarify. It says, "The HRCA supports the objectives of Bill 20, such as speeding up the planning process and providing greater flexibility for local municipalities." I'm picking up the "greater flexibility."
One of the prescriptive aspects of Bill 163 was indeed talking about that very issue. Do you think we're making, at least in this particular instance, some move towards the fuller recognition of the local conservation authorities, together with local planning, to address the unique features and critical elements involved in ecosystem planning? Do you think we're moving in the right direction in that acknowledgement?
Mr Baker: I think one of the difficult things staff had when going through this was trying to determine the approach that would be used. All too often, it's an attacking approach, trying to pick things apart. When you start looking at the wording in Bill 20, it's all very motherhood, albeit not very much, and you can't really pick apart ideas that you don't have a lot of detailed information on.
The move to support, I guess, more flexibility and more decision-making power down to the municipalities, I think from our perspective is a good one, because of the difficult times we've had in the last three or four years or so dealing with the provincial agencies. With the number of changes and the restructuring that's been going on, it's been difficult to get that field interest boiled down to a local level.
Mr O'Toole: I think that point was made by the Christian Farmers group as well as -- or no, the previous, the land surveyor, where he was saying "Get the people into the field" -- and I compliment the conservation authority. I served on the two conservation authorities in my term in regional government and I was always impressed with the recognition of the stewardship on water control issues, flood control, and commenting was a very important part of their job on plans of subdivision or whatever. So I think it is the place where the decision should be as opposed to the prescriptive, centralist view. And that's the point I'm really trying to make, and simply that.
Mr Baker: I would amend comments or just add to that, that while some of these changes have perhaps positioned authorities in a little better situation between the province and the local municipalities to act as an overseer in many of those cross-jurisdictional issues, the support and the tools required to carry those things out aren't following.
Mr O'Toole: That's right. Well, they have to.
Mrs Ross: Good afternoon. Thank you both for coming forward. I too would like to echo the comments of Mr Christopherson, that I think that the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority is a wonderful facility and does some excellent work.
A lot of your focus has been over the past number of years on acquisition and management of recreational properties. I would like to also ask the question -- and knowing many of the council members in this area, I believe that they're very responsible people and take into consideration not just the environment but the needs of the community. I just wondered if you felt that allowing the municipality more flexibility would hinder the objectives of your authority.
Mr Stacey: I think it's a fair question, and it strikes to, I guess, the heart of what constitutes an ecosystem and whether or not political hats can be left at the door, as we say at the authority, and look at the watershed rather than how a particular development proposal may affect your municipality. I won't say it's a danger, but it's a reality that's always there, if planning was strictly left to individual municipalities, and that's of course why there's move towards the regional official plans and so on, to take a look at planning on a wider basis.
The authorities, I think, feel that they still play and can play a vital role in bridging the individual political desires and wants of a particular council or council member as opposed to what would be better for the watershed. I have to say that on my years in the authority that the politicians who are on the board have done that largely, but there are cases where it's very difficult for them to separate their political hat from their conservation hat. So I think there is still a need for a watershed approach to planning and I still think there's a need for some provincial guidelines so that there's some consistency across the province with regard to certainly significant areas, wetlands, the Niagara Escarpment, for example.
Mrs Ross: On your comments on page 3 at the bottom, you said, "The draft provincial policy is based on minimum standards...." These are minimum standards, and that doesn't mean that conservation authorities have to abide by those. They could make them better. The municipalities could increase those standards; they don't have to leave them at the minimum.
Mr Stacey: I think the thrust is the same. As Ms Ross has said, we would like perhaps some indication in the final document that the province would encourage municipalities to go beyond the minimum standards rather than just leaving it at that because in fact, many will only institute minimum standards. Certainly with the pace of development in urban areas, I think our argument is that we need more than just minimum standards.
Mr Bradley: My first question is around the speeding up of the process. There's a great eagerness to make sure the developers can get their developments through quickly. Did you have a 70% cut or something? What was your cut, first of all?
Mr Stacey: The conservation authorities' budget share of the MNR transfer payments will, in fact, be 70% over the two years. It depends on what share of the provincial transfer payments are represented in each authority's budget. In our case, actually it's not that large, although it still represents a cut of several million dollars when you count in the municipal share.
Mr Bradley: The consolation for me is that I will have a tax cut while you're cutting that back so I'll be delighted, of course. How can you analyse properly and comment effectively in a shorter time line when you're going to have far fewer staff to do that? How is that going to happen?
Mr Stacey: That's a strong possibility, certainly. Planning and hanging on to our land base are probably the two things that our authority have felt would be the last things to go. But perhaps Darcy might comment, since he deals with this on a daily basis, what impact he could see in his department.
Mr Baker: I think some of the immediate impacts that we're going to see are a great deal of transfer of provincial responsibilities down to the regional level. We're dealing with a region that doesn't have the staff expertise right now to carry out those responsibilities and we're trying to negotiate that with them. All of this is going to take a bit of time. With development pressures, if they do come down that quick, we're going to be scrambling, quite honestly, to meet a turnaround and a response time.
The immediate response, I think, would be that an authority will be objecting to a proposal without more detailed information, and it's not going to result in a quicker process; it's going to result in, I think, a more combative process unless we get the rules spelled out for us ahead of time. And that's something that Bill 20 itself and the draft policies don't do, but the implementation guidelines or the supporting documentation is going to have to provide something a little clearer than what we've got here today.
Mr Bradley: There are some people who believe that the concern about wetlands is something that is held by a few granolas, as they would call them, or the people who live in another world in terms of their concern for the environment. What, in your view, are the consequences of unwise development -- which I foresee happening as municipalities desperate for any kind of assessment will start allowing or will be tempted to allow developments they shouldn't -- what are the consequences for us all if these wetlands are impacted adversely?
Mr Stacey: I should add to Darcy's comments that we enjoy an extremely good relationship with our region and the planning departments in it and certainly we're not averse to having to do that on a more cooperative and collaborative basis. Our region has a very extensive ESA component to protect sensitive areas including wetlands. Many regions of the province don't, however.
In answer to your question directly, wetlands are a cheap flood insurance. They're much cheaper than capital projects such as dams or any other man-made structures to control flooding. And certainly as a cost-effective means of securing the security of life and property in this province, on that basis alone, let alone for the protection of flora and fauna, I would argue: Don't allow wetlands to continue to be degraded. We have very few wetlands left, in terms of predevelopment, particularly along the Lake Ontario shoreline itself. So certainly from an economic cost benefit point of view, they're cheap flood protection. Fill in more wetlands, push the development into the flood plains, you're going to have more flooding and you're going to have much higher risk to both life and property. That's not a guarantee, but certainly that would be my prediction.
Mr Bradley: You and others who have made presentations today and those who will make presentations tomorrow should be aware that the committee will begin, in fact, its clause-by-clause analysis of the bill and complete the bill by the end of this week. Would you prefer to see a circumstance, particularly since many of the employees are on strike at this time, where the government and opposition and everybody had more time to take into account, analyse and perhaps formulate amendments based on your presentation and others -- would you prefer to see that circumstance where the clause-by-clause consideration was postponed instead of moving forward with undue haste?
Mr Stacey: Darcy referred to some implementation policies that will have to come out of this to actually put it into effect. I'm not sure whether this clause-by-clause affects that or just the bill itself, but if you rush through the bill, as you suggest, then certainly take more time on looking at the implementation guidelines that will come down subsequently. As an association, we still have a draft proposal which we referred to here. I'm sure there are other organizations in the province that are scrambling to get those draft statements made into something formal and certainly we would hope the committee or the government would have time to include those in their deliberations.
Mr Bradley: Would you prefer to have or do you think it would be advisable to have available a finalized edition of the provincial policy statements before this bill is passed so that open-minded, objective members such as I can look to the bill and say, "Shall I support the bill or not support the bill?" Of course, if you had very strong statements, there may be a temptation to support this kind of bill. Do you think it would be advisable for all of us in Ontario to have available the specific policy statements before this bill passes the Ontario Legislature?
Mr Stacey: I guess, yes. I'm not sure that's also answering the question whether you're open-minded or not, but I'll leave that up to your committee members to decide. But certainly I would --
Mr Bradley: There's a majority here; watch it.
Mr Stacey: I think any group would like to take a look at the draft bill and have time to study. I'm not sure what the haste is here, quite frankly. I don't think the pace of development will speed up in Ontario because this bill is passed next week or even next month. I think there are some far more serious reasons why the economy of Ontario is not progressing as we all would like it. The planning issue and aspects of planning are only a very small part of that.
Mr Bradley: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is going to be the only ministry which can appeal developments to the OMB, therefore cutting out the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources, which are the two that you would be most concerned with. Would you prefer to have that option available to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources to register their objections directly with the OMB rather than simply going through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which has a different mandate, to say the least?
Mr Stacey: I'm not sure what organizational scheme the government is working on, but to answer your question, I would prefer that all three ministries do something collaboratively. I think that's the answer. The problem we've had in the past is that we've had any number of ministries making comments and often at cross-purposes. So I think, in answer to your question, rather than one ministry, have all affected ministries submit their comments at the same time.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation before the committee today.
HAMILTON-HALTON HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association. Welcome.
Mr Larry Szpirglas: My name's Larry Szpirglas and I'm the past president of the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association. I, along with my associate, Adi Irani, who is a long-serving board member, am here today representing our association. We're pleased to be here to respond to the government's enactment of Bill 20 respecting the streamlining of the land use planning process and protection of the environment through the amendments that are being considered by the government.
The Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association is the voice of the residential construction and renovation industry in the Hamilton and Halton areas. Our membership is comprised of over 400 member companies which are involved in every aspect of residential construction, development and building, and it is inclusive of many of the service professionals such as planners, engineers, financing and lending institution professionals, insurers as well as the many trades and suppliers involved in our industry.
We are aware that we will not be the first home builders' association to appear before this committee, and therefore our presentation will be relatively brief, since we will not be repeating in detail the comments made by our colleagues, and I'm referring to the presentations made by Ian Rawlings on behalf of the Ontario Home Builders' Association and by Tom Stricker and Peter Langer, who appeared before this committee on behalf of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association.
Let me simply reiterate some of the comments that they made with which our association is in agreement. Philosophically, we believe as they do that the intent of Bill 20 is to ensure that we can efficiently manage growth while balancing the interests of our industry, our consumers and the public interest at large. We believe that certainly within the last 10 to 15 years Bill 20 represents an honest attempt towards accomplishing these goals.
We also believe that Bill 20 will help those of us involved in this industry to move forward with a greater degree of confidence with respect to the land use planning, development and residential construction process. Quite frankly, we are encouraged by most of the amendments that are suggested within Bill 20. We view it as lending integrity to the planning process and in so far as this contributes towards a sense of confidence in the stability of the planning process, we are appreciative of it.
We certainly agree with the comments made by Peter Langer of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association in which he mentions that the process needs to be streamlined and the inherent costs need to be reduced. We also agree with the comment that Bill 163 did not achieve these objectives, nor do we believe that there was a consensus with the previous government regarding Bill 163's ability to achieve these two aims; in fact, quite the contrary. Our view has consistently been that Bill 163, if left unchanged, would have driven up costs precipitously and would have severely restricted consumer choice with respect to housing types. We agree with Mr Langer's assessment that the position of the home building industry was consistent with that of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Urban Development Institute, the Ontario Home Builders' Association, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Bar Association in its opposition to Bill 163. We also agree that if there was a broad consensus, it was a consensus against these measures.
We believe that Bill 20 will streamline the process and it will balance competing interests and that there is still a plethora of legislation and policy left intact to ensure that the public interest is protected. I will not repeat all the examples of where this is the case. All of you are aware of the capabilities inherent within the current system. I would now like to turn this presentation over to Adi Irani.
Mr Adi Irani: Generally, as Larry has outlined, we are in support of the changes proposed for the Planning Act but specifically we support the following:
(1) Replacing the phrase "be consistent with" with "shall have regard for."
(2) Eliminating prematurity as a ground for dismissing appeals to planning matters.
(3) Eliminating the requirement for public meetings for plans of subdivision.
(4) The shortened time frames for responses.
Our association has had a good working relationship with the region of Hamilton-Wentworth on all development-related matters. In fact, together with the region, the home builders' association was involved in an overall review of the planning process for development applications with the intention of streamlining the process. As part of the ACT program, ie, the affordability and choice today program, we were successful in obtaining a consensus with all the area municipalities on a process for development applications that provided a consistent, streamlined approach to the one-stop shopping principle.
I'm sure that the region will be making or has already made presentations to you, but through our discussions with them, I'm aware that regional council has endorsed three of the four points that I mentioned earlier, namely, the "have regard for" clause, eliminating public meetings for plans of subdivision and the shortened time frames. We have agreed to disagree with the fourth point regarding prematurity as a ground for dismissing appeals.
The proposed Bill 20 will go a long way in its present form to streamline the land use planning and development process, and this will result in encouraging economic growth and will allow housing units to become more affordable. It also allows the municipalities a greater flexibility in dealing with the growth of their communities and it brings the planning decisions closer to home and therefore closer to the people who will be most affected by it.
There is, however, one area in the bill that we would like you to review, and that's this: Sections 9 and 13 of the bill have a provision for a direct appeal to the OMB. While we welcome the fact that any decision can be appealed to the OMB, we're also wary of the fact that such a procedure pre-empts any mediation that could take place. Again, I come back to the example of what we experience in this region. We have been fortunate that the region is very proactive in mediating disputes so that unnecessary OMB hearings are avoided.
Our recommendation would be that the OMB initiate or delegate some form of alternative dispute resolution mechanism so that mediation takes place before a hearing is required. Time frames to be initiated shall be detailed, and we suggest within 15 days, so that the process is not unduly delayed. I turn it back now to Larry.
Mr Szpirglas: With regard to development charges, we are appreciative of Bill 20's direction, which inhibits municipalities from increasing their current development charges while providing them with the power to extend their existing bylaws indefinitely, pending a review of the act.
Our industry supports the review of development charges, and particularly the emphasis on municipal services to be included in that review, and a higher degree of accountability regarding the use and monitoring of funds collected through the Development Charges Act.
Our industry has always accepted that new growth should pay for basic necessary services. We remind the committee that as home buyers who pay the development charges and as a voice of the new home buyer, we want to make it clear that home buyers should not pay more than their fair share. We are certainly looking forward to participating in the review process and we believe that it will be a useful one.
One of the major issues which we believe has been overlooked has been the combination of impacts that result from legislation in difficult economic times and how that bears on the domestic market and on employment opportunities. I'm sure you are all aware of the tremendous potential that the home building industry represents to our economy. It is a truism that a successful home building industry creates employment, it generates jobs, it increases the tax base, it takes people off welfare and other social assistance programs, and that is unquestionably a net economic benefit resulting both from residential and industrial construction activity.
We believe that the provisions of Bill 20 and our observations regarding the Development Charges Act are consistent with other presentations you have heard and we strongly endorse their inclusion in your considerations and ultimately in the recommendations that flow from it with regard to these two areas. We look forward to participating in the review process.
We believe that we need to get our economy back on track, that our industry is a substantial player in that regard and the releasing of our industry through the reduction in undue taxation which has been placed on it by way of Ontario Building Code changes, planning delays, overly extravagant development charges, education levies etc can only create a positive economic thrust. Since 1989 these charges and taxes have grown and added anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 per single family home in this region and greatly impeded the continuance of this industry.
We believe the Harris government is moving in the appropriate directions and we strongly support them in this regard. Thanks for your consideration. We'd be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
Mrs Ross: Thank you both for coming. I just want to ask one brief question, because I know other members want to ask questions. It has always been said that the housing industry is sort of a benchmark, that when housing is growing, the economy is growing. Would you say that that is still the case? I'm referring to the fact that housing, of course, has not been growing for a number of years; in fact it's decreasing. But would you say it's an indicator of the economic viability of this region and this province?
Mr Szpirglas: Yes.
Mrs Ross: You've said very clearly that you think Bill 20 will help the housing industry by making the planning process much quicker, more streamlined, more cost-efficient. On page 2, you were talking about streamlining the process and balancing competing interests, and then you stated, "I will not repeat all the examples of where this is the case." Can you explain to me what you mean by that exactly?
Mr Szpirglas: Let me just take a quick look at it. As a general statement, we believe that under Bill 163, although the time it would have taken to deal with what has been defined as a complete application might have been less than what occurred under the old system, the system before Bill 163, getting that application complete in the way that was intended by Bill 163 would increase the time on the other end to a point where the feeling in the industry was that it would be more onerous to work under that system than under the system that prevailed prior to Bill 163.
Mrs Ross: I'll pass it on to somebody else. I know there are other people wanting to ask.
Mr Carr: Thank you very much for your presentation. I was wondering if I could ask something a little bit further than Bill 20. You talked about some of the provisions being good for your industry. As well, there will be some other changes that will be happening over the next little while including a major tax cut, which I feel will probably stimulate some consumer demand. Interest rates are starting to come down, and so on. If I could take the liberty of asking a broader question, what do you see happening over the next few years for your industry, better or worse? You've been hard hit over the last little while. What do you see happening to your industry over the next few years?
Mr Szpirglas: What picture would you like me to paint, Mr Carr?
Mr Carr: The real one.
Mr Bradley: He's the government. Paint a good picture.
Mr Szpirglas: I think, to be honest, even in the best of times it was difficult to forecast, and in these times it would be dishonest to try and look beyond a year. You all must have seen the CMHC statistics that were provided last week, and it's not saying that we're going to have a boom year this year.
I think that, notwithstanding interest rates and some of the positives we've seen recently, there's a fundamental problem that has to do with jobs and job security. To the extent that government legislation and levels of taxation can help sustain employment, can help people feel secure about employment, I think that's really the most compelling situation that we have to put in place.
Mr Carr: So the big barrier right now is consumer confidence, and what is your feeling that a tax cut will do for consumer confidence?
Mr Irani: If I can take that, I think the tax cut will give some more money in the pocket of the consumer which will increase the confidence of trying to spend that and will give a boost to the housing industry. Any money that is out there has got to do that.
But I think what Larry in his response forgot was that something we need is the affordability of the houses. Any time when you're having undue delays, you're adding to the bottom line of the cost of the house, and that is what will essentially help to promote the housing construction business. That's what we see. I see a general trend in which there will be a slow recovery at first, but as confidence builds it'll become better and hopefully we'll have something that is more realistic than what we didn't have all these last few years.
Mr Carr: So in your opinion we're heading in the right direction. There has been some contrary opinion, obviously, that what's going to happen is that there's going to be a tremendous amount of development, that municipalities won't be protecting against some of this development, and that has come from various people who are coming forward. I wanted to give you a chance to rebut some of that, when people are saying, no, we need more control over your industry. What do you say to those people out there -- and this isn't me saying this, but other people that are saying that your industry hasn't been doing a very good job -- what do you say to those people?
Mr Irani: I think Larry said in his presentation there is already sufficient legislation in place that will protect those interests. What I see happening is the provincial government relinquishing some of the control it has on the planning and giving it back to the communities, to the region or the area municipalities, and this is where there's more control at the local level.
They are more able to balance the needs of the community than having a provincial agency that says, "This shall be what it is and you shall not deviate from it." At a local level they can judge: "Are this interest and that interest there in conflict? Who gets to have? What is the balance? Can we mediate something, find common ground and come to it?" So I don't think there will a mass destruction of the environment or anything like that. I think the industry will be regulated through local government.
Mr Bradley: Mr Carr allowed me to deal with the tax cut, which is rather interesting. Would you say that the provincial deficit is a problem for our province to tackle?
Mr Irani: If I may, I think the provincial deficit is a problem generally to all governments and to all people.
Mr Bradley: Do you realize that the Ontario government is going to have to borrow over $20 billion and pay over $5 billion in interest in order to give you and me money to spend? Do you support a tax cut that is based on borrowing new money and adding over $20 billion to the provincial debt so you can give the money back to me?
Mr Irani: I'll take that one, if I may. I'm not an economics major of any sort, but what little I know about economics is that if you give a tax cut and you spur growth and you spur economic benefits to the Ontario economy as such, you get increased revenue from it. I think that is the main philosophy of it. As I said, I'm not an economics major, I'm not an accountant; I'm just an engineer and I'll plead that case with you. But if you want to expand on that as a builder, Larry, go ahead.
Mr Szpirglas: I think that within our province, and this is not a political statement by any stretch of the imagination --
Mr Bradley: No political statements in here anyway.
Mr Szpirglas: I got that from your question. I realize that. Essentially I'm going to go back to one thing, that I still strongly believe we have to find a way to generate sustainable jobs. To the extent that tax cuts would create revenue coming into the system and allowing people to spend, I think that's good. One of the things that we've been able to do in the industry, although it didn't start out this way, is that we can see better than most other industries the cumulative impact of taxation. We can see what happens when you've got a GST and you've got levies and you've got all these other things that happen at all levels of government, and the impact on housing is astronomical. We're using a figure of $25,000 to $30,000 of cost since 1989 that's been added to the price of a new home. Now, that isn't strictly taxation within Ontario; that's obviously the GST and a variety of other levels of taxation.
I would say that aspect of how you generate revenue or cut costs, the ability to do anything related to that, is a pretty dead issue in terms of doing anything that will generate economic wellbeing. We've certainly witnessed plenty of cuts from the Harris government recently. We've been cutting like crazy. I think that in terms of creating confidence -- that's one of the major issues that we're dealing with here, how to generate confidence -- you've got to give a little back at this point and that you have to motivate people to move out and to spend and to regain some lost confidence.
Believe me, if you were in my shoes and I think if you were in the shoes of most retailers -- I'm a builder as well as a land developer, and as a builder I have probably the largest retail item there is. People shy away from it because they're concerned about whether they're going to have money in their pockets and whether they're going to have jobs. I think that's really the critical issue. Whether it was the NDP or the Conservatives or the Liberals, that's the issue we face today.
Mr Bradley: So you would favour a tax cut even though we're going to add over $20 billion to the provincial debt to give out a tax cut?
Mr Szpirglas: No. I would favour measures that are going to stimulate the economy, that are going to get people to feel confident about the economy. Do I favour adding debt? Well, I don't know. If you take a look at the net reduction, does it meet the government's targets? I don't know.
Mr Bradley: I'll go to another area. In your experience, would you rather deal with local politicians and officials or would you rather deal with provincial politicians? I'm told by the government this channels decisions back to the local area. Would you rather deal with local politicians than awful provincial bureaucrats?
Mr Szpirglas: What I would like to do is have a system that has integrity to it, where I can't get blackmailed when I go into a city hall, where I don't have tremendous time delays when we have to wait for a provincial ministry to respond. I think there are difficulties inherent depending on whether you centralize or decentralize, but I would say I'm fairly confident that at least at a local level you have the ability to talk to the local politicians in a meaningful kind of way, you have the ability to argue your case in a local arena, and probably quite properly that's where the decisions should be made.
Mr Bradley: I have a question about development charges. I take it that the development industry is -- "ecstatic" perhaps is too strong a word -- very supportive of the Minister of Municipal Affairs now having the right to restrict municipalities in terms of their new development charges, even though at the same time the province is cutting its financial support to municipalities and forcing them to find the money somewhere else to provide their services. You're still ecstatic about that, are you?
Mr Szpirglas: Mr Bradley, the only thing I can say is that probably they're just about as ecstatic as the NDP government was when it talked about the transfers from the Canadian government. It's all a trickle-down situation. Nobody's happy with that scenario.
Mr Bradley: Except they're at the bottom. They have nowhere else to go except locally.
Mr Szpirglas: Yes. It stops somewhere, doesn't it?
Mr Bradley: So they then are compelled to go to service charges, to development charges to be able to build those schools for those houses they're building in the middle of Beamsville for Toronto people.
Mr Szpirglas: But it's not just the children who come out of those new homes who use those schools.
I think on the issue of the education development charge, one of the great objections we have to it is that it is not a fair and equitable treatment. If you will recall, it was your leader who basically said, prior to being elected as the Premier of this province, that he in fact would not implement an education development charge, and subsequently your government did so. I make no comment on whether that was a necessary move or anything else but I will say that our industry certainly took strong exception to it, as witnessed by the constitutional challenge. That's what I have to say about the education development charge.
I think when you use examples like that you have to be careful, because you have to remember that old neighbourhoods turn over and you have older people moving out of those neighbourhoods and younger people moving in with families. The existing infrastructure basically wasn't necessarily designed to handle that load in terms of what a modern school needs to look like.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your presentation. In your presentation, you do talk of supporting the change from "be consistent with" to "shall have regard to." We in my party have argued that this is not strong enough and does not leave enough tooth in the provincial enforcement mechanism to adequately support a policy that would be applicable across the province. The government has argued that indeed it is strong enough. Do I assume from your comment, that you support it, that you support it in part because you believe it is strong enough?
Mr Irani: Yes, we do. The clause "shall have regard for" has been used in the Planning Act since about the early 1970s, I believe, and there is documented precedence on that clause which holds up in the OMB. All decisions are based on that.
When you get to the phrase "be consistent with," we as an industry felt that it was too strong, to be quite honest, and it didn't give the flexibility of meeting all the provincial guidelines that were in there. When you had your policy statements, you could have met three out of four of them and the third one would have been in conflict, and then you could not have done anything because, which one do you choose? You have three that you adhere to and a fourth one that you don't, and who's there to see where the balance is?
This is where that "be consistent with" fell down. It broke down in that instance. The "have regard for" took into account that yes, you had regard for it; you did what was best under the circumstances and you found the balance. That's what we feel was good previously and we feel is good now.
Mr Christopherson: That's pretty much the answer I expected. What I find passing strange is that if you do believe that the new language is strong enough to enforce the provincial policies, then may I ask why you're comfortable in supporting Bill 20 without knowing what those policies are going to be? The policies have not been finalized; they're only in draft form. It would seem to me that if you believe there was enough tooth to enforce the policy, that that connection was strong enough, then you certainly would be pounding the table, I would think, wanting to know what is that policy before you agreed to support Bill 20.
Mr Irani: When I made that statement, I also said that there have been precedents as to what "have regard for" implies. We fall back on historical precedents. When you have a policy, and you can have a very strong policy -- I don't disagree with having a strong policy on any subject -- so long as you will have regard for it and that can be worked out at a local level to see what is good to find a balance between the conflicting policies, we can work with it.
I think we are quite aware there have been draft policies that have been circulated, and Larry and I have been working with those, with the OHBA, and we're quite confident that we will be able to work with those policies and give it teeth so that the provincial interests are protected.
Mr Christopherson: I would suggest to you, with great respect, that you also feel it's not nearly as strong as the government might suggest and that therefore you don't need to worry as much about the policy because it's not that strong. I therefore would ask you, do you not think this process would have a lot more integrity if indeed we had a finalized policy in front of us before we were dealing with Bill 20?
Mr Irani: If you wanted to have a policy in place, we could work with that as well. I guess what I'm trying to say is that -- let me come back to it.
Mr Szpirglas: Let me say it's no more or less vague than the guidelines related to Bill 163 were when they were introduced. I think we have a far greater degree of comfort with the precedents and with the direction that Bill 20 is taking. I think from that perspective, and I imagine there will be sufficient flexibility to work out any of the major issues or if there are any major issues, we'll at least be able to relay that and on our industry's behalf will be able to make our representations in other forms and other manners.
Mr Irani: You've brought my train of thought back. In the old policies we had implementation guidelines which were at least a few hundred pages and which were rigid, so we could not implement them. What I've seen of the policies of late is that they give you that implementation in very simple, very straightforward and very direct language, and it doesn't say that you don't do what is prescribed before. All it says is that the province is essentially handing the need of doing planning right down to the local level, where it should belong in the first place.
The Chair: Thank you gentlemen, for taking the time to come before us today and make a presentation.
SOCIAL HOUSING AND ACCESS COMMITTEE
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Hamilton and Area Coalition of Tenants' Associations. It's actually an umbrella group by the name of Social Housing and Access Committee which will be making the presentation. Welcome to the committee.
Ms Jackie Gordon: As was stated, this presentation is by the Social Housing and Access Committee. It's a coalition of housing providers, housing services, tenants and other people in the community who are interested in the provision of affordable housing in our community, and access to affordable housing. The committee has been around since the mid-1980s in various different forms. We've been very involved with the issues that Bill 20 addresses, from the intensification battles that have been fought in this community to issues around how you make affordable housing for a community.
We'd like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to tell you how we feel about Bill 20. I think our brief goes through pretty much who we are and explains; there's also a membership list attached at the back. I would like to tell you a couple of things that we believe and believe quite strongly.
One is that we believe that housing is a right for all individuals and we believe that safe, secure, affordable, appropriate and accessible housing should be available to everyone in Hamilton-Wentworth. We're committed to providing an effective forum for education and advocacy around social housing and affordable housing issues to encourage and facilitate that kind of housing development in Hamilton-Wentworth.
As I've said, we've been very involved in the intensification battles that have been fought in this city, and we've developed extensive expertise in housing provision and access.
There are some parts of Bill 20 that we are able to support in principle. There are some things that, when we hear about them, sound like really good ideas, but we'd like to be able to have more input and talk to government about, because we think there are some things that are on the right track there. But we do have a number of concerns about the way that those things appear to be going to be implemented.
Those concerns basically fall into three areas: One is that Bill 20 appears to exclude the public from the planning process.
Another, because of our concern with affordable housing, is that we're very concerned that apartments in houses will be made illegal in municipalities and that exclusionary zoning provisions will be brought in to keep tenants and low-income individuals out of certain communities. We really don't want to see that kind of NIMBY attitude in our own communities again. We think the province has a very strong role to play in ensuring that people with low incomes and tenants have access to housing in every community in this province.
Our third concern is around the segregation of social and environmental concerns from the broader planning process, and the withdrawal of the province from what we see as its planning responsibilities.
It might probably be a good idea to tell you some of the things we do like first before we go to the others. We recognize that there's a goal and an intent here to eliminate duplication in the systems, one of the examples being that Bill 20 would remove the requirement to include the last day for filing an appeal from the notice of a zoning law passage. We understand that requirement already exists in the regulations, so it doesn't seem necessary to have it twice. However, we feel very strongly that that requirement does need to be somewhere. People need to know what the appeal time frames are, what the processes are. So we would like some assurance that it will remain in the regulations, if it's going to be removed from the act. It's one of those things that we can support in principle, to streamline and avoid duplication, but we are very concerned about what will happen.
We strongly believe that public consultation is essential to the quality of life in Ontario and that public access to the planning process will be limited by Bill 20. In fact, I was really surprised when I was reading the government's fact sheet to see that it's municipal leaders, planners and developers who use the land use planning system. It's our belief that everyone in Ontario uses the land use planning system, that we use it every day when we take our kids to the park, when we go to the library, when we buy or rent a home, and that the people of Ontario very much need to be consulted in this process.
The Sewell commission, which went for a number of years and involved consultation with, I understand, over 23,000 people and groups, seems to be reflective of that kind of consultation. It shows that people want to be involved in this and that it does matter to people. If there were 23,000 people who cared enough to have something to say about the land use planning system, I doubt that those concerns have gone away. I think people still care enough to talk about them.
We do recognize, however, that there's a real challenge around public consultation. In two places, the requirements for public meetings are being eliminated. We would certainly agree that public meetings have never been the most efficient, cost-effective method of soliciting public opinion; however, we wouldn't like to see them eliminated until something else has been brought in to replace them.
There's not one public; the public is very diverse in race, age, household composition, income, ability, race, sexual orientation. We need to find some sort of process that allows everyone to have the input into the land use planning system that they need, so we would like public meetings to remain as the forum for public consultation, although we would encourage this government to take a role in developing better systems. We certainly agree that there must be better systems than the kinds of public meetings we've had where one group stands up at a microphone on this side of the room and another group stands on the other side and then they yell at each other. We think there's got to be a better system than that, but we're not quite prepared to throw it out yet.
We believe that the province has the responsibility to get involved in areas that are important to Ontarians, and those are issues such as housing and the environment and the systemic discrimination that we see will happen as a result of the repeal of the apartments-in-houses legislation.
We support having provincial policy statements to guide local development. We think that those are useful for a number of reasons. One is that it's a good idea to have a statement about why planning is being done, so that there is an actual plan to the planning process. The other is that there can be a vision of what this province needs and what services need to be provided. Local planning authority is, of course, very important; it's at the local level that we live in our communities. However, strong policy guidelines are important for the communities that are doing that planning as well. I can talk a little bit about that later probably.
We supported the environmental awareness that was in Bill 163 and we're sad to see that that doesn't seem to be in Bill 20. It's not growth itself that is bad for the environment; it's badly planned development that is bad for the environment. It's our belief that planning and environmental concerns can be integrated so that both are supported. We see in Bill 20 that environmental concerns are being thrown out in favour of opening the door to more urban sprawl. An example of that would be opening up the tender-fruit lands in the Niagara Peninsula to development.
But probably the issue that's nearest and dearest to our hearts is the apartments-in-houses legislation, the Bill 120 section, and we're very saddened to see that that would be repealed. As I said, we think that housing is a right in Ontario. We have seen municipalities in this area and across the province use exclusionary zoning to keep people out of communities. Those people generally tend to be tenants. Tenants in Ontario are often young people who are just starting out on their own and may like to stay in their home community while they're getting started. Zoning that doesn't permit apartments in houses often keeps those people from living in their own community while they're starting out. At the other end of the spectrum, many tenants are seniors who have given up home ownership and the work that goes with it and then find it difficult to be able to stay in their own community because of exclusionary zoning practices.
Bill 120 allowed communities to increase available housing that relies on existing development and infrastructure. This made sense environmentally and economically. Accessory apartments which meet social needs are not legal unless the zoning permits, and to allow a municipality to zone an area of the community as out of bounds for a particular group of Ontario citizens is a kind of systemic discrimination that we certainly could never support and couldn't accept. We've been dealing with this issue in Hamilton for a number of years now and have always said that we believe that tenants should be able to live in every community in this province.
One of the things that happens when accessory apartments become illegal is that the people living in those apartments lose their rights as tenants and the homeowners lose their rights as landlords. We certainly wouldn't want to see that happen to people either.
Bill 163 has only been in effect for a year -- not even a year yet. Many of the applications that are being processed right now are still being processed under the old rules. So we're not sure why it's so necessary to change the Planning Act right now, before we know what the impact of Bill 163 is. We would like to see the kind of consultation process that went into Bill 163. As I've said, we believe Ontario citizens were concerned enough to consult in great numbers on Bill 163 and we'd like to see that kind of process again.
I think a Planning Act is something that evolves over time. It changes to meet our social and our structural needs as those needs change. It's not something that we should be changing so quickly. We don't know if this system works or not. I can't sit here and tell you that we know that the existing system works and I wonder how anyone could have sat here before you and told you that they know it doesn't work when it hasn't had time to be working or not. It's not that we're saying get rid of what we've got; we're saying let's work with what we've got, see what's working, see what's not working and develop a consultation process that allows everyone in Ontario to participate.
Mr Bradley: Looking at the significance of the provincial statements that are referred to in this legislation and are of great interest to everyone, the bill, as I see it, will likely pass before we see the final version of the provincial statements. This legislation will be put into effect on the faith that somehow the statements are going to be reflective of what most people in the province would like to see. Do you think it would be advantageous to delay the passage of this legislation until such time as the provincial statements of policy are available in the final version?
Ms Gordon: Absolutely. As I said, we don't see the need to rush changing this legislation. As I said as well, it's not only seeing the final policy statements, which of course would be important, but that there be a process that the people have input into those policy statements, to see what it is that people want the land use planning system to do for them, how they want it to respond to them, how they should be able to access it. I don't think that those statements can be developed simply by government or bureaucrats alone. I think there needs to be a public consultation process to develop them.
Mr Bradley: I am a bit surprised that they're not proceeding in that direction, because it would make logical sense that they should do so, but there's always a haste that governments want, I suppose, in areas in which they're particularly interested.
I'm interested as well in the public meeting. I used to sit on municipal council, for almost eight years, and so I have some idea of how municipal councils work. One of the initiatives that was brought forward somewhere along the line was the opportunity for a public meeting before a subdivision was proceeded with, and sometimes people would show up at the public meeting and sometimes they wouldn't, but there was the opportunity there.
Recognizing what you said about sometimes they become somewhat confrontational, do you believe that on balance, however, it would be wise to have a public meeting so that people can come, usually with the council of course in attendance, and make known their concerns at an early stage so perhaps those concerns can be resolved?
Ms Gordon: Yes, we do. Right now, as I said, we don't see public meetings as being the most effective method of public consultation, but we recognize that there's a role for them, and we don't have anything better to replace them with right now.
Right now, to actively and effectively participate at a public meeting, you have to be able to read. You have to have been able to read the notice and you have to be able to read and speak English to participate at the meeting. You have to be able to not be intimidated by large groups of people. There are a lot of skills that are required to participate in a public meeting that many people may not have. So we would like to see some alternative processes developed to allow people to participate, and until those processes are developed, yes, we would like to see public meetings maintained at every stage in the process.
One of the concerns we address in our brief is that there's a removal of an opportunity to appeal after a committee of adjustment, in the case of the city of Hamilton, makes a decision. We are very opposed to that. We think there need to be appeal mechanisms throughout the whole process, especially with shortened time lines. It's quite possible that someone could be out of town or in the hospital for the short period that was available for public consultation.
Mr Bradley: Do you agree with the government now permitting only the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make an appeal to the OMB rather than any other ministry of government, such as the Ministry of Environment and Energy, for instance, that may have an interest in an old dump site that will eventually cause great problems, and problems which the grateful taxpayer of the municipality at large will end up paying for rather than the developer end up paying for?
Do you think it would be advantageous to continue the system whereby other ministries, such as the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Ministry of Environment, also have an opportunity to make known their views to the OMB, to appeal to the OMB and not have to filter it through the people at Municipal Affairs and Housing, who aren't always quite as concerned about the environment as the Ministry of Environment officials? It sounds almost like a leading question.
Ms Gordon: The way we have addressed that in our brief is that we have no objection to OMB expertise being centralized in one ministry, but that it's essential that the circulation and technical review through all the ministries be maintained. There's a lot of expertise in those ministries, and while we don't oppose the creation of a new expertise, we don't want to see the existing expertise get lost.
Consultation between ministries is vitally important. It's not going to work unless it's circulated, and I perhaps naïvely assumed that's what the intent of this was, to centralize the expertise, not to exclude other people from the process. That's what our brief says, that we support the circulation and technical review regardless of who makes the appeal. I'm assuming that if the Ministry of Environment said, "It's absolutely essential that this not go through," or that this go to the OMB, it would then be the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's responsibility to take it to the OMB.
Mr Bradley: Don't count on it.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you both for your submission. I want to say very clearly and for the record that SHAC has played a clear and important leadership role in our community in terms of advocating for affordable housing. There's not a skirmish or public debate or challenge that they've ever backed away from. This organization is well known and well respected across our community, and I can only hope and would implore the government members to pay particular heed to the concerns they've raised in their brief, because they have a great deal of experience in dealing with the implications of government action or lack thereof on people and on families, and what it means out on the streets of our community. You've shown that once again with this presentation, and I thank you for that.
I want to ask you about the cumulative effect of a number of measures that the government has taken and what you think the future holds. We've already seen in the few short months this government has been in power a serious cut in funding to social assistance recipients. We've seen massive cuts in non-profit housing allocations that we had in this community that were worked on and planned for by a lot of community groups. Now with Bill 20 we see the provision for apartments in houses being yanked back. Can you give us a sense of what you think this means for those most vulnerable in our society, particularly as it relates to families and people here in Hamilton?
Ms Gordon: I think the loss of apartments in houses means a real loss of affordable housing stock for people just at a time when their incomes have also been cut. I think it means that we're going to head into our next housing crisis. We're going to have a number of people who just can't afford accommodation in their own communities.
Frankly, we were surprised at the repeal of the apartments in houses section. It seems to fit with the government's agenda of having the private market provide housing, because that's what happens with apartments in houses: someone who owns a home decides they're going to create an apartment to help pay off their mortgage so that they can stay in that community, and it provides a unit for someone else.
I think the cumulative effect and the thing that was left out of that equation that you mentioned was the sale of OHC, where we're going to lose potentially 9,000 affordable housing units in this community that exist. We're very concerned about it. We see that as tenants' incomes are declining, the removal of rent controls -- there are a number of questions we have about how people are going to be able to afford to stay in their homes. I can't guess, except to say that we are very concerned.
Mr Christopherson: You're right to add those ingredients, and I suspect there will be more along the way when we look at this government's agenda. But what happens to those who are most vulnerable, who are barely surviving and clinging on as it is, when these basic rights are removed? Literally, where do they go? What happens to these people?
Ms Gordon: I think we've seen some of that from Toronto, where shelters are filled with families for the first time rather than with single people. There's a whole new group of people who are homeless in this province. I wish I could say I knew where they went. I really don't know what's going to happen. We're wondering what happened to all the people who used to be on welfare and haven't got jobs, and where they've gone. I think we're going to see those things more and more and more in the next few months, and hopefully have some answers. At this point, we don't have answers.
Mr Christopherson: I suspect that what we're going to see is more and more people who are truly, truly homeless, and those whom you would consider to be destitute, who have no options. As the further cuts take hold at the regional level, there's just a lack of any kind of safety net, and people who were least able to survive day to day will not. We've seen deaths this winter. I suspect that this summer, with the warmer weather, those numbers will decline, but as the seasons click around again we'll begin to see the outcome of what happens.
Let me ask it this way: In terms of the major battles that used to happen in Hamilton -- and I see a note that my former councillor colleague Don Ross is here. Welcome, Don. When I was on council we had some battles royal over NIMBY and intensification issues. We in the NDP managed to eliminate those battles by bringing in a fair housing policy that said that adding another unit to your home is a right you have as a homeowner, and for all the good reasons that you've said. Is it fair to say that there hasn't been the catastrophe in our community that a lot of people predicted?
Ms Gordon: Absolutely. I'm not sure there's been enough time for enough affordable units, apartments in houses, to be built during the short time that Bill 120 allowed them to be built, but certainly there haven't been riots in the streets over parking spaces, as was foreseen at one point. Bill 120 addressed that with the tandem parking, saying it would be all right to have tandem parking in apartments in houses. Those are the kinds of things that we're afraid are going to come back again, that as municipalities respond to those things like people worrying about parking spaces and parking congestion and take away requirements for tandem parking and say you have to have two separate spots, those battles are going to start up again in the community.
Mr Christopherson: Thanks, and keep up the fight.
Mrs Ross: Hi again. We met I guess about a week ago, which brings me to my first question, which was around the consultation process. Would you agree with me that one of the ways groups such as yours can consult with the government is by meeting with members who represent the government?
Ms Gordon: I think that is true if there is access to the members -- in many cases people don't have access to the members -- and also, again, if people are able to meet with their member in the community perhaps rather than in a setting such as this, where people are more able to talk to their elected representative and feel a little more comfortable. I know a number of people who live in apartments in houses who would like very much to have the opportunity to tell you what their home means to them but would be very intimidated by it. I'm a little intimidated. They'd be a lot intimidated by a process like this.
Mrs Ross: But I think you would agree with me that there were quite a number who sat around a table and talked about the issues pertaining to not just social housing but many other issues. I would say that I would be more accessible probably, or as accessible as other members have been, so as a representative of somebody in the need of housing, their voice is being heard. I just wanted to make that comment with respect to the consultation process.
Ms Gordon: I think that's certainly an important point, but I wonder if a tenant off the street would have felt comfortable at that table we were at Thursday as well.
Mrs Ross: No. I understand your point.
Ms Gordon: I think it just requires so many different things. That's a very important part of the process, but we need to develop other processes as well.
Mrs Ross: Yes. I understand what you're saying. By the way, your presentation is excellent and it's quite a balanced approach that you've taken here. But I wanted to refer to page 11, where you said at the very bottom line, "Bill 20 appears to lessen their ability to be responsive to local need in this regard." You're talking about your local alderman. Bill 20 actually gives more flexibility to the local alderman to respond to the needs of the community, so I'm wondering why you would say that.
Ms Gordon: In this case, talking specifically about how there's no right of appeal once a council decision has been made on a zoning bylaw amendment -- and in Hamilton's case, because we have council members on our committee of adjustment, under Bill 20, once the committee of adjustment heard the applicant and made a decision there would be no opportunity for appeal -- what we're thinking is that if the two aldermen on the committee of adjustment are from the east end and the application involves the west mountain and the west mountain alderman isn't around and the people in his ward are saying, "Come and see this," it's too late. The opportunity for appeal has been lost. So that's what we were referring to, especially in a city of this size.
It may not matter so much in a smaller town where you have fewer representatives and they're more intimately involved with the whole city, but in a city of this size I think it's the ward aldermen who know their own ward. Those are the people the constituents are going to go to and say, "Do something about this." But Bill 20 means it's too late. Once the committee of adjustment makes a decision, with only two aldermen on it, and aldermen who may not have all the information because they don't live in that part of the city, it's too late. There's no avenue for appeal. We think there should be appeal processes throughout.
Mrs Ross: I wanted to also comment on a couple of things as a representative of Hamilton West. You made a comment -- I didn't write it down -- to the effect that there was no outcry from people about basement apartments and that sort of thing. I'd like to say, as a representative from Hamilton West, I've heard a lot about basement apartments. I have a lot of people who are concerned about them because of the parking, because of what's happening to their community. Do you not feel that people who live in the community should be able to respond? The other thing I wanted to say was about basement apartments. We're not saying they're illegal. Any basement apartments that are there now will not be illegal, and it's up to the municipality to decide whether they want to continue.
Ms Gordon: I think that's part of our concern, that it be left up to the municipality. In Hamilton, we had the battles. There was a residential intensification study that the city of Hamilton adopted. Some really restrictive zoning bylaws were changed, like the one that said you couldn't duplex a house that was built after 1940, and all our development in this city on the mountain happened basically after the Second World War, so it effectively meant that you could have no duplexes on the mountain. Those sorts of things the city of Hamilton changed, the city of Ancaster didn't. The city of Ancaster would have been perfectly happy to say, "No accessory apartments in our municipality," which meant that seniors who wanted to stay in Ancaster or teenagers who had just finished school and were moving out with their first job and wanted to stay in their community would have had to leave their community and go somewhere else.
So first of all, we do think the province should have the role of saying, "Yes, tenants in Ontario can live in any community and we will put in place planning guidelines and processes that will help them do that."
The other comment I wanted to respond to is sort of about complaints, to respond and say that the person who created that unit is a member of that community as well. The homeowner who decided to put a --
Mrs Ross: Well, no, not necessarily either. I might point out that a lot of the people who own those buildings are from out of town. They're Toronto owners who own those houses. That's why those people are objecting, because they aren't community people, because they are people who come from out of town and are just doing it to make money -- not necessarily to house people, but to make money. It's affecting the other people in the community who don't have a say, who live in that community and have their children in that community. Their objection is that it's out-of-towners who are coming in and building the basement apartments. That's the objection I'm receiving all the time.
Ms Gordon: I think sometimes people make those objections without full information.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation on behalf of your association here today. We appreciate that.
With that, the committee stands adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning in London.
The committee adjourned at 1802.