Tuesday 27 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
Middlesex Federation of Agriculture
Doug Duffin, past president
Hugh Fletcher, director
London Home Builders' Association
Barry Card, representative
County Planning Directors of Ontario
Ralph Pugliese, director of planning, county of Kent
Stephen Evans, director of planning and economic development, county of Middlesex
Township of Harwich, Township of Raleigh and Town of Blenheim
Thomas Storey, planning consultant
County of Oxford
Craig Manley, director of policy and development
City of Owen Sound
Stephen Hyndman, director of planning and building
London Development Institute
Don Riley, representative
Ric Knutson, representative
London Chamber of Commerce
Gary Blazak, vice-chair, policy
John Henricks, chairman, planning task force
County of Lambton
Malcolm Boyd, director of planning
London Area Planning Consultants
Laverne Kirkness, president
Waterloo Federation of Agriculture
Virginia Berg, member
Larry Erb, president
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:
Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Ms Churley
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
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Wood, Bob (London South / -Sud PC) for Mr Murdoch
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
Murray, Paul, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0902 in the Delta Armouries Hotel, London.
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.
MIDDLESEX FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning. This is our final day of hearings on Bill 20. We're pleased to be here in London today. Our first group making a presentation will be the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture. We have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between presentation and question-and-answer time.
Mr Doug Duffin: Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak to the standing committee today. First of all, by way of correction, I guess, on your agenda I see it's listed as Doug Duffin, president of the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture. I am actually the past president of the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture. With me today is Hugh Fletcher, a fellow director on the board.
We're here today representing the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture. The federation is the voice of all the farmers in Middlesex county by virtue of our funding system, which is a series of grants and levies from the township. We are representative, I guess you would say, of all the farmers in Middlesex county, and try and act on their behalf for the betterment of agriculture both in matters of policy and in matters of public relations.
One of our concerns today is the long-term protection of agriculture. As the title of the bill says, it's called an act to promote economic growth and protect the environment, and it's our feeling that if the government is serious about meeting these objectives, it is necessary for the local municipalities to have more than just regard to the policy statements of the government. The major role of any government is to set the policy to ensure the long-term viability of its people.
It's sort of surprising that 150 years after the agricultural revolution, and with all the succeeding industrial revolutions, the computer revolution and that, agriculture is still the second-largest industry in the province in terms of revenue, next to the automotive sector. It's our feeling that perhaps it might even reclaim its first-place position, as the automotive sector is in a decline and the agricultural sector is enjoying an unprecedented boom as worldwide there's a growing class of people who are in want of a better standard of living, and with that comes more material need for food.
There are very few places left in this world which have the natural ability there is in southwestern Ontario to provide this food. We have the climate, we have the soil base and we have the technology to play a major part in the world in the future.
It's our feeling that there is need for more planning policies to protect the land base. As we've said, we feel that agricultural land is an industrial designation, the same on which General Motors would build a manufacturing plant, and that would be designated industrial.
We have concerns about the ability to sever agricultural land. In the policy statements there's talk of severing for retirement houses, farm consolidation and that sort of thing. I guess, by way of analogy, General Motors wouldn't be allowed to sever a house for a plant manager, if he chose to retire, out of the corner of its parking lot. It just doesn't make sense. The short-term gains to the company from not having to acquire more land and to the province from the revenue from that house are outweighed by the loss of the industrial use of the land, which in our case is farming, and by the conflicts caused by the house being located in an industrial area, and the conflicts are the same: smell, noise, hours of operation, the whole thing.
It's necessary for the government to look beyond the short-term requests, and they come about as agriculture is very cyclical in that there are boom-and-bust cycles, and at the bottom of the cycle the feeling among farmers is that if they can't make a profit from their land, they should be allowed to develop it by severing a house or whatever. But it's our feeling that the province should look beyond that to the long-term view. When the proposed change was made to move from "be consistent with" to "have regard to," the provincial policy statements, in our opinion this opens loopholes that any planning person can take advantage of.
In this case, precedents from past decisions, although municipalities seem to be moving towards a stricter planning role, would play a major part in the decisions of the planning. Also, the councils themselves in times of cutback could be looking for more rural residential growth as opposed to growth in a built-up area where they have to provide sewers or even sidewalks and increase their costs. There's more net benefit to spreading this out.
Another concern of ours is there's no definition in the act or the policy statements of the priorities of agriculture relative to aggregates or environmentally sensitive areas. Often these will occur in combination, that an area proposed for aggregates is in agriculture now. A wetland could have a combination of all three or it could be a combination of any two at one time.
There's no indication either of what rate of loss of prime agricultural land is acceptable, whether it's 1% per year or 0.25% of prime agricultural land per year. It's necessary for the farm community plus the planning communities to know how to interpret this act just to know what the government is expecting, if they're in favour of preservation of all prime agricultural land or if we're merely a holding zone for future development. We feel these are matters of provincial interest.
Mr Hugh Fletcher: In regard to streamlining the planning system, this definitely needs to be done. There is a long time frame involved and a lot of the problem becomes how do you get input that is required from all the ministries, how do you get each ministry to kick in its input in a nice time frame. If you're doing development or you're doing changes even, then you would like to do sort of a one-stop-shopping deal where you go to one place and you know exactly what information you have to put together and you can get it there. You can put your information in there and you can receive your answers back from that place in a timely manner.
However, the changes in the bill that say only the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing can appeal to the OMB leaves a lot to be desired. We don't know the mechanism of how the system is going to work. As it is right now, each ministry can appeal severance decisions to the OMB. As things change, we don't know how the input from other ministries will play in the picture. In our regard we're talking about the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Is this a means to just gut the planning part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs when they don't have a means of actually doing anything? These are questions we don't know and we need to know.
If there is going to be long-term protection, long-term guidance for how planning goes in rural Ontario, then we need to know what that system is and how it's going to work, and make sure that every ministry has equal input to the end point. If, in fact, it becomes, at the very worst, where you just have a political thing where it's a cabinet decision to go to the OMB or not, then you have really devastated the whole system. As I mentioned before, time frames, time lines, and a streamlining of the system must be accomplished.
Appeals of minor variances: In areas where there are large municipalities you have a committee of adjustment, and that works great because then you can appeal to the council. In smaller municipalities, many times the council acts as the committee of adjustment. Therefore, if you have an appeal, you're appealing to the council which just turned you down. You can be blocked by biases within that municipality. It presents a problem there.
In regard to provincial approval of official plans and official plan amendments, if you allow a municipality to look after its own house, then in certain cases it will be well run; in other cases it will not. You are saying that you have certain provincial minimum standards you want applied; then you must also make sure they are applied in that manner by doing official approval from a provincial level, ensuring that those minimum standards are enshrined.
Going back to "have regard to" and "be consistent with," if you have a municipality that has a long track record of consistent decisions within that municipality, a "have regard to" situation is fine. If you have a municipality that does not have a track record, that has been totally inconsistent in what it has been doing, then what you have called setting down minimum standards from a provincial level with a "have regard to" has not done anything. "Have regard to" in those cases means that book is the second down on the far shelf in the corner of the back library. I have had regard to that policy, I know where it is, but the consistency is not there, the minimum standards have been flouted because of previous inconsistency.
In conclusion, our view is that the preservation of a strong agricultural industry is more important to the province and its economy than the short-term revenue gained by loosening up the planning requirements. The agriculture and non-farm rural residential conflict continues to grow as people become more distanced from their agrarian roots. Instead of viewing the agricultural areas of Ontario as quiet, pastoral refuges from the city life, it is important that the province recognize farm land for the industrial area it is and value the contribution agriculture makes to the provincial economy.
I think we find ourselves in an incredible time right now. We're looking at major chunks of the economy being at an all-time low. We're also looking at a point in time where agriculture is hitting a peak once again. We have provided a strong, steady base for the province for a long, long time. If you look at the world economy, in the Third World nations we have a large middle-class sector being developed. That middle-class sector has more money to spend. That means their eating habits will change. That means there is more meat coming into their diet. More meat means more grain consumption to produce that meat. We are at an all-time low in commodity stocks in the world. At this stage, right now, 90% of the corn and soybeans have been sold. There is seven months to go before we have new stocks of corn and soybeans coming on to the market.
It's an incredible thing. People 20, 25 years ago were predicting that Canada would become the storehouse to feed the world, and we've gone through a lot of cycles, but with the stocks and indications as they are, this may happen. We are, however, at a point where we cannot increase dramatically the amount of production by adding extra fertilizer, by radically changing genetics of seeds. We can boost production somewhat, but we cannot double or triple production. The small amount of land there to be used for agriculture becomes more and more important. It is very important to take the long-term view to preserve and protect that land, but when I say "preserve," I mean to make it a useful function, not just a green pasture setting for the view. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. You've left us four minutes per caucus for questioning, and this round will commence with the official opposition.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): A very interesting brief you've presented to us this morning. I thank you very much. There are some concerns I support with you, especially the second and fourth paragraphs of your recommendations, that Municipal Affairs and Housing is the only ministry that can appeal a planning decision. This causes concern for other groups like yours that we had in front of us yesterday. But the fourth paragraph, "allowed to exempt municipalities from the requirement that they get ministerial approval for their official plan and official plan amendments," definitely is of concern at present because you're saying agriculture is a very important industry not only for Ontario but the whole of Canada.
There are many points in there where I think the Ministry of Agriculture should be involved. Most of the time with an industrial park, you feel you could expand the economy of your municipality, but by having subdivision at no time does it give additional revenue to the municipality when it is only residential. Commercial, yes, but we have to look at the long-term planning. Commercial could be for a short time. When I say short time, it could be for 20, 30, 40 years. Agriculture could be there to stay for 100 years. Like you said, agriculture has been in business for over 150 years in Ontario.
What concerns me a lot too is that there's no way to appeal on minor variance. In a lot of small municipalities, as you said, elected members of council do sit on minor variance and, in turn, they make the decision. They foresee the development of a residential area as very important for the economy of the municipality, which isn't true. In this case it could affect your agricultural purposes in the long run. Do you think that where a council has an elected member on the minor variance committee, the people who want to object should have the right to appeal to the OMB?
Mr Duffin: I think it's necessary to remove the possibility of conflict, or at least the perception of conflict; if not appealing to the OMB, at least appealing to another outside body so there are two different bodies hearing the facts involved in the decision. Not necessarily in the larger municipalities, but in some of the smaller municipalities -- and that's where agriculture is based, sometimes municipalities of 300 or 400 people -- you're dealing with your neighbour, and if you had a conflict with your neighbour 20 years ago, they oftentimes don't forget. That's the situation you're in.
Mr Lalonde: As they said yesterday, in a small community the developer goes to church with the members of council and they discuss the matter there. Then when it comes in front of them, it's very tough to refuse their requirement.
There was another concern of the group here yesterday, about the application for distance separation. At present I don't think there is anything in Bill 20 that protects the farming community from having a subdivision in the near area. Let's say on the dust side, other sides, there's a lot of point that at present the Ministry of Environment did get involved. They are forgetting about the agricultural aspect of it. What's your feeling about the distance between the farming community or the farming livestock facility and the residential areas?
Mr Fletcher: There are minimum distance standards. Once again you're going back to "have regard to" as opposed to "be consistent with." There is also the consideration that if you're taking agricultural land and assuming an agricultural zoning is similar to an industrial zoning, you create those distances at the same time to some degree.
Some of the problems with small communities and agriculture is that we work hand in glove in a rural-urban situation. In many of the surrounding townships surrounding an urban area, they aren't really rural areas; they are a mixture. You have a lot of people moving out. You end up with councils which could be predominantly urban people, so some of your planning ideas tend to favour development and the separation of the two isn't necessarily as good as it could be or should be.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your presentation. I was struck by your statement -- and in agreement with it, by the way, I might preface this with -- on page 4 where you say, "The change from `be consistent with' to `have regard to' the provincial policy statements opens loopholes that anyone wanting any planning decision changed in their favour could drive a truck through."
I agree with that, but it was interesting that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture said just yesterday in Hamilton, "We argued that the change `shall be consistent with' was an ill-conceived example of excessive provincial regulation." A further quote, "The adoption of `shall be consistent with' imposed a cookie-cutter approach to land use planning."
Being from downtown Hamilton and not at all suggesting I understand agricultural issues nearly as well as you do, I was struck by the differences and would be most interested in hearing your thoughts on why two groups might reach such diametrically opposed conclusions, and I guess I would also say why you were so quick to find the truth and the other group somehow managed to miss it completely.
Mr Duffin: I guess it's all a matter of perspective. The land we deal with in Middlesex county is 99% prime agricultural land, classes 1, 2 and 3, and from our perspective and the farmers who farm in this area this is the land that needs preservation. On the broader scale, province-wide, there are large areas which do not meet this qualification, and that is what the fear of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture was, that the blanket policy would be made that all lands need to be protected. In areas of marginal agriculture it's questionable whether it's important to keep a rock outcropping for purposes of agriculture or whether it's allowable to have a house on it provided all the other requirements are met.
To go further on that, it again goes back to the interpretation. If we are strictly talking about prime agricultural land, there's no problem, but if there are scales of mapping that say, "This whole township is prime agricultural land" when in fact the north half isn't or something, those sorts of concerns come up. I guess that's the reason for the difference in the view. In the strict interpretation, if we're talking about prime agricultural land, we have no problem with going towards the "be consistent with."
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation this morning. I can certainly share with the committee that both these gentlemen are not only very active in their federation work but are very much committed to their own farm practices, and their involvement in urban-rural issues in the county is one that should be modelled by others who share similar concerns. Thank you, and it's good to see you this morning.
I too was somewhat interested in your comment by comparison to the Ontario federation presentation yesterday. It's important for my colleague opposite to realize that under his government, when we recently had 26,000 hectares of land annexed, of which three years later we find out we only need 3,100 hectares of land for urban growth for the next 20 years, the sensitivity perhaps is a little more than can be expected.
I want to come back to that same point. Both of you have been intimately involved in a three-year planning process here in the city of London, representing rural interests. You made some initial comments regarding the streamlining process and the one-window approach. Surely after three years of being intimately involved with various ministries, different interest groups, municipal council, you would have some vision of what the one-window approach should look like, and I was wondering if you could share that with the committee this morning.
Mr Fletcher: I think you have to have a lead ministry and all applications should go there. You should have some type of forum or information beforehand so that you know exactly what is needed beforehand. Once that is put in, there should be a time frame and there has to be input by all ministries and it has to be within that time frame and then you go from there. If each ministry is considered equal, that's the way it should be.
As it is right now, you have to go all over town or hell's half acre to get ministry approvals and what not. Right now, for instance, Natural Resources works out of Aylmer for this district. At times they don't necessarily have gasoline for their cars, so if you want to go pick them up you can get them to come see your place. But timeliness of comments that return and come back are a key thing. Development is needed, there's no doubt about that, but there has to be a time line that everybody has to get their act in gear and deliver.
Mr Smith: You alluded to it in part, your comments with respect to the draft provincial policy statements. Albeit we shouldn't look at one section in isolation of another, on initial review of those draft statements, what's your gut reaction to the manner in which the agricultural policy statements in draft form have been presented to you?
Mr Duffin: Do you want the short answer? On the broad picture, I think everything has been simplified. I guess our concern is that it's been simplified too much, to the extent that perhaps the long-term vision for agriculture will be missing when the day is done.
The Chair: Thank you both, gentlemen, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here this morning. I appreciate it.
LONDON HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next group up is the London Home Builders' Association. Good morning.
Mr Barry Card: Good morning. I'm Barry Card. Neither Dick Brouwer nor Ian Low will be appearing this morning. I got recruited to carry the flag on their behalf.
I have written materials that have been provided to the clerk and I hope will be available to the members to consider during the presentation. The written materials are in outline form, and what I hope to do during the allotted time is review the basis for the suggestions being made. They are very specific; rather than being philosophical, they are brass tacks. That may be a little different approach than some of the groups that will be making presentations.
The reason is that in one of my lives I am an adjunct law professor at the university and I teach land use planning law. A number of things have come to my attention over the last few years that I've been looking for an opportunity to have corrected. Most of those things reflect my basic philosophical bent as a member of the home builders' association that things could work a lot better in the land use planning process. I was extremely disappointed that during the last round leading up to Bill 163 very little was done to address the fundamental deficiencies. The things that were done were largely window dressing, and the whole process was in my view very unproductive.
However, at page 2 of the written materials there is a summary of the main conclusions and the recommendations being offered by the London Home Builders' Association. The first point is that we generally agree with the thrust of Bill 20 and we support it. Unless otherwise noted in the materials, we agree with the change. We agree that municipalities ought to have more autonomy in the planning process. We agree that the role of the Ontario Municipal Board should be preserved. We think there are a number of ways that the planning process can be streamlined and improved and we endorse all those general goals of Bill 20.
What we've got in the other two parts of the materials is a suggestion for revisions to Bill 20 as it has been drafted, and in part 4 a suggestion for other revisions that might be made which have not been included in Bill 20 or which at least supplement the changes being proposed by Bill 20.
There are a couple of points that arise from what I heard discussed in the last few minutes that I'd like to make at the outset, first of all with respect to the importance of the policy statements. We have for a number of years managed quite nicely with the words "have regard to" and we know what the words "have regard to" mean. They mean that in the absence of other overriding considerations you will obey the policy statement's directives, and that works very nicely. The problem with "be consistent with" is that it suggests that this is the one compelling principle that has to be followed in a planning decision and that other issues, other considerations, fall by the wayside if there is a provincial policy statement that directs on the matter. What that does is make the planning process inflexible.
The last process was supposed to result in more municipal autonomy, but as the result of having a set of policy statements that say "be consistent with," all municipalities could actually do was take the provincial objectives, package them with a little bit of glitz and say, "This is our official plan." It actually gave the municipalities less power, because if you have a list of fundamentals that have to go into your official plan, the things you are able to do are much less, you have much less creativity. "Have regard to" provides the opportunity for municipalities to make adjustments that make sense on a local basis. Not everything that comes out of Toronto applies universally throughout the province, and it's nice to give municipalities an opportunity to make adjustments as they see fit. That was the first point.
The second point is with respect to agricultural policy. The home builders and the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture have something in common here. We have looked at the planning process the city of London has gone through the last couple of years, and we've seen the initial result. The initial result is a proposal that would designate nearly a quarter of the land that London annexed for open space purposes, and that's before you get into the other dedications that will follow as a result of the subdivision process, which means that an additional 5% might be consumed for open space and recreation purposes.
So you're looking at something approaching 30% of the annexed land that has already been proposed for no use, and that will be a very expensive feature. It will be expensive because when it comes time to service the land, the services that have to be provided will be all that much more expensive. It's going to mean that farm land is absorbed at a faster rate because there's so much less land that was annexed available for development purposes. What that will do is hasten the decline of agriculture in Middlesex and at the same time force up the price of serviced land, developable land, for people who are buying new houses.
We think that is a very unfortunate situation. It results from the fact that the policy statements, as they are now written, require that there be a one-dimensional approach taken to protection of the environment, that is, that the natural heritage areas are assessed outside the context of the needs for urban land. So London is rushing off and assessing its open space requirements for the next 50 years without considering what its need for urban land uses will be. Again, that's a very fundamental mistake. Land use planning is a process that contemplates the balancing of competing considerations, and by rushing one issue ahead of everything else, you're bound to make mistakes, mistakes that are going to be expensive to everyone, including the home-buying public.
We think London's planning exercise over the last two years is a very good example of why the current policy statement approach is not going to work, so we do encourage the changes proposed and there are a number of suggestions we will offer in a moment.
The directions that were received with respect to briefs indicate that there should be a statement about the purpose of the organization making the submission. That's what's in part 2. I don't propose to review that at any length. However, what is important to note is that home builders don't routinely have a lot to do with the land use planning process. They're mostly affected by the process when it comes time to purchase and build, much like consumers are affected by the land use planning process at the very end of the process. If the process is inefficient in delivering serviced land, home builders will find that there's less product available or that costs will be higher, and that's the same experience consumers have. Our interest is very much the same as consumers, and I hope our submissions will be received in that light.
The first of the suggestions being offered today is with respect to section 13 of Bill 20. I haven't reproduced the legislation with these materials, so it will be necessary to refer to it. Subsection 22(5) of the Planning Act as it would be after the amendment allows the council to require that further information or material be provided as the planning board or council considers it may need. In other words, in addition to the things you can specify in a bylaw -- and the act will allow for material to be identified in a bylaw for submission to the council -- you can meet with the council and then they'll decide they need something else, and the next time you meet with them they'll need something else, and it goes on and on and on. What this does is extend the period that runs before the period that counts. In other words, before you can get to the point where you can say, "Okay, the clock has started running now for 90 days" or 120 days or 180 days or 150 days or whatever it is, before you can start the clock running you have to provide all the needed information. It's like a moving target, because every time you talk to them they can say, "We need something else before we can consider your application."
Our suggestion is that if the power exists to prescribe the information that's required in a bylaw, that's the place where the council should express what it needs and not have a moving target where every time you meet with them they're able to tell you they need something else. This is a very minor technical amendment, but it can be very important in protecting the rights of people who come before councils in the process, because if they're up against time constraints, the natural tendency will be to avoid and delay, which is the thing that seems to happen the most, especially with unpopular applications. Let's have a way of fixing the date when the time period begins.
The second suggestion pertains to section 13 as well, subsection 22(6) of the act. Delete the words "to accept or" from clause 22(6)(a) of the draft. There isn't any need to refuse to accept an application. Again this opens the door to abuse, because if you can come up to the counter and say, "I'd like to submit this application," and the answer is, "Sorry, we're not interested in it; take it back," you can't start the clock running. In order to get the clock running, you have to have a way of submitting an application.
Now, it's true that there might be disagreement as to whether all the required information has been provided. If there is, there ought to be somebody to sort that out; the somebody ought to be the Ontario Municipal Board. But you have to be able to get in the door before you can take advantage of the municipal board. So that's why the words "to accept or" would be removed, to eliminate that advantage that municipalities would have.
Third, the same section, subsection 22(7) of the act, this supplements the previous recommendation, and that is to allow the opportunity to have a determination by the OMB as to whether the application is complete. There may be some dispute between the applicant and the municipality as to whether a particular study is required. Obviously, if the applicant goes forward and doesn't have that study and the municipal board determines it's appropriate, you're not going to get very far. But there ought to be a way of avoiding the dead end. That's the flaw with the way the act is written now: There's a dead end. If there's a dispute, nothing is ever going to happen.
The next takes us to section 24. This deals with site plan approval. One of the innovations of Bill 20 is a proposal that municipalities be given the power to require the dedication of transit rights of way. In London, we don't have a very sophisticated public transit network. However, the day is probably coming when that will change.
The problem is that when a municipality starts plotting dotted lines on a map, it may not have any funds to achieve the routes it is proposing -- probably won't -- but it will have an opportunity, if this power is given, to acquire land without compensation. That's a major concern, because the people who are going to pay for the land required for transit routes will be the people who move into new town house or apartment developments.
This is a site plan approval power, which means it's not going to apply to detached dwellings but it will apply to people who live in town houses or apartments. What it says to the owner is, "If I come in for a site plan approval on a block of land, and that block of land happens to have a dotted line across it, you're going to give us" -- the municipality -- "the land for the transit right of way." So the people who are going to live in the development or buy units are going to be paying for that. We say that's not appropriate, because it's a benefit to the community as a whole, and that benefit shouldn't be borne by a specific group of people, being the people who are owning or occupying the development.
That's one of the most offensive provisions, we suggest, of Bill 20, because it's a radical departure from what we have now. I should point out that under section 41 municipalities are not permitted to require that land be dedicated for new roadways. They cannot take a piece of land and say, "We want to strip across it for a road." What they can do is they can take road-widening dedication, so they can take 10 feet off the side of an existing road and say, "We want that free of charge." But being able to go down the middle of a site to create a transitway is something completely different and much more disruptive, expensive and offensive.
Next is section 26. Section 26 deals with the minor variance section of the Planning Act. Our suggestion is that the current section be left alone. Despite extensive consideration during the last review of the planning process, Bill 163 left section 45 intact and there was considerable wisdom for doing that. The minor variance process is often looked at as an annoyance and it's often looked at as a process that involves neighbour against neighbour. But it has a lot more important features than that, and often very important issues are dealt with by minor variance. For example, one of the leading cases in minor variances is a case that involves a bookstore, Coles, in Toronto. It stood for the proposition that you could completely eliminate a requirement from a bylaw as a minor variance. So minor variances are more important than they get credit for.
The problem with eliminating the right to appeal, which is most of the reason why the section is being re-enacted, is that there are jurisdictional difficulties, there are jurisdictional limitations with minor variances. Minor variances are only appropriate if the four tests that are set out in the statute can be met. What I'm concerned with is that if you eliminate the right to appeal, you are really forcing people to go to court to determine whether or not a committee acted within its jurisdiction. Superficially it might seem like you're going to shortcut the process by eliminating the right to appeal, but my experience suggests otherwise. If there isn't any right to appeal, there are going to be applications for judicial review to determine whether or not the four tests have been met, and that is a more expensive and time-consuming process. Because of that, it's not advisable to eliminate the right of appeal.
I would say, given the large numbers of minor variances that are processed in this province each year, that the number of matters that go to appeal are the minority, the very great minority. With the expanded rights to dismiss appeals that have no substance, there really is no need to do away with appeals. So our suggestion is that section 45 be retained as is.
That takes us to section 44 of Bill 20, which is the transition provision of the Planning Act, section 75. I didn't have any problem when I read Bill 20; I understood that what was intended by subsection 75(3) was that any matter that hadn't gone through the system and been considered by the council or by the board was going to be dealt with on the basis of the policy statements as reproclaimed. That would be a very good thing to do. It was suggested to me by some people that this wasn't the way they interpreted the revision. So what we've got here is the suggestion that a few words be added to make it clear that the policy statement that would be applied to applications that have come into the system since March 28, 1995, will be the policy statements that apply at the time that consideration is being given, which means the ones that will emerge from this process. I note that the draft policy statement implementation section does say this very thing, but it would be wise, we submit, to have it in the legislation as well.
Bill 20 proposes an amendment to the Development Charges Act and the amendment is a very substantial one. The amendment is to remove the appeal process that is presently in the act and replace it with a provision that permits the minister to approve development charge bylaws. Admittedly, this is an interim provision and not something that we would expect to find as a feature of the permanent Development Charges Act after the fundamental review process which is now being undertaken is completed. However, we think it is a dangerous precedent for the minister to be charged with responsibility for the approval of development charge bylaws. It's a dangerous precedent because what it does, really, is set up the province in a position of approving a local tax that applies to a specific class of people. It's a dangerous precedent to allow the province to do that, because once that happens, there's going to be pressure to make that tax universal, so that it would apply evenly throughout the province.
We see that with the property assessment system right now, and this is a tax that's not unlike that, only it's a smaller class that pays the tax. What happens is you eventually remove local autonomy, you transfer it first to the province and then you throw out that whole system and have a universal tax that applies to new home buyers that goes into some kind of fund that provides infrastructure. We think that's exactly the wrong way to go. Although this is just an interim and token amendment, we think it is not a proper part of Bill 20.
In addition to the changes we've suggested to Bill 20 itself, there are a number of further submissions we would like to offer you, and these begin at page 10 of the written material, "Part 4 -- Additional Amendments."
Bill 20 does propose to repeal paragraphs 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 of section 34. I've suggested in the paragraph that follows that those amendments were window dressing and really had no impact on the meaning of the Planning Act anyway. I mean that sincerely. Section 34, as it was before Bill 163, contained the power that allowed municipalities to prohibit the use of land except for such purposes as were set out in the bylaw, and that's really all you need to say. This other stuff in 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 was completely unnecessary. It looked like it was doing something; it did nothing. It was a waste of paper and it ought to go. Simply amending it by removing a couple of words to suggest that you're not going to prohibit all uses of land is unnecessary, because paragraph 3 does that anyway. You don't need it. Why not go the whole distance and take it out?
The next suggestion is with respect to subsection 34(9). Subsection 34(9) pertains to non-conforming rights. It is untouched by Bill 20, but it's a problem that is long-standing and somehow had escaped examination in the white paper that was done in the late 1960s and resulted in the eventual changes to the Planning Act in 1983. Then in Bill 163, somehow, 34(9) just motored on through and has never improved. But it has a couple of major problems.
One problem we have recently experienced in the city of London, and that is when you have a difference in the date that the bylaw is enacted and the date that the bylaw is to come into force. What happens is that the right under subsection 34(9) to the protection of existing uses is as of the date of the passing of an amending bylaw. So if you're doing a comprehensive bylaw, the rights of land owners are protected as of the day of the passing of the bylaw. But there are often a zillion objections to a comprehensive bylaw. That delays the coming into force of the bylaw.
What London did eventually was it suspended the coming into force of its new comprehensive bylaw by two years. So what happens to everything that's built between the time that the bylaw is passed and the time that the bylaw comes into force? Really, there's no protection. It creates a very large mess. The courts have decided that there is only one bylaw in force, so the bylaw is the one that is fully in force, and that is the old bylaw. Building permits have to be issued on the basis of the old bylaw. So when you get this hiatus, it makes a very big mess. What the amendment is suggesting is if there are two dates in the bylaw, a date where the bylaw is passed and a date where the bylaw is to come into force, you use the date where the bylaw is to come into force for the determination of non-conforming rights.
The other problem, the companion problem, is with respect to the protection that's given to applications for building permits. People who buy land often do it on the basis that they can use it for some purpose and they are surprised to find that municipalities can change the rules after they apply for a building permit. The way the section is written, it protects you if you have a building permit issued, but what if you applied for a permit three months ago and the permit hasn't been issued? What if the municipality changes the zoning bylaw? What if the municipality passes an interim control bylaw? What it means is that overnight, and after you've made your investment and after you have made your application, the rules will change. That's not fair and that's the reason that a change ought to be considered to clause 34(9)(b).
That takes us to subsection 38(7) of the Planning Act as it is now. Subsection 38(7) deals with the power of municipalities to enact interim control bylaws. The interim control bylaw power is an extraordinary one. It says that immediately, without any notice to anyone, municipalities can pass a bylaw that affects land use. So in the middle of a council meeting, in the dark of the night, they can enact an interim control bylaw. The next day everyone finds out that the zoning has changed, because eventually notice goes out.
Because that's a draconian measure, the Legislature, in its wisdom, saw fit to impose a prohibition on the repeated use of it. What the Legislature said was, "You can't use it on the same land for three years after you've used it once." Unfortunately, the municipal board and some municipalities have found an ingenious way of getting around that prohibition. The ingenious way is to say: "If we have used the interim control bylaw for a different purpose the second time around, then the first time around doesn't count. So even if we had another crisis last month that required the interim control bylaw and we got rid of that crisis, this month we have a different crisis and now we can use the interim control bylaw all over again." That isn't what the Legislature intended, and something ought to be done to correct that situation, because the use of interim control bylaws does have a tremendous impact on vested rights.
That takes us to subsection 41(7), which is back to the site planning control provision of the Planning Act, the same provision that is going to be amended or proposed to be amended with the transit right-of-way issue. Subsection 41(7) allows the entering into of agreements; however, municipalities frequently abuse that power by having agreements that are far more pervasive than the enabling legislation permits. The problem for developers or home builders is that if you come to city hall and say, "I'd like a site plan agreement to allow me to build what the zoning bylaw says I can build," they say, "Well, here's our list of demands," and your choice is either you sign the agreement that contains that very long list of demands or you don't get your building permit.
The change we're suggesting is that if they go beyond their power, sign the agreement anyway, give the municipal board the opportunity, the power to revise agreements that have been entered into under section 41, because the municipal board says, "We can't do that." So if we can allow them to review existing agreements if municipalities have exceeded their jurisdiction, that isn't going to hold up construction. You can still build your town houses or your apartments and settle the matter later.
Next is subsection 41(12), again a supplementary amendment that would allow an applicant for site plan approval to sign the agreement, pay the municipality whatever the municipality requires and then still have the opportunity to appeal to the OMB.
Item 6 of our suggestions is the same thing, only with respect to parkland. Right now, if you are asked to pay cash in lieu which exceeds what the municipality should be asking you for, you can pay under protest and remit that matter to the OMB. Unfortunately, if they ask you for the parkland itself, you can't use the same approach; you can't give them the parkland and then appeal to the OMB. It holds up your development and then you have to wait whatever it takes to get to the OMB, a year or a year and a half, before you can have the matter adjudicated.
Recommendation 7 deals with minor variances. On the assumption that you would retain the right to appeal, there is a dead end created by the existing legislation. The dead end is this: The legislation is very good about saying that an appeal has to be heard by the committee of adjustment within 30 days after it's received. Unfortunately, that's where the obligation stops. So they can hear you and then say, "Well, we'll defer on this and consider it some other day." They can defer on it for months or years or never do anything, and you don't have the right to appeal, because your right to appeal flows from the decision. If they don't make a decision, you're stuck. If you're going to keep the right to appeal, please consider amending the requirements of the statute to say that they have to make a decision, and if they don't, you have the right to appeal.
Suggestion 8 deals with draft plan approval. The way the act was amended by Bill 163 gives the minister the opportunity to change the conditions of draft plan approval right up to the time the subdivision plan becomes complete. That again is a very expensive and unfortunate change, because it means the draft plan approval means much less than it should.
The Chair: One minute.
Mr Card: Draft plan approval was intended to mean that these are the conditions under which you can proceed to have your subdivision registered. By allowing conditions to change right up to the time of finalization, you've taken away the meaning of draft plan approval, and that's a very serious change.
There are a few other suggestions, which obviously I won't have the time to review this morning, but I do thank you for the opportunity to make these submissions.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Card, for an extremely thorough presentation. We appreciate your taking the time to visit with us here today.
The Chair: Our next group up -- actually, sorry, it's an individual, Mr John Martyn. Welcome to the committee. Again, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, either presentation or question-and-answer.
Mr John Martyn: Okay. My name is John Martyn and thank you very much for allowing me to come before this group. I've done a number of things in life but I'm not going to go into that.
A number of these items are general, and I think as members of the Legislature, and I guess most of you are, you should be concerned with them. I'm going to go over what I think are some of the major items you should consider in this bill, largely directed to agriculture. I know some of you are experts in agriculture on this committee.
I just note in passing, and you people know this, that the current bill is remaking a considerable amount of the Sewell report, which has just come into effect. I'll go on to paragraph 2 here of page 1. I'm just going to go over it.
Whatever one's political stripe, it is evident that we cannot continue to squander our agricultural land base. The area in census farms diminished by 1,452,627 acres, or 9.7%, in the period 1981 to 1991. Those figures are coming out of our own ministry. It is also noteworthy that in 1994 Ontario's exports of international agrifood were valued at $4,202,087,000 while imports were $6,840,023,000, for a net deficit in our balance of agrifood trade of $2,637,936,000, ag stats from our department. The situation regarding the loss of farm land is even worse than the raw figures suggest, for much of the lost area is of class 1 land. Clearly, losses of the magnitude of 10% cannot be allowed to continue and any policy encouraging such losses is retrograde.
The foregoing scenario is made more sombre by the fact that grain prices, especially corn, wheat and soybeans, have markedly increased recently. Why don't we let our grain farmers contribute to reducing our deficit in international agrifood trade by seeing that the land base they exploit remains as large as possible? The world markets for cereal grains appear to be high, as evidenced by recent remarks by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. As noted in a recent Reuters dispatch reproduced in the London Free Press of February 2, 1996, rising world populations combined with food price increases of 30% to 50% present formidable problems:
"We must prepare to feed about nine billion people who will inhabit the world by 2030, up from 5.8 billion today.... It is not acceptable that the most fundamental right of human beings...is not guaranteed in a world where we are going to the moon and are sending up space shuttles."
I have one other point on this macro view from a person I respect a great deal, but he's talking vastly beyond what we're dealing with. If one wishes to get a macro view of things, including vastly more than just agricultural matters, one gets such a perspective from Carl Sagan, probably the world's most distinguished popular astronomer. His most recent publication is Pale Blue Dot. Sagan uses satellite imaging to give us entirely new perspectives on our pale blue planet, as seen from space. In a chapter entitled "Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?" Sagan observes:
"From your orbital perspective, you can see that something has unmistakably gone wrong. The dominant organisms, whoever they are -- who have gone to so much trouble to rework the surface -- are simultaneously destroying their ozone layer and their forests, eroding their topsoil, and performing massive, uncontrolled experiments on their planet's climate. Haven't they noticed what's happening? Are they oblivious to their fate? Are they unable to work together on behalf of the environment that sustains them all?
"Perhaps, you think, it's time to reassess the conjecture that there's intelligent life on Earth."
Before we think that Sagan is just a pessimist, he says: "But in terms of actual knowledge, at this moment the Earth is unique. No other world is yet known to harbour even a microbe, much less a technical civilization."
What's all this got to do with Bill 20? I offer the following comments. As a general observation, it seems to me that weakening of the general oversight of the provincial government in planning matters is unwise. Few, if any, local authorities have the expertise and knowledge in general matters that the province should have. In other words, I believe that general policy should be set forth by the province. If it can't do that in a responsible manner, what good is it?
Definition of "public body" in the bill: In many areas of planning, Bill 20 excludes all ministries of the province of Ontario except the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Does this mean that OMAFRA and other relevant public bodies are denied a full part in the planning process?
The power to prescribe other matters to be of provincial interest: Does the repeal of this provision in section 2 of the current act unduly hamper the future exercise of provincial authority?
"Be consistent with": Why shouldn't local decisions in planning "be consistent with" policy statement issued under subsection 3(1) of the current act? Don't we want some provincial leadership rather than helter-skelter development at the whim of local municipalities that are determined to undercut one another? Provided that there is a level provincial playing field, there should be no objection to provincial leadership. Provincial leadership will do much to reduce gratuitous lawsuits and mindless expense. My experience with developers is that they are content, provided that someone else is not getting a leg up. Do any of us naïvely assume that local authorities won't try to outdo their neighbours, to the possible detriment of all?
Subsection 34(1) of the Planning Act: Paragraphs 34(1)3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 should be left intact. We do not need exploitation of the sensitive areas set forth in the act. As our population increases, we shall be increasingly concerned with the preservation of significant wildlife habitat. We should also be concerned about erosion and water quality. The growing populations of our metropolitan areas will insist that these areas be preserved unspoiled and will look with a jaundiced eye on those who propose to do otherwise. If you have any doubts in this regard, consult the letters to the editor column of your local newspaper.
Again, developers will be content, provided the rules are the same for all. All sorts of lawsuits and contentious encounters will be avoided if we don't invade these areas. But once they are opened, tempers will flare on all sides. The aim of all wise legislation should be to calm the populace and not to inflame them needlessly. If the rules are fair and clear, tranquillity will result. One must not let special interests cloud the horizon.
Public meetings re subdivisions: Bill 20 proposes to remove the requirement that a public meeting in respect of a proposed subdivision be held. This is unwise.
Consents: The requirement that a public meeting be held in respect of a consent to sever land is removed. This change in procedure is extremely unwise. It's guaranteed to set neighbour against neighbour. It will encourage clandestine actions. As it is, consents in rural areas are already causing severe problems for farming operations. A lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit is able to upset many farming situations. Full public scrutiny and participation is necessary in respect to severances. Any provision that opens more farm land to severances is not in the long-term interest of agriculture.
The fact of the matter is that intensive farming operations and severances are often incompatible. The argument used to be that severances provide a retirement lot for retiring farmers or a place for the farmer's son or daughter. But what happens after the farmer dies or the son or daughter moves? Often the property is sold to someone totally unconcerned and unconnected to the rural scene. Lawsuits are often quickly launched on behalf of the newcomer, who sees his or her investment threatened by the farm operation. To mitigate this situation, farms were required to move their operations far back from the built-up area. This in itself contributed another severe restraint on the farm, and the old land use guidelines were of little help.
My point in the last paragraph is that any move to ease severances impacts severely on farming and farm land. Many farmers find that selling out is the easiest solution, once again reducing our agricultural land base.
I just included an item here on the Ontario Heritage Act. I see that Bill 20 removes that the minister consult with the heritage foundation before granting, renewing, suspending or revoking a licence to carry out archaeological work. I'd have thought the minister would be happy to have expert advice in such an area.
Conclusions: The cumulative effects of the proposed changes to the Planning Act that I have commented upon will be to impair a common policy for the province of Ontario. Common municipal policies will be less frequent; municipalities will be pitted against one another. Development will likely proceed into areas that are agriculturally and environmentally sensitive. The public already understand this, and I mention a few articles in that respect. The lack of mandatory public meetings for severances will reduce public input and encourage strife between citizens.
The foregoing comments are intended to pertain largely to rural areas. Many parts of Bill 20 speed up passage of municipal actions and are not to be rejected out of hand but should be closely scrutinized. But the necessity of protecting our agricultural land base is paramount. Too much prime land has already been squandered. Our whole emphasis should be on sustainable economic development. This phrase should not be misconstrued as unrestrained economic development.
Some might not be concerned with the loss of agricultural land and argue that we merely import our food. Such a policy is extremely shortsighted and sells Ontario and Canada short. If we wish to retain a vibrant economy in the northern part of this continent, we'd better look to our land base. Only a small portion of our land is fit for prime agriculture. It would be foolish to drive agriculture on to marginal lands, where it cannot remain competitive on world markets.
As I look about my area, St Thomas -- and I have spent over half my life in major metropolitan areas like Toronto -- I see abundant industrial land. In fact, we have huge factory closures and unused industrial space, as do many southern Ontario towns. Even London, the nearest large urban centre, with its acquisition of Westminster township, has an abundance of land for expansion. Do we want to expand as another Metropolitan Toronto? This urban proliferation is now being questioned as we see the expense that such expansion entails.
I hope that this committee would seriously examine the areas of Bill 20 to which I have drawn your attention. The changes that I have outlined will ultimately be in the best economic interests of us all, both urban and rural, farm and non-farm.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Martyn. You've allowed us five minutes for questioning per caucus. We'll start this round with Mr Christopherson.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much, Mr Martyn, for your presentation. Obviously you've given these matters a great deal of thought and I hope the government will take heed of a lot of the points you've raised.
Let's start with the macro. On balance, who do you think the winners and losers are with Bill 20 if the government enacts it the way that it's now laid out?
Mr Martyn: As I have mentioned in there, I think for our best agricultural land we should give very careful protection. I didn't comment on the urban aspects of the bill; I don't know that much about it, like the last speaker. But as I was saying, we can't continue to every 10 years reduce our agricultural land base by 10%.
Mr Christopherson: But who loses if we do?
Mr Martyn: We all do. For instance, I was pointing out our deficit in agricultural trade is $2 billion. With the recent changes in agricultural prices in corn and soybeans and so on, I would hope we can help make up that $2-billion deficit.
I think we all lose. And I have served in a variety of capacities. I'm not representing an official organization here today, but as I mentioned in there, my experience with developers is that if you make the rules clear and so on, these guys are happy. But if you leave a loophole in there, they're through it like a shot, and they've got the guys like the fellow who was here before myself representing them.
Mr Christopherson: Just to give you a warm-up for the questions I think you'll probably hear from the government members, on the bottom of page 3 you ask, "Why shouldn't local decisions in planning `be consistent with' policy statements issued under subsection 3(1) of the current act?" You're going to hear, I suggest to you, that local decision-making is the penultimate decision-making in terms of appropriateness because they understand the local scene better than anyone else. Just to kind of warm you up for that, how would you respond to the argument that local councils are best suited to make planning decisions and the people in the ivory tower ought to stay away?
Mr Martyn: They are, if you make the rules clear and fair, but I know some of these people sitting around here are representing the city of London. The city of London has a major planning capacity. I've served on municipal councils that -- they need all the help they can get. They need some fair guidelines for the whole system.
Mr Christopherson: You comment on needing clear guidelines. Does it bother you that Bill 20 is being pushed through before the policies it gives effect to are finalized?
Mr Martyn: I don't know if I'm capable of answering that on policies, but what I've seen in the past is that the policies regarding farm land have been too weak. What you'll see with regard to farmers is they'll just sell out. That's the easy way. They'll simply sell out to piecemeal development, and I don't want to see one municipality pitted against another. That's what happens.
Mr Christopherson: Let me pick up on that, because I think that's an important point. Why do you think municipalities would do that? Why would they be pitting themselves against each other?
Mr Martyn: They're elected by a very narrow base. You people are elected by a wider base. In the township I served on as a councillor, Yarmouth township, you're elected to push the interests of Yarmouth township as hard as you can, just like a lawyer, the guy who sat here before me, and there are some lawyers sitting on this committee. You're pushing your self-interest just as hard as you can. The province has greater capabilities, but once they set the basic rules forward, let the municipalities take hold of it.
Mr Christopherson: Is it fair to say that because of the fiscal pressure on municipalities too because of provincial cutbacks -- because I also served on municipal council. Is it fair, in your opinion, to say that a lot of councils may be making decisions that they otherwise wouldn't, but because they're desperate for revenue, they are looking at a short-term gain and a long-term pain?
Mr Martyn: It's hard as a municipal councillor to think in terms of the whole province. You're not elected to do that.
Mr Christopherson: Sure. So therefore your submission is that the province needs to provide that kind of leadership, or that's how we're going to find ourselves in trouble.
Mr Martyn: But don't lock us in a straitjacket.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Thank you very much for your presentation this morning. We appreciate it.
I won't belabour the point -- and thank you, Mr Christopherson, for setting up my thoughts.
Mr Christopherson: I'm here to help.
Mr Baird: Thank you; always helpful.
I appreciate your comments at the beginning of your presentation with respect to provincial leadership. I just want to make a comment and maybe get your thoughts on it. I represent a riding in eastern Ontario, outside of Ottawa. There's one thing I was struck by, looking at the issue of provincial leadership and then on page 7 when you discussed how protecting our agricultural land base is paramount and so much is already being squandered, particularly prime lands.
I want to give you an example that took place in our regional municipality. The community got behind a tremendous effort over five years to get an NHL franchise in our community.
Mr Martyn: Yes, I heard about that.
Mr Baird: We were awarded the franchise, and we almost didn't get an arena built to house the new franchise. There were approximately a few hundred acres right beside a four-lane highway in a rural part of the region, and there was a tremendous issue. It was classified as second-class or even third-class farm land. It wasn't even being used for farming at the time, my understanding is. There was a tremendous opposition from the provincial government towards building the stadium there, and regrettably that was at the end of a very exhaustive process to find a site for it. We almost didn't get the NHL franchise and the resulting hundreds of millions of dollars of direct capital investment that came into our community, hundreds and hundreds of jobs created directly on an ongoing basis, and then a huge impact on our tourism trade, which is very important for Ottawa-Carleton given the government downsizing.
It was felt in our community that this, in your words, "provincial leadership" was really Toronto trying to tell us what was best for our community. We believed that we were best able to make those decisions locally. There was a tremendous amount of public involvement in that entire process and we almost lost the franchise. What would your thoughts be on an instance like that, when it's second- or third-class farm land, and at the time it wasn't even, in my judgement, being used for agriculture?
Mr Martyn: I read about that too. The exception proves the rule. Doubtless your situation looks like it should have gone ahead, but can't guidelines be sufficiently elastic to allow something like that?
Mr Baird: I think it was just a general principle, who knew best for the community. We obviously want some degree of provincial leadership, but I guess in our view it was a solution manufactured in Toronto. You mentioned just in the spirit that there could be political considerations with respect to these decisions at the local level --
Mr Martyn: Was that under the old legislation or the new legislation?
Mr Baird: The old.
Mr Martyn: The old legislation had holes in it, no question about that.
Mr Baird: Definitely, but I think the general spirit of Bill 163 would be very much paramount in the new, if it was considered under Bill 163. Even local political considerations can happen provincially. For example, the other franchise that wasn't awarded in Ontario was in Hamilton, and there was some suggestion in the media that the very strong and effective members from the Hamilton area in the government caucus were trying to stop the arena being constructed in Ottawa so they could get the arena in Hamilton themselves.
I just don't think the provincial leadership is going to see the absence of political considerations. I think, obviously, whether it's at the local level or at the provincial level, folks have got to elect accountable, trustworthy people to office, certainly something that I've seen in all parties on all sides of the House in evidence in my short time here. Has there been an example like that in your community in Elgin county?
Mr Martyn: I can't think of one. I am saying there should be substantial provincial input, but obviously you've got to have a lot of local autonomy too. But I think you can reconcile those. I think you have to reconcile those.
Mr Baird: Do you think Bill 163 did that?
Mr Martyn: I'm not convinced of the complete merits of Bill 163, but I think some of the things -- I think Sewell wasn't a complete dummy. I'm not aware he's aligned with any political party, to tell you the truth.
Mr Baird: I think he's very strongly aligned with one political party.
Mr Martyn: I don't know. But I'm just saying you people should find some way that the tremendous loss of class 1 land is reduced. I think you have to. How you do that is up to you people, but I think you have to.
Mr Baird: I think the spirit of this bill is very much on local accountability. I think the government that's closest to people is by far the most accountable. When you can pick up the phone and call all six councillors in your community, where you couldn't pick up the phone and call all 130 members of Parliament, for example --
Mr Martyn: That's good if you want to be elected municipally, I agree.
Mr Baird: No, with respect to public accountability. At the local level there's a greater degree of accountability. Folks can come out to their local council meeting because it's just down the street and there's just a greater degree of accountability. I think that's just basically the philosophy behind this bill, that the local government is closest to the people and best able to make some of these decisions.
Mr Martyn: I wonder if it isn't going too far in some aspects, that's all. I'm not in fundamental disagreement with you necessarily, if you knew me.
Mr Baird: I appreciate your proposal and we'll certainly take it into consideration.
Mr Martyn: This isn't Shield land we're talking around here. People like Mr Hardeman and others know that from Oxford and so do the people from Middlesex. A few years ago all the corn north of Highway 7 sort of froze, you know what I mean? I guess London right now is trying to reconcile the two, and I think London at the moment has quite adequate supplies of land. That should be enough, rather than just spilling over into Elgin and so on.
Mr Lalonde: Mr Martyn, you have touched an area that is of similar concern to other agricultural groups that came in front of us. Reading through this, I could come up with a lot of questions to your group, but I'm just going to go to a few. How do you feel about the fact that there will be no public meeting requirements whenever there's a subdivision application to a municipality?
Mr Martyn: I indicate in there I like to see public meetings. I like to see as many things resolved ahead of time as possible. If you're going to have a severance, for example --
Mr Lalonde: We have reduced the time frame also.
Mr Martyn: Yes, and I didn't comment on that and I'm not terribly knowledgeable on that. But I'm all in favour, as this last member was mentioning, of bringing the public in at every level.
Mr Lalonde: In the past we've required whenever it was class 1, 2 or 3 -- well, at every level really -- that the Minister of Agriculture be involved for his comments on any subdivision or subdividers that would come in front of a council for subdividing a piece of land, but in this case you people won't be involved. I wonder at times really what does the farming community do in this, because there are a lot of agriculture groups that when they approach municipal council, they would like to sell a piece of land because they know there's a big profit coming to them. But there should be a mechanism in place that the whole agriculture community could say a word on it, because then they turn around, they sell a piece of land and whoever buys this piece of land would like to come and sever that land. It could be for their neighbours or friends or family construction so they could build their home. The group we had this morning, and also OFA yesterday, said that whenever you want to sever a piece of land for your mother, your father or your child, it shouldn't be accepted by the municipality because if they died or they moved, this land should be staying as a farming-zoned community. Are you in agreement with that too?
Mr Martyn: Again, you'd have to look at them case by case. At some point we're going to have to make up whether you want to farm or don't, and if you want to farm --
Mr Lalonde: It's you people will have to decide.
Mr Martyn: Yes. Well, you people are making the rules, though. At some point you're going to have to say, "This is essentially farmland, that's the prime use."
Mr Lalonde: The province could decide definitely. They're the one that would make up the rules, but in consultation with different groups like your group, definitely.
There's also the fact that the right to appeal has been removed in some areas in this Bill 20. Do you feel that whenever there's a member of council sitting on the adjustment committee that the appeal should be directed to the OMB automatically if people want to go to the appeal?
Mr Martyn: That's probably been abused in the past, but there should be an appeal mechanism.
Mr Lalonde: There isn't any in this bill.
Mr Martyn: I'm not an expert on the appeal mechanism, but there should be an appeal mechanism.
Mr Lalonde: There should be an appeal. But I really feel, though, if there's no member of council sitting on the minor variance committee, that the appeal rights should be to council and then council will be final.
Mr Martyn: That's on minor -- I'm talking about larger elements than that.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Martyn, for taking the time to visit with us today and make a presentation.
COUNTY PLANNING DIRECTORS OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Our next group up will be the County Planning Directors of Ontario. Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the committee. Again, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation time and question-and-answer period.
Mr Ralph Pugliese: Thank you very much. We'd like to thank you for this opportunity to express our views on the changing legislation in regard to Bill 20.
Over one and a half million people live in 26 counties in Ontario; 18 of these counties have established planning departments. Many have operated for over 20 years. These planning departments provide a variety of land use planning and community development services and have extensive public contact on a daily basis. The County Planning Directors of Ontario manage these departments and the views that we are about to express are strictly our own.
We believe that the existing planning system has broken down in this province because of the degree of provincial involvement required to permit, license or approve virtually all municipal actions, and that exceeds staff resources available to support such a high level of involvement. Simply put, provincial resources cannot support the current approval system.
The solution should be to encourage responsible planning and decision-making at the municipal level where the public has the greatest opportunity to participate.
We are strong advocates of community-based planning and we are pleased to see that Bill 20 strengthens the ability of people to make important decisions about their own communities. We are particularly pleased to see a return to the "have regard to" provisions respecting provincial policy, new approval authorities being made available to counties that are undertaking responsible planning programs, the province moving out of the business of approving municipal official plans, the restoration of municipal zoning authority over second units in houses.
"Have regard to" provincial policy: The requirement to "have regard to" provincial policy was in place for many years prior to the changes introduced by Bill 163. The planning profession was comfortable with its use. In our view it meant that we had to follow provincial policy unless there was a clear and compelling reason to vary from it. This allowed some room to consider local factors and individual circumstances when making decisions or setting policy.
We have never been of the view that to "have regard to" provincial policy meant reading provincial policy and then ignoring it, nor do we subscribe to that interpretation.
Empowering counties: We are very pleased to see that counties with approved official plans will be given subdivision authority and that counties with official plans approved under new provincial policies will be given the authority to approve local official plans. Both of these authorities have been extended to regions for quite some time.
There is no reason why people who live in a county system of government should not be granted the same approval authority privilege as regions and larger centres if they are willing to take on this responsibility.
Official plans: The county planning directors have for many years advocated that the province should not approve municipal official plans. We believe that the decision of a municipal council on a plan or an amendment should stand unless an objection is made. This would not prevent any interested party, including any ministry, from expressing objections to decisions made by council.
We support the province's intention to move in this direction and get out of the approvals business. If disagreements do arise, they should be dealt with as objections, mediated if possible, and when not possible should be dealt with by the Ontario Municipal Board in a timely fashion.
Streamlining: Although the time frames are tight, especially for the more complex applications, Bill 20 will promote a more streamlined and timely approval process for all planning applications. The changes to the manner in which official plans are approved will significantly reduce the existing lengthy time frames for these applications.
However, the County Planning Directors of Ontario are of the opinion that a significant opportunity for streamlining has been overlooked. Under present processes, provincial policy must be revisited for every planning application seeking approval. It must be remembered that during the official plan approval process, the essence of provincial policy would have to have been considered and incorporated into the official plan. Work and effort is duplicated when it is required that provincial policy be reconsidered once an approved official plan is in place. It must also be remembered that official plans must be reviewed at a minimum of every five years, partly to consider the application of new provincial policy.
Further streamlining could be realized by re-establishing the "deeming" provisions whereby official plans approved under the new provincial policies would be deemed to have had regard to provincial policy. This would mean that land owners, municipal councils and the public would only have to refer to the official plan, as approved, for guidance and eliminate the need to look beyond the approved official plan when considering planning applications. This would significantly reduce, and in many cases eliminate, potential conflicts in interpretation and reinforce the front-end, policy-led planning system concept.
Municipal planning authorities: While Bill 20 does not deal with municipal planning authorities, we would like to be on record as strongly opposing these special-purpose bodies established under Bill 163. They may have a limited role in some parts of the province but they have no place in counties that are undertaking responsible planning programs.
Provincial policy statements: We realize that this committee is not dealing with provincial policy statements at the present time. However, our comments refer to the general method of policy implementation and the use of guidelines. The proposed policies suggest that the practice of using guidelines to implement the policies will continue and are "advisory in nature and provide information on the policies."
Presently there are 700 pages of these guidelines in place. Experience has shown that these guidelines, in practice, tend to be interpreted in a rigid fashion and as a result erode or remove flexibility. An approach which may resolve this trend is to develop a series of suggested best practices for planners and municipal councils. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in cooperation with one another, could develop a best-practices approach which can service as a benchmark or reference point for making planning decisions while still allowing flexibility to be employed when necessary. The use of the best-practices model can evolve through time. The notion of guidelines should be removed.
The County Planning Directors of Ontario support Bill 20 because we believe it restores substantial decision-making to communities and will result in a more streamlined planning approval process. We encourage you to continue to promote these two objectives.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Mr Smith: Gentlemen, thank you for your presentation. It's good to see you both. I'd also like to thank you for your comments of support with respect to Bill 20, and I have to say that over the past three weeks that I've been on this committee, planners in general haven't been projected in a very positive light. None the less, I certainly want to respond to your comment on page 2, where you summarize by saying, "Simply put, provincial resources cannot support the current approval system."
Some concerns have been raised about provincial resources, and I want to pose this to you in light of the one-window approach that's being contemplated by the government. Do you feel, as county planning directors, that adequate planning resources and the tools you need to effectively do your job will be available to you after the implementation or passage of this bill?
Mr Pugliese: In a way, that's hard to answer, because up to now we've been relying on the type of system that's available. But I believe those resources are available. There are two parts, two answers to that question.
One has to do with the education that has to be done for the general public. I think the general public has to become more aware of the issues, and you've probably heard in your travels of the many environmental issues, social issues and economic issues. They've got to be made more aware of them, and that is part of the education process. I believe that's where planners can play a big role.
From the standpoint of planners themselves, in undertaking alternative reviews, I think the resources are out there. I think both private and public agencies would be utilized, in that sense, to find the resources that we need to look at very specialized areas, for example environmental areas and so on.
Mr Smith: So in the absence of any provincial or immediate provincial resource, would it be logical to assume that your organization would acquire the knowledge it needs to address specific areas or areas requiring specific technical expertise? Would that be a fair assumption to make?
Mr Pugliese: I believe there's no other choice.
Mr Stephen Evans: I would concur with that too. We've already talked about the possibility of hiring or contracting out to experts who can provide us with some detail.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I didn't hear the last part because of the noise. Can you repeat that, please?
Mr Evans: I'm sorry, sir. We have already discussed this in our county, and there has been some discussion about contracting out to individuals or experts to do work on our behalf, should that occur in the future.
Mr Smith: Do I have time for one more quick question? You alluded, on page 6, to your concern with respect to municipal planning authorities and certainly the impact that special-purpose bodies might have. What problems do you see arising in your particular scenario or your particular case with respect to this whole concept of municipal planning authorities?
Mr Evans: I think I can respond to that. The municipal planning authorities, in my view, and certainly this was agreed to by the county planners across the province, could undermine what has already been set up in many counties as full-fledged county planning. So we think that where there is a county planning presence, obviously there should continue to be that presence, and the institution of a municipal planning authority should be looked at as probably a way of dismantling some of that planning authority that has been in place and has worked very well for the past 20 years.
Mr Smith: Do you see accountability as being a problem with respect to a special-purpose body in this particular area?
Mr Evans: I think that could be a problem in that if you have a number of municipalities that want to do their own planning, one has to wonder where the ultimate authority is lodged. Is it an amalgamation of experiences within those municipalities? I guess from my perspective, counties have been an ideal regional type of area to deal with planning in the past, and to segment it down to a smaller scale to us seems to be going against what the government is proposing to do: streamlining the planning process and making it a simpler type of process to follow.
Mr Pugliese: I wonder if I could respond to that question as well, Madam Chair.
Municipal planning authorities might suit the purpose of a group of municipalities within a federation, but thought has to be given to what effect that would have on the federation as a group of municipalities. That's the first point.
The second point is that in planning, there are many intermunicipal arrangements or issues that have to be contended with, everything from service delivery to the preservation of very valuable resources. It is difficult to do that in a fragmented sense. If we're trying to bring things together, MPAs tend to be an avenue for separation. We do have already in the Planning Act opportunities to do joint planning, and that is very healthy to do. Breaking municipalities off from federated bodies and fragmenting further is not, in our opinion, a healthy approach.
Mr Lalonde: I'm delighted to see the number of communities that you are representing here today. I didn't know that your association or your group existed, even though I was mayor for 15 years and Prescott and Russell is included in the communities that you represent.
I'm not completely in agreement with Bill 20, because there are a lot of parts relayed in there that I'd question. What effect would this bill have in the future development of the communities that you represent?
Mr Pugliese: I believe the bill will give municipal councils a little bit more latitude in planning for themselves, keeping in mind that there are provincial policies that we have to "have regard for" in that sense, and quite frankly I think we've always had regard for those issues. They're spelled out a little more clearly in the policies. However, the bill will allow us to grapple with the issues, knowing that the responsibility lies on council for the decisions. In other words, if you're not going to have a provincial body behind you saying yes or no, it is going to be the responsibility of the council of the day, and the facts they have before them are going to help them make the decision.
I think it's going to give councils a lot more feel and a lot more understanding of the issues because they don't have someone looking over their shoulders saying, "Yes, we'll allow you to do this," or "No, we won't."
Mr Lalonde: I'm not saying that I'm against the time frame reduction that is mentioned in the bill, but we have to recognize that within the counties you represent, there are municipalities that don't have the resources in place, really, to meet those requirements, which will in turn definitely implicate the municipality or the counties in further expenses to make sure they hire professional people to proceed with the proposed amendment that is made to the municipality.
But the one area I'm concerned about that I'm not fully convinced of is the return of "have regard to." We know that lawyers interpret at definite times, and I'm really scared in this case that the lawyers' interpretation will, at the end, have more costly procedures than having "to be consistent with."
Mr Pugliese: One of the things -- jump in any time, Steve -- that "have regard to" does is give the flexibility that is necessary to handle regional differences. We might not handle agricultural land in the same manner as our neighbours, but the concern is that the end result is that we will preserve agricultural lands. "Have regard to" gives us the flexibility we need.
I might add too that "have regard to" has been in place for a number of years. In other words, there have been enough OMB battles and enough court battles to give us some sort of direction on "have regard to." It doesn't mean you can simply open the book, look at it, close it and have said that you've had regard to it. You have to do something about it and justify why or why not.
I'm going to tie "have regard to" in with the reduction in time period. It allows a planning application to get to a decision point faster and thereby the issue is then debated in front of an impartial tribunal, which is the Ontario Municipal Board. I might also add that more and more, we're looking to mediation to try to get over some of these obstacles. So with all of those things in place, I think the planning process will be much more streamlined and the "have regard to" component I think will be refined over time.
I've also mentioned here that instead of guidelines, we're looking at best practices. It behooves the professionals to direct their attention to the best practices and use them as a key benchmark.
All of those things I think will help to refine what we mean by the provincial policies when we apply them.
Mr Bisson: Just by way of background so you know where I'm coming from, obviously it was our government that introduced Bill 163 and obviously we're not thrilled about this particular bill and the direction it's taking, quite frankly in an opposite direction than what 163 was doing and than the work John Sewell had been doing, which was, as you know, a fairly extensive consultation, some would say probably the most extensive consultation and planning in the history of the province.
I'm a little bit troubled, and maybe I don't properly understand what you're trying to get at here in your first page, where you're saying, "We believe that the existing planning system has broken down because of the degree of provincial involvement." It seems to me that up until about eight months ago the planning system in Ontario was basically what we're going to have again, as of Bill 20. Bill 163 has been in place for about eight months since being enacted. You talk about the system breaking down, the system being in some sort of disarray, but it seems to me the system you've been working under is basically what you're getting under Bill 20. It's a bit of a strange comment, coming from planners.
Mr Evans: I think there have been some changes, though, due to Bill 20. First of all, the issue of possibly removing approvals for official plans is something that we see locally as a way of streamlining the system. You probably are aware that in the past there was a backlog of official plans and approvals that occurred. Unfortunately, I think it was caused because of the number of ministries and agencies that were commenting on those official plans and there not being a one-window approach to deal with those situations. So there were situations where official plans were --
Mr Bisson: But I think all of us in the room could agree that you need to try to find ways to be able to make planning more efficient. Our government certainly moved in that direction; this government is trying to do the same, I would argue in a more direct fashion, when it comes to how the policies will be applied, but the problem I have is that you're responsible for the planning in the community and I see you coming before this committee talking about the system being broken down.
I've got it a little bit odd by what you're saying, because you've been working in a system that basically has been in place for many years in this province, has been developed over a period of the life of the Conservative government and ourselves and the Liberals, to where basically this new system you're opposed to hasn't been in place for more than about eight months. So if you're talking about something being broken down, it seems to me we're returning to what some of the problems were. I have a bit of a problem with the comment you make.
You go on to say, "The solution should be to encourage responsible planning and decision-making at the municipal level, where the public has the greatest opportunity to participate." I think that's great. Quite frankly, I think municipal governments -- I think you're right -- do respond to local issues, but we shouldn't forget that municipal councils, not a bad thing, but tend to be pro-development, more so than erring on the side of trying to protect the environment or trying to protect whatever might happen in a community.
I give you just as an example that I live in the city of Timmins, up in northern Ontario. One of the mining operators in our community, McIntyre mine, which eventually became another company called E.R.G., wanted to develop an old tailings that had been mined out years ago. What had happened was the tailings had solidified and the city, over a period of time, with the mine, some years ago fixed that up into a ballpark so that it had come back to a sort of aesthetic -- it looked a little bit like it was before, because there was a lot of money put into it. The mining company decided it wanted to go back and mine this.
The only problem was it was right smack-dab in the middle of our city, and if you could imagine going into a tailings dam with water cannons and every other piece of equipment you can think of to get that out, it creates quite a mess, and once you've ripped it up it's pretty hard to get it back, because they're digging right out to the base again.
Anyway, the point is, when the city was approached by the mining company, the city took the position, and people on council, that this was economic development at a time where we were entering into a recession back in the mid-1980s, and that we needed to do this because there were jobs attached to it. There were a lot of people in the community, including myself, who worked at that company, who said, "Listen, these guys aren't prepared to put the bonds that are necessary that if they walk away, we're not stuck with the clean-up bill."
As a result -- I was in the voice of the minority at the time -- the pro-development community won that argument and they got permission by the city and by the province, because you only had to have regard to the provincial policies. They went ahead and developed this particular piece of land. Guess what happened? We've got a great big hole in the middle of the city of Timmins that is an eyesore and for the municipal government to go back to try to fix it, you're literally talking of tens of millions of dollars to get that thing back to what it was, with no security.
The other thing is the place shut down. We had jobs there for about 18 months; that is really what we ended up with, construction season plus 19 months of production in the actual plant. All because the council said: "We're pro-development. We believe development is important and we should only have regard to these policies. Never mind what happens otherwise."
I'm a little bit worried that if we return to those days where we can only have regard for those provincial policies, councils, because they are close to the people, because they do respond to what's happening in a local economy, might be a little bit more gung-ho for projects that maybe aren't worth it in the long run. I have to make that comment. I wonder at the wisdom of that, and I'm just wondering, in your mind, do you think I'm being a bit of an alarmist or do you think that, quite frankly, there needs to be some kind of a balance between those policies and the actual planning in communities with stronger teeth?
Mr Evans: We're here representing county planners, and necessarily in counties and in regions there are official plans that deal with basic planning issues, although we realize that at the local municipal level there are decisions made that need to have some flexibility attached to them.
I guess my reaction to your question about what happened in Timmins would be that we agree long-range planning is the way to look. We feel that developing a long-range plan for a county will provide some support for how development occurs in local municipalities. What happened in your community is unfortunate, in my view. However, I think that there are ways and means --
Mr Bisson: If it means "have regard to" the policies, that's the problem. You didn't have to adhere to them. The municipal council had the ability to say, "In this particular case, let's work out a deal with the developer and with the province." What did we get in the end?
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Sorry, but our time has expired now. Thank you very much for coming this morning. We've enjoyed your presentation.
TOWNSHIP OF HARWICH, TOWNSHIP OF RALEIGH AND TOWN OF BLENHEIM
The Vice-Chair: I ask that Mr Storey come forward, representing the township of Harwich, Raleigh and town of Blenheim. Good morning. Welcome to our proceedings this morning. As you know, you have a half an hour to use as you see fit in terms of presentation and question-and-answer, and I'd ask you to introduce yourself, please.
Mr Tom Storey: My name is Tom Storey. I'm a planning consultant from the city of Chatham and I'm here representing the township of Harwich, the township of Raleigh and the town of Blenheim. My presentation shouldn't take more than 10 or 12 minutes and I'll be happy to answer questions, obviously, in the remaining time.
This presentation is made on behalf of the township of Harwich, the township of Raleigh and the town of Blenheim. These three contiguous municipalities are located in south-central Kent county, with a total population of around 17,000 and comprising approximately 170,000 acres of mostly prime agricultural farm land surrounding the growing urban area of Blenheim.
These municipalities are concerned about retaining local control of land use planning, protecting their strong agricultural economy and also other economic development opportunities which may exist in the interest of diversification and community economic improvement. The townships, in particular, have been very active in a wide variety of long-term and strategic planning endeavours in recent years, best demonstrated by their significant involvement in the Sewell commission report and Bill 163, and the negotiation of a precedent-setting, comprehensive intermunicipal planning and water service area agreement with the city of Chatham.
This standing committee should also be informed that in December 1995 these three municipalities began a review of the need for local government reform and have to date committed to a sizeable budget for consulting assistance, adopted a work plan and organized a steering committee to oversee the process. So far, five meetings of the steering committee have been held, and subject to the regulations of Bill 26 being issued, it is planned to submit a restructuring proposal to the province in late April or early May.
We feel that the provisions of Bill 20 are consistent with the restructuring initiatives found in Bill 26 and the principles of planning autonomy long held and expressed by these three municipalities. Thus we strongly support Bill 20.
The purpose of this presentation is twofold. First, we wish to emphasize those areas of particular importance to the municipalities in the event that this committee considers arguments from other parties in favour of revisions to Bill 20, and, secondly, we wish to describe several areas where we feel improvements can be made.
Areas of support:
"Have regard to" versus "shall be consistent with": Item 3 of the act replaces "shall be consistent with" with "have regard to" in the requirement for consideration of provincial planning policies found in subsection 3(5) of the Planning Act. This reverses a revision found in Bill 163, approved by the previous government. The townships argued strongly against this change originally. They felt that the flexibility afforded by "have regard to" assisted in mitigating any abuse of power by the province by providing a third-party arbitrator of disputes in such matters -- for instance, the OMB. At the same time, a significant burden exists for a municipality to justify departure from a provincial policy. Also, the townships argued, the courts and OMB had developed a jurisprudence regarding interpretation and application of "have regard to." In contrast, we were never able to obtain explanation as to just what the impact of "be consistent with" would be. It was simply described as being less flexible than "have regard to" but more flexible than "conform," "conform with" or "conform to."
Grounds for referral of an OPA: Item 9 of the act -- I'm referring to Bill 20 -- replaces the existing section 17 of the Planning Act dealing with official plans. We support the proposed changes regarding approval authorities -- with one exception, discussed below -- and the exemption of OPAs from ministerial approval proposed in subsection 17(9). In particular, the municipalities support the removal of the power of approval authorities found in the Planning Act today to refuse referral of an OPA passed by a municipal council to the OMB on grounds we fear can be based on value judgements of ministry staff.
Performance standards by regulation: Item 40 of the act amends section 70.1 of the Planning Act, restricting those matters on which the minister can issue regulations. In particular, the minister can no longer prescribe "the contents of official plans," a provision previously added by Bill 163. At that time, the townships argued against this change, in that it was giving the minister the authority to unilaterally impose performance standards such as the apartments-in-houses legislation, a power never provided before for planning matters. In addition, we noted at that time that Bill 40 in 1993 had given the minister the power to make regulations under the Planning Act for the first time, a power previously reserved exclusively for the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Areas of improvement:
(1) Item 3 of the act deletes subsection 3(8) of the Planning Act. This statement provides that all official plans that are approved are deemed to be consistent with the provincial policy statement at that time. Although the rewording of 3(5) to "have regard to" no longer requires consistency between OP policies and provincial policy statements, a similar deeming provision in the act recognizing that OP policies in their preparation had sufficient "regard to" provincial policy statements would be appropriate. Such a provision would further streamline the development approval process.
(2) Item 9 of the act, as noted earlier, revises the Planning Act provisions on official plans. In particular, subsection 17(9), as amended by Bill 20, provides the minister the authority to exempt a plan or official plan amendment from his or her approval. The three municipalities welcome this proposed change, but the conditions for which such an exemption would be granted need to be articulated in Bill 20 so as to reduce arbitrariness or the appearance of such in decision-making by the minister.
(3) Revisions to subsections 17(4) and 51(9) of the Planning Act proposed in items 9 and 29 of the act would automatically give counties approval authority status for lower-tier official plans and plans of subdivisions. The three municipalities generally support this downloading of approval authority status, and in fact have actively lobbied for it in the past. However, there is a concern that the assumption of either of these authorities should be at the discretion of the county council. It is possible that county council may see benefits from the preparation of a county official plan, but would be fearful of the impact on the increased staffing requirements that approval of a plan would entail, and thus not proceed.
(4) The townships requested in their comments to the previous government that the implementation guidelines associated with the present policy statements be subjected to a public consultation process, particularly in that so much interpretation was being left to the guidelines, and municipal planning decisions were to be "consistent with" provincial policy. In that ministry staff can still heavily influence policy by means of these guidelines, we would repeat the same request made before: The act should provide for public review and consultation on proposed implementation guidelines.
(5) A significant impediment to development and land use planning autonomy in the two townships, not addressed by Bill 20, is the power wielded by the Minister of Transportation controlling access and building permits on provincial highways without appeal under subsections 31(1) and 34(2) of the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act. On more than one occasion in both Harwich and Raleigh, an otherwise acceptable development application has been frustrated by MTO officials who appear to be acting at best without any flexibility and at worst arbitrarily. Some mechanism for appeal, mediation or arbitration would be welcome.
Recommendations: The township of Harwich, the township of Raleigh and the town of Blenheim recommend that Bill 20 be given final reading, subject to the following revisions.
(1) Subsection 3(8) of the Planning Act, proposed for deletion by item 3, be retained and modified so that official plans approved by an approval authority are deemed to have had sufficient regard for provincial policy as it existed at the date of passing.
(2) The conditions necessary to receive exemption by the minister from his or her approval of official plans or official plan amendments as proposed in subsection 17(9) of the Planning Act be made explicit in the text of the act.
(3) County councils be given the discretion of assuming approval authority status for lower-tier plans of subdivision and official plans as now proposed in revised subsections 17(4) and 51(9) of the Planning Act, respectively, once a county official plan is approved.
(4) Bill 20 should require, through an amendment to section 3 of the Planning Act, that the provincial policy implementation guidelines be subject to a public consultation process prior to their acceptance.
(5) Bill 20 should include amendments to the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act whereby a process for appeal, mediation or arbitration of the exercise of the minister regarding authority under subsections 31(1) and 34(2) can be initiated by a municipality.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We have approximately six minutes per caucus, starting with the opposition.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Mr Storey, I'm very interested in your brief. If I were to get the municipal leadership of the three townships, all of which are in Kent county, as I recall --
Mr Storey: That's correct.
Mr Conway: If you were to summarize their single biggest complaint with the provincial mandates around the Planning Act at the present time, what would those two or three principal complaints be?
Mr Storey: Do you mean under Bill 163, as it exists?
Mr Conway: Well, as it exists and -- maybe not even 163 -- but it's obvious, I'm struck by the number of places, your gang is a bit annoyed by these "value judgements" that seem to be made up at Queen's Park or in London by these MTO people who won't be flexible in the application of certain provincial policies. So if you were to summarize the two or three principal complaints of the folks down home, what would they be?
Mr Storey: I would say the number one complaint or concern is delay in getting decisions made out of Toronto on those items that require approval from the provincial ministry. Second, that when decisions are made they don't take into account local concerns, certainly to the extent the local municipalities wish they had been taken into account. I think those are the two biggest ones.
Mr Conway: To play devil's advocate for a moment, because you certainly make a number of very compelling arguments that echo a number of similar presentations that we've had in the course of these hearings. One of the observations I would make, and I'd be interested in your response to it, is that the new regime contemplates clearly more local and regional authority and less intrusion by the imperial authority in Toronto, and that's certainly in rural Ontario going to be widely applauded. Except that there are occasions, perhaps more than we might like to imagine, where, with the very best of intentions, a lot of very good people just don't get it right and then there's a problem, sometimes a big, nasty, expensive problem, the remediation of which tends to get paid for by Her Majesty in right of the Ontario government. Her Majesty's running out of money, she doesn't have much left, and she's certainly not going to be the unsatisfied judgement fund she's been for lo these many years.
My question is, do you think that people back home understand that that unsatisfied judgement fund that we've operated at Queen's Park for these many decades is not going to be there?
Mr Storey: I'll go back to part of my introduction. These three municipalities that I'm representing today are very aware of that, maybe more aware than any other group of municipalities in Ontario, and that's why they have already begun their restructuring proposal to deal with these issues. Frankly, if every rural municipality, whether it be a township or a town, took planning as seriously as the townships of Harwich and Raleigh then we may not even be here being concerned about these types of things. I'm here speaking on their behalf. I'm not here speaking on rural Ontario's behalf.
Mr Conway: I appreciate that, and believe me that's very valuable testimony that I appreciate greatly.
Mr Bisson: I thank you as well for your presentation and I guess the crux of this comes down to the issue of provincial policy. In fairness to the government, one of the things that maybe should have been done better by our government when we were in place in regard to Bill 163 is to possibly, in regard to the provincial policies, try to clear them up and try to make them as clear as possible way ahead of 163. Maybe sometimes we should learn by our mistakes, and it seems to me maybe the government is doing the same here.
It seems to me what developers are telling me and most places that I've dealt with -- not all, but the majority of developers -- is, "Listen, we want to be responsible developers"; planners are telling me, "We want to be responsible as well"; municipalities say they want to be responsible, but they want to have clear rules by which to play. They want to know that if they bring an application forward, that application is going to be judged against something they understand. What they seem to be telling me is that the provincial policies are maybe a good step in the right direction, they might be well-intentioned, but they somehow need to be made clear.
The question I have for you is simply this: If we were to rewind this process that we've gone through on Bill 20 and to say before we get into the Planning Act and make changes to 163, maybe what we should be doing is looking at those provincial policies through a process such as you're recommending under number 4 of your recommendations so that we can have provincial policies that are clear to both planners and developers and the greater community so that we understand what the heck it is we're talking about in the first place, do you think that's maybe a better way to go around this?
Mr Storey: Well, we're still reeling from the changes that came from Bill 163. One of our comments at that time had been similar to your prefacing remarks, that we didn't want to see, for instance, "have regard to" changed to "shall be consistent with" until the words were actually used and we had a chance to test drive the new policy statements and the new system. Carrying that one step further, yes, perhaps it would be better to get the policy sorted out, but I do see it as a concurrent step process, none the less, whereby if you're going to clear up things, at the same time you should be dealing with the issue of approval authority such as the act did before, which we were much in favour of.
Mr Bisson: I think there could be some agreement on that from all three parties. There is an argument to be made where municipal governments and local authorities should have the ability to deal with planning in a much more direct way and to make some of their own decisions and end that duplication between the provincial and municipal governments. I don't think that's the argument.
The problem I'm having with what's happening right now is that I hear my friend from Renfrew talk about his interpretation of what may happen when we don't have strong provincial policies, and I think you heard what I said before in regard to the E.R.G. project. Now, they're not the majority of projects -- let's not paint this darker than it needs to be -- but if it's 20% or 30% of projects out there in the province, they've happened because there hasn't been clear policy. It seems to me if we're going to delegate the authority to municipalities to deal with planning in a more direct way, those municipalities have to have very clear direction about what can and cannot be accepted when it comes to a project.
I'd ask you the question again. Is that really what's needed here, that we have to have clear rules for the municipalities to deal with planning and then let them do the job on the local level about how that happens; some very clear and understandable rules but, more important, rules that aren't just set in stone but do what you're suggesting under subsection (4), which is that you have your policies first of all done through a public process but then reviewed, so we learn from how the system has worked overall?
Mr Storey: Yes, I would agree that having the rules clear -- now, the rules should be not only the policy statement but found in the act as well. That's why we raise the issue of making it clear how the minister will exempt.
I'd just add, in following up some of my previous comments, that Harwich and Raleigh and Blenheim, particularly the townships, have always committed a great deal of their budgets to planning, particularly long-range planning, but planning in general, and that's one reason we're concerned about provincial interference in their planning matters. It would be somewhat galling to them, I suppose, handing over the same power to other rural areas who don't participate in planning, which could result in the kinds of problems that have been suggested.
I'm not saying they'll never happen in Harwich and Raleigh. We're not dealing with a perfect system; we're dealing with the best system we can come up with, given the resources. But here are three municipalities that have committed themselves, I think as much as anyone can, to undertaking good planning. I didn't describe all the issues occurring in these areas, but they have lakefront issues, rivers, a lot of wetlands, two landfills they're dealing with as proactively as possible; this agreement I mentioned with the city of Chatham, which was precedent-setting; all the agricultural land, of course; the 401 and two major intersections are in those two townships; several railways. They've got a lot going on.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you for your presentation and bringing it out so nice and clear and concisely.
We've heard a lot about "have regard to," "be consistent with." You've even added here "conform to." We've also heard from different federations of agriculture. The overall body, the Ontario federation, is quite comfortable with "have regard to." We've heard from two county groups that are having difficulty with that. Obviously, what this government is after is to leave some local autonomy, a little bit of flexibility there, and at the same time give some direction. I notice you've put in "conform," going further than "be consistent with." Do you have any thoughts on any other wording that might be helpful that could accomplish what we are after?
Mr Storey: "Ignore." No, obviously. "Have regard to," for me anyway and the municipalities I consult to, is kind of a comfortable blanket, in the sense that we felt we knew how to respond to it. We always felt there was a burden on the municipality; if it wasn't going to conform or be consistent with a provincial policy, it had to justify that. I always thought that was the way to proceed. That may have been abused in other forums, by other municipalities, and I can't speak to that where that has occurred. All I can say is how we've reacted to it. We understand the law and jurisprudence around it, we know how the municipal board deals with it, so we like that wording. I've never really thought about an alternative.
Mr Galt: Personally, I think we've evolved as a discipline with environment over the last 30 years, and I think it's saying a lot. Using "have regard to" in the 1960s might not have had enough teeth in it, whereas today I personally think it's adequate. I was just curious whether you had other wording.
The other area I'd like to explore just for a couple of minutes, and you've brought up a new one, is no appeals with the Ministry of Transportation. I don't think anybody in this room wants to see strip development along provincial highways with unlimited accesses, because immediately what happens is that you take the speed down to a town-type speed limit and that frustrates drivers and holds up traffic and you're not accomplishing with provincial roads what you're really trying to do. On the other hand, you're expressing concern that there's no appeal process when the ministry says no. How do we go about solving that conundrum? Are there other designs along these highways that we should be considering? Is implementing an appeal process satisfactory?
Mr Storey: Even some type of mediation or third-party involvement. We're not here to try and take over transportation planning from MTO or to tell them what the speed limits should be or any other things; that's quite properly their expertise and should be their jurisdiction. But we've had, once again, situations where in an official plan, into which MTO had an opportunity to have input, areas are designated for development, and hamlets have been frustrated because there's a provincial highway running through there and all they do is pull out a guideline and say, "You can't have accesses within 1,000 feet of each other" or something like that. Areas that are supposed to be developed can't be developed for that reason, or at least not to the extent they should be.
Under those circumstances, where a lower-level staff person has made a decision for a number of reasons -- and I don't want to criticize those people, who are doing the best job they can, but the system doesn't allow us to find a way to say: "These are your rules. We understand them, but there should be some flexibility, considering the situation we're dealing with here." Every other land use issue eventually finds its way to arbitration of some sort, but accesses and, to a lesser extent, building permits and sign permits do not, yet they are genuinely important land use issues.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Thank you very much, Mr Storey. On page 2, you made the comment about the commitment of the townships to restructuring, that the commitment was based on the sizeable budget they were willing to spend on consulting fees. I just want to take that further. When you get to page 6, you express concerns that the county may recognize the need for a county-wide official plan, but looking at the cost and the department needed to do that, they may not do it, and prevent the local planning authorities from getting the approvals. I wonder if you could speak to the relationship. Do you not see that if there's real commitment there, they would be willing to commit the funds to an official plan, the same as they were willing to commit it to consulting fees for restructuring?
Mr Storey: In our restructuring proposals, we're looking at several options, one of which is for the group of municipalities to withdraw from the county, but the two other options would see an amalgamation with the country remain.
My concern on page 6 was that we see a benefit under the two county options, let's call them, of our restructuring process to having a county official plan, even if approval authority status isn't in the cards. In the past, the township of Raleigh has asked the county planning department, for instance, to come up with a county-wide policy on severances, let's say, and consents, because we knew the land division committee in Kent, the county responsible for consents, was having -- I won't say difficulty, but from one municipality to another there were different consent policies. We thought it may be beneficial to everybody if there was one standard consent policy in agricultural land and in non-agricultural land, so why don't we have a policy based on that?
While such a county-wide policy wouldn't be a full-blown official plan in the way we know it today, its status may be best as at least part of an official plan, but the staff required to implement it wouldn't be any more than the staff there today.
Our concern is that if we have to have a full-blown county official plan, the cost of preparing that may be a deterrent to doing anything on a county-wide basis, and there are benefits to looking at a number of county-wide planning issues; second, if, upon having a county official plan, the county is now going to have to have the staff and resources necessary to deal with plans of subdivision and official plan amendments on a county-wide basis, that may be another deterrent to county council undertaking that. I'm not saying we're opposed to that; I'm just saying maybe county council should have that discretion. They may say, "Great, we'll take all the approval authority status you'll give us."
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Storey. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
COUNTY OF OXFORD
The Chair: Our next group up is the county of Oxford. Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the committee.
Mr Craig Manley: Mr Chairman, members of the committee, first of all we'd like to thank you for providing the opportunity for the county of Oxford to present its reaction to Bill 20. My name is Craig Manley; I'm the director of policy and development for the county. With me is Jim Muterer, the chairperson of the Oxford county planning committee.
At the outset, the county would like to go on record as supporting both the approach taken to revise the planning legislation of the province, as well as many of the initiatives included in Bill 20.
The county of Oxford has a 25-year history of land use planning and we have been an active participant in the discussions over the past five years relating to the changes to planning legislation. We are quite pleased that this government is building upon this past work and is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We believe the changes proposed by Bill 20, as well as the concurrent changes to the provincial policy statements, go a long way to achieving objectives relating to ensuring that municipalities are empowered, have local accountability and that the planning process is made as efficient as it can be. We're also pleased, relative to the initiatives, to try to balance all the issues associated with the use of land, particularly through the initiatives proposed in the policy statements.
Our brief, which we've handed out, spells out the county's response in great detail relating to the changes proposed by Bill 20. Within it, you'll note a number of areas where the county of Oxford is supportive of the changes proposed by Bill 20, including the return to the "have regard to" operating clause; returning to municipal authority the ability to zone accessory apartments; the one-window approach to ministry appeals; as well as the proposal to allow for an exemption process to the approval of official plan amendments.
In the interests of time, the balance of the presentation is going to focus on four key issues or areas where the county believes the legislation could be improved upon, and these include: the application of provincial policies; the time frames proposed by the legislation; municipal servicing issues; and then a specific issue relating to Oxford county as it addresses minor variances.
The current Planning Act contains a provision that indicates that once an official plan is approved, it is deemed to be consistent with provincial policy. The county of Oxford strongly supported this position during the discussions that led up to the adoption of Bill 163. It is the county's position that once an official plan is approved, there is no need to continuously test applications against provincial policy and revisit issues addressed in the official plan. The Planning Act requires that subsequent land use decisions associated with zonings or subdivisions must be in conformity with the official plan.
It is our belief that the approval of an official plan should indicate that the province considers that the official plan sufficiently addresses those items of provincial policy, and once the official plan is approved it should replace the policy statement as the instrument to be considered in guiding community planning decisions in the municipality when considering development approvals. Official plans should be the mechanism which establishes land use priorities, particularly where there happens to be conflicts between the different provincial policies; for example, resource development versus the use of land for urban development, competing interests in terms of different types of resources.
As we said, we don't believe that the application of provincial policy to every land use planning decision makes sense, particularly in terms of the use of resources. The application of policy beyond the official plan will result in revisiting issues, it will result in the weakening of the purpose of the official plan, and it will also ensure that the province continues to be highly involved in land use planning, which I believe works counter to the province's objectives in streamlining. By explicitly stating that once an official plan is approved it's considered to address provincial policy, we believe a much more clear and efficient planning system will result, a system that's led by policy, and we will avoid continuously having to refight the same issues over and over again as you go through the subsequent stages in the planning process.
The county of Oxford is therefore recommending that the Planning Act provision states that once an official plan is approved it is considered to address provincial policy should be reinstated and that the provincial policy statement consideration should only apply to official plans in those areas that maintain an approved official plan.
Recognizing that there are other areas of the province that do not have official plans, perhaps it's appropriate to apply provincial policy to the land use decisions at that point, but where there is an approved official plan, we think the application of policy should stop at that stage of the process.
The second issue we would like to raise relates to the application time frames proposed in the legislation. The purpose of the change, as we understand it, is to try to streamline the planning process. While the county of Oxford does not object to the proposed time frames set out in Bill 20, we do believe that those time frames are tight, particularly so when you're dealing with an issue that is problematic, complex or large in scale and scope. We believe that the only way the time frames will in fact be able to be achieved is under two circumstances: one being that proponents provide at the time the application is submitted the necessary supporting information in order to provide a proper evaluation of the proposal, and second, that there is some commitment on the part of provincial agencies in terms of resources and staff providing the necessary comments back to the municipality in an efficient manner.
Currently, the province prescribes by regulation what information is considered to represent a complete application. The prescribed information set out by the regulation represents only very basic information and usually does not provide sufficient information required to make sound planning decisions. For example, in the reuse of land we very often do not know whether, for instance, there is a contaminant buried onsite, and it becomes very difficult to make a land use planning decision dealing with health and safety and other issues unless you know that information up front. Without having that information, municipalities will be extremely hard-pressed to meet those time frames.
We believe municipalities should have the ability to set out in bylaw what sort of information will be required and that the time frame in which the planning process begins should be tied to ensuring that there is sufficient information. Accordingly, we're suggesting that the act be changed to require municipalities to adopt those types of bylaws. That way it's clear to the development community, but it's also clear to the municipalities in terms of what the standards are, and it will help to ensure that the time frames and the streamlining and the efficiency of the process that we all want to see can happen.
A second issue relating to time frames is that under the current proposed legislation, a minimum of 20 days before an official plan amendment a copy of the current proposed plan, I believe is the wording, has to be available. Effectively, this means that a draft of an official plan amendment has to be available 20 days before the public meetings associated with the official plan.
This causes some concern to the county of Oxford on the basis that it would require the use of staff resources to prepare a document without having sufficiently completed the review to know what in fact the issues were. But preparing a draft document also conveys the perception of a level of commitment that may not in fact exist. Very often, until you receive information back relating to the technical merits, it's very difficult to draft the document. You don't know whether or not you need special clauses.
We believe the current approach that's in the legislation relating to zoning bylaws, where municipalities are required to ensure we provide enough information so the average person on the street can understand what's being proposed and why -- we believe that type of wording is much better in the sense of describing what's proposed as opposed to actually having to prepare a formal amendment prior to the public meeting occurring.
The county of Oxford would recommend that the wording incorporated within the legislation as it relates to zoning be also applied to official plan amendments. We believe this wording provides sufficient safeguards so the public at large is aware of the proposal being put forward.
The third issue the county of Oxford would like to raise relates to municipal servicing. This is an issue that is of particular importance to the county, in the sense that the county of Oxford owns and operates the municipal servicing systems in the county of Oxford. We expect that an increasing amount of new development, particularly in our urban areas, will occur through redevelopment or intensification. We think a key mechanism of coordinating land use approvals and the servicing infrastructure process is to ensure that municipalities have the ability to address the servicing issue when zoning bylaw amendments are proposed that are not associated with the plan of subdivision.
Currently, under planning legislation, municipalities can require agreements for consents in subdivisions and condominiums. However, a zoning proposal has the possibility of -- for instance, an upzoning could require significant commitment of servicing capacity or new servicing infrastructure, yet there's no authority to require similar agreements.
There's the additional issue with respect to the county in the sense that zoning is largely done by the local municipality, yet the upper tier, being the county, has to provide those services. Those decisions can impact our ability to ensure that we don't have to expand systems before they're necessary, for financial and other reasons, and to ensure that design capacities are not exceeded. If we have the ability to require agreements for proposals that generate increased servicing requirements associated with zoning, I think those types of issues can be addressed.
We would recommend that the proposed legislation be amended to permit both upper- and lower-tier municipalities to require servicing agreements for rezoning proposals not associated with a plan of subdivision.
We also note that Bill 20 contemplates a sewer and water allocation system, but as it's currently written it would restrict it to subdivisions and plans of condominium. For the reasons stated before, we also think that should include zoning, and we would like to see Bill 20 make reference to servicing capacity affected by zoning proposals as well.
The last issue the county would like to raise is somewhat specific to Oxford county. In order to adequately address it, I need to provide a little background to the county. The county of Oxford is a restructured county. In fact, the county of Oxford 20 years ago went through many of the processes that are currently contemplated by Bill 26. The county of Oxford operates a one-tier planning system. There is one official plan in the county of Oxford, and the county is the body responsible for preparing and amending that.
The County of Oxford Act, which is the mechanism that sets out the responsibilities, also requires that committees of adjustment be council. So our committees of adjustment are comprised completely of council.
Bill 20 proposes that in that type of situation the decision of a committee of adjustment will be final and binding and there will be no right of appeal. We have some concerns because we have a one-tier planning system. One of the criteria that has to be considered in variances is the intent and purpose of the official plan. The proposed approach would essentially permit the lower-tier municipalities to determine whether a proposal conforms to the county official plan without the county of Oxford being able to review those decisions or being able to refer those decisions to an independent tribunal if we don't agree with that interpretation. There would be no course for the county to review the decision and determine whether there should be an appeal to a local variance decision.
To give you some background, the county of Oxford has periodically lodged appeals where variances have been granted that do not conform to the official plan of the Oxford planning area. We are very concerned that the proposed approach has the potential to promote the misuse of the variance process by permitting the policies of the plan to be ignored.
The county of Oxford would recommend, in keeping with the spirit of the legislation to not apply one shoe size that fits all and in recognition of the rather unique system of planning we have in the county, that the county of Oxford be exempt from that particular requirement. I would note that Bill 20 has some special provisions relating to the township of Pelee, for instance, recognizing its consent authority.
The county of Oxford, I believe, and perhaps the region of Sudbury are the only two areas that operate this somewhat unique system. We happen to think it works very well. We happen to think it's one of the more efficient systems that exist in the province. But we do think there need to be checks and balances built into it, so the county would request that it be exempt from that requirement so that appeals could continue to be lodged on the basis of conformity to the official plan.
In conclusion, the county of Oxford agrees with most of the changes to the Planning Act proposed by Bill 20, and as an aside, the county also agrees with most of the changes proposed to the provincial policy statements. From our perspective, the bill represents an improvement to the current planning system by supporting streamlining, and it also recognizes the importance of local decision-making authority and accountability and that each municipality is unique from others. The county respectfully requests that the committee give serious consideration to the issues raised by the county and the county's recommendations relating to those issues. Once again, the county of Oxford appreciates the opportunity to appear today. If there are any questions relating to our submission, we'd be pleased to take them.
Mr Bisson: By way of clarification, prior to Bill 163, if you were doing a rezoning, the cost of water and sewer redevelopment was borne by the municipality and not the developer in most cases, right?
Mr Manley: If there's an increase in servicing requirements, the cost is borne by the municipality. There's no ability to put that back on to the developer.
Mr Bisson: Under Bill 163?
Mr Manley: It's the same.
Mr Bisson: And that's the argument, that nothing has been done on that particular end, and you're saying that should be treated.
Mr Manley: That's correct. We made the same argument on 163.
Mr Bisson: First of all, you're one of the few presenters to come before this committee to speak directly on the issue of the timing elements of Bill 20. I appreciate some of the comments you made in regard to the 20-day notice provision provision of public meeting and being able to put that information forward. I think that's something that hasn't been said here yet from a municipal perspective and I think it's something that we should look at and see if there's some way of being able to address your concern. I'm not so sure that's going to be the case.
Let me ask you this, though, I asked the question -- I asked the previous presenter the same way -- I think we can probably all agree that we need to find ways to make planning more efficient. We have to end the duplication in this time of limited resources as far as the tax dollar. We need to figure smarter and better ways of doing things. The underlying problem that I see here is that really what you need to have is a fairly clear idea of what the rules are in the development game with regard to provincial policies.
I'm wondering, would you be better served as a municipality or as a county if the rules with regard to the provincial policies were a lot clearer, so that you understood what the provincial policies were in a much clearer fashion, and then after that having to work towards that as set out in the legislation. Do you think that would be a better approach?
Mr Manley: To be perfectly honest with you, I believe that the two-pronged approach is necessary. I think you have to deal with provincial policy but you also have to deal with the structural elements in the legislation. The county has reviewed some of the changes to the provincial policy and, as I indicated, I think for the most part we're quite supportive of those changes. We think the policies are much clearer and provide a more coherent framework in which to operate. I think that both approaches are necessary, but they need to tie together.
Mr Bisson: But specifically what I would like to know is in regard to provincial policies. I don't think anybody disagrees that the province has a role to play in determining what the rules are about how development happens in the province. But it seems to me what we need to have is a very clear understanding of what those rules are in regard to provincial policy so that you can work towards planning your developments around those rules.
Should we be rather really trying to have a clearer understanding of what the provincial policies are so that municipal governments and regional governments have an opportunity to work towards that when it comes to development rather than trying to just open it up the way that we're going now, which I think in the end might be a little bit more dangerous?
Mr Manley: The short answer is no, I don't agree with that. I think you need to look at both. Policy is one side of the coin, but there are some very structural elements relative to legislation that also are extremely important to look at as well.
Mr Hardeman: Good morning, gentlemen. It's indeed a pleasure to be able to again question a report from the Oxford county planning department. I was just wondering if we could briefly discuss the provision of "shall have regard for" the provincial policy statements, changing from "being consistent with." We've had considerable debate about that in the last couple of weeks, and I think I'm just questioning the experiences in Oxford county.
Going back to the prior Bill 163, the wording was "shall have regard" to the Food Land Guidelines, which were just guidelines and not provincial policy. How would you tell the committee that the county and the planning committee dealt with that? Did they look at it and discard it, or how did they interpret "shall have regard to"?
Mr Manley: I'll preface my comments by saying that the county of Oxford did support the "shall be consistent with" provision in the previous Bill 163. Having said that, however, we certainly feel that "shall have regard for" does not give the municipality the ability simply to pay lip-service to provincial policy. We've been in front of the board on a number of occasions and the municipal board has been consistent in the sense that "shall have regard for" means you have to demonstrate why you can't meet provincial policy or why, in a particular instance, this should have priority over something else. In our brief we are supporting the change back to "shall have regard for." We think it's a reasonable standard and an appropriate standard.
Mr Hardeman: If I could go on then with the "shall have regard for," in preparing an official plan, you're suggesting in your brief that we should also have the deeming provision still left in Bill 20, that the official plan is deemed to conform to the provincial policy statements. Would you tell me what your opinion would be if the plan is prepared based on just having regard to and some of the provincial policy statements change over a short period of time? Do you not see a need to make sure that they stay having regard to or that that's reviewed from time to time?
Mr Manley: Yes. The Planning Act requires that official plans be reviewed every five years, and I think implicit in our suggestion is if the province changes the rules, then you have to change your own rules to take a look at it. If you introduce a new policy or if you alter the intent of a particular policy, then the onus is on the municipality to ensure that its planning framework reflects that.
But once you have a set of rules in place and once the municipality has tried to address those rules and once it has done so and the province has signed off and said: "Yes, we feel comfortable with the provincial policies. There's been sufficient regard, and if there's a conflict, we feel that it's been resolved through x, y and z," then we feel there's no need to continuously rehash those issues as you go to implement those official plans.
This is not theoretical; this is based on experience. This is what we go through on a regular basis and it is extremely frustrating, not to mention time-consuming, to continuously come up against the same issues when you feel the principle has been adequately addressed. You should not be arguing principle when you're down to the stage of dealing with the technical appropriateness of it.
Mr Lalonde: Thank you for your presentation. I want to commend you for the clear presentation that you have done here this morning. There are two areas that I would like to question you on. How do you feel about the appeal process as indicated in Bill 20 in the matter of severance and minor variation?
Mr Manley: On the issue of the appeal process, we like the fact that the government is keeping the time frames consistent. That's one thing we do like. In terms of the appeal process relative to the variances, I think we tried to explain in our context that that causes us some considerable concern. The reason for that is essentially that someone other than the county is determining whether something conforms to the county plan.
On the issue of appeals of official plans, in our brief we have a section that says we are a little concerned about an automatic appeal of official plans. We feel the current referral system, which gives some discretion to determine whether an objection is valid or not, gives us some opportunity to try and scope issues. Without that, I think we could end up in the board in more complicated hearings that don't necessarily need to be.
Mr Lalonde: Do you think there should be a mechanism in there that would cover up the cost of the municipality, so that you could in turn charge the cost of the appeals only when municipalities are allowed to appeal to the OMB? This will definitely incur some additional costs to the municipality. Should there be a mechanism in there that would permit the municipality to recover that cost?
Mr Manley: I would certainly like to see that explored in the sense of -- municipal board hearings are an extremely costly exercise. Particularly for a municipality, for instance, if something goes to the board because of a third party, you end up having the cost through your lawyer or your staff time to attend on something you perhaps didn't appeal. In that case I think there's some merit in looking at how the costs of hearings are allocated, because it certainly is one of the more expensive aspects of the planning process.
Mr Lalonde: My next question, on your page 6, second-to-last paragraph, you said that this bill will dismiss referral request for an appeal because of water and sewer. I fully agree with that too because only municipalities know that they are able or capable of extending their services, even though the subdividers at the time say they will only incur the cost. But there's nothing in there about oversizing for future development. Who do you think should be paying for the oversizing?
Mr Manley: In the county of Oxford typically the oversizing of pipes to facilitate additional development has been borne by the municipality.
Mr Lalonde: Is that right? Will that money come from the development charges?
Mr Manley: We try to recover some of that through the subsequent development charges.
Mr Lalonde: Do you think it's fair?
Mr Manley: I do think it's fair. I don't think it's particularly reasonable to expect someone to pay for the cost of oversizing when they're deriving no benefit from it.
Mr Lalonde: But in Bill 20 now you have the choice really to exchange the development charge against some services. Instead of having development charges you could make an arrangement with the subdivider to get some additional services that would compensate for the development charges, and I do foresee this as a very, very promising item in Bill 20.
The Chair: Thank you both, gentlemen, for taking the time to appear before us here today. We appreciate your comments. Given that that's the last item on our agenda for this morning, the committee stands recessed till 1 o'clock back in this room.
The committee recessed from 1156 to 1304.
CITY OF OWEN SOUND
The Chair: Seeing a quorum present, I'll call the meeting back to order. We'll commence with our afternoon presentations. The first presentation will be from the city of Owen Sound. Good afternoon. Welcome to the committee. We have 30 minutes, of course, for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation time and question-and-answer period.
Mr Stephen Hyndman: Very good. Thank you very much. I believe the brief was handed out to you. I'll go through it as quickly as I can, hit the main points and hopefully leave a little time for questions. I understand that a lot of these issues have been discussed at great length by other submitters, so perhaps there is going to be some repeat. I apologize for that, but sometimes that's what happens.
There are really 14 areas that Owen Sound would like to focus on in its brief. In many of them Owen Sound is very strongly in support of what the government's doing, in a couple of cases suggesting some changes that the government might want to consider.
(1) The first area of interest is with regard to the "public body" provisions. Under the act, only the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing would be defined as a public body, although the minister would have the right to add others as public bodies by regulation.
The city of Owen Sound supports this amendment to the Planning Act because it would simplify the relationship between municipal governments and the provincial government. Right now, we find that there is such a range of complex issues that we deal with so many different people on; it would very much simplify our relationship with the province if we dealt with one window or one voice. So we very strongly support that amendment.
(2) "Have regard to" or "be consistent with," which is probably the issue of greatest debate and has been under Bill 163 when it was considered. From the municipal perspective, the amendment would afford municipalities a greater degree of flexibility when applying provincial policies to local situations, as provincial policy would only have to be considered, not really strictly adhered to.
From a broader provincial perspective, this would mean that provincial policies would have less direct impact upon the nature of local planning policy decisions, and a greater variety of solutions to common issues will result. Owen Sound supports this amendment because we believe that local municipalities need to have this flexibility to interpret provincial policies and apply them in a manner that's best suited to local circumstances.
We recognize that there is a downside to this: that if a local decision is made that proves to be an ill-founded decision somewhere down the road and there are costs to be absorbed, then indeed we would probably have little cause to go back to the province asking for relief, some sort of financial compensation. So there's a downside, and Owen Sound believes that this is something the municipality should have the responsibility of doing and should therefore live with the consequences.
(3) Approval of official plans. This one does not directly affect Owen Sound in that Owen Sound is a city that is separated from the county of Grey, so we would continue to have official plan amendments sent to Queen's Park for approval. But we believe that this procedure, by giving counties the administrative control over approval of local official plans in townships and towns that form part of the county system, is a responsible and advisable amendment to the act. We believe that decision-making at the local level is the place where the best decisions can be made.
The transfer of this approval authority to counties, of course, would represent a downloading of provincial responsibility to the counties. While we support this amendment, we believe there also should be some consideration given to financial compensation in that the province is relieved of the cost of doing this. Counties have to pick up the cost of doing this; therefore there should be some reassessment or realigning of costs in order to cover the administrative responsibilities that accompany this particular responsibility.
(4) Requirement for public meeting for official plan amendment. The act presently requires a 65-day time frame in order to hold a public meeting with regard to an amendment application. In many instances that would be fine and there would not be a difficulty in meeting that objective, but in the instance of a very major amendment that the council would want to refer to its planning advisory committee for in-depth review, it's unlikely that 65-day time period could be met. Our planning advisory committee does not constitute a committee of council and therefore any public meetings it holds would not be mandatory public meetings under the Planning Act. Yet, that's the level at which most major problems are sorted out. We don't believe that we should be curtailed or limited in using that particular mechanism to try to solve problems.
We recognize that the province needs to ensure that municipalities move ahead as quickly as possible, but we would request that section 22 be modified to increase the time period to 90 days rather than 65 for the holding of a public meeting for amendments.
(5) Contents of official plans. Bill 163 established provisions whereby the province would, by regulation, specify what would have to be within an official plan. At the time Bill 163 came along, we did not feel that was appropriate and we are still opposed to that. We believe it's the local level that should take the decision-making responsibility in this case.
We would support the deletion of the provisions respecting provincial determination of what should be included in official plans, but we would suggest that the province continue to play an advisory role to municipalities in this regard, to illustrate to municipalities various best practices that might be employed to address different issues, as the province is one body that will have an overall perspective of what's happening throughout the province as a whole and can relate to different solutions to different problems that have been applied in different situations. We believe that is the role for the province, not one of actually telling us what we should do but rather how we should deal with things in our official plans.
(6) The proposed act would remove the words "all or" from section 34 of the Planning Act when dealing with the range of uses that are permitted or how municipalities can regulate a range of uses within particular zones. It is our belief that eliminating these words could be interpreted as prohibiting municipalities from not allowing uses of lands where there is just cause for not permitting uses of lands to take place.
We believe that when it comes to contaminated or hazardous properties -- and Owen Sound is a particular community that has a great amount of hazardous land -- we need the ability to ensure that we can say that use of this land shall not be permitted because of the serious environmental and other problems that would result if certain activities were allowed to happen on those properties.
The city of Owen Sound would recommend that the words "all or" not be removed from section 34 of the Planning Act as is proposed in Bill 20.
(7) Apartments in houses legislation: Owen Sound council strongly supports the provincial government and Bill 20 on this point. This is probably the one point that got almost a unanimous thumbs up from council when they saw this item included.
Owen Sound strongly opposed this component of the legislation when it was introduced by the previous provincial government. The city believed that the provincial government really pre-determined that all municipalities were not being responsible in providing affordable housing, and this clearly was not the case. Owen Sound, for example, has had an excellent track record of providing affordable housing. In fact, Owen Sound has had a very liberal policy in many areas of the city for a long time in providing for conversions. We felt from the very beginning that intrusion of provincial policy into local decision-making in this area was wrong.
Therefore, Owen Sound strongly supports the removal of subsection 35(1) of the Planning Act as is proposed in Bill 20.
(8) Definition of "development": This is one item that is not covered in Bill 20 right now and perhaps might need a bit of explanation. Section 41 of the Planning Act provides the foundation for the establishment of site planning control areas in the entering into of development agreements. It does not make it clear, however, that certain types of development -- I'll get to that word in a moment -- qualify or could qualify under that section.
We have in Owen Sound, for example, older homes that are being converted to different uses. There are no extensions being undertaken with these buildings, there are no new floors being added, and oftentimes even a building permit is not required. Sometimes no external renovations are even needed to the site, yet that change of use has an adverse impact or can have an adverse impact upon adjoining properties. We would like the ability, for such changes, to have them enter into a development agreement to have screening fences, trees, landscaping, those things addressed.
A recent case before the Ontario Municipal Board two weeks ago dealt with the conversion of an old house to a tourist home. Not one change had to be made to the property to accommodate the use, yet there was a very strong desire and need on the part of the neighbourhood to have screening put in. But since the project didn't qualify as development under section 41, we had to sort of coerce the owner into signing an agreement to address this problem. That's wrong. We believe the owner should be responsible for putting the screening in.
We would like this section of the act changed to make it clear that municipalities have the right to require this. We believe the best way of doing this is to allow each municipality, in its official plan, to define the changes in use that we believe should be considered as development under section 41 of the Planning Act, allowing a municipality to apply its approach to its own local situation. In Owen Sound, again because of the conversion of old homes to commercial use, this obviously is where we would put emphasis. That may be different in some other communities.
(9) Minor variance procedures: The proposed legislation would provide opportunity for appeals from minor variance applications to be dealt with locally, with the option that they could be sent to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Owen Sound believes that the proposed modifications have merit and that municipalities should have full authority to address and resolve minor variance issues locally. Therefore, we strongly support the legislation. We found the wording of the act somewhat confusing and difficult to read, but after having gone through the spaghetti of the wording, we concurred with the final result.
There is one area of concern, and that is that there is reference to the Ontario Municipal Board being authorized to levy costs for appeals being heard at the board level. It's not clear where these costs would be levied to and for what reasons. Obviously, if a municipality is going to have the board hear an appeal, there would be good reason for that. The concern here is that if there are costs to be levied, they probably should be levied against the appellant, if it's a very unreasonable appeal, not against the municipality. But it doesn't make it clear in the act that the municipality would not be subject to those costs. We believe the act should be modified in this regard.
(10) Public meetings for consents and subdivisions: Bill 20 proposes to eliminate the mandatory requirements for public meetings or hearings with regard to subdivisions, condominiums and consents. Owen Sound's practice has been to hold public hearings for all of those. In fact, when it comes to subdivisions and condominiums, those hearings and meetings are held at the planning advisory committee level and not at the council level. We have found this to be a very workable and a very practical way of dealing with public input into subdivision and condominium plans.
The introduction in Bill 163 of the mandatory responsibility for public meetings being held forces those meetings to be held at the council level. While we believe public input is needed and meetings are required, we have found that having those meetings at the council level does not function as well as holding them at a planning advisory committee level.
Therefore, we support the removal of the mandatory requirement for a public meeting for consents, subdivisions and condominiums. We do, however, feel that public input is required for these particular types of development proposals. The issue is, how do you make this a requirement without forcing it to be done at the council level? We believe that perhaps this is something municipalities should address in their official plans and decide how they think they want to have public input received with regard to these particular items. But generally speaking, Owen Sound supports the elimination of the mandatory requirements for public hearings for subdivisions, condominiums and consents.
(11) Part-lot control bylaws: This has been a bone of contention for Owen Sound for many years, failing to understand why the part-lot control bylaws adopted by Owen Sound should have to be sent to Toronto for approval when we know full well what is happening and why they're being done. We fully support the transfer of the responsibility for approval of part-lot control bylaws to municipalities that have the authority to approve subdivisions.
(12) Development charges: This is a very complex issue. Obviously the government is going to be working more on this particular item in the years to come, so we are only really beginning to address this particular subject matter. Owen Sound recognizes this and we don't pretend to say that what you are doing is wrong, because we know this does not represent the final position of the government. Therefore, generally speaking, we have no difficulty with what the government is putting forward at this time, but we want to make that conditional upon recognizing that, as the government works towards a final solution to this issue, a number of items are taken care of.
First, we believe the ability for municipalities to collect soft-service costs and development charges should be retained. In Owen Sound's case, we do not have a soft-service component. We have eliminated that from our development charge, but we believe we should have the right to include one if that's what we wish. We don't believe that should be eliminated.
Second, we believe that the adoption procedures for development charge bylaws should be made less complex. The process that's in place now is very convoluted; it's very difficult to work with. We believe there is a simpler way this can be done. We hope the government will address that as it continues to work further on the Development Charges Act.
Third, we believe that the right of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is one that should be retained. We recognize that having these matters go to the minister in the interim is a reasonable scenario, but we believe in the long run it should be the OMB that is in the best position to resolve conflicts.
One other item with regard to development charges is front-ending agreements. The act provides for front-ending agreements, but we have found that use of this particular tool to equitably distribute costs for development is almost unworkable because of the nature of the act and how it is written. It's a tool that has great promise but effectively doesn't exist because it cannot be used. We would hope that the provincial government will find ways of making this particular tool easier to employ by municipalities and eliminating some of the very complex procedures that are presently contained within the Development Charges Act. Again, that's not something we would expect to be done under Bill 20, but rather in the work of the Legislature over the upcoming couple of years.
(13) Registration of two-unit dwellings: Bill 20 adds an interesting section to the Municipal Act by allowing bylaws to be passed that would require owners of two-unit buildings to register their units. Owen Sound finds this to be an interesting and quite possibly a very useful tool in ensuring that two-unit buildings are inspected and are safe for habitation as two-unit dwellings. But the question arises, if we're doing it for two-unit buildings, why just two? We have many three- and four-unit buildings in Owen Sound that are just as big a concern to us in terms of their safety to the residents as are two-unit buildings. Having such a bylaw of course is optional, so it's up to each municipality to decide whether it wishes one or not.
We would recommend to the government that you retain this section but that you modify it to allow municipalities to decide the maximum number of units that they wish to have registered. So if we have many buildings of up to, say, four or five units, and we believe that's the cutoff point that would suit our particular situation, then we would have the right in our bylaw to specify that the limit would be four or five units. Anything above that would not require registration but anything below that number would. We have the discretion, therefore, to decide what level we think is appropriate for our circumstance. Owen Sound might be quite different than another community. Therefore, we believe some flexibility is needed in this area.
The very last point is with regard to the Heritage Act. The ability to have a pre-hearing conference we believe is wise. One thing that is encouraging is the attempt to try and rationalize or improve the notification procedures. Under the Heritage Act they are quite complex and very costly for us to deal with. Just a guideline that Owen Sound council believes the government might want to consider is perhaps there should be some continuity, or we'll use the words "be consistent with" some of the revisions under the Planning Act for zoning bylaws as an example, so that regardless of whether it's a designation under the Heritage Act or a zoning amendment, the same process in terms of notice and timing is used, just so that there's a clarity among the public as to what's expected and how these things take place.
Those are the comments from Owen Sound.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That leaves us with just fractionally under four minutes per caucus. Questioning this time will commence with the government.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Welcome from Grey county. I don't look like Bill Murdoch so I'll just do my best to sub for him today if I can, being in an abutting county anyway.
There are two areas I'd like to talk about a little bit. One is the apartments in houses, and the second part that goes with that in your presentation relates to the recording and registering of same. You made a comment that Owen Sound has in the past permitted it and it's done so within its good planning parameters.
Mr Hyndman: Yes.
Mrs Fisher: Then this in fact would be favourable to the municipality, in allowing it where the planning department and the council itself saw fit? You would encourage the continuation of it then?
Mr Hyndman: Oh yes, we have full intention of still allowing this to occur, but we believe we should have the choice as to where this is allowed to occur and where it is not.
Mrs Fisher: You do support the registry system?
Mr Hyndman: Yes, we do. We would like to see the numbers increased from two to some number that municipalities would select.
Mrs Fisher: It was interesting to see you actually go three, four or five. Anywhere else we've been, it's always been just two we've been talking about, but I'm glad that there's the openness there to do otherwise where it's fitting.
The other part that I'd like to touch on is the minor variance procedure. It says that you're in favour of local decision-making. Does your committee of adjustment currently have any council members on it?
Mr Hyndman: It does not. There is a current member of the committee who is going to be assuming a council seat April 1, so perhaps that will happen inadvertently in the next little while, but presently it does not and historically it has not.
Mrs Fisher: So the residents would have access to almost three tiers of decision-making before a final decision would be made, and that would be: to the committee of adjustment; then to council, where it will decide either to hear it or not hear it; and then to the OMB.
Mr Hyndman: That is true. I suspect that in Owen Sound's instance the vast majority of matters would be heard at the council level. That has been their expressed interest.
Mrs Fisher: Where do you think the costs should be allocated against? To whom? Against which party should the costs be allocated in the event it goes to the OMB?
Mr Hyndman: If council had the matter go to the board, it would be probably because of it being a very complex or a very difficult issue that council felt was best taken out of a political arena and put into more of a judicial arena to be resolved. I would suspect in those cases you would not find a municipality being irresponsible. It would be perhaps something that the board might want to consider an appellant or an applicant as being irresponsible in their approach and costs levied to them rather than the municipality.
Mrs Fisher: Yet the city does agree that there should be an access to appeal to the OMB if need be?
Mr Hyndman: In those rare occasions when we believe there is cause for that, yes, and that would be a case of where we believe a judicial arena would be more effective than a political or legislative arena to resolve a particular issue.
The Chair: We will move to the official opposition.
Mr Lalonde: I have a few questions. The first one is concerning the cost of appeal when a third party wishes a municipality to appeal its position to the OMB. Who do you think should be paying the costs of this appeal?
Mr Hyndman: I believe it should be the applicant or the appellant that should be paying the cost.
Mr Lalonde: So there should be a mechanism within Bill 20 to permit the municipality's recovering that cost.
Mr Hyndman: I believe so, yes.
Mr Lalonde: Very good. The next question that I had is concerning a public meeting. There's no requirement for a public meeting now for a new subdivision being proposed. At times we've noticed that it is creating a problem when you don't inform the people that there's a proposed subdivision coming up. Do you feel Bill 20 will give the flexibility to a municipality to let the people know there's a proposal coming up?
Mr Hyndman: The way the bill is worded right now, I would say it does not give that assurance, because a municipality might elect not to involve the public. In Owen Sound's case, we would continue to do so. We have in the past and we would continue to do so even though this would not be a requirement under the legislation. Our suggestion for the government is that perhaps there be some requirement that municipalities address in their official plan how they want to receive public input. It may not be a public meeting; it may be something else. We believe there's merit in it, although we do not believe it should be a mandatory requirement.
Mr Lalonde: I appreciate your comment on that because it gives people the opportunity and sometimes alleviates some of the problems or the costs a municipality has to incur after.
The last one that I had is the development charge. Who do you think should be paying for the oversizing of a subdivision for future development?
Mr Hyndman: Who should be paying? I believe the development community should be paying for the oversizing. That is our practice right now in Owen Sound and we believe that should continue.
Mr Lalonde: It should be incorporated in the development charges?
Mr Hyndman: It should be incorporated in the development charge, yes.
Mr Lalonde: Very good.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your presentation. On page 3, at the very last bullet point, you recommend that the provincial government provide financial support to counties that assume the responsibility referred to in official plans. Have you had any indication from the government that it will be providing you with any assistance?
Mr Hyndman: No, we have not, and I have not discussed this with the county planning department to ascertain whether it has had that either.
Mr Christopherson: How do you feel about the change if you don't get the financial assistance, which I think is fair to say you probably won't?
Mr Hyndman: The best parallel I can give is when Owen Sound assumed responsibility for subdivisions and condominiums. There was no financial compensation given from the province to us to assume that responsibility, but we assumed it anyway. We believed there was an improvement to the service to the public by us taking that over and therefore we felt there was a net gain in the public's interest by doing so. We would have felt more comfortable, however, if we had been compensated for the extra costs and work that we were responsible for.
Mr Christopherson: I appreciate that, and my point wasn't so much the fact that the money wouldn't be there, but rather that you felt it was necessary so that you didn't receive a further cut in funding, because in effect that's what it is. If you get more responsibilities, and in the context of having other cuts made, this is one that adds to your problem, which leads me to my next point, which is that above you talk of supporting the change from "be consistent with" to "have regard to." Are you not concerned that given the kinds of fiscal pressures that are on you already as a result of transfer payment cuts and other revenue problems, if not your municipality, other municipalities may make decisions that they otherwise wouldn't because they need the money? I mean, in terms of the tradeoff between the environment and good planning versus immediate need. Are you not concerned that either your community or others may be facing that and in effect, as a result of the loosening of the legislation, make decisions that in better times they wouldn't dare make?
Mr Hyndman: We feel that is a very distinct possibility; however, we believe it's the price that you pay for assuming responsibility, essentially being responsible and mature. We believe municipalities need the opportunity to be responsible, be mature, and if they make mistakes, to live by the consequences.
The Chair: If you can just wrap up, Mr Christopherson.
Mr Christopherson: Yes. I guess my comment on that would be that it's fine to say live with the consequences, but when we're talking land use we're talking about the future of our province in a significant way and when we're talking the environment you're possibly making a short-term decision that could affect the ability of future generations to enjoy what we enjoyed because you had to make short-term decisions and because the provincial law changed to allow you to make it. I don't know that future generations would agree that's a fair tradeoff.
The Chair: Thank you very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate your comments.
LONDON DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the London Development Institute. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the committee. As you're probably aware, we have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between presentation and question and answer.
Mr Don Riley: Yes, Mr Chairman. My name is Don Riley. I'm representing the London Development Institute. I would like to introduce my colleagues, Mr Ric Knutson and Mr Steven Stapleton.
We would like to thank you for the opportunity of providing some of our thoughts on Bill 20. We endorse any initiative by this government to streamline the planning and approvals process, which in turn we hope will instill some confidence and stimulate the market and create job opportunities.
At the onset, I would like to advise that since we put this brief together, we have had some additional thoughts which are not included in the brief which I will ask Mr Knutson to present following my presentation. We will follow that up to the clerk in writing.
The London Development Institute is a registered non-profit organization comprising firms in the business of land development in the London and surrounding area. The institute's goal is to promote the building and development of cost-efficient, sustainable and desirable urban communities. The institute promotes ongoing dialogue with provincial and municipal levels of government as well as serves as a vehicle for the exchanging and sharing of methodology and knowledge gained through experience for the planning and development of communities.
The government of Ontario has listened to the pulse of the electorate for the commonsense approach. More specifically, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Al Leach, has taken steps to amend Bill 163 from being prohibitive to a more permissive document, workable, less bureaucratic planning systems that will provide answers within a reasonable time frame and balance economic realities with environmental concerns. The London Development Institute supports this initiative and believes that Bill 20 will accomplish this and at the same time provide an equitable solution to land use planning.
The following brief not only espouses LDI's support for Bill 20 but offers some concerns and recommendations which it feels could enhance the same.
On the endorsement side, the return of "have regard to" in the provincial policies: The return of "have regard to" provides some degree of flexibility while ensuring that provincial direction is considered.
The shortening of time frames for processing applications: This could have a tremendous positive impact on the ability of the industry to be able to provide housing stock at a reasonable and affordable cost.
Delegation of powers: This will place the decision-making process where it should be and will reduce overlap and produce municipal autonomy.
Direct rights of appeal: This direct right of appeal eliminates the uncertainty associated with referral requests.
One-window planning and appeals approach: We feel that this will reduce ministerial overlap and again shorten time frames.
Exemption authority: This will allow municipalities to review and amend official plans and will again significantly reduce duplication and time frames.
Transition provisions: The transition provisions contained within the act seem to be fair and equitable, with the exception of major new policy initiatives, such as Vision '96, which we have here in London. It's a major document. We could re-examine the transition within that context.
The removal of mandatory public hearings: The removal of this requirement for public meetings for plans of subdivision will shorten the time frame of approvals without depriving the public of its opportunity for public input, which can be accommodated -- and is accommodated -- through the official plan and zoning bylaw process.
Prematurity: This removes a referral being dismissed on the grounds of prematurity without the benefit of a full Ontario Municipal Board hearing.
The function of the OMB: The Ontario Municipal Board is vital to the planning and development approval system in Ontario, acting as a forum for dispute resolution. With the implementation of the direct appeal system, we feel that the board should assume the role of a mediator and endeavour to resolve disputes by mediation, but should not be subject to all parties' approval, which could eliminate the need for many hearings.
On the concern side, with regard to the removal of direct appeals of minor variance: We basically support this section, except where there is one or more member of council on the committee of adjustment, the right of appeal to the whole of the council or to the Ontario Municipal Board should be retained. Failure to do so would place too much emphasis on one council member.
The Planning Act as a planning tool: The provincial policy statement provides for sufficient land for development in a 20-year period. Emphasis, however, seems to be on a 20-year boundary, as opposed to appropriate planning units that accommodate growth for that 20-year time frame. The existing interpretation is on a template approach to this provincial statement, which may or may not facilitate comprehensive planning principles.
Property rights: It is noted that the expanded use of zoning bylaws to prohibit any use of land remains without any compensation, which is an infringement of fairness and natural justice. A recent decision by the Ontario Municipal Board with regard to compensation stated:
"If an application is made to develop any such lands that are not in the ownership or like control, and the city council does not wish to purchase, lease or pursue other similar arrangements for such land in order to maintain" -- in this particular case -- "the greenway system, then, as necessary, an application for development of such land for other purposes will be given consideration for approval by city council, in so far as such development is consistent with the policies of the official plan."
We have one recommendation, and that is with regard to the Municipal Act. Bill 163 implemented a new section 193, which dealt with the disposal of surplus lands in a municipality. In doing that, what happened was that lands that developers put forth for security purposes were caught within the context of this section of the act. We feel that this is a very important item to us, and we're suggesting that you insert exemptions as subsection (5) to the extent that lands held by a municipality for the purposes of security shall be exempt from subsection (4). Subsection (4) is the subsection that outlines the methodology of disposing vis-à-vis a public hearing, an appraisal and so on. The requirement of a council to comply with subsection 193(4) when dealing with lands held for security in our view is unnecessary, it's time-consuming and adds additional costs to the municipality and to the land, as an end user. We do not disagree with the need for this section in the act as long as the security provisions exemption, can be introduced.
I would like at this time to defer to my colleague Mr Knutson to give you the added thoughts.
Mr Ric Knutson: I'm going to be similarly brief, and I'm going to touch on four issues. Two of those issues you heard about this morning through the presentation by Mr Card on behalf of the London Home Builders' Association. I certainly commend to you the general tone of those comments as well as the general thrust of Bill 20. As Mr Riley said, we are quite pleased to see this initiative of the government.
Two of the comments that Mr Card made this morning: One of them deals with site plan control, and that's having regard to subsection 41(12). The contention that was put forward is that it would be appropriate to have an appeal mechanism of a development agreement for a short window of time after that agreement has been executed.
You heard the previous speaker use the word "coercion," talking about development issues related to sites. Many municipalities, and London is certainly not exempt, use this form of negotiation relative to developments on matters that are beyond the scope of section 41 and those elements within development agreements. A developer who is hard-pressed in a time sense to get going and receive a building permit has no real alternative except to sign that agreement.
Providing this appeal mechanism would allow an appeal opportunity for those serious issues of coercion abuse and still allow the matter to go ahead. A similar mechanism currently exists in the Development Charges Act, and that's the section 8 appeal mechanism, where fees are paid under protest, the matter litigated subsequent to that and a decision made. I would commend that to the committee reviewing Bill 20.
One of the issues of great concern to the development community has to do with the lapsing of draft approval for plans of subdivision. The current proposal as per Bill 163 is that draft approval would have a life of three years plus extensions. In a prolonged economic downturn, such as the current situation, three years is but a blink in terms of the longevity that should be able to accrue to draft plans of approval. Similarly, oftentimes financing and banking arrangements are made on draft plan approval. Also, some larger plans or community plans are put forward on a draft plan approval basis and then staged in the conditions. Again, these should have a greater longevity than three years.
I think there are two opportunities available to the government in amendments to Bill 20. One is to create a draft plan approval time frame of a minimum of 10 years, plus extensions if necessary and warranted. The second is to return to the previous 1983 Planning Act for draft approval as it exists, but provide some mechanism for a municipality, where conditions warrant, to recapture servicing -- I'm not sure of the word I'm looking for -- provisions that they have provided, allocations that they have provided to that draft plan approval. The test on the municipality to recover those servicing allocations would of necessity, I believe, need to be quite onerous, and they could be set down by regulation.
The third issue I would like to raise with the committee is regarding transition policies. We have a situation here in London, which is the one that I'm most familiar with, and that's Vision '96. It is a very comprehensive official plan amendment instituting new policy that will operate retroactively into the pre-annexation city, as well as provide planning guidance to the area that was annexed into the city under Bill 75.
We are concerned, having been participants in that process over the last three years, that given the new planning initiatives of the provincial policies that are before us in a draft sense there's a very large danger of an orphan being created and that it will be created for all time or at least until it is significantly amended.
What we're suggesting to the committee is a reconsideration of the transition policies dealing with major official plan policy initiatives. In the case of Vision '96, it's likely to be enacted within weeks of Bill 20 being proclaimed and those time frames, again we know with some certainty the direction that the current government is going. This is implementing a direction of the previous government which is in many ways fundamentally at odds with some of the balancing provisions of Bill 20, which we are commending to you.
I think there are a couple of things that you can do under Bill 20 to assist. So notwithstanding enactment under Bill 163, the new policies in effect under Bill 20 would be used to review the document prior to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing's circulation of the Vision '96 document to all of the agencies. That again would allow some currency. I think this would allow some ministerial discretion to modify the document to be consistent with the new policy directions that are being taken by the government and the balancing of the environmental and economic objectives.
Further, if certain matters are litigated under the Vision '96 process, it would allow the Ontario Municipal Board similar latitude in dealing with those issues, that they be dealt with in a practical manner consistent with the current government of the day.
The fourth point that I wanted to raise was to commend to you Mr Card's comment dealing with section 48 of Bill 20 where he had recommended the deletion of the amendment and we again commend the government for doing a thorough review on the Development Charges Act. In London, we've had a great deal of success dealing with infrastructure costs and servicing through a unique system and we certainly invite the government's thorough review of development charges in bringing that forward.
On that, Mr Chairman, I'll close and Mr Riley would be happy to deal with any questions.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. This time the questioning will commence with the official opposition. We have just over three and a half minutes each.
Mr Lalonde: You said that you're in favour of the removal of the requirements for a public meeting. This at times will speed up the process, but at other times it won't because if the people are not informed of what's going to go on in the area, at times it does accumulate costs to the municipality and also the developers, and I still say, like the previous speaker we have here today, he does believe in public consultation. I really feel that there should be a place in Bill 20 that would permit the municipalities to have public hearings.
But due to the fact that I only have a few minutes, the two previous presenters today had different opinions on oversizing. Being a developer and also the fact that the municipality or the city of London has all the resources in place, who do you think should be paying for oversizing in a subdivision?
Mr Riley: The developer in this specific municipality pays for the oversizing.
Mr Lalonde: The municipality or the developer?
Mr Riley: The developer. However, if he's asked to oversize above and beyond his particular development, there is a mechanism in place here that through the development levies that are collected, he is rebated for just that oversizing portion, and I think that is fair and equitable.
Mr Lalonde: The cost of that oversizing, I would think, would come from the previous development charge that was accumulated.
Mr Riley: That's correct.
Mr Lalonde: How about the appeal process?
Mr Riley: For?
Mr Lalonde: Let's say for severance or minor variance.
Mr Riley: We addressed that. We agree that there should be an appeal process. We're concerned, however, that when one or more members of council sit on the committee of adjustment, then Bill 20 alludes to the fact that there will not be an appeal process. It's full and final. Our understanding is that if there is not a member of council, it can be appealed to council as a whole or to the Ontario Municipal Board. We agree that there should be an appeal process. It's just the mechanism of --
Mr Lalonde: Who should be paying the cost of the appeal process?
Mr Riley: I guess the short answer is the loser. I guess that's the short answer.
Mr Lalonde: That's what I wanted to hear. Thank you.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation. Your cover page says that your organization is one that comprises "firms in the business of land development in the London and surrounding area." Is it fair to say you're a lobby group?
Mr Riley: I would say it's fair to classify us as an advocacy group, yes.
Mr Christopherson: As long as you don't cross the line into special interest, you've got a chance. It would seem that contrary to what the Premier says, there are some lobby groups that are being listened to, because you seem very comfortable with Bill 20 and it seems to have met most of the needs that you have.
On page 5 there's one sentence on prematurity. It just says, "This removes a referral being dismissed on the grounds of prematurity without the benefit of a full OMB hearing." Could you expand on that for me?
Mr Riley: Within the present context of that section of Bill 163, there's a provision that the board can, without having the benefit of a full hearing, review the objection or the referral and dismiss it based on the grounds of servicing. We don't believe that's the proper grounds to dismiss a hearing. We believe that should form part and parcel of a full board hearing.
Mr Christopherson: I've always had some difficulty with that one because it would seem, just from a layperson's point of view, that would be good grounds for not letting something go any further. If the costs, particularly at a time when there's such fiscal pressure on municipal councils which are now making, under Bill 20, a lot of these decisions, are such that they can't afford the kind of infrastructure that you require in order to develop, it would seem to me that, as professional planners, it would make even more sense now than in the past that if it's not the right time for a piece of development, then that ought to be enough to bring it to a full halt. What don't you agree with in that?
Mr Riley: What I don't agree with is if the infrastructure or the pipe stops half a mile or a quarter of a mile away and the developer is of the opinion that he would front-end the cost of extending that pipe to a time later -- much later perhaps -- such that the payback from the municipality through the development levies charged, then why should that be deemed premature?
Mr Christopherson: That's assuming the pipe goes halfway. The pipe indeed may not, depending on what lands we're talking about. By holus-bolus removing the grounds of prematurity -- I mean, we could be talking about lands where there's no pipe work at all and yet by virtue of where you're going you're putting a great deal of pressure on municipal councils to put in that infrastructure, particularly since the government is loosening up the provincial guidelines that give more latitude to municipalities. As a professional planner, don't you see some pitfalls in that?
Mr Riley: Not specifically, because I don't know -- I guess there are a few municipalities that do build infrastructure or trunk sewers, but in this particular one they don't. It's the development community that does.
Mr Christopherson: But we are talking province-wide policies. These are not specific.
Mr Riley: I agree.
Mr Christopherson: So would you agree that it's at least less than perfect?
Mr Riley: I would.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Thank you very much for your presentation. I have a question regarding some of the policy statement. As you know, that's a big part of what will happen. You have the parliamentary assistant here today. If you could give him some advice, and the minister, on what would happen, what would you suggest that he look for or do when some of the policy statements are being finalized?
Mr Riley: I'll refer that to Mr Knutson.
Mr Knutson: We're delighted, Mr Chairman, through you, to see some of the changes in the policy statements from those enacted under Bill 163. They are clearer. I believe they focus legitimate provincial issues that the province might have, but in such a way that municipalities, in having regard to those provincial issues, don't create a homogeneous application of the policy. Thunder Bay's issues may be different than Windsor's or Owen Sound's or Cornwall's, and the provincial interest will vary in intensity on any particular issue from place to place. Those changes we are very pleased to see.
With the policy statements dealing with natural environment issues, instead of an isolationist approach, which was legislated through Bill 163, there is an ability to integrate. One of the flaws that in my professional opinion as a planner has been current with respect to most of the natural environment issues advanced is that there has been no urban context whatsoever, so you have these areas -- woodlots, ravines, drainage systems etc -- that have been in typically rural areas, and as urban development expands to embrace those areas, greater public pressure and use comes before them, and they do fundamentally change just by virtue of the fact that there is an expanding municipality. I believe the new policy statements invite consideration of that urban function that these natural environment areas will now be fulfilling.
Similarly, we as an institute commend -- those legitimate environmental features that should be preserved should have some teeth in the policies, and I believe those teeth are there.
Mr Carr: If you were going to talk to somebody in your community who would say to you, "In the broad sense, what's going to be the difference for your members between Bills 20 and 163?" what would you say the big difference between the two bills would be?
Mr Riley: In general terms, I would say it provides some degree of flexibility. It's not as rigid as Bill 163, and there is room for the flexibility. I think in today's environment we need that.
Mr Carr: Just in the larger picture, what do you think is going to happen for your membership over the next little while? You've had some tough times. Along with this bill and everything else, what do you see happening over the next year or so?
Mr Riley: To our membership?
Mr Carr: Yes, your membership.
Mr Riley: Well, if something doesn't happen quick, we won't have much.
Mr Carr: And this will certainly help.
Mr Riley: We believe it will. It's certainly a giant step forward.
Mr Carr: I don't think we have much time, but just if there are some of the other things we could do, since we are a committee and we don't get too much of a chance to get down here and speak to you. what else should we be doing to help your membership so that we do have a few around a year from now?
Mr Riley: Anything that would stimulate the building industry. I can't be more specific than that.
Mr Carr: Okay, thanks. Good luck to you and your members.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make a presentation before us today. We appreciate your comments.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Mr Geoffrey Singer. Good afternoon and welcome to the committee. We have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between a presentation and question-and-answer.
Mr Geoffrey Singer: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you all here today on this important issue. My name is Geoffrey Singer and I am a land use planner practising in Ontario. At present I am completing a master of public administration through the University of Western Ontario's local government program, and I also am currently serving as a research intern at the city of London. However, the views I am presenting here today are my own, based on my experience practising in the field.
I have heard a number of differing views expressed about the meaning and significance of Bill 20. It has been suggested that the planning reforms instituted by the former NDP government are now history. It has also been said that Bill 20 merely represents a fine-tuning to the Planning Act amendments that were introduced by Bill 163. I suppose my own interpretation probably falls somewhere between these two extremes. Certainly the provisions of Bill 20 seem to fall short of the promise made by this government in the September throne speech to "dismantle" the Planning Act.
In considering the need for this legislation, I must agree that there were some definite problems with Bill 163. In following up on the Sewell commission's recommendations, the previous government had a very difficult balance to strike between a number of widely diverging interests in the land use planning process, and I suspect they didn't get it quite right. However, we will never actually know for certain now. The new planning system had only been in place for about eight months when this bill went to first reading, and as I understand it only a small number of planning applications were received during this time because of the rush which occurred last year prior to the coming into force of the new planning system.
It was for this reason that I found the rationale used in introducing this legislation, that the planning system somehow constitutes an obstacle to economic recovery, somewhat questionable. I certainly do not deny that Bill 163 has incurred the scorn of the province's development industry. However, with the backlog of applications awaiting approval under the pre-Bill 163 planning system, I find it difficult to draw any meaningful relationship between the new planning system and the current prospects for economic recovery in the province. While I think the Bill 163 reforms would have eventually proved to require some changes and various tinkering, the introduction of this legislation at this time is in fact based primarily on the government's haste to send out the message that Ontario is open for business again and not on any truly identified deficiencies in the new planning system.
However, that being said, it seems clear to me that the government is none the less determined to go ahead at this time with its own reforms to the planning system, so I'll turn my attention now to the specifics of the bill before this committee. For the sake of brevity, I won't touch all the aspects of the bill. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on all aspects of municipal planning.
Despite my concern over the haste with which this government has proceeded with planning reform, there are several things in this bill which I do see as positive steps.
I agree with the decision to revoke the restrictions on the zoning power introduced by Bill 120. I strongly support the principle of residential intensification. I currently reside in an accessory unit myself. However, I did not agree with the decision of the previous government to take this decision out of the hands of municipal councils. This issue should be a matter of local choice. Municipalities should be able to decide upon the appropriate level of residential intensification and its geographical distribution within their communities. If certain municipalities decide to widely discourage second residential units within their boundaries, I believe it is to their own detriment, and the province should use less forceful methods of convincing them of this.
A number of municipalities had also expressed legitimate concerns over safety in second units. I think the power to pass bylaws with respect to the enforcement of property standards as well as to establish a registry of accessory units is a positive step in addressing these concerns.
I also agree with the removal of the power introduced by Bill 163 to zone environmentally sensitive lands in such a way as to prevent all uses. Planning and zoning are concerned with use, not with non-use. Complete sterilization of land is therefore inconsistent with the purposes of the act. If municipal councils or other planning authorities do not wish lands to be used, they must acquire the title to those lands and exercise their option as owners to not use them. Placing this burden on private land owners is excessively onerous and in my opinion unfair.
I further agree with the removal of the requirement to hold public meetings with respect to proposed plans of subdivision or consents. Public participation is an essential component of any successful municipal planning program. However, residents, businesses and interest groups have ample opportunity to learn about and make representation on proposed developments either at the time of a comprehensive official plan review or a site-specific official plan amendment. In fact, it may only serve to confuse the public if the official plan and plan of subdivision meetings for the very same development are held at two separate junctures in the approvals process.
I am somewhat at a loss, however, to understand the rationale behind the new shorter time frames for approval authorities to approve applications, in that they seem to have been arbitrarily shortened. I say this because these time frames were initially introduced by Bill 163. Prior to this, there were no time frames for approval authorities, and applications could be held up for years as a result. Because the new planning system under Bill 163 has not really been tested, I do not think there is a sufficient basis at this time for determining whether the time frames are appropriate or not. I'm also concerned as to whether approval authorities have the administrative capacity to meet these new deadlines, given that the financial and human resources they have to work with are continuing to be eroded, primarily through fiscal constraints imposed by the provincial government. Obviously the status quo in which development approvals can take numerous years is unacceptable. However, I worry that the integrity and quality of planning decisions could be unacceptably compromised by these extremely shortened time frames.
I am also somewhat concerned by the new ability of the minister to allow approval authorities to pass bylaws exempting a plan or a proposed official plan amendment from approval. This would seem to come very close to violating the taboo in Ontario's planning culture of not allowing planning authorities to approve their own plans. I would hope this power would be exercised cautiously and not used as a means of arbitrarily allowing certain developments to effectively bypass the planning process.
I would now like to turn my attention to the provisions of the bill which would amend section 3 of the Planning Act. This has turned out to be the most contentious and controversial section of this bill, and I think with good reason. If you'll indulge me for a moment with a brief history lesson, I'd like to discuss the prehistory to this amendment.
The main thrust of the Sewell commission's recommendations was that the planning system should be policy driven with provincial interests clearly spelled out and given formal status. One of the previous problems endemic to Ontario's planning system had been the bewildering array of various policy expressions, all with varying degrees of status. At one end of the spectrum were the numerous operating policies relied upon by plan review staff in reviewing applications but lacking any formal political sanction. At the other end of the spectrum were the six individual policies formally adopted by cabinet, four of which were adopted pursuant to section 3 of the act and two of which were not. Needless to say, this state of affairs generated considerable confusion and disagreement with the different stakeholders in the process often relying upon the different policies and guidelines to far different degrees.
However, at the core of the problem was section 3. Introduced into the act as part of the 1983 reforms, it was intended to give a formal status to land use policy to ensure that provincial interests were protected in local decision-making. The section required that in making decisions on any planning matters all planning bodies, including local councils, provincial ministers and the municipal board have regard to the policy statements adopted by cabinet. As the four section 3 policies were adopted in the following years, this wording created considerable implementation problems. What exactly does it mean to have regard to a policy? The general consensus which emerged, and tended to be backed by the courts, was that it was sufficient for planning bodies to acknowledge that the policy in fact exists but to then effectively ignore it. In other words, cabinet's policies could not simply be dismissed out of hand.
This position could often be defended by reference to the circumstances of a particular application to show that the policy had in fact been regarded but the decision was then made that it was not applicable in that instance. The situation became somewhat ridiculous with the introduction of the wetlands policy statement in 1992 which used particularly strong language when it stated, "All planning jurisdictions...within the province shall protect provincially significant wetlands." In other words, the policy internally used imperative language, but was enforced by legislation which used suggestive or voluntary language.
The Sewell commission recognized this weakness in the system. It also realized that a requirement that planning decisions conform to policies, as lower-tier plans must do to upper-tier plans, was too strong and would excessively restrict local decision-making autonomy. Its recommendation that planning decisions be consistent with provincial policies was considered a workable compromise by the previous government and by many different players in the planning process.
I am therefore quite surprised that Bill 20 includes a provision to revert to the previous wording of section 3. I would remind the government through this committee that the previous wording was clearly not working and it was not just Mr Sewell who thought so. It seemed that no one, including local councils, the municipal board, or even the lawyers in the ministry really understood what it meant to have regard to policies or when that test had been met. If the government intends to revert to this wording, it should clearly spell out its expectations. Unfortunately, the draft of the new provincial policy statement issued by the ministry last month is not much help in clarifying this matter. In the "Implementation and Interpretation" section it reads:
"These policies are to be applied in dealing with planning matters. Official plans will integrate all applicable provincial policies and apply appropriate land use designations and policies. Where applications are submitted under the Planning Act and any other act, all applicable policies and provisions should apply where reasonable."
I fail to understand how official plans can be expected to integrate the policies if the decisions to adopt the plans themselves do not need to be consistent with the policies. With respect to the applicability of the policies to applications submitted under the act, what is considered reasonable? I would suggest that this amendment to the act is seen as a quick fix and that the government has not really gone through the process of thoroughly defining its expectations from the local planning process. It seems to me that it almost might be more beneficial to avoid the confusion, bickering and great expense that would surely ensue and simply eliminate section 3 altogether rather than revert to the previous wording.
Obviously, however, my preference is to leave this section of the act alone. It is my submission that there is nothing wrong with the current wording and that it is only the comprehensive policy statement itself which requires amending. This relates to my earlier comment that there is nothing in the new planning system which we have actually had time to identify as a deficiency. If the policy statement under the act makes this government uncomfortable, then it is the policy statement which should be changed. I would urge the committee to give careful consideration as to whether this amendment is really needed and what the consequences of enacting it will be. To my view, this is not a partisan issue. It is not about restricting local decision-making and it is not a matter of pitting economic growth against environmental and social concerns. It is a matter of planning practitioners, local decision-makers and land developers being able to clearly know ahead of time what the province expects of them.
I'd like to make a few additional comments in closing. Although, as I have already mentioned, I was somewhat disturbed by the haste with which this government has moved on planning reform, what has disturbed me more is the relatively secretive and quiet way in which it has been done. When the previous government reformed the planning system, it was done in what I would describe as an open and participatory manner. The ministry ensured that everyone on the Sewell commission's mailing list was sent a copy of Bill 163, the new comprehensive policy statement and a booklet explaining all the proposed changes. When the bill was enacted as law, another package was sent out explaining the finalized version of the reforms. In essence, the government realized that it was necessary to keep all stakeholders, including planning practitioners, involved in the process if they were to buy into the reforms.
By contrast, this government has proposed to bring about some significant changes and did not feel that it was necessary to inform these same stakeholders. I'd heard various rumblings about the government moving to scrap or dismantle Bill 163, but until I read about it in my professional journal I had no idea that the minister had introduced the bill, and that was about a month and a half after the fact. Similarly, I only found out last week through a colleague that a draft of the new provincial policy statement had been issued more than a month ago. It seems to me that if the government expects practitioners such as myself to buy into these reforms, it ought to inform us that they are occurring and invite us to participate in the process.
Finally, I wish to sound one more note of caution. In some jurisdictions the role of planning and planners in the land development process has been increasingly diminished in recent years. I know that when John Sewell appeared before this committee a couple of weeks ago he said that some of the proposed changes in the bill "would substantially denigrate the role of planning in Ontario." I am not sure that I completely agree with this assessment. In some ways, this bill can be seen as affirming this government's commitment to both planning and planning reform. But what I think is important to stress is that the government should guard itself against entering a mindset where it sees all planning as inherently obstructive, economically stifling or an affront to property rights.
I found it somewhat alarming therefore to discover that another bill introduced into the Legislature, Bill 11, would place property rights directly in the Human Rights Code. I am not entirely sure what this means in practical terms. However, it seems to me that this runs counter to one of the cornerstones of Canadian constitutional law, that the property rights of the individual are not absolute and are subject to certain limitations in accordance with the greater needs of society. I truly hope Bill 11 does not signal the beginning of us sliding down that slippery path which the Americans have already been down with their experience in takings law, a series of Supreme Court decisions which in some cases have resulted in local governments having to financially compensate land owners for rezoning their properties.
Planning should be seen as a value added activity. It advocates on behalf of broad societal interests and promotes the building and strengthening of healthy communities. Planners have often had a difficult struggle communicating to the public and elected officials the value of proper planning because it tends to be a somewhat vague concept to articulate and measure. But the benefits of proper planning do exist and accrue to us all in terms of the quality of the communities in which we live. I would hope that this committee will bear this in mind as it considers and deliberates upon these important reforms.
That concludes my presentation, Mr Chair.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Singer. You've left us five minutes per caucus for questioning. The questioning this time will commence with the third party.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your very thought-provoking presentation. You clearly spent a lot of time thinking it through. I want to say that your statement, "planning should be seen as a value added activity" -- that's a great line. I like that. If you don't mind, where I can I'll give you credit for it. I think that's a great line.
Mr Singer: Thank you very much.
Mr Christopherson: I agree with it wholeheartedly and I think it's well put. However, having said that, when I add up all of the things that you thought through, and looked at the various positions you've taken, with respect, I would suggest you'd better be careful or you'll end up a Liberal.
Mr Singer: Maybe I already am a Liberal.
Mr Christopherson: I say that tongue in cheek.
Mr Hardeman: What do you mean, "end up"?
Mr Baird: You don't have to put up with this.
Mr Christopherson: That's right. Earlier today, the London Home Builders' Association made a presentation and they said in part that one of their fundamental policies is that the government has a legitimate role in housing the needy and disadvantaged in Canada. Do you agree with that?
Mr Singer: The government as in the provincial government, or local governments?
Mr Christopherson: They don't specify, but it's in the context of making a presentation to us, so I would assume they're including the provincial government.
Mr Singer: I would agree with that statement. I agree with the thrust of most housing policy at all levels of government actually.
Mr Christopherson: I toyed between what I wanted to focus on, the "have regard to" or another area, but given the thought that you've put into this I thought you'd probably appreciate being not challenged but maybe pushed a bit. Some of your thinking around the accessory apartments I found quite interesting, given that you live in one. Obviously, in agreeing with that statement, you sense there is at least in our society a legitimate role for government in ensuring that there's an availability of decent, affordable housing for people to some degree. Obviously, I share that sentiment. But you didn't feel that the as-of-right provisions we had in 163 were correct, and I wanted to ask you, taken to its extreme, if every municipality opted out, where would that leave a young person like yourself? I assume you needed an accessory apartment because you were a student and on limited income. There are others, there are seniors, the disabled, the poor themselves. A lot of them are families, women with children. If every municipality opted out, and given these kind of difficult times that's at least plausible, where would that leave both the people that are affected, and also where would it leave the governments that you've already agreed have some responsibility to make sure a decent housing stock is provided for?
Mr Singer: I definitely agree it's a problem. I know that the Land Use Planning for Housing policy statement was introduced in 1989 by the previous Liberal government, and I know that subsequent to that the NDP government identified some implementation problems with. That resulted in the discussion paper which basically said: "We're not achieving our housing goals. We're going to have to take stronger action and create this as-of-right legislation."
I guess my problem is that I didn't disagree with the purpose of the bill. I agree that we need a plentiful supply of affordable housing and that it's not out there now. I think it was more with the tactic that the province used. It just seemed to me that it was very heavy-handed, and it created a lot of bad blood between the province and municipalities, and there must have been some other approach that could be taken.
I think one approach would be that if we strengthen the implementation provisions for the comprehensive policy statement, that perhaps the housing policies could be used as a means of leverage for municipalities.
Mr Christopherson: The difficulty there of course is in the context of Bill 20 with the changes back to "have regard to," that really you could argue that the policies themselves don't matter much, and I can't believe for a minute the Tories are going to put in place anything close to what we had in actual legislation. So you're still left chasing your tail.
Mr Singer: I agree. I guess I don't really have an answer to that. As I mentioned, I had a problem with the approach that was used by forcing municipalities to create this as of right, but I agree with you, this is certainly a problem that still has to be addressed.
Mr Christopherson: We legitimately searched. Nobody enjoys being any more heavy-handed than they have to, but when you're dealing with issues such as the provision of decent housing, when you're dealing with the environment and other matters where local governments can face pressures, because I served on municipal council so I have an understanding of that world, and the pressures that can come upon a local council are different than that upon a province, and it's easier for a senior level of government to hold to some principles that are important for all of us over a long period of time.
I guess my biggest concern about adding up everything the government's proposing here is that those that don't have, once again are going to be the losers, and those that have are about to get more. Any thoughts on that? Do you find that too harsh?
Mr Singer: Perhaps a little harsh. Again, I don't really know what the answer is. Perhaps the answer is to require that municipalities provide a certain level or standard of affordable housing within their communities, but not to necessarily say across the board every single house is entitled to have a second unit in it.
Mr Christopherson: If you worry about slippery slopes, there is one. Again, sitting on councils, I can tell you, once you start down that road, there's always a good reason why a given area shouldn't have accessory apartments -- wrongly, I would add, of course.
Mr Singer: Perhaps I would amend my earlier comments then by saying that this housing issue still needs to be addressed.
Mr Christopherson: I want to thank you. You really put a lot of thought into this, and it showed. I wish you well in your career. I think you're someone who shows some real ability for the future.
Mr Galt: Thank you, Mr Singer, for a very well-articulated paper, and I do hope you can use it in two sources: once here and once in your course. I expect it's going to be a major paper for one of your subjects.
Mr Singer: That's the plan.
Mr Christopherson: You see, planning is important.
Mr Galt: You got quite excited when you came to page 5. On many occasions, I've been questioning on these environmentally sensitive lands, who pays? Up on the top, finally -- maybe it's because you're probably the youngest one to present to these hearings -- you come up with a suggestion that maybe municipal councils or planning authorities should. "Placing this burden on private land owners is excessively onerous and, in my opinion, unfair."
I have to agree with you. Certainly farmers have been caught with this on many occasions. Have you looked any further, joint ventures, interest groups? Have you had any other thoughts is what my question's coming around to?
Mr Singer: No. I haven't specifically looked at any mechanisms that might be used. Certainly, I think the opportunities could be there for various joint ventures and what not. I guess the point I was trying to make here as well is that planning and zoning may greatly restrict the use of land, but legislation or bylaws that say you cannot use your lands at all -- there's a fundamental problem with that, and I think that most lands can be used for something.
Again, I think in the previous presentation the issue was brought up about hazardous sites and landfills and what not, and what do you do with those lands and what sorts of uses can you allow, and obviously that's going to be a problem.
To answer your question, I haven't really looked at any other mechanisms that might be used.
Mr Galt: We can play with all kinds of wording. It all depends on the political will and often the political will relates to economics. If the economics are not there and sound, it doesn't matter what the wording is, it probably won't fly.
Mr Singer: Right. My fear actually was that Bill 20 was going to take out these sections altogether that had been introduced by Bill 163, that recognize that perhaps environmental protection itself is a legitimate land use designation. Certainly, I agreed with that. But then to say that it's also a non-use, that was perhaps just going a little too far.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Mr Singer, for the presentation. Just a quick comment, on page 2, I understand only a small number of planning applications were received during the time of Bill 163, and that's because there was a major event just prior to that. Would you not suggest maybe that in fact it was Bill 163 that created those mass applications prior to it being implemented? Secondly, on the next page you mention that we may be passing this act just to tell the world that Ontario's open for business again. I wondered if you would attribute that as a negative statement, or is it a positive statement that in fact Ontario is open for business again.
Mr Singer: I guess actually to address that second point first: My concern was that -- I don't think there's anything wrong with sending out the message that Ontario is open for business again. I think, if anything, that is the message we should be sending out. It just seemed to me that perhaps Bill 163 was a sacrificial lamb, that it wasn't going to make any substantial or material difference whether or not we got rid of it. It's just that the act of doing so was sending out that message, and perhaps there might be smarter ways to do that.
But with respect to your first point, certainly Bill 163 caused that great rush last March. I've no doubt about that. In fact, it's interesting to see that there was sort of this blip last March where it looked like development activity in the province -- we were out of the recession, and there was this great flood of applications.
I think that was also in large part a result of some -- as much as the new system was sold by and explained by the last government, I think there was a lot of scaremongering out there as well as to what the effect of Bill 163 would be. I think that in part caused that rush, but I think that was to be expected.
Mr Conway: I want to join my colleagues on the committee and say that this is a very lively brief. I certainly enjoyed it a great deal. I want to wish you well with its submission to whatever other tribunals it finds it way towards.
The fundamental question, and you address this on pages 7, 8 and 9 of the brief, that's the tension between -- well, for the committee, I think it's "shall be consistent with" and "have regard to." I'm certainly no planner. I'm like a lot of people on this committee, some of whom are planners and others, many of whom have sat on a local government, I've done neither, but the problem I see is that on the one hand -- my preference by the way is for local decision-making.
Your brief I think is excellent in that it points out that we may be entering a period of time where local technical resources may not be as flush as they once were, although that remains to be seen. But my question is, how do we resolve this basic problem that a lot of people I know and represent would see. On the one hand, you have a set of policies that are mandated from wherever, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, but they're a long way from Main Street or the back concession of township X. While the intentions are good, it is quite clear to people who have to live with the consequences that whomsoever wrote these policies knows nothing about the environment in which they're going to be applied. That's the one problem.
The other problem, of course, is that for those of us who'd like to see some local decision-making, we see some local decision-making all right that sometimes, more often than perhaps we might like, for whatever good reason, succumbs to very short-term and often bad planning, that has sometimes led to huge mistakes and very costly bills.
How do we balance that? You seem to come down on the side of "shall be consistent with." My challenge to you is, if you can show me, Mr Planner, that you're going to write a set of rules in Toronto that are not going to make you and me look like idiots in Rainy River, I might be willing to play your game, but there's just too much past experience to suggest that you can't do that.
Mr Singer: Perhaps that may be an impossible task. I think the one real hurdle which we're probably never going to pass is convincing the public really that there are certain sacrifices that need to be made now to ensure that development is sustainable in the future. I think what the policies come down to in great part is the need to look out for future generations as well. If we weren't looking out for future generations, then I don't think there would be a need to look out for a lot of these interests.
Mr Conway: I remember -- and not that many years ago; I'll take it back -- before I think anybody around here was here except myself. But Mr Hardeman is here and he's a wonderful fellow, and he had a predecessor who was a great guy named Harry Parrott. Dr Parrott came to the Legislature 15 years ago, or less I suppose, on behalf of the government of Ontario that is full of bright, well-educated people. On behalf of the government of Ontario, the Minister of the Environment proposed to put a toxic waste facility in the Grand River basin down near Cayuga where apparently any nearly brain-dead hydrogeologist would tell you there's trouble everywhere. Now we ourselves proposed to do that.
Mr Singer: A lot of the problem is that too many decisions are made in Toronto. I think the province perhaps could express its interest more regionally. I think it was a real tragedy when three years ago a number of the field offices were closed down because, even if it's just symbolic, the idea that there are provincial resources distributed throughout the province available for municipalities to draw on, I think has a really strong effect as opposed to decisions all coming from Toronto.
Mr Conway: But presumably all these bright people who worked in the Ontario government itself must have known that that proposal -- I'm just using one that comes to mind. There are many. You ask yourself, how do these things happen?
Mr Singer: I don't know. I couldn't tell you what the mindset was there.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Singer, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
LONDON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the London Chamber of Commerce. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to the committee and again we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer period.
Mr Gary Blazak: Thank you. My name is Gary Blazak. I'm the vice-chair of policy at the London Chamber of Commerce. My colleague is John Henricks. He's the chairman of the chamber of commerce planning task force that looks at municipal-provincial planning matters. By way of introduction, we are both professional consulting planners practising here in the city of London and environs.
Although we come today representing the London Chamber of Commerce, which is the largest business organization in the city and environs, collectively, our 1,000 corporate members employ approximately 50,000 people in this city and today we're speaking as professional planners on behalf of the wider chamber membership.
The chamber of commerce has regularly commented on planning, development and provincial planning policy issues in the past. We were very active in our comments to the Sewell commission and we rarely miss an opportunity to comment on momentous provincial changes in policy or legislation which we feel will affect our membership and virtually all changes in provincial legislation affect our membership.
We're organizing our presentation today around four key topics. We apologize that we have preceded our paper and we're hopeful that the copies of the paper will arrive during our presentation or shortly thereafter to provide you with written text.
My colleague Mr Henricks will provide the basic text of the paper to you in verbal form and then I will attempt to sum up at the end before we throw it open to you for questions.
Mr John Henricks: The interim report of the Sewell commission offered a vision of a streamlined development approval system in which broad policies at the provincial level would define the boundaries within which municipalities would have expanded planning authority. However, the legislative and regulatory changes that were finally implemented at the conclusion of the Sewell process bore little resemblance to that vision, leaving little room for expanded local autonomy in the planning and development approval process. We believe that the revised policies presented as part of Bill 20 represent a better approach to the elimination of bureaucratic red tape and expedited planning approvals.
We're recommending that the draft legislation wording proposed, that municipalities "have regard to" provincial policies, be retained. We think that's a positive change in the legislation.
In terms of the planning process, the London chamber feels that Ontario must have a planning process that facilitates economic development and allows this province to compete with other jurisdictions on a level playing field. We are therefore supportive of any and all changes proposed for reducing the time for planning approvals. Delegation of as much of this responsibility as possible to municipalities would be a good place to start. These changes are needed to ensure a more positive climate for growth. Let Ontario municipalities compete on equal grounds with foreign jurisdictions that are not encumbered by the bureaucracies of senior government. We might be looking south for that example.
We still see many opportunities for appeals that will disrupt the process of local decision-making. Before we get into that, the London Chamber of Commerce continues to support maintaining the Ontario Municipal Board. The OMB appeals process as it now exists does, however, require some overhaul.
We urge the province to consider implementing Sewell's original recommendation that would require the OMB to hold procedural meetings within 30 days of the OMB receiving a legitimate appeal. This approach would quickly resolve many appeals and, in our view, reduce the backlog of cases before the board.
We still see many opportunities, as I was noting earlier, for appeals that are going to disrupt the process of local decision-making. The issues at stake in any appeal should relate to a development's compliance with principles expressed in approved official plans and the proposed provincial policies. Hard evidence demonstrating non-compliance with these documents should be a prerequisite of any appeal or referral that's accepted for a hearing by the Ontario Municipal Board. In a similar vein, no development proposal should be eligible for more than one appeal or referral as a condition of its approval or dismissal. Offering multiple opportunities for appeal of any one development adds nothing to the range of issues to be considered, but considerably increases the potential for delays and costs involved in such developments.
To summarize, our recommendations:
That the Ontario Municipal Board should be entrusted with discretion in evaluating the merits of an appeal or referral based on hard evidence of a contravention of local or provincial planning policy.
That the province consider requiring the Ontario Municipal Board to hold a procedural meeting within 30 days of receiving an appeal.
That the government consider a consolidation of what currently amounts to multiple opportunities to appeal against a single development, all based on a single set of issues.
That the province allow for implementation of a development permit system.
I should elaborate on that, so bear with me. The chamber has noted that the development permit system originally was introduced by Bill 163 as a streamlining measure, although it has not been widely implemented, if it's been implemented at all for that matter. The chamber is supportive of any changes in the development review system that will reduce costly and unnecessary delays. Potentially the development permit system offers that opportunity. We look forward to seeing how it may be implemented, perhaps through test programs or otherwise, again leaving that open to local municipalities to decide upon.
As mentioned previously, we believe that an appropriately designed provincial policy statement will allow for more local control of the development approval process. We urge the province, in the strongest terms possible, to give local municipalities approval authority for all official plan amendments and subdivisions.
We do not support a system where individual ministries are allowed to file objections. Ontario's planning process must require the province to present a unified position that reflects the province's priorities, not those of individual ministries. To ensure accountability at all levels of government, each level must be required to present a position that it believes to be in the unqualified interest of the general public.
In summary, the recommendations:
That the province give local municipalities approval authorities for official plan amendments and subdivisions.
That only the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing be allowed to appeal official plans and official plan amendments. These appeals, like any others, would have to be based upon hard evidence of non-compliance as noted herein, before being accepted by the OMB for a hearing.
Development charges: We know that the bill doesn't specifically jump into this issue a great deal, but we felt it was an opportunity to make our views known to this committee. As a general principle, the chamber recommends that only what are commonly referred to as hard services be addressed in development charges bylaws. The chamber believes that using development charges to fund soft-service expansion, such as schools, recreation facilities etc -- the list is there -- is inappropriate and can lead to wasteful spending practices. It is, after all, the so-called soft-service calculations which often are most open to debate and criticism.
With that, Mr Blazak will close and we'll be ready for questions.
Mr Blazak: In essence, if we can summarize the position of the London Chamber of Commerce in three words it would be: Download, streamline and expedite. We've included these words at the end of our presentation in bold. We're asking you to download responsibility for planning approvals to local jurisdictions. We're asking you to streamline planning administration; red tape is bad for business. We're asking you to expedite planning approvals. We feel that the Ontario Municipal Board is an appropriate body for establishing correct decisions in planning disputes, but in some respects it should be given more power to cut through the wheat and the chaff, to find out what is really important and what is really worthy of a hearing. In many respects, if we can eliminate unnecessary Ontario Municipal Board hearings, if we can eliminate unnecessary provincial jurisdictions in the approval process, we will expedite economic development in this province. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. You've left us seven minutes per caucus for questioning. This round will start with the government.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Thank you for your presentation. I just have a question more relating to the actual practices of the organizations you represent. Yesterday a presentation would have had us believe that a standard practice would be for site developers or site speculators to purchase property, submit a plan where it's approved and then flip the property to an actual developer who would then develop the site and revise the plan without allowing any public input at all. Is this the normal practice? What sort of percentages of actual activity does this represent in the development of properties?
Mr Blazak: I would say it's not an uncommon practice to buy a piece of property which comes with an approved plan and then to sell it to someone else who intends to develop it, making changes to the site plan. It's a well-known practice in Ontario that that part of the planning process doesn't include significant opportunities for public notification and public input. But it should be kept in mind that when site plan approvals are proceeding before the local jurisdiction -- for example, if it's the city of London -- most of the significant planning issues should have been decided well in advance. All of the policy issues are well cleared by that point. The regulatory issues, as reflected by zoning, and generally these are the things that concern a neighbourhood or adjacent property dwellers, should have been cleared long before the site plan approval process. My colleague will speak further on his experience with the development permit system in other jurisdictions and perhaps that will give you some insight.
Mr Henricks: Before I do that, there is a practice in many municipalities wherein they would require a public meeting for a site plan where they felt that the particular site involved was going to be contentious. There's an opportunity through the current system to deal with that. We have seen examples where a site's been zoned for development and then, when the site is proceeding further into the process, the council often has provided for the opportunity to come back to the public with the specific application. We found ourselves in that on more than one occasion. Certainly in that context we're seeing municipalities making the decision to ensure that the public gets another kick at input, if you will. Again, that becomes a local decision-making process.
Mr Bob Wood (London South): I'd like to ask you about two points. The first is that you have suggested, in effect, a performance criterion with respect to the OMB: They have to hold their first meeting on something within 30 days. Have you given any thought to a full set of performance criteria for a body like the OMB, where they would have to, say, start their actual hearings in a certain number of days and have to have various steps happen within a certain time period?
Mr Henricks: To get to the specific point of 30 days, that was coming out of Sewell's original recommendations. Certainly the members of our committee who were looking at this issue said that seems to be a good thing. It gets it to the board quickly and if there are frivolous objections, we're going to have an opportunity to flush that out quickly and we'll perhaps eliminate a lot of the backlog. So that seemed to us to be a good suggestion and one worth considering. If there are other appropriate means of accomplishing the same objective, fine. We were simply identifying something that had come out of a public process and saying, let's take a hard look at that, because the objective of it is sound. Let's flush it out; let's not have all these frivolous appeals going to the board.
The other suggestion that we've identified in this paper, which I'll let Gary touch on, is if the board feels that the objection is frivolous in nature. If it is consistent with local policy, then let's move it along. If it's clearly counterproductive, then let's reject it.
Mr Blazak: I've been before the Ontario Municipal Board as a professional planner more than 100 times on matters, representing both rural and urban interest. I've represented municipalities, neighbourhood associations and developers. Of the 110 or 120 hearings that I've attended, half of them have been unnecessary. There's been no reason for a hearing. They were items or issues that could have been resolved or mediated outside of the jurisdiction of the board, let alone the nine- to 18-month wait to get to the board. The costs involved in this are enormous to both the province and the private sector. It just increases the red tape involved in development approvals.
Many of these issues can be sorted out by the Ontario Municipal Board in advance of a decision to make a hearing. The board, if it had an expanded jurisdiction, could look at some very distinct evaluation criteria. The two that we've suggested in our memorandum are: Does the proposal adhere to provincial policy? Does the proposal adhere to local policy? If it does not, then the board should exercise its discretion to hold a hearing.
But unless there is some hard evidence demonstrating non-compliance with approved local policy and approved provincial policy of the day, the board's time is wasted, the private sector's time is wasted and, to a certain extent, so is the public's time wasted in having hearings, because we're going to get to the board and we're going to determine that there really weren't sufficient grounds in the final analysis to hold the hearing. We maintain that this determination should be made before an issue reaches a full hearing.
Mr Bob Wood: Do we have any time left, Mr Chair?
The Chair: You have about one minute.
Mr Bob Wood: I'd like to ask you to comment very briefly on the development charges issue. We know it's a problem. We know some municipalities have been looking at that as a revenue stream. You've enunciated a general principle but haven't really said how you would go about enforcing that. Have you given any thought to how the province should go about enforcing what you point out in your paper about development charges?
Mr Henricks: Change the legislation and make it clearer that it applies to hard services only.
Mr Bob Wood: Have you given any thought to how we would make them do that, so to speak?
Mr Blazak: A provincial statute would be the authority for adopting a local development charges bylaw, and if that provincial statute defined narrower territory that the local development charges bylaw could implement, that to us would appear to be the solution. It appears to be fairly simple.
The problem we have now is that over the last five to 10 years, and over the last five years in particular, there has been an ever-expanding reliance on development charges, and as that expansion of the eligible issues for development charges increases, so do the grey areas as to what truly is caused by the development in terms of hardship in the municipality for required services. Previous to the NDP government, development charges were clearly restricted to hard services, what we commonly refer to as infrastructure services: sewers, watermains, arterial roads. There was very little debate about the necessity for those services in a municipality. But when we stray into the area of soft services -- parks and recreation, quality-of-life services -- there's always a debate as to the necessity for them, the nature of them, the location of them. We maintain that development charges are not the appropriate area to corral those services to determine the need and to contribute to their cost.
Mr Conway: Gentlemen, a very good brief and to the point. You are going to win the day on downloading, streamlining and expedition; I think there's no doubt that's going to occur. I want to just make a couple of observations. You mention on the top of page 3 that you like that part of the bill that gives the one-window approach through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I do too, actually; theoretically, I think it's quite powerful. But knowing what I know about the Ontario government, I can just imagine the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health agree on virtually nothing. We had a witness yesterday who made a wonderful case that the Ministry of Natural Resources is divided among its several selves. I can think of one celebrated case where the Ontario government got itself into a hell of a mess because the several heads of the Ministry of Natural Resources couldn't agree on the time of day. Given the territorial imperatives of the several departments of this hydra-headed government we have, do you see any practical difficulties with these internal tensions working themselves in a way that doesn't bring them all through the one window in a timely fashion?
Mr Blazak: Personally, I do see some problems, and this has been made clear in other presentations -- from the planners institute, for example -- inasmuch as it does concentrate power among a few. Hopefully, power does not corrupt. We would anticipate that the people who are making the decisions at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- for example, to refer an issue or not to refer an issue to the Ontario Municipal Board -- would be the type of people the government could entrust to look after the interests of the general public or the wider issues of the province rather than the specific interests, albeit technical, of some of the other ministries, because they tend to have some very specific or technical interests. What may not be in the interests of one ministry may very well be in the interests of the general public, so it does put a lot of reliance on a given few.
Mr Conway: Don't misunderstand me. I like the idea of the one-window approach, but I sometimes think it's awfully naïve to imagine that the several interests within the government of Ontario -- for example, it is in the interests of the Ministry of Health to spend money; it is in the interests of the treasury department not to spend money. I just worry that in the planning area. Think of Natural Resources, Environment, Agriculture. I can imagine a whole series of cases where even within the streamlined Ontario government they are not going to agree on very much about a particular development proposal. I just wonder if you have any advice as to how we ourselves can deal with --
Mr Henricks: I think you can be assured that if the government has hired competent planning professionals, along with other technical professionals, part of the role of any professional planner is to balance those competing interests, to take a look at those and to determine how best to develop a sound planning position. Presumably those who are hired by the government to help advise on what is a sound planning position in this particular instance are going to be able to do that competently. We're asked to do it every day; that's the nature of the profession. I'm not overly concerned about professionals being able to do that.
Mr Conway: Let me use an example, again without prejudice, because I think this contaminated at least two governments that I'm aware of. One of them wasn't a New Democratic government, let me say to my friend from Hamilton. I remember getting a proposal around a domed stadium in Toronto. I remember all kinds of fascinating debate, much of it driven by the business and publishing élites in old Hogtown, about this world-class facility that was, among everything else, fully financially self-sufficient.
Mr Conway: Oh yes, I remember. I remember getting assurances. I remember a fellow named Chris Stockwell. I think he was one of the few people around saying, "I don't think this is to be believed." Of course he was right. There were others, but I just remember a lot of very good -- interestingly, I remember chambers of commerce. That's why I'm prepared to pick on you guys a little bit. There are lot of good people there. They've got to know that however desirable a scheme this is, this thing, in a financial sense, is just built on a house of cards. Of course, the sceptics were right. But there was within the planning process, or within the political process, which was essentially Metro and the province, a complete incapacity to sort of beat back the boosteristic supporters of this quite elaborate and interesting scheme. Again, I wonder, how do good people like yourselves as planners get your flag above the fray and say, "Hey, hey," particularly in this new age where if you make a mistake -- I'm a bit concerned about this because some of the bailouts we've offered in the past just aren't going to be possible any more, for all the good reasons that revolutionaries know better than I.
Mr Henricks: I love being able to throw this back at the politicians, but ultimately we're providing advice. It's up to the leadership of the day to make the decision and we have to live with those decisions.
Mr Conway: I appreciate that final observation. You smiled as you said it and I appreciate that.
As a former Education minister, I'm struck by this. I think your point around development charges is a good one and I appreciate it. I think of places like London. I haven't looked at the numbers lately; Ottawa-Carleton may be a better example. One does not need to build, for example, schools. They tend to be a pretty good place to start with some people, I guess. You don't need to spend any money. You could just simply put buses on from that part of London where there is a growth in school-aged population to all those wonderful facilities that you the taxpayer have built and paid for in other parts of the urban or suburban community, where of course you can have your pick of the school. I guess that's a matter of political leadership. Will the chamber really want to come with the municipal and provincial politicians into some of these beautiful new suburban areas of London or Ottawa or Windsor or Hamilton or Toronto and say: "Well, we've got a cure for part of this problem. We've got buses. We don't need to spend a sou on new schools if you'll just put your kids on these buses and travel 15 kilometres"?
Mr Blazak: I think the issue here is what's appropriate to capture in terms of revenue with the development charges vehicle.
Mr Conway: But you can see the problem, though, if you're the province or the local school board and we approve some very nice new growth. If I pay $400,000 for a house in south London, I probably am going to expect that there's a school in the neighbourhood. The person who has to fund that bill is not necessarily the person who's going to be making some of the decisions that caused the development in the first instance.
Mr Blazak: That's true, and that debate will go on endlessly, well beyond this forum. Our point is that by restricting development charges to hard services, the debate ends because there's no doubt about the need and size for a sewer or a watermain or an arterial road. That issue is clear-cut and is black and white. That's the appropriate vehicle to use development charges for.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. I found it quite interesting. First off, at the bottom of the page 1, you speak of the need for Ontario municipalities to "compete on equal grounds with foreign jurisdictions that are not encumbered by the bureaucracies of senior government." Can you just expand on that, what you mean by that exactly?
Mr Blazak: I'll expand on that because I'm the author of that particular phrase. I have development clients in southwestern Ontario that are actively being courted as we speak by Las Vegas, the state of Tennessee, the state of Kentucky. Those jurisdictions are willing to fly our development clients and their experts down there to get their investment in their jurisdictions. Those jurisdictions have nowhere near the bureaucracies, the red tape, the delays, the planning administration that we have here in Ontario. There are many negative things to be said about those jurisdictions, because perhaps they don't have the conscience when it comes to things such as environment and natural resources and the needs of society, but if this government is truly interested in enhancing economic development and in keeping Ontario investment money in Ontario, we'll do something about the red tape that pervades the planning process right now, because it's so much easier in so many other places to do business.
Mr Christopherson: Fair enough, and I respect the point of view. The difficulty I have with that is that in jettisoning all the things that you just listed as areas that they've watered down, at the end of the day for the average working person in this province there's not much of quality of life left in order to benefit from the economic stimulation that you're going after. My concern, and it's a concern that those of us who aren't comfortable with the free trade agreement have overall, is that we then get into a competing war of who is prepared to sell out the interests of their citizens the most to generate economic activity that's supposed to benefit the citizens the most. To me, it's a self-defeating approach. I have a great deal of difficulty with that, particularly as we talk about the environment and when we talk about social services and health care and all the other issues that you put under issues of conscience. I see your colleague champing at the bit. Please jump in.
Mr Henricks: I can't agree with that. In terms of what's been presented today, I think there's a balance between what you've identified as a concern and what my colleague here has identified as a business issue. We're trying to emphasize and provide balance. The combination of being a planning consultant and a member of the chamber of commerce, we're looking at issues that -- we have business leaving Ontario. Jobs are leaving Ontario. Without jobs, there's no quality of life. So we've got to balance that. We've got to have jobs and those jobs have to stay in Ontario.
The balance here is that we are still looking at protecting the environment, we're still looking at dealing with issues of importance in terms of the land planning system. I'm satisfied that this is certainly coming closer to striking the balance that we need in the province of Ontario, to balance quality of life with the economic issues. I'm quite confident that we're going to be able to, through further detail, find room for improvement here, but I think for the most part we're heading in very much the right direction.
Mr Christopherson: I guess "balance" always is going to be a subjective term. My concern would be that with the Newt Gingriches of the world going after things like the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other things under the guise of needing to compete, if we're getting into that argument, it's a slippery slope that we can't win. I'll leave that at that point and move on to the issue of the development charges.
Mr Wood -- and if I'm wrongly paraphrasing him, I wish to be corrected -- said that municipalities in some cases have used this as a revenue stream. I think one of the two of you mentioned that there's been an ever-expanding reliance by municipalities on this for income. Your answer to that was that you would like to see provincial statutes that limit what a municipality can consider to be soft services and what it can legitimately claim for development charges.
The question I have for you is, is there not an inherent contradiction in saying that we want decision-making to devolve down to the local level in almost every area you've referred to here in Bill 20, but as soon as we get into an area it hasn't gone the way that you would have preferred over the last few years, suddenly you want the province to step in and limit the ability? Is it not a fair argument to say what's good for the goose is good for the gander? If the local planning decisions should be made by local governments, then why limit it to areas of development charges? Why not let municipalities define for themselves what they consider to be fair charges given their market circumstances and their level of development?
Mr Henricks: I'll give it the first go. In terms of the development charges, the chamber has been very consistent in its presentations locally to the city of London in terms of maintaining the charge and applying it only to hard services. I think we're simply trying to reiterate that philosophical position; we're doing that here.
On the other part of the question, I don't know, Gary, if you want to take a kick at that. I am less comfortable doing so.
Mr Blazak: Well, this issue is, how much rope do you extend to the municipalities? Do you let them have free rein with respect to development charges or do we still have some statutes on the books? I think the issue here is that it's appropriate and in municipalities' best interests and in the province's best interests as a whole to have statutes on the books. There are some widely disparate economic regions within the province, as you well know. What's necessarily good for the GTA is not necessarily good in southwestern Ontario. But the system that we're referring to is a throwback to the old days per se. In the old days --
Mr Conway: The good old days.
Mr Blazak: The good old days; that's right. When we had development charges extending only to hard services, municipalities and other jurisdictions that were entrusted with providing soft services or educational services or whatever found a way, through the revenue streams that were available to them then, to provide the services the province needed. We suggest that we leave them to their own device in that regard and let them be creative in whatever way they want, but not on the backs of the development industry, which is crippled at the present time by the economic state of affairs in this province and elsewhere, and not on the backs of new home owners.
It's been a long-standing complaint from the development industry, and we hear it at the chamber all the time, that new home owners are expected to pay for all retrofitted services in the cities. That is the problem we have experienced by extending too much rope to municipalities in this regard.
The Chair: Thank you. I'm sorry, I'm going to have to cut you off. We're three minutes over already. Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
Mr Conway: Have these two young men ever met Hazel McCallion? And if so, have you ever made that little speech in front of her?
COUNTY OF LAMBTON
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the county of Lambton. Good afternoon and welcome to the committee. Again, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation time and a question-and-answer period.
Mr Malcolm Boyd: Thank you very much. My name is Malcolm Boyd. I'm the director of planning for the county of Lambton. I'm here only because the rest of county council is in Toronto at Good Roads -- or Bad Roads, whatever you want to call it. I was there last night and today, and it's interesting: They're not talking much about roads; they're talking a lot about municipal restructuring and municipal financing. It's kind of amazing what's happening. Normally Warden Minielly would be here and the chairman would be here. They have asked if I could please present this on their behalf. This brief, of course, has been approved by county council, so it's the position of the county of Lambton.
To tell you quickly a little bit about the county, because I think a few of you are from the southwest, Lambton county is immediately west of Middlesex county. It occupies the full boundary of Middlesex. It goes as far as Lake Huron and the St Clair River to Michigan. Sarnia is a member municipality of the county of Lambton. Lambton has 120,000 people in it, and it goes from Kent county up to Huron. Grand Bend is mostly in Lambton county. It has very good farm land, is a very strong tourism area and has a very strong industrial base, obviously, with petrochemicals. So that just gives you a sense of where this brief is coming from in terms of the history of the county.
Mr Conway: You have to tell these people it's the home of Lorne Henderson, or shall I do that? Is Lorne still the town planner? No, that's --
Mr Boyd: Is Lorne still running the county? Well, Lorne always attends all of our functions and he's a still an integral part of the social makeup of the county.
The county of Lambton has over the years taken a great deal of interest in planning, and it's because the county has a county plan passed in 1980. We do comprehensive planning advisory services for 18 of the 19 municipalities. The city of Sarnia has retained its own planning department when they amalgamated in 1991. The county also has comprehensive plumbing inspection, building inspection, septic tank inspection, a number of things that have come to the county level which have dovetailed the administration of planning at the building inspection side to planning, to the zoning bylaws and official plans. And so Lambton really has taken it quite seriously.
Perhaps I'll just quickly go through the brief. The county of Lambton made formal responses to the Sewell commission, to the minister on the final report of the Sewell commission, on the comprehensive set of policy statements, and to the legislative committee which considered Bill 163. Virtually all of the comments and requests for changes made in all of our submissions to the last government were ignored.
One of the stated goals of the commission and the government was to add to local decision-making. They did the reverse. They imposed a highly centralized provincial policy-making framework at the expense of counties and local government. Public input into local decisions was overridden by the requirement for strict consistency with the detailed comprehensive set of provincial policies. And in case the policies missed anything, the government produced a book of guidelines over two inches thick.
Local planning documents were to become mere mirror images of provincial policy regardless of its relevance to the community. Even if a municipality did produce an official plan which tempered provincial policies somewhat to local conditions, a development proposal could no longer rely on the policies of that plan. Provincial policy was always to be paramount regardless of what municipal planning documents had concluded. There was no reason to undertake planning sensitive to local public input if that planning was always to be ignored at the OMB in favour of provincial policy as set out by provincial staff. Municipal official plans became relatively meaningless. We also felt that the actions of the government effectively shut down development in rural Ontario.
This government is to be congratulated for its efforts to streamline a planning system which has ground most planning approvals to a halt and added great expense to all involved in the process. Many of our previously expressed concerns have been dealt with. We appreciate the return to the "have regard to" framework of fitting provincial policy to local decision-making and the large number of changes which have been made to streamline the system.
We thank the government for agreeing to delegate subdivision approval powers to Lambton county. This had been offered to us by the Minister of Municipal Affairs in 1990 but was never delivered by provincial staff.
We are most pleased with the offer of the government to permit community-based approvals once a county has a new official plan. Then if a local official plan amendment does not receive an objection within a set time frame, it will come into force. At present, simple amendments which are purely of a local nature must wait for months while the provincial bureaucracy places its stamp of approval, often after requiring meaningless changes.
Suggested improvements to Bill 20: Please recognize that county official plans, once they are approved under the system of "have regard to," should replace the more general provincial policy statement as the document guiding development in a municipality. Local plans should meet approved county official plan policies and not have to go back to provincial policy to be judged. If this change is not made, the value in doing upper-tier plans, which integrate regional needs with provincial policies, will be greatly reduced and an incentive for doing effective upper-tier planning will be lost. If all development proposals are judged against provincial policy and not local plans, then why have local -- really, "upper-tier official plans" is what it should read.
We support the removal of most minor variances from the Ontario Municipal Board appeal, as the council which sets the zoning standards can surely be allowed to decide on a variance. However, the appeal process is important in planning. An appeal from a committee of adjustment to the council is appropriate. In Lambton, many committees of adjustment have councillors. We do not see why that arrangement should eliminate the possibility of a second hearing before council.
Suggested improvements to the draft provincial policy statement: Let us designate enough land around our smaller communities so that there is a land market and competition for development. If we are allowed only to designate the exact amount of land estimated to be needed for a specific growth projection, that land could be owned by one person who would then have a monopoly, or by someone who is not interested in developing. Development then would only proceed by amendment of someone else's lands. That process makes development most difficult. Agricultural land designated for development around a small community surrounded by agricultural land does not all go out of production merely because it is designated for development, because most of the land surrounding small communities is not owned for development purposes. Please remove the maximum 20-year time frame for projecting land needs.
Section 1.1.2.h requires -- by the way, I'm dealing with the provincial policy statement, because we understand that the statement and the legislation are going to the House at the same time. Section 1.1.2.h requires that significant and sensitive features and areas be protected "using ecosystem based information and studies." Even the Sewell commission did not make the use of watershed and subwatershed studies mandatory because of the huge cost. It is strange that in a period of huge restraint, especially for conservation authorities, the government is making the use of watershed studies mandatory. We fully intend on protecting significant and sensitive features and areas in Lambton, but watershed studies and information are not available and we cannot afford to do this kind of work. Please remove references telling us how we should protect our important natural resources. We will do it in the best manner we are able.
There are a number of references to "guidelines" in the provincial policy statement. The statement that "Implementation guidelines will provide information on the meaning of the policies" is exactly what went wrong with the last government's attempt at setting provincial policy. All guidelines add inevitably to policy, especially when they explain the meaning of the policies from the perspective of the provincial bureaucracy. We believe the new set of policies are very clear and we do not need any guidelines. Please remove all reference to guidelines in the policy statements. We have all seen where they lead. Any guideline will remove from the meaning of "have regard to."
The county of Lambton supports Bill 20 and the provincial policy statement because they restore substantial decision-making to communities and will result in a more streamlined planning approval process.
Lambton county also supports the detailed recommendations of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on the bill and on the policy statement. AMO has consulted broadly with municipalities and with municipal staff who work in the field. We are very pleased that this government is listening to those most affected by changes to the planning system: duly elected local councils.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We have approximately five minutes per caucus, starting with the official opposition.
Mr Conway: Lambton county: wonderful place. I remember one of the great border clashes of all time between the county -- it was the Clearwater business of six or seven years ago. How did that all work out from the point of view of the county of Lambton, that great annexation bite that was taken out of your county for the purposes of the city of Sarnia?
Mr Boyd: Fundamentally, it's worked very well. What happened was the separated city wanted to grab the township that was surrounding it. Had they taken it, it would have taken about 22% of the county assessment with it. There were a number of petrochemical plants in Clearwater. The annexation was allowed, but the amalgamated municipality came into the county.
It's interesting. In most counties, when you find there's a separated municipality sitting in the middle or at the edge or very powerful and it's not part of the county, it's hard to do proper county planning; it's hard to do proper county management. So having the city in the county has worked really quite well. There were some initial problems, but it's working out remarkably well. Right now there are two members of city council down at Good Roads with the county contingent, for example, and they're working together on common problems.
Mr Conway: You hinted at my interest when you said that the county council is up at the annual prayer meeting that we know as the Good Roads convention talking not so much about roads but about municipal restructuring. I think we all expect that sooner than later we are going to see counties like Lambton transformed.
Mr Boyd: I would suggest that we transformed in 1991. I think we did a really remarkable job at it. Our model is different from the Oxford model. Oxford pulled down a number of municipalities. We chose not to. We chose to bring the separated city in, which is a massive city, more population than the rest of the county, and we expanded the boundaries of the urban areas with services; we doubled them all. We kept the small municipalities there, but we transferred a lot of the functions up to the upper tier. So their viability is assured because the upper tier is doing all of the high-risk stuff. So it's a different model from the Oxford county model, but Lambton's quite satisfied that we've done our job.
Mr Conway: I appreciate that, because that was really going to be my question. When you look at the additional planning responsibilities and functions that will devolve to the local regional government as a result of the passage of this bill, my question was going to be, how well suited do you think the municipal politicians and officials are in Lambton to meet those responsibilities?
Mr Boyd: Oh, it's all in place. We have 20 lower-tier comprehensive official plans approved at the present time. We have comprehensive bylaws. It's in place. What the problem has been is it's taken us two years to redo a local official plan, simple ones. So what we're looking for is clearly a streamlining so that we can get to doing other things than just documents. We want to get into community economic renewal and development. Our planners are now stuck with documents, and we're trying to release that. I think we're in place, but we want to get rid of the bother, of the time and all the documents that are required.
Mr Conway: Quickly, just two or three questions. I was struck by the fact that in your brief on page 2 you say you support the removal of minor variances from appeal to the OMB. We've heard a lot of testimony from people saying that at local levels, particularly where your appellate court is going to contain all or some of the people who made the original decision, it's not really natural justice. It really doesn't constitute a fair appeal to people who really want to get outside the neighbourhood and have somebody other than councillor X or reeve Y making the decision.
Mr Boyd: Lambton uses the council committee system, in which a committee of council will take a look at an issue, but when it goes to full county council, there's discussion of the issue and they will change their minds. In fact, on most county stuff there is that second hearing, and the hearing comes at county council, in which they have full discussion. If someone's unsatisfied, they can either flip it back to committee or they change it there. So I don't see that having the same people on a board twice is a problem. But that's from a county context, because we don't see it as a problem, especially for those of us who operate in a committee system.
It's interesting. I really fundamentally think the issue of appeals on variances is not our biggest concern in Ontario. I think they are minor variances and they are such, and I view it, and I think the county views it, as a way of streamlining to get away from board hearings.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. At the top of page 2 you state, "If all development proposals are judged against provincial policy and not local plans, then why have local official plans?" I guess the thought that popped into my mind when I read that was, to take your point of view, why bother having provincial official plans? Why bother having provincial policies at all?
Mr Boyd: Well, I don't think we should have provincial official plans, and that's basically what we had with that policy statement and the guidelines. That's what that was. Sewell started off by saying: "Let's give a common set of rules so everyone understands what the rules of the game are. Then let's let the locals make the decisions." So I think what you finally got is that. In fact, I think the Sewell is likely being implemented by this government.
The policy statements are in the form of ensuring good planning, and they're hitting all of the issues that a local municipality will have to deal with. I think that's good. It will ensure you deal with those policy statements, and you will be ensured good planning of that local plan.
But let's take those policy statements and let's then go out to the public and talk to our councils and talk to farming groups and talk to all these other people. We ask them, what do you want? They tell us what they want, and we have to listen to that. We have to put that in our plan in the context, and it might be slightly different from some of the strict interpretations of the provincial policy. We're saying, for goodness sake, please let us put that local input into our plans, and then when the locals want to develop something, let them refer to those plans that they had a hand in developing, not have to go back to the policy statement the official plan was derived from.
Development proposals have to refer to, I think, a local plan that's had local council input, democratically elected council input, with citizen input. That, to me, makes planning alive at the local level, and I think that's what we should be -- it's community values that are important in the context of the provincial policy framework. That's where we should be judging development proposals, not always going back to the mother document.
Mr Christopherson: But is it not fair to say that your document still reflects, or your comments still reflect, the fact that there should be certain fundamental principles of planning that are the parameters for all local governments?
Mr Boyd: Yes. And I think that's what this attempts to do with the policy statements.
Mr Christopherson: This is my difficulty with your position: If that's the case that you believe that, wherever you might place those minimum standards, wherever you set the high bar, when you move to "have regard to," I think there's enough evidence to show that that's going to require little adherence on the part of municipalities to conform with, because all they have to do is "have regard," whereas currently it has to at least "be consistent with." Therefore, I find it somewhat contradictory to say, "Yes, there ought to be absolute, rock hard, bottom principles that exist," regardless of what they might be, and then on the other hand say, "However, municipalities should only have to have regard for them," which is very little consideration in reality, "when they make their local decisions." I have some difficulty understanding why that isn't somewhat contradictory.
Mr Boyd: Well, you see, it's not. I have 25 years in the field in which the "have regard to" is a very meaningful requirement. You go to the OMB, and if you say, "Oh, I just had regard to; I read it," you're dead. If you go to a public and have that kind of disregard for it, you're dead. At a local government level, especially at an upper-tier level, there is integrity in the process to say "have regard to" means you take those policies and you make them mean something in the local context.
Sir, I just do not agree with that. I think there is a perception that that's the way some municipalities operate. I can just say in the southwest I don't see that. When there's an upper tier and a lower tier, I don't see that. The "have regard to" is a very real thing to us.
Mr Christopherson: Well, I served five years on city council before the five years I came into the provincial government, and I guess you and I, with great respect for each other, will just have to fundamentally disagree.
Mr Boyd: Fine.
Mr Christopherson: Gilles, do you have a question?
Mr Bisson: Very much along the same thing. You said they "have regard to" in regard to local context. I guess I just follow up on Mr Christopherson's comments and ask you this question: How can you ensure that municipalities throughout the province will have at least a bare minimum standard of rules they apply to planning if you don't have some kind of guidelines that people have to come to?
The problem with "have regard to" -- and you're right to an extent. You can't just say, "I've looked at it" and forget it, "Now I'm moving on." But I think there are many cases in Ontario where we can see that planning happened where the planners did have regard to but didn't take them very seriously and we had some real problems. How do you get around that?
Mr Boyd: I don't view it that way. That's saying that we've got to regulate how people do things and they're only going to do it by regulation. I think one thing we have learned in the last 10 years is that we have to turn from regulation to stewardship. Instead of saying to someone, "You cut down that tree and we're going to fine you," you show that person how important that tree is and you give them a concept of being stewards on their land rather than users of their land.
It's really important in our community that we deal with the education, and that's why education is such an important part of any official plan review, to make sure that people understand and buy in. I would rather have them understand the valuable woodlot than say to them that they've got to protect the woodlot according to this.
Planning is only going to work in Ontario if the people care and if those are their standards they believe in, and I think we're coming a long way. To the credit of the last government and to the government before, we've come a long way in protection of wetlands and protection of green spaces. We've come a long way to public acceptance, and that's the bottom line.
You come to an official plan now. I couldn't imagine doing an official plan in Lambton if we didn't protect woodlots, probably even more greatly than you require here. The same thing with agricultural land. Probably the public in Lambton will demand greater protection than here.
Mr Christopherson: What if at the end of the day the woodlot is gone? What have you achieved?
Mr Boyd: Well, I don't think this is going to protect the woodlot.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation and your words of support for Bill 20. I wanted to come back to page 1 of your presentation. In it, you refer to community-based approvals. I think this is important, because I want to frame this in the context of the presentations we've heard today. We've heard from the County Planning Directors of Ontario, Harwich and Raleigh townships, Blenheim, the county of Oxford.
I sense from the presentation that there's a sense of optimism here, of opportunity for you as county planners to act upon in terms of what's being provided to you through Bill 20. Would it be fair to say, given your comments about your planners being handcuffed in the documentation process, that the community-based planning process that we've heard about -- and I have to say we heard about it the first week in Toronto from Bob Lehman, I believe it was, who was speaking on this issue. Is it fair to say that that process which you see evolving in Lambton inherently attracts public input and participation beyond the statutory requirements that we already see in the Planning Act?
Mr Boyd: Yes, sir, because it would give ultimate responsibility to that public response. Yes, I think it does.
Mr Smith: I think, Madam Chair, my colleague Dr Galt wanted to share the time with me as well.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the presentation. It was interesting, your comments about all the comments you made to Bill 163 and there was very little response, actually negligible, from what I could understand.
My question relates to a presentation we had in Toronto. They brought in 600-and-some-odd pages of guidelines, bound in plastic, never opened, and they laid it on top of the little ridge that went around in front of the table that they were presenting from. It was very obvious that they had never read them. I'm not just sure whether they made any reference to ever having read any others, but I'm wondering if you've read those 600 pages from cover to cover.
Mr Boyd: Oh, goodness, yes, sir. I was involved in the production of them. Some of the worst times of my professional life were in the production of those. I spent two years with that process and it was awful. Yes, I've read every page and it was awful. I have no good feelings about those at all. Every wish list that every provincial bureaucrat ever had got trotted out and the process lost control. I am not at all proud of my involvement in that process. I was, by the way, one of AMO's reps. I was one of five AMO reps on that process, and it was a tough run.
Mr Galt: Do you have any suggestion how many pages might be adequate to give some guidelines?
Mr Boyd: I think there's very unanimous thought now that the answer is zero. AMO's very strong on zero. We've had 20 years of this problem. It comes out as a guideline and then it jumps into policy, and you never know when it flips into policy and the board hits you with it. It used to be, in the old days, the minister's letters. Darcy would write a letter, and that would hit you at the board. I think we're away from ministers' letters now, but I think that you make the policy statements clear and then walk, and let us deal with it. Let the board deal with it. There will be jurisprudence built up. There will be proper planning issues built up. AMO likely is going to have to have some help on helping other municipalities as to what are some of the ways to do things, but for goodness' sake, please, no guidelines.
Mr Galt: And how about the policy statements? Are we reasonably close? Is that okay?
Mr Boyd: You're very, very close.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you for coming this afternoon. Your input's been very, very constructive.
The Vice-Chair: I would ask that Vaughan Minor come forward, please. Good afternoon. Welcome to our hearings here in London. We have half an hour in which you can make presentation and perhaps leave some time for question and answer.
Mr Vaughan Minor: Well, I might have some good news for you. I might not take quite that long and you guys can have a chance for a coffee break.
First of all, Madam Chair, thank you for allowing me to speak here today. I apologize for the cold that I seem to have picked up on the weekend. My name is Vaughan Minor. I've been a member of the London city council for the last seven years and am currently on the city's planning committee.
I appear before you today as a citizen and as a businessperson. I've been a self-employed chartered accountant in London for the last 25 years, and today I'm here to compliment the committee on this new legislation, which I believe, as a businessperson, will help our province in stimulating economic growth.
In the past, federal and provincial governments have interfered in local planning under the guise, or disguise, of the provincial good. Local communities like London, Kitchener, Windsor and others had to grapple with a Toronto solution to a Toronto problem. There are lots of examples of that. A good example, perhaps the best example, is rent controls; however, that's another issue for another day.
The previous government, for reasons it believed valid, imposed legislation on the province that the province just didn't need, nor did it want. As you know, London led the way in a legal challenge to Bill 120 because it just wasn't fair. Interestingly enough, the majority of the bill wasn't bad and London agreed with it, but the granny flat legislation was completely out of whack. Many communities in Ontario lent their support both morally and financially to challenge this law.
That's why I'm here today, to say thank you for giving the planning decisions back to the people who can best decide what is best for their community; that is, the local municipal council and the residents of their municipality.
As a member of the large urban section of AMO, I can tell you that we had some very lively discussion that took place at our last meeting on February 9. However, after a great deal of talk, the committee was generally in favour of the new legislation and wanted to compliment you for bringing it forward.
It provides some of the things AMO has been asking for, such as removing the right of appeal for minor variances decisions to the OMB. I can tell you that in London, for example, that has been a bit of a sore point because some of the frivolous items that come before the OMB are, quite frankly, just a waste of taxpayers' money. We have one case in particular in London where there was an appeal to the OMB, the city went to great expense to defend its decision and the appellant didn't even show. Not only did that cost the city of London money, it cost the province of Ontario money and the reason they didn't show was they had no valid reason to appeal the decision. Those types of things I think are very positive.
I took the time to discuss this matter with senior members of London's planning department and for the most part they're satisfied with the new act. They believe that it has some very good features to it and that they can work within it. However -- that's the good news; here's the bad news -- they do feel that the time limit for plans of subdivision, which I believe is 90 days, is a little tight. They feel that if there's any room for flexibility, they would prefer to see that a little longer, perhaps 120 or 150, just on the basis that plans of subdivision can be very complicated, and if there's one thing we want to do right, it's plans of subdivision, because the rest of it all just flows from that. If there's any flexibility on the committee's part in that area, our planning staff would like that.
Rather than taking a lot of the committee's valuable time repeating many of the things that I'm sure you've heard earlier today, that you'll hear later today and that you'll hear again at other hearings, I'd be pleased to try and answer any questions you may have.
In summary, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you. Congratulations on bringing in legislation that will be easier for all citizens to work with. Thank you for putting the decision-making back where it belongs, and please consider extending that time period for the plans of subdivision; it just is going to be a little too tight.
The Vice-Chair: We actually have about eight minutes per caucus here, if we all choose to use it. We'd like to start this afternoon with the third party.
Mr Bisson: Thank you very much. It's Mr Vaughan?
Mr Minor: Mr Minor.
Mr Bisson: Sorry, I don't have the presentation. I take it there was only --
Mr Minor: I just hand wrote some things. I didn't want to take a lot of the committee's time today. I've sat on your side of the fence too, so I know.
Mr Bisson: Not as a New Democrat, though.
Mr Minor: No, not in a provincial Legislature, just at city. It's bad enough there.
Mr Bisson: Let me get to the crux of it. You led off your presentation by saying that the Planning Act is good for business, and basically you're in line with what the government is trying to do, which is make planning easier for the development community to enhance economic activity and economic development.
On the one hand, we all agree that economic development is good, that it's what we need to do, that it's what we need to strive for, because after all that's how your economy works. But I've got a bit of a problem, because if you take planning just from the perspective of what's good for economic development, that may not necessarily do very well for other considerations around the environment or around the aesthetics of our communities or how our communities are going to function.
It flows to the second point you made -- before I get to the question -- which is that you're also happy the government has gotten out of the business of planning and left it to the local municipality to do its job. How can the municipality do its job properly to deal with issues of planning that affect all of us in Ontario if there are not some sort of guidelines about how planning should happen at the local level?
Just so you understand, I don't disagree that the local municipality shouldn't play a greater role -- I think it should. I think the argument has been made. But I have real difficulty in your presentation in trying to say that somehow economic activity should take precedence over environmental considerations, and the second part, that the province doesn't have something to contribute in the process. I think the province, by virtue of being with the OMB, sees what's happening all over the province, looks at what's worked well and what hasn't worked well, and from that and the work does, you're able to come up with, hopefully, provincial policies or guidelines, depending on what you want to call them, that would assist municipalities to do their jobs.
Mr Minor: There's something to be said for some provincial guidelines, but I think we've got all kinds of examples, and rent control maybe is a good example of a Toronto solution being imposed on other areas. I'll tell you, I was very involved in 1975 when that came in because of the way it was working in London. At the time, rents were going up 3% at that point.
Mr Bisson: But --
Mr Minor: Let me just say why I think we've got some challenges with the provincial stuff. After rent controls, they were going up 20%. I'm not sure that served the residents of London. There's no question it was needed in Toronto.
I believe there should be some provincial guidelines, but as an example of where I have some difficulty with the province jumping in on occasion, we had a particular situation here where we were doing a road-widening. There was a 30-day appeal period. The province came in after 90 days and said, "We don't like what you're doing," and booted it. Quite frankly, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
To be honest with you, I don't have a problem with having some provincial guidelines, I think that's not bad, but my point was that if we can have the local municipalities making the decisions that are best for their particular communities, with some regard for provincial good -- I don't think we'd want to pave over all the wetlands or anything like that, but I think once the provincial policies are established, let us deal with them. If we get out of line, you guys are going to let us know in a pretty quick hurry anyway.
Mr Bisson: Then you're maybe agreeing in another way. What I'm trying to say here is that we as a lower level of government from the federal government manage many of our programs and do much of our work as a province based on federal guidelines. Sometimes funding is tied to those guidelines, other times it's just the way the federal laws are written in regard to what we can and can't do. As a provincial government, I don't see that as being bad. Quite frankly, you need to have some standards across this country that people can identify themselves.
Mr Minor: Could be.
Mr Bisson: I would make the same argument for planning. Just so you know, I don't disagree that we need to figure out how to make planning more efficient. There are examples we all could bring around the table where things could have been done better and can be done better in the future, but I have a real problem if we're talking about planning from purely an economic perspective. Second of all, if we're saying that the province doesn't have the role to play, I think that as a senior level of government, it does see what's happening in other communities and we're able to learn by those experiences and make planning better, so just for the record.
The second thing is that you talked about minor variances, about how you're in agreement with the government moving away from having the ability to appeal minor variances. You're one of few councillors -- I wouldn't say the only one, because there are others who have your point of view, but many people from municipal councils across the province have come to this committee and said minor variances -- the title might say "minor," but many times, as you well know, on council it's not viewed as a minor issue; it's a lot more than just that.
I agree there are some cases, not only at the OMB but at other appeal tribunals, where people at times will go forward with what you call frivolous and vexatious applications, but by and large, that's the price we pay for a democracy, is it not? Don't we have to at least admit that there are a number of cases, and I would say the majority, where people actually do bring forward actual concerns that are valid to them -- may not be valid to me and you, but are valid to them -- and the people who are affected? How do we strike that balance? Again, I agree you don't want to tie up the time of the OMB, but you can't take away the democratic right of individuals to appeal a decision made at the local level on minor variances.
Mr Minor: No, but I think that from my perspective they're not minor variances, and I come from a small community originally and I know that in a lot of smaller communities that's exactly the situation; they're very important to them. However, I think there are a number of situations that get appealed where there's no need for it at all and --
Mr Bisson: Would you say that's the majority of cases, in your experiences here in London, because it's not where I come from?
Mr Minor: I'd say a lot of the decisions that come from the committee of adjustment are not appealed in London simply because they seem to have made some decent decisions.
Mr Bisson: But of the ones --
Mr Minor: Maybe the bad ones -- to be honest with you, I can't give you a percentage, but I know there have been a few where it's just absolutely ridiculous that they went that far. Maybe what we have to do is tighten down the definition of what's "frivolous." Maybe that's a better answer.
Mr Bisson: Just so that I understand, though -- I agree with you that most of that stuff is dealt with at committee of adjustment, the vast majority of it. But of those that have gone off to the OMB that have been appealed, haven't been settled at the committee of adjustment, would you say it's the majority of them you see that have been frivolous or is it just --
Mr Minor: I'd say 30%.
Mr Bisson: Less than 50%.
Mr Minor: Yes, 30% or 35%, maybe.
Mr Bisson: So we still need to find some mechanism to --
Mr Minor: There might be some mechanism you could design that would allow them to have that ability, at the same time without costing the province and the municipalities a lot of money.
Mr Bob Wood: I'd like to ask you a couple of questions. One relates to the area of development charges, which is dealt with in a preliminary way in this bill, and it's going to be dealt with further by the government later. We seem to have a majority view that hard services should be charged to development charges and soft services should not be. We also know that some municipalities, in effect, have looked at development charges as a revenue stream and that has cost the purchaser of new homes a lot of money. We could go back to the relatively recent past, where we simply say, "You can charge hard services a development charge and you can't charge soft services," which seemed to work. Do you think this would restrain the appetite of certain municipalities to get money out of development charges?
Mr Minor: There's no question. Unfortunately, in London we just went through that, where we were talking about a lot of soft services. It was a very heated debate, and we came down with just the hard services on it mainly. The problem I see is that there's some misconception that by charging developers development charges, and the more the better, we're really going to get those guys, those awful developer guys. But the fact of the matter is, it always passes through to the consumer. I was more concerned from the consumers' point of view because I don't think the consumer should be paying for all those things that would normally come under the tax base.
My preference is the hard services. But I think there are a lot of municipal politicians -- there might even be one two right here in London -- who would love to have the opportunity to add to the development charges. In London, as you may or may not know, we just laid off 12 people in our planning department because they don't have enough work. That's where we stand development-wise. I know it's a little more hectic in Toronto.
Mr Bob Wood: The problem of course with the development charge is that it's in effect a hidden tax.
Mr Minor: No question.
Mr Bob Wood: People don't see it immediately, so it's very tempting for people on the municipal councils to try and get some money without it appearing that they're raising taxes.
I guess what I'd like you to tell me: Do you think simply changing the definition is sufficient? Do you think there's got to be some further mechanism? The interim mechanism of course is that the minister has to approve any increase.
Mr Minor: I think that if you want to tighten it down, you have to change the definition. The minister has to approve all of the development charges; that's correct. I think they've approved ours. We did it last year. If you want to control it, you'll have to change it. We've been through two very lively discussions on development charges over the last few years, Mr Martin will attest to. At one point, we filled up Centennial Hall with people who were really upset about it. The development charges can have a very dampening effect on the economy and can have a very detrimental effect on the price of housing.
Mr Bob Wood: Do you think, in the final solution, there has to be anything more than a change of definition? Do you think there has to be a mechanism where the province would in effect stop municipalities from charging excessive development charges, or do you think the change in definition is sufficient?
Mr Minor: I think the change in definition would be sufficient at this stage, but you might want to keep an eye on it, because some municipalities will stretch the definition.
Mr Bob Wood: Let me go on to a second matter, if I might, the matter of performance criteria. You asked earlier that we ease the performance criteria on the municipalities from 90 days to 150 or whatever it was that you felt was appropriate. What about performance criteria for provincial agencies, boards and commissions that you have to deal with?
Mr Minor: I think they should be under the same constraints. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. We all have to deal with the same rules. Fanshawe Park Road was supposed to be widened; there was a 30-day appeal period and 90 days later the previous government came in and put a stop to the whole thing. If we have to conform with a 90-day time constraint, so should the provincial people.
Mr Bob Wood: You would have no problem with the OMB being given performance criteria, that they have to hold a hearing, for the sake of argument, within a year?
Mr Minor: Absolutely, yes. They go on way too long. What's the waiting list now? Is it 18 months or a couple of years or something like that? There has to be a little flexibility. If you put in a rule that says, "You have to have the hearing within a year, period, or provide valid reasons why it can't be," whether that's at the request of the municipality or somebody, maybe there's some type of flexible provision you could put in at that stage, but there's no question that they should be under the same constraints.
Mr Bob Wood: Are there other ministries the municipality has to deal with that you'd like to see performance criteria for?
Mr Minor: Probably the main one would be the Ministry of Environment. We had some interesting challenges with them on Wonderland Road North. That was quite a disappointing situation. We finally have approval now, but we should have built that in 1991. There should be some sort of performance deadlines on those types of people.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon, Mr Minor. I just wanted to go back to the appeal on minor variances. On the surface, it would seem that something of a minor nature should not spend a lot of time and money at the OMB to make the final decision or find out whether the decision was appropriate. During these hearings, we've heard many presenters suggest that a lot of minor variances are a way of dealing with zoning in an expeditious manner as opposed to actually being minor variances. If that's the case, would you agree or disagree that this would require some form of appeal? One presenter told us that a minor variance process had just created the ability to build five houses. Would you not agree that that would cause a problem?
Mr Minor: Absolutely.
Mr Hardeman: So it's maybe fairer to say that the problem is not whether we do or do not have an appeal, but really what would be defined as a minor variance?
Mr Minor: That could very well be. That's a perfect example of where there should be an appeal allowed if a resident so desired. In London we watch that very closely, and there have been two or three situations where we've said the committee of adjustment couldn't hear something because it was a zoning change. There has to be some appeal mechanism in the event that it is a zoning change, but for a lot of the minor, insignificant variances, where it's a side yard by a garage that's already been built, for a neighbour to be able to appeal that is not appropriate. If the garage is already there, what are you going to do? Make them move it?
Mr Lalonde: How do you feel about the removal of public meetings for plan of subdivision?
Mr Minor: In some cases, there should be some sort of availability of the public to have some input. However, in a plan of subdivision, that's usually a fairly large tract of land that isn't surrounded by or doesn't have a lot of residential component to it yet because it's just a bare piece of land, so maybe there's not quite the need for a lot of public input from that point of view because it is just a piece of land.
We dealt with one last night at planning committee that's a very significant infilling situation, and through a lot of cooperation between the developer and the neighbourhood they were able to come to a very nice conclusion. But for a plan of subdivision, it depends on what happens. You get into the old NIMBY syndrome. I see this all the time. People have had their houses backing on to what they thought was a green space for years and years and years. There was out in the Highland Woods area where the developers had zoning for town houses for 15 years and these neighbours moved in there and then all of a sudden, they just went crazy when he was going to try and plan it. That's a situation that never should have arisen, because their lawyers and real estate agents should have told them what that was. It wasn't green space that was publicly owned.
Mr Lalonde: I agree with you. At times the buyer or the real estate people don't inform the people properly, and it could become a costly procedure for the municipality and also the subdivider.
On the removal of the right to appeal on minor variances, are you not afraid that at times, when they see they don't have the right to appeal to the OMB, they would proceed instead with a zoning amendment?
Mr Minor: I guess it would depend which side of the fence you're on. If it's a minor variance, the developer probably would prefer to go to the committee of adjustment if there's no appeal. The public would probably prefer to go to the planning committee or whatever committee of council was dealing with that, on the basis that they could then appeal it to the OMB.
I'd remind you that I'm trying to be here as a business person today because I think this province has a lot to offer and a lot of opportunity, but from a political point of view, I can tell you that people in London, if they think something's going to the wrong committee, if they think it's going to the committee of adjustment and it should be planning, they let us know loud, clear and often. Perhaps we don't have as much concern about that as some of the smaller communities may, where people don't read the information sometimes or don't get it circulated properly. Sometimes small-town politics is a little different than some of the bigger cities, not that either one's right.
Mr Lalonde: At present, Bill 20 really specifies that the right of appeal is left only to the municipalities and the municipalities are stuck with the cost. I would say that within Bill 20 it should be specified that they have the right to appeal to the OMB but the loser will pay the cost.
Mr Minor: That would probably be fair. That would prevent people form appealing things frivolously.
Mr Lalonde: I was very surprised to hear that the 90-day limit for a plan of subdivision is tight.
Mr Minor: It is for our planning staff. I've talked to our director of planning, Vic Coté, who is one of the best in the province. He's a great guy and does an awful lot of good things and gets an awful lot of good plans through and gets the compromise and deals with the residents and is quite an excellent employee. He felt that 90 days was a little tight. He said the rest of them they can deal with. If he had an extra 30 days, they might be able to do that much better of a job.
From my perspective, when you're looking at a plan of subdivision, that's a fairly big plan and that's a situation where you'd want to make sure you set the subdivision up right in the first place. An extra 30 days might not hurt.
Mr Lalonde: This has been my worry all along, because you're talking about the city of London, which is well organized, and you're laying off 12 people --
Mr Minor: Yesterday, yes.
Mr Lalonde: -- and you say it's a little tight. When you get down to a small municipality or a small county, when you say the city of London is finding it tight, it must be tight for the smaller municipalities.
Mr Minor: Yes. I've dealt with a planner up in Grand Bend who deals for Lambton and is out of Wyoming, so if two or three of the municipalities for which she does the planning were all doing subdivisions at the same time, it would be very tight.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much. We've appreciated your attendance here today.
Mr Minor: Thank you. Welcome to London. Come on back again and bring more people, so you can stay longer and spend money here.
The Vice-Chair: As it stands right now, our 4 o'clock presenter has not yet shown. Oh, this might be the person. Here we are. Good afternoon.
Mr Keith Oliver: I'm not late.
The Vice-Chair: No, you're just on time.
Mr Bisson: That's what I like: somebody who comes with a one-page brief.
Mr Oliver: Well, let's see.
The Vice-Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to our hearing process. We have a half-hour to hear your presentation and then invite questions and answers as well.
Mr Oliver: In terms of submission, it's the sheet you have in front of you. I've made every effort I can to try to understand Bill 20. I thought I did, and then I had a conversation this morning with Philip McKinstry at the ministry about some questions I had and I began to realize -- I'm not sure I misunderstood anything, but there's more to it and it's not an easy matter.
What I've done, essentially, is offer you a set of principles to guide your debate on the amendments that will take place in the next couple of days. What I want to do is just offer you some remarks. These remarks are offered in the truest sense of the word. I intend to be a constructive force in everything I do. I've met with Mr Wood and Mrs Cunningham, Mr Smith and Marion Boyd here about Bill 20; in fact, this was done before Christmas. In every effort I've made and in every effort I've been involved in, as I've said, I've really tried to be constructive about everything.
Some of you may take exception to some of the remarks I'm going to make, but I would just ask you to reflect on them because I think there's a lot more going on in this province and in this country than meets the eye. If we truly love our country and love our province and are part of this whole unique experiment which is called Canada, I think my remarks are to the point.
I'm appearing before you this afternoon as an individual, and what I will say are my words and thoughts, and my words and thoughts only. Let me take a moment or two to give you some background and some context so that essentially you'll know where I'm coming from and what my experience is. I'm 58 years old and I've worked as an architect and a general contractor all my life. I epitomize, I think, the small businessman, the entrepreneur. I have a bachelor's degree in science, with a major in psychology and zoology, as well as a degree in architecture, both from McGill University.
I was born and raised in Montreal. I worked as an architect for four years in the office of Moshe Safdie on Expo '67; I was a design and construction supervision architect on that project. In that office I also worked on projects for San Francisco State University, for Haifa, Israel, for the US Navy in designing and providing housing for its personnel in Puerto Rico. I've worked as an architectural adviser on city planning projects in the office of Candub Fleisig in Newark, New Jersey. I've been employed as a construction manager with Mondev Development Corp of Montreal and Finard and Sons of Boston, Massachusetts. I've owned and operated a successful construction company based in Vermont and engaged in commercial construction with operations in 13 states.
At present, and for the purpose of affiliation only -- and I want to stress that -- I can tell you that I am the co-chair of the land use caucus of the Ontario Environment Network and I've recently been appointed by the city council to the advisory committee on the environment here in London. Again, that's for affiliation only. I'm speaking strictly for myself.
The remarks I want to make this afternoon are inspired by some experience I've had as a citizen-participant in the Vision '96 process here in London. We're on the way, as you must know, to developing our official plan in response to the expansion of London into Middlesex county. Out of that experience and my growing concern with the general direction of the government of Mike Harris, and out of some of the contradictions I see in Bill 20, I want to make these remarks.
I want it known that I don't have any real solutions to any of the questions raised in the bill or that the bill addresses. I do not pretend to be that arrogant. I am, however, a firm and unapologetic believer in the democratic process, that equal respect be given to all interests and that government make every effort to consult them and consider their views. My comments will be of a general nature and will refer to the principles that must be preserved under the amendment to the Planning Act of March 1995.
Within the last year I have returned from living and working in the United States. The last 10 years of that were in Washington, DC. While in the States I witnessed the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the decline of America as a great nation. I've witnessed the moral decline of America and its loss of its beliefs in its ideals.
I consider myself an independent in my political views. My American heroes are Robert Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.
Mr Bisson: What a mix.
Mr Oliver: No, they're not. I admire them for the greatness of their thought and vision, for their beliefs in the ideals of the American experiment and in democracy, and I have come to understand and overlook their weaknesses.
While I consider myself an independent, I also consider myself a small-c conservative, "conservative" in the historical and best sense of that word. I believe in the importance of our institutions and their measured evolution. I believe in science to the best of our ability, in experience, in debate, in pragmatism and in a future that will be as good as or better for our children than it has been for us.
What I've witnessed in my expatriate years is the rise of Thatcherism in England, the rise of Reaganism in the United States and the travesty engineered by Sir Roger Douglas that is now referred to euphemistically as the restructuring of New Zealand. The common denominator in all three experiences is a completely new political phenomenon that defies the concerns of the traditional conservative movement. The best name for this movement is not neo-conservative. We true conservatives can do a lot better than that. The best name at this time and the only name I can think of is radical right, for radical it is in every sense of the word. This movement, this radical right, is not grounded in any of our institutions, pays cursory respect to societal values and is little more than an oversimplification of economic ideology without a soul.
For whatever reasons, be it the perceived threat to the democracies by totalitarian Communism or the increasingly pervasive and compelling forces of change that now affect all our lives, many have come to believe in our economic system as a self-fulfilling, self-motivated entity that will somehow lead us to salvation. This in my view is a complete distortion of the nature, the origin and the function of an economy, and nothing in my mind could be further from the truth.
Along with the rise of this belief in the economy as the source of our salvation came the momentary success of America and the rise of an ideal form of materialism, whose temptations even I, as conscious as I am of its negative influence, struggle with daily.
An economy, in my view, is an expression of the social ethic and individual values of a society or a culture. An economy is nothing more than a tool for the fulfilment of the unwritten aspirations of such groups.
In my experience, America has surrendered its democratic ideals to the pursuit of its economy. For those outside the economic system, they have experienced what Jefferson always feared: the tyranny of the majority. In America, everything is measured in the units of their economy. Individual worth is measured by such monetary units. The success of the economy itself is quantified with economic indicators that have nothing to do -- nothing to do -- with human values.
"The recession is over," the economists declare, "America is doing well." Indeed, the Dow Jones averages are doing well, but where are the jobs that allow hardworking men and women to be independent and provide for their families? "Why cannot Americans control their economy better?" the noted Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith repeatedly asks. "Why," asks the conservative Republican analyst Kevin Phillips, in his examination of the conservative anti-government periods of capitalist expansion, "do we continue to allow the growing disparity of income and wealth between rich and poor?"
Must we make the same mistakes here in Ontario, in Canada? Do we not have something very special that defines us as a diverse yet compassionate, inclusive and just people, and can we not preserve that special quality?
One of the compounding tenets of the radical right, and a temptation, I must say, to all of us, is to oversimplify the problem at hand, define it in monetary units and portray government as the devil and those who elect it and have the power to change it as its victims. On a number of occasions I have heard ministers of the Harris government use the words so commonly found in the impotent political speech of America, to the effect that we must "get government off the backs of the people." In the media kit that accompanied the announcement of Bill 20 on November 16, it was stated, "This government must...get rid of obstacles to growth." How, I ask you, can a duly constituted set of planning legislation and principles developed over a substantial period of public consultation be an obstacle to growth, especially since they have never been tried?
If I make any point in this tirade, this is the one thing that I think is desperately important: We must be aware of the destructiveness of political speech that is devoid of meaning and discourage it at every occasion. In the passion of political debate it is tempting, but we must become aware of it and avoid it. If not, we could become enslaved by it, as are our good neighbours to the south.
The other argument I have is with the notion that we either cut services or increase taxes, again a gross oversimplification and one which, when spoken with authority, discourages creative thinking and masks the real solutions, which will only be found when we come to understand the true forces that are causing us to change and when we as a society develop a consensus as to how the new role of government, the new disposition of power and decision-making authority and the new role of the individual will be.
I believe the Harris government is a new political phenomenon, that it misunderstands the nature and capacity of an economy to address social and economic problems and exhibits all the trademarks of a non-conservative radical right form of behaviour. Typical is a recent statement by Finance minister Eves that, despite other counsel, tax cuts will go ahead and "let the chips fall where they may." This belief in the ability of the invisible hand of the marketplace to cure all ills is a tenet that was expounded over 250 years ago by a respected economic philosopher, Adam Smith. It was adequate and useful in its time and for the simple economy in the context of which it was espoused. So was the science of Sir Isaac Newton, but societies are now much more complicated, and believing that the simple principles revealed in The Wealth of Nations can successfully address our present social and economic problems is like expecting the good Sir Isaac to design and engineer the space shuttle, a mismatch if ever there was one and one for which we would all pay dearly.
The role of government in the late-modern, 20th-century, highly technological society is to keep the playing field of opportunity level for all and to address inequities.
One fact that I believe to be true is that there is a basic conflict between a true democracy where the goal is to distribute power evenly, a capitalist, free market economy which tends to concentrate economic power, and Christian and other forms of religion which are concerned with individual behaviour and belief. Since we have all three and their conflicts must be tempered, we need wise and judicious government that concerns itself with more than the administration of justice, the defence of the realm and, in our present case, the promotion of a healthy economy at all costs.
That's basically what I have to say. Does anyone have any response at all?
The Chair: Thank you. We appreciate your comments. You've left us six minutes for questioning by each caucus. We'll start this round with the government.
Mr Oliver: Have you had a chance to read over -- okay, good.
Mr Baird: Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate you coming today. I just have one quick question before some comments. You mentioned that many ministers have said, "We've got to get government off the backs of people," and you found this disturbing. Which ministers and in which context did you find that disturbing?
Mr Oliver: I know one occasion --
Mr Baird: You mentioned many. Is there one that --
Mr Oliver: Mr Hardeman's not a minister, right?
Mr Baird: No. Mr Hardeman's a parliamentary assistant.
Mr Oliver: Excuse me, a parliamentary assistant. I'm sorry I can't put my finger on it, but I know I reacted to it right away when I heard it, because my reference point is still my experience in the States. In another maybe half a year or six months or so, life here will probably become normal and I will have forgotten my experience living in America. But I notice so many things, even to this day: the way fathers and children behave in public, the language used here in Ontario and in Canada, the concern for the poor, the quality of government services -- just so many things.
I'm sorry that I can't really identify that and I wouldn't like to say unless I was sure.
Mr Baird: I was just curious because you had said that on many occasions many ministers had, and that would just concern me.
Mr Oliver: I really have noticed it, and I react very quickly to that because it's something that drove me crazy in the United States.
Mr Baird: But you don't remember which ministers?
Mr Oliver: I'm sorry, I can't answer that question.
Mr Baird: Number 2 on your sheet is, "Protect, without compromise, the environment." We're obviously wanting to seek an appropriate balance between development and the environment, between the economy and the environment. That's a challenge for governments at all levels, municipal, provincial and federal. What type of balance do you think is appropriate?
Mr Oliver: I am not very optimistic about the environment. I have done a lot of work in the States on environmental issues -- in a volunteer capacity, but I tried to do a good job -- and I have been involved in lobbying the state of Maryland and the federal government in Washington with volunteer citizen-based groups.
What I respect deeply and what I would recommend as reading for everyone is the sixth edition of the biennial report of the International Joint Commission on Great Lakes Water Quality. The commissioners were appointees by Ronald Reagan and Bush, very conservative businessmen who had supported the campaigns rather generously, and three Canadian appointees by Mulroney. They were conservative gentlemen, and in a relatively short period of time they came to take very extreme positions on the environment. One of the recommendations in that 6th biennial report is to phase out chlorine as a feedstock in all manufacturing processes. This is something we don't talk about, that the most extreme environmentalist doesn't talk about in public. They became convinced by their scientists and numerous studies that we are engaged in a grand experiment.
In my view, we will never know, we will never understand the way nature works, the way the climate works. The quest for a unified theory to explain the behaviour of all matter most likely will end up as a mathematical formula. What I'm saying to you is that we don't know what we're doing and we have more chemicals now in our adipose body fat than we had 20 years ago, chemicals that never existed at that time.
Mr Baird: We can only do the best job, knowing the small amount we do know about nature.
Mr Oliver: Right. What I want to come in defence of, though, is true conservatism. We take far too many risks. We've gotten away with it so far. I don't believe that's going to continue, and I am not an alarmist, believe me. I am not a pessimist by any stretch of the imagination. I've had a good life, life is good for me, but I am very concerned. I think we should turn our scientists loose to determine that. Our political system gets in the way often.
Mr Bob Wood: I have a couple of fast questions, and I'd invite you to give fast answers if you can. What would your reaction be to performance criteria for the various entities involved in the planning process? To take one example, say the OMB, that they'd have to hold a hearing within a year?
Mr Oliver: Excellent idea. I'm a businessman, eh? Excellent idea.
Mr Bob Wood: You've offered some general philosophical comments. It's interesting the degree of consensus we have on principles. The devil is in the details, where we tend to get disagreement. Can I ask you to, with equal expedition, because unfortunately we are short on time, tell me the three things you like most about this bill and the three things you least like.
Mr Oliver: I like the devolution of powers to the municipalities, but if that's going to be done the principles have to be strong, because the municipalities need guidelines. They also need access to expertise, especially the smaller ones. This is not a uniform community of municipalities: Some have a lot of resources, some have none; some are sophisticated, some aren't. I cry when I drive through parts of Ontario and see what's happened to the small towns. It's a shame. We talk about heritage preservation. It doesn't exist, as far as I can see.
What else? A number of things. I like the idea of the single ministry, the single window, if you would. I think some of the performance standards in terms of the time frame for approvals are a little unrealistic. I think more work should go into determining what the standard should be. Since subdivisions can vary so much in their complexity, I think there should be a negotiating period at the beginning of the application process between whoever represents the approval authorities and the applicant to determine what a reasonable time frame would be, paying respect to the guidelines. There are some very complicated subdivisions and some very simple ones, so I don't know why we should be rigid about this. I think there should be standards. The drive should be to reduce the time as much as possible; I don't see any point in wasting people's money. Money and wealth can be used for a lot of different things. I think the idea of standards is an excellent one, but there should be some flexibility there.
Mr Lalonde: I just heard the end of your comments, that you're in favour of dealing with just the one minister. Is that what you said?
Mr Oliver: From what I can understand, to have the single ministry, Municipal Affairs and Housing I believe is the proposal --
Mr Lalonde: But you are concerned about the environment and the heritage also. Don't you think that dealing with just the one minister will create some problems on heritage issues, conservation issues?
Mr Oliver: The standards outlined in the principles should be clearly defined and in fact should be strengthened if that's going to be the case. There's a great deal of inefficiency when you have to go to so many ministries for approvals and everything else, and the conflict between them in the standards -- I mean, I've heard horror stories about that kind of thing. I think the one-window type of environment for approvals is a good idea. I don't think anything should be overlooked in that process, and I think the standards should be strong and the standards should be strengthened.
Mr Lalonde: If the standards are in place, the one-window approach is satisfactory to you.
Mr Oliver: I think so. I'm qualifying myself because, believe me, I said I wasn't an arrogant person. These are complicated issues, and I would love to see a full-fledged debate on these points by people of opposing views who have full knowledge about all of this. But it seems to me that's not an unreasonable idea.
Mr Lalonde: But when it comes to a conservation issue, for example, or an agriculture issue, without extending the time frame, they should have the right to comment whenever there's a conservation issue.
Mr Oliver: My comeback then is that that, to me, would indicate a more complex subdivision or a project of a more complex nature and therefore more time could be negotiated at the beginning to set a reasonable standard for the time involved. There are ways of doing this. I'm in construction every day of my life. I solve thousands of problems, no problem, and we get on with the job and it's good. Some of my best friends are my clients, so I do something right somewhere. It's all possible.
Mr Bisson: I appreciate your presentation. As far as I know, you're the only presenter who's come here to speak from the heart in regard to how you feel about where public policy is going. I know that's always uncomfortable for a government. I was on the receiving end of some of those discussions during our time in government as New Democrats, where some of the people in our party felt that the direction we were taking as a government wasn't true to what they believed the party should be doing. I have some sympathy for the government.
But I've got to agree with you to the extent that I come from a part of Ontario, up in Timmins, where we have traditionally elected only Conservatives or New Democrats to the House at the provincial level. The Conservatives who have been elected successfully have been those who ran and have worked as small-c conservatives, who believe that on the fiscal side you must be prudent, must be careful, must watch out for tomorrow and make sure you don't make things so onerous that it's impossible to create wealth, but who have always understood there's a balance to our society, in this experiment called Canada, as you said -- I think you're 100% on. We decided in Canada back in 1867 that we wanted a different country from the United States and we set out a much different path for our country. Where we're going, I fear, drives us off that path quite a bit to where, quite frankly, we're going to become much more allied with the ideologies of the radical right. I'll be going back to your comments and re-reading them, because there's some language in there that I think hits the nail on the head.
Specific to Bill 20, a couple of things, first the one-window approach issue. I agree that government needs to find a way to make things easier for the developers and the people in the planning community to move projects through. I was part of the government that initiated the first one-window approach in the province when it came to permitting around mining issues. There used to be a time in the mining industry, if you were a prospector or a developer, when you had to go to the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Mines -- you name it -- to get your information. I think we learned something through that process, that however good it might be in terms of assisting the developer to do the job, sometimes in practice it's more difficult.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs does not have biologists on staff who understand issues of the environment when it comes to wetlands policy. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs may not have on staff the expertise it needs to take a look at those provincial policies that we have decided are for the public good. I'm a little fearful that we may end up in a situation where, if you have a Ministry of Municipal Affairs led by a minister and a government that are pro-development -- and if you read the title of the act, that's what this is all about -- we may not take into consideration those other issues as strongly as they need to be to strike that balance. In light of that, should we not be making sure that MNR and MOE and others have some kind of role -- a streamlined role, but some kind of role -- when it comes to making sure that if there are concerns out there, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has to take them seriously? As it is now, they won't have to.
Mr Oliver: In a development or a subdivision where environmental considerations are a real issue, the finest expertise should look at those. Listen, you're asking me to design the system, and I can't do that. For me to come up with answers and ideas really would be presumptuous.
Mr Bisson: I don't think individually any of us on this committee can, quite frankly. It's a community process that we have to look at. What is that we want in the end? We want to create economic development, but we want to do it in a way that safeguards the environment and certain principles we set forward, and in my view we should be trying to elicit the views of those people who are expert in the field to make sure we don't do something disastrous for the future. I guess that's my fear around the one window, and I wonder if you share that to a certain extent, or do you still feel the same?
Mr Oliver: At this point, I would say I think it could be done, but it has to be done properly, no question about that, and everything should be considered.
Mr Bisson: I agree that you have to have strong policy to drive the local planning process. You're bang on. If we've heard anything through these committee hearings, it's that most people -- not everybody, but most people -- agree with the government's view that planning should be devolved more to the local level of government. We started that process as New Democrats through Bill 163; the government is carrying that further, and I think we can all agree. But I would echo what you're saying, that you have to have clear policy and guidelines, not only so the municipalities adhere to provincial policy but also so they are better able to do their jobs.
At the beginning of your presentation, you listed your many accomplishments, both professional and the community involvement you've had throughout your life. I would say your degree in zoology certainly makes you an expert to deal with this committee.
Mr Oliver: I guess this is conclusion time, eh? If I could say just one thing to the committee -- and I'm not admonishing you. You are my peers; you are superior to me in many ways, so I'm not admonishing you in any sense. But I must say, when I saw the exchanges that went on over Bill 26 -- I was at the Radisson Hotel here for the first round of hearings on non-health issues -- and then when I witnessed the debate over the amendments in the amendment committee on the Ontario channel, I was appalled. We can't solve problems like that. I know there's a lot of fire and passion. I find the Harris government very provocative, if I may say so, and I am deeply, deeply concerned about what's happening in Ontario. However, it's politics, and we have to find the best solutions, we have to make the compromises. If these solutions don't really pay respect to all the different interests, these solutions will not stick; they will come undone sometime in the future, and we can't afford that.
I would urge you, please, as I've suggested in one of the items on this sheet, that you engage the best advice you can and hold a constructive debate over the amendments. No one's going to be entirely happy, I know that, but the quality of debate has to improve. It just has to improve.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Oliver. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
Mr Oliver: Thank you. I appreciate being here, I really do.
Mr Hardeman: Mr Chairman, if I could have just a moment of the committee's time, I think the committee was to meet tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock to start the clause-by-clause. I do believe we have unanimous consent of the three parties to delay that to 1 o'clock. We hope to have all the amendments that would be proposed at that time by all three parties to be exchanged, so we could all have an opportunity to review those amendments prior to starting the clause-by-clause at 1 o'clock.
We also recognize that the subcommittee had discussions before we started the hearing, and we thought we could conclude the clause-by-clause in 15 hours. Recognizing that this would take three of those hours, if they're required, I'm sure we could get unanimous consent to continue the discussion on Thursday evening for those three hours to get the full three hours in.
Mr Bisson: Just on that point, I just want to be clear here. I haven't got a problem, from our party's perspective, giving you consent to start at 1, but if debate needs to go on a little bit further on clause-by-clause, Thursday night might be a problem for some of us because we live out of town and we have planes to catch. So I'm wondering maybe we can do that when the House comes back.
Mr Hardeman: I think we would all be prepared to look at it when we get the amendments. If we feel that these three hours would be required, we could do it Wednesday evening too.
Mr Bisson: Can I ask then that we split out of your unanimous consent motion that we just deal with starting at 1 o'clock, and then regarding the length of the hearing we can do that later? I wouldn't want to tie the two of them together because I may not be able to be there Thursday, and as my party's critic there might be issues that we haven't dealt with sufficiently.
Mr Hardeman: The only concern we have as a committee I believe is that we do propose to have the clause-by-clause completed by Thursday, there not being an opportunity, or not being time scheduled for further debate. I would not want to take the three hours and then find out that somewhere along the line we need to put it off for days and weeks to finish those last three hours. I would hope that we could complete the debate on clause-by-clause by the set time limit that the subcommittee had agreed on to the 15 hours of debate.
Mr Bisson: Well, it puts me in a bit of a position. I'm a little bit reluctant to give unanimous consent from this side, at least from our party's perspective, unless we split that at this point. I need to go talk to the rest of my caucus colleagues and we need to take a look at the rest of the amendments before we can agree on the other part. It's a little bit premature. I'm trying to be cooperative because I understand you do have a time line that you're trying to meet, but I would ask that we separate those two items at this point.
Mr Baird: The parliamentary assistant mentioned that we could perhaps look at Wednesday evening. Would that meet your concern? If we had to meet one of the two nights, I would suggest Wednesday night would probably be better. I know the members from the New Democratic Party, the member for Prescott-Russell and myself live outside of the greater Toronto area and we have to travel back to our constituencies on Thursday, and it would be difficult. Your earlier statement that Wednesday night might be appropriate maybe could be the answer to Mr Bisson's concern.
Mr Bisson: I don't know what my schedule is on Thursday.
Mr Hardeman: I would just point out that the agreement to start at 1 as opposed to 9 is not to reduce the hours. We still hope to make 15 hours available for the clause-by-clause debate if it would suit the committee better to be on Wednesday instead of Thursday. That would be appropriate.
Mr Bisson: I'm trying to be supportive to your motion, but I just don't want to handcuff us on the time. I don't know where I am Wednesday night. I'm just checking it out here. Actually, I've got something at 7. Wednesday, I'm at a function at 7. I've got to be gone by about 6. Al Leach's riding; something to do with rent control.
The Chair: Is there any further discussion on the matter?
Mr Baird: That goes some way to try to meet your concern, which I think is valid.
Mr Bisson: We might be able to deal with it in the time from 1 o'clock on Wednesday to Thursday. It might turn out that your amendment and our amendment -- because I think we have some agreement on some issues -- we might be able to get through it. But if not I just don't want to handcuff us so that we end up losing those three hours. But I recognize the need to push it up to 1 o'clock.
Mr Hardeman: Again, we'd be amenable to looking at alternatives to the three hours that if required would not be lost, but we do not want to go on into the following week, to try and set up a totally new day for further debate. We hope to be able to complete it at the end of those 15 hours that were agreed upon at the start of the process.
Mr Bisson: I don't know. The Liberal caucus -- any comments?
Mr Lalonde: I agree. If we could have it Wednesday night instead of Thursday night, I would support that.
Mr Baird: Perhaps there could be discussion on the sections we debate on the Wednesday evening, if you couldn't be there, but if there were particular sections that you as critic could work out with one of your colleagues, I think that would be appropriate.
Mr Bisson: I'm trying not to be obstructive here. Can we just deal with the one issue, to start tomorrow at 1?
Mr Bisson: I don't want to make you go past Thursday, but I just have to check out my colleagues.
Mr Hardeman: I guess my only concern, Mr Bisson --
Mr Bisson: Negotiation in the committee here.
Mr Hardeman: -- is the same as your concern. I have concern that by going to 1 and then not dealing with the 15 hours and being done by Thursday, we would inadvertently then end up not knowing when we would complete the debate, where we would put those other three hours. I think there's a need to deal with them together for that reason.
Mr Bisson: We can deal with the three-hour issue tomorrow is all I'm suggesting. We can do it within that day and half, but I can't say Wednesday, Thursday night; it depends on the availability of my colleagues who would take my place.
Mr Hardeman: Again, not to be insistent, but if we deal with the three hours, we start tomorrow at 1 o'clock, then there's no way of dealing with those three hours, putting them back into the beginning.
Mr Galt: I think what I'm hearing, Mr Chair, is that they're quite willing to go along with starting at 1 o'clock provided the 15 hours are wound up by Thursday night and we'd work within it someplace.
Mr Bisson: Yes, and I'm not sure where the extra three hours will be put. That's all I'm telling you. So I don't want to be committed to where those three hours will be.
Mr Hardeman: As long as we're all committed that they would be put in before the end of Thursday night, I have no problem. Yes.
Mr Galt: I'm hearing that that's part of the motion.
Mr Hardeman: If everyone is agreed that we will be concluded by Thursday night --
Mr Bisson: I'll give you this one, Ernie, but you owe me one.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you.
Mr Bisson: You're welcome.
The Chair: So we have unanimous consent?
Mr Bisson: Yeah.
The Chair: Thank you all.
Mr Bisson: I need your support on rent control, though.
LONDON AREA PLANNING CONSULTANTS
The Chair: Thank you for the forbearance of the London Area Planning Consultants, who are our next presenters. Good afternoon. Welcome to the committee. We have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between presentation and question-and-answer period.
Mr Laverne Kirkness: Thank you very much. My name is Laverne Kirkness. We have a one-page brief, which we hope you take time to read, and I'm going to go through it with you.
I want to make it clear that I am Laverne Kirkness and I am on the sheet. The other two people are on the sheet but they're not here. This gentleman is Ron Burnett, and he's another vice-president of the London Area Planning Consultants. If you have done any consulting in your lives, you probably know that you get sort of tossed around from day to day, and Jean Monteith and John Henricks -- John Henricks is here, but he already has been speaking through the chamber. That's at the bottom of this sheet, and Jean Monteith is not here as of yet. So Ron Burnett and myself, Laverne Kirkness, will carry this.
I just had one question: When I looked at my fax sheet here, there's quite a few different people here, I presume, Mr Chairman, than what's on this list. Is that the case?
The Chair: I can't see it from here, but it's quite possible there have been members substituted on, yes.
Mr Kirkness: I see. Okay. That sort of happens all the time, right? I just wanted to make sure I was in front of the right committee.
Mr Bisson: You are.
Mr Kirkness: Our organization is 20 members strong. We basically have 20 small planning consulting firms that practise largely in the Middlesex-London region. Some of us have maybe up to 12 employees, but most of us are operating with one to three or five employees. I did give you a list of planning consultants who are members. There are 20 companies under this organization called the London Area Planning Consultants, and our purpose basically is to balance the public side of planning, in a way.
Most planners, I think, in the public side are seen to work for government -- municipal, federal or provincial, or a crown corporation, I suppose -- but there is probably a third of the planners in this province working in the private sector. We're representing only, of course, the London-Middlesex region planning consultants, and we're here basically to offer advice to people who want to do something with their land in the name of good planning. We come together with our brothers and sisters of public planning, of course, in professional organizations. Most of us are members of the Canadian Institute of Planners as well as the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. We feel, though, that most of the submissions that are often made to you come from a dominance of public planning and we want to make it clear that there is at least a strong minority of private planners who think we might have some things to add to that, and may not be exactly coincident with the public planning perspective, in fact likely not.
We want to indicate to you, and that starts really with the second paragraph, that we're in general support, and I would say enthusiastic support, of Bill 20. We feel that it better balances the perspectives of economic, social, environmental, and perhaps agriculture should also be given room there. It does more to give municipalities the power that has been talked about but somehow they haven't received, at least we felt as a group, through Bill 163. We feel that this does more to give them the power and the responsibility.
As we discussed this bill among our meetings, we all seemed to come to the conclusion that municipalities -- they range in size greatly and in number, and of course, there's upper tier, lower tier, and it's quite complex in this province, which I probably don't need to tell you. We have found, and our experience is, that generally the decisions municipalities make are good. They're good decisions and we're in support of them being able to make more decisions, largely because of their track record.
We also think, as a fundamental philosophy of our organization, or the culture of our London area planning consultants group, that land ownership is important and having rights with that ownership is important. Now, that's not to jeopardize the public interest, it's to fully recognize that there's a balance here with the regulation against those rights. But we feel that Bill 20 goes a long way to recognize and put confidence in land owners' views and what they want to do with their land and the kind of advice that they buy to help them make those decisions. We feel Bill 20 provides a better forum for that and doesn't sort of pull the rug out from under them like, perhaps, some would perceive Bill 163 did, or does. Therefore, I think that maybe the most important sentence in that second paragraph is that it has a better balance of economic, social and environmental perspectives. We leave that there.
Some of the specific highlights: We're certainly endorsing the reduced approval time frames. We certainly endorse the "have regard for" as opposed to the "be consistent with." I think we're still learning, perhaps, about some of the implications of "be consistent with" in terms of what it means but it seems to get us into a lot of unknown territory which provides a basis for a lot of debate that maybe isn't all that productive and "have regard for" is, some would say, a looser but perhaps more flexible kind of approach to making sure we recognize and respect provincial policy.
The prematurity argument before the OMB: Prematurity is a very complex issue with respect to land development and it's forums like the Ontario Municipal Board where those kinds of issues can be properly delivered and decided upon so an appeal on that basis is supported.
The one-window approach: Well, I can't tell you that we were as enthusiastic about that as the others above it but we think it should be given a chance and then if the Ministry of Municipal Affairs -- and we understand that, really, for a long time the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is supposed to have been sort of the window, the one-window approach, but haven't performed that way. Hopefully, Bill 20 will refresh their memories, I suppose, and develop regulations and powers that they will, in fact, be the one window that they were intended to be in the past.
Putting more approvals to counties and regions is a point that we are making, really, as part of the municipal empowerment and, as I understand it, the province is intending to get out of the approval business and we think that is largely the right direction to take.
There are some things that we would suggest and that gets to the fourth title. Some of us are having difficulty with municipalities in determining what a complete application is and, therefore, when does the clock start, even under the existing legislation. We have had a case where we have had to do circulation of a subdivision informally to all of the various ministries and agencies. In fact, we were supplied with a list before -- and to document that informal input as part of the application, and we have to question whether or not that's really what the province means in terms of a complete application, whether we actually do a dry run on a proposal in a fairly comprehensive way before we actually make the application and the time can start.
We're hoping that you'll be clear, probably in the regulations, around the implementation guidelines and what constitutes a complete application. Therefore, there won't be any question by a municipality in saying, or to a proponent of development, "This is when we can receive." We're not suggesting that only a name and a hand-drawn map are all that is required. We would really appreciate it if the province would be clear somewhere so that we don't have to arbitrate this with municipalities every time we make an application for a land development proponent.
That gets us to minor variances, another subject. It's basically thinking that maybe we should just leave it in the council's hands as to who should decide on minor variances. Again, among our group I can convey to you that in our discussions the kind of minor variance appeals we tend to get in front of the Ontario Municipal Board invariably have the members shaking their heads saying, "You know, you guys are making a big deal out of this; it's really not something the province should be deciding at all, and wouldn't it be better if we just leave it in the hands of local government?" Let them try. As I say, and it goes back to my previous statement, municipalities tend to make pretty fair, positive decisions even though they don't always agree with the planning consultant position.
We're suggesting perhaps to simplify the minor variance thing. That is, regardless of the composition of the committee of adjustment, whether it's all council members, one council member or no council members, just leave it up to council and don't allow for the OMB appeal. In talking to consultants in other parts of the province, such as in Toronto, we understand that a lot of major development occurs in such places as the city of Toronto on the basis of a minor variance approval, and all kinds of conditions can be attached and so on, therefore you need an appeal mechanism. We find it hard to believe that we would let -- albeit a large municipality. But perhaps it's not the proper use of the planning instruments to allow large development under minor variance, that they should get their planning instruments in control and updated and not be using minor variance as a way of levering large development.
We can't come to you and say, "This is the answer"; we're coming to you saying, "Let's try it." If there seems to be some problem with not having the right to appeal, we're all in favour of democracy and fairness and justice, and if we need a level of appeal, okay; we just think that maybe from the committee to council is fine and dandy for the significance of the minor variance kind of application.
We have learned also that the plan of subdivision as a planning instrument is going to have the pre-1983 rule of lapsing. That seems to us to be a backward step, particularly a three-year lapsing, because three years go by so quickly, and with growth sort of in spurts and starts and fits and right now hardly at all, three years is just too short a time frame. So if lapsing has to be, we're suggesting five years as a minimum. I think others are suggesting 10 and so on. We're not against 10 years. We're certainly not against no lapsing at all; in other words, we're in favour of no lapsing but we felt that perhaps it's going too far to ask that of you.
The retroactivity question or, when will this Bill 20 be proclaimed and when will it be in effect: We're thinking that it would make it a lot more simple if you were to go back to March 1995 and say, "That's when it's in effect." When there's probably only a one-year window, we don't know that that's going to harm anybody. We think that Bill 20 probably will require less on applications than more, and consequently, applications that are already in the mill will probably be quite okay. We're not sure we understand why it can't go back or that there is any planning reason why we can't go back to March. So, we're suggesting to you retroactivity.
Of course, in combination with that, we're suggesting that you expedite the proclamation and the delivery of the implementation guidelines maybe quicker than July if you can muster the strength and get whatever done to be able to do that.
That basically concludes the of presentation we wanted to make to you and we'd be open, certainly, to any questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We have four minutes for each caucus for questioning. This round will commence with the official opposition, but before they do, I notice we're joined by the former member for Middlesex, Irene Mathyssen. Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us.
Mr Lalonde: I see that you represent 20 different firms from your association. I thought at the beginning it was going to be a sales pitch, the way you proceeded. But anyway, I do take into consideration that you're looking at a time frame which at times really will benefit the municipality and also the developer. I do foresee that you people are going to be playing a very important role in meeting the time frame that has been indicated in this Bill 20. One question that I have is, how do you see the fact that there will be no public meeting requirements for a plan of subdivision?
Mr Kirkness: Mr Lalonde, I think that in most cases a rezoning application usually accompanies the plan of subdivision where a public meeting then is required, so that probably answers at least two thirds of the plans of subdivision because of the accompanying zoning application. The other third is probably taken care of because perhaps the plan of subdivision isn't sufficiently significant to warrant a public meeting or, as I understand it, Bill 20 does not prevent a council from having a public meeting; they just won't require it. So there still may be the same amount of public meetings going on with that planning tool. You're just leaving it up to the municipalities.
Mr Lalonde: Good. My next question would be concerning development charges. Do you feel that the software part should be included in the development charges?
Mr Burnett: That's not been a part of our concern.
Mr Lalonde: Soft services, sorry.
Mr Kirkness: We have not got through the debate on development charges. I'm sorry to come here looking like we're not prepared in that sense, but we just have not got at that, so I can't offer you an organizational position on whether soft services should be included.
Mr Lalonde: My last one would be minor variance appeal. There's a lot of interpretation in this minor variance appeal because at times we feel it would be better if the third party has the right to appeal to the OMB and at other times it doesn't. It depends on the interpretation of the committee of adjustment. I've seen in the past that a minor variance is just a few inches or a few feet, really, that have to be dealt with. But at other times I've seen in the past that you would create five lots within an infilling piece of land that would permit only three residential lots. In this case, I don't call that minor variance, but the interpretation of different minor variance adjustment committees would consider this as a minor variance. At that point, do you feel they should have the right to appeal to the OMB if it isn't accepted by the municipal council, for instance?
Mr Kirkness: No, we're offering the position to you that there shouldn't be an appeal. The reason is that we feel that the history of minor variances in this province has evolved to rest on four tests, which basically means conformity with the official plan, compliance with the zoning bylaw, is it appropriate and is it minor?
Those are very broad headings, but a very comprehensive way of approaching a minor variance, and if the committee of adjustment is responsible, they'll look at those four tests, which are well established in planning practice and law, to come up with the proper decision.
In some cases the example you're quoting may be minor; in other cases it may not. It depends on those four tests, and that is what we would rely on.
Mr Ron Burnett: As a continuation of that, Mr Lalonde, what happens is that if it goes to council and if the recommendation is again that it is not minor in nature and therefore would not conform to the minor variance application, it is completed and finished. The applicant can then go and apply for a rezoning application, which will bring it back into the public forum. Therefore, what has been done is that you've completed the circuit on a minor variance. You're not waiting for a year and a half to go to the board and having the discussions there, which may end up being the same thing. Just take it back and make an application for a rezoning.
Mr Bisson: I just want to pick up again on the minor variance thing. First of all, you would recognize that the vast majority -- well, let me ask you the question. Would you say it's a majority or a minority of minor variances that are dealt with at the committee of adjustment level, by councils?
Mr Burnett: Are you asking as to whether the variances are minor that are dealt with?
Mr Bisson: No. What I'm asking is, of minor variances that are dealt with at the committee of adjustment, would you say a majority of those end up going to the OMB, or a minority of those?
Mr Kirkness: A minority.
Mr Burnett: A minority, yes. In some cases in some jurisdictions, a minor variance can be dealt with by staff members of the council.
Mr Bisson: We understand that. But the point I'm trying to make here is that the majority of cases are dealt with at committee of adjustment, because I agree with you: Most councils, on most cases, get them right. But there are times where there is a difference of opinion, what M. Lalonde talked about, and in other cases -- it may not go to the extreme that you talked about -- where there is really a difference of opinion. To leave it strictly in the hands of the municipal councils -- sometimes, I would say and I would argue, what drives a municipal council in regard to planning is much different than what drives the province. I would say, and I don't think I'm telling stories out of school here, councils tend to be more, "I want to get the development done, from the economic perspective of my community," and sometimes they don't look at some of the other issues. How do you deal with those legitimate cases where a council may say no, and the individual has no right to appeal? Because there are those cases. They are not all vexatious; let's get that clear.
Mr Kirkness: I can't disagree with you in terms of the qualitative statements. In terms of quantitative, I'm not sure that we would come to an agreement with our perception about how many decisions council makes that are correct and those that maybe aren't because they haven't looked at everything. I think in our presentation to you we conveyed that generally municipal councils make very good decisions.
Mr Bisson: Nobody disagrees.
Mr Kirkness: In fact, some would argue that really in the name of democracy, that kind of decision should certainly stop with an elected body.
Mr Bisson: But in a democracy a person always has a right to an appeal, be it through a judicial process or through a process such as the OMB. I guess what I have to ask you is, in your experience, of those cases that were not dealt with at the committee of adjustment level, that ended up becoming appeals before the OMB, would you say that you would consider a minority or a majority of those to be vexatious or frivolous?
Mr Kirkness: I would say the majority were vexatious or frivolous, from our experience in this region.
Mr Bisson: You're the first to actually say that, because most people I've asked this question of say they are in the minority. But the point still remains that there are still cases out there that end up before the OMB on minor variances where the appellant is actually right and the decision of the local council is overturned for good reason. How do you stop that person from not having their day in court?
Mr Kirkness: I guess maybe it would revert to my friend's position that if it's really that wrong, there's another route through a rezoning application. To the extent that the situation that you're describing occurs, maybe that's the safety. That's a sufficient safety valve, allowing the rezoning application to come in.
Mr Bisson: We could take up that issue but it would take up more time than we've got.
Mr Smith: Thank you for your presentation and your general supporting comments with respect to this bill.
I want to take you to your suggested area of improvements and specifically your comments on what constitutes a complete application. Perhaps I can throw that question out to you, gentlemen. You're obviously involved on a regular basis in the preparation and receiving of planning applications. What do you believe the minister should include as tombstone information in a planning application?
Mr Burnett: I just recently completed an application for a plan of subdivision that must have had at least 40 different items that they wanted to have on there and that if, for failure of the completion of a bit of incidental information on the plan, it wasn't to be circulated. I think that the application could have been circulated without that and it's a very difficult situation to sit here. I haven't specifically looked at chapter and verse, paragraph and sentence to what is important, what is critical and what is not as critical. Most planning departments will be able to determine whether it's complete, complete in the sense of having enough information if it's appropriately done, and it should be and can be circulated as it stands, with some additional information to come. That's a start on it. Laverne, do you have anything else?
Mr Kirkness: The tombstone information, I guess -- is what you mean very basic information, Mr Smith?
Mr Smith: Yes.
Mr Kirkness: Well, a name, owner, address, map and of course a description of the proposal is necessary. I don't think that is at issue. It's all the necessary studies that might come along, depending on the planning context -- you know, environmental, traffic, noise -- and I think a list could be prepared of the potential studies that could be required to be included, and that would be part of the minister's role, through their staff, to provide that.
From there, I think there needs to be some guidance to the municipality. They just can't require them, one, two, three; there has to be some justification. Perhaps, on the basis of a list, the applicant should be required as part of the application to review those titles and indicate whether or not they think any of those things need to be attended to and, if so, how they intend to do that. But to actually go out and require circulations and very comprehensive kinds of associated studies is maybe beyond the application requirement or eligibility.
Mr Smith: Thank you. My second question: Earlier today we heard from Mr Boyd with the county of Lambton, and in his presentation he went so far as to suggest, with respect to the draft provincial policy statements, that there should be a complete elimination of any associated guideline documents. Would that be a position that you would support? You alluded at the outset of your presentation to the difference, perhaps, between public and private sector planning officials. Is that a position that you would support? What might be your comment on that particular matter?
Mr Kirkness: The planning director of Lambton suggested that there be no implementation guidelines?
Mr Smith: That's correct.
Mr Kirkness: We never really asked that question among our group, but I think, in fairness, that we can convey to you that we think there should be implementation guidelines. It's just that they should be much more brief and clear than the ones that we are presently working with. The legislation and the policies aren't enough, but it seemed like the implementation guidelines that we have to work with now were going so overboard that we're all asking for you to make those more brief and more clear. Yes, there will still be some interpretation, but at least there will be better direction given from the province.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make the presentation before us this afternoon. We appreciate your comments.
WATERLOO FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: Our final presentation of the day, and in fact the last of about 170 groups making presentations on this bill, is from Heritage Acres, although I notice on the front of their brief there are other designations, also the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture. So perhaps more will be explained shortly.
Good afternoon to you both. Welcome to the committee. Just as a reminder, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer time.
Mrs Virginia Berg: Thank you, sir. I think it's very appropriate, if I may say, that this committee began its day with agriculture and is going to end its day with agriculture. I would like to greet the committee and say that we feel it is indeed a privilege to appear before you today.
At the annual convention of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in November 1995, I specifically asked the Agriculture minister, Mr Villeneuve, whether or not the government intended to consult the agricultural community about the proposed amendments to the Planning Act. The minister did indeed assure us that it was the government's intention to consult, and so I feel that we need to sincerely thank this committee and the government for these public hearings on the legislation, as well as for the 60-day consult period on the provincial policy statement.
We come to this committee today for three reasons, first of all because we believe strongly in the principle of democratic process, especially wherein elected officials seek genuinely to represent and to reflect those values deemed most important by their electorate. We also believe that it is incumbent upon us, as ratepayers and responsible citizens of this province, as well as, because we are farmers, significant stakeholders in land use planning, to engage in constructive dialogue and an exchange of information. Finally, our remarks to the committee today will stem from what we believe to be the most fundamental and important purpose of government, which is simply the protection of minority interests and the advancement of the common good.
With me today is Mr Larry Erb, who is president of the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture. Mr Erb will further introduce himself and will provide summary remarks.
My name is Virginia Berg. My husband, Paul, and I run a 100-acre, third-generation beef cow-calf farm in Wellesley township, and we have also been intensely involved in land use planning issues for about seven years now, which I would say culminated in 1993 with our successful representation before the OMB as unrepresented ratepayers.
I am a standing member of the NDP-appointed Rural Table on Planning Reform, which was a number of committees assembled by that government to advise on the effective implementation of Bill 163's reforms, particularly for the rural table as they might impact rural Ontario. I am very glad to inform the committee that the rural table has recently been reactivated by Mr Villeneuve.
Mr Erb and I have devoted countless -- emphasize "countless" -- volunteer hours in assisting with the creation of planning policy, both regionally and provincially, that we hoped and that we felt would protect the provincial interest in agriculture. While Mr Erb will address this issue in more detail for the benefit of the committee, I wish to emphasize that when we speak of the provincial interest, we mean both the preservation of the agricultural resource base for long-term food production as well as the protection of the farm community's inherent right to farm in an environment that is unhindered by intrusive, incompatible uses. This understanding of the provincial interest as it pertains to agriculture is identical with that of OMAFRA.
My purpose in speaking to the committee today is to look at the specific proposed amendments to the act as contained in Bill 20. I'll just skim over this part of my presentation. I realize that this committee's terms of reference refer only to the bill. No doubt the committee realizes that the provincial policy statement is inherently linked to that.
I'd just like to say that we're glad the government is retaining official policy status for agriculture under the Planning Act. That status is long overdue. I would also like to say that I commend the government for retaining the requirement that municipalities must designate prime agricultural areas. This is a very significant move that came out of Sewell. No longer do we speak simply about land; therefore no longer do we simply plan for land. We talk about large contiguous areas for agriculture.
The first section of the bill changes the definition of "public body," and it limits it in scope for the purposes of filing Ontario Municipal Board appeals. Other subsection make further provision for the minister to designate by regulation other ministries to be public bodies by definition or to exclude boards, commissions, agencies or offices of the province from being defined as public bodies. In other words, all provincial ministries except Municipal Affairs and Housing will lose their board appeal privileges. This move will facilitate the government's proposed one-window approach to planning and is being advanced under the cloak of adjectives like "streamlining" and a "service delivery improvement."
We strongly disagree with this amendment and the proposed administrative change for these reasons: First, as a lay participant in the planning process, it seems confusing to me to have different definitions for such an important term in different sections of a piece of legislation. How can such inbred inconsistency promote clarity in the planning process? Second, I wish to remind this committee that environmental, agricultural, transportation, educational and housing matters etc are all listed as "matters of provincial interest" in section 2 of the act. Removing appeal privileges for all ministries except Municipal Affairs will essentially establish a hierarchy of position and power for that ministry that I personally find to be both unacceptable and offensive.
Third, how can the government expect stakeholders to offer full buy-in if we have no idea what the regulations will stipulate? The Waterloo Federation of Agriculture and I have expressed great concerns about this move, and the gold attachment that I have provided you with is essentially a paper trail wherein we have consistently asked question after question about this approach, and we really haven't been given any solid answers. In fact, as late as last Thursday, February 22, the rural table was frankly told that the government has not yet figured out the mechanics of a one-window approach.
Some parties that have spoken to this committee probably feel that OMAFRA has historically failed to protect agricultural land from increased urbanization, and they may have suggested that it is time to try something else. I, as a farmer, am not so willing to place my trust and my interests in the hands of the ministry responsible for development and housing.
I agree, OMAFRA has failed, but it has failed because it has never had an appropriately restrictive policy environment in which to fulfil its mandate. The legislative framework of Bill 163's Planning Act, in my opinion, would finally have empowered OMAFRA in this regard. Contrary to its campaign promises, this government seems determined only to emasculate the Agriculture ministry.
Fourth, the legislation may in its legalese describe the ability to appeal to the board as a privilege for provincial ministries. However, the ability to seek justice from a higher or different level must be viewed as a right for ratepayers, since a proposed change in the legal use of our neighbour's land can frequently turn our lives as farmers literally inside out and upside down. Short-circuiting OMAFRA's land use planning role will result in irreparable harm to the agricultural community, both operationally and economically. To reiterate at this point in time, one-stop shopping for planning is simply a nebulous concept. Its alleged advantages are only theoretical, in our minds.
One of the fundamental premises of the reforms that were recommended by the Sewell commission was that in the new planning system the province would speak through policy and then rely on municipal official plans to implement those policies. Accordingly, the Minister of Municipal Affairs was empowered to prescribe official plan contents to ensure the creation of comprehensive municipal planning documents.
Section 8 of the bill removes the power to prescribe OP content, and section 9 authorizes the minister to exempt plans and plan amendments from ministerial approval. While the government's proposed amendments have, in our opinion, substantially gutted the Bill 163 Planning Act, they still appear to retain the policy-led approach. Section 8 should be deleted, as it will not encourage the development of comprehensive planning or planning documents, and section 9 should delete the approval exemption provisions, as they will further weaken, in our opinion, the province's ability to lead by policy.
Section 13 of Bill 20 reduces the time frames for planning authorities to decide on OP amendments from the presently stipulated 180 days to 90 days. In his speech to the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in August of last year, the Minister of Municipal Affairs stated:
"There are many parts of [Bill 163] that just don't work, and that I believe will create unnecessary delays and red tape. We're going to scrap those parts of the Planning Act and bring in a system that works for Ontario.... We're going to make significant strategic changes to the legislation...that speed up the process."
I find it absolutely amazing that Mr Leach, with all due respect, after only two and a half months in office, and a mere five months after the new Planning Act had been declared into force, could determine that the new system "created unnecessary delays," when it was created to prevent them, "wasn't working" and "was too slow." Perhaps Mr Leach should share his crystal ball with the rest of us.
In a region of Waterloo planning committee report, the proposed reduction in time lines is described as "completely unrealistic for current administrative practice." The report further suggests that "A practical reduction in processing times [could] only be achieved through major restructuring...greater delegation...[and] subdelegation of selected functions." The report concluded that "A large amount of systemic change will be needed to make the new time lines realistic."
I can't take the time to fully relate to this committee our personal planning nightmare. I guess most ratepayers who are involved in this process have one of those tucked into their closets. But I hope the committee will consider our story as I have related it in the buff-coloured attachment. Had we not taken both the township and the region to the municipal board, 16 acres of prime land would have been unnecessarily urbanized, village wells would have been contaminated and at least two farm operations, of which ours was one, would have remained frozen from further expansion.
I wish to share my story with the committee for several reasons. First, it's real. It happened. Situations like ours have been happening all over this province, and I believe that under these Planning Act amendments, they will continue to happen.
Second, the committee should understand that this happened in one of the most agricultural townships, in one of the most restrictive regions in this province, under the guiding phraseology of "shall have regard to," which the government now proposes to return us to.
Finally, this injustice happened because a local council had too much flexibility and therefore too great a sense of power. This government's constant emphasis on municipal empowerment truly scares us to death, because we know first hand that unbridled power at the local level easily translates into conflicts of interest, corruption and a complete disregard for the values of the electorate that I referred to in my opening remarks.
The regional report I talked about earlier also stated that "Despite initial scepticism, early experience with applications subject to Bill 163 indicates that the time lines were workable and appropriate." The report went on to say that the time lines are now being reduced "for two reasons... [one of which is] to permit developers faster access to the OMB where any form of obstruction or controversy is encountered."
Members of the committee, I sincerely contend that this amendment, as well as others proposed in the bill, will result in councils everywhere being literally scared to death to say no to a developer. I don't know how many times in our own situation our local planner or one of our councillors said to us: "We can't say no to this subdivision. The developer will take us to the board, and the developer will win."
Is this really municipal empowerment? Does Bill 20 really espouse the fundamental need for natural justice in the planning system? How will this amendment result in comprehensive, long-term planning at the local level?
I urge this committee to amend section 13 by restoring the time period for OPA approval to 180 days and for these same reasons suggest that other time line reductions may also need to be reconsidered.
Sections 29 and 30 of the bill contain amendments that will remove the authority to require a public meeting for either a proposed plan of subdivision or a proposed consent to sever land. Again, because the regulations are invisible, we don't even know if municipalities will be required to give notice for these applications.
Since learning about this government's intention to dismantle the Planning Act, Mr Erb and I have closely followed the process as well as the players involved. These are some of our candid impressions of the government's approach to this.
First of all, this government seems to have forgotten why the Sewell commission was ever established: The planning system in Ontario lacked integrity; it was considered inefficient and full of delay; and it was also considered not sufficiently open or accountable to all stakeholders. I urge committee members to review the Lieutenant Governor's commissioning order in council which established the mandate of the Sewell commission. Perhaps you'll read it for the first time. It will take you back a bit, but I'm sure it will open your eyes.
Secondly, this government also seems to have forgotten exactly how extensive that public consultation under Sewell was. Here are just a few of the statistics: Some 23,000 people across this province talked to the commission; another 2,083 written submissions came in and an additional 600 letters of comment were received; 500 newspaper articles documented the work of the commission; and its interim draft report in 1992 was distributed to the tune of 30,000 copies. Prior to tabling Bill 20 in the House, it seems to us as if this government consulted only with the powerful lobby groups of UDI, the Urban Development Institute, and AMO, thus and unfortunately ignoring everyone else who collectively shaped Bill 163.
Based on these impressions, we feel therefore that these amendments regarding notice and statutory public meetings will place too great a burden on individual land owners to be constantly vigilant regarding local issues. They will result in many instances, like our own, where natural justice is denied. These amendments will give unnecessary and unfair advantage to developers and will likely result in many applications being approved simply by default.
The applicable subsections in sections 29 and 30 should be deleted in order to restore the authority to require public meetings. Further, we believe that municipalities should be required to give notice for both consents and subdivisions, and we must emphasize that this is very, very important in rural Ontario, where planning doesn't happen in the same way that it happens in urban Ontario.
My final point to the committee: We've briefly alluded to our concerns about section 3 of the bill, which lowers the standard for adherence to policy from "shall be consistent with" to "shall have regard to." The committee has no doubt heard a great deal about this one change alone, and that's not surprising. It's a very important change.
Both Mr Erb and I made presentations and submissions to the Sewell commission. A major reason why the prior system was not yielding the intended results was because municipalities, in their unceasing quest for increased assessment, conveniently had more regard for some policies than they did for others.
It is our impression, because we participated in the work of the commission, that many voices petitioned the commission to recommend a requirement to conform to policy, the strongest degree of compliance deemed possible. Therefore, I would like to suggest to this committee that by recommending that decisions "be consistent" with provincial policy, the Sewell commission was in fact seeking to establish a compromise position in order to achieve a workable consensus.
Finally, if this government is genuinely serious about effectively protecting all provincial interests and is genuinely serious about realistically empowering their municipalities and is genuinely serious about removing unnecessary obstacles to appropriate growth, it will delete section 3 of the bill and retain the existing "shall be consistent with" phraseology.
I turn you over to Mr Erb.
Mr Larry Erb: Do you wish to ask questions or shall I continue?
The Chair: It's as you see fit, Mr Erb. You've got nine minutes remaining.
Mr Erb: I'll continue then with our presentation. First of all, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for having us. I'm not quite sure whether this is an honour to be the last person to present to you, but I am taking advantage of that a bit in the way I'm presenting my comments. I do appreciate our discussions with Mr Hardeman in the past and have gotten to know him a little bit. We appreciate those kinds of contacts with MPPs and people who do represent us. I refer you to the white-coloured copy, the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture. That's what I will be reading to you.
Land use planning in Ontario is an issue of diverse opinions and varied levels of commitment to the issue of food-producing land protection. The Waterloo Federation of Agriculture has a history of involvement in land use planning at a local level. We believe that this experience can help us to share our concerns on the issues and priorities that must be included in Bill 20, the provincial policy statement and the implementation guidelines. We urge you to examine carefully the contents of these documents before voting in Parliament to put the wheels in motion on a new land use policy. The impact of poor planning policies will exist long after new rules and regulations are put in place to correct them.
In the past few weeks, you have no doubt heard from many private interest groups, read studies, heard statistics and been pressured to make changes to Bill 20 to suit the needs or wants of many individuals involved in the planning process. This is a necessary part of the democratic process and we commend you for it. As you conclude this very demanding exercise, the reality that decisions must be made confronts you. Land use planning is land use, and land is one of the four major parts of human existence: land to produce food, clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and energy to keep you warm and make things grow. I refer you to the footnote. That comment comes from Tony Morris at the recent directors' meeting of the OFA. Without these, very little else matters. It is your task to see that these priorities are protected in land use planning.
I'll just make a short summary here.
Section 1, food land protection: The provincial policy statement makes reference to prime agricultural land protection, but leaves it to the imagination as to how it will happen. Bill 20 must include a definite plan of protection and ensure the necessary checks are in the system. The proposed one-window approach will not ensure much-needed surveillance of the development industry. The mentality that all land is a development opportunity is far too prevalent in the minds of investors, speculators and individuals looking for profit without caring about the long-term consequences of a shrinking food land base. Protection of food-producing land must come under a "consistent with" policy statement or it becomes meaningless and worthless to the long-term need of food security.
If I may be a little callous here, I indicated in a letter to Mr Hardeman that's included in your parcel here that the one-window approach to planning could very well become a one-bedroom approach to planning. I want you to think about that a bit, because we do not want agriculture to be on the outside looking in and we will not accept that way of doing business.
Summary of negative impacts to food land protection in Bill 20: the change to "shall have regard to" instead of the existing "must be consistent with"; the lack of approval requirements for official plans; no public meeting required for plans of subdivision or consents, and there's a note here that easier access to make changes to official plans and shorter response time frames could lead to settlement expansion on to prime agricultural lands and an increased level of land severance requests; and limitations of appeals and one-ministry access to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Section 2, protection of agriculture and its ability to farm: I refer you to the difference between ability to farm and right to farm. I think it's a very important difference.
Under the heading of "Principles," the new provincial policy statement states, "Promoting efficient development and land use which stimulate economic growth while protecting the environment and public health."
Bill 20 must clearly define rural economic development to ensure the future viability of agriculture. World market demands will require agriculture to be flexible and to be able to adapt to changes that are necessary to be competitive in the world economy. Land use planning policies must give the agricultural community the ability to expand, diversify or to change from one commodity to another without hassle and complaints from rural non-farm neighbours.
The biggest threat to agricultural viability, next to low commodity prices, is scattered rural development. The fragmentation of farm land through severances will escalate the price of land, make expansion more costly and force agricultural industry to find other sources of income to survive. Non-farm residents in agricultural areas will require the strengthening of the Farm Practices Protection Act to ensure that the ability to farm is maintained. The very real relationship between land use planning and right-to-farm legislation must be recognized under Bill 20 or unacceptable restrictions to agriculture will be the result.
The perception that scattered development brings rural prosperity is a myth when you consider the implications and the additional cost to farmers to protect their interests. I believe, if I'm correct, there's also an insert that has to do with the Brighton study, which did in fact indicate that scattered rural development does not contribute to the viability of the municipal -- in fact, it costs money. Scattered rural development costs money.
Surveillance of municipal land use planning applications is time-consuming and appealing a local decision to the OMB could be very costly to the farm community. We cannot allow unrestricted and reactive planning policies to force the farm community to protect its interests at the local level. Bill 20 must ensure that municipal policies and actions are consistent with the provincial policy statement. This must be done through the legislative framework of Bill 20.
Summary of Bill 20 and the implications to the ability to farm:
Again, the change to "shall have regard to" from "must be consistent with."
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs as the sole ministry for appeals, and a note: OMAFRA's role in land use planning is being greatly reduced. The responsibility for surveillance will be completely up to private individuals or farm organizations. Local decisions on land use policies, that is, local autonomy. This will lead to the lack of uniformity in land use planning policies across Ontario, and municipalities with more restrictive policies will be under pressure to change.
I want to refer you to the article on the last page of this submission. It's under "Ventax" and it's an article that was just in the local newspaper in the past week. I would suggest to you that this is sandbox mentality. "If you don't let me do this, I'll go somewhere else." It is not the kind of acceptable policy statement or a policy reaction that we can allow to happen at a local level, and this is what happens when you have people who want to protect their own interests. It is very much an example of what could happen as different municipalities have different rules and regulations to work by.
In closing, we appreciate the opportunity to make these concerns known to you. We also understand that Bill 20 includes many proposed changes to the Planning Act. Our inability to sort through and understand all of them is acknowledged. However, the basics of good land use planning are clear. Irresponsibility to ensure future generations' ability to feed themselves is on the line. Your support of Bill 20 should only be given after careful consideration of the total package, and that is the provincial policy statement, Bill 20 and the implementation guidelines. We cannot decide how long or how much food will be required to feed the nations of this world. Our efforts to protect the basics of life are of number one importance.
The Chair: Thank you, and your timing is perfect. That's exactly 30 minutes. I'd like to thank you for the very detailed and thorough presentation. It was an excellent one to end on, I'll say.
Thanks too to all the other 170 groups that made excellent presentations and to the members, who had excellent questioning, and for their decorum and their camaraderie these last two and a half weeks.
This being the last item on the agenda, the committee stands adjourned till 1 o'clock, Queen's Park, room 228.
The committee adjourned at 1735.