Wednesday 28 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
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 Mr Christopherson
Bradley, James (St Catharines L) for Mr Duncan
Carr, Gary (Oakville South / -Sud PC) for Mr Maves
Conway, Sean (Renfrew North / -Nord L) for Mr Hoy
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
Elaine Ross, legal services branch--municipal affairs, Ministry of the Attorney General
Robert Dowler, manager, planning and building policy section, housing development and buildings branch, Ministry of Housing
Clerk / Greffier: Douglas Arnott
Staff / Personnel: Laura Hopkins, legislative counsel
The committee met at 1308 in room 228.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good afternoon. I call the meeting to order for clause-by-clause debate on Bill 20. We'll start off, of course.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Chair, there is something I would like to table with the committee. The last day we met in Toronto, there was a misunderstanding when Ms Kathy Cooper from the Canadian Environmental Law Association was here as to whether or not she met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I clarified on her behalf that misunderstanding. She did send me a letter, which she copied to the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, clarifying her remarks herself, and I would like to table that with the committee so that all committee members may see this letter.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Churley. A copy of that has been distributed to all members already.
Ms Churley: Oh. Great.
The Chair: Are there any comments, questions or suggestions to section 1 of the bill? I understand there's an NDP motion.
Ms Churley: Yes. Mr Chair, subsection 1(2) of the bill, section 1 of the Planning Act.
I move that subsection 1(2) of the bill be struck out.
The reason why I suggest this is that my amendment literally reverts back to the definition contained in Bill 163. You can talk about official plan contents and why it's important to allow the minister to prescribe contents, but official plans should be comprehensive planning documents. The subsection under your bill, Bill 20, makes it a perfunctory exercise. It fails to protect the environment, and it also fails to protect the rights of businesses and citizens. This is something that during the hearings I spoke to and we heard constantly from community groups and environmental groups that it's a serious flaw in the bill. I would ask that all members of the committee support this amendment.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My understanding of the amendment is just to strike out the definition of "official plan." We believe the definition does need to be struck out, as it refers to the plan approved by an approval authority. As we go on through the bill, those directions have changed through the bill, so we think it inappropriate to leave that definition in the first part of the bill. So we would not support the amendment.
The Chair: Any further comments? All those in favour? Contrary? I deem the motion to fail.
Any further amendments to section 1?
Ms Churley: Yes, subsection 1(3) of the bill, section 1 of the Planning Act.
I move that subsection 1(3) of the bill be struck out.
This amendment, as everybody knows, is dealing with the definition of "residential unit." The amendment that I'm making again reverts back to the definition contained in Bill 120, the NDP government's act concerning apartments in houses. This wording allowed residential units to have a means of egress through another residential unit. This is important because many apartments in houses have this arrangement already.
Mr Chairman, this is the first of several amendments that I have to make on apartments in houses. I want to speak for a few minutes to this and other amendments I will be making.
We made the point time and time again during the committee hearings, and housing activists and in some cases people who live in basement apartments came to speak to us and it was made quite clear to us that this section of the act is a problem. I find it quite ironic, and I know my Liberal colleagues as well spoke frequently to this, that this is a case where the private sector wants and has been enabled to provide affordable housing instead of the taxpayer. Your government, while in opposition, as well talked over and over again about the need to get out of social housing.
I just want you to be listening carefully, Mr Chair, because I may change your mind yet. Who knows? I know you're a fair man.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): He can't vote, Marilyn.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Unless it's actually tied.
Ms Churley: Well, we might have a tie at some point. Some of you might come over to this side. Who knows? Anyway, back to the issue here.
You're literally taking away a very creative NDP plan, surprise, surprise, to allow the private sector to supply affordable housing for low-income people in this province. And what you are doing, in the process of getting out of social housing and at the same time reducing welfare rates so it's even harder for low-income people and people on welfare to find affordable accommodation, the one area where there is an incentive within the law for the private sector to supply affordable housing, you are snatching that right out from under them, and I believe it's going to cause incredible hardship to the low-income people of this province at a time when people are suffering great financial stress.
I know there are people in this city, indeed in the riding where I live, literally being kicked out of their apartments because they can't afford it, and they're already having a very difficult time finding affordable accommodation. People are now quite concerned about the loss of rent control and the implications of that. Are their rents going to go up even higher? Experience in the past has shown that without strong rent control, that will happen. So the question is, what are the lower- and middle-income people going to do?
I think that this is a very, very important amendment, and in my view, it fits so well with the Conservative philosophy. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever what you're doing here, except you're caving in to certain élitist municipalities that didn't like our bill when we brought it in and still don't like it, because in our experience, in many situations, we know some of these municipalities wanted to keep certain classes of people out.
I'm sorry, but we will revert back to that situation again, and we will revert back to illegal basement apartments again, which is one of the reasons why we brought in a bill. The apartments are out there anyway. People need them, in many cases, to pay their mortgages. They build them. If they're illegal, they're not inspected. There are serious safety and fire hazards.
So this is a very serious change that I again strongly recommend that the government members support. I think you're going to be very sorry, you're going to regret it down the road if you don't reverse your position on this and support the amendment.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, I want to say I don't want to infer that the previous government did not have an abundance of creativity.
Mr Carr: They had creativity all right, just in the wrong place.
Ms Churley: You are frisky over there.
Mr Carr: We missed you.
Mr Hardeman: I do want to say that supporting this amendment and removing the definition would indeed change the intent of the legislation where the government is committed to giving the responsibility of creating housing in the appropriate areas where the services are available and where the needs of the people can be met. We want to put that responsibility or that authority back to the local tier of government where they are closest to the people and able to make the decisions based on the needs of their community and their people. We think they will do a far better job of that, and also then after that has been created to be able to service those people, not to just have them put there and being forgotten. I think we're convinced that that's the direction we should go and we will not support this amendment to redefine in the definitions what is a residential unit.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Just one short comment that I thought was kind of interesting on the road -- maybe I'll back up just a bit. While we were in Toronto, and I respect your comments, we did hear a lot of concern about basement apartments or second dwellings in a home, but on the road it was a rarity that we heard it. Yes, it did come up, but in some communities, such as London, it did not come up. It's just not a big issue outside of Toronto. So what's really happening in the previous legislation was Toronto solutions being dictated to the rest of Ontario, and that's not satisfactory to the rest of Ontario and I have to support this amendment -- not yours, but the bill.
Ms Churley: In response to that, I think it's quite telling that Dr Galt admitted that outside of Toronto this is not a big issue. It didn't even come up. I would say that that's another argument in my favour here. If it's not a big issue in municipalities, clearly it hasn't been a problem, and what the original act, or the original bill under our government, the NDP government, did was to deal with a very specific problem in very specific areas. If it's not an issue in other areas, then so be it. That's fine. That's great. It may become an issue, but I would say that what you're doing is taking away the rights of private property owners and at the same time taking away the ability for people to find affordable accommodation uniformly across the province. I don't think that's fair, and it certainly is not common sense.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): We should not overlook the fact, however, that we're still giving municipal councils -- it's almost sounding like we're prohibiting second-unit application anywhere in the province of Ontario, and that's really not what we're doing at all; what we're doing is we're again returning it to the jurisdiction of the very able, elected officials at the municipal level to make that decision.
Within the act, as the revised act is presented, it also allows for the protection of the potential resident in that they must abide by the building code, they must abide by fire and safety, and so on.
There's almost an overture here that we're prohibiting it infinitely and that's not the case at all. A municipal council will still have the right to decide if and where and when it wants other-unit housing. I just needed to add that, because there was almost an implication that we're prohibiting it and that's not the case at all.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): This is an issue, by the way, there's no question, in large centres and small, but I don't understand Ms Churley's definitional intent here. Do you want to just give us some clarification what you intend here? You want to strike out 1(3) of Bill 20, thereby reverting the definition of a residential unit to that which was contained in Bill 163.
Ms Churley: Actually, in Bill 120. I'm talking about Bill 120, which was a bill dealing with apartments in houses, and what this does by striking out the section is it reverts it back to the definition under Bill 20.
Mr Conway: Which is to say what?
Ms Churley: Which is to say -- I don't have the exact wording in front of me -- that private-sector apartments in houses are allowed in any municipality across Ontario, that a municipality cannot make motions, which has happened in certain municipalities in the GTA area, that forbid secondary apartments in houses.
Mr Conway: I certainly know where you stand on the substantive question, but then surely there's an issue of, is this even in order? Does this not seek to undermine one of the fundamentals of this Bill 20? I'm quite prepared to debate that, but I think for those of us who are not expert on this matter, we will presumably debate this question at some later point in this exercise, but if what you intend to do in a definitional amendment is to alter a cornerstone policy of the bill, whether you like it or not is immaterial, is that what you intend here?
Ms Churley: I intend that this subsection be struck out so that, yes, it can revert to Bill 120. You can certainly ask the Chair if this motion is in order.
Mr Conway: I don't mean to be difficult. I just ask the question. That's a rather daring attempt.
Ms Churley: If you weren't here, Mr Conway, it certainly would've gone unnoticed. Thank you for that.
Mr Baird: Are you going to rule?
The Chair: I think the motion's perfectly in order. There being no further comment, all those in favour of the motion? All those contrary? I deem the motion to fail.
Are there any further amendments to section 1?
Ms Churley: I had meant to ask for a recorded vote on that. Is it too late?
The Chair: I believe you're too late.
Ms Churley: Can I ask for unanimous consent to vote over again so that we can have a recorded vote.
Mr Baird: Is that in order?
Ms Churley: I can ask for unanimous consent on anything.
The Chair: Yes, it is in order.
Ms Churley: Could I ask for unanimous consent.
The Chair: No problem? A recorded vote.
Baird, Carr, Conway, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Lalonde, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: Are there further amendments or comments or suggestions to section 1?
Ms Churley: I move that subsection 1(4) of the bill be struck out.
This amendment removes the Bill 20 provision making MMA the only ministry which has the right to take matters to the OMB and represent the government in other planning matters. This is a very serious problem in terms of protecting the environment, given that the interventions of the Ministry of Environment and Energy or the Ministry of Natural Resources will be submerged under the MMA.
I remember when I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing how that would work. He gave some vague assurances that the other ministers would have a say in a decision whether or not it would be taken before the OMB, but we have absolutely no indication what the input would be.
There is a great fear that if the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Minister of Natural Resources have no formal role in this process, their concerns, should they have any -- I can guarantee that in many cases they will -- there are no guarantees they will have significant input and that their concerns will be registered in a formal way.
Therefore, because there were no assurances, no plan presented as to how this would work, no protocol as to how it would work, there's a very deep concern that if the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing wants something to go ahead, it'll go ahead and the concerns of MNR and Environment and Energy will be either disregarded or pushed aside in the context of a cabinet discussion.
I urge that this subsection be struck out on that basis.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): It's absolutely essential that this be done if we're really going to see the concerns of those ministries, as has been mentioned, put forward by themselves as opposed to going through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Having been responsible for a ministry, I well recall the conflicts that took place within government, as should take place within government, from ministries that had different views. The problem is that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in my view, is concerned with getting housing built and is concerned with development taking place. This is fine in some circumstances, but I don't think they can adequately reflect the views of the Ministry of Natural Resources, for instance, when we're talking about wetlands, can reflect the concerns of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs when it comes to those matters which relate to that ministry, and of course the Ministry of Environment and Energy, which ultimately is responsible.
What happens if you allow simply one ministry to be responsible is that if mistakes are made down the line, very often it's the grateful taxpayer, through some kind of fund, who ends up picking up the tab. While people save some money, I guess, in the short term, and save some annoyance in the short term with government, in the long term -- I can recall, for instance, in Kitchener, you may recall yourself, reading of a development where they had some explosions take place because the site was next to an old dump site and the methane gas was coming through.
The Ministry of Environment and Energy has access to that kind of information and has people expert in that field. They may pass that along to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, but there's no guarantee that ultimately is going to be reflected in the government position, which is why I think that kind of independent stance being able to be taken by ministries is important, just as it is that individual stances by members of the Conservative or Liberal or NDP caucus, within a caucus meeting, take place.
I certainly express grave concern about that and unless the other ministries can have an equal say, I think we're going to see decisions made which in the long term are going to be very unwise and are going to be more costly to the province as a whole than had those matters been addressed by those ministries at the very beginning.
Mr Hardeman: We will be voting against the amendment. It's very important to realize that the intent of Bill 20 is to reduce the time and increase the efficiency of the planning process in Ontario. We don't believe the appropriate way to settle the differences between the ministries, if there are conflicting views in policy and the interpretation of those policies, is to deal with that at the OMB. They in reality are all ministers and ministries of the same government, and if it deals with the priority-setting of policy areas, that should be done within the government to come to a position that could deal fairly with all the people of Ontario and make those policy decisions by the elected officials.
I do not see this one-window approach as a way of taking away from the validity or the stature of any individual ministry. I don't believe that in this one-window approach the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing becomes a superminister, all-knowing and all-doing. I believe each ministry will still have the same input it's always had, but I think through one window they will all come together and be able to discuss the issues and weigh the priorities and come up with one position that would or would not go for resolution before the Ontario Municipal Board.
I think the board is a very good place to deal with the differences of where government policy, or any government's policy, conflicts with the wishes and needs of the population. The OMB is a great place to have that settled. But I don't think it's an appropriate place for the government to spend the people's money trying to decide which minister is the authority. Each ministry is set up to provide the expertise and to deal with the issues that come before it. It's very appropriate they would then consolidate that opinion, weigh the pros and cons of it all, and take forward a government position to deal with the best interests of the population. I would recommend that government members not vote for this amendment.
Mr Conway: This is a subject, and I sat in on a number of the hearings, where clearly there is a range of opinion. On the face of it, no one can have any quarrel with the intention here. It's a very neat and tidy notion, and I think for anyone who has not served in the executive branch of government, it's something you ought to endorse.
It's a hard argument to make because the political science is all on the side of what government intends to do. Practical reality and experience would suggest that's not always the case. I have seen in all governments here, over 20 years and some months, some often quite comedic exercises, where you've literally got ministers of the crown who are pledged to the same solidarity publicly fighting with one another because they've lost the battle or they think they're going to lose the battle at cabinet, or they've lost part of the battle at some tribunal and so they then seek some recourse, and often that is in the court of public opinion.
I remember a day in this very room about 18 years ago where the poor Minister of Health, Dennis Timbrell -- I'll never forget the crimson look on his face as he had to watch a colleague, the Minister of Finance -- some of you heard me say yesterday, there is this kind of Rotarian view that the interests of government are always essentially one at the end of the day. That's not usually the case. There are fierce interdepartmental quarrels. In that case the Minister of Finance was caught -- this is the famous budget flap of 18 or 19 years ago, over those OHIP premiums, and a very capable man named Darcy McKeough. The argument that the Ministry of Health was purportedly to have been won over with was Darcy McKeough's letter to the Globe and Mail, published weeks after the fact, and I might add inserted into the debate after the fact.
What am I trying to say here? I'm just trying to say that at one level it's a good argument and if you can convince me -- and you really can't -- that humankind is going to change overnight by virtue of this legislative dictate, fine.
My worry, quite frankly, and I say this particularly to people like the parliamentary assistant, is I suspect the losers in this are going to be people who live in places like Oxford and Bruce and Northumberland. When you think about things like the Saltford dump, and some other things that I can think about, I'm going to tell you, you get a pro-development mentality or you get a minister who admits that he doesn't even bother to read legislation and/or ministerial briefing notes, and if you live in Bruce and Oxford I have a feeling you and your colleague the Minister of Agriculture particularly are going to be in for some really remarkable surprises.
The one-window approach may in fact cure all of that. My guess is that it won't. I understand the argument to try to streamline the process. I think we all want to do that. But, I tell you, you do this with perhaps a naïve expectation. I thought the presenters yesterday -- the woman from north Waterloo, Crosshill, Wesley township, that case study, for any of you who live in rural Ontario, I thought, boy, that's got a ring of credibility to it. I just think of all of the cases that I know where -- again, you've heard me say over the course of the last couple of days, you get a department like Natural Resources -- and we had some presenters someplace in the last day or two make this point. You get the development part of MNR at war with the conservation part of MNR. You're going to be hard-pressed to get one opinion out of that one department, and that's before MNR gets to go and talk to Environment and Agriculture.
I'm expected to believe that in this new order -- an order, by the way, which is going to have many fewer people. I don't, at one level, have a big problem with that, but you're going to streamline the process. There are going to be clearer lines of demarcation. There are going to be fewer people involved; there are going to be just fewer people at the county, at the region, at the Ontario government level reviewing all of this. I like a lot of local decision-making. Where I come from there's an expression -- I won't use it because it's a bit inelegant. I just expect that everybody is going to understand that it is a new day and if you screw up you're going to get to pay. You're going to get to pay locally. You're not going to have recourse to the old money tree, which is no longer around here. My experience over the years is that some of the people who complain the loudest about the need for remedial action are often people who are there at the creation of the problem in first instance.
So I just simply say that I understand the argument for a one-window approach. The political science of it is very compelling. The reality of a big, multifaceted provincial government with lots of inherent conflicts contained within the ambit of its jurisdiction I think is somewhat to the contrary. I share some of Mr Bradley's concerns and don't expect that the one-window approach is going to solve the problem here. I suspect that some people who will embrace it will be the first to bear its lacerations, but I might be wrong.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On this, I just want to add our voice from the New Democratic caucus in regard to what we feel this is going to lead to. I discussed yesterday at committee when we had a few of the presenters in front of us one of the cases that we had with a particular development within our community being upheld because of some bad planning processes. I guess what I want to say is this: The problem that you're going to get into when you move to the one-window approach is that you're really not going to have the expertise within MMA to be able to adequately deal with concerns that we need to deal with as set out under provincial policies that already exist within the province of Ontario.
For an example, if MMA is the only window that is able to go out there and to appeal the decision to the OMB, what happens if you have a particular concern where they don't have that expertise within their own ministry? There are all kinds of environmental issues where we have staff that we pay good money to in the Ministry of Environment, who are biologists or scientists who understand the issues far more than you or I, I would say, Mr Parliamentary Assistant, whose business it is to really understand how all of this ties into the application before the municipality at the time.
If we go to the one-window approach with only MMA being able to do that, I really fear that we're going to be going back into a situation where, quite frankly, we may end up allowing particular developments to go forward strictly on the basis of the argument that economically the council supports this particular proposition, they feel that it's important for the development of their community from an economic prospect, and quite frankly, the voice of reason from within another ministry such as the Ministry of Environment or MNR may not be taken into consideration adequately by the minister.
What happens if, Ernie, you're not the parliamentary assistant and Mr Leach is not the minister, who truly care about these environmental issues, supposedly, because that's what you say in the title of your bill? What happens if, God forbid, we end up with a Minister of Municipal Affairs who is a pro-development minister, who says, "I'm not so concerned about the environmental issues that affect development"? You're really going to be in a situation where you're giving that one individual in the province a heck of a lot of power to be able to override the concerns of some of his or her cabinet colleagues at the table and also I think the voice of reason within those communities when it comes to a particular development. I don't think really that you've had the opportunity to think about this and to take a look at what the future impacts would be.
I think the Liberal caucus and our caucus support the idea of trying to find a way to make the coordination of those efforts within the ministries better. I think we can all point to examples where one ministry might have been working cross-purposes to another. I think you can always go out and find those examples, but I don't think, quite frankly, those are the majority of cases.
What you're going to really end up with -- and I hope government members are listening -- is that you're going to end up in a situation where the Minister of Municipal Affairs is going to have the right at the cabinet table to basically, over the objections of his or her colleagues, put forward developments that may not be in the best interests of the community's economic interests if that particular development is a bad one.
I used the example yesterday in the city of Timmins of the E.R.G. project. That project went forward because our council said: "That is an economic development priority. There are going to be some 100 jobs created through the construction of that project and about 60 jobs ongoing from that point that are very good, well-paying jobs." That was the basis by which the council pushed with my friend Jim Bradley and others at the time that particular project to go forward.
It turned out it was an utter disaster. The company went bankrupt, the suppliers were left holding the bag with bills that were unpaid, and the community, being the province of Ontario and the city of Timmins, ended up with an economic disaster in the middle of the city of Timmins. Who's going to pay the bill to clean that up? We would have been better off at the very beginning to have the people at Environment and MNR and Ministry of Mines to have the voice to be able to voice reasons with strong policies that you have to be in compliance with at the same time as having their voice heard before the OMB.
I just think this is going to cost us money in the long run. If your argument is you're doing this because it's going to streamline and save us money, I would argue that in a lot of cases you're going to end up spending a heck of a lot more money than we've got by allowing those particular projects to go ahead. I would just urge government members to reconsider that particular proposal. I think it's really a dangerous step in the wrong direction.
The Chair: All those in favour of the motion?
Mr Bisson: A recorded vote on this.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the motion to fail.
Are there are any further amendments to section 1?
Mr Bradley: I'll try this one. I'll read it, first of all, and see, if you didn't support the last one, if you might support a more limited amendment. I'm sure you'll tell me if I can move this at this time.
I move that subsection 1(2) of the Planning Act, as set out in subsection 1(4) of the bill, be amended by striking out "Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing" in the third and fourth lines and substituting "Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Natural Resources."
I thought that perhaps some of the government members were concerned that virtually any ministry could be appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board or could have this kind of input rather than the one window, and the purpose of this amendment is to provide at least for those ministries the opportunity to be involved in the process independent of one another. There's still consultation that goes on in government, but when the matter cannot be resolved and ministries have a differing point of view, it is important I think that an independent body, such as the Ontario Municipal Board, be able to adjudicate as to which ministry is making the best case.
It's seldom going to happen, quite frankly, that you're going to see two ministries or three ministries before a body such as the OMB. The reason, as I say, I've limited it to this number of ministries is these are the relevant ministries. I know there are some who could probably add several other ministries if they wanted to, and I can understand the concern of the government of virtually any ministry being able to come in, if you're indeed trying to streamline the process. But I do believe that Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, Environment and Energy and Natural Resources are all ministries which have a direct interest in developments that might take place.
Again, at the risk of being a wee bit repetitive, I think in the long run the province, individual municipalities, developers or whoever might be liable will find that this is a far better process than if you simply have one ministry dealing with these matters.
My concern about the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing alone, again, is that it's interested in building new developments, and that's fine. There have to be new developments take place. But that's their primary concern, and my view is that they will push aside other concerns when push comes to shove, and the view of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will dominate and subservient to that will be the views of other ministries. We will pay a penalty. We've already paid many penalties in our society for this happening and we will pay the penalty in the future unless we allow this to happen. So I hope that members of the government and members of the New Democratic Party will support this amendment.
Ms Churley: I just want to speak briefly to this. I would support this amendment in view of the fact that my amendment just failed, which I think overall was more appropriate. I'll support it for the same reasons I mentioned when I spoke to my own amendment, great concerns about the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing carrying the day when it comes to pushing forth development. There have been experiences in the past that I'm well aware of where ministers of Municipal Affairs only talked to particular people in the whole process of new development, and that in itself is a problem.
I think at the very least, because this bill says in the title, although there's nothing in the bill to suggest that it's true, it does say that it's there to protect the environment as well, and if you're really serious about any aspect of that statement, that you would support at least this amendment because it does make sure that the ministers of Environment and Natural Resources and Ag and Food, which often have concerns, are given the opportunity to express those concerns. People will feel, I think, much more comfortable.
Nobody disagrees with streamlining; nobody. But because again there's no process or protocol in place that clarifies how these particular ministries that are concerned about natural resources and the environment would participate, then it's vital that there be something in this bill that makes it very clear that their voice will be heard and not only heard but will have an impact on the final decision, whether appeal is made or not.
Mr Conway: I just want to follow up again. Let me say that I like the idea of streamlining. Theoretically, I like the idea of the one-window approach; let me say that again. My worry is on major issues. There will be a whole series of lower-tier matters that aren't going to be a problem. But my friend the member for Nepean will know; I wasn't involved with the hearing around the Palladium in Ottawa. There was an OMB hearing about a major development, a sports arena, out in a cornfield in West Carleton.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Get that cleared up when you're in Ottawa.
Mr Conway: It would be interesting to go back and look at the submissions to the OMB before a minister of the crown. I can imagine that in that, for example, there was probably a huge fight between the development part of government and Agriculture.
Mr Baird: Between the Hamilton members and the Ottawa members.
Mr Conway: Whatever, but my point is, let's say we do this. I look at the members for Middlesex and Northumberland. They have had what I've not had, which is a good experience in public administration. I say to myself, "All right, if we go with the one-window approach here we're not going to, by this kind of a statutory decision, change the tensions between very significant competing interests."
The question I then have is, how are people going to behave? Since we all want a quicker, more streamlined, more efficient process, how are planners, public servants, whether they work for the city of London, the city of Nepean, the county of Grey -- you're really asking me to bring it down to a very local level. I'm on even the smallest rural township. You're asking me to say: "You know, the fire department and the roads department are at odds on a subject. Well, we're just going to build one window, we're going to build one door and we're going to walk them through it."
If you've spend five minutes around the smallest, most rural township, you will know that if the roads department and the fire department are at odds significantly over what they deem to be an important question, and some idiot from Queen's Park or Queen's University shows up and says, "I've got a cure for you; I'm going to build one window and one door, and after a certain time period I'm just going to walk these people from Durham through this door," they'll just look at you and laugh.
What I want to know is, how are they going to subvert me? Just because I build a window and put a time line there, do you think the boys from the fire department and the girls from the roads department are going to set their competing interests at the door? I think that's unlikely. My question is, and it's one that will only be decided by experience: So we build a window, so we put in time frames; on issues where there are fundamental clashes of interest, how are people going to subvert me, because subvert me they will? I guess that will be the question for a subsequent Legislature to decide.
One of the possibilities is, does this then turn the cabinet into a court of appeal that it does not want to be? I don't know. Water finds its own level. The fire department and the roads department will go someplace. I guess that's just a matter of public administration that we ought to think about. Just because you write the policy, build a window and write the time lines, it is a very naïve person who thinks that, gee whiz, in the best boy scout and girl guide fashion, the roads department and the fire department will set aside their fundamentally opposed views and just line up and follow some politician or bureaucrat down this happy highway of harmony. I don't think it's going to happen.
Mr Bisson: Let me try to come back to it this way in regard to the one-window approach. I think I'll repeat again what's been said here by both the official opposition and us as the New Democratic caucus: Nobody disagrees with the idea of trying to find ways to be able to make planning more efficient, and even moving to a one-window approach I think is not a bad idea.
There's some experience, Mr Hardeman, that you can probably turn to and look at in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. The mining community, especially junior mining operators back at the time of the Liberal regime and eventually with us in the New Democratic regime, said there were some real problems in being able to move work permits and get them approved in order to go work on mining claims up in northern Ontario. There were real problems, where the mining prospector or the exploration company would say, "Jeez, we want to go work on claim number whatever up by Pickle Lake or out by Porcupine," or wherever it might be, and they were running around from one ministry to the other trying to get all the permits and trying to get all of the information together to satisfy what the government wanted in order to be able to comply with the policies and regulations that we have at various ministries, from Environment, Natural Resources, Mines etc, so that we're able to safeguard the public.
Rightfully, I would say, the mining developers and exploration community said it was too onerous, that the process was too difficult to go through. So we as a government adopted -- if I remember correctly, the Liberal Party supported us on this, and I'd have to go back and check to see if you did, but I can't see why you would have opposed this -- we said we would go to the one window and the Ministry of Mines would be the window that all explorationists come to when it comes to dealing with the government to do the work on a claim.
The difference, however, in our one window was that we said we were not going to subvert the role of the Ministry of Environment or subvert the role of the Ministry of Natural Resources or the role of the Ministry of Labour by taking away their ability to object to a particular project that might be going on somewhere in northern Ontario when it comes to mining exploration, because there are cases where we need to protect provincial interests.
Maybe the Ministry of Mines, in its zeal to find new development of ore bodies in northern Ontario -- if we as a government would have said, "We're getting our one window to the point where never mind that we're going to be the coordinating body to get all the licences together and to help the explorationists to deal with other ministries, we will make the decision for the other ministries," I think rightfully the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Natural Resources and others would have been up in arms because it would have meant that we would have been in positions where exploration might have been happening in areas that quite frankly were not in keeping with provincial interests.
I would argue that if you as a ministry want to become that one window, it can be done, but I think it can be done only if you don't subvert the powers of the other ministries. We should have one place that we go to, such as what's supposed to happen with MMA now, where the municipalities and developers deal with it. Let MMA truly become the coordinating body for development in the province of Ontario and let it do what it was originally supposed to do, which it hasn't quite done as well as it would have liked to over the years: the ministry that deals with Natural Resources, with Environment and others in order to deal with provincial concerns.
If you take away the ability for the other ministry to object to that development, should MMA in its zeal want to push a particular project forward, you're really putting the provincial interests in jeopardy. I don't think that's what you want to do. I think you as a government want to do what we as a party and the New Democratic caucus and the Liberals want to do, which is to try to figure out ways to become more efficient. But God, don't cut off your nose to spite your face, because that's where you're going with this.
I know that in the end Al Leach and Ernie Hardeman are reasonable people. They want to do what's right. I'm sure you're not trying to do this with any kind of malice, but I think you're opening up a Pandora's box over the long term and that you're going to be in positions where it's not going to be the ministries that are going to be objecting to development the way you're doing it; people are going to take to the streets. You're going to revive, without even knowing it, the environmental movement, which over the last number of years has quieted down somewhat because governments have tried to respond effectively to their concerns about development and other issues. By doing what you're doing, you're basically going to be forcing environmentalists and other people to go back to organizing against you guys to get some sanity back into the planning process.
I think for your own political interests you should back off this one. You should allow this particular motion, as put forward by the Liberal Party, to go forward. I'm sure that my colleague and I would have no problem supporting it. Think about what you're doing here: (a) It's going to cost you a whole bunch of money in the long run because you're going to have projects going forward that shouldn't go forward, that are not in the provincial interests in some cases; and (b) you're really going to be opening a Pandora's box for your own party to your own downfall. I think this is going to hurt you. I want to protect you. I think you're a nice guy and I'm sure that you want to hang on to power, even though I'm going to try to take it from you, but I think we need to give you a little bit of help here. Take our advice. Support the amendment by the Liberal Party and join with us New Democrats in doing what's right here.
Mr Bradley: I think you've convinced them.
Mrs Fisher: I don't think we're that far apart, as I sit here and listen. I think that Mr Bisson has described very well how, with different aspects of ministries, they can come together, they can one-window shop, they can process and in the end it is for the good of everybody. On the other hand, Mr Conway made a point, not in the same words, that maybe you should crawl before you walk. We've done the crawling, so the example that you gave; I think maybe we're ready to walk and we're ready to test.
I don't think it's naïve to think that it should be tested, and as a government we're probably willing to take the responsibility to look at it, to work with it, to ensure that all ministries are a full participatory body before a decision is made. Where I fall off track here is where we think it's smart for one minister to take another minister to court at the expense of the taxpayer.
Through the course of the last number of years, every government has heard that red tape is killing and stifling the province of Ontario. We listen to that. We know by your comments, and I'm listening to both parties, that you're listening to that as well, that it is time to start streamlining, to try to be more effective, to try to represent the people, to try to allow things to happen in the province of Ontario, and I think in fairness to this government we're also trying to do that. I think there is every opportunity for every ministry to be represented during the process, and where it deviates a little bit from the presentation of both of those motions that have been put before us, ultimately we're willing to make a decision without it going to court with the cost of one ministry against another or whatever process and delay it might take to get us there. I continue to support the bill the way it's been presented.
Ms Churley: I could agree with Ms Fisher under other circumstances. The problem is that this bill, even though it has environmental protection somewhere in its title --
Mr Bradley: That's the only place.
Ms Churley: -- that's the only place it is. There are some cute, nice little words from time to time, but this bill is not about protecting the environment. It's about cost-effectiveness and efficient development, but what it means at this time is that the natural environment, the concern for the natural environment, is practically left out of this bill.
That indicates to me that this is not at all about streamlining; it just extends even more so the power of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to get quick and dirty and cheap, in some cases, urban sprawl all over the place again and that this makes it a lot easier for that minister to achieve that.
I fear under those circumstances that this is not about being efficient at all; it is not about cutting red tape. If it were, I'd be happy to support it. If there were more of a protocol in front of us, if we had a better idea of how this would work, then I might be willing to consider it. But under the circumstances, you're asking us to give a blank cheque here and I refuse to do that.
Mr Bisson: I'm going to come back. I think we might be moving in the right direction here, except that you stopped a little bit short, Ms Fisher.
Mr Murdoch: Severances.
Mr Bisson: Boy, this guy is really something. Where did you find him? I'm beginning to wonder sometimes.
We're all agreeing with the basis of what you want to do here. The basis is, you want to cut the red tape, that you want to make it easier for projects that are sound to move through the development process. We all agree. That's not the issue. The problem is that if you take away the ability for the other ministries to bring the proposals before the OMB, it's a little bit like telling citizens that they don't have the right to go to court if they think they've been done wrong. In a democracy there are certain tenets that you allow that to happen on a principle basis.
Let me show you what can work. We had another project in the city of Timmins. Dome mines wanted to build and has built what's called a superpit, which meant to say they had to move a highway, they actually had to go into wetlands, they had to cut down parts of the forests that were protected. There was a whole bunch of things they had to do to allow this particular project to go through that some would think would have been impossible to do.
But what we did as a government and what I did as a local member was to say, "Let's bring in, in this case, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, which is the one-window approach, and all of the other ministries that are involved in this project, put them around the table and have the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines be the" -- we used to joke about it with their deputy minister at the time. We used to say we needed to have somebody at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines who was like the Billy-Bob of Atlanta, which is basically when you go there, somebody can walk you through the process.
We took Ministry of Northern Development and Mines staff and made them responsible for working with the other ministry to find solutions to what were real concerns. How do you deal with the size of the tailings area that you need in a larger development, such as they had with the watersheds nearby that particular mine? How do you deal with moving over the highway, the concerns that the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Environment had? At the very beginning Placer Dome said, "Oh, my God, this is a humongous thing and other ministries will give us a hard time." We said: "Trust the process. If we can get everybody into the same room, working towards the same aims, we'll be able to satisfy each other in such a way that this project goes ahead, but in a way that's sound to provincial policies."
You know how long it took to get all of those people in a room once we got them in to make the decision? We went through that process in about three days. The Placer Dome mine afterwards and -- I was going to say Harry Pike; Harry was his predecessor -- Mr Perry, who was the manager of the mine, and people from Placer Dome out of Vancouver were amazed at how quickly that process went through.
And guess what? We followed every provincial policy doing that. No provincial policies were broken. We had the thing go through in record time. There had never been an approval process as quickly as what happened with Placer Dome. But we did it keeping in mind that yes, economic development's important but the importance of economic development cannot supersede the interest of provincial policies that deal with the environment.
I think you can do what you want by following what the Liberal amendment, which in this case is to say: Make the Ministry of Municipal Affairs the window that people go to. Give them the coordinating responsibility to work with other ministries to work out the problems. But that doesn't mean to say that you need to take away the power to appeal, because if the power of appeal is taken away from the other ministries, there is no reason why MMA would every try to work with those other ministries to find the solutions. Why would they? I think you're really setting up a bad precedent here and I would ask you to reconsider.
Mr Conway: Just quickly: I want to come back to my point. I understand the intent here. The intent is laudable. The question for me is then the test: Will it work? That's why I'd like to hear maybe from somebody like the member for Middlesex, perhaps even the member for Northumberland. As I say, theoretically it's a very good construct. You can't argue against this except if you think -- and I always have to come back to examples. I'm a Bill Stewart. I'm a powerful Minister of Agriculture, a really powerful Minister of Agriculture, and this happens all the time. This process of course makes it very much more likely, and in an effort to streamline and to accelerate things, I'm not given a full opportunity; in fact, I may get no opportunity at all.
Now what I want to know is: How am I going to behave? What kind of a behaviour are we going to get? My limited experience is that, again, if I encountered a very aggressive -- Claude Bennett comes to mind. I'm thinking of a former minister of the crown, very resourceful, very knowledgeable. I'll tell you, the opportunities that were out there for people who felt that they either didn't get an adequate opportunity or who lost a big fight to undermine the collective decision were quite interesting and usually at remarkable variance from all the public administration and political science I was ever taught.
I come back to the main point. What you want to do here I think is entirely laudable. The question is, will it work and meet the objective that you have set for it? I just sit here and try to think, how will people behave in this environment? I'd be interested to know what the member for Middlesex -- quite an excellent planner -- how he thinks people might behave in a department, a branch of government if they felt that they did not get adequate opportunity. There will be cases, I guarantee it, where people with major interests are going to read about this on the front page of the London Free Press. That's the first they're going to know about it.
I used an example yesterday and I am not kidding, that famous siting of the would-be toxic waste site down in the Grand River basin near Cayuga. I can imagine what they must have thought at Environment and Agriculture the day they all read that. It may be a brave new world and it'll never happen again, but I just simply ask the proponents of this policy, have you got sufficient reason to believe, on the basis of any kind of related experience and knowledge of humankind, that people with very significant interests are actually going to behave in a way that's going to allow your tightened time lines and your hope for streamlining to actually work?
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
Mr Bisson: Recorded vote.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the motion to fail.
Are there any further amendments to section 1?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 1(2) of the Planning Act, as set out in subsection 1(4) of the bill, be amended by striking out "45.1(12)" in the fifth line and substituting "45(12)".
This amendment is being put forward to deal with the amendment that will occur later on in the debate where we are proposing to return the appeal for minor variance to the OMB, and so it requires the removing of that section from this part of the bill.
Ms Churley: It sounds like it's quite technical. It's a problem, however, with all of the amendments before us, particularly from the government members. I understand that by and large they're technical and there are not a lot of amendments with a great deal of substance. However, we're going to need fairly good explanations as to the implications of those.
Now you say, Mr Hardeman, that this has to do with an amendment down the road, and since we haven't come to that yet, I'm having a little bit of trouble supporting this when I haven't been given the explanation for the amendment that it's referring to.
Mr Hardeman: It deals with the other process for the appeal from the committee of adjustment decision to council if no member of council is on the committee, that if there's a member of council on the committee, they can no longer appeal to council because that would be double jeopardy for being heard by the same person. We are proposing in the amendment that will be coming forward to go back to the original design where all minor variances will be directly appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board. So there's no longer a need for reference in this section to that process within that definition later on. When we get to that section, it will be struck out and removed from the bill.
Ms Churley: Okay.
Mr Bradley: This is probably not procedurally correct to do, but with the indulgence of the Chair, would it be reasonable to ask perhaps, not that we officially deal with it, but that you explain in a little bit of detail what you're going to do down the line that calls for these technical amendments that look benign to me. I know you've made reference to it, but if the Chair would allow you to perhaps elaborate a bit on what you're going to do down the line, it'll help us with these amendments, to know why we're passing what seem to be benign amendments.
Mr Hardeman: It's quite simple. We are proposing to remove all other references of appeal other than minor variances will go back to being appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board, as they have been in Bill 163.
Mr Bradley: As simple as that then. This one here, I heard you mention double jeopardy.
Mr Hardeman: The proposal in Bill 20 was that there would be no longer appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board of minor variances. The appeal would be only to the council of the municipality, and in such areas where the council had appointed its own members on the committee of adjustment, there would be no appeal of minor variance.
Mr Bradley: That's right.
Mr Hardeman: It would also reference that if a municipality requested or wanted to do so, they could ask the OMB to hear the appeal on their behalf if they paid for it. But it was removing the direct appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for all minor variances. We are proposing to take all that out and go back to a straight appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Mr Bisson: Just so I can follow what's happening, you're striking out section 45.1 or 45? Which section are you striking out?
Mr Hardeman: No, we're striking out the section --
Mr Bisson: I understand what you're doing in this motion here at this point. What I'm asking is, if you're moving it from 45.1(12) to 45(12), it insinuates there will be no 45.1 left in the act, right?
Mr Hardeman: When we get to those sections, both 45 and 45.1 will be defeated. The government will be voting against those sections.
Mr Bisson: So 45 and 45.1 are gone.
Mr Hardeman: Yes. This is just a clarification to make sure that the definition, as it refers to in this section, or the authority in this section will not refer to those sections because they no longer will exist in the bill if those amendments are approved.
Mr Bisson: But you've a problem here. That's why I'm having a bit of a problem following you. You're going to substitute 45.1 under subsection 1(2) for 45(12). Do you follow me? You're getting an explanation here. I think the researcher figures what I'm getting at here. Are you striking out 45 and 45.1? Or are you going to keep in place 45?
Mr Hardeman: We will be replacing the old section and it will be 45.
Mr Bisson: Gotcha.
Mr Hardeman: So the reference will have to be to that 45 section.
Mr Bisson: I just wanted to follow. Thank you.
The Chair: Any further comment?
All those in favour of the motion? All those contrary to the motion? The motion is successful.
Any further amendments to section 1?
Ms Churley: I have an amendment. I need unanimous consent for it to be considered. Could I tell you what this amendment is?
The Chair: Is this your 1.1, Ms Churley?
Ms Churley: Yes.
The Chair: Actually, we will vote on section 1 first.
Ms Churley: Oh, that's the way you do that. All right.
The Chair: Having said that, all those in favour of section 1, as amended? Contrary? Section 1 carries.
Ms Churley: I would like to ask for unanimous consent to consider the motion which I am putting forward. The motion is section 1.1 of the bill, clause 1.1(a.1) of the Planning Act.
I move that the bill be amended by adding the following section:
"1.1 Subsection 1.1 of the act, as enacted by the Statutes of Ontario, 1994, chapter 23, section 4, is amended by adding the following clause:
"(a.1) to ensure that, in land use planning, environmental protection is treated as being equal in importance to economic development."
The reason why I'm asking for unanimous consent to consider this motion today is that the --
Mr Bisson: Don't give the explanation.
Ms Churley: Pardon?
Mr Bisson: Just ask for unanimous consent.
Ms Churley: No, I want to give it, because they're not giving me unanimous consent.
Mr Bisson: Okay. Dummy.
Ms Churley: Dummy.
Mr Bisson: I admit it; I blew the strategy here.
Mr Murdoch: Where do you find these guys?
Mr Bisson: Exactly.
Ms Churley: I realize that the purposes section of the act is --
The Chair: Excuse me, Ms Churley. To discuss this you have to formally read the motion.
Ms Churley: I did, Mr Chair.
The Chair: Oh, I beg your pardon. Forgive me. Then I must ask if there is unanimous consent --
Ms Churley: I mean, you guys, from every side --
The Chair: There must be unanimous consent to allow debate on the addition of a new section. Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much. I appreciate very much your giving me the opportunity to discuss this with you. I'll read it again.
What I want added is the following clause, "to ensure that, in land use planning, environmental protection is treated as being equal in importance to economic development."
Mr Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, at one time was heard to say in a meeting that he thought that Bill 163 leaned too far in favour of the environment and not enough in favour of economic development. He is the minister who is in charge of this bill, who will be in charge of development in the province of Ontario. He has stated already that he thought that it's not good to have something leaning too much in favour of the environment.
I know that time and time again we have heard in this committee from the committee members -- and from developers, interestingly enough -- that they now believe, that you now believe this bill is balanced and that our bill, Bill 163, leaned too far in favour of the environment.
You have to bear in mind that the previous NDP government spent two years on the road consulting, one of the biggest consultations ever to take place in the province of Ontario. Not everybody agreed on either side of Bill 163, which suggests to me that there was a bit of a balance there. One of the things I've found out, having been in government, is that quite often you know you've achieved a bit of a balance when not anybody on either side is completely happy and everybody comes with some substantive amendments they'd like to see. Well, that certainly happened with Bill 163, but overall both sides felt that they got some of the things they could live with.
What bothers me about this particular bill is that it mentions "protect the environment" in the title, but the bill itself very clearly leans far more heavily to development -- and that is short-term development -- promotes urban sprawl, redefines the map for protecting our natural heritage. This act very clearly, in an extreme way, leans far, far more heavily to short-term economic benefits, short-term economic development.
I believe, at the very least -- government members say over and over again that they believe there is a balance here in this bill, environmental protection is mentioned in the title. If the government is serious about real, long-term, sustainable economic development, then you have to look at the long-term cost of development. It has to be factored in. When you have bad development, paving over farm land, polluting water, causing other environmental damage --
Mr Bradley: Severances.
Ms Churley: -- severances -- yes, thank you -- all over the place, there is going to be large economic cost down the road to the public. You might not see it for a while. You might get the money you want now, quick development, more people paying taxes, more urban sprawl. You won't have to worry about it right now because it might help; a little bit more money might come in to help you with your 30% tax cut. But I can guarantee you that taxpayers down the road, when maybe none of us sitting in this room today is going to be in this room, other governments and people, our children -- we talk about protecting our children and you, the government, talk about the need to protect our children from deficits down the road. What this bill does in its present form is ensure that our children and our grandchildren down the road will be paying dearly, both in environmental degradation and economically, for mistakes made because of all the glaring gaps in this bill in terms of protecting the environment.
So I think if the government -- and I believe some members of the government do feel very strongly -- not all, but some -- and feel that in their opinion this bill is balancing economic development and the environment. I say it isn't, and I have the evidence of that, but if you feel secure that that's what this bill does, I do not see any problem whatsoever in inserting this particular clause, because all it does is put in writing clearly -- I think it would give many environmentalists and cottagers and all of the people out there who care about the environment some comfort to know that you don't agree with the statements made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that economics come over environment, have more precedence over the environment. All it does is actually say what you've been saying anyway, that there should be balance, that the environment and economic development should be balanced equally. I think that's very clear and concise and is not ambiguous. It's very clear.
Mr Bradley: I will speak in favour of the amendment that has been proposed as an addition to the bill because it certainly is in keeping with the title of the bill. If we wanted the title to truly be reflected in the contents of the bill -- the title reads "An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment," and then it goes on to mention other things -- but if it were truly to do that, it would equally give weight to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth at the same time. I think that's what the member is endeavouring to do.
One of the problems with ignoring the environment or making the environment subservient to economic growth is that you can't undo the mistakes that you make in the environment. Once you pave the farm land, you don't have the farm land any more. You can't take up the pavement and begin farming again. If you do, it's an extremely difficult process to go through.
If I look at the Niagara Peninsula as an example -- and it wasn't necessarily members who are sitting here today, by any means -- some of the development that has taken place is rather unwise, and I think it's unwise because there wasn't equal consideration given to the environment and economic growth.
What I mentioned Monday when we were in Hamilton was that municipalities now, because the provincial government is cutting back funding -- and I'm not getting in the middle of that fight; I'm just stating it as a fact. Because the provincial government is cutting back transfers or funding to the municipal level of government, many of those politicians at the local level are going to be desperate to get some kind of development taking place, some kind of economic growth taking place, and they would be more inclined than normally so to permit developments that don't fully take into account the environmental consequences that they should. By placing this in the bill, there's a signal given by the government that the environment and economic growth are about equal in terms of the thrust of this bill.
I don't think all the members of the government -- there are some members who have different views, and I respect all the views of members of the House. I don't think anyone holds a right view and someone else a wrong view; I respect the points of view of the government. But I think it would alleviate, at least to a little bit of an extent, the concerns of those who have expressed concerns about this bill if this amendment were incorporated in it, would be stated clearly in it.
One again, I just look with longing at some of the areas of the province that offered a lot of attraction to many people, and this was over three governments, much of it begun in the Progressive Conservative governments of Premiers Frost and Robarts and Davis. When I see some of the proposals that I know people have in their minds to bring forward and how easily those proposals can proceed unless the environment is taken into equal consideration with economic growth, I become very concerned about the provisions of this bill.
So I think it's acceptable to put this in the bill. It, as I say, gives some comfort to some individuals, and it does live up to the title of the bill if you're prepared to agree to this amendment. I would urge the government members to join with some of the opposition members, whoever choose to do so, in supporting this particular amendment, which makes eminent good sense.
Mr Bisson: Some of what I want to say has been said and I won't touch on that too much, other than to say that I hear the mantra of the government time and time again about how we're trying to protect our children and make sure that we don't throw them into debt and everything else for future generations. Well, I think the argument, if the government buys it on economic issues, should be an argument that they buy on environmental issues. I think you all believe, as we do in opposition, that we need to make sure that we are the stewards of our environment and make sure that the environment is protected for future generations. I would just echo what was said by my colleague Marilyn Churley and by my colleague from the Liberal Party.
The other thing I would say to that particular argument is, the title of your act, as Mr Bradley said, is supposedly the whole idea of what this is all about. You're saying "An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment...." Well, if you really mean what's in the title of the bill, you should support this particular motion. I don't see a problem.
If you don't vote in support of the motion as said here -- the motion basically says, "to ensure that, in land use planning, environmental protection is treated as being equal in importance to economic development," if you vote against that motion, then you don't support the title of your bill. It's real simple. If you vote in support of this motion, then you're in agreement with what is in the title of the bill. So I'm sure that you are going to support this motion because it is exactly what you're saying in the title of the bill. I see this as a motion that supports what the government is doing, and I'm sure in your wisdom you will support that.
But just to give you a bit of evidence in order to be able to make sure that it's not just myself from the New Democratic Party saying that, I would add a couple of things. There was a prominent Tory person who was in this assembly, not as an elected member but as the Lieutenant Governor, one named Lincoln Alexander, back on June 2, 1991. At that time Mr Alexander, in his wisdom, signed a document put forward by the government that put in place the work that Mr Sewell did on his commission. I just want to read two parts of what was in that order in council, dated June 6, 1991:
"The government of Ontario believes that planning and development processes should recognize and support environmental, agricultural and other public interests." I think if I heard Mrs Fisher a little while ago say anything, she was saying she was in agreement with that whole concept, and I've heard other Tory members say that as well.
It goes on to say, "protection of the public interest in planning and land development and support of provincial priorities, including environmental and agricultural considerations...." So if one Lincoln Alexander, a prominent Conservative member of the federal House who eventually became the Lieutenant Governor for this assembly, signed this document, as he did, in support of the work that our government was doing through the commission headed by Mr Sewell, I'm sure the present Conservatives of this assembly will support that particular notion.
I would say, in this day and age when we recognize finally that we need to be protective of the environment and we need to make sure that we are the stewards of the environment in the future, that government members will vote in support of this motion because it supports what's in the title of the act. If you vote against it, my friends, it means to say you don't believe what's in the title of the act.
Mr Hardeman: First of all, I want to say I think that the act already fulfils the mandate of the title of the act. I think it is quite clear that the act does protect the environment. We will not be supporting the amendment. I think it's partly to do with the "ambiguity" of the -- I can't say the word quite right, Mr Chair, but being equal. It becomes very difficult and subjective to decide in the process what is equal, and when they are equal, how do you deal with the situation?
I think as you read the amendment and then you read clause (a) of that same part of the bill, it is "to promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within the policy and by the means provided under this act." We believe that is more prescriptive to development than equality; that is to say, that development shall take place in an environmentally sound way, as opposed to treating them both equal and then choosing the lesser of the two equals. I think that the amendment does not add to the bill, and for that reason we will not be supporting it.
Mr Bisson: I am amazed, because it quite frankly flies in the face of what you're trying to do in the bill. You know as well as I do, Parliamentary Assistant, that if I was to go before any tribunal and I was to argue that the judge has to rule in my favour based on a title of a bill, how far do you think that will get me in my argument with that judge? The judge can't rule on the title of a bill. The title is simply that; it's a title. What the judge rules on is what the content of the law is. That's all that the tribunal can rule on in regard to the actual law.
What normally happens in a bill -- and again I'd be interested to hear from my friend from the Liberal opposition, who was once the Minister of the Environment, who I'm sure supports this motion -- if you have a bill and the purpose of the bill is to protect the environment and it will allow planning to go forward in a streamlined way, you would normally put that in the purpose clause of the bill to give it some teeth. That's normally what happens. Any bill that came through this House and passed under the Liberal regime or our regime, you would put your intent of what you wanted to do into the purpose clause.
In this case, it ain't there. The question of protecting the environment is not in the purpose clause. I took it that it was just an oversight, that the government figured that because you said it in the title, it must be so. Well, just because you say it, that doesn't mean it's so. It has to be in the bill.
Again, I would say that if you believe in what you say in your title, you have to support this motion, because what we're trying to put into the bill is what you're saying in the title. You can't argue that, because it's in the title, it's going to make it so, because you know as well as I do, a tribunal will not support the title of the bill. It will only rule on what's in the interior of the bill, and if you don't say inside the bill that the environment is an equal interest to development, it means quite the opposite.
The Chair: Are there comments? Seeing none, I put the question.
Mr Bisson: Recorded vote.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the motion to fail.
Are there any comments, suggestions or amendments to section 2?
Ms Churley: Before we continue, I'd like to ask you, Mr Chair, to bear with us. We just received some of these motions recently and we're busy following and making sure we're all in the same place at the same time, so just give us a moment here.
The Chair: I don't believe there are any amendments, none that I'm in receipt of. Seeing no discussion, all those in favour of section 2? Those contrary? Section carried.
Any amendments, comments or suggestions for section 3?
Mr Bisson: I move that subsections 3(5) and (6) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 3 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:
"Decisions consistent with policy statements
"(5) A decision of the council of a municipality, local board, planning board, the minister and the municipal board under this act and such decisions under any other act as may be prescribed shall be consistent with policy statements issued under subsection (1).
"Advice consistent with policy statements
"(6) With respect to any planning matter under this act, the comments, submissions or advice provided by a minister or a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government or Ontario Hydro shall be consistent with policy statements issued under subsection (1)."
It's fairly clear that this gets into the whole question of our policy statements, the issue of "shall have regard to" versus "consistent with." If we heard anything through this whole process of committee -- submissions from outside of Toronto where people came and submitted to this committee, and again here in Toronto -- we heard about this issue. Even when we spoke to those who came in and said, "We support the government on this particular issue and we think it's great," when you pushed them on it, they started recognizing there was a weakness in that argument. Everybody agreed that if municipalities are to get the power to do local planning, they have to have clear rules at the provincial levels by which they guide themselves to do the work of planning at the local level.
For the government to say that the provincial policies will only have to be regarded when making planning decisions versus being "consistent with" is really a bit of a funny argument. Why would you have policies in the first place? You have policies for the reason that they are important to the province, are an interest of the province. For the government to say we're going to move back to the bad old days, basically that a municipal council or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs don't have to apply some litmus test and actually look at an issue from the perspective of those policies, I think is really opening up for trouble. I would just say -- I'm sure other members have a lot to say on it -- that government members should really look at this one again.
If we're going to give the power to the municipalities to do planning, you've got to give them clear rules and they've got to be consistent with the rules. Make the policies clear; that's what you've got to do. If your argument is that the policies are unclear -- I've heard that from Conservative members -- let's work on that. Let's make them clear. You will get the support of this party, the New Democratic Party, and I'm sure you will get the support of the Liberal Party on that, if you're prepared to sit down and work on policies and make them clear to protect provincial interests and then make it very clear to municipalities that they must be consistent with and make the planners do their planning to be consistent with those policies.
Mr Bradley: One of the problems I have with the bill and the timing of the bill that relates to this particular motion is that we will not see the final copy, the finalized form, of the provincial policy statements until such time as the government would like to see the bill passed. I think that's putting the cart before the horse, because if we want to objectively decide whether we're voting for or against this bill as individuals in the Legislature or as parties, we would like to know what the policy statements say. Government, I don't think, is going to want to wait for that, but that is one of the reasons people are looking for "consistent with."
There was an excellent presentation made by the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. I listened carefully because it was some real wisdom brought to the process. They mentioned why "be consistent with" in their view -- and it's a view I personally agree with; perhaps not all my colleagues, but I personally agree. They made a compelling case for "be consistent with."
Looking at both sides, the pro-development side and the anti-development side, they said: "The biggest reason for the slowness of the planning process in the past was the existence of the phrase `must have regard to' in the Planning Act. It leads all participants to try to second-guess what a provincial policy or an official plan clause or a zoning bylaw statement means. No one feels bound to accept as a precedent previous interpretations of the language in planning documents. This phrase, more than anything else, led to debate after debate." They've had several interventions as an organization in these debates, so I think they would know that.
They went on to say, "Municipalities become beholden to professional planners and their interpretations of the language in planning documents, rather than citizens being able to understand the plain language of policies and bylaws." Now, I think plain language falls more into line with "be consistent with."
"Words that set a lower standard of compliance with the plain language of the provincial policy statement -- thankfully, the draft is written in fairly plain language -- will be great make-work projects for lawyers and planners, at the expense of all citizens." I don't want to see planners and lawyers unemployed; they have something to do out there, and that's nice to see. But they do make this statement that they will dominate the process.
"The underlying purpose of the provincial policy statement is to help municipalities get the planning job done. If you make the context vague, the policies will not help. A vague context will require extensive implementation guidelines for the provincial policy statement. This was the biggest mistake of the previous administration: the creation of a four-inch-thick implementation guideline. We favour keeping the policies clear and precise and letting the municipal official plans be the guidelines to the interpretation of the provincial policies. There's not much sense in putting all this effort into creating provincial policies and then not making serious use of them."
I didn't know which side they would come down on in this issue, and they really came down on the side of "be consistent with." I understand the problems. Listen, I have been in the Legislature long enough to know it's maybe easier for somebody in an urban municipality to say that than a rural municipality; I understand that. And not all the province is the same; I understand that as well. But I really believe that when you develop good policy statements, we want to see it consistently applied across the province so one part of the province isn't capitulating to developers at the expense of another. We have a lot of this happen in the United States particularly; they can even offer incentives, tax incentives and so on, from one municipality to another trying to compete with one another.
So I personally -- and I state that personally as opposed to necessarily speaking for my party -- come down on the side of "be consistent with" as opposed to "must have regard to." I think the Christian Farmers were probably the association that best exemplified that for me, in terms of the arguments they made for why it was necessary. I thought their brief was very good. There were other briefs that mentioned it as well, and there were, in fairness, other opinions put forward. The development industry, at least the ones I heard, preferred "have regard to." I don't know if all of them would, but at least the ones I heard.
I don't pretend it's not difficult to make that decision. I would prefer to come down with "be consistent with," however.
Mr Hardeman: The government will not be supporting the amendment. It's interesting to note that Mr Bradley mentioned the presentation made by the Christian Farmers, and indeed they were supportive of "consistent with." I have great respect for the opinion of the Christian Farmers and the work they do towards the stewardship of our land, but I think we should also have on record that the same day we had a presentation from the Federation of Agriculture, who, incidentally, also have the same concerns as the stewards of our land. In direction, they tend to represent a wider area of the province generally than the Christian Farmers, and I think they realize the diversity of farming in Ontario and the wishes or needs of the farming community. That's why I believe they came down strongly on the side of "shall have regard for."
It's also important to note that the government agrees that the way to guide good development is through good, strong policy statements. Having said that, when those statement are prepared and approved, however, it's important for local autonomy to let the local municipalities, that know their community, know what's required and I think know what's best for their community, be allowed to make the decisions on planning matters, provided they protect the provincial interests outlined in the policy statements. I think it's inappropriate to have the policy statements to protect the provincial interest and then tell everyone, "You shall achieve that goal the same way; you shall be consistent with that policy," recognizing that in different areas they will have different directions and different needs.
I can take one example at home, where we have a large tract of land with much gravel underneath it. To preserve that gravel under the aggregates policy statement requires the moving of that 400 acres to 400 acres of prime agricultural land to accommodate growth. Someone is going to have to make those priority decisions to weigh the one against the other, and I believe the local municipalities are best equipped to do that. We will not be supporting this amendment.
Ms Churley: I couldn't agree with my colleague Jim Bradley more in terms of the guideline. I believe you mentioned the NDP guidelines. Was it you who mentioned that?
Mr Bradley: I think they did, the Christian Farmers.
Ms Churley: Right, and that is quite correct. The guidelines were a huge mistake. Many people confused and still do confuse those guidelines with the policy directions. Boy, I admit I didn't like them. It seemed to me that part of what happened in the development of those guidelines was that there were a lot of things that a lot of people wanted that got left out of the actual act and the policy statement, and all of it somehow ended up in the guidelines. There is no doubt in my mind that had the NDP stayed in government, those guidelines would have been dealt with swiftly, because they did present a real problem and unfortunately, I believe, led to the demise perhaps of the "be consistent with."
If people were watching this on TV -- which they're not; there's not even any press here -- people would think we were mad, having such long discussions about what sounds almost like semantics, around "shall have regard for" or "be consistent with." But when you understand the context of what we're talking about, the implications between one and the other are quite massive. I agree that during these committee hearings there were really split opinions, and people feel very strongly -- no grey areas with this one. People feel very strongly one way or the other.
I found the division interesting. The environmentalists, the community groups, the ordinary people, the few who did come, trying to protect natural areas where they live all came down on the side of staying with the "consistent with," and all the developers, who incidentally love this bill -- which is why I have some problems. They love it too much, don't have enough problems with it, for it to be balanced. They didn't ask for very much to be changed.
Mr Bradley: They'll be showing their gratitude with their donations.
Ms Churley: With their donations, that's right. Coming back to "shall be consistent with," my fear is the lack of balance in this bill and that people are so split. This rings alarm bells for me, because people feel so strongly about it. God knows, when we were in government we went through this debate as well and decided to come down on the side of "shall be consistent with," and here are some of the reasons.
We did give under Bill 163 -- I asked some of the municipalities and developers who came in, and they agreed with me -- more autonomy to the municipalities so they didn't have to come running to the government every time they wanted to change an official plan or all the aspects. They had more autonomy. This is the explanation for this: The tradeoff here was that in giving them more autonomy -- and in your bill they have even more -- therefore there would have to be broad public interest policy. They would have to do more than have regard for, pick it up, take a look and say, "Oh, that's nice, we like that," and then toss it aside, which is what is going to happen in some municipalities.
The CELA, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, brief mentions some of the very bad planning decisions that have been made. Just a few examples: One in Sydenham Mills in Grey county, which I know Mr Murdoch knows very well about; Keppel township in Grey county. There are numerous examples of very bad planning decisions being made by some municipalities. We have to face it. They're not necessarily bad people just out to care about development and making money. They sometimes don't have the means, the staff, the money, the tax base, and as the province is pulling out more and more in terms of transfer payments, cutting staff in ministries which could be helpful to them in their planning exercises, when the province is pulling out almost completely, you're leaving municipalities in many cases with no resources to even do proper planning.
There are going to be developers out there champing at the bit with this new act, looking at presenting new development which would bring more money to the municipality. They're going to be under a lot of pressure to toss aside any provincial policy that exists. I have to tell you, like my colleague Mr Bradley I have concerns that we don't have that in front of us yet, although I understand you're consulting about that. I have no faith that this policy is going to be all that good anyway, but on the other hand, if they only have to have regard for it, they can look at it, read it and say: "It doesn't fit Grey county. We'll just ignore that now. We've looked at it, we've had regard for it," toss it out the window and just go right ahead with very bad planning. That is what's going to happen. I can guarantee it.
I know I'm not going to change your minds today, but I want you to know how strongly I feel about this, and I want you to know that you're going to pay for this. You don't have to worry about it now, but I can guarantee you that what the developers are so happy about -- they think now they can go out with minimum red tape, minimum regulation all over the place and just build, develop like crazy, pave over farm land. There are going to be bad environmental decisions made. There's going to be contaminated water again. There are going to be all kinds of problems, and people are going to pay dearly for it.
The issue here is to look at having broad policy statements that are flexible enough -- and that can be done -- but written in such a way that municipalities can look at it and determine how they can plan within that context within their municipality. They need that assistance. I know AMO and many municipalities said they didn't like it. I know that. Many people --
Mr Bradley: I like AMO. Be careful.
Ms Churley: You love AMO, do you, Mr Bradley? Don't get me going on AMO today, okay? You're getting me off track. That's for another time.
There are some, including Mr Sewell -- and no matter what you may think about Mr Sewell, no matter what you may think about Bill 163, no matter what you may think about the NDP, Mr Sewell was out there for two years talking to people across this province. He did a comprehensive study of the Planning Act in Ontario -- the problems, the needs -- and he came back with recommendations. He feels very strongly about this. Does that not count for something? It's as though Mr Sewell came in, and everybody enjoyed it, and he gave a nice little talk. He told you what he heard out there across the province and why at the end of the day this was recommended. It was recommended because we know what's going to happen.
Mr Sewell and others made it clear -- and I know there are arguments, but I believe you're now going to have protracted site-specific battles because it's not clear. That goes against the grain of what you're talking about. It's going to increase costs, it's going to increase confusion, it's going to be more ambiguous.
Mr Sewell and I believe CELA and others put very clearly what will happen as a result of this. You're going to have, because of the uncertainty, a no-win situation. If a municipality says yes to some developer and the environmentalists or surrounding community don't like it, they're going to appeal to the OMB. On the other hand, if they say no because they're concerned about the environmental aspects, the developer is going to appeal it.
It seems politically popular now with the Conservative government base of voters out there, including AMO and the developers, that this makes sense. But the irony is that it isn't going to work. You can mark my words on that, and the day is going to come where, unfortunately, I will be able to say, "I told you so." I'm not going to enjoy it, although usually it's fun coming back and saying, "I told you so." I won't enjoy it, because I don't enjoy the thought that there are going to be massive environmental cleanups and costs to my kids and my grandkids down the road. I don't enjoy the fact that there are going to be protracted and difficult hearings and more and more community fights over specific sites.
I know you've already made up your minds about this. I know you've listened to the other side of the argument --
Mr Bradley: Bill's changing his vote. Don't worry.
Ms Churley: Yes, Bill Murdoch wants to get Grey county in order. No more chance for the province to declare a provincial interest, however, so all the more reason they need good, strong provincial policies.
This is one I'm speaking at some length about because in many ways it's at the core of the importance of this bill. The implications are going to be so severe by going this route. The argument I hear time and time again -- Ms Fisher and others keep saying about municipalities: "They're good guys. They're going to do the right thing. They know their area best. They don't want the big, bad province stepping in and telling them what to do." I've already talked about the fact that in some cases, yes, there are some bad guys out there -- let's all face it -- on municipal councils. In most cases, though, it's a matter, as I said, of not having the proper resources, not having the ability to do proper planning, a lot of pressures in smaller communities to get more development in and bad decisions made. I don't think anybody is saying that municipalities can't make the best decisions for their own areas, but if we don't have some broad policies to at least protect certain aspects of our natural heritage, we're going to have really serious problems. I really regret this government is not being brave enough to say no to AMO and no to the developers on this one and say, "You're going to do the right thing for the future of our province."
Have I changed anybody's mind?
Mr Bradley: Yes.
Ms Churley: You mean you're voting the other way?
Mr Bradley: You changed Bill Murdoch's mind.
Mr Conway: I'd like to weigh in, in a way that may not satisfy the previous speaker. I think Ms Churley is right in --
Mr Conway: No, nor my friend Mr Bradley, and he won't be surprised at some of what I have to say. What I have to say is largely the perspective of someone who represents the hinterland, where we are always acted upon by the imperial authorities represented by people who live in Riverdale and St Catharines.
Ms Churley: Now, now.
Mr Conway: Just hear me out. But I agree with Marilyn that this is a core issue. If you've listened to this debate -- and I've only listened to it intermittently as a visitor to the committee -- this is a key issue that has focused a lot of the energy in the Bill 20 hearings.
I will say this to some new members. Whether they know it or not, they probably heard one or two of the best speeches I've heard in over 20 years in the Legislature by the former Premier Mr Rae, who in the last couple of months gave marvellous valedictions that speak to his long experience in public life, but particularly how his experience in government changed his views. If you didn't hear either of the speeches, I would recommend that everyone go and read them, because I think they're masterpieces.
One of the key elements of Mr Rae's departing text was that circumstance is very important. Bob Rae began public life 20 years ago as a pretty eloquent, thoroughgoing theoretician, and no one can debate his intellectualism or his good intent. But I found fascinating what he had to say as he took his leave, particularly in light of five years in government. He was prepared to admit that the actual business of government has led him to amend some of his earlier thinking, because circumstance really did alter some of his core thinking.
Mr Bradley: He even takes donations from the corporate sector.
Mr Conway: Mr Bradley, I don't think that's fair.
With some reservations, I want to support what the government is doing here. I come down on the side of "have regard to" as opposed to "shall be consistent with," and I want to take a few minutes to speak to that.
The parliamentary secretary draws us to the OFA brief. I just happened to note that the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture told us yesterday that they think "have regard to" is an insufficient protection. I think that's a good example of just how divided even that constituency is, and I suspect if we canvassed federations around the province we might find the umbrella position is not a unanimous one, and that would surprise no one.
The other thing I should add at the outset -- and I'm not going to be too, too long on this -- is that I suspect at the end of the day what we would end up with, with "have regard to" and "shall be consistent with" in terms of its practical application, won't be as great as you might imagine, and let me say why. If, in a province as large and as diverse as Ontario, you are going to govern and you're going to have a planning process that says local planning shall be consistent with provincial dictates, believe me, the only way you're going to make that work is that you're going to have to have policy statements that read like the Delphic oracle. They can mean everything or they can mean nothing. But you're going to have to allow a great deal of interpretation and elasticity at the bottom end by virtue of the kind of language you incorporate in the policy statements.
On the other hand, I think you are going to have a situation where if you provide, I hope -- and this is why I say with some reservation. I know some of my colleagues, perhaps even one from St Catharines, aren't as optimistic as I'm going to be about the decision-making that might take place at the local and regional levels. I am hopeful. I say this to those of you particularly who've just recently served on local council. I just have to believe that everybody has figured this out, that this is a new world, and if you burn your ass, you are going to get to sit on the blisters. Pardon the inelegance of that; I should take that back. If you burn your posterity, we are going to -- posterior; God, I can't even say this. If you are going to burn your posterior, we are, as provincial legislators, going to give you a joyful opportunity to sit on the blisters. We are not going to sit here, as I've sat here for decades, watching people who went headlong into a disaster, saying: "Oh, my, my, isn't that all terrible? Give me a million bucks to clean it up."
I'm for local decision-making, believe you me, but I'm telling you, since I'm not in government, I'm not going to be the one carrying the bad news. There are going to be lots of good government members and there are going to be very, very competent ministers who are going to stare these supplicants in the eye and say, "Oh, we told you so, and now you're going to go back to Zorra or southwest Oxford, you name it, and you're going to call the public meeting and you're going to tell these people their share of the cleanup bill is $2,064." I'm sure that all of my friends on the treasury bench know that.
The problem I have with the Bill 163 proposition, I say to my friend from Riverdale, is simply this -- and I don't for a moment dispute the good intentions of the government. Seriously. Out in Renfrew, even before Bill 163, you'd sit at a meeting and you'd be with a lot of good people saying: "Who wrote this? Who wrote this directive?" In my county, I might add, 50% of the land base is the crown, and the most interesting and enjoyable experience I've had is watching the crown basically opt out of or just walk away from rules it sets for everybody else, usually on the grounds of: "Who could be expected to live with this? Not us. Not Her Majesty. So we're not playing by these rules. But by the way, we expect you will." I don't think, by the way, that attitude is going to change one bit in the new order. I can't wait for Her Majesty, in more straitened circumstances now, living with some of this policy out in the upper Ottawa Valley. I can't wait.
We sit here, I say to my friend from Riverdale, with Bill 163 and the policy statements -- there wasn't one; there were seven -- and if you took those policy statements -- and any good bureaucrat could -- you could stop everything and anything. If you wanted, you could virtually freeze the whole bloody works. Or more likely, whoever wrote policy statement C had never talked to the person who'd written policy statement D, because of course one was about natural heritage -- that was the cultural glitterati -- and the other one was about the environment, and of course ne'er the twain shall meet. This is why at one level I'm really attracted to the one-window approach and that's why I can't wait to see what happens.
Ms Churley: You're such a Liberal.
Mr Conway: Listen, I may be no more Liberal than Bob Rae. The problem that central governments have these days is that we are seen to be illegitimate in the actual administration of well-intended public policy, because (a) you either can't make it work, you simply can't make it work at all, or (b) it's just rife with unintended consequences.
I see the other day they finally abandoned Mirabel. I can tell you, Mirabel airport was not the province of local planning. That was a bunch of God knows what kind of planners located in a national government. What a disaster; what an absolute disaster. We had central planners who were going to do the same at Pickering, and we marched out and we did all kinds of wondrous, totally ridiculous -- in retrospect. But that wasn't local planning; that was the province itself.
My point is simply that in this fundamental division of opinion I come down on the side of "have regard to," because I think in a province as large as this there has to be sufficient flexibility and sufficient -- what's the word I want?
Mr Bisson: You guys are split on this one.
Mr Conway: Well, we might be split. I've got to tell you, I suspect there are a lot of New Democrats who don't disagree with me. I'd like to get my old friend Elmer Buchanan in here.
Ms Churley: Elmer did the right thing.
Mr Baird: Where would you find a lot of New Democrats anyway?
Mr Conway: There are a lot of New Democrats around, and I think it is an unwise thing for people who have won a major government win to imagine that they're not around.
Ms Churley: That's right, baby.
Mr Conway: I think it very unwise.
Mr Bisson: You guys weren't around in 1990, remember?
Mr Conway: The other day -- and I think probably some of you thought I was joking -- I asked that excellent presenter we had from Wentworth, Ms Redish, if she'd ever read Burmese Days. The point of Burmese Days, if you haven't read it, is that in the British imperial service you had a fellow in Burma trying to administer policy that must be consistent with the centre of empire, and it was completely ridiculous. Did any of you see the film Breaker Morant? What do you do when you go to war and you --
Mr Conway: Well, I'm telling you, if you go to war and you're supposed to play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules and your opponent doesn't, what do you do? These are analogies that I know perhaps don't rest very comfortably with some, but this is the difference of opinion that we've had. I'm under no illusions about some local government. When I was a graduate student at Queen's University, my best friend's father was judicially inquiring into the affairs of someone who was soon to be one of my colleagues, the famous inquiry into Kingston township, 1974. Unbelievable stuff.
Mr Bradley: J. Earl McEwen?
Mr Conway: J. Earl McEwen by name. He's been Liberal, Tory and probably NDP, so we've all got a piece of him.
The late Merle Dickerson was mayor of North Bay, many times elected and re-elected after he'd been convicted of some very interesting things. Sometimes people locally re-elect people who apparently do some very bad things.
I'm quite prepared to take my chances with local folks if we as a province provide, through this kind of framework legislation, sufficient opportunity for input, sufficient opportunity for appeal. I simply say that, with some reservation, I'm going to support the government on the "have regard to" and therefore not support "shall be consistent with," on the assumption that the government of Ontario and its agencies and local governments are going to take their responsibility more seriously, if for no other reason than there will not be money around to pay for the cleanups that Marilyn Churley and others are quite right to point to.
Mr Bisson: This particular motion is where the rubber meets the road, isn't it? It comes down to a basic belief, when it comes to land use planning, if we believe that we should follow the set of rules as set out in the province by the seven policies that are in place or we just have regard to them. I would say to the government members simply this -- and let's propose a couple of scenarios here -- if the federal government had said to the provinces back in the 1960s, when the Canada Health Act was put in place, "We're going to put a Canada Health Act in place that says, `Here are some principles by which we're going to run our health care system.' We're not telling you you have to be consistent with these laws, we're just saying you have to regard them," what do you think would have happened in each province across the country? You would have had quite different standards from one province to the other. I would say that even within certain provinces like Ontario, you could have had different standards apply to different people depending on the point of the geography that they happened to be situated in. The federal government recognized, rightfully so at the time, under the Liberal regime of the day, that you had to have a law that basically sets out what the rules are and what it is that you can do and what it is that you can't do under that particular act, and if you don't do what you're supposed to do, you will be penalized in some way, either by a judicial process or by withholding transfer dollars. That's what they did under the Canada Health Act.
The province has a number of acts, one of them being the Highway Traffic Act. Do we say in the Highway Traffic Act that you have to have regard to what the rules are when it comes to driving down a highway? The law is pretty clear. It says there are speed limits that you have to follow, there are rules of the road that you have to follow, and if you break them, you get fined. There's a reason that we do that. If we told people they only had to have regard to those laws, it would leave a lot of flexibility for the police at the municipal and the provincial level to levy fines, depending on how that particular police officer, he or she, feels about the issue and how they feel about the person they happen to have pulled over to the side of the road one snowy evening.
The point is that no, the province of Ontario says that you have to have a law that people have to be consistent with, that you have to follow, that has to be enforced. Why? Because if you don't do that, you're going to have a hodgepodge of examples about how different people do different things and about how, in the end, you may have a higher degree of protection in one part of the province where you may have quite the opposite in the other.
Again, do we say under the Environmental Protection Act that you have to have regard to what's in the act? I've dealt with the Environmental Protection Act on a number of occasions up in my constituency, in Cochrane South, dealing with mining, and it was quite clear. The government of the day, the Liberal government of David Peterson, when it made changes to the Environmental Protection Act, said: "No, you've got to be consistent with it. Here are some rules by which we're going to operate when it comes to the province of Ontario and how it deals with the environment."
The then Minister of the Environment, Mr Bradley, didn't go to cabinet and say: "We're going to amend this act in order to make it more development-friendly. We're going to amend the act in order to be able to say you only have to have regard to this when you're dealing with planning of a new development somewhere in Ontario, be it a new mine or a new plant or whatever it might be." They didn't say you have to have regard to it; they said you have to follow the law.
The province, under the leadership of David Peterson at the time and the then minister, Jim Bradley -- and I wish Jim was here, to hear his views on this, because I'm sure he has quite a different view of this than his friend from Renfrew North -- said that no, the act was put in place and you had to be consistent. What happened was that the act eventually was amended, by our government, in those areas that there were problems with. I recognize there is no government out there that's going to pass a bill that's going to get it 100% right. The Liberals, when they did amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, had a few problems in the way they approached it.
They cast a net in order to deal with the Hagersville tire fire. The net was cast a little bit too far and it did impede, in certain cases, development. The industry of the day, mainly mining in my case, because that's the industry of the people I represent by majority, came to me and said: "Listen, we agree that there have got to be rules in this province. We're responsible corporate citizens. We want to make sure that we preserve the environment in our operations and we want to be responsible to the environment of the people who live within it. But the rules are a little bit too strict." So what did we do? Eventually we made, by regulation, changes to the act that allowed certain things to happen that should have happened. There was some give and take. There was an evolving of the process. That's what happens. That's what this Legislature is all about.
If the law is a little bit too severe when it comes to allowing development to go forward, there are plenty of opportunities, under any government, to bring forward debate through legislation or through private members' bills, or whatever it might be, to be able to deal with the specific issue. But you've got to have clear rules. You can't have an inconsistency in how those rules are applied when it comes to the environment, because the environment is not inconsistent. It is a fairly exact science. If you pollute something, you harm something in the environment, you're going to pay for it, either in life or in financial terms or aesthetics. I say on that, in regard to what happens with other legislation, we don't say under other legislation, under the Environmental Protection Act or under the Mining Act, that you've got to be just having regard to what's in that act; we say you've got to be consistent. There are some good reasons.
I just want to pick up on the point that my good friend Mr Conway raises in regard to Mr Rae's points that he made in regard to ideology and the radical right. I think we should listen, because if we learned one thing in government, one of the lessons that we learned is that you cannot come to government and only govern from strictly the perspective of your ideology. We have to accept in our democratic system that there is a system of political parties. In our system right now we have three parties.
We have the radical right led by Mr Harris and -- I think the term was neatly put yesterday by one of the presenters in London -- you have the Liberals who are somewhere to the left of you but far to the right of centre, and you have the New Democratic Party, which I would say is left of centre to centre. That's good because that allows the dichotomy of debate to happen so that we're able to strike the balance on all legislation that goes forward. Then you've Bill Murdoch's party. We don't know quite what they're doing, but they have something to do with severances. That's all I know.
Mr Bisson: Is that a point of order you're trying to get to here? No?
The point I'm trying to make is what Mr Rae said. It's a lesson that we learned in government. When we came to government and we found we were faced with a humongous problem, being with the recession, there were a number of things as a party that we said, "Hey, we've just got to do them because, ideologically, we've said it has to be so." But we learned, and we paid for it I think to a certain extent in the election of 1995, that you have to be able to govern for the good of the people and not just the good of your party and your ideology. We as a government, if anybody did that right, we did that properly. We recognized that you just can't do it from an ideology.
The problem with what you guys are doing in this legislation, we see the radical right all over this thing. You have an act that says in the title that you want to promote economic development with a balance to the environment, but when it comes to the substance of the act, you say, no, you don't want to support that principle. Then in the act you say that you don't have to "be consistent with" policy, you only have to "have regard to" that particular policy. What you've got is you have an ideology coming into the act, and I think that's wrong.
I think that developers out there are responsible. Developers and planners and municipal councils want to do the right thing, but you've got to make darned sure that there are rules established that level the playing field from one community to another or what you're going to have, my friends, is what my friend Jim Bradley, the former Minister of the Environment, said from the Liberal Party. You're going to have one community fighting against the other in order to develop a particular interest in the economy to come to the community by lowering their standards.
That is what's going to happen and in a time of economic downturn that we're seeing happening -- we're looking at this jobless recovery of the economy moving back into, it looks like, hopefully never, but it looks like it's going to go back to what we've seen through the recession of the 1980s and 1990s. You're going to have a real temptation on the part of municipal councils, because they are close to the people, to be able to respond to the developments like the ERGs that I sought in my community back in the mid-1980s, where they will say yes to projects on the basis of their being able to create jobs and not on the basis of what can sustain a community in the long term. I think that's dangerous.
You're really putting this into a point that the trickle-down theory is going to be the one that's going to be the be-all and end-all for everybody. The trickle-down theory don't work. That's why we have laws. That's why we have rules. That's why we decide as a people, as a society, as a civilized people, to have some rules by which we need to operate, and I say that you have to have rules that are clear.
Don't listen to me. Listen to the submissions that you got through the entire hearings that we've gone through. For example, one of them that really struck me, a couple of them in fact, was the Taxpayers Coalition out of Burlington that came before our committee, not an organization that's closely allied with the social democratic party of Ontario, being the NDP. The Taxpayers Coalition, I think it's no secret, supported the Mike Harris government through its time in opposition as third party and the Tory party --
Mr Bradley: The Tory party? You should have said the Reform Party.
Mr Conway: And the Reform Party. Well, they see these guys as Reformers, that's the point.
But they came to the committee and what they said was, you've got to have clear policies. If you're going to divest power to the municipalities, you've got to give them clear direction about what it is they can and they can't do. That's not me saying that; that's the Taxpayers Coalition. Those are your friends.
The Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, the same people again, the good people in the agricultural industry, I would say prior to 1990 really allied themselves to the Conservative Party of Ontario. Most of the people involved in the federation of agriculture, by political ideology, were a lot more closely associated to the Conservative Party than to the NDP. There is just no question about that. I think that a lot of that has changed.
With the leadership of Elmer Buchanan as the Minister of Agriculture from 1990 to 1995, we as a party made important inroads in this and, as proof of that, the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture came to you and said: "Hey, you have to have regard for provincial policies. You just can't go out on your own and do what you want. It's not going to work. You have to give municipalities clear roles." I'm not going to read their exact quotes because we already have them in Hansard, but it was fairly clear what these people said.
The chamber of commerce that came to us in Cobourg, again an ally of the Conservative Party of Ontario -- not the Reformers that we know today but the people that support the Conservatives and probably do support the Reformers -- came, and what did they say? They said: "You can't just `have regard for' provincial policy. You have to `be consistent with.'" That's what the chamber of commerce said. Why? Because the chamber of commerce in Cobourg is a responsible entity of business people who have come together, who say, "You have to have clear rules by which you do business." They don't want to have a hodgepodge of rules by which one standard will be applied in one county differently than the other. God, that'll make economic chaos is what it will do.
My colleague Marilyn Churley I think said it best. This part of the bill, quite frankly, is the "I told you so" clause, because what's going to happen in the end is that you guys are going to go ahead for the sake of an ideology and support the notion that Mr Leach has put forward through the people in the corner office of Mike Harris's office to support this idea of only "having regard for" a particular policy. We will see, not tomorrow, not six months from now, but going on a year or two years, four years, five years down the road, the price we're going to have to pay when it comes to this folly of not having clear rules by which development is done.
Don't listen to me; don't listen to Gilles Bisson. Listen to the people who made the presentations. Listen to the town of Cobourg, which came forward and said the same thing, that you have to have clear policies. That particular mayor, I remember well from our time in government, was not a supporter of the New Democratic Party. As a matter of fact, he had a problem with Bill 163 -- he presented to the committee when he came before us back when we were putting 163 together -- but he recognizes as a responsible municipal politician that if you leave it strictly to the desire of the municipality, you're going to be in a problem because, yes, municipalities are driven locally, they are more pressured locally. What happens is that a lot of times the municipal politician, in his zeal to allow economic development to happen, will succumb to the developers.
Last but not least, I want to repeat one of the quotes that we heard yesterday from one of the presenters who came to us, who basically said -- and I'm not going to look for their submission, I'll just go by memory, the last presentation of the day yesterday in London -- she talked about the project that happened in her community where the municipality was going ahead with supporting a proposal by a developer to turn over agricultural land into a subdivision. What she was being told by her planners and by her municipal council people was that she had a lot of gall to try to appeal this because, after all, if they didn't support the developer, the council was going to be in some trouble.
That's just the way it is and I say this is really a foolish direction for you as a government to take. I support my friend Mr Bradley, the former Minister of the Environment, one of the few Liberals who is -- I hope you're not a minority in your caucus, but certainly a Liberal who has some idea about what this is all about, because he was there. He's the guy who sat it the minister's office at the Ministry of the Environment, and he understands very well what this is going to lead to. If you can't get the support in your caucus, I would say there's always room in the NDP for you, Jim. We always have room for you. I always wonder, you're a little bit more left than most people.
Mr Bradley: On a point of privilege, Mr Chair: It is not my intention to join the New Democratic Party.
Mr Conway: I want to say a couple of things in response to the last speaker. First of all, we're talking about planning and we're talking about a subject that touches on people at their most local and personal level. That's the first point I'd make. Of course there are provincial interests -- let there be no confusion about that -- and they are going to have to be articulated in some clear and reasonable way.
One of the arguments -- I'll say it to Bradley and I'll say it to anybody else here -- one of my concerns in this whole process is, can the centralizers show me that they are going to be able to deliver what they promise? I'm very dubious. However much I might appreciate and want to support their lofty, high-minded ambitions, can they actually deliver in a reasonable and timely way what it is they propose to do?
My very limited experience with Bill 163, and other things I might add, is that I've got grave doubts that they're going to be batting at anything above about .150 or .200. We're now operating as elected officials in an age when the public is increasingly sceptical about governments -- large central governments in particular -- because they've come to believe that we've often delivered substantially less than we advertised. I make that point, and I say to the government on the other side, they'd better be serious about disciplining some of the bad actors and some of the bad behaviour that powerful interests are going to want to occasion.
I say to my friend from Cochrane, as a former Minister of Education, if I had taken a fairly rigorous approach to "shall be consistent with" I hate to think of what might have happened north of Highway 7, particularly in the Cochrane district. We're a federal state where flexibility and balance are really important values, and you're right: You've got to pick a side in this. You are either Pierre Trudeau or Joe Clark. You're Tom Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton. You can't be both. It is a fundamental question, and I understand that.
To be mischievous -- I'm struck, given the previous speaker's comments, and I know they're well-intentioned, but I was thinking, look at our electoral law. We're not making loud complaints, any of us, least of all myself, but it takes nine times the people to elect Al Palladini and/or Dave Tsubouchi as it takes to elect Howard Hampton. We have an electoral law that now contemplates the most extraordinary flexibility. I'm surprised that someone hasn't taken us to court.
But why do we do that? Part of it is we recognize that York region is not Rainy River district. Yes, I could get up on my soapbox and I could preach a pretty powerful sermon about the sanctity of one person, one vote. Surely no democrat anywhere would want to so prostitute that sacred principle as to create a condition where my vote in a provincial election is effectively one ninth the value of yours. But in federal Canada we have made some of those decisions because we recognize that there have to be allowances.
Again, I just simply look at this. I think the member from Cochrane rightly observes that we've had a very interesting range of testimony. I haven't heard it all but I'll tell you, the people I represent in Renfrew county, including the city of Pembroke, would want me here as their member saying "have regard to" not "shall be consistent with." I'm not here to say that everything we've done at home is perfect -- far from it, because we've got our sins for which atonement is due.
I always like to come back to the provincial government. Just forget for a moment local municipal decisions. I remember in my life as a cabinet minister having a fight with my friends the imperial authority at Natural Resources. They didn't like the fact that we had cottagers in Algonquin Park. God, they didn't like that and they were hell-bent for leather to get them out. They lost that. The previous cabinet, our cabinet, said --
Mr Conway: Yes, I can just hear my friend. I didn't want to fight with all of those Toronto New Democrats because I knew they'd beat me.
Ms Churley: Absolutely.
Mr Conway: The place is full of 10-speed Rosedale lefties and they'd beat me game, set and match. So just as an act of political cowardice, I wasn't going to get into the fight. I couldn't convince the folks at Natural Resources that they shouldn't get into the fight, but they wanted into the fight, notwithstanding we'd made a decision that those cottagers were going to stay.
Let me use one example. I know it's an isolated example, but I thought it made a point. So what did they decide? We had a provincial policy that you couldn't do a variety of things and there were a few people in Algonquin Park who, in violation of the provincial policy, were flying the Canadian flag. One of them happened to be a war vet, but my friends at Natural Resources were going to make that policy stick. "Shall be consistent" means you can't have a flag, and away they went.
Ms Churley: That's really helping the cause.
Mr Conway: Yes, but my point to my friend from Riverdale is that is was about sensible program administration, that there was a policy here -- and of course it ended up on the front page of the Toronto paper and the ministry looked like idiots. What did you have? You had some bureaucrat saying, "shall be consistent with," and you had some 78-year-old war vet saying, "You're telling me I can't fly the flag that I was prepared to die for?" As a practical matter, you can't win that. It is fundamental.
Mr Bradley: It scares the owls.
Mr Conway: I just make the point. If you're out in my area, you are forever --
Mr Conway: See, this is about interest. This is about interest, it's not about politics, and that's why I come back to the one-window thing. My interest as a farmer, your interest as a developer, you are the most naïve of boy scouts if you think one window is going to solve that tension.
The other point I make here is that I just wish -- I say this for Marilyn's benefit -- we had more program administrators who are actually policy developers and vice versa. I wish we had some people who actually administered things writing the policy. The solitudes that we got into in recent years that are causing us real difficulty in terms of our legitimacy is the people who write the policy increasingly have nothing to do with its administration and the people who administer the policy are miles away from the administration. I don't want to sound too mundane or too much like Bob Rae, but at the end of the day --
Mr Conway: Oh, I mean, I watched Bob back away from public auto insurance. Why did he do it? He did it for a variety of reasons, but one of the things I heard him say is, "I can't make this work." I've got to tell you, we've got to make it work. I don't think I would disagree with a lot of what my friend from Riverdale wants, but my worst nightmare is that we are going to construct a set of statements and well-intentioned policy frameworks and then, whether it's Marilyn Churley, Bruce Little, even, God forbid, Bill Murdoch, you're not going to be able to make it work and you're going to be seen to be illegitimate.
I just think we've, all of us, done too much of that in recent times. I've got all kinds of evidence here. You cited some of the people who want the "shall be consistent with," but for every one of those I can cite at least somebody who said -- including the Ontario section of the Canadian bar. I don't know whether they're telling the whole truth, but there's a fairly substantial weight of opinion that says there is a body of jurisprudence that's been built up around the "have regard to" and a variety of other pieces of testimony.
I just say in conclusion again, it's a big province. This is about planning. Yes, there are provincial interests, but in the main it's going to be a lot of local people who are going to have to live with the results, a lot of people who are going to have to, at the local and regional level, make it work and be seen to be making it work. My concern, quite frankly, is that all of us have in the last 25 years been guilty of promising more than we've been able to deliver. The taxpayer and the shareholder is getting pretty frustrated. As one of my friends likes to say, "And what was the problem for which this is the solution?"
Ms Churley: At the risk of lecturing my good friend from Renfrew, which I would never do, of course, I wouldn't dare take that on, first of all let me say to him that I can one-up him on my roots. I grew up in Happy Valley, Labrador: no roads out of town, surrounded by mountains and streams and rivers.
Mr Bradley: What about those flights?
Ms Churley: Now there are flights coming in. I know, nature is being ruined.
To be serious a moment here, I think Mr Conway made some very good points. I believe, however, that also Mr Conway showed the hand of a real Liberal, because although at the end he came down on one side very reluctantly, because he can see all the problems with that side too, after telling us about the problems with one side and then the problems with the other side, warning the government what it must do to make the one side he's going to choose today to support, that they must vigilant etc because he's supporting it reluctantly, I believe in a sense saying he doesn't quite trust what they're going to be doing -- I don't know if I'm happy or not happy that he's decided to not run for the leadership. I'm not quite sure, given the --
Mr Bradley: Let's get some government spokesmen in here so she doesn't pick on him.
Ms Churley: Well, I think he did ask for it, after all. But now I've learned -- after listening to Mr Conway today, I have some idea of what poor Mr Bradley must have put up with during the Liberal government time when he was the Minister of the Environment and --
Mr Conway: You know, maybe I should use an example for Ms Churley's benefit. I would have thought --
The Chair: Mr Conway, Ms Churley has the floor.
Ms Churley: I have the floor. Perhaps we're going to have to continue this argument another time, another place. What I'm saying, though, in a way is serious, and this is where the lecturing comes in a tiny bit. You're talking great theory here. Mr Chair, he's talking great theory.
Mr Conway: I'm talking practical reality.
Ms Churley: No, this is theory; this is not practical reality. When you look at the environment, the environment knows no boundary. Someone upstream can be totally affected and have absolutely no say in what that particular region, that municipality -- if upstream is outside in another municipality, have absolutely no say about what happens. There's no clear provincial policy.
It's very simple: The environment knows no boundaries. If you do not have some clear, concise and consistent policy in certain areas -- of course you can't have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed. I would say that not only did Mr Conway have very limited experience with Bill 163, everybody across the province has very little experience with 163, because it had no time to be implemented.
I've already stated that there were great problems with the guidelines. The policy: There may very well have been problems with that. There was no time to find out. It was a new piece of legislation that was given no opportunity by this government. After all those years of consulting and trying to reach some broad consensus, there was no opportunity for anybody to find out whether it worked or not. Of course there would have had to be some fine-tuning. This is not fine-tuning. This is taking a pretty good piece of legislation which really did have a balance between environmental protection and development opportunities -- and most importantly, I come back to the fact that what Bill 163 did was give regions more autonomy and more control over development in their own area. The tradeoff was, therefore, let's attempt to have some consistent policies here so that everybody won't go haywire.
As I stated earlier, limited resources: The Ministry of Natural Resources is going to cut its staff by about half. I assume the Minister of Environment and Energy is too. There are going to be a lot fewer staff.
Mr Bisson: Self-regulating.
Ms Churley: Yes, self-regulating, as my colleague says. There are going to be a lot fewer resources for those regions. Maybe Renfrew will do a great job. I don't know about Grey. I don't know about certain other areas. If you don't have a consistent policy when you give the regions and municipalities more autonomy, I know that with far less public consultation, far less ability for the public to be involved, as we're going to be dealing with -- I know we have some amendments on public participation and so does the Liberal Party, and I'm really hoping we can convince the government to make some changes there.
When you look at the bill in total, when you look at the bill with all of the other policies or tearing down of policies which this government is in the process of enacting, then we have deep trouble coming. When you have massive layoffs at the Ministry of Environment and at Natural Resources and throughout the government overall, when you have a 47% transfer cut to the municipalities, when you have a change in development fees so that now we're looking at only hard services being paid for by the developer and therefore where's the money going to come from for the so-called soft services -- schools, libraries, those kinds of things -- when you look at the fact that conservation authorities are losing their funding and are given the ability to sell off land, when you look at the relationship between municipalities and conservation authorities, and conservation authorities are going to be needing that relationship with the municipalities more than ever -- and there's more.
I'm coming at this very much from the environmental protection aspect. I know there are very important planning autonomy issues here, and I know there is often conflict between local government, environmental groups, cottagers, homeowners and it's very difficult to strike that balance. What I'm saying, however, is that we have lost the balance entirely in this bill. I hope Mr Conway has read the bill; I don't know if he has.
Mr Bradley: From cover to cover.
Ms Churley: From cover to cover. If he did and if he did so in the context of some of the other lost environmental protection, which I would be very happy to provide him with, there are just pages and pages of deregulation and cuts that are going on right under his nose and he probably doesn't know because most of the public have no idea what's going on. I know Mr Bradley knows. I assume he knows.
When you put all of these in context, then this bill is going to have a devastating impact on the environment. You can't just put this bill aside and argue "to be consistent with" or "have regard for" out of the total context of the deregulation which is going on overall within this government.
It's not that I don't think municipalities and regions like Renfrew can make good decisions for their own regions. I do believe that when they are given more autonomy by the government, so that in fact they are given more responsibility and therefore ability to plan within their own region, if they don't have some kind of consistent guidelines in broad areas of environmental protection, it is going to be very difficult for some municipalities to do the proper planning -- I think that's what I come back to -- that's needed. You're showing very good faith when you say to the government, warn the government that there are some special interests that they're going to have to pay attention to and make sure that there are some checks and balances here.
I have no indication that those checks and balances are going to be there. If I believed there were, I wouldn't be so upset about this "have regard for." It is the very fact that this bill is all about developers, and it's very clear if you read the bill, it's very clear if you sat in this committee and heard the developers come in, licking their chops about this bill. There are some real difficulties when you have such a split, when you have people who have expertise, not just special interests in the environment for some reason, people coming in and saying, "Oh, well, we want to protect the environment because it's a good thing," but people who have spent years of their lives and who are very much more aware than any of us sitting around this table of the serious environmental degradation that's already taken place, people who have a real expertise in areas around environmental protection, whom we need to listen to.
What I fear has happened here and what I've seen happen in terms of the consultation that has taken place is very clear. I got a list from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing that there were some meetings with some environmental groups and when I talked to them, they said yes, but the majority of them said it was a get-to-know meeting. They weren't consulted overall. I asked them time after time, "Were any of your concerns, any of the issues that you cared about, included in this bill?" "No." I asked several developers the same question, "Were you consulted?" "Yes, we were consulted widely with." "Good. Okay. Were most of your concerns, some of your concerns, included in this bill?" "Yes, we're very happy with this bill."
What does that tell you? No wonder the environmental community and the people who care about protecting the environment and their land, are upset. They haven't been listened to. Their concerns, not just "have regard to" or "be consistent with," but their concerns aren't in here.
That's a big problem, and I would say to my friend from Grey -- Owen Sound, that I believe he muttered something about there not being too many environmentalists out there. I'm going to issue -- is that what you said?
Mr Bradley: No, he said in the Conservative Party.
Ms Churley: Oh, not too many environmentalists in the Conservative Party. That's what he said.
Mr Murdoch: You don't want to listen to him. He'll lead you astray.
Ms Churley: I would agree with that. I haven't met any yet.
Interjection: Including the Minister of Environment.
Ms Churley: I will end on that note, actually, because it is a warning to the government.
The Chair: Thank you. Mr Bisson.
Ms Churley: I'm not finished. I'm saying I'm ending on that.
The Chair: Forgive me. I thought when you said you would end on that note that that was the end.
Ms Churley: I know you're very anxious for me to end. However --
The Chair: Sorry.
Ms Churley: That's okay. I want to come back again to the -- the --
Mr Galt: You forgot it.
Ms Churley: Yes, I have. I got distracted here, but I know it was an important point. So I guess actually I will end on that note. But I do hope that -- I'm not as eloquent a speaker as Mr Conway.
Mr Bisson: You're doing quite well, Marilyn.
Ms Churley: I have to say that I always enjoy listening to Mr Conway speaking, and I learn from Mr Conway sometimes. I listen closely to people who have been around this place for a long time, because you certainly know more than I do in many, many areas.
I think in this case, however, I would say that I know perhaps far more about this particular issue than Mr Conway does. I think in this case that some of the comparisons that he made -- and that's why I said we were having a little bit of an academic discussion from time to time. There are no comparisons. We are talking about a very vital aspect of a bill that -- it should be labelled the environmental destruction bill.
Ms Churley: Really. It's a very serious, serious -- I can't find any words to describe how serious the effect this bill's going to have on the environment, and if we don't do something -- that's why I'm hoping that you'll change your mind about this particular issue -- I think that, as I said earlier, this is going to be I told you so, and it might suit you well, if you're here 20 years from now, still considering, or maybe not, being the leader, you might want to be able to say, "Yes, I tried to warn them and they didn't listen."
The Chair: Mr Bisson.
Mr Bisson: I'm just waiting for the chatter to stop.
The Chair: Order.
Mr Bisson: Listen, the problem I'm having with the debate that we're having right now is that you have a government on the other side, in the name of a few members like our member for Grey-Owen Sound, wherever you got him from, who really don't take this issue seriously at all. They really, really believe the mantra that they've been told by the people in the corner office that: "We just got to do it this way. It just has to be pro-development and you don't have to strike a balance in it."
The problem with you, Bill, is that you haven't learned from your own bloody history. The Conservative Party, back in the 1970s, recognized that we needed to do something around forestry. We were having a situation where certain forestry companies in Ontario were out harvesting timber and not doing a very good job about how they planned to do that harvesting and what they did in order to make sure there were trees there for the future. The government of the day under the Conservative government didn't come back and say, "We're going to put in place changes in the timber management act to make forest management agreements just something that companies may or may not conform with," they put in place FMAs that basically said to forest companies, in some cases kicking and screaming into the 1970s, that they had to take the responsibility when it came to the harvesting of that forest.
In the end, there is not a forest company in northern Ontario that will argue against the wisdom of what the then Conservative government did, because although at the time they said, "We have to be pro-development, and you can't put all these onerous restrictions on us when it comes to protecting the forest," they are now recognizing it was the best thing they ever did. Alan Pope, the guy from Cochrane South, the former member who sat in my seat in the Legislature, was the member who did it, because the government back then, the Conservative government, recognized that you have to sometimes push the private sector a little bit into taking its responsibility.
I use that as an analogy only to say that if we at the time as legislators, under the leadership of Bill Davis and Alan Pope, the former Minister of Natural Resources, would've taken the position that you are on this bill in saying the forest companies will only "have regard to" the provincial policies as they apply to forestry, I would argue that our forest industry in northern Ontario would not be as healthy as it is today.
Yes, there were some good examples, Abitibi Price up in Iroquois Falls in its forest management unit that even before the legislation was doing a good job, because there are people in industry who want to do the right thing. But we have to remember they are not the majority in some cases. I would argue in certain industries they're certainly in a minority. Even though we can name names in this committee and get away with impunity, the point, as I'm saying, is that there were all kinds of forest operators in the north at the time, and I would argue in the very area of Mr Murdoch, who were not doing a very good job.
So the government of the day, the Tories, the Conservative government, said, "We will put in place an act that respects the forest, that makes sure that we tell the people harvesting trees how they are to do it," because the problem we were getting into was that some forest companies were going in and cutting down the spruce and not doing anything in order to reforest and the natural cycle of the forest came back in poplar. That's very nice and fine, but it doesn't do anything towards sustaining that industry over the longer term, because spruce is the choice species that those particular companies had to go after. So they had to adopt policies that companies would have to adhere to and be consistent with when it came to forest management. I say you need to learn from your own history.
The other thing I would say, and it just may be in jest but also being somewhat serious, is that the problem I'm having with you, Mr Murdoch, and some of the people -- and not all of them, because I think most of the people on your side are trying to take this somewhat seriously -- is that you're sort of saying to us that you're only going to have regard to what the public has to say and you're only going to have regard to what the opposition has to say and be damned.
The reality is that, like your colleagues on that side, some of us do come to this Legislature with commitment about what we're doing. I know Mrs Fisher, in discussions I've had with her, and Mr Baird and Mr Carr and Mr Galt come here because they believe they have a job to do and they have to speak on behalf of their constituents and they have to do what they think is right.
I don't appreciate the attitude that you bring to this committee in regard to thinking this is a big joke, because it's not. The issue is that if we don't do a good job right now in taking our responsibility as legislators and doing our job to make sure that we have a good policy about how planning is to happen, it's going to cost us money in the future.
So I would make this recommendation. As I say, I support, along with my colleagues in opposition, the general direction of what the government wants to do. You want to make it easier for development. We all agree. So why don't we build on what we agree on and take a look at what can be done?
I think the real issue here -- and we've missed it, and a couple of presenters have touched on it -- the question is, we need to go back and take a look at the policy. The problem, and Marilyn Churley mentioned it before, is that maybe what we should be doing is going back and looking at the policies, the some 727 pages of them, looking at how they apply to the development industry, trying to make those clear so developers and planners and municipal politicians have a clearer understanding of what the responsibilities are, but then in the act say that you have to "be consistent with" those policies.
You can build the flexibility you want through regulation and through the policies themselves. You can do that. I don't buy entirely the argument Mr Conway makes about having inflexibility in regard to how you deal with the electoral example that he gave, because I think I can make an equal argument the other way.
But I say the problem that you're doing now is, you're really opening up the gate to bad development in this province, and I think we have all kinds of examples to show.
I know that you care. I know that you want to do the right thing, but I think what happens in government sometimes is that in our zeal to satisfy our minister and to satisfy the centre in our quest to get to the cabinet table, we sometimes forget our responsibility as legislators. I know; I was there.
Ms Churley: Did you try to get in cabinet?
Mr Bisson: Oh, I tried to get there and they never took me, the buggers.
But the point is that I think we need to take our responsibility and we've got to do a good job in this committee, to go back to the minister and say, "Truly, what we've got to do is we've got to take this particular piece out; we have to be consistent with provincial policy," and then do what was suggested by a number of presenters: Go back, do a public process about how we deal with the policies, but put in the legislation that the policies have to be an ever-evolving thing, that as we learn from the examples of how good or bad examples of the policies have been applied, we have an evolving process that allows the policy to change to be able to reflect the best practices out there. I think that way you can satisfy the needs of the development industry and also at the same time strike a balance with the environmentalists when it comes to that particular issue.
Mr Conway: Just quickly, I wanted to say in summary a couple of things, particularly for the benefit of my friend from Riverdale.
Yes, I have read the bill. I'm no planner and I'm not particularly knowledgeable about this area of public policy, but I have read Bill 20.
Bill 20 has to be understood in part, in significant part, by virtue of the experience that we had with Bill 163. Bill 20 is very much related to 163, and on this question that we're currently debating, which is the whole question of shall local regional planning decisions "have regard to" provincial guidelines, statements, interests or shall they "be consistent with," it is for me a fundamental question of where you are prepared to put your trust.
There is a view that if you're a central planner, you're a priori virtuous; if you're a local politician, you're a philistine.
Ms Churley: Yeah.
Mr Conway: Well, that's the impression that is being left. And I'm going to be political here: The difficulty that many people had with 163 was that the policy in practical effect was not what was advertised. What was advertised was more power to the people at the local level. What you did in Bill 163 was to give to local people a greater range of decision-making around a more limited number of essentially secondary and tertiary issues.
The rage that I encountered with the planning statements, the provincial policy statements, the seven of them that were promulgated under the rubric of Bill 163, was that that was the real legislation, that you had as a government installed very substantial policy in the minutiae of the policy guidelines, and it enraged people, because it was exactly what was not advertised. You're not the first government to do it, by the way.
Ms Churley: That's what I thought. I knew that.
Mr Conway: No. Let me be perfectly frank. But that's what we're talking about here. We're talking about "shall be consistent with" or "have regard to," and the problem that I've got with a lot of people is that they were so upset by the experience with 163 that quite frankly they're not prepared to trust the Legislature and the government quite so quickly to play that game again.
Yes, there are lots of things in this bill and the policy that informs it that concern me greatly. I think the member for Riverdale is right to sound an alarm bell about a want of environmental sensitivity, not just in this bill but in much of what this government is doing. I don't disagree with that. But the point I want to make is, if we are going to on planning issues try to repeat what the previous government did in the policy statements under Bill 163, we're going to have an uprising.
I'm hoping, and perhaps naïvely, that we've all learned something from the experience and that local politicians particularly, well advised by good planners like the member for Middlesex and his professional colleagues, will warn local and regional politicians against the sort of folly that we could all point to.
The other thing I want to say for the benefit of my friend from Riverdale is, you know, you talk about local decision-making. I used to think that my right to drink alcoholic beverages was a provincial interest. When I came to Toronto years ago, I was always fascinated by the fact that I could walk down on the west part of Toronto and I could exercise my provincial interest here, but thanks to a really good New Democrat, the late Bill Temple, I couldn't exercise it on the other side of the street, because for whatever good reason -- in what part of Toronto was that?
Mr Bisson: High Park-Swansea.
Mr Conway: High Park -- they had decided, incredible as you could imagine, in the burgeoning cosmopolitan metropolis that was Toronto, that you weren't going to be able to drink the evil rum, even in a licensed establishment, in that part of Toronto, but I could exercise my provincial interest every place else.
Mr Bisson: There's plenty evil about rum.
Mr Conway: I say it because there's often a sense that it's those of us who are barnyard senators from Renfrew who have these peccadillos.
Ms Churley: Well, there's a bit of that.
Mr Conway: Well, I know, but I make the point that on planning matters in the city of Toronto, it was decided -- I might add, by a good New Democrat, in part -- that we should be dry in that part of High Park and you could be wet most of the rest of the place. Now, you might stand back and say, "That's really a peculiar policy," but it was a policy that was made locally, against --
Ms Churley: They always support it. The local residents vote to stay dry.
Mr Conway: Of course they did, but that's my point. You're making my point, that on other planning issues -- you know, if I've got some zealot buried in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and I can't get at my accuser -- I don't even know who it is -- but they are managing, they are actually interpreting this policy guideline that's got me completely stalemated -- at least I can get at Marilyn Churley and ask her a few questions. But given what you were trying to do in 163, on the basis of what some of my people were telling me, I don't even know who to go to here.
I just conclude with that, that yes, there are environmental concerns and we've got to do more than this bill does. Quite frankly, if we screw up, I guess there are people who are going to have to accept the responsibility. I'm a democrat. I'm hopeful that local people are going to, with more transparency, which we can provide them with, be able to figure out who's to blame for certain things and hold them to account. But I say again to the member for Riverdale, I don't think I'd feel as upset about some of this had I not had the experience of the policy statements that were offered up under 163, where, to a lot of reasonably impartial people, the government was playing a very different game than the one it advertised.
The Chair: Further comment? Seeing none, I put the question.
Ms Churley: Recorded vote.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley.
Baird, Carr, Conway, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Lalonde, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I'll deem the motion to fail.
Are there any further comments, suggestions or amendments to section 3? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour that section 3 pass?
Mr Bisson: Recorded vote.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
Bradley, Bisson, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
The Chair: I deem that section to pass. Moving on to section 4, are there any amendments to section 4?
Mr Bisson: I have a motion here. The motion is subsections 4(1), (2) and (3) of the bill, section 4 of the Planning Act:
I move that subsections 4(1), (2) and (3) of the bill be struck out.
Basically, what we're getting at here is fairly simple. What it's going to really mean if we allow this particular section of the bill to go ahead is that anything can go when it comes to how we deal with an official plan. I think, quite frankly, that's not in the best context of what we should be doing in the planning business.
The Chair: Is there any further comment? Seeing none, we'll put the question. All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem that amendment to fail. Are there any further amendments to section 4?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 4(2.2) of the Planning Act, as set out in subsection 4(3) of the bill, be amended by striking out "under this act" in the third and fourth lines and substituting "described in subsection (2)."
This is a technical amendment, again, to clarify that the minister's delegation of powers is the same whether the power to a planning board was requested by the planning board, as it is when it is delegated down by the minister at his discretion. When the minister passes the power or the authority for approving zoning, the delegation is an approval. When it's the authority to deal with the official plan, it is exempting him from the approval process, so the wording needs to be clarified. It's intended to move it out of that section and refer to the clarification in the same section. So it changes nothing other than a technical amendment to make sure that it's clear that in both cases the minister's delegation is identical.
The Chair: Any comment? Seeing none, we'll put the question. All those in favour of the amendment?
Mr Bradley: Can we --
The Chair: I'm sorry, I put the question, Mr Bradley.
Ms Churley: Could we ask for unanimous consent, is that possible, to --
The Chair: To what?
Ms Churley: To not take the vote now and ask a question about this.
The Chair: Is there unanimous consent? Yes. Proceed, Mr Bradley.
Ms Churley: As I said previously in relation to another of your technical amendments, we're having difficulty here understanding the implications of it because the explanation is a bit out of context and we have no explanatory notes before us. So I don't know if I understand what you just told us and the long-range implications of that. I think what we need here is a bit more of an explanation, if you don't mind.
Mr Hardeman: With the Chair's permission, we'll ask the solicitor to explain it, to make sure that the technicalities of it are explained in an appropriate manner.
The Chair: Please identify yourself for Hansard.
Ms Elaine Ross: Elaine Ross, and I'm with legal services, Municipal Affairs and Housing.
What this does is it replaces the words "under this act" with "described in subsection (2)". That's because, if you look at subsection (2), when the minister delegates powers to a planning board, he can only delegate all his powers under the act except for the power to approve official plans or exempt official plans. So it's important that when he delegates to the planning board in this section, it be the exact same powers that he can delegate. Unfortunately, the way it was originally drafted, it gave the minister the power to delegate official plans and the ability to exempt official plans. So what we're doing is -- it's kind of hard to explain -- we're changing that to make it consistent, so that (2) and (2.2) are totally consistent.
Ms Churley: Oh, you want to be consistent in this case.
Ms Ross: Yes. From a legal drafting point of view, yes.
Mr Bisson: I think you're going to have a cut in salary.
Ms Ross: So (2) applies when the planning board asks for delegation; (2.2) applies when the minister, in his discretion, decides to give them a delegation of authority without a request. Obviously, the powers that they get should be the same.
Ms Churley: If I may, I would tend to agree with that, but if I don't support the powers -- I guess this is a political question. Perhaps we'll come back to the parliamentary assistant now. Again, I'm having the same problem that I had before with the previous amendment. This is an amendment to a further part of the bill, is it not? It has an impact on powers that I don't support, powers that have been delegated to the minister. I guess this is technical in that it gives that minister the powers over all. I sound very vague, don't I? It shows that I still don't understand this.
Mr Hardeman: I think it's clear that the granting authority of the minister that you are alluding to that you would not be supporting in other parts of the bill are affected by this, but we want to make sure that where the minister has powers beyond this section of the bill, it does not apply to this section of the bill. So I would suggest, not to tell the opposition how they should vote, but the amendment is intended to make certain that when the minister delegates authority to planning boards, he does not delegate more than we think in this section would be appropriate to delegate.
Ms Churley: That's helpful. Thank you.
The Chair: Is the committee ready for me to put the question? No further discussion? All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem the amendment to pass.
We'll now put the question for section 4, as amended, if there's no further discussion. All those in favour of section 4, as amended? Contrary? I deem that section to pass.
Seeing no amendments proposed for sections 5, 6 and 7, are there any comments, questions or amendments to sections 5, 6 and 7? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour that sections 5, 6 and 7 should pass? Contrary? Those sections are deemed to pass.
That brings us to section 8. Are there any amendments to section 8?
Mr Bisson: I move that subsection 8(1) of the bill be struck out.
I need to ask a question of clarification to the ministry just before I proceed on this. Prior to Bill 163, did the Minister of Municipal Affairs have the right to tell a municipality what he or she may want in an official plan? Did that exist prior to Bill 163?
Mr Hardeman: I'm informed that that was created by Bill 163. There was no power to prescribe the contents of an official plan prior to that point.
Mr Bisson: I thought it was and that's why I just wanted to doublecheck. The only thing I would say on this is that again it comes a little bit back to the argument that we had a little while ago in regard to provincial policies. In some cases I think the crown has to reserve the right in certain municipalities that are under an extreme amount of development to give certain direction as to what needs to be in an official plan to be able to respond to what those provincial interests would be.
It's not one of those things that you're going to make it or break it on this act, but I find it a little bit strange that the province would want to take that provision away. There are some cases -- I think we can look at some of the developments here in the GTA as pretty good examples if we get into some of the specifics -- where the crown, in order to be able to advance its interests through the province in regard to development, may need that particular right to be able to deal with those provincial interests, let it be transportation, let it be agriculture, whatever it is. If you take that out of the act, you're really handcuffing yourself, especially if you've got policies that other people only have to "have regard to."
Mr Hardeman: I think the government's position is, again going back to local autonomy, when a municipality prepares and approves an official plan and has due regard to the provincial policy statements and those are reflected within that plan, it should be the local decision as to what other items they may wish to deal with in their plan, provided all the provincial interests are protected. We do not believe the minister should be prescribing a cookie-cutter approach, again, to a list of prescribed detail that should be in the plan for all of Ontario, because there will be great variances in official plans in requirements, beyond protecting the provincial interests.
Mr Bisson: But I would argue that it's not a cookie-cutter approach. Tell me if I'm right in assuming this, because the basis of it is this. Let's say, for an example, there is a huge find in the city of Timmins in regard to some mining interest where we know it's going to bring tens of thousands of people into the community. The province may decide, in the municipality making changes to its official plan, to set aside particular lands for either recreational use or transportation use in regard to transit or whatever it might be. Wouldn't the province want to have some ability to say, "Make sure you take that into account when you're preparing your official plan"? Isn't that the intent of what you're trying to do and what we tried to do under Bill 163?
Mr Hardeman: If the plan were being prepared and the municipality was having due regard for all the provincial policy statements and that was reflected in the plan, I think it's appropriate that the province deal with the issues of direct interest to the province and that it deal with those through the same process that others would.
Mr Bisson: That's not quite what I'm getting at. Specifically, let's say you know there's going to be a major influx of people coming into a community and, for whatever reason, either there isn't an official plan in that community or you need to make an amendment to that official plan to deal with the influx of people in regard to development. Wouldn't you want to have the ability as a province, because the municipality may not want to or may not be thinking about particular provisions it has to allow for in that development -- wouldn't the crown want to reserve the right to say, "Don't forget as you're planning for these new subdivisions to allow for more parkland"? Or maybe the province has plans to put a four-lane highway through a particular section at some point in the future and doesn't want to be left having to come back to expropriate the land at a cost. It seems to me that the crown would want to reserve that right. It's not a cookie-cutter approach. I would argue that the minister would not do that unless he or she has some fairly specific ideas about what it is they want to do. I can't see what you're gaining by taking that out. I really fail to see the logic here.
Mr Hardeman: One point we must recognize is that as the municipalities are preparing their official plan, they too are preparing it for the future development of their community. If there is a scenario such as you mention, an influx of a great many people who would require servicing, I think the government would suggest that's the very reason that municipality is in the process of preparing an official plan to develop their community. We don't believe the province should become the planning department for all the local plans, to deal with those type of issues, the ones being dealt with by the local planning authority.
I suggest the province would have an interest, if they foresaw that type of eventuality, and would put that forward through the planning process in its comments so they could be dealt with. If the municipality would not be willing to do that, rather than have it prescribed as a requirement in the official plan, we would as a province be able to go through the same process as any other interested party to deal with the plan in an objection.
Mr Bisson: You basically answered my question. What it comes down to is, do you believe the province has a role to play in planning? Your answer is no. You're saying the municipality should be left to do the planning. If you believe that and the province doesn't have a role, I guess it's logical that you take it out, but I would argue otherwise. There are occasions when the crown has to be able to reserve the right to provide for certain services or certain situations that a municipality may not take too seriously at the outset of developing an official plan or making amendments. I just voice my opposition.
This is really something that's not going to cost you any political capital, and I would just ask the government for a little bit of commonsense on this one. I'm sure Minister Leach is not going to be running around the province trying to put his two cents into every official plan out there. I would ask the government to support us on this particular motion. You're saying, "Yes, Minister Leach wants to." You were nodding your head.
Mr Hardeman: It was a totally other comment.
Mr Bisson: Okay. I didn't think Leach wanted to do that.
I would just urge government members to support this motion. It doesn't cost you anything and all it says is, "The minister reserves the right to make his suggestions known and followed by municipalities when it comes to the official plan or the amendment of one."
The Chair: Is there any further comment? Seeing none, we'll put the question. All those in favour of the motion? Contrary? I deem that motion to fail.
Any further amendments to section 8?
Mr Bisson: Yes, there is, to subsection 8(2) of the bill, subsections 16(2), (3) and (4) of the Planning Act. I move that subsection 8(2) of the bill be struck out.
Just so I don't get too far ahead of myself, I believe that's the apartment in houses section, right? Well, here we go.
The other issue in this bill of paramount importance to myself and to our caucus, the New Democrats of Ontario, is that we, like the government today, understood that we need to do all we can to encourage the development of new apartments in the province. The government today says it wants to do that through a private sector approach. They don't want the government to subsidize the construction of new non-profit or co-op housing projects. They want the private sector to do it on its own, and take a marketplace attitude when it comes to developing new apartments in the province.
I have a bit of a problem about why the government would want to strike out the apartment in houses of Bill 120. Quite frankly, that is a way you could achieve your ends. There are all kinds of individuals out there, and you know them in your community as I know them in mine. My next-door neighbours, Gerry and Thérèse, wanted to buy a house and were not able to do it on their own. The only way they could afford a mortgage was to look at some way of generating revenue out of their investment, so they rebuilt an older building and put an apartment in the basement. The municipality didn't object, because fortunately our municipality, in the section of the city I live in, doesn't have any objection to that. They allowed them to do it, and because of that they've been able to achieve their dream: They've got their home. They're excellent neighbours, and we are probably best of friends. But the point is they would not be able to own their own home if it hadn't been for the ability to do an apartment in their basement.
The government says that's what it wants to do, encourage the private sector. Well, Bill 120 did that. Bill 120 said, "We are going to make legal those units out there" that municipal councils had a problem with at the time the bill was enacted, "and in the future municipal councils cannot disapprove of such construction."
The only conclusion I can come to about why the government would not support what we did under Bill 120 -- I think there are two things. First of all, the opposition had to oppose to a certain extent. The government today, then the third party under the leadership of Mike Harris, the leader of the Conservative reform party of Ontario, basically said he wanted to oppose the government at any cost to be able to come to government. I guess he opposed that legislation on that basis, because there is certainly no common sense in a Conservative government or a Conservative Party opposing something that supports the individual entrepreneur who wants to go out and create investment for him- or herself through a home.
The second reason you might be opposing it -- and I hope this is not the case, but what I've been told in my community in subdivisions like Melrose township and others is that the view of certain people who live in fairly exclusive neighbourhoods is that they don't want the riff-raff moving in. They see having an apartment in your basement as mixing neighbourhoods together, that the fellow or lady who buys or builds a home worth $400,000 or $500,000 doesn't want to be sharing the neighbourhood with people who might not make as much money.
I can't believe the Conservatives are opposed to Bill 120 on that basis. But I do know that is the position of many municipal aldermen and councillors across the province. I've met them in Ottawa, I've met them in Windsor, I've met them in Toronto, and I've met them in Timmins even, for that matter, where there are certain aldermen who say, "We don't want to encourage the mixed neighbourhoods." That really is appalling, because the way we're able to bridge the gap and understand more about each other is by being able to associate, not only through work but through where we live.
For the government to oppose the creation of apartments in houses in regard to Bill 120 is the wrong way, and I would just ask the government to reconsider. If you want the private sector to create new apartments, this is one way you're going to do it. Minister Leach is now saying he's going to do that by repealing the Landlord and Tenant Act. He's going to do it by repealing the Rent Control Act. He's going to do it by cancelling -- which he has done -- the non-profit and allowing the private sector to move in. I would argue that none of that will get you apartments to the degree that Bill 120 did. This really is not a commonsense approach to government; this is a nonsense approach.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
Mr Bisson: Hang on a second. I can't believe the Tories would let this go. You guys are the defenders of the small entrepreneur. That's what your party is supposed to stand for. You're the people who go out there time and time again -- and I've listened to you through my political life and before getting here. If there's anything the Conservative Party stands for, it's for giving the little guy the opportunity to make a buck. Well, this is such an opportunity. Why would you want to do this?
The only way a lot of people are able to get into the market, owning their own home and building an investment they're able to work towards retirement with, is to allow an apartment in their building. They're not going to be able to do that in many municipalities in this province if we allow certain municipal councils to have the right to reject.
Bill, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, probably agrees with me. He might be being handcuffed by the Premier. I cannot see you, quite seriously, as the Conservative I know you to be, wanting to take away that opportunity from individuals. If Conservative members don't support this particular amendment to the bill, they're saying no to a whole bunch of entrepreneurs in this province who are trying to find a way to make an investment so they can find their place in the sun in our economy. I can't believe you guys would vote against it. This is really ludicrous.
Ms Churley: I would pose the same question. During committee time, Ms Fisher and others talked about the need to move to a system -- we come back to this issue again that municipalities decide themselves because they're the best judge. That's been put forward time and time again, and I understand that argument. I just don't see how it works in this context.
As I've said before, it seems to contradict the Tories' own "Out of my face" kind of response to government at this time. It's infringing on the property owner's right to make a little extra money to pay the mortgage, to put up an inlaw or an elderly relative, or a single mom with a child. It actually helps society at this time when we're in deep trouble right now.
This government is about to put somewhere between 13,000 and 27,000 -- who knows what the number's going to be -- out of work from the Legislature. There are all kinds of other layoffs happening. Corporations are making record profits and continue to lay people off. There aren't any jobs out there. There are going to be more and more people not only looking for accommodation, but more and more people who aren't going to be buying homes in some municipalities because they badly need that secondary income to be able to afford it. It's actually going to hurt the real estate market. It doesn't make sense.
I would just ask, if anybody cares to answer -- I don't need to hear the mantra about municipalities being better able to make the decisions themselves. On one hand, with the development charge, for instance, the province is reaching in a hand there and saying, "We're going to look at that and we're going to fix it so we're not going to leave it up to municipalities to determine what they can and can't charge developers." Who are you listening to? Why in some cases is it okay, desirable for the municipality to have control and in other cases it's not? It's quite inconsistent.
There are some municipalities -- I dealt with them when I was a short time on Toronto city council, so I know some of the ones -- and I also know some of the very unsavory, unpleasant reasons, which were outlined to this committee by some of the activists in that field. I have to tell you, they weren't exaggerating in some cases. Nobody likes to hear the word "racism," nobody likes to hear that there are certain sections -- I'm talking specifically to the Toronto area because that's the one I know -- some neighbourhoods that want to keep people out.
I don't think the Liberals support our position on this either and I understand the arguments against. But having said that, I come back to the reason our government brought this bill in, and I think it's a very important point. Leaving aside all the issues I just brought up around whether the municipality should decide, the system we're going back to wasn't working, and it can't work.
In our discussion around "have regard to" or "be consistent with" where some said "be consistent with" in Bill 163 couldn't work. I say of course we didn't know because it wasn't tried. I say the same thing now, and in this case, unlike Bill 163 where we didn't even get an opportunity to see if it worked, we know this is not going to work. There are going to be illegal apartments, there are going to be firetraps, and there will be more people than ever living in very unsafe conditions because there will be more people desperately needing cheap accommodation. Believe me, it will be out there.
Nobody has the money right now at any level of government to hire the appropriate number of inspectors. In your bill, I believe -- I don't have it in front of me -- everybody has to register an apartment, and that's going to call for more resources. I'd like to see more inspectors to make sure that even the legal apartments are safe.
I'm very concerned about that. I think it's a very dangerous thing we're doing. We're going back to a system which, had it worked, I wouldn't feel so strongly about. I suppose there will always be fires even in legal apartments, and there have been, but the risk in illegal apartments is so much higher. I just hate the thought that bringing in this bill is going to mean that perhaps more people are going to die. I'm not being alarmist here. I just think, from past experience, that it's going to happen, and I think it's wrong. I come at this almost from a moral point of view. I'm not promoting illegal behaviour, although the Premier once said it's only human nature to try to evade taxes, and that's sort of okay, he said.
Mr Bradley: Who said that?
Ms Churley: Premier Harris said that. I'm certainly not saying I condone people breaking the law. I am saying it's already been proven that people will break the law.
Mr Bradley: Did he set up a 1-800 line to catch tax cheaters?
Ms Churley: No, I haven't heard of that 1-800 line to catch the tax cheaters.
I know who you're caving in to on this one. I understand politically what is going on. Some of you are from regions where either it's not an issue or you feel very strongly that it should be up to the region. In that case, it seems to me, it should have been looked at a little more carefully, and perhaps there would have to be different solutions in different regions. I know that gets very complicated, but I believe this is an example where you have a cookie-cutter kind of solution to a divisive and controversial issue. It's just going to create more havoc and more problems in at least the bigger urban areas in Ontario.
I really wish you would consider reversing your position on this. I know you've been told by the minister to support everything, told by the Premier's office, and you have to do that. I regret that.
This is what really bugs me. You're the people who have been sitting here, and I've been sitting with you through most of the committee hearings, and we've all learned an awful lot -- I've learned an awful lot and still have a lot more to learn -- by listening to people coming in telling us what the real world is like out there as we sit around creating policy and trying to come up with solutions to very difficult problems. We've had people come in here day after day after day telling us that this isn't going to work, that it's a problem.
The people who have told you how to vote here today have not heard any of that. It's not just a problem with your government. I think it's a bit of a problem with our form of democracy at this point, where the actual backbenchers in opposition who hear all of the pros and cons of so many new bills and regulations being brought in really have no input at the end of the day into the changes. That's too bad, because I believe compelling arguments were made about why we need to keep the existing bill in place.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I recognize the importance of having basement apartments at times, and that to get affordable housing it's good to have an apartment in your basement where affordable housing doesn't exist at times. But I also recognize that this had created a real chaos to municipalities: parking, traffic, services capacity. There are municipalities that have a freeze on construction, but when this bill came into effect the municipalities didn't know what to do with it. I think the mechanism is in place for the municipalities and for the people if they want to change the zoning to permit, or it could be indicated in their official plan too, that they don't have to proceed with a zoning change as long as it is indicated in the official plan that they could proceed, and then the municipality has full control over it. I will be voting against this amendment.
Ms Churley: I just want to comment on the comments made by -- Mr Lalonde. As one of the deputy speakers, I should know you all by now, but I know you by your ridings, not by your names.
Mr Baird: He's not Deputy Speaker Morin.
Mr Bisson: No, she said "as a deputy speaker."
Ms Churley: As one of the deputy speakers. My day will come. I'll be the Speaker one day.
Mr Bisson: That's not a job I aspire to. I'd have to rule myself out of order.
Ms Churley: Indeed you would. Coming back to --
Ms Churley: Sorry I provoked all this, Mr Chair, I really am.
I appreciate Mr Lalonde's point of view on this and I know what he's saying, but it's funny to say that in the context of this bill, because this bill promotes urban sprawl; it really does. Everybody knows by now -- it's been well documented -- that those are the areas where we have problems with servicing. I know this government is looking at the development charges, and we're going to have real problems financing the urban sprawl that will happen as a result of this bill. That's a much bigger concern than problems that sometimes are there when too many secondary apartments are created. My experience has been -- and again I admit I'm speaking from a particular perspective, in the city of Toronto; I know it's different in rural areas, but I don't think this is such a big problem in rural areas -- that most people who live in basement apartments don't have cars because they can't afford them. Although I would concede that there may be some areas where it is a problem, I think that's a red herring. If we were really concerned about servicing land and the cost of that, we'd be much more up in arms, as I hope the Liberal Party will be, as we are, about how this bill promotes urban sprawl.
Mr Bradley: Ms Churley is correct in saying that I will not be supporting the motion by the New Democrats on this. I recognize that her statement that this legislation in total will tend to promote urban sprawl is true. There are many components of it that will and will discourage the kind of redevelopment in a downtown area, for instance, that I think is essential. If you walk into virtually any downtown in Ontario, you will find that it is something less than you'd like it to be, and much of that can be attributed -- although not all of it -- to individual councils across the province being attracted to suburban commercial development, by and large, as opposed to downtown redevelopment.
We were in Hamilton the other day. Hamilton at one time had a thriving downtown area. If you were to walk out of the building in which we held the hearings, you would find, I'm sure, that the local councillors in Hamilton would not be entirely satisfied with the way things are now. The same can be said in my own community of St Catharines, where the downtown has many empty stores and many empty office buildings. A good part of that I attribute to, over the years, the permission for various developments taking place on the periphery of the city. Even today there are people endeavouring to have more developments on the periphery of the city or in the middle of the farm land, which I think are detrimental to downtown areas. I don't think we should be encouraging them.
In this specific case, the way this has been handled by the governments in the last while at least, and I suspect this government will be the same, is that there is a housing mix developing now. You very seldom see any more a full development come into a community that has exclusively single-family homes. That was an accepted way in years gone by, that there would be single-family homes. Costs have largely dictated now that there be a mix of housing within developments. Communities ask for that, the province encourages it, the Ministry of Housing has encouraged it, that there be a mix.
The difference is that the people moving into these neighbourhoods are aware and make their purchase based on the fact that they know the neighbourhood. I think people want to have a trust in laws and bylaws that exist. I apply this, I must say, equally to commercial and industrial zoning and business zoning of all kinds, as I do to zoning for higher density. When I was on municipal council, I detested people who would come in and want to rezone for commercial purposes in an area that was clearly not for commercial purposes, and start a commercial strip along a residential street and it ended up being entirely commercial.
I think people, when they make the purchase of a home, do so based on the laws. They look at the laws. They say: "Okay. This is the neighbourhood I have chosen. I want to have a larger lot. I want to have a larger home. I prefer a single-family neighbourhood where there's going to be less traffic, less congestion, and I'm prepared to pay more for it." To be fair, in some cases it isn't a choice of being able to pay more, but instead of having perhaps additional money going to a vacation or nicer vehicles or better furniture or whatever one wants to spend money on, recreational activities, cultural activities, one chooses to spend more of one's money on a neighbourhood in which one wishes to purchase a home.
It's difficult, because I understand those arguments and I'm not without feeling for that. I think some communities where this is a problem have recognized it and are solving it with the basement apartments or with the apartments in homes, as they say.
One of the problems in older neighbourhoods -- and I'm not saying it cannot be remedied, but one of the problems is in fact parking when you get into those neighbourhoods. You get a lot of new people in one accommodation, and the streets weren't built for it originally; the driveways, the parking areas were not constructed for it originally. That becomes a problem. It becomes a problem with water services and sewer services. It becomes a problem with educational services -- all kinds of problems, because this wasn't planned in the first place. I think that's where the advantage is for the new developments that are a mixed development, because they do take into account all those needs -- and of course there are development charges in those areas too, to cover some of those costs. I just wanted to get that one in because I know your government is going to be dealing with development charges as well.
I would prefer to see this left to the local municipality. I would prefer the province to continue to encourage municipalities to develop mixes of housing. Municipalities also have the opportunity to go through an exercise, where there's a neighbourhood in transition and there's an acceptance of it, to go into a neighbourhood and say, "We would like to plan to rezone this, and perhaps we'll need an amendment to an official plan." They can go into this neighbourhood and say: "Here's the reality in 1996. We know the neighbourhood was built in 1936, but in 1996, here's the reality." They can talk to the people in the neighbourhood, and it may be that transition takes place, with the acquiescence of the people in the neighbourhood.
In a difficult issue, on balance I would come down on the side of the people having trust in existing bylaws when they make a purchase. There's nothing people feel more betrayed by, when you're a municipal politician, than when you come in and find the laws are going to be changed under your nose after you've made this particular commitment, after you've made this particular choice. But I do encourage the government to provide ways of encouraging redevelopment of downtown areas, on a neighbourhood basis, and in the new developments that take place.
Mr Bisson: I don't want to go on this for a whole bunch longer, but I want to make the point -- because I think it's important for the record and I think it's important that we understand what we're doing here -- it's not just strictly the question that the government is saying it will allow municipalities to decide if there are going to be apartments in houses. That's the one issue. The other thing that's tied to all of this is that by the government saying it's going to do this in addition to not having to adhere to provincial policies, it's really putting the housing market in a bit of a funny situation.
You may or may not know this, but one of the provincial policies that was actually adopted under the Liberals -- I found this out through a couple of good development friends of mine -- which was a good policy, was that they basically said that -- and I might be a little bit wrong on my numbers -- 30% of the housing built in a subdivision had to be affordable to the bottom 60% of those people with income levels. That was a policy that was set up by the Liberal regime in order to be able to recognize that as we move forward and develop our communities and subdivisions, we have to make sure that we have mixed housing. On the one hand, the government says, "You don't have to adhere to that policy. You only have to have regard for it." Then the second thing you say is, "Now we're going to further block it by saying that you're not going to have the ability to do apartments in houses."
I don't want to be provocative here, but I don't really know if you realize what you're doing here. There was a good reason why the Peterson government moved forward with that proposal. In talking to developers like Melrose Heights subdivision, Lionel Bonhomme, a good friend of mine, by dealing with people like Barry Martin from Martin Development up in my area, they recognize -- and certainly they weren't Liberals. I would say Mr Martin was.
Ms Churley: They weren't NDP.
Mr Bisson: Mr Lionel Bonhomme became a New Democrat actually, I would say.
Mr Bradley: Oh, there it is. After you started accepting corporate donations.
Mr Bisson: That's right. I say he's a New Democrat; I really don't know if he is or isn't. I know that we have a good relationship. But the point I'm getting at here is, those developers understood that they have a responsibility when it comes to developing housing in our communities. It is not just good enough for us as a province to say, "I'm going to give you a blank cheque in order to develop your land to the best ability of you making a buck." The provincial policies said, and you had to adhere to them, that there has to be some thought put into what units are going to be built in that subdivision and who can afford to move in there. You have to allow for that mix, because if you don't, you really end up in a situation where you don't have the society mixing among the different classes to the degree that you need to if you're going to build the kind of understanding we need in our society. I think there is one issue here which is that I don't think you really realize what you're doing for the social good and for the ability for the classes to be able to mix and be able to build a stronger community by having better understandings between the lower and the higher classes.
The other thing I would say is that if you're really going to be driving into the ground the whole idea that if I want to be able to develop an apartment in my house and the municipal council, because I live in a particular subdivision, doesn't want to allow it, I'm going to have to do it basically on the black market. That's how I'm going to have to do it. That's how it's happened in this province for years. I forget the exact number. You might be able to help me. How many illegal apartments do we estimate were being built prior to Bill 120? Do you remember the numbers? Remember, there was an estimate. If you could just come to the committee and identify yourself.
Mr Rob Dowler: Rob Dowler, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The estimate that we came out with at the time that Bill 120 was introduced was 100,000 illegal apartments in houses across the province. About half of them were in Metro Toronto.
Mr Bisson: Thank you. Bill 120 tried to recognize that that activity was happening anyway, and if we were going to deal with it, we had to find some way of bringing those units into some standard in order to protect the people who live in them. The second issue is one of safety. It's going to happen anyway. You could make it illegal if you want, but there are going to be plenty of people in the province of Ontario after this bill is enacted who will go forward and put apartments in their houses. It'll happen in Grey, it'll happen in Hamilton, it'll happen in Niagara Falls, it'll happen in Timmins, it'll happen in Riverdale, because people need to do that to be able to pay their mortgage, more and more so. I would say that with the way our economy is going, if I own a home in Riverdale or in Timmins and I'm a provincial employee and I lose my job, or I work in the private sector and I lose my job, I'm probably going to have to do that a whole bunch more. I would say, on a safety point, that what you're really doing is you're going to push back, you're going to end up encouraging people to build apartments that are not inspected by municipalities and are not built to some standard of safety when it comes to fire and other issues that I think we need to be concerned with.
The third thing I would like to speak on, again for the record, is the whole question of how we care for seniors in regard to the long-term-care system. Your government has turned back one of the most progressive pieces of legislation that had to deal with long-term care. You may not like it, but that's just the way it was. You're now going to introduce legislation this spring that is going to allow long-term care to develop in a system that has a much larger private sector component to it, and if you're telling people that you want them to be able to care for their seniors and for us to take care of our own responsibilities to a certain extent -- and I know that you're not doing that entirely, but that's the direction you're going to -- you're going to have to allow people to build granny flats. How else am I going to be able to take care of my mother? I've thought about it myself. My dad is 69, my mother -- I won't say her age, she'll probably never forgive me, but needless to say she's over 65 and under 70. Thanks, Ma. But the point is that if something, God forbid, should happen --
Mr Bradley: I'm sending the Hansard to Cochrane.
Mr Bisson: Thank you. Cochrane South, that is. But the point I'm trying to make is, if my mom or father, God forbid the day happens, passes away and one of them is not able to live on their own, my choice is I would rather not put them in an institution. That's where I'm at. That's where my psyche's at. As long as I can, I will try to provide for my parents because I think that's what I want to do from the family perspective, but I won't be able to do that if I'm not allowed to put an apartment in the basement of my home.
I have a brand-new house that I built some six years ago, and the way that I constructed my house, it's a sloping lot to where you can walk out of the basement, out of the back part of the house. I divided the house in such a way, when I constructed it, that I would be able to put a granny flat into that house so that I can care for my parents or my wife's mother, should the need arise, because I think to a certain extent that's what they would want, and if that's what they want, I will try to help them. But if you make it illegal for me because my municipality says, "We're not going to allow granny flats to happen," you're really putting me in a position where I'm going to be forced to probably put my parents or my mother-in-law, God forbid that it should happen, into a long-term-care institution. I don't want to do that until it's time to do that.
That will not happen in all cases -- I don't want to be extremist here -- but it will result in some children being given no other opportunity but to put their parents into a long-term-care institution way before their time. That doesn't serve the taxpayer well, that doesn't serve the senior well and I don't think that serves the family well. I would just repeat that point once again, because the reality is that I don't mind taking in my mom and dad or my mom or my dad, but I don't want put them in our house in the three-bedroom part of the house that we have. They want their privacy. They don't want to be bothered by the grandkids at that point, or whatever, when they need their privacy. They have to have a place that they can call their own home. I think that's one of the effects.
The last thing I would just come back to, and I'll end it on this point, is that if the Conservative Party, the Reform Party of Ontario, really believes --
Mr Bisson: I know; I'm saying you're the radical right.
Mr Bradley: They have joint meetings in Ottawa.
Mr Bisson: Yes, that's the way it goes.
Interjection: It would be a big caucus.
Mr Bisson: Listen, you would be a big caucus.
Mr Baird: It wasn't a joint meeting.
Mr Bisson: You guys would get official opposition if you came to that conclusion, in Ottawa anyway.
But the point is that if you really truly support the notion of being able to support the individual to make a buck and to advance their plight in the economy, I can't see how you'd vote against this. The only way that people are going to be able to afford to buy a house, because of the price of developing homes nowadays in many cases, is by allowing them to be able to put an apartment in their house. I think there are going to be plenty of examples where some people will not be allowed to -- I shouldn't say allowed -- will not be able to buy a house on that basis. I think we all know that situation in our own riding. It's not every neighbourhood in my community where the council will put an objection, but there are a sufficient number of neighbourhoods in my community -- as in yours, Mr Baird, in Ottawa -- where the municipalities will make the apartments in houses illegal if they're given the opportunity.
I ask you to reconsider. I think really it's a problematic approach that you're taking. Again, in an ideological zeal to be able to deal with your political interests, you're really going against the whole notion of common sense, in quite the opposite direction.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary, if any? I deem the motion to fail.
Ms Churley: Recorded vote.
The Chair: Too late, Ms Churley.
Ms Churley: Unanimous consent?
The Chair: Is there unanimous consent that there be a recorded vote? Agreed.
Baird, Bradley, Carr, Fisher, Hardeman, Lalonde, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the motion to fail.
Is there any further discussion on section 8? I'll put the question.
Mr Bisson: Just before we move on, just for the sake of democracy, I would really like to know what the government members think about some of the issues that we're --
Ms Churley: Oh no, that's okay.
Mr Bisson: Do they have any opinions or are they only listening to the people in the centre office of cabinet?
Mr Bradley: When you're in government, you don't have opinions.
Mr Murdoch: Hey, give us a chance.
Interjection: We haven't had a chance.
Mr Bisson: I'm giving you the chance. You have an opportunity.
Mr Murdoch: Why don't you shut up for a while and give us a chance?
The Chair: I'll put the question now. All those in favour of section 8? Contrary? That section passes.
Section 9. Are there any amendments, comments or suggestions?
Mr Bisson: We have an amendment to section 9 of the bill, subsections 17(9) to (12) of the Planning Act.
I move that subsections 17(9) to (12) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be struck out.
It comes back again to the argument two or three sections ago where we talked about the power of the minister. What's happening with this particular section of the bill is that we're going to be saying that the minister will relinquish the power to approve plans passed by upper-tier municipalities. The argument I would make, not to get into a very long argument, because I think we made it before, is that I think the minister has to be able to keep some power to be able to deal with what is important for the provincial interest. I guess this is going in the direction that the government believes in less government. The government believes in less what they call intrusiveness of the state when it comes to economic development issues or the economy.
I would say that is not the history of what this country's about. The history of Canada has always recognized that the state does have a responsibility. The state has a responsibility in order to be the advocate for the community of interests within our society, to make sure that our rights are protected, to make sure that the policies that we set through our governments are adhered to. Again, this is just another example where the government is saying, "We're going to pass on our ability as a province to be able to decide what public policy should be on some of these issues."
Ms Churley: I have a question for the parliamentary assistant. We're dealing with subsections 17(9) to (12). I just don't quite understand the reasoning behind this. Could you explain what prompted the government to do this particular thing?
Mr Hardeman: The government's position on this part of the bill is part of the streamlining process. We deem it appropriate when the municipalities have an official plan that has been approved by the minister and he then has the ability to grant them the authority to exempt them from further approval as they change that plan, provided it meets the policy statements of the ministry. If the official plan that is being approved by the municipality does not meet the policy statements of the province, the province has the ability to appeal that process. This, in our opinion, will eliminate the need for a lot of travelling back and forth from municipal government to the provincial government and have official plans lying on shelves gathering dust while development is waiting for those approvals to be dealt with.
Ms Churley: Are you saying that if the province approves the upper-tier plan, the policies within the plan must be consistent with the provincial policy statements for the exemption, in order to exempt?
Mr Hardeman: The official plan must have been prepared according to provincial policy statements of the day.
Ms Churley: Must it be consistent with provincial policies?
Mr Hardeman: A county or a region that presently would not be immediately granted the exemption from the ministry's approval would have to prepare a new official plan based on the "shall have regard to the provincial policy statements" in their first plan. The minister would have to approve that plan and would have to be satisfied that the municipality warranted it, not only through the official plan that was sent to the ministry but their ability to deal with the planning functions to the satisfaction of the minister. He could then delegate the authority to them to exempt them from approval from the minister.
Mr Bisson: I have a question. Maybe the parliamentary assistant can just walk us through this. Subsection 17(10), in section 9 of the bill, says, "The minister may by order authorize an approval authority to pass a bylaw...." So what you're basically saying there is that the minister can go to the city of Timmins and say, "You will put in place a bylaw that gives you the power to deal with your own official plan." Am I right?
Mr Hardeman: That is the bylaw to delegate the authority from the upper to the lower tier; that can be done by bylaw. So the approval of the lower-tier plan in a jurisdiction with two tiers -- where the upper tier has the exemption from the minister, they may by bylaw grant that exemption to the lower tier. They do not require approval of the upper tier for the lower-tier plan.
Mr Bisson: I'm not so sure that's the way I read it. I'm just going to try this one more time. Let me just give it a shot here. It says, "The Minister may by order authorize an approval authority to pass a bylaw exempting a plan or proposed official plan amendment from its approval under this section." I would read that to mean that if I am the minister, I can give the power to a municipality like Timmins, which is not a two-tiered municipality, to deal with its own official plans.
Mr Hardeman: I had the answer for you, Mr Bisson, but now that I've got the clarification, I'm with you and I'd like legal counsel to answer it.
Mr Bisson: Okay, that's fine. I don't expect you to have all of the answers to this.
Ms Churley: Oh yes, he should. He's the parliamentary assistant.
Mr Hardeman: I have, but they disagree with me.
Mr Bisson: Before you go, the difference between a parliamentary assistant and a minister is about $25,000 a year. So you shouldn't know everything. Yes, please.
Ms Ross: Elaine Ross, legal services, Municipal Affairs and Housing. Subsection 17(10) gives the minister the ability to authorize an approval authority to exempt official plans. An approval authority is a municipality that has the ability to approve the official plans of another municipality. So that would usually be an upper tier approving a lower tier's official plans, not its own.
Mr Bisson: So it wouldn't apply to a single-tier municipality, then?
Ms Ross: No.
Mr Bisson: Okay. That was my concern. If you move on to subsection 17(11), just so that I understand that correctly, that particular subsection gives the minister the ability to decide what's going to be in the bylaw that gives the lower-tier municipality the right to approve official plan amendments.
Ms Ross: It gives the minister the ability to impose conditions --
Mr Bisson: In the bylaw.
Ms Ross: -- on the municipality as opposed to writing things in the bylaw. A municipality writes its own bylaw. A municipality can put conditions in the bylaw, and the minister can also put conditions in the order. So there are two different sets of conditions that can occur.
Mr Bisson: Just so that I understand this properly: You have a two-tier municipality; we're going to pass on to the lower tier the ability to make amendments to its own official plan; the minister could set conditions that would be in the bylaw that would be passed by the upper-tier municipality.
Ms Ross: Yes. The minister could perhaps not write what was in the bylaw, but the minister could say, "I'm going to give you the power to exempt official plans if you do X and Y," and the upper tier would have to do X and Y before it would have the ability to exempt the lower tier.
Mr Bisson: I guess this is where this takes me now; this is the problem I'm having with this. Let's say that supposedly happens, but the upper tier doesn't meet those conditions afterwards. Where's the minister left then?
Ms Ross: They wouldn't have the power, because the power is subject to those conditions. So presumably when they exercise it, it would be invalid, their actions would be invalid.
Mr Bisson: So it would be invalid then. That was my concern. Thank you.
Ms Churley: I just want to say, not surprisingly, that I think this is a mistake. In regard to the official plan, the quality control measures have been removed by this government. It's my understanding that even the definition of official plan has now been removed, deleted, and that official plans can be easily amended. I'm voting against this for a variety of reasons, but again the major reason is because, I suppose as I put it before, quality control has been removed around official plans.
This is setting a very dangerous precedent. I think it's going to remove the province even further. Back to the old "be consistent with," I think it's even more important that those kinds of controls around the official plan be there. I think it just adds to the municipalities perhaps being given a bit too much freedom, and not just freedom, but the guidance that would be there with a definition of official plan, the kinds of quality controls that are being taken away, which is going to impact on the community and environmentalists and even developers having a say in what's going on. I wish the government weren't going to do this.
Mr Bisson: I've got to go back to this because this gets more bewildering after I read subsection 17(12). I thought I had it down straight in subsections 17(10) and 17(11), but then you get into subsection 17(12) and it gets a little bit more confusing.
What we were saying through subsection 17(10) was basically that the minister can authorize an upper-tier municipality to grant exemption to a lower municipality in regard to its official plan, right? Okay. Then we go on to subsection 17(11) and we say the minister can then give direction as to some of the conditions that they have to meet to be able to get that power. Right? That's what subsection 17(11) does.
Mr Hardeman: Yes. The minister, in his direction, in authorizing the upper tier and giving them the authority to approve lower-tier plans, could include in that direction what the upper tier must put in place for the lower tier to be granted that authority.
Mr Bisson: Yes, exactly. But then when you read subsection 17(12), "The minister may by order or an approval authority" -- which would in this case be the upper-tier municipality, am I correct? When you're talking about the approval authority, it would be the upper-tier municipality in subsection 17(12)?
Mr Hardeman: I was just reading.
Mr Bisson: Yes, go ahead. Read it. Just read it.
Mr Hardeman: The minister may grant those authorities. The minister may also remove those authorities.
Mr Bisson: Okay, but this is what I'm getting at here. "The minister may by order" -- and when we're talking approval authority, we're talking about the upper-tier municipality, right? That's what we're talking about.
Mr Hardeman: Yes.
Mr Bisson: "...may by bylaw, accompanied by a written explanation for it, remove any exemption made under subsection (9)." Do I understand that to mean that if I'm the Minister of Municipal Affairs and I grant the upper municipality the ability to pass a bylaw giving the lower-tier municipality the ability to grant its own official plan, the upper-tier municipality then can go against what I wanted them to do in the first place? That's how I read that, unless I misunderstand it.
Mr Hardeman: No, I think the intent of that section is that if the upper tier, over a period of time, did not adhere to the direction of the authority they had received, the minister could remove that authority.
Mr Bisson: But it says is that the upper-tier municipality could "by a written explanation," I take it to the lower-tier municipality, "remove any exemption made under subsection (9)." Do you follow my drift, where I'm getting here?
Mr Hardeman: I think the removing of the exemption is in fact taking away the authority they got. It's not giving them something; it's exempting them from the approval.
Mr Bisson: Here's where we separate company. Does that mean to say that the upper-tier municipality can take away the power that the ministry gave? That's how I read that.
Mr Hardeman: No. The minister never gives that power or never exempts the lower-tier municipality. The minister exempts the upper-tier municipality and can give direction as to the requirements for the upper tier to exempt the lower tier.
Again, going back up the other way and removing those exemptions, the upper tier can remove the exemption they gave to the lower tier and the minister can remove the exemption he gave the upper tier. Also, when the minister removes the exemption from the upper tier, that automatically would remove the exemption from the lower tier.
Mr Bisson: I guess where I'm having the problem here -- and again, what we're saying in subsection (12) is that "the minister may by order or an approval authority" -- which is the upper-tier municipality -- "may by bylaw, accompanied by a written explanation for it, remove any exemption made under subsection (9)." But the exemptions might have been what the minister wanted in the first place. So what you're saying to me is no, an upper-tier municipality could not afterwards remove the power that the minister gave in the first place.
Mr Hardeman: I think the minister exempts the upper tier by order. The upper tier then can exempt the lower tier by bylaw, with written explanations. If the upper tier wants to remove that exemption from the lower tier, they can do that, any exemptions granted under the other sections.
Mr Bisson: Even if the minister doesn't approve.
Mr Hardeman: Yes. The upper tier would have the authority to do by bylaw for the lower-tier plan the same as the minister has the authority to do to the upper tier by order.
Mr Bisson: I think I've got this figured out. In other words, the minister cannot on his or her own exempt a lower-tier municipality.
Mr Bisson: He can? Now I'm confused.
Mr Hardeman: The only exception to that would be, if the minister is the approval authority for the lower tier, then the minister can exempt that lower tier.
Mr Bisson: You follow where I'm having my problem, I take it, legal counsel? No? Answer me this question. If you have a two-tier municipality and the lower-tier municipality does not have the right to make amendments to its own official plan, can the minister decide to give that power to the lower-tier municipality? Can he force the upper-tier municipality to do it? That's what I'm asking.
Mr Hardeman: No.
Mr Bisson: No. Okay, that makes a little bit more sense. So you have to go through the upper-tier municipality. The request would come from the lower-tier municipality, they would lobby the upper tier and at the same time the province; that is the way the process would work. If the upper-tier municipality is in agreement, the minister or the upper-tier municipality can grant that power. But the minister cannot grant it on his or her own.
Mr Hardeman: You're right in your assumptions. The exception is where the upper tier presently does not have approval authority; there are regions that do not have upper-tier approval authority, and the minister could deal with the lower tier, in those cases, with the exemptions.
Mr Bisson: That's interesting. But in the cases where the upper tier has the power, the minister cannot grant the approval to the lower tier without the upper tier agreeing. Am I right in assuming that?
Mr Hardeman: No. The requirement, the criteria --
Mr Bisson: I understand that, but the same coming back the other way, then. If for some reason the lower tier does not deal well with its new responsibilities, can the minister then take that power away if the upper tier wants the lower tier to keep it?
Mr Hardeman: No. The minister's ability to deal with that would be through the upper tier. "You're not dealing with your responsibilities as you should. Unless you do, we would remove your ability to exempt."
Mr Bisson: So you would exempt. In the case where the upper-tier municipality doesn't have the ability to approve its own plan, what you're saying is the minister could grant the lower-tier municipality the ability to do that, even though the upper tier doesn't.
Mr Hardeman: If the upper tier does not have the approval authority presently, it's possible. I would note that it's designated in the bill that this authority presently in the bill is only granted to those municipalities or those upper tiers that have the ability and have the present official plan in place. The intent of course is to prohibit or to regulate where that authority will be or where the exemption will be granted to those as they prepare the appropriate official plan.
Mr Bisson: I understand the logic. Just the last part of this, and the very, very last part, is that the logic here is that if an upper-tier municipality, such as Sudbury, which doesn't have the right to grant an official plan -- I think that's the case, but let's say it was -- and you wanted to give Sudbury the ability to do so, if the upper-tier municipality, the region said, "We don't want it," there's nothing they can do about it. The minister could grant it to the city. Right?
Let me try it again without giving an actual community. You've got an upper-tier and a lower-tier municipality. The upper tier doesn't presently have the ability to make amendments to its own official plan. The city wants to have, in this case the lower-tier municipality, the ability to do so, but the upper tier tries to block it. The upper tier couldn't block the ability of the lower-tier municipality to get that exemption from the minister. Right?
Mr Hardeman: Yes, they could. If presently the region is not the approval authority, then they could not stop it.
Mr Bisson: That's all I wanted to know.
The Chair: Any further comment?
Mr Bradley: What do the government members think of all this?
The Chair: I'll put the question.
Mr Bisson: Can I just quiz the government members on this section?
Ms Churley: A recorded vote.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Lalonde, Smith.
The Chair: I'll deem that motion failed. Are there any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(10) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:
"Authority to exempt
"(10) The minister may by order authorize an approval authority to pass a bylaw,
"(a) exempting any or all plans or proposed official plan amendments from its approval under this section; and
"(b) exempting a plan or proposed official plan amendment from its approval under this section."
Mr Bisson: I take it this comes right back to the debate we just had. You're clarifying. Back to the quiz, guys. Pay attention. All you're trying to do in (10) here is to clarify what's presently on page 5 of the bill, subsection (10). Right? It's a clarification, is what you're trying to do.
When you talk about "its," who is "its"? The lower tier? In clause (a) and clause (b), you say, "from its approval." Just so I'm clear here, who are we talking about? "It" is the lower tier. Right?
Mr Hardeman: The exemption for all plans or proposed plan amendments from its approval would be that the upper tier could exempt the lower tier from its approval. The approval authority is granting the exemption, so the upper tier would not have to approve it.
Mr Bisson: Can I ask legal counsel something here? This might sound like a bit of a funny question, but I am being serious here. Why can't we write this stuff in much more plain language? Seriously.
Ms Ross: We always do our best, but it's complex.
Mr Bisson: Is it a way of protecting your profession or what? No, I'm just wondering why that is.
The Chair: Mr Bisson, could you phrase a more specific question rather than a philosophical one.
Mr Bisson: I'll be specific. When you're saying "exempting any or all plans or proposed official plan amendments from its approval under this section," why not just specifically mention the upper tier? Is there a reason, or it just makes it shorter?
Ms Ross: Throughout the section we use the term "approval authority," and that's because otherwise you'd be listing the minister and a lot of different regions. There's a variety of different approval authorities set out in subsection (1) and subsection (2), and you'd have a great long list that you'd have to keep repeating throughout the act. Actually, it's supposed to make it easier to read to use one term, "approval authority," and then you use that throughout the section.
Ms Churley: Can I just ask what has changed? I think we're all getting a little tired here, and I'm having a little trouble understanding the differences. What are you trying to achieve by this amendment? It's fine if you want legal counsel to respond.
Mr Hardeman: The amendment is to clarify, to get consistency with the sections, that one gives the same authority as the other, from 17(9) and 17(10) in the act.
Ms Churley: What was inconsistent there? I just want to know what I'm voting on.
Ms Ross: In subsection (9) the minister has the ability to approve a particular official plan or a plan amendment or a group of them. It could be any or all official plan or plan amendments. They could give a blanket exemption to a municipality, in other words. That wasn't clear in subsection (10), so this is to make it clear that an approval authority could either approve a particular plan or plan amendment or could give a blanket exemption to a municipality. It could be for a particular area of the municipality or it could be all of their official plan amendments, whatever they chose.
Ms Churley: Could I ask the parliamentary assistant what conditions would have to be in place for the minister to be able to make the approving -- I guess it's discretion and in some ways arbitrary.
Mr Hardeman: I think it's clear by the act that the authority that's being granted to the regions and the counties presently is based on having an official plan that was approved by the ministry and having the capabilities of administering that plan.
Ms Churley: But the official plan is not even being defined any more. I guess I'm getting into a whole other area here.
Mr Hardeman: I think it must be recognized that the approval authorities mentioned in the bill that would get the exemption at the present time have an official plan that has been approved by the ministry as meeting the policy statements of the province.
Ms Churley: Ah. Consistent with.
Mr Hardeman: We are convinced that the future plans that will be approved and have due regard to the provincial policy statements will achieve the same goal in good planning as the ones that have presently been approved, that are in existence. I would also suggest that the majority of the plans that are in existence today for the approval authorities, or the ones that we're referring to giving the exemption, were approved under the "shall have regard to" as opposed to the "shall be consistent with."
Ms Churley: So before the approval of these official plans, the draft plans would be looked at in the context of whether or not the region looked at, had regard for the provincial policies. Would you need some kind of proof that they did have regard for more than just looking at it and tossing it aside? Before approving the plan would you need to have some evidence that in fact the -- I'm losing it. I really have lost it.
Mr Bradley: The planner from the city of London --
Ms Churley: Just give me a moment. It will come back.
Mr Conway: Those long winter nights up in Labrador.
Ms Churley: That's what it is. Happy Valley, Labrador.
Ms Churley: Okay, guys, just be quiet so I can get this back here.
Mr Conway: As they say on the CBC, "One moment, please."
Ms Churley: What I'm trying to get at here is -- "policy" is the word that went out of my head at that moment -- would they have to show, in having regard for the policy statements, that they more than just picked them up and tossed them aside, that they actually tried to incorporate these policy statements into their plan? I'm really coming back to, in my view, the centre of this whole new act here, and that's "be consistent with" and "have regard for." It seems to me in a way you're saying here that for the minister to approve those plans they do have to be consistent with provincial policy, whatever that may be. Is that correct?
Mr Hardeman: Yes. I think the present ones that would be given the exemption for approval of their own plan have plans in place that were approved by the minister at a previous point in time. As we look at further exemptions, it would require the original plan, the first plan, to come to the minister and it would be judged by the minister and the ministry as to whether it does have due regard to the provincial policy statements.
Ms Churley: How would you judge that?
Mr Hardeman: In other words, the results of that plan would, in the opinion of the minister, have to achieve the policy direction of the provincial interest.
Ms Churley: You see, this is where we come back to -- as Mr Bradley said, we don't have the policy statements yet and how they're going to be applied is just so vague that it seems to me it could be really arbitrary in terms of how and why the minister approves the plan or not. That's where I have some real problems with this because we don't know how consistent and what kind of -- the basis on which plans are going to be approved is not clear enough. I guess you answered my question in that they won't have to be consistent with, that there's no clear policy as to what has to be in that official plan or not. Part of the problem is of course the definition of what an official plan is. That's been taken out of the bill as well. I don't know if you have any response to that, but that's part of my worry about this.
Mr Hardeman: I'm not sure I have an answer. I would suggest that the reason the municipalities are preparing the official plan is to give direction as to how they see the development of their community in the future. It's important to recognize that the provincial review or the provincial agreement to that plan is based on whether that plan does have due regard for the provincial policy statements as the province deems appropriate to protect the provincial interest.
I think that deals with the ones that are in existence and that's the basis on which they were approved in the past and that would be the basis on which the new ones would be approved in the future. Those municipalities that presently do not have one would have to go through that first plan and have it approved by the minister prior to getting the exemption to approve future amendments to it or creating a new one beyond that point before they could make that decision based on having due regard for the provincial policy statements.
The Chair: Is there any further comment on this amendment? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of this amendment? All those contrary? The motion carries.
Are there any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Bradley: Yes.
Mr Baird: I notice there are about 17 actually.
Mr Bradley: Is the Liberal one the next one? I think it is.
The Chair: Yes, it is.
Mr Bradley: This is regarding section 9 of the bill, subsection 17(16) in the Planning Act.
I move that subsection 17(16) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "20 days" in the third line and substituting "30 days."
I recognize that there is an overall effort to try to speed up the process. My concern is -- and I recognize that there have been some efforts made by previous governments, plural, to find ways of speeding up the process without having adverse effects on the process -- Bill 20, by prescribing 20 days, hampers the public ability to participate in the planning process, in my view. The public is a key part of the process, both by providing information and by establishing legitimacy for decisions made by the public representatives. Leaving them out or impeding their ability to contribute means that decisions, I think it's safe to say, are less informed regarding local information and concerns.
I think everybody recognizes that some streamlining is positive, but the public process should not be curtailed for expediency alone. Getting the public thoroughly involved early on in the process reduces the possibility of costly and lengthy delays, appeals and conflict. I think that's something we have to decide on somewhere along the line. Having sat on a municipal council, I remember how annoyed people would be from time to time around the council table --
Mr Conway: Which century was this?
Mr Bradley: This was many, many years ago -- annoyed with what they would consider to be vexatious complaints, but getting the public thoroughly involved, I think, does indeed reduce those conflicts down the line. If the public can get its information early, can put forward its information early, I think the public then by and large tends to not be involved in unnecessary delays, appeals or conflict. When you listen to some of the complaints about the bill -- and there were some positive comments about it -- there was widespread concern expressed on the part of citizen groups regarding the tightened time lines in Bill 20 and that it would not give them sufficient time to participate fully in the planning process.
Under this motion, a copy of the proposed official plan should be available to the public 30, not 20, days before a public meeting is held regarding the official plan. The public needs time to review proposals in order to prepare a response. Not everybody has the planning expertise that a professional planner might have or a lawyer who has a lot of information or a lot of experience in the field of planning or perhaps an urban geographer might have. That person often has to consult others who are expert, either on a professional basis or perhaps, more often than not, on an informal basis. I think the 30 days -- it's only 10 days longer, but it gives the public a little longer to be able to have that plan available, have that information analysed. I don't think that 10 days is going to cause great problems for those proposing the development. It is likely to cause more annoyance for those who want to question it.
Again, I get back to the fact that in the long run it may be that you will eliminate more concerns by having this additional time of 10 days available. I could have said two months. I don't think anybody on the government side would have accepted that, because of your determination to streamline, but I thought saying 30 days rather than 20 days might be more acceptable to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. That is why I am putting forward the motion. I think it makes, as one would say, common sense and will make for a better planning process.
Mr Conway: I just wanted to use this opportunity, in supporting this particular motion, to make some passing reference to the submission made late yesterday afternoon by Mrs Virginia Berg. Some of you, many of you, actually, in the room were in London when Mrs Berg made her submission. I thought it was an extremely powerful submission and I refer members, if they haven't read it, to part of her brief which was "Our Personal Planning Nightmare."
My friend from Oxford and my colleague from St Catharines, both of whom have been on local councils -- I have never been. I read a story like this -- and I grant that this is only one side of the story. A friend of mine actually works for this municipality. I should phone him and find out what the other side of the story is. But assuming that this is a reasonable submission, and I do, you look at this and say: How is this possible?
If you believe, as I do, in supporting the "have regard to," that there is some very real legitimacy in giving local politicians some real and some additional power, then the corresponding responsibility is that this kind of nightmare not happen. As I say, I find the Berg story almost incredible, but having said that, I think that Mr Bradley's amendment provides just a little more time for citizens who, as the Bergs discovered, can often be faced with enormous implications based on planning decisions made locally, about which they have little or no information.
I know Crosshill, I've been to Crosshill. Actually, it's a very interesting little place and I can't imagine that all this could be going on and people wouldn't hear about it, but Mrs Berg said yesterday that they were not made aware of a very significant development that was about to change their neighbourhood. So it seems to me that it's the Berg testimony that would not only make me want to support Mr Bradley's current motion but also -- I may have missed this; I was out doing important business for a few moments -- why, again, it seems to me you would want to give every opportunity for some kind of public meeting around a subdivision. My experience in provincial politics tells me that giving people lots of prior notice and an opportunity to come and hear what you're about to do to them, generally speaking, does move things along. So I cite the Berg testimony as one good reason why we should support Mr Bradley's sensible, moderate amendment here.
Ms Churley: I just want to speak briefly to this because I think my colleagues to my right have expressed my views about this. I just want to read you, and remind you of, something that we heard, I think, in the first week of the hearings from the Lake of Bays Association. Now, I know some people in this room made fun of these people, at least privately to me, and said, "Well, they're cottagers; they live in Toronto and they have the cottages." There was almost a sense of, why should we have to listen to them? I was sorry to hear that, because these people have legitimate concerns, and the fact that they have cottages in the Muskoka region means that they are concerned about their environment and preserving the environment.
They're very, very concerned about this notice time being reduced from 30 days to 20. What they say is:
"Our next concern is the removal of the requirement for a public meeting for consents and subdivisions. It is our experience that many details may not be available during the OPA process. When details become available at the subdivision stage, it will be difficult, without a required public meeting, for the public to ensure that its interests are acknowledged. Consents create new lots for development on lakes. Cottagers understand that lakes have a finite capacity to accept additional development without sacrificing water quality. As absentee land owners" -- and they admit that -- "we are losing the opportunity to present our views at a public meeting and we may be losing our right to be notified regarding council meetings where planning decisions are made that can affect us significantly. At the same time, we have the responsibility to attend meetings where decisions are made to retain any appeal rights. It's hard to be at meetings we don't know are being held."
Throughout their document -- and others have talked about the overall reduction of access by the public to the process. This is just one example and there are more amendments coming up to deal with the others. It really is a serious problem. I know that when we came forward with Bill 163, many of us would have preferred a longer period of time.
I believe that the public is being put up as the villain here and this is an example of that. Ten days either way in the whole process is not a big deal. I can assure you, and this came out in the hearings as well, that an awful lot of the delays are bureaucratic -- not enough staff, being held up in various levels, all kinds of problems that crop up there. When you have a prescribed time, then this public access is going to be done within that prescribed time if the documentation is available. The public is being made the villain here in terms of so-called cutting red tape and reducing regulations that interfere with development. I don't think it's fair and I don't think it's accurate and I don't think it's going to really solve the problem.
So I really hope that you will agree to -- for heaven's sake, 10 extra days here. Guys and gals, come on here. You've got to admit that in terms of what we're talking about here, reducing red tape, to make the public the villain when they participate in a very important way in the process -- I'm really disappointed in you guys. You can do --
Ms Churley: No, seriously. I'm really disappointed. You know better than this. It's not the public who cause the delays, at least in this area. If you have a prescribed time, that's it. It's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous. Oh, oh, look who's in the chair now. I'd better look out.
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Why?
Ms Churley: I'll tell you later. I don't think we have time now.
I just think that you can do better than this and I would suggest that you give the public that 10 days. Because it's really true, as people pointed out, if there are problems with mail service, people who are absentee land owners, long weekends -- there are all kinds of problems that delay people getting information right then and there, and then to have to analyse that and prepare for it, it's very difficult. Give them the 10 days. At least make that concession, for heaven's sake. It would, I think, make a big difference, because there are a lot of people who are very upset about the reduction in public access, and believe me, it's not the problem.
That's what bugs me so much, and you know that, Ernie. You do. You know that this public participation stuff is not the problem. It is absolutely ridiculous. Go back and tell Al that there's miscalculation on this one, that you think, as a parliamentary assistant, from everything you heard, that that's not where the problem is; it's with bureaucratic tangles and all that kind of stuff. Ask him to agree to this. Would you do that? If you would, I'd ask the Liberals to hold off on their motion tomorrow so we can put it on the floor again and perhaps have you support it.
Mr Bisson: Just a question to the parliamentary assistant. Under Bill 163, what was the notice provision as far as timing?
Mr Hardeman: As far as --
Mr Bisson: In regard to this particular section, in regard to public notice, what was the notice requirement under Bill 163? I don't remember. Was it 30 days?
Mr Hardeman: Under this section in 163, there was no requirement of time.
Ms Churley: Oh, wasn't there? I thought it was --
Mr Bisson: That's what I was wondering. Part of the problem I guess I'm having through this process is that the idea of committee on the whole, as I see it, is to be able to take a look at what submissions we got as a committee and to make recommendations on how to make the bill stronger. The government is, in its own wisdom, saying, in this case there was no public requirement. I thought it was 90 days, but I stand corrected. Now they're suggesting that we go to 20 days. There's an amendment the Liberals brought to us today that says 30. Certainly to God, we can agree that moving that by 10 days ain't going to stop the planning process.
I would just be interested if the parliamentary assistant could tell us what his intentions are. Do you plan on supporting this? If you do, we'll vote on it right now.
Mr Hardeman: No, the government will not be supporting this motion.
Mr Bisson: For what reason?
Mr Hardeman: The intent of Bill 20 is to streamline the planning process to try and reduce the time it takes to get a proposal from the time someone has a vision to the time the project can either be denied or accepted, to get that number reduced. This amendment deals with the length of time between the time the amendment is made available to the person to peruse and look through and the time of the public meeting.
As I have been involved in municipal politics and municipal government in the last number of years -- it's been mentioned a time or two -- I would point out that there are not many official plan amendments that have not been circulated and discussed and had a number of meetings prior to this stage where it's actually written in draft form to be presented for an official public meeting. There are many cases where the proponent and the municipalities have had great discussions with the neighbourhood as to the appropriateness of the development.
This 20 or 30 days does not preclude there being greater distance between the two. It's just that when the situation has been resolved, it's ready to proceed, this requires they must wait another 20 days before they can hold a public meeting.
Mr Bisson: Let me ask you this, then. Do you believe that bringing people together ahead of development is a way to prevent problems in the future with regard to approval, that public involvement is good?
Mr Hardeman: I think there is absolutely no intention in Bill 20 to preclude or to reduce public involvement.
Mr Bisson: You sound like my attorney. I'm asking a very simple question. Do you believe involving the public in the planning process can identify possible problems that we may have down the road and strengthen the application? Do you see public involvement as a good thing?
Mr Hardeman: Yes.
Mr Bisson: Okay. If you do that, then I can understand your logic if you were saying that under Bill 163 there were no time limits as to how long it had to be up, and the government can make a logical argument, in fairness to you, that there have to be some time lines applied to it. I accept that argument. If you want to put a time line, I understand. But 20 days, I think you understand, can be a bit of a problem for the amount of time people have to comment. The argument was made by both the Liberal members and by Mrs Churley from our --
Ms Churley: Ms.
Mr Bisson: Ms Churley -- sorry -- from our party made all the arguments around timeliness. The only thing I'm getting at simply is this: Here we are, a group of legislators coming to this committee to try to grapple with how we can make this legislation better and make it work in a way that's more efficient, and the government's not prepared to add 10 days to the notice provision? It boggles the mind. There's supposed to be a certain amount of give and take at the committee level.
Ms Churley: It's going to cause them a lot of trouble. You'll be sorry.
Mr Bisson: I can't understand why you wouldn't support that. What are we doing here if you're not going to agree that 10 days, on a motion that's put before us, that's not going to substantially change the intent of the bill -- how am I going to believe you're going to listen to anything else we have to say? I guess that's where I'm coming from.
Mr Hardeman: Not that the government's position would be different on the next amendment, this amendment deals with the requirement not to give notice of the public meeting. This amendment deals with providing the draft official plan amendment to the public for their perusal prior to that public meeting. So the day the municipality would publish that document, they would have to set the public meeting at least 20 days hence. It's not public notice.
Mr Bisson: The idea here is that you make the plan available to the public so they can peruse it before they go to the public meeting. The idea is you don't want them to come in cold, not knowing what it's all about and having to waste a whole bunch of time trying to explain to people or give them an opportunity to look at the plan. We're saying that in many cases, there are a lot of people, for all the reasons we heard before, who may not have the time within 20 day to do that. All I'm saying -- my frustration here -- is if you as a government are saying, "We're not prepared to give an amendment of 10 days on this particular clause", how am I to believe you're going to listen to anything else the opposition has to say or what the presenters have --
Mr Murdoch: That's your problem.
Mr Bisson: No, it's not only our problem. There's a democracy here.
Mr Bisson: Yes, but there's not an amendment up to now that you guys have been willing to listen to. I'm a little bit frustrated. I understand you have the right to govern and I understand you want to move the planning decisions in this province in a particular direction. I may not like it, but I understand it and I accept the legitimacy of the process. But the legitimacy of the process dictates that there has to be some ability on the part of the government to listen to what presenters have to say and to have what they had to say come in and be reflected under the law. If even on this most basic point you're not willing to move, how are you going to listen to anything else?
Ms Churley: They don't, so why bother?
Mr Bisson: Is that nitro you're taking or an Aspirin?
Mr Conway: Such caterwauling.
Mr Bisson: I take it you're not going to comment.
Mr Conway: It reminds me of talking to the NDP about Bill 40.
Mr Hardeman: I would just point out that the --
Mr Bisson: No. Listen. I would say quite candidly to my friend from Renfrew that under Bill 40, we put that bill out to committee way before we even had -- it was draft legislation when it when out. There was all kinds of discussion that happened both within the business community and the labour community.
Mr Bradley: I'll settle him down.
Mr Bisson: Yes, you'd better settle him down. But the point I'm getting at --
Mr Baird: Bill Murdoch has been so well behaved.
Mr Bisson: No, seriously, in all seriousness, listen --
Mr Bisson: Can you get them -- please. The point I'm trying to get at here is that the Liberal government before us and our government when we were in place, when we went out on legislation -- and, I would argue, the Conservative government before, because I presented to those committees -- listened to what the public had to say and moved somewhat on what they heard and made the bill somewhat reflect what they heard from the public. I don't see that happening in this committee process. I question the legitimacy of our democracy if you're not willing to move on 10 days.
Ms Churley: Are you just questioning that now? Come on, Gilles.
Mr Bradley: What did the Planning Act say before, before you changed it?
Mr Hardeman: This is what I was trying to point out in my previous remark. The area we're discussing today, and this amendment, previously there was no minimum amount required, so they could actually give the document on your way into the public meeting. We have decided that the document should be available prior to the public meeting, so we have put that at 20 days, that they must present the document, make it available, 20 days prior to a public meeting. So this is not reducing. This is an added benefit to help public participation, to help the public get the information they need to be prepared for the public meeting.
Mr Bisson: I recognize that, but conversely --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me. Mr Conway was next in order.
Mr Conway: I think I should hold my tongue.
Mr Bisson: In fairness, Mr Parliamentary Assistant, the other extreme is also possible. The municipality could have let the plan out for comment 30, 40, 50, 90 days before going to the public meeting; that's a possibility. All I'm saying is, if you're not prepared to move that from 20 to 30 days, where the heck are you?
Mr Hardeman: Just for clarification, and as I've mentioned in a couple of previous statements, the 20 days is a minimum requirement. The municipalities can, as they could in the previous act, make it 90 days or 120 days.
Mr Bisson: Sure. That's the point.
Mr Hardeman: They cannot go below 20 days' notice. In the previous act they could go to two days' notice. The requirement is more onerous than Bill 163 was in this particular area.
Mr Bisson: It's obvious you're not going to support the motion, so let's get on with it.
Mr Conway: That's a useful clarification.
The Chair: Any further comment?
Mr Bradley: I know this government will break ranks here with the parliamentary assistant.
The Chair: Seeing no substantive further discussion, I'll put the question.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the amendment to fail. Any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Bradley: Yes, there's one on 17(17). It's essentially the same thing.
I move that subsection 17(17) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "20 days" in the second line and substituting "30 days."
Essentially, I could make basically the same arguments on this one as on the other, that Bill 20 hampers the ability to participate in the planning process, that the public is the very key to this process by providing information and establishing legitimacy for decisions made by the public representatives. If we were to give the public the 30 days instead of the 20 days in this instance, I think there's less chance of there being a major confrontation at the end.
Very often, people who are initially concerned about an action being taken that's essentially a change do so because they're not familiar with the ramifications. They're more asking questions than they are expressing opposition. It's my belief that by giving them 30 days it allows them 10 more days to gather their information together, or indeed to have their concerns alleviated by speaking to somebody and finding out that what they thought was going to happen as a result of the change is not really going to happen, and that's the purpose of moving it. I won't take up the time of the committee spending a longer time, because essentially the arguments are similar to arguments I just presented.
Mr Bisson: Just a question: This is with regard to the amount of time you have to be able to appeal the decision. Was there a maximum or a minimum time before, or is it the same as the other one?
Mr Hardeman: This amendment, I believe, refers to the notice of the public meeting, not to the notice of appeal.
Mr Bisson: "If the plan is exempt from approval, any person or public body may, not later than 20 days after the day that the giving of written notice under subsection (23) is completed, appeal all or part of the decision of council." That's what I thought we were at, 17(24).
Mr Bradley: No, 17(17).
Ms Churley: We're doing 17(17).
Mr Bisson: Oh, okay, sorry.
The Chair: Is there any further comment? Seeing none, I'll put the question. All those in favour of the amendment? All those contrary? I deem the amendment to fail.
Mr Bradley: There is a further one, to 17(24), which is similar to the last two motions I have moved.
I move that subsection 17(24) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "20 days" in the third line and substituting "30 days."
The arguments are similar. It's a different circumstance in this case, but the arguments are similar in providing more time for the public to be able to carry out its responsibilities, to have its input. I happen to believe, in this case, that it would be useful. I recognize that the members have not supported it previously and I may be correct in assuming that support will not be there this time.
But in this case, as Mr Bisson has mentioned, "If the plan is exempt from approval, any person or public body may, not later than 20 days after the day that the giving of written notice under subsection (23) is completed, appeal all or parts of the decision of council to adopt all or part of the plan to the municipal board by filing with the clerk of the municipality a notice of appeal."
It's just providing some more time. Even more compelling than the other cases, I think this is a case where their concerns may be alleviated before they decide to have an appeal, but it's been the opinion of the government so far that is not the case. I guess there's just a difference of opinion there.
Mr Bisson: I ask the same question I did before. What was the notice provision before, the amount of time that you had to do the appeal?
Mr Hardeman: The previous Bill 163 was 30 days and it's being reduced from 30 to 20 days.
Mr Bisson: Well, okay, I'm going to go back into the argument again, but --
Ms Churley: Same argument.
Mr Bisson: No, the point is that what you argued before is that there was no minimum standard. Well, you ain't going to change your mind. Why even argue? Have your way.
Mr Bradley: Just very briefly, this is a bit different. That's why I sought the clarification from the parliamentary assistant previously, where I think what you've done with the 20 days in this 16 and 17 could be seen to be an improvement; not the kind of improvement we want, we'd prefer 30 days, but at least it was an improvement, as you say, so the person wasn't receiving a document going in the door.
In this case, you're moving in the opposite direction. There was a 30-day provision; you're reducing it to 20 days. In this case, I would hope that the government members would view it in a different light, in that you are actually taking away from the public something. In the previous two cases, to be fair to you, you were giving something to the public, giving at least a minimum. Mr Lalonde pointed out to me about half an hour ago that in fact this was something that was providing for a minimum. In this case, we are reducing from 30 to 20. I would simply make some of the comments I have before, that I think the process will be enhanced by 30 days and conflicts potentially could be reduced with 30 days instead of 20 days, but of course there may be others with differing views.
Mr Bisson: Prior to Bill 163, what was the notice provision for filing the appeal? Prior to Bill 163, was it 60 or 90 days?
Mr Hardeman: I think prior to Bill 163 there was no appeal process, no time line on that, because they were all referred to the minister for the minister to refer to the OMB.
Mr Bisson: But am I correct in assuming it was fairly open?
Mr Hardeman: Yes.
Mr Bisson: Like, I could appeal 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, six months later?
Mr Hardeman: Prior to Bill 163, it was wide open up to the point that the minister approved it, which could be the first day it arrived at Queen's Park. I think there was some reference in one of the presentations that was handed to us that what had happened was that a particular amendment had arrived and come back out of Queen's Park in two days. In that case, the individual would have had no opportunity to appeal, because by the time their appeal would have arrived, it would have been done. In that case, I think this is an improvement over that.
Mr Bisson: Just so that we're clear here, I would also argue, though, that in some cases if somebody wanted to appeal the decision and file notice with the clerk, if it had not got to the minister within 60 or 90 days, they had the ability to approve. So you can also argue there's a lesser standard.
I take it what you're doing here in your zeal, in order to be able to show that you're cutting back time lines, is that this is one of the ways you're able to do it and show you're speeding up the process. But I don't think that's going to serve the public good.
The Chair: Any further comment? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
Ms Churley: Recorded vote.
Bisson, Bradley, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Fisher, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem the amendment to fail.
Any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(27) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out the portion that precedes clause (a) and substituting the following:
"(27) If no notice of appeal is filed under subsection (24) in respect of all or part of the decision of council and the time for filing appeals has expired."
Mr Bisson: Where is that motion? We don't have it in our package. Subsection 17(27), you just said?
The Chair: Section 9, subsection 17(27).
Mr Bisson: We have the government motion subsection 17(38) --
Mr Bradley: No, you have subsection 17(27) right now.
The Chair: That's correct. Do you have it there?
Mr Bradley: Do you want me to speak to it? No, I don't want to speak to it.
The Chair: No, I'm just seeking clarification if all the members have a copy of that.
Mr Bradley: I have subsection 17(27).
Mr Bisson: That's fine.
Ms Churley: I don't either.
Mr Bisson: I take it we're not going to win the argument.
Mr Bradley: Here, you can have mine.
The Chair: Mr Hardeman, would you care to explain this amendment.
Mr Hardeman: There was some discussion during the public hearing process that if someone appealed an official plan, the whole plan would be in the appeal process and could be months in abeyance because there was a small section of the plan. Previously, in a referral, the minister could approve all but that which was appealed and then they could refer only that section that was objected to to the Ontario Municipal Board. This provides that same option, that the plan would be deemed to have been approved by council save and except that section that was appealed, and that would be the only part that would go to the Ontario Municipal Board. So the new act would be in place upon no one objecting to those portions and it would then only appeal the portion about which there was concern expressed.
The Chair: Any further comment?
Mr Bisson: How long are we going to? I do have another meeting to be at.
The Chair: You'll recall yesterday we had decided that we would add on the three hours that we lost this morning, but I'm at the direction of the committee whether we do it tonight or tomorrow, or part tonight and part tomorrow.
Mr Bisson: As I explained yesterday, I'm supposed to be at a meeting in about 15 minutes and I've got another one tomorrow.
Mr Conway: Why don't we split it? I've got to go to a funeral home in Shelburne at some point tonight. I don't plan to be here all night -- 7 o'clock? What's the normal adjournment? Are we dealing with 14 hours or 12 hours?
The Chair: We had night sittings for the previous bill this committee heard, so --
Mr Conway: One gets the impression that there's a certain quality of a foregone conclusion about this, so I don't think we ought to get hung up unduly about timing. I've got to leave at 6:30, but my colleagues Mr Bradley and Mr Lalonde will ably represent my interest, I know.
Mr Bisson: I'm not so sure. On that point, I would just like to point out that Mr Bradley votes differently than you.
The Chair: I'm at the direction of the committee.
Mr Bisson: I can't stay much longer, because I do have somewhere I've got to be. I say, as Mr Conway has, that I don't think it's going to make a whole bunch of difference how we feel about particular sections of the bill, so I don't know what I'm going to accomplish here for the next hour and a half.
Mr Hardeman: Mr Chairman, first of all on a point of order: I believe we have a motion on the floor that we should vote on before we have further debate.
Mr Bisson: Okay, sure. Let's vote on that and we can debate that after.
Mr Hardeman: But having already got into debate, I think the committee will recognize that we did have an agreement that we would have a certain number of hours to debate the clause-by-clause. We are at your disposal as to where we put those hours. I can assure you that I don't feel like I'd like to work until midnight, but wherever they could be put in --
Mr Galt: Put the question and then debate it.
Mr Hardeman: We do hope to have the clause-by-clause completed by tomorrow.
Mr Bisson: Put the question.
The Chair: We'll put the question then. All those in favour of the motion? Contrary? I deem that amendment to carry.
Ms Churley: I'm on heavy allergy medication, so you may have noticed I'm starting to slow down here a bit.
Mr Bradley: I hadn't noticed.
Ms Churley: You hadn't noticed at all, eh? Well, this is me slowing down.
Mr Conway: Nothing that a trip to Harvey's won't cure.
Ms Churley: Yes, I was going to invite you all out to dinner after, to Harvey's, no doubt, but the placards will have to be taken by all.
I regret I don't know about this agreement. Obviously, my party didn't communicate to me.
Interjection: They never tell you anything.
Ms Churley: Yes, they never tell me anything. I would prefer -- I realize we have a certain amount of hours -- to stop at 7 tonight. I'm willing to put in whatever hours are necessary tomorrow to do this, but my colleague has to leave and I don't think I'm going to be able to carry on much after 7 o'clock this evening.
The Chair: Is it the consensus of the committee that we rise at 7 o'clock? Anyone care to make that a motion?
The Chair: As Ms Churley just said, when we finish.
Mr Murdoch: I vote we go all night tonight then.
Ms Churley: You can vote on it.
Mr Baird: There are members of the committee -- I know Mr Bisson brought this up the other night -- who don't live in Metropolitan Toronto and who have to go back to our constituencies tomorrow.
Mr Bisson: We have no problem, because at 6 o'clock tomorrow, come hell or high water, you're done.
The Chair: With that undertaking, does someone care to make a motion that we rise at 7 o'clock?
Ms Churley: I so move.
The Chair: Ms Churley has moved that the committee rise at 7 o'clock. All in favour? Contrary, if any? Carried.
Are there any other amendments to section 9?
Mr Bradley: Apparently, there is another one here.
I move that subsection 17(36) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "20 days" in the second line and substituting "30 days."
I do that for the same basic reasons as I did previously. I should read the section so people will know what it says:
"Any person or public body may, not later than 20 days after the day that the giving of written notice under subsection (35) is completed, appeal all or part of the decision of the approval authority to the municipal board by filing a notice of appeal with the approval authority."
It seems to be similar to what I just did, but I think the arguments are basically the same and I'll forgo the repeating of the arguments. For the same reasons, I believe there should be 30 days rather than 20 days.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I put the question. All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem the amendment to fail.
Are there any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(38) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out the portion that precedes clause (a) and substituting the following:
"(38) If no notice of appeal is filed under subsection (36) in respect of all or part of the decision of the approval authority and the time for filing appeals has expired."
For the information of committee, it is an identical motion to the previous one in a different section of the act.
The Chair: Is there any further comment? All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem that amendment to carry.
Any further amendments to section 9? I think there's another one from you, Mr Hardeman.
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(39) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out the portion that precedes clause (a) and substituting the following:
"Withdrawal of appeals
"(3) If all appeals made under subsection (36) in respect of all or part of the decision of the approval authority are withdrawn and if the time for filing notice of appeal has expired, the secretary of the municipal board shall notify the approval authority that made the decision and."
The Chair: Do you wish to elaborate?
Mr Hardeman: Again, it's a clarification to deal with exactly the same as the previous two motions, allowing the municipal board to deal appropriately with the question of appeal.
The Chair: Is there any further discussion? All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem the amendment to pass.
Any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Bradley: The next one is a Liberal amendment.
I move that subsection 17(40) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "90"0 and substituting "120."
I know that Mr Murdoch's very supportive of this, I believe.
Ms Churley: He's howling like a dog over there.
Mr Lalonde: I was talking to the planner in our district again today and yesterday. The planner of the city of London has expressed his concern about reducing it down to 90 days, and if you take a municipality like London that cannot meet the requirements of 90 days, I wonder what's going to happen with the rest of the municipalities in small rural and urban areas. This is why we agree to cutting down the time, but to 90 days, the people just don't have the resources to do the research and also to put everything out to the public. So we would highly recommend 120 days.
Mr Bradley: The other reason I think there's a compelling reason to do this -- and frankly I would have preferred it to be longer, but your goal is to bring down the number of days and I'm trying to recognize that in the amendment that is made, that your goal is to do that. As I say, you want 90 and a lot of people think it should be much more than 120, but 120 is what I've chosen.
One of the new arguments, I think, that's fair is that everybody is cutting staff now. I won't get into the argument of whether they should be or not; I'm just going to state the fact that the province is cutting staff, local municipalities are cutting staff, conservation authorities are cutting staff, the Niagara Escarpment Commission is cutting staff.
Mr Murdoch: Oh, really.
Mr Bradley: I know that will break the heart of the member for Grey-Owen Sound. And because they're doing it, it's more difficult, in my belief, to have a good scrutiny of a proposal. I understand wanting to reduce the number of days, and if you had the same number of staff and you said, "Well, we want to reduce it," again, it's a little less of a problem. But I think we're seeing some significant reductions in staff, and I don't think it's fair to the municipalities to reduce it to 90 days. I just don't know how they're going to be able to do it with the reduction in staff and still do a good job.
Again, if they do a good job in the first place, you don't have the problems later on, in my view, and so much of what we try to do today -- we're in a society that wants things done more quickly -- the ramifications down the line, both financial and otherwise, are really greater than a lot of people anticipate. That is why I've suggested 120, which is another month -- it's 30 days more -- because I think, as Monsieur Lalonde has said, we have certainly heard that from some people who are in a position of authority to tell us, that it is somewhat unrealistic to suggest 90 days.
Mr Conway: This is perhaps an opportunity for me to make just a point, because I think my friend Bradley has made a good argument, and this may be more a question for someone like the parliamentary assistant. Somebody, and I can't remember who it was, yesterday, I think, in London, cited a good example. I remember I spoke to it, about just a mistake, a mistake that I just thought was stupid and transparent, and not for the first time, I might add.
One of the questions that I have, and I insert it here: Have we got any reason to believe that particularly some of these specialists, these consultants and these planners, are going to accept some responsibility? When I think of some of the messes that I've seen -- and there's a risk now, with speeding up things and fewer people around for oversight purposes, that we might just get a few more of these -- one of the most interesting things I always found was trying to get somebody to accept some responsibility: trying to get the architect, trying to get the planner, trying to get the consultant, to actually agree, having received hundreds of thousands of bucks, or more, that maybe, just maybe, they were responsible and those poor folks standing around the front steps of Richie's store in Mount Elgin, Oxford county, weren't going to get screwed to the wall again for a great big fat bill that was not of their making. Have you got any reason to believe, Parliamentary Assistant, that in this happy new world, we are going to be able to pin the tag of responsibility to some of these people?
Mr Bradley: Pin the tail on the donkey.
Mr Conway: Pin the tail on the donkey, as my friend Bradley says?
Mr Hardeman: In fairness, in order to answer that question, I would first of all have to agree that your analysis of what they're presently doing was appropriate.
Mr Conway: And you think I'm completely unfair, do you? Well, maybe I am, but we've just got another project in my own community, and I think of some of the -- you see, some of these smaller municipalities have been really tagged with some big bills that we've generally helped with. But I'm assuming that in this new world order, there will not be that backup. So as you speed this process along, if I live in Oxford or Rockland or St Catharines, I just hope there's somebody out there protecting-because I'm a taxpayer and I'm not prepared to be held liable for some of these decisions that could prove to be very costly.
Mr Hardeman: I think those comments as they relate to this amendment do apply. The amendment is to extend the time before the applicant can appeal directly to the Ontario Municipal Board for the approving authority not making a decision.
In the cases where some of these programs or some of these applications go on and on through more studies -- and I think one of the deputations did make that statement, that the planning profession in a lot of cases did not have a great interest in seeing it come to a conclusion -- if the applicant deemed that the municipality was not proceeding along as it should be, in fairness, as the process should be, that it was delaying it for one reason or another, at the 90 days they could appeal it directly. The concern is expressed that that is not sufficient time to make that decision.
I dare say that the government does not believe there are many developers or applicants in any planning process that -- when they reach the 90 days and they felt the municipality was still 90 days short of reaching a decision but they were going to reach a decision, they would not proceed to the Ontario Municipal Board, because that would not shorten the process. The only shortening here is when there is an application going through the process that someone is not prepared to make a decision on.
Mr Conway: Bradley reminds me of my point in his argument for his amendment, and again, I'm trying to understand the culture that's going to develop around your very laudable objectives here. I just think about some of municipalities and what has really angered them over the last number of years, left them with big bills. It's often around waste management facilities, to be fair here, where it took forever for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was the provincial government was probably too generous with its granting policies. I can think of one program my friend the member for St Catharines initiated that was probably in that category.
Mr Bradley: That kind of funding was demanded by the Conservative opposition.
Mr Conway: Well, perhaps, but it became a barbecue for consultants, and the difficulty was --
Mr Murdoch: Where are they now?
Mr Conway: Because we are in a new fiscal reality. I hope we all understand that here. So as we try to speed things along, I think anybody who reads this bill will understand there is a very real pro-development bias in this policy and in this legislation. Sure. I think any objective --
Ms Churley: Oh, absolutely. Did you just notice that?
Interjection: You didn't hear him in the hearings.
Mr Conway: At one level, I don't have a problem with that, if local politicians and developers are prepared to be responsible, and to the extent they are irresponsible, that people who made mistakes will pay the bills. Because I'm a shareholder in this corporation. I'm telling you, as my member, I'm not paying. If Ernie Hardeman has been retained as a consultant and he's screwed up -- I mean, I've sat there as a minister of the crown and I've looked at people and they've said to me, "You know, we took, on professional advice, the following actions that have now proven to be just completely unfounded, and here's the bill."
Mr Murdoch: I got a consultant over here. Remember him?
Mr Conway: And there are lots of good consultants around, and I'm not here to disparage consultants in general. But what I'm concerned about in these time lines is that this process becomes a lot more easy to accept if I know people who in the past have not always shown a willingness to accept their responsibility for mistakes made.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Mr Hardeman, perhaps you can refresh my memory. We're obviously moving this from 150 days down to the 90. Could you refresh my memory as to how we arrived at the 120 days?
Mr Hardeman: I could refresh it, and it happened just recently. That's where the Liberal amendment wants to change our 90 that is presently in the bill to 120.
Mr Smith: But currently is it not at 150?
Mr Hardeman: I believe it's currently at 180, and I think Mr Bradley mentioned earlier that there was not a magic in the number 120, that it was, in his opinion, a compromise between what it used to be and what we presently propose in the bill.
Mr Conway: And we pointed out it was the city of London that mentioned that yesterday. Somebody from London I think said that they felt there was a problem. If you hear that from London, what are people from Hunky-Doodle Corners going to think?
Mr Lalonde: Yes, definitely. If we refer to one of the groups that appeared in front of us yesterday in London, I even said to the gentlemen, "I thought you were trying to make a sales pitch at the beginning." Those consultants will be laughing at this at the present time, but to tell you the truth, I don't think municipalities are laughing at it, because it's going to incur them additional cost. They will have to change their local bylaw that states that anybody who applies for zoning for a new subdivision, there's a cost within their bylaw at the present time, but this will have to be changed, because really, to hire a consultant, it's not that easy. And when you say consultant, you are saying at the present time that the time frame is very, very short for them to do an in-depth study before it is presented to municipal council.
This guy from London yesterday, he said it: They had to let 12 people go. Probably at this time of the year, it's very quiet. There's absolutely nothing going on in the Ottawa area. The municipalities like Nepean and the others might have the planners in place, but if construction starts again -- according to this, it's supposed to stimulate construction -- then it's going to be a real headache for all municipalities.
So I would ask the committee to consider this very seriously about that 120 days instead of 90 days.
Mr Hardeman: I think, just in clarification again, the 90 days as it is in the act is not a deadline that must be met and if it's not met then automatically the application would go to a direct appeal. The 90 days, or the number of days we're referring to in this section, provides the opportunity for the applicant, if he decides that no decision will be made or in fact that the process is being unduly held up, to make a decision on the 91st day that he thinks he would be better served by going directly to the Ontario Municipal Board, recognizing that if he went to the Ontario Municipal Board with such an application, he would have to then produce and provide the same type of documentation in order to have a hearing before the board. He would also as a developer run the risk of having the Ontario Municipal Board suggest that because he did not wait for the decision at the local municipality, he should go back and see what they have to say about it. So we don't see this as a tool that developers will be using to get it to the board quicker. It will be a time line that will help along with those decisions that are not being made.
Mr Lalonde: I know a few who would only wait one day. They'll go directly. They won't wait. We've had to deal with some of those people in the past in our region. In the Cumberland area, the Orléans area, I'm telling you, the developer over there won't wait an extra five days. They're going to go straight ahead to appeal, because the lawyers are laughing at it too.
Mr Bradley: Would it be in order to move a motion that the vote on this take place at the beginning of the session tomorrow? I don't deny that the parliamentary assistant is very familiar with what's going on. I commend him on his knowledge of the bill Just he might be able to check with the minister whether the government might be prepared to entertain this. I don't want to do this with a lot of them, but if we could have a vote tomorrow on that, regardless of what it is, the vote, I accept the vote as it is tomorrow. But if we could, we might have a little consultation. I think some of the government members may also have some little bit of sympathy with this. Is that motion in order, sir?
The Chair: I can ask if there's unanimous consent that we postpone the vote on this section until tomorrow morning, this amendment?
Mr Bradley: Okay, tomorrow morning first thing?
The Chair: Seeing unanimous consent, we'll move on to the --
Ms Churley: Great.
Mr Hardeman: Mr Chairman, I do accept the unanimous consent. I just want to point out, not with the intention of saying that tomorrow the vote would be different.
Ms Churley: Oh, absolutely.
Mr Bradley: All I'm asking is that there be a consultation with the minister, and if that consultation produces the same result as you have today, that's fine.
Mr Hardeman: We never want anyone operating under false pretences.
Mr Bradley: No, and I appreciate that very much.
The Chair: Are there any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Bradley: There is a further amendment. It is section 9 of the bill.
I move that clause 17(45)(a) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "or" at the end of subclause (ii), adding "or" at the end of subclause (iii) and adding the following subclause:
"(iv) the plan or part of the plan that is the subject of the appeal is premature because the necessary public water, sewage or road services are not available to service the land covered by the plan and the services will not be available within a reasonable time;"
If I may speak to that, the motion re-establishes what we call the prematurity test, the power of the OMB to dismiss matters regarding official plans on the basis of prematurity because the necessary public water, sewer and road services of the proposed development are not available or will not be available within a reasonable time. Municipalities should not have to bear the costs of an OMB hearing where there is clear information that there is no servicing capacity nor an anticipation of when future capacity will be available. Approval without the assurance of servicing gives a developer and prospective purchaser false expectations. It can put pressure on municipalities to finance new development without the benefit of good, comprehensive planning. This motion is in line with your government's stated mission of giving municipalities more local autonomy.
The explanation that I've given I think is quite concise. I think it makes a lot of sense to do this. The parliamentary assistant may have a rationale that he wishes to share with us on why this would not be included. I'm just concerned when there aren't the water services, there aren't the sewer services, there aren't the road services, that we're getting things approved. There is that undue expectation, and then in comes the developer, putting a lot of pressure on, and the municipality may say, "Well, we've got a lot of pressure on this; I guess we should put our services in there," instead of looking at other places to put services where it may make more sense.
I think this used to be in, did it not? It used to be in at one time, and I think it was a valuable tool to have in the Planning Act.
The Chair: Ms Churley.
Ms Churley: Oh. Thank you. You may have noticed that the NDP had in fact a -- not similar but the same amendment. Perhaps it would be useful to hear the rationale behind this, because I don't understand it except I'm quite suspicious and feel that it's a part of this bill to speed up development and will contribute to urban sprawl.
But the interesting thing here is that the good news is that the public does have a remedy here, and in the past I know the OMB has ruled against applications on the basis of prematurity. Once again, your goal of having clear, concise, up front planning is not going to work here, because I expect that this will be brought before the OMB to be resolved in one way or the other here. That's what's going to happen, so once again it's a shortsighted plan to try to speed up the process and to cut red tape but in fact it's probably going to have the opposite effect. So that's one negative.
The other is that I agree with Mr Bradley that it's happened in the past and it will happen again where municipalities will be under a lot of pressure to end up financing development that hadn't been planned properly in the first place.
Again I would say it's common sense that you need to have this kind of testing and this kind of information before you. Municipalities should have it before making these kinds of decisions. We're talking multimillions of dollars down the road.
I come back again to -- we haven't dealt with it yet -- the Development Charges Act and that there are going to be changes made there. I expect, once those changes are made and the developers only have to cover the so-called hard services, that there are going to be more pressures already upon municipalities and the taxpayers to finance portions of development, some of which should be, in my view, paid for by developers. I think this is quite regressive and, if you don't mind, I would like to hear the rationale behind this.
Mr Conway: Just a couple of observations. I don't profess to have any of the experience that others have and I was interested in the number of presenters who spoke to this prematurity test, which struck me as quite interesting. I'm now thinking about it from the point of view of the Ontario government -- pardon me for being a bit reflective here -- I'm thinking about the poor old Minister of Education; he's not here and he probably should be here for this discussion. I'm expecting that his pal Ernie is not doing something here that's really going to set that poor agent of Her Majesty's Ontario government up for a really tough, miserable time.
"If you build it, they will come." If we put a subdivision someplace, particularly an expensive one -- I've gone in and I've always been struck by the fact and became a lot more struck by it after I became the Minister of Education -- you walk in, you see one of these elaborate subdivision plans and there's always, in the middle of it, a lovely school. It may be that the new capital plan for education is covered by the development charges, but I doubt it. It seems to me, I say to the parliamentary assistant, that as you comment I hope you're not doing something here, by eliminating the prematurity test, that's going to expose other parts of your own government to pressures that are going to be (a) irresistible and (b) expensive.
Let me use another example. My friend the member for Nepean is here. The wonderful Corel centre, formerly known as the Palladium, sits out in that marvellous wheat field in west Carleton.
Mr Murdoch: It's a corn field.
Mr Conway: Whatever, a corn field. I guess I said corn field the other day. There it sits. It's now there, a multimillion-dollar facility with a very significant corporate enterprise at its core, namely, the national hockey league franchise. It sits there quite lonely in that field, and we put in some money, didn't we, Marilyn? We put in $5 million or something.
Ms Churley: I don't want to talk about it.
Mr Conway: I think we put $5 million, provincially, into the servicing.
Mr Baird: They charged them $35 million.
Mr Conway: Whatever. My point is that it's out there now, and I suspect that is going to create some very real pressures, not just on local government but on the provincial government. What I want to know is, just speaking now from the provincial government's point of view, if you eliminate the prematurity test, can you give a reasonable assurance to others of your colleagues who are not here that you're not setting them up for some pressures and some expenses that are just not fair for them to have to cope with?
Mr Murdoch: Do you want development or not?
Mr Conway: I have no hesitation with development, but my friend Bradley has given me a copy of --
Mr Murdoch: Hey, he's not your friend.
The Chair: Mr Murdoch, order.
Mr Conway: My friend Bradley's given me this marvellous paper from Professor Kushner at Brock University, the title of which is the Effect of Urban Growth on Municipal Taxes. Professor Kushner makes --
Mr Bradley: A Progressive Conservative.
Mr Conway: "Conservative" understates it. Joe, are you listening? I think we all want development. We want good development, and I think we want development that pays for itself. The new world order is that there will not be the traditional subventions from government to front-end a lot of this or retrofit it. That, I think, is the operating assumption. So I want my friend the parliamentary secretary to give me his views as to whether or not dropping the prematurity test here in any way exposes other agencies of his own government to significant costs they might not otherwise seek or want to pay for.
Mr Hardeman: There are a couple of items that I think need clarification, Mr Chairman. The prematurity test would not apply to all required services such as schools, as was mentioned by Mr Conway. It's related, and particularly this amendment, to sewer and water serviceability. Removing the prematurity is only removing it as a basis for the Ontario Municipal Board refusing to hear an application. Municipalities will still, in all instances, be able to use a prematurity test as they make a decision on an application.
The proponent of the development will then, if they so wish, appeal that decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. The Ontario Municipal Board, under Bill 20, would have to hear it if the only reason for not hearing it would be the prematurity. The government believes that it's appropriate that infrastructure is part of the planning process. The municipality plans their development based on the ability to serve, and the approvals process should include that as one of the criteria used in judging applications. The Ontario Municipal Board should use that in judging the application, not in refusing to hear the application on that development.
Mr Conway: I appreciate that. What I hear you saying is that the prematurity test is dropped now as a sole ground for the Ontario Municipal Board to reject an appeal Again, I don't understand these processes. I know it's only related to hard services. My limited experience in this area, that my friend the member for Grey knows much better than I, is that whether they're hard or soft costs, it's a real game of trying to transfer the costs. I don't blame any developer for trying to say, "If I can transfer that cost to the local government, or if I'm the developer and I can get together with the local government and really pass some costs we both know are going to be triggered by this, if we can together agree to slip that cost over to our pals down at Queen's Park, hey, that's a great deal." All I want is some assurance, and granted, we're only dealing with hard services, but you'd better not be setting me up for some bills that are going to land on my desk.
Mr Galt: Something that lawyers guarantee.
Mr Conway: No, I'm not looking for that. I think you know what I'm saying here.
Mr Hardeman: Bill 20's removal of the prematurity only has the effect of taking away the right of the OMB to refuse to hear an application based on it being premature.
Mr Conway: In some of the evidence that I heard -- I can't cite it for you -- we had some municipal people and we had some non-municipal people come forward, and their concern was that if you took that away, you would create a situation where development, by which I thought they meant residential development, would start to occur in areas they weren't ready to provide for. If any of that testimony is right, speaking out just as a provincial government, if the Education Act, for example, continues to mandate that we have to provide buses and pay for them, then by making that decision, you're starting to trigger additional bills to me, as a provincial politician, that I have to pay. I just want to be saved, harmless, from bills that I'm not paying. If Murdoch has a good plan, I expect that Murdoch's figured out how he's going to pay for it, but he'd better not be shipping the bills to me, because I'm not paying.
Mr Murdoch: It's all in my subdivision agreement.
Mr Bradley: It comes down to that yes, it could be a subdivision agreement, but there can be a provincial road going into that subdivision or past that subdivision that has to be either improved or constructed, going to it. That's one implication for the provincial government. Education has been mentioned, and within a municipality I saw those educational pressures building, and all of this flows out of it. It may not be the water, sewer and local roads themselves; it's what flows out of this that presents provincial implications. It also presents some challenges to the local municipality which I think are difficult.
I get back to the point that it really prevents the municipality from dealing with what it wants to, where there are services or services are anticipated, and they start dealing with something where there either are not services now or it's not anticipated that there are going to be services. I think it's going to skew the planning process at the local level and it does have implications for the provincial government, including the Ministry of Environment and Energy, that still provides funds for sewer and water projects through what's now called the Ontario Clean Water Agency.
The Chair: Any further comments? Seeing none, I'll put the question.
Ms Churley: Recorded vote, please.
Bradley, Churley, Conway, Lalonde.
Baird, Carr, Galt, Hardeman, Murdoch, Smith.
The Chair: I deem that amendment to fail. I would note that an identical motion was received from the NDP, with the exception of the typo -- "(iii)" should read "(iv)" -- so having voted on it once, that motion is not in order.
Ms Churley: We might get a different result.
The Chair: Are there any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Conway: Just on the general section, may I make this comment? I don't know that I got any kind of a response. I'm interested in the comments here. I just assume that you people feel comfortable that in doing this kind of thing you're not setting yourselves up, as a provincial government, for the very costs that you're seeking relief from.
I say to my friend the member for Nepean, to come back to the example, I'd like to hear from the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton or the regional ministry office of the department of highways. I personally have been struck by the traffic developments in the west part of the region because of the new arena. I've been stunned by just what kinds of volumes we're now getting when 20,000 people discharge from that beautiful new facility. My guess is that the pressures have already started on some of the local politicians, and I suspect on the provincial politicians, to do something about that.
The Chair: Mr Hardeman.
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(47) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out the portion that precedes clause (a) and substituting the following:
"(47) If the municipal board dismisses all appeals made under subsections (24) or (36) in respect of all or part of a decision without holding a hearing and if the time for filing notices of appeal has expired, the secretary of the municipal board shall notify the clerk of the municipality or the approval authority; and"
This is an amendment to clarify that the notice applies only in cases where the board does not hold a hearing, that it was dismissed on grounds other than prematurity, but if the application is dismissed and the decision of the original authority becomes final, the board does not have to send out notices.
Ms Churley: What's the change here? I'm just reading the original draft bill. What is it you're amending specifically?
Mr Hardeman: This amendment clarifies that this section applies only where the board dismisses an appeal without holding a hearing. This will avoid the potential for misinterpretation that after a hearing where the OMB dismisses the appeal, the OMB needs to return the matter to the approval authority for a decision.
Ms Churley: Okay.
The Chair: Any further comments? All those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem that amendment to carry.
Any further amendments to section 9?
Mr Hardeman: I move that subsection 17(48) of the Planning Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by striking out "dismisses an appeal under subsection (40) and" in the first and second lines and substituting "dismisses an appeal under subsection (40) without holding a hearing and if.his amendment is required to clarify subsection 17(48). It applies only where the Ontario Municipal Board dismisses an appeal of an official plan matter on which the approval authority has not made a decision without holding a hearing. If the Ontario Municipal Board holds a hearing and makes a decision on the matter, the OMB's decision is final. This matter does not return to the approval authority for a decision. This is the direct appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The Chair: Any comment? Seeing none, all those in favour of the amendment? Contrary? I deem that amendment to carry.
Any further amendments to section 9? Mr Bradley.
Mr Bradley: Section 9? No, that's it as far as my notes show.
The Chair: Thank you. Seeing that it's 7 o'clock, this committee stands adjourned.
Interjection: The whole thing?
The Chair: No. Because we postponed the vote on one of the subsections, we have to postpone the vote on the entire section till tomorrow morning.
This committee stands adjourned until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning in this room.
The committee adjourned at 1857.