Bill 66 received first reading on December 6, 2018 in the Ontario Legislature. Titled as the “Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act”, the Bill proposes significant changes to the land use planning system within Ontario. Among other things, the Bill would pave the way for a municipal council to pass “open for business” by-laws. As proposed, these by-laws would allow industrial or large commercial developments, which would employ 50 or more people, to bypass sections of several legislative Acts. The bypassing of two of these, the Planning Act and Clean Water Act, appear to be particularly problematic.
Regarding the Planning Act, it appears these “open for business” by-laws would allow a local council to approve a development without the required public consultation process. In addition, a council could also bypass the Provincial Policy Statements for which all development in Ontario is required to adhere.
Regarding the Clean Water Act, it appears these by-laws would potentially allow for a municipal council to not have regard for source water protection.
The potential effect of bypassing these two Acts alone appears to be a way that the Ford government is saying, “We’re open for business, even at the cost of meaningful consultation or the protection of drinking water”. I am a firm believer in advocating for governments to reduce red tape, but removing consultation and environmental protections are not just red tape: they are critically important to protecting our democracy and health.
Comments can be forwarded to the provincial government via the environmental registry until January 21, 2019.
Sincerely, Phil Mosher