Queen’s Park Report – October 2019 Provincial Policy Statement Review – Proposed Policies

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is a consolidated statement of the government’s policies on land use planning. It applies province-wide and provides provincial policy direction on key land use planning issues that affect communities, such as:

  • the efficient use and management of land and infrastructure
  • ensuring the provision of sufficient housing to meet changing needs, including affordable housing
  • protecting the environment and resources including farmland, naturalresources (e.g.,wetlands and woodlands) and water
  • ensuring opportunities for economic development and job creation
  • ensuring the appropriate transportation, water, sewer and other infrastructure is available to accommodate current and future needs
  • protecting people, property and community resources by directing development away from natural or human-made hazards – such as flood prone areas

The PPS is issued under section 3 of the Planning Act and all decisions affecting land use planning matters “shall be consistent with” the Provincial Policy Statement. Municipalities are the primary decision-makers for local communities and implement provincial policies through municipal official plans and planning related decisions.

The government held a 90 day consultation period which closed October 21 2019, during which they sought feedback on proposed changes to the Provincial Policy Statement. Many organizations have submitted comments to the Ontario Government, including the Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods. Our comments are as follows:

“While FUN supports the stated goals of encouraging an increased mix and supply of housing, protecting of the environment, creating jobs and a strong economy, reducing barriers and costs for development, and providing greater predictability, we note that many of the proposed policies pay only lip service to these goals. Several proposed polices undermine the government’s professed commitment to orderly growth management, for example policies such as:

  • loosening environmental standards related to wastewater servicing;
  • further facilitating sprawl by increasing the opportunities for settlement boundary changes;
  • lowering the protection of employment lands by allowing conversions outside of the municipal review process;
  • reducing predictability and certainty by constantly changing provincial planning legislation, policies, and plans in rapid succession; and
  • the central and critical issue of climate change is neglected.

FUN notes that the proposed changes to the PPS focus on increasing housing supply, choices, and affordability based on the following assumptions:

  • that increased residential land supply lowers land cost and increases housing affordability(if developers pass along the savings);
  • that the undefined determination of ‘market demand’ will be one of the key approval criteria and will not lengthen the approval processes;
  • that permitting lower servicing standards and easier settlement boundary expansions will not create more sprawl; and,
  • that housing option policies will not be misused to direct growth to where it is not needed.

Unfortunately these assumptions are unproven, and frankly are likely false.

FUN represents resident associations in Ontario’s largest cities, some of which have designated Urban Growth Centres under the Growth Plan where the targets of the Growth Plan have not only been met but exceeded.

Today, in 2019, the City of Toronto as a whole has already achieved 96% of the residential units needed to meet the provincial population targets of 2041. And yet, the Minister found it necessary to intervene in the municipal planning processes related to the Secondary Plans for these Growth Centres and to also specify minimum density targets for Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs) in the recently revised Growth Plan that have no realistic relationships to Toronto’s actual growth targets of the same Plan.

FUN appreciates the opportunity to comment on the revised Policies prior to their finalization and looks forward to the Government’s response to the public input.”

The above comments were submitted to the Hon. Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on October 21, 2019 by President Geoff Kettel on behalf of the Federation of Ontario Municipalities of Ontario with copies to Premier Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario and John Fraser, Interim Leader, Liberal

Future Forward to the Past Ontario's New Planning Regime Comes Into Force October 19 2019

The Province, through Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, introduced sweeping changes across 13 statutes, including the Planning Act and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017, with the stated intention of cutting red tape, reducing costs, and increasing the supply of housing in Ontario. Although Bill 108 was passed on June 6, 2019, the vast majority of the amendments are presently not yet in effect.

On September 3, 2019, the Province proclaimed into force key amendments to the Planning Act and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017 that in essence return the development process and the planning appeals regime back to where they were before the reforms introduced by the previous Government. These changes include:

  • Reducing planning decision timelines
    • For Official Plans, from 7 months (210 days) to 4 months (120 days)
    • For Zoning By-laws, from 5 months (150 days) to 3 months (90 days)
    • For Plans of Subdivision, from 6 months (180 days) to 4 months (120days)
  • Empowering the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“LPAT”) to make its decision based on the “best planning outcome,” rather than consistency or conformity with higher order planning instruments
  • Enabling the LPAT to make a final determination on appeals, rather than a recommendation back to the municipal Council.  This takes the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal back to the situation under the former planning tribunal – the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • Removing existing restrictions on a party’s ability to introduce evidence and call and examine witnesses at LPAT hearings
  • Limiting third party appeals of Plans of Subdivision and approval authority non-decisions on Official Plans and Official Plan Amendments
  • Authorizing additional residential units for detached, semi-detached, and row houses in both the primary dwelling and ancillary building structure
  • Focusing the use of inclusionary zoning to areas that are generally high-growth and near higher order transit (e.g., major transit station areas) and areas where a community planning permit system is required by the Minister.
  • Enabling the Minister to require the community planning permit system (formerly known as development permit system) to be used in specified areas (e.g., major transit station areas and provincially significant employment zones), and removing appeal rights related to implementing documents

Certain other amendments introduced through Bill 108 – including the replacement of Section 37 density bonusing with a new “Community Benefits Charge,” and changes to the Ontario Heritage Act – will be proclaimed on a future date yet to be determined.

Under the Province’s transition regulations, in general, appeals proceeding under the former regime (introduced through Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017) will continue under that former regime if the LPAT has scheduled a hearing on the merits of the appeal. If no merits hearing has been scheduled, then the appeal will proceed under the new Bill 108 regime, with an opportunity for appellants to provide a new notice of appeal responsive to the new regime.

Meanwhile where the Province has the power to approve Planning documents (like certain Official Plan Amendments) changes have been made arbitrarily and without consultation. Examples are City of Toronto OPA 405 Midtown Plan and OPA 406 Downtown Plan where densities were increased by the Province and numerous other changes were made to the documents without discussion or right of appeal.

The original source of much of the material is a Stikeman Elliott newsletter “Ontario’s New Planning Regime to Come Into Force on September 3, 2019“, dated August 28, 2019.