Conservation and the importance of community involvement

Petrie Building, 1882, Guelph, Ontario

While much of what lies ahead in 2021 remains unclear, a path yet to be designed, one thing seems clear to me: the importance of community, the opportunity to gather together and experience that sense of feeling part of a greater whole. For many, 2020 has provided time to regroup, to focus our minds on, and to protect, what is truly important.

Many people interact with heritage on a community level. What we as a society value, what we choose to share and protect, how we serve as stewards and the stories and traditions that we choose to carry forward. Concepts of identity and public history have been shaped over time by the intersection of community and heritage. That community response derives from our individual relationship with heritage.

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Ontario short-lines under threat

Barrie Collingwood Railway

There has been lots of Ontario short-line railway news in the past few weeks. Most importantly, the Huron Central Railway has received 6 months temporary funding to June, 2021 to allow governments more time to negotiate capital funding.

Meanwhile, CN has announced it is putting the Algoma Central Railway up for sale, although few details have been provided. The Town of Orangeville has announced the pending closure of the Orangeville-Brampton Railway in December, 2021. This line currently serves many local industries, supporting hundreds of jobs. The section of this line linking Brampton and Streetsville also has potential for future rail transit use and Transport Action Ontario will be urging Metrolinx to acquire the line. Read our letter. The Barrie-Collingwood line is also in danger of abandonment and removal. Transport Action Ontario has written to local stakeholders pointing out the benefits of continued operation.

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Draft Northern Ontario Transportation Plan released

Highway 129 Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation released Connecting the North: A draft transportation plan for Northern Ontario on December 10, 2020.  Transport Action Ontario has reviewed it in detail. Transportation Action believes that it is too highway-centric and needs more emphasis on passenger and rail freight.

In particular, it provides no concrete timeline for fulfilling the government’s promise to restore passenger rail service between Toronto, North Bay and Cochrane.  

Read Transportation Action’s full review

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Dominion Foundry – Stop the demolition!

Dominion Foundry

The Dominion Foundry complex in the West Don Lands, a listed heritage site, is in imminent danger of demolition. We need your help to pressure the Province to stop the demolition and start talking about adaptive reuse of at least part of the site.

On January 14, a demolition crew arrived at the site to raze the Foundry buildings. Because these are provincial lands, no demolition permit was required and no notice was given to the City, the community or to heritage advocates. 

To add insult to injury, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing chose the first day of the emergency provincial lockdown to quietly move in demolition equipment.

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Minister’s Zoning Orders – City of Toronto

373 Front Street E. rendering of proposed building

Only about two weeks ago, FoNTRA expressed to you its serious concerns about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) but has received no response to its reasoned arguments. FoNTRA is, therefore, more than surprised and disappointed to learn that, in the meantime, you have issued new MZOs for three sites in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto – without any public consultation, without any involvement of the City Planning Department, without securing any community benefits to support an adequate infrastructure, and without even any notification of local politicians.

Notwithstanding some ingenuous views voiced in the local media – see, for example, Alex Bozikovic in The Globe and Mail of 28 October 2020 – that is no way to run a democratic and intelligent planning system. Just because a move is legal does not make it ethical or fair. In the earlier letter, FoNTRA has outlined in some detail the evolution of MZOs, as intended by successive governments of all political stripes on the advice of several expert panels.

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Minister’s Zoning Orders

Construction in Toronto

In recent months, FoNTRA has become concerned about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) and believes that the sudden launch of a flotilla of MZOs undermines the legitimacy of the statutory planning system. By stripping provisions for notices, public meetings, and rights of appeal from the zoning process, in our view, MZOs do not do so much as cutting red tape as purging ordinary citizens from the democratic planning process.

FoNTRA, respectfully, asks the government to confine the use of MZOs to extraordinary situations arising from the pandemic and to swiftly discard the recent wide- spread and undemocratic “enhanced” approach of backroom deals without notice, without public consultation, and without the right of appeal.

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Housing Supply Consultation

New housing development

The Housing Supply Consultation document appears to start from the premise, one frequently expressed by the private sector, that the housing supply issues may largely be blamed on government “red tape”, and difficulties in delivering housing as being snarled in delays and confusion. If you view the amount of development activity under way in Toronto, it is incomprehensible to state that our current progress is “too slow”. Thousands of units are currently being held up due to the LPAT transition date delay. It’s even more incomprehensible when you factor in the lack of public investment in infrastructure, transportation, schooling, community services, etc. It is utterly ridiculous to attempt to “reduce red tape” without addressing the need to increase investment in public infrastructure.

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FoNTRA Letter to Ontario Government re: Bill 66

Since Bill 66, – it passed first reading on 06 December 2018 and is scheduled for second reading on 19 February 2019 – had been introduced without any public consultation, it is appropriate to comment on the underlying legislation before addressing the proposed Regulation which is to implement this new mechanism. FoNTRA sees the proposed planning tool as some sort of Trojan horse designed to undermine fundamental and carefully conceived public policies…

While FoNTRA supports the streamlining of planning approval processes and the removal of often redundant requirements and restrictions, it believes that Bill 66, as currently written, puts into question the fundamental validity of the Province’s own policy-driven planning system and signals to the world: Ontario has principles but if you don’t like them, we have others.

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FoNTRA supports Bill 52 – anti-SLAPP legislation

FoNTRA logo

We are writing in support of Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 which you introduced in the Ontario Legislature on December 1, 2014. The Bill, which is substantively the same as former Bill 83, was debated for Second Reading on December 10, 2014, and received supportive comments from members of all Parties at that time.

Bill 52 provides an effective response to the problem of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in Ontario and would prevent the misuse of the courts from SLAPP suits without depriving anyone of appropriate remedies for expression that causes significant harm. It reflects the recommendations of the Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel that was established four years ago to provide advice on the content of legislation to target SLAPPs.

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Member News – Winter 2012

In this issue:

F.U.N. AGM and Transportation Forum
Mississauga Mayor McCallion offers words of support to ratepayer groups at MIRANET AGM
Drive-throughs issue and OMB hearing
Liability insurance for community groups offers rain barrels as a fund-raising vehicle for not-for-profit groups

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