Update on Provincial Issues
Queens Park Update is a periodic publication of FUN. In this Spring 2012 Edition, we highlight several issues of interest to residents’ associations and citizens:
- The Ontario Municipal Board
- Five Year Review of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005
- Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)
- Protecting Heritage Views of Queen’s Park, and Preserving the Dignity of Ontario’s Capital Precinct
- Election Financing Reform
- Private member’s bill requiring paved shoulders
- Mega-Quarry in Dufferin County and Review of the Aggregates Act
Ontario Municipal Board
Many residents associations are dismayed by Council decisions being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), and subsequent OMB decisions seeming to favour intensification, regardless of the suitability of the location, and at the expense of other, equally valid, planning concerns. The number of appeals going forward to the OMB is excessive and an important contributor to this excess is a confusion between long-term planning and development control whereby the majority of Official Plan (OP) amendments are site-specific and treated like re-zonings.
F.U.N. has continued to urge the Ontario government to consider reform. They have argued that there needed to be sufficient time elapsed to shake down the planning reforms introduced in 2005. Well, it appears that they may finally be open to a conversation. At a recent meeting with the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA) the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing mentioned that she was proposing to host a Roundtable on OMB Reform. At least this may be a start! We now await details!
Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 – Five Year Review
The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) sets out the Ontario government’s policy direction for land use planning and development. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing sought input on how the PPS is working and whether any changes were needed to protect provincial interests and to make sure that the PPS is adequately addressing emerging land use issues.
The public input phase of the Province‘s Review of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS) was completed in October 29 2010. The October 2011 Election brought several portfolio changes including Kathleen Wynne MPP to the Municipal Affairs and Housing post. No timeline has been announced for the
publication of any revisions to the Provincial Policy Statement. F.U.N. will continue to urge that the government table the updated PPS at the earliest opportunity.
Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP)
SLAPP is a lawsuit initiated against one or more individuals or groups that speak out or take a position on an issue of public interest. SLAPPs use the court system to limit the effectiveness of the opposing party’s speech or conduct. SLAPPs can intimidate opponents, deplete their resources, reduce their ability to participate in public affairs and deter others from participating in discussion on matters of public interest. The Advisory Panel completed the Anti-Slapp Advisory Panel Report To The Attorney General in October 2010.
FUN continues to urge that the government table the necessary legislation at the earliest opportunity.
Protecting Heritage Views of Queen’s Park, and Preserving the Dignity of Ontario’s Capital Precinct
Federation president Archie Campbell wrote to Premier McGuinty in April 2011 to urge him to support efforts to protect the view of the Ontario Legislative Assembly. You can read the letter on our website. However the Premier has made no commitment to deal with the issue. Meanwhile the City of Toronto is undergoing the 5 year Review of the Official Plan and the issue has been raised in that Review
The Legislature is the seat of government for the province and as such we think this is not only a downtown or City of Toronto issue but also a provincial one. We continue to urge you to write to the Premier and your MPP and ask them to protect the heritage views of the Legislature.
Election Financing Reform
Reform of campaign finance regulations would help provide a level playing field for candidates. The City of Toronto instituted a ban on corporate and union campaign contributions in municipal elections in 2009, putting it in line with a similar ban in federal elections, provincial elections in Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia, and municipal elections in Quebec. It is felt that provincial election financing reform will be necessary before a provincial move to implement province wide election financing reform for Ontario municipalities.
In 2005, F.U.N. recommended that the Ontario Elections Act be amended: “to prohibit contributions by corporations and trade unions and permit taxpayers to designate a portion of their provincial income tax to a political party of their choice”. Fair Vote Canada (FVC) has an active campaign pressing for the implementation of these types of policies. Further information is available on the FVC web site.
F.U.N. will continue to urge that the government consider provincial election financing reform in order to level the playing field for candidates.
Private member’s bill requiring paved shoulders
Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller has re-introduced his private member’s bill which would enhance public safety for the motoring public and promote active transportation in Ontario. Miller’s bill, if passed, would require a minimum one metre paved shoulder on certain provincially owned highways to improve public safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.
Studies in other jurisdictions confirm that where paved shoulders exist, accidents are drastically reduced. “There are obvious health benefits for the individual and society in general, as we provide more opportunities to cycle and walk for recreation, or for transportation. Active transportation routes and connecting links help to promote tourism. Quebec has proven that.”
Studies also show that paved shoulders have improved safety for the motoring public, as well as increased tourism opportunities.
Mega-Quarry in Dufferin County and Review of the Aggregates Act
A US-owned company wants to build North America’s second-largest open-pit mine next to the Niagara Escarpment and amidst the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water for over a million Ontarians. Farmers, citizens, aboriginal people and environmentalists oppose this planned quarry, which will destroy thousands of acres of prime farmland.
On September 1, 2011 five weeks before Election Day, John Wilkinson, the former Minister of the Environment announced that the application would be subject to a full environmental assessment (EA).
FUN was pleased with the Ontario government for taking this step and will try to ensure that the results of the EA process drive the ultimate decision on the quarry application.
The Standing Committee on General Government, an all-party committee of the legislature, has been directed by the Ontario legislature to develop recommendations to strengthen the Aggregate Resources Act.
Aggregate resources such as sand and gravel are vital to Ontario’s economy — they are used to build roads, subway tunnels, hospitals and schools. The need for aggregates must also be balanced with the protection of other important resources, like water, green space and agricultural lands. While aggregates are plentiful in Ontario, recent studies show that rising demand due to population growth and land constraints could significantly deplete resources within 20 years.
The terms of reference of the Review are:
“to review the Aggregate Resources Act and report to the House its observations and recommendations with respect to strengthening the Act. In developing such recommendations, the Committee’s focus shall include, but not be limited to, the following areas: the Act’s consultation process; how siting, operations, and rehabilitation are addressed in the Act; best practices and new developments in the industry; fees/royalties; and, aggregate resource development and protection, including conservation/ recycling”
FUN welcomes the Review as it is expected to highlight that a more systematic approach to planning for aggregates extraction is required and also that fewer aggregates would be require if more materials were recycled.
ONTARIO PROVINCIAL ELECTION QUESTIONNAIRE
During the 2011 Provincial election, The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods tendered a questionnaire with 6 questions on topics of interest to neighbourhood associations across the province to the leaders of the four main parties: Liberals, Progressive Conservative, New Democratic Party and the Green Party. In light of the result – a minority Liberal government – we feel that it would be helpful to have comparative information available on the responses of all three parties that have elected representatives in the Legislature, and not just the Liberals that have formed the government. Below is a summary of Party Responses followed by the questionnaire on the issues that are of interest to FUN.
1. Ontario Municipal Board
Many municipalities are dismayed by OMB decisions on development projects. Issues include insufficient regard for local official plans and an imbalance of resources available to competing parties. What reforms to the municipal appeal process would you support?
2. Provincial Election Financing Reform
The federal government, several Ontario municipalities and other provincial governments have legislation that prohibit corporate and trade union contributions to election campaigns. What is your position on prohibiting such contributions in provincial and municipal elections in Ontario?
3. Traffic Congestion
Highways in and around Ontario cities are extremely congested. According to one study, the number of automobile trips made in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA) grew by 56% over a 20 year period compared to a population increase of 45%. Average commute times in the GTHA are the worst in North America causing lost productivity and enormous frustration. What would you do to alleviate congestion in and between Ontario cities?
4. Planning Reform
As required by provincial legislation, many municipalities have recently updated their Official Plans or are in the process of doing so. Provincial legislation specifies intensification targets but does not require municipalities to include population densities by location in their Official Plans. This results in disagreements between municipalities, developers and residents on appropriate densities for specific sites. Would you support planning reforms that would mandate that Official Plans provide clarity on this matter?
5. Ontario Legislative Viewshed
There has been recent efforts by some interests to “preserve the dignity of Ontario’s Capital Precinct” by protecting the heritage views of Queen’s Park from development appearing in the background. What is your position on protecting the view of the silhouette of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario?
Many municipalities and organizations in Ontario have passed resolutions calling on the provincial government to protect citizens and adopt legislation to protect citizens against strategic lawsuits against public participation (anti-SLAPP). Would you support such legislation?