Update: I have now received over 200 emails asking me to reject this bill. Please check out this legal analysis from the Canadian Environmental Law Association
I have the 35 page document on my desk. In my inbox there are over 100 emails from concerned people asking me to protest this legislation and carry their voices to the provincial government.
This bill impacts 17 Acts. Some of the changes seem reasonable to me. In this digital age for example, allowing a driver to present their permits as a digital copy on their phone instead of rummaging through the glove box for a little piece of paper seems like a logical evolution. I will leave the verdict on that to law enforcement however, as I may not be thinking of all the ways it could lead to problems.
Of particular concern for all of you who have written to me and other members of council, is Schedule 10 which adds section 34.1 to the Planning Act.
…which allows local municipalities to pass open-for-business planning by-laws. These by-laws involve the exercise of a municipality’s powers under section 34 of the Act and allow municipalities to impose one or more specified conditions. A municipality may pass an open-for-business planning by-law only if it has received approval to do so in writing by the Minister and if criteria as may be prescribed are satisfied. Certain provisions of the Act and other Acts that would ordinarily apply to a by-law passed under section 34 do not apply to an open-for-business planning by-law.
If approved, this would allow particular types of development to be unilaterally approved by a municipality without regard for environmental impacts or impacts to a neighbouring municipality.
This is a tool that creates division and reduces transparency of governance.
While passing of this legislation does not automatically mean development will start springing up in sensitive wetlands and threatened species habitat tomorrow, it represents an erosion of protections. It removes a set of tools we have to ensure that we leave keep the long term health of our environment ahead of corporate interest.
As an example of worst case scenario: this legislation could create a situation where a project such as the Mega Quarry that was proposed in Melancthon Township would be able to be approved with no opportunity for appeal and without any public or resident input. The project could be approved and finalised before anyone knew it was even proposed.
I strongly urge the Ontario Government to reconsider.