Ontario should extend its municipal planning process at least one year

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Ontario should extend its municipal planning process at least one year

This petition made change with 216 supporters!
Ontario Headwaters Institute started this petition to minister.mah@ontario.ca.

Dear Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Significant efforts are underway to fundamentally alter the landscape of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, swallowing up natural heritage and agricultural lands and threatening our water. These efforts also ignore the imperative to address climate change through proper community planning, and must be delayed by extending the July 2 deadline for Municipal Comprehensive Reviews by at least one year.

Few issues impact our environment and quality of life more than land-use planning. Unfortunately, the Ontario government’s attempts to hijack the planning process have included omnibus bills that have meant reduced environmental considerations, a general lack of public consultation during the pandemic, and the overuse of Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs).

Don’t just take our word for it — take it from the December report from the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario, “Value-for-Money Audit: Land-Use Planning in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.” 

The audit gives proof to concerns that the provincial government has severely altered the vision for environmental protection by amending the Growth Plan, as well as other core land-use planning instruments effecting the Greater Golden Horseshoe. In perhaps its most important sentence, the audit found that “numerous changes to land-use planning policies, insufficient collaboration between the ministry and other entities responsible for infrastructure planning, and the province’s intervention in municipalities Minister’s Zoning Orders have undermined the goals of the Growth Plan.”

In addition to recent policy changes that have “created instability in the land-use planning process,” the audit also notes that “broad and frequent use of Minister’s Zoning Orders undermine the land-use planning process.” On that, the report notes that MZOs are being used to “fast track development and circumvent normal planning processes,” and that the lack of transparency in issuing MZOs “opens the process to criticisms of conflict of interest and unfairness.”

Faced with requests from municipalities such as Durham and Halton to consider extending the existing deadline by a year to provide sufficient time to complete necessary studies, technical analyses, and public consultation, the province instead reiterated the deadline, informing the municipalities that the you have powers to intervene in the event of non-compliance.

The government’s overall response to the recommendations in the audit may be similarly indicative of some motive other than good planning and democratic engagement. It is dealing with the auditor’s recommendations through "departmental reorganization", according to the Auditor General, rather than by providing required data, guidance, policy changes or more time. The response is obtuse, insulting and totally inadequate.

There have been many changes in provincial legislation imposed through omnibus bills that had limited or zero public consultation, and local municipalities have not had access to data or guidance during a pandemic that is impacting both staff availability and public engagement. This is not the time to forcibly require drafts of new Official Plans.

The Ontario government should extend the July 2022 deadline for the completion of Municipal Comprehensive Reviews and the drafting of new official plans by at least one year.

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This petition made change with 216 supporters!

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