Government Relations Update, September 2020


September 23 - The Government of Ontario recently made several changes in Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 that are relevant to the land use planning, building and development sectors.

There are five key areas of the bill that NAIOP members should be aware of, as they make significant changes to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s authority and powers. These areas are: 

Changes to the Building Code 

Enhanced Minister’s Zoning Orders

Provincial Land and Development Facilitator 

Changes to the Environmental Assessment Act 

Transit-Oriented Communities

Below is an overview of these changes. The full text of the bill, which received Royal Assent in July and is in effect, can be FOUND HERE


BUILDING CODE

The Building Code was amended to allow for regulations under the Act to made by the Minister, rather than the Lieutenant Governor General in Council 

This will allow the Code to be amended quickly to respond to emerging and immediate issues (e.g. COVID-19 recovery), assist with cross-country regulatory harmonization and bring the Code in line with how changes are made to the Fire Code (also by Ministerial regulation)  


ENHANCED MINISTER’S ZONING ORDER (MZO)

The Minister has been provided with enhanced powers under an MZO, including the authority to: 

  • Remove municipal use of site plan control
  • Require agreements between municipalities and proponents concerning site plan matters 
  • Require inclusionary zoning (affordable housing requirements, including ability to require a municipality and landowner to enter into an IZ agreement)) and 
  • Amend enhanced Minister’s Zoning Orders without being required to first give notice 

• The Greenbelt Area is exempted from enhanced MZOs

These changes are meant to speed up the planning approvals process for strategic developments 


PROVINCIAL LAND AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR

The Bill permanently established the office of the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator (PLDF) and provided authority to the Minister to appoint the Facilitator 

The PLDF is currently a short-term advisory body that provides objective confidential and independent advice to the Minister

The goal is to have the PLDF support the province on growth, land use and other matters, including Provincial interests (e.g. protection of ecological systems/natural areas, adequate provision of affordable housing and employment opportunities, and the management of natural resources)

Through the PLDF, the government will take a leadership role in working collaboratively with both municipalities and stakeholders to explore all opportunities to stimulate the economy 


MODERNIZING THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ACT

Following consultations, 8 amendments were made to the Environmental Assessment Act 

These changes make the level of assessment proportional to the level of impact on the environment and update class environmental assessments so they are more focused on projects with medium impacts, such as building a new wastewater treatment plant. 

The Ministry is developing regulations and business process improvements to implement these changes.

The regulations will focus on: 

  • Developing the Project List for comprehensive EAs (currently posted for comment – ERO posting 019-2377)
  • New streamlined assessment project list and processes 
  • Sectoral Terms of Reference 
  • Expiry date exemptions 
  • Deadlines


TRANSIT-ORIENTED COMMUNITIES

The Transit-Oriented Communities Act 2020 will: 

  • Streamline land assembly through exemptions from Hearings of Necessity for four subway projects (Ontario Line, Yonge North Extension, Scarborough Subway Extension, Eglinton Crosstown West Extension)

    - Instead, the Province will establish an alternative process for receiving and considering comments about expropriations from landowners 

  • Allow the Province to capture value from these projects through new commercial arrangements

    - Under this program the Province will partner with third parties and municipalities to deliver transit stations integrated with communities  


 

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