‘Open for Business’ bylaw
ONTARIO—It appears that municipalities, the agriculture farming industry, planning board authorities, and nature groups and other concerns raised have led to the cancellation of the controversial ‘open for business’ bylaw, a section (10) of Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018.
On January 23, Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Municipal Affairs and Housing, tweeted, “The use of this tool would never be approved at the expense of the Greenbelt or other provincial interests like water quality or public health and safety. However, our government for the people has listened to the concerns raised by MPPs, municipalities and stakeholders with regards to Schedule 10 of Bill 66, and when the Legislature returns in February, we will not proceed with Schedule 10 of the Bill.”
Schedule 10 proposed among other things an amendment to the provincial planning act that would have given municipalities the ability to pass bylaw changes that could use primary farmland for any type of development. Schedule 10 was part of the government’s open-for-business bylaws.
“This announcement by the government is great news for Ontarians and the 38,000 farm families the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) represents,” said Keith Currie, OFA president. “Farmland is a finite resource and we must do everything to protect it for food production.”
On January 21, OFA sent a formal letter to Economic Development Minister Todd Smith, stating its serious concerns about Schedule 10 and the impact the proposed legislative changes would have on Ontario’s agri-food sector.
Jake Diebolt, GIS technician/coordinator of the Manitoulin Planning Board told the Recorder, “from our perspective (the legislation under section 10) would have had the potential for big changes. Bill 66 is an omnibus bill and under schedule 10, it deals with the planning act.” He noted the bill is still on the table, except presumably for section 10 which the province says will be repealed later this month.
“We will have to see the next version of the bill. We will be keeping an eye on it,” said Mr. Diebolt.
At a Manitoulin Nature Club meeting last Friday, members had received a letter from Caroline Schultz of Ontario Nature Network to Premier Doug Ford and Members of Provincial Parliament, “we, the undersigned organizations, have deep concerns about many aspects of Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018. The proposed legislation would override critical requirements under several provincial laws and policies that are designed to protect water, farmland, natural heritage and human health. It would do so in a fashion that undermines fair, consistent and transparent public engagement in decisionmaking, and set the stage for costly property tax increases to subsidize economically inefficient, sprawling development.”
The Nature Club members voted unanimously in support of adding their name to the list of those opposed to the bill, specifically section 10.
On the Ontario Nature website page Monday it read, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced that the provincial government will be removing schedule 10 from Bill 66. The section 10 open for business bylaws would have overridden protections for water, natural heritage and farmland in municipalities across Ontario.
“This is a major victory for land, people, water and wildlife across the province,” the Ontario Nature website reads. “The government said that it removed Schedule 10 after it heard from you, the people of Ontario. Ontario Nature’s members and supporters stood alongside community groups, municipal leaders, environmentalists, farmers and other citizens to make sure the government heard our voice. Together, we rallied and sent a loud and clear message that clean water and sustainable development are core values to Ontarians and are not negotiable. By removing Schedule 10, we didn’t just save the drinking water, farmland and natural heritage of the Greenbelt and surrounding areas—we saved it in every municipality across Ontario.”