In what’s being perceived as a win for environmentalists, and those concerned about government power overriding public input, the Ontario government has announced that they’ve pulled the most controversial aspect of the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, or Bill 66.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that Schedule 10 was being pulled from Bill 66.
Schedule 10 was the provision that created the “Open for Business” bylaw, where in municipalities could bypass official plans and zoning, remove bonusing provisions, limit planning-related conditions, stymie public consultation at the municipality’s discretion, and ensure that all decisions are final and are unable to be repealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
The City of Guelph was one of numerous Ontario municipalities that condemned the changes formally in city council. Many at the City, and many residents in the community, were concerned that the “Open for Business” bylaw was a threat to the public input process, and to potentially environmentally sensitive areas.
“By way of analysis of the Bill, staff agree that Schedule 10 of Bill 66 would create economic hardship for municipalities, would negate thoughtful and long-term vision planning policies, would erode collaborative regional economic efforts (e.g. Innovation Corridor, two-way-all-day GO) and would spur on a ‘race to the bottom’ as neighbouring municipalities seek short-term economic gains that put municipal regions around them at a competitive disadvantage,” says the City’s report.
“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,” assured Clarke in his tweet today, but regardless, Schedule 10 has been pulled.
“Pressuring the government to backtrack on Schedule 10 of Bill 66 is a victory for citizen engagement,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a press release. “People were clear during the election. And they have been clear since Bill 66 was introduced: the people of Ontario want to protect the Greenbelt and clean water.”
Schreiner added, “I will continue to work hard at Queen’s Park to protect the people and places we love in Ontario. And I will make sure Minister Clark follows through on his tweet.”
The rest of Bill 66 remains, and will be brought to the floor for a vote when the Ontario Legislature returns later next month.