Ontario Legislature

FoNTRA Open Letter in Opposition to Bill 23

We believe that the foundation of Bill 23 is flawed and if approved it will result in significant adverse impacts on our communities without any guarantees that the needed housing will be built.

The legislation focuses solely on supply (i.e., construction of new houses), not demand. For example,  the federal and provincial governments could reduce the demand for housing in the overheated GTA by influencing the location of jobs.  And conspicuously, the Bill avoids dealing with affordability, again focusing only on production of new housing. The report assumes that affordability is simply a function of supply, i.e. the idea that more supply will bring down the prices, which is unproven.  The experience is that public sector financial and regulatory intervention (ie. subsidy, inclusive zoning) is required in order to achieve affordable housing.

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Queen's Park at night by David Urbonas

Bill 23: Consultation schedule is set

Fewer meetings held more quickly

While residents are struggling to understand the complexity of Bill 23, the province is moving quickly to fix wheels to their wagon.

All of this haste flies in the face of the best practices of consultation that provide a prescription of fairness required of all public bodies. See the details of these best practices (aka The Gunning Principles) below.

The consultation schedule for Bill 23 was released on October 31st.

More homes built faster, 2022 Act

The Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy will meet to consider Bill 23, An Act to amend various statutes, to revoke various regulations and to enact the Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022.

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Housing development site - Markham, Ontario

Bill 23: Omnibus bill means that suddenly everything is at risk

Ford and his housing minister previewed the legislation in a Toronto Region Board of Trade event earlier on Tuesday. Ford said in his speech …

“Everyone’s dream is to have a little white picket fence. You know, when they put the key in the door, they know they’re building equity into it, they can do the little tweaks to their house and increase the value of it. That’s our goal.”

It is not yet clear how the proposed legislation will achieve this goal.

The legislation introduces a new concept definition called ‘attainable housing’ that seems to look very much like the old ‘market-based housing.’ This is precisely the outcome that the building industry is hoping for. Toronto has more than 230 cranes in-the-air providing mostly market-based housing … so we can expect more cranes on the horizon.

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Ontario Legislature

How to contact your Toronto MPP

Recent proposed changes to housing policy have caused many city residents to reach out to their local provincial representative. A list of these representatives is available on the province of Ontario website.

The list provided above includes all the MPPs in the province and includes two addresses for each member. One address is the office in the legislative building and the other address is the constituency office.

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Toronto City Hall viewed from south showing towers and council chamber and public square

Do we need a strong Mayor or a City with increased powers?

Following a “leak”, Premier Doug Ford recently confirmed that the Mayors of the City of Toronto and the City of Ottawa would be given “strong mayor” powers by his newly re-elected government. This announcement, coming “out of the blue” (there was no mention of this as a promise during the Premier’s recent election campaign) is little more than an idea until the necessary legislation is introduced into the Legislature. Until then we don’t know the details of the “strong mayor” proposal. 

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It’s time to free Toronto from the Ontario Land Tribunal

This is to express our qualified support for the Motion:

  • that City Council request the Province of Ontario to dissolve the Ontario Land Tribunal and replace it with a true appeals body that only grants hearings based on an error in law or procedure.

We set our qualifications below.

The Ontario Land Tribunal is an unelected, unaccountable quasi-judicial body that has the “final say” over planning matters in Toronto and across Ontario.

The current Provincial government has (1) amalgamated the former five separate tribunals into one – the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and (2) given it “final say” powers, reversing the advisory (to municipalities) powers given to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) by the previous government. And procedural changes have reduced the involvement of participants in the hearings.

As a result it appears that the OLT is more politicized, more distant from the concerns of regular people, and less knowledgeable of land use planning than ever.

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Review of Provincial Housing Affordability Task Force

We support the proposed City of Toronto response to the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force.  We agree that there is a critical housing problem in Toronto. The affordability problem is worldwide, especially in rapidly growing cities. Too many low-income households cannot afford the rents they pay. And too many new middle-income families are priced out of the market for owner-occupied housing.

Unfortunately, the recommendations of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force will do little to reduce the cost of housing, especially for low-income families. It is all very well to say that housing prices will decline if more housing is built, but the economics of housing are not responsive to rhetoric.

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FoNTRA comments on Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force Report

Land use planning is intended to serve the public interest in achieving complete communities and requires balancing of competing interests, aiming to serve the best interests for both present and future residents. Housing is for most homeowners not just their home but also their biggest asset, and governments have a responsibility in City land use planning and development to protect the interests of existing residents as well as to provide for the need for more housing.

Finding the right balance is not easy. And the role of municipal government is important, as each municipality has different needs and priorities. The Task Force’s recommended one size fits all throughout the province” proposals simply do not work. The issues in small towns such as Creemore or Owen Sound are not the same as the issues in midtown Toronto.

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Stop Excessive Construction Noise

This correspondence is provided to indicate our strong support for Councillor Wong-Tam’s Motion that “City Council request the Government of Ontario to repeal Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20 of the City of Toronto Act, returning the power to regulate construction noise to the City of Toronto” Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20, enacted April 7, 2020, does not allow the City to regulate or prohibit noise in connection with construction. The Regulation overrides the City of Toronto’s municipal noise by-law through to October 7, 2021, to the detriment of residents.

FoNTRA wrote to the Premier on April 19 2020 to request that this measure (as well as making residential construction an essential service, opening a significant risk of COVID-19 infection to workers) be reversed. Excessive noise is a health hazard that impacts the physical and mental health, and quality of life of residents.

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Construction noise – repeal Ontario regulations overriding Toronto by-law

In April 2020, the City of Toronto’s bylaws limiting construction noise were suspended by Ontario provincial regulations 130/20 and 131/20 that permitted extended construction hours for a period of 18 months (till October 2021).

We recognize and understand the need for the Covid-19 related restrictions that were imposed on the various business sectors and social interactions over the last twelve months. All of Ontario is encouraged by the progress against Covid-19 through the aggressive and successful execution of the vaccination programs. As we look forward to the opportunity to return to some semblance of normal life, we believe now is the appropriate time to revisit the noise guidelines that extended construction hours on essential projects during the pandemic.

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Proposed implementation of provisions in the Planning Act

The recently enacted legislative changes to the Planning Act enhance the Minister’s authority for zoning orders across the province. This enhanced authority does not apply to lands within the Greenbelt Area. The enhanced authority allows the Minister to:

  • require inclusionary zoning for affordable housing (inclusionary zoning),
  • remove municipal use of site plan control and require agreements between the municipality and development proponent (or landowner) concerning site plan matters, and;
  • make amendments to Minister’s Zoning Orders that use any of these enhanced authorities without first giving public notice.

The changes are not helpful.  Our issues with the expanded use of MZOs are:

  1. Lack of relevant consultation with Bill 197 – will the province listen to this round?

We find that the government’s consultations on legislation it has already passed are a cynical attempt to green-wash legislation that was subject to totally inadequate consultation in the course of the legislative process before it was passed.

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Municipal Muffler: Better Tools for Vehicular Noise Enforcement

Our members agree that loud vehicular emissions continue to be a major problem on many arterials and freeways around the City, as well as locations like plaza parking lots. We understand that enforcement is difficult. The use of occasional Police check points to catch offenders cannot be effective. The City of Toronto should be taking a proactive approach to reducing excessive noise, which is not just annoying, it is a health issue. Emerging technologies and equipment can offer more effective ways to enforce the noise by-laws.

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Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) bypass city planning

Only about two weeks ago, FoNTRA expressed to you its serious concerns about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) but has received no response to its reasoned arguments. FoNTRA is, therefore, more than surprised and disappointed to learn that, in the meantime, you have issued new MZOs for three sites in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto – without any public consultation, without any involvement of the City Planning Department, without securing any community benefits to support an adequate infrastructure, and without even any notification of local politicians.

Notwithstanding some ingenuous views voiced in the local media – see, for example, Alex Bozikovic in The Globe and Mail of 28 October 2020 – that is no way to run a democratic and intelligent planning system. Just because a move is legal does not make it ethical or fair. In the earlier letter, FoNTRA has outlined in some detail the evolution of MZOs, as intended by successive governments of all political stripes on the advice of several expert panels.

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Minister’s Zoning Orders strip provisions for notices, public meetings, and rights of appeal

FoNTRA considers the expanded use of MZOs a high-handed, illegitimate rule by fiat. The tool of MZOs was introduced at a time when many municipalities lacked Official Plans and effective zoning regulations. Provincial intervention was justified in such situation. Today, the conditions have changed materially since municipalities now control development with broad sets of planning tools. For the government to now invite municipalities – many with sophisticated planning resources on their own – to apply for MZOs represents a radical reversal of roles that can only damage the planning framework. Moreover, the Provincial Policy Statement protects the provincial interest and Provincial Plans – particularly the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe – give the Province effective control over development priorities without having to resort to MZOs. FoNTRA agrees, though, that during this pandemic, projects related to long-term care homes and supportive housing are emergencies where MZOs may be appropriate.

FoNTRA, respectfully, asks the government to confine the use of MZOs to extraordinary situations arising from the pandemic and to swiftly discard the recent wide- spread and undemocratic enhanced approach of backroom deals without notice, without public consultation, and without the right of appeal.

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Falconer Hall heritage designation

At the September 29 meeting of the Toronto Preservation Board (Board), FoNTRA as well as many other organizations and individuals, objected to how Falconer Hall was proposed to be included in a proposed development, the subject of TE19.2. Our objections primarily related to the large scale of the proposal for the location on Queens Park The development as proposed has a significantly larger scale than other institutional buildings on Queen’s Park. In addition, it displays a profound lack of sensitivity to the significance of the site as a cultural heritage landscape.

The Board in its decision recommended that City Council state its intention to designate Falconer Hall and in addition recommended that: “City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to defer action on the alterations proposed in the report until a comprehensive study of the Queen’s Park cultural heritage landscape is complete.” FoNTRA agrees with the Board that the proposed development should not be approved unless and until it is shown to be acceptable following the study.

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Amendment 1 to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2019

On 29 January 2019, FoNTRA submitted the attached brief commenting on the Proposed Amendment 1 to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2017. Four members of FoNTRA’s Steering Committee also attended your Ministry’s Toronto Regional Round- table on Proposed Changes to Growth Plan on 13 February 2019, which you chaired. Un- fortunately, when the new Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2019 came into effect on 16 May 2019, FoNTRA noted that few, if any, of its proposals had found their way into the new policy framework.

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Request to rescind the provincial regulation overriding Toronto’s Construction Noise By-law

This correspondence is provided to indicate our strong support for Councillor Wong-Tam’s Motion that “City Council request the Province of Ontario to immediately rescind Ontario Regulation 130/20”. Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20, enacted April 7, 2020, does not allow the City to regulate or prohibit noise in connection with construction. The Regulation overrides the City of Toronto’s municipal noise by-law through to October 7, 2021, to the detriment of residents.

FoNTRA wrote to the Premier on April 19 to request that this measure (as well as making residential construction an essential service, opening a significant risk of COVID-19 infection to workers) be reversed. Excessive noise is a health hazard that impacts the physical and mental health, and quality of life of residents.

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Proposed Regulatory Matters Pertaining to Community Benefits Authority under the Provincial Acts

Hon. Stephen ClarkMinistry of Municipal Affairs and Housing 17th Floor, 777 Bay St.Toronto, ON, M5G 2E5 RE: ERO Number 019-1406: Proposed regulatory matters pertaining to community benefits authority under the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, and the Building Code Act Dear Minister Clark, This is to provide a response that can only be consideredas …

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