‘We heard you loud and clear on Bill 66,’ Premier Doug Ford assures rural municipalities
Premier Doug Ford
Last week’s cancellation of a contentious section of Bill 66 is significant, Ford tells the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association conference
By Robert Benzie Toronto Star
The Progressive Conservatives’ retreat on controversial new planning legislation proves the government will listen to municipalities, says Premier Doug Ford.
Speaking to the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association conference Monday, Ford said last week’s cancellation of a contentious section of Bill 66 is significant.
“We heard you loud and clear on Bill 66,” the premier told about 1,000 rural mayors, reeves, and councillors from across the province at the Sheraton Centre convention in Toronto.
After much criticism, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark last Wednesday axed the one-paragraph schedule 10 to the bill that would amend the Planning Act to allow municipalities to bypass existing development requirements and restrictions for companies promising to create 50 or more jobs.
Projects could have been granted expedited provincial approvals within one year, allowing businesses to begin construction.
Critics had warned that would have put prime farmland and the 1.8-million acre Greenbelt around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at risk of development.
Ford assured rural civic leaders that was not the intention of the omnibus legislation that was hastily introduced before the house rose for Christmas.
“Of course, we’d never have approved any projects at the expense of the Greenbelt, water quality or public health,” the premier said.
“But, as Minister Clark recently announced, we will not proceed with schedule 10 of the bill,” he emphasized.
“We’re committed to cutting red tape in a way that protects workers, protects the environment and eliminates waste and we’ll make sure our legislation does exactly that.”
The premier, who was joined at the conference by many ministers and MPPs, stressed his government is “here to listen to you.”
“That’s why we repealed the Green Energy Act — to help local communities have a say on energy projects in their municipalities,” Ford said of the previous Liberal government’s polarizing legislation on siting wind turbines and solar projects.
“Today local communities have final say on these local planning decisions,” he said.
The premier also announced that Clark and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney would soon begin province-wide consultations on muncipalities’ liability.
“We have heard your concerns about increasing insurance costs and the impact that these costs and settlements can have on property taxes and municipal taxpayers,” said Ford.
“We’ve heard your concerns about the ‘liability chill’ preventing everyday activities in your municipalities, like tobogganing and street hockey,” he said.
“We need to make sure that vulnerable injured people are fairly compensated. We’ll need to look at the evidence and develop solutions that make sense.”
News release from Ontario government
Premier Ford Reaffirms Commitment to Making Rural Ontario Open for Business
TORONTO — Ontario’s Government for the People is making sure rural communities are open for business by cutting red tape and making it easier to create and protect good-paying jobs.
Today, Premier Doug Ford spoke at the 2019 Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, an annual event that brings together rural Ontario municipal leaders to discuss priorities and ways to strengthen their communities.
“For too long, rural Ontario has been ignored. Our hardworking farmers have been ignored,” said Ford. “Ontario’s economy relies on agriculture. Our natural resources and forestry industries are major economic drivers. We need to do everything in our power to get our farmers and rural businesses the support they need to grow and create more local jobs.”
Premier Ford highlighted the actions the government is taking to lighten regulatory burdens in more than a dozen sectors, and the positive effects these actions will have on the industries many rural communities rely on, including natural resources and agriculture. These actions will lower business costs, make it easier for farmers to run their businesses and make Ontario more competitive.
He addressed a long-standing request from municipalities and announced that the Ontario government intends to consult on joint and several liability. The government will look at evidence and develop solutions that make sense for the people.
The Premier also committed to delivering better health care to rural communities. The government is investing $175 million in infrastructure upgrades at 128 hospitals across Ontario, in places like Renfrew, Sarnia and Espanola.
“We promised to support our rural businesses and communities, and we’re keeping our promise,” said Ford. “We’re lowering electricity costs, we’re slashing red tape and we’re getting out of the way of businesses so they can focus on growing and creating jobs.”
Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector is a key driver of the provincial economy, contributing $39.5 billion to the GDP and supporting more than 822,000 jobs.
The provincial government recently launched an agricultural advisory committee, which will identify new directions for future industry growth and new ways to cut red tape.
The government is committed to cutting the red tape affecting businesses by 25 per cent.
Ontario recently passed the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, making it easier for employers across rural communities to grow their businesses and create and protect jobs.
The government is making life more affordable for rural Ontario families and businesses by expanding natural gas access. Switching from propane, electric heat or oil to natural gas can save an average residential customer between $800 and $2,500 per year.