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Ford's Bill 66 puts development ahead of people, and city staff are concerned

New rules would allow environmental laws to be bypassed, and for less public consultation. Plus, it flies in the face of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan
open for business sign
Greater Sudbury planning staff have some concerns with the Tory government's open for business bylaw, part of the  provincial Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act legislation. (Stock)

Greater Sudbury planning staff have some concerns with the Tory government's open for business bylaw.

Formally known as Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, Bill 66 was introduced in December by Todd Smith, minister of economic development, job creation and trade, who Premier Doug Ford has also put in charge of reducing red tape for business.

The wide-ranging legislation includes clauses that would allow developers of major projects to bypass a number of approvals normally required, with the goal of getting to a decision within a year.

Open-for-business bylaws permitted under the act would cover an industrial development that will create at least 50 jobs. Cities must receive approval from the province to enact the bylaw, but don't have to hold public hearings first.

“Decisions relating to open-for-business bylaws are not subject to appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (although the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing may intervene before the bylaw comes into effect, 20 days after its passing),” says a report heading to planning committee Jan. 14. “An open for business bylaw is not subject to the Provincial Policy Statement, Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, the Clean Water Act, and other prescribed provisions. The minister and the municipality have the ability to impose conditions it considers necessary to protect public health and safety.”

Traditionally, planning rules have sought to find a balance between economic development and protecting the environment, the report says, with public consulation a key part of the process.

“The proposed open-for-business bylaw appears to prioritize economic goals and objectives to the exclusion of environmental, social and other goals and objectives,” the report says. “This is inconsistent with the more holistic and sustainable position adopted by city council in the Official Plan. 

“The proposed framework to formulate and approve an open for business bylaw appears inconsistent with city council’s approach to community engagement and public consultation.”

The report says planning staff are seeking permission from city councillors to forward their comments on the proposed changes by Jan. 20. Read the full report here.


Darren MacDonald

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