A concerned Kitchener city council convened a special council session on Monday, Jan. 14, to hear from delegations regarding Bill 66. The bill, named the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act 2018, changes a variety of regulations and laws on a wide array of things from pawn shops to daycare spaces to wireless services.
Citizens and organizations alike are concerned with the the removal of environmental protections, while city council is perturbed with the government possibly encroaching on its power as a municipality.
Schedule 5 of Bill 66 would repeal the Toxics Reduction Act 2009, by the year 2021. Instead, Ontario will use the Federal Chemicals Management Plan protection from toxic chemicals.
Schedule 10 of Bill 66 is the part of the bill that amends the Planning Act in regards to the “open for business bylaw,” which will allow municipalities to work around environmental policies to establish a business in the community.
In response, city council passed several motions to express its concern regarding Bill 66 in its present form. They are:
- to request that the Ontario government reconsider the proposed changes to the Planning Act;
- to reaffirm the City of Kitchener’s support for regions environmental policies and philosophies;
- to reaffirm the City of Kitchener’s support for meaningful public consultation on all land use planning-decision making matters; and
- to send a copy of these motions to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and all MPPs in Waterloo Region.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Kitchener council unanimously supported a motion to express its support of the change to the Labour Relations Act, which regional councillor Michael Harris said would be a “home run” for businesses in the area.
Art Sinclair, vice-president of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, indicated that while the Chamber did not have an official position on the bill, it was concerned that it did nothing to address the problems in the residential housing sector.
“Prices are getting expensive, and there is a concern in the local community that we’re going to potentially lose some talent when people look at the price of housing here in the region,” said Sinclair. “This is a matter for employers and employees; you know, it’s a concern. Really what it is, is a lack of supply, and when more and more people want to live here, the prices go up.”
“What Bill 66 is, more or less, it allows municipalities to put in place certain measures to facilitate a business establishing itself in the community,” explained Sinclair. “Another thing about Bill 66, it allows municipalities to do it, but you don’t have to.”
Sinclair was referring to the portion of the amendment which grants the municipality the power to amend or revoke the “Open for Business” bylaw, but some skeptics argue that the province can strong-arm municipalities into accepting it, just as it forcibly reduced Toronto city council last year.
Scott Mcnab, a second-year political science student at the University of Guelph, would support such a move if it were to happen.
“In this context, I think they should have that power,” stated Mcnab. “The Ontario government has always had a great deal of power over municipalities.”
He disagrees, however, with the repeal of the Toxics Reduction Act; in general, he believes that the worry about the environment is overblown.
“I think that as long as the Ontario government is responsible with this legislation and doesn’t start developing the Greenbelt, this bill could lower business costs and harmonize regulatory requirements.”