MP McKenna dishes out her version of the facts to community advocacy group

opinionred 100x100By Staff

June 20th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We love logoWe Love Burlington pressed Burlington MPP for comment on why she supported Bill 108.

Jane McKenna provided a detailed response  that is set out below. We Love Burlington has said they will review and respond to McKenna at some later date.  We expect the Mayor of Burlington might have something to say as well.

The Gazette is giving you what McKenna had to say without any comment or analysis.

McKenna

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna

“I want to clarify some of the issues you have raised in your submission on Bill 108. Your underlying assumption appears to suggest the province is trying to curtail local planning authority rather than ensure the best planning outcomes. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to be clear that the Ontario government wants to improve the local planning process to facilitate better and faster community consultation, a more open community benefits strategy that requires more local input and ensures that growth pays for growth.

“Your submission on Bill 108 and our new Affordable Housing Supply plan was one of the more than 2,000 public submissions that were considered prior to drafting the plan and supporting legislation.

“Despite your claims to the contrary, extensive consultations, in which you participated, took place in the development of the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019. Within months of the June election, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark began consultations in the development of the Ontario government’s new Housing Supply Action Plan. Minister Clark met with local Mayors at the Association of Ontario Municipalities, (AMO) conference last August in Ottawa and at the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario, (LUMCO) last month in Toronto. In fact, at the recent LUMCO meeting, the Minister advised that if Bill 108 passed, the Ministry would be consulting further on the Community Benefits Formula. Last week, the Minister sent a follow-up letter to all heads of Municipal Council in advance of a June 14th meeting with AMO members.

“Many organizations including the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University have published research demonstrating that one of the key roadblocks to building an appropriate mix of housing in the GTHA that supports vibrant, walkable, complete communities is the land-use planning approvals process.

“In the City of Toronto, by way of extreme example, it takes on average 10 years to get a building approval. This is a system that has been mired in excessive red tape, with regulations and processes added to processes. These were often attempts to satisfy and balance the adversarial needs of the development community and neighbourhoods that are often resistant to change. Add local politics and politicians who do not vote against their constituents’ wishes in support of good planning (that has proven to be unpopular) and you have a recipe for paralysis.

“How are we to meet our responsibility to solve the very serious housing crisis that is preventing our children from being able to afford to rent or own in their home town? How are we to manage the influx of more than a million newcomers to the GTHA by 2031 if not by encouraging the private and non-profit sectors from building a variety of new housing supply through legislation?

“You complain that Burlington has lost control of land use planning. You are correct. Here’s why.

“Burlington City Council has not produced an updated Official Plan in about 25 years – since 1994. One could suggest a variety of reasons for this. More recently, as development pressures have increased, politics have no doubt played a role.

“When the planning system is clunky, expensive, time consuming, outdated and adversarial it’s time for process adjustment.

“The Province’s Growth Plan is guided by the desire to build compact, vibrant and complete communities. It does not replace local official plans, but it does provide a framework for growth that requires municipalities to update their Official Plans to ensure compliance with the Places to Grow Act. Oakville updated their Official Plan in 2009 to conform, and Milton amended their 1997 Official Plan in 2010 to meet these provincial policy changes. Burlington’s 25-year-old Official Plan doesn’t respond effectively to the growth pressures of 2019. An outdated Official Plan does not work for our communities, our children who would like to be able to afford a home in town, our investment community or our new residents. Our OP reflects a time when Burlington was 50,000 people smaller, back when the average price of a detached house was about $200,000.

“Our Official Plan doesn’t take into account the most significant changes to planning policies in Ontario’s history. That is a big part of why, more often than not, Burlington has surrendered local planning decisions to both the old OMB and new current LPAT. To take back some local control, Burlington needs to act quickly to consult with residents and adopt a new Official Plan that complies with the Places to Grow Act and will be approved by Halton Region.

“Municipal governments are expected to be accountable and adaptable to legislative and regulatory changes. Change only becomes dysfunctional when it is not effectively managed. We believe that assessing and planning for operational and financial impacts is within the capability of the City of Burlington. The municipality will decide whether to raise taxes, reduce services or increase borrowing for capital expenditures as necessary.

“We have a housing supply crisis in Ontario that is being addressed by More Homes More Choice. Our role as government is to create the conditions where home builders can build more of what communities actually need. Our plan includes changes that would make it easier to build a mix of housing – town homes, apartments, condos, single family homes – for people to rent or own. You are incorrect when you write that developers can build whatever, wherever they want.

“The GTHA – Burlington included – is the fastest growing region in Ontario and one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in North America. Good planning is vital to creating strong healthy communities for our kids and our grandkids.

“As part of Bill 108, changes were made to the Planning Act to simplify how municipalities collect funds for community benefits like parks and daycares. Minister Clark has been clear that one of our goals in establishing the new community benefits approach is to maintain municipal revenues and ensure appropriate infrastructure to support growth.

“We want municipalities to recover similar revenues from community benefits charges to what they have collected from development charges for discounted services, density bonusing and parkland dedication. We will develop a cap that protects vital revenue streams.

“Let me be clear – the provincial government firmly believes that growth should pay for growth. In passing Bill 108, we are moving towards a system where developers, not taxpayers, fund growth.

“It is important that municipalities have the resources to support complete communities and give the public the opportunity to provide input through public consultation. This does not happen in todays Section 37 negotiations.

“In April 2018, Burlington’s Mayor said that, (under the pre-Bill 108 system) “residents don’t have a seat at the table when negotiating Section 37 Community Benefits. The Ward councilor is consulted, but also doesn’t have a seat at the table, and their input can be ignored.” Our government agrees that Section 37 was not serving the best interests of local residents. That’s why we are working to ensure there is more public input into community benefits decisions through a municipality wide community benefits strategy.

“Again, let me be clear – we are not removing any community protections. Our government will continue to consult with our municipal partners on the development of a community benefits charge that takes the politics out of planning.

“Our plan also includes changes to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) – formerly the Ontario Municipal Board – and the main adjudicator of land use planning disputes in Ontario. Right now, the tribunal has a backlog of legacy cases from the old Ontario Municipal Board. A two-to-three year appeals process, at a time when Ontario is in a housing crisis – is unacceptable.

“Our estimates from the Ministry of the Attorney General show that over 100,000 housing units are caught up in legacy cases at the tribunal. That’s 100,000 desperately needed homes that can’t get built – or three years worth of construction in Ontario waiting for approval.

“Thanks to the Attorney General’s support, we are also adding 11 new adjudicators, a 45% increase, to tackle the backlog of cases in the next 18 months and prevent future backlogs.

“We’re encouraging mediation to reduce the number of cases that actually proceed to a formal hearing and we are moving towards a cost-recovery model where developers will pay more for the system.

“On the Endangered Species Act, our legislation takes a smarter approach to recover species, including new methods for protecting species at risk due to disease, fungi or invasive species.

“Currently, after an applicant looks at alternatives to avoid a species at risk and mitigates any risk their project may have on that species, they are required to develop a plan to benefit the species through actions like habitat creation. However, some species like the Butternut Tree and several bats are decreasing due to factors harder to control or mitigate such as disease, and invasive species.

“The current Act doesn’t allow the most effective path to resolve these issues. Our changes will allow applicants who have considered alternatives and put in place mitigation measures to pay a charge to the Species At Risk Conservation Trust instead of completing other onerous requirements, such as expensive field surveys that could cost $30K per species.

“This will help enable positive outcomes for species that are decreasing due to disease, invasive species or other reasons by accumulating payments and leveraging the collective resources for more strategic, coordinated and larger scale actions.

“Ontario is committed to ensuring Ontario’s best-in-class endangered and threatened species protections include advice and species’ classifications from an independent scientific committee and modern approaches to enforcement and compliance; species and habitat protections; and recovery planning.

“During the past decade of implementing the ESA, we have heard what works well and what could work better.

“The proposed changes posted on the Environmental Registry will enhance government oversight and enforcement powers to ensure compliance with the act and improve transparent notification of new species’ listings.

“Species assessment and classification decisions will continue to be made by an independent scientific committee – the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). The list of species at risk will continue to be updated automatically, based on the independent science-based assessment process.

“Ontario is also proposing to create Canada’s first independent agency to be called the Species at Risk Conservation Trust, to allow municipalities or other applicants the option to pay a charge to the Agency in lieu of completing certain on-the-ground activities required by the act.

“Applicants would still seek a permit and need to fulfill on-the-ground requirements, including considering reasonable alternatives for their activity and taking steps to minimize the adverse effects of the activity on the species at risk.

“Bill 108 is important legislation to solve one of the most pressing and urgent problems of our time – a shortage of housing stock has driven prices up making homes unaffordable for many families. With on going global urbanization Burlington, as part of the GTHA, is experiencing extraordinary development pressure as more and more young people want to live and raise their families here. We can’t stop growth but we can manage it successfully with intention and good planning.

“This is a municipal responsibility. We all love Burlington. We can watch it transform into the kind of community we want – one with a vibrant downtown, with plenty of families and couples walking and cycling to pick up fresh groceries or to meet some friends at a café. The air will be cleaner because we will be driving less, we will be healthier because we’re walking and cycling more.

“This is a long term vision. We need to extend our view 20, 30, 40 years into the future. The next generation of mobile young people are looking to live, work and play at home.

“This is legislation that is important and integral to our well being and success as a community. We have much to celebrate and I welcome divergent views and thoughtful criticism.

“Leadership and dialogue would be the most advantageous approach for the municipality and the provincial government. The people of Burlington deserve no less than our honest commitment to do the hard work necessary to solve the housing crisis in the GTHA and beyond.”

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5 comments to MP McKenna dishes out her version of the facts to community advocacy group

  • Elan

    Question: How can even a 40% voter-elected MPP be this despised after only 6 months on the job? Answer: Trying too hard to support policies which burn Burlington to the ground to favour of her developer donors.
    Given the booing Ford received at the Raptors parade, I would limit my summer public appearances if I were McKenna.

  • Stephen White

    Judging from the Blitzkrieg the Premier launched on his own Cabinet this morning it is obvious that the PCs are in deep, deep trouble. Premier Ford would have us all believe it is a communications misstep. Miscommunication is part of the problem, but his distorted, hurried and poorly planned approach to public policy formation is actually the bigger problem.

    Bill 108 will have no material impact or improvement on affordable housing in Burlington. Multi-million dollar condo developments catering to affluent empty-nesters and Toronto expatriates will not improve housing affordability one scintilla. Likewise, as David Barker has so correctly diagnosed, Ontarians do not need a continuation or re-branding of this ridiculous LPAT/OMB bureaucracy, complete with its unelected public officials, $500 an hour lawyers and wealthy developers who manipulate it to run roughshod over locally elected Councils and residents. Let the interests of local residents prevail, and if the developers don’t like it let them take their marbles and toys and go play in some other sandbox.

    Finally, Ford should use the summer to seriously re-focus. His first year in office has been an unmitigated disaster and this observation is coming from a PC supporter. The Party runs the risk of being permanently labelled as the party of cutbacks, clawbacks and downsizing. The budget certainly needs to be trimmed, that isn’t at issue, but not with hasty, ill-conceived and punitive measures (e.g. cuts to aid for autistic children; scrapping programs for guaranteed annual income; cutting tree planting services; etc.) while simultaneously spending money on nonsense like re-designing vehicle license plates. Seriously? In what universe is license plate re-design an important public policy priority?

    If Ford and company don’t smarten up soon their impetuousness and haste will not only result in his Armageddon but scuttle Scheer’s election chances too.

  • david barker

    MPP McKenna states “Our estimates from the Ministry of the Attorney General show that over 100,000 housing units are caught up in legacy cases at the tribunal. That’s 100,000 desperately needed homes that can’t get built – or three years worth of construction in Ontario waiting for approval….” By making this statement McKenna is implying that she would expect all 100,000 units that await review by LPAT would gain approval. Maybe she did not mean to imply that. But her statement reflects what is the public’s perception of exactly what is wrong with LPAT (and before it OMB). The perception is that the unelected, unrepresentative body seems to invariably side with the developer’s position, completely ignoring the municipality’s official plan and the desires of the local residents.

    Why does the Province of Ontario even have an unelected, unrepresentative body to pass judgement on how a municipality manages it’s development. No other Canadian Province has such a body. I assume in those other Provinces the developer’s recourse is to a non-political court system.

    Surely if a municipality has an official plan that has been accepted and approved by it’s region (and by implication the Province) why should that municipality then be second guessed by an unelected, unrepresentative political body. If a developer’s proposal does not comply with the requirements of the municipality’s (Region/ Province approved) official plan, then surely the developer should not expect municipal plan approval until it does conform.

    McKenna is right to champion increasing the supply of affordable housing, both rental and owned. However the proposed high rise condo developments in downtown Burlington do not in any meaningful way address affordable housing. The price point of the proposed condos are way outside the affordability of first time home buyers. The monthly rental of units bought by investors is also likely to be well beyond the budgets of the twenty something’s. So for Ms McKenna to in any way imply that the developers proposals for downtown Burlington high rises address affordable housing is completely disingenuous on her part.

    Please, Ms McKenna would you temper your standing up and defending the bullying Ford government, of which you are a part, with more standing up and advocating for the desires and positions of your constituents who elected you to represent them.

  • WeLoveBurlington

    It’s difficult to know where to begin. First, we thank Ms. McKenna for her response. We have reviewed it several times so that we now believe we have its measure. We will post our initial reply tomorrow (Friday the 21st) and will continue to examine her reasons and rationale over the coming weeks as circumstance and political context permit. We trust that Ms. McKenna or her writing staff will engage with us in an ongoing dialogue on Bill 108.

  • Carol Victor

    High rise expensive condos in the downtown core are not an answer to the housing shortage and to affordability….we have at long last a mayor who overwhelmingly supports the citizens of Burlington which is unfortunately what we do not have at the provincial level…McKenna and Ford owe their jobs to Katheen Wynne….with our MPP ‘s support of this legislation it will be interesting to to see how much support is left after the next 3 years…understanding the needs of the electorate and truly supporting them is a critical part of that job!.Burlington has been complacent about development in the past but this is a new day and our voices will be heard.

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