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Omnibus Ontario bill aims to spur economic recovery

Omnibus Ontario bill aims to spur economic recovery

TORONTO — The Ontario government has introduced numerous changes to be introduced into multiple pieces of legislation with the intention to promote economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed reforms, announced July 8 and contained in the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, will affect building codes, water infrastructure planning regulations and planning processes among other changes.

Building Code: Proposals will allow the minister of municipal affairs and housing to make regulations that will streamline the Building Code development process, align it with National Construction Codes and enable Ontario to respond faster to construction sector needs. This will reduce inter-provincial trade barriers, make Ontario more competitive and support economic growth, a release stated.

Environmental infrastructure projects: Changes in the Environmental Compliance Approval process for wastewater and stormwater projects would provide a consolidated approval process for low-impact municipal sewage collection and stormwater management projects. The proposed new process would mean that routine changes by municipalities, including alterations, extensions, enlargements or replacement projects, could be pre-authorized to begin construction without needing separate approvals for each project.

Environmental assessment: The government is proposing changes to the Environmental Assessment Act that would focus resources on projects that have the highest impact on the environment, reduce timelines by half, from six to three years for the largest projects, and match the level of assessment requirements with the level of environmental impact to enable the acceleration of projects.

Planning Act: Proposed updates will speed up the development of affordable housing and construction projects that are not in the Greenbelt. When making a zoning order, the minister of municipal affairs and housing would have the authority to apply inclusionary zoning to include affordable housing and address site plan matters.

Development facilitator: The government will establish a new Office of the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator working under the minister of municipal affairs and housing to provide advice and make recommendations to the minister on growth and land-use planning matters.

Health and safety: An amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act will allow nationally and internationally recognized standards such as those of the Canadian Standards Association to be updated more regularly without requiring regulatory amendments.

Invest Ontario: Ontario will launch a new investment attraction agency, Invest Ontario, intended to be a “one stop shop” for businesses and investors, the release indicates. It will initially focus on three sectors related to COVID-19 recovery where Ontario has a strong base: advanced manufacturing, life sciences and technology.

Reducing regulatory costs: The government said it is taking “urgent” action to modernize its regulatory regime, proposing to merge the Reducing Regulatory Costs for Business Act with the Burden Reduction Reporting Act, creating the Modernizing Ontario for People and Businesses Act. The new act would enshrine the government’s seven burden-reduction principles into legislation.

Transit-oriented communities: The government proposes to advance its Transit-Oriented Communities program, providing “real opportunities to build complete, mixed-use communities that are connected to transit, building not only subway stations but vibrant communities” in partnership with third parties.

Highway improvements: The Ontario government said it is looking at ways to accelerate key provincial highway construction projects by identifying and proposing changes that would remove potential “bottlenecks,” allowing construction to start earlier.

Development charges: The Doug Ford government is proposing changes that will give municipalities the flexibility to fund community services for new developments through modified development charges and a new community benefits charge. The modified development charges will allow municipalities to recover 100 per cent of the cost to build community services, and a separate community benefits charge will enable municipalities to fund growth-related capital costs of services due to higher density developments that aren’t funded by other tools.

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