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Hamilton-area Conservative MPP says concerns about Bill 66 are unfounded

Ontario Greenbelt
City of Hamilton planners are concerned that the bill, if passed, would allow businesses to bypass environmental regulations. N.Finney Conservation Halton, Environmental Defence

Hamilton’s voice in the provincial government says concerns about Bill 66, a series of controversial planning changes, are “absolutely unfounded.”

Flamborough-Glanbrook Progressive Conservative MPP Donna Skelly says the changes are designed to cut red tape and make Ontario “open for business” by helping municipalities to attract and retain major employers.

READ MORE: Walkerton residents worry about Ford government’s Bill 66

She insists they will “absolutely not” override environmental or health legislation, adding that her government has been “very, very clear that we are going to protect the Greenbelt.”

City of Hamilton planners have outlined concerns about “potential unintended consequences” of Bill 66, titled the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, including the risk of encouraging development within the Golden Horseshoe’s swath of protected agricultural and natural land.

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Skelly counters that while the changes will in no way “impact the provisions that are in place to protect our water, our lakes” or the Greenbelt, they will give municipalities “a bigger seat at the table.”

If passed, the province, developers and municipalities could, in theory, bypass some regulations, provided a development could prove it would create jobs and generate an economic benefit.

READ MORE: Critics say new legislation could open Ontario Greenbelt to development

Skelly says she has heard from many businesses that it currently takes too long to get anything done in Ontario, adding: “We have to create a more competitive environment.”