Though the Ontario legislature is currently on recess, Kingston Coun. Bridget Doherty is voicing her concerns over Ontario’s Bill 66, specifically Schedule 10 section of the proposed legislation.
The proposed law would allow municipalities, with the approval of the minister, to sidestep environmental laws, such as drinking water source protection.
Doherty thinks the bill would also reduce transparency in government by letting councils get rid of public consultation and eliminating the public’s right to appeal municipal decisions.
“It is fair enough to want to streamline the process, but we have to have a balanced approach,” Doherty said.
“We need to make sure that our source water, our drinking water is protected. We don’t want to take away the public process at all.”
Kingston’s manager of policy planning, Greg Newman, says that according to the provincial government, the goal is to encourage business growth.
“Bill 66 is intended by the province to reduce red tape and to allow for greater support for businesses that would employ more than 50 people,” Newman said.
Municipalities had the opportunity to provide feedback on the legislation until late January.
Newman says that recent tweets from Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark leave him with the impression that input on the proposed legislation has not been positive.
“The Minister of Municipal Affairs actually released a few tweets saying that they had reconsidered Schedule 10, they were not going to pursue that as originally proposed,” Newman said.
As a result, Doherty has introduced a motion that would only allow the City of Kingston to use open-for-business bylaws if they posed no risk to the environment and had full support from the public.
She says her motion, which is going to council Tuesday evening, is still necessary because city council has no idea what the province has in mind when it comes to changing Schedule 10.
Anastasia Lintner, an environmental lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, says there are other portions of Bill 66 that should also concern municipalities, like the provisions in Schedule 5.
“That’ll take away a system by which polluters in Ontario are reporting about the types of toxic chemicals that are being released and can have toxic reduction plans,” Lintner said.
Lintner says that so far, the government hasn’t backed away from that part of the Toxics Reduction Act.
Bill 66 has passed its first reading, and the Ontario legislature will resume on Feb. 19.