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Water Today Title November 24, 2017

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Q&A - Minister of Municipal Affairs- ON


WaterToday - You were named Minister of Municipal Affairs only a few weeks ago, a position you held between March and June 2014. What do you see as the immediate goals of your department? What are your personal priorities in this wide-ranging portfolio?

Minister Mauro - A strong partnership with our municipal partners will help improve public services and strengthen economic growth in all parts of the province. As Minister of Municipal Affairs and a former municipal councillor, I intend to continue working with municipalities in all parts of the province, along with the federal government and municipal associations like AMO and others, to ensure our local governments remain financially sustainable and accountable, and have the flexibility to respond to the people they serve.

I also look forward to implementing the province’s growth and greenbelt plans, and improving land use planning, as well as completing a review on the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board.

The ministry will also work with municipalities to help implement the Climate Change Action Plan. Through greater collaboration, the province and municipalities will build a better future together.

WaterToday - Housing and Municipal Affairs are closely tied, can you explain why the two portfolios were separated is the last cabinet shuffle and where there are crossovers between the two?

Minister Mauro - It is an honour to have been appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs. I’m pleased to be returning to a ministry to which I have spent a number of years, both as Minister and Parliamentary Assistant at the former Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This is not the first time the two ministries have operated as separate portfolios.

With our government’s plan to eliminate chronic homelessness in 10 years, and a new federal partner committed to working in partnership on a national housing strategy, I look forward to working in partnership with my colleague Minister Chris Ballard. Our Premier and our government recognize the importance of linking social and affordable housing and our Poverty Reduction Strategy.

WaterToday - Ontario’s land use planning system gives municipalities the major role in planning decisions. Can you briefly explain what this entails and how it is co-ordinated?

Minister Mauro - Ontario municipalities are the primary implementers of Ontario’s land use planning system. Through their official plans, zoning by-laws, and other planning documents, municipalities set out appropriate land use designations and policies to meet the needs of their communities and protect provincial interests. Official plans are prepared with input from community members to ensure that future planning and development meets community needs over the long term.

With respect to the provincial role, the Planning Act sets the ground rules for land-use planning in Ontario. The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is issued under section 3 of the Planning Act and plays a key role in Ontario’s planning system by providing the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land.

Decisions by planning authorities, such as municipalities and the Ontario Municipal Board, on land use planning matters must be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement. The PPS 2014 includes flexibility to ensure that good land use planning principles are applicable to all planning matters across the province, while taking into consideration local circumstances. Unlike the PPS that applies province-wide, provincial plans are developed to apply to particular areas and provide more detailed policy direction to address particular needs or objectives in those areas.

On March 5, 2015, the government introduced the proposed Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015 – Bill 73.

This Bill made reforms to the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act. On December 3, 2015, Bill 73 was passed by the Legislature and received Royal Assent. Most of the Planning Act changes made through the Act will take effect July 1, 2016. The changes to the land use planning system were made to give Ontario citizens more say in how their communities grow, set out clearer rules for land use planning and make it easier to resolve disputes.

Ontario is also undertaking a review of the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), an important part of the province’s land use planning system. At this time, we’re accepting views on a number of themes, which are based on comments and submissions already received. More information is available on the ministry website - http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page14965.aspx. Comments and suggestions received during all stages of the review, as well as comments already received will be used to help inform the government of what changes may be needed.

Our government will continue to work with our municipal partners and stakeholders to find ways to enhance the land use planning and appeal system, to improve the environmental, social, and economic fabric of Ontario communities.

WaterToday - Waste water from Industrial, agricultural and septic systems is one of the major threats to our water resources. Since water protection is a major component of land-use planning; what measures do you foresee implementing to remediate this situation and meet the goals of 40 per cent phosphorus reduction set out in your agreement with Michigan and Ohio?

Minister Mauro - Ontario is working with partners at all levels of government in Canada and the United States, and with our partners in the Great Lakes communities, to help set targets and develop a domestic action plan for dealing with the excess levels of nutrients in Lake Erie.

To help drive action in the near term, Ontario signed the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement with Ohio and Michigan.

We are also active participants with the U.S. states through the Great Lakes Commission’s Lake Erie Nutrient Targets Working Group which has developed a Joint Action Plan to reduce nutrients. Ontario also has an existing Nutrient Management Program, built with the help of the farming community, which monitors nutrient application and encourages best practices.

A target of 40 per cent reduction in phosphorus loadings to Lake Erie’s western and central basin has been recommended through the binational process. Ontario is supportive of the science used to identify this target. We are reaching out to our stakeholders and the public to gather input on how we can work together to achieve the target.

Ontario’s 12-Point Plan on blue-green algal blooms outlines how we are working with our many partners to prevent and respond to algal blooms in the Great Lakes and other lakes and rivers, and protect drinking water supplies.

The province will continue to engage with partners on a number of initiatives including delivery of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.

WaterToday - As former Minister of Natural Resources where do you see the main tie-ins between the two portfolios?

Minister Mauro - There are a number of files where the two ministries have shared responsibility. For example, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) worked with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on the co-ordinated review of the four land use plans that cover the Greater Golden Horseshoe. That plan includes changes that would require watershed planning, require the province to identify and protect natural heritage systems across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In addition, MNRF worked closely with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to bring forth changes in January 2015 that allow six-storey wood construction.

The changes give builders a safe option that can help make building a home more affordable while supporting our forest industry and contributing to the province’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

WaterToday - The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the statement of the government’s policies on land use planning. It applies province-wide and provides clear policy direction on land use planning to promote strong communities, a strong economy, and a clean and healthy environment. Since economy and environment are often at loggerhead, how do you propose to reconcile the two?

Minister Mauro - The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) plays a key role in Ontario’s planning system by providing the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land. Decisions by planning authorities, such as municipalities and the Ontario Municipal Board, on land use planning matters must be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.
The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 includes policies to:
  • bolster the economy and support employment;
  • promote active, healthy communities;
  • respond to rural and northern communities;
  • protect the environment and manage resources, such as natural heritage, cultural heritage, agricultural and water resources; and,
  • promote coordination/integration and facilitate implementation.

The Province is committed to protecting the environment and promoting responsible use and management of resources. At the same time, the Province is working to maintain a strong and diversified economy that is globally competitive and able to support investment growth and business success. The PPS achieves this balance by integrating economic, environmental and social considerations reflecting the broad range of provincial interests set out in the Planning Act.

The PPS policies include flexibility to ensure that good land use planning principles are applicable to all planning matters, while taking into consideration local circumstances. The policies of the PPS are designed to reflect Ontario’s diversity – recognizing it is a vast province with a range in size and type of settlement areas, and diverse natural environments and economies.

WaterToday - The Ontario Building Code does not apply to First Nations reserves, this has lead to many fire fatalities due to unsafe housing. Is this issue part of your ministry's portfolio? If so, is it a matter you plan to address?

Minister Mauro - Due to constitutional limitations, provincial regulations such as the Ontario Building Code do not apply on First Nations reserves.

That being said, Ontario can play a role in supporting building inspectors working on First Nations reserves who wish to undergo training, and demonstrate their competence on building codes. George Brown College (GBC) offers Ontario Building Code Training Courses in-class through a network of community colleges, delivers courses on line, and produces self-study manuals. On-line delivery of services benefits practitioners in more remote parts of the province. Information on GBC courses is available at http://ce.georgebrown.ca/BuildingCode/.

The ministry develops Ontario Building Code examinations that are delivered by Humber College – both in test centres across the province and on-line. Both technical and administrative examinations are available, with technical examinations covering topics such as small buildings, and fire protection. Successful completion of exams demonstrates a person’s capacity to understand and apply the Building Code. While the primary purpose of the examinations is to qualify practitioners regulated under the Building Code Act, 1992, examinations are open to anyone. Information on Building Code exams is available on the Humber College website at http://www.humber.ca/buildingcodeexams/.

The First Nations Building Officials Association (FNBOA) plays a key role in providing building sector technical services on First Nations reserves, including building inspections. FNBOA recognizes the value of Ontario’s Building Code training and exams to its members. Information on FNBOA is available at http://www.fnnboa.ca/about-fnnboa/ and in their Newsletter

Questions about how building standards are enforced on First Nations reserves should be addressed to the individual First Nation or Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

WaterToday - Following a review of the 2004 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), one of the key changes in the in the 2014 PPS relates to transportation. The document says: "Promote the use of active transportation, transit and transit-supportive development, and provide for connectivity among transportation modes... and coordinate between municipalities and other levels of government. Can you give our readers an idea of how this would translate in concrete terms? Is there hope for high speed rail within the province?

Minister Mauro - The Provincial Policy Statement provides policy direction for municipal planning decisions under the Planning Act and requires municipalities to plan compact, complete communities that are supportive of active transportation and transit. Compact, transit-supportive development would also support any investments in high speed rail in the province. The Ministry of Transportation has developed the Transit-Supportive Guidelines (2012) and Freight-Supportive Guidelines (2016), which provide recommended strategies not only for planning, but also site design, transit service and road operations in order to support municipalities in implementing Provincial Policy Statement policies related to freight-supportive as well as transit-supportive development.

In October 2015, the Honourable David Collenette was appointed as Special Advisor for high speed rail to assist the province in bringing high speed service to the Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Toronto corridor.

Mr. Collenette, a former federal Minister of Transport, is working with public and private sector stakeholders, as well as First Nations and Métis partners, to identify economic development opportunities associated with high speed trains, assess international experience with high speed rail and provide advice on a preliminary business case and potential financing models.

The Ministry of Transportation has completed a preliminary business case for high speed service in the corridor. The results of the business case will be one input to help inform the overall approach and scope for advancing the environmental assessment process for high speed rail in southern Ontario. Work has commenced on travel surveys in the corridor (road, rail, air, bus etc) and a more detailed high speed rail ridership and forecasting demand model is under development.

Other Q&As

Commissionner for the Environment - Julie Gelfand
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr
Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, with input from Finance, Transport and Agriculture Canada

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