Local Decision Making Could Be Sunk by Liberal Great Lakes Bill
(Sarnia, ON)- Ahead of next week’s meeting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Sarnia-Lambton MPP, Bob Bailey, is voicing his concerns with the Liberal Government forcing through flawed legislation that will impact both the Great Lakes and municipalities.
“The Great Lakes region is home to more than one-quarter of the population of Canada, it should go without saying that the health of the lakes is a priority for everyone” said MPP Bailey. “However, the Liberal Government of Ontario is currently rushing through legislation, Bill 66: The Great Lakes Protection Act, which could significantly impact the rights of municipalities and their residents to be stewards of the lakes without any meaningful discussions at the local level,” added MPP Bailey.
While there are at least six items within the bill that are of concern to the PC Caucus, the greatest is the bill’s ability to override a municipality’s existing official plan and zoning by-laws. If Bill 66 becomes law, this legislation would allow the Liberal Government to interfere in local decision making without any consideration for local views or priorities. These powers will strip local autonomy the same way the McGuinty Government’s Green Energy Act has allowed the Government to force hundreds of Industrial Wind Turbines into communities where municipal councils have rejected them.
“The Opposition has presented a number of amendments to the Great Lakes Protection Act that would create a stronger, more effective piece of Legislation, but the Liberal Government has opted against working with the Opposition and the public in developing this important legislation,” noted MPP Bailey. “The Liberal Government’s handling of Bill 66, has shown that the intent of this bill is less about protecting the Great Lakes, and more about photo-op environmentalism,” said MPP Bailey.
“The PC Caucus has identified a list of items that are viewed as opportunities for improvement before Bill 66 receives final reading. As the passing of this legislation could significantly impact the municipal role in the healthy stewardship of the Great Lakes, I am calling on the Liberal Government to slow down and open up discussion on this bill to municipalities and the public. The health of the Great Lakes is too important not to.
MPP Bailey’s concerns with Bill 66 include:
- Stripping Local Autonomy: the legislation provides the ability to override existing official plans and zoning bylaws developed to meet the specific needs of municipalities and their residents.
- Increasing Red Tape: the bill would create a “Guardian Council” to provide advice to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, but offers no guarantee it will include representatives from a broad range of groups. This model also limits full public participation.
- No Funding Specified: Bill 66 provides no details about how any programs created will be paid for, which is essentially handing a blank cheque to a government that’s proven it can’t manage its spending.
- No Respect for Property Owners: the bill contains sections that would allow authorities to access private property without a warrant.
- Rural Perspective Missing: the Rural Ontario Municipal Association developed the “Rural Lens,” 12 points municipal leaders want applied to any legislation. That hasn’t happened with Bill 66 and the result is the creation of a new level of bureaucracy to trump the local decision-making process.
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