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Environment groups hail rollback of Bill 66



By Brock Weir

Environmental groups in Simcoe County are celebrating a win this week after the Province announced it was nixing several portions of their so-called “Open for Business” legislation that sparked alarm bells across Ontario for the negative impacts such measures could have had on the environment.

Formally listed as Bill 66, the Open for Business legislation could have potentially opened up key portions of the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and other protected areas for business development, a move that saw swift and immediate reaction from municipalities like Aurora and various other stakeholders.

In a letter last week, however, Steve Clark, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said the Government had heard the backlash and was backing down.

“The People of Ontario set a clear agenda for our government: they elected a government that believes in transparency and accountability for the people, they wanted a government that would clean up the regulatory environment and make Ontario open for business,” wrote Mr. Clark. “Included in [the Bill 66] legislation, were proposed changes to the Planning Act that would create a new economic development tool, the open-for-business planning bylaw. The tool would be available to all local municipalities to ensure they can act quickly to attract businesses seeking development sites by streamlining land use planning approvals.

“The use of this tool would never have been approved at the expense of the Greenbelt and other Provincial interests like water quality or public health and safety. Our Made-In-Ontario Environmental Plan committed to strong enforcement action to protect our lakes, waterways and groundwater from pollution. We will build on the ministry's monitoring and drinking water source protection activities.

“That said, [our government] has listened to the concerns raised by MPPs, municipalities and stakeholders with regards to Schedule 10 of Bill 66 and when the legislature returns in February, we will not proceed with Schedule 10 of the Bill.”

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition heralded the announcement.

“We are pleased that the government listened to concerns expressed by countless citizens, as well as community and environmental organizations, farmers federations, municipalities, labour representatives, and planning associations, among others,” said the Coalition in a statement. “We saw a groundswell of support for protecting Ontario's water, farmland, communities, and environment.”

 

 


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