Post Update: January 20, 2022
David Laing as Co-Chair of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee delegated to Committee of Council on Wednesday January 19th. See video of the delegation and subsequent discussion starting at 1:01:38 . The outcome was that Council referred the matter and BEAC motion to staff to ask for a report back. See below for further information and history on this issue.
What is an Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO)?
A Ministerial Zoning Order, is an extremely powerful but blunt tool that purportedly helps cut red tape for much needed development proposals and brings them swiftly to the shovel ready stage. In doing so, however, it curtails much of the existing planning process, particularly for environmental protections, it takes away the right of appeal, and eliminates public consultation. It also places much of the decision-making in the office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thus limiting involvement of City and Regional staff as well as the technical experts from the Conservation Authorities.
Historically MZOs have been used only in emergency situations such as the replacement for the one shopping mall in Elliot Lake after the roof collapsed on the existing building a few years ago. The use of MZOs has skyrocketed in the past few years under the current Provincial Government.
The Ministry justifies the use of MZOs, pointing primarily to the need for more affordable housing, and indicating that it is the municipal government’s responsibility for doing due diligence and receiving public feedback prior to an application being sent to the Minister’s Office.
The City of Brampton’s recently sent seven MZO applications to the Minister for approval with little or no public engagement. Some of these applications have little or nothing to do with affordable housing. And a review of some of the applications raises questions about the level of due diligence undertaken by Council and staff prior to making these applications.
Ultimately it is the citizens of this City who must hold our elected representatives to account. Up to now this Council has demonstrated a pretty good track record of savvy development process and environmental stewardship. Which makes these actions by Council, seemingly out of character and particularly puzzling.
The issue of MZOs was raised at the BEAC meeting December 7th. The following motion was received by BEAC members:
Whereas the Auditor General of Ontario has reported that actions of the Provincial Government indicate a bias prioritizing land development at the expense of environmental protections including species at risk and climate change mitigation,
Whereas the Auditor General has reported, and the Ontario District Court has ruled that the Provincial Government has demonstrated an unlawful disregard for public consultation on environmentally significant decisions,
Whereas a spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has stated, “it is our expectation that municipalities have done their due diligence and have conducted proper consultation in their communities before any request for an MZO comes to the Minister for consideration”,
Whereas City of Brampton Council endorsed the Brampton 2040 Vision document in May of 2018 and in January 2020, approved an extensive community engagement strategy to assist in building the 2040 Plan,
Whereas Brampton City Council has passed motions of support for submissions of seven Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing without first providing the substantive opportunity for public consultation,
Whereas it is the understanding of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee (BEAC) that, if these MZOs are approved by the Minister, it effectively removes environmental protections related to the affected land, some of which contain substantial natural capital, environmentally sensitive areas, habitat for endangered species, and flood management issues,
Whereas In 2018 City of Brampton Council created the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee with the purpose to, “engage the community to advance the goals and actions of the City’s Grow Green Environmental Master Plan as well as to advise City Council on environmental planning policy and sustainability matters to promote the protection, enhancement, and management of the City’s natural and built environment”,
Therefore, be it resolved that the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee recommends either:
City Council discontinues supporting the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders as a planning tool until the impact of these orders is better understood in relation to environmental protection and the ability of the City to fulfill the 2040 Vision and meet its carbon reduction targets or;
In the event City Council decides to continue using MZOs as a planning option then BEAC recommends the City create a procedural bylaw for MZOs mandating the preparation of a staff report accompanying each MZO request, including an analysis of servicing costs, an environment impact assessment of the proposal, as well as two public meetings, all to be completed before council votes on whether to send the MZO to the province or not.
David Laing, as co-chair of BEAC, will be delegating to Committee of Council on January 19th, to ask Committee to endorse this motion and take immediate action. The public can watch a livestream of the Committee meeting at https://www.brampton.ca/en/city-hall/meetings-agendas/Pages/Welcome.aspx