Here's why Doug Ford wants to bypass usual rules to fast track new developments in Ontario
If you were previously unaware of what Minister's Zoning Orders (MZO) were, you've likely heard the term lately due to the swirl of discussion about Ontario Premier Doug Ford's controversial use of them.
Through MZOs, the province can bypass due municipal processes before a new development is permitted — processes that include things like public consultation meetings, in which residents and other stakeholders are given information about a forthcoming project in their community and can give their input.
Ford has used the orders lately in the case of multiple Toronto condo complexes, the heritage Foundry Buildings that suddenly started to be demolished in January without any warning, and an Amazon warehouse in Pickering that was due to be the biggest in Canada.
100%! @BradMBradford @anabailaoTO please support fellow PHC member, Cllr Wong-Tam’s effort to discourage MZOs! Proper local planning needs local community involvement. I suppose that would go against PHC efforts to get an MZO to ram poorly planned housing “solutions” thru tho 🤔— The Swedish Chef (@Bimmer80306037) March 6, 2021
Ford has been widely criticized for employing so many of them in recent weeks, but has stood his ground in defending their use, reassuring people that despite the fact that the public may be surprised by the new construction, the City is always well aware of it.
"The only MZOs we issue are if we get a letter from the region and the local mayor and council. Once they give us a letter asking for the MZO, then we issue it," Ford said in a press conference on Monday, referencing the recent order granted for the Amazon facility before the e-commerce giant pulled out of the deal just last week.
The premier also reiterated why he feels such projects need to happen quickly in the wake of COVID-19 and the economic crisis that months of forced lockdowns and border closures have caused.
"As we come through this pandemic, guess what the number one issue is going to be? The economy... We can't afford to wait. [Developments] can take two to three years on all fronts," he added.
"If a big company like Amazon wants to come, they aren't going to invest tens of millions of dollars in a region where you can't even get a damn permit when they can go down to Ohio and get one in six months. Folks, we're competing against other regions around North America."
The fight will not be over until the Ford's government reversals of protection legal tools-bill 257, schedule 3 is only latest segment, are undone. The fact Province was legally able to push in regressive measures over the decades of protection policy indicates problems in ON.— cedric (@treebeing) March 15, 2021
MZOs are concerning for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the environmental impacts of bypassing the comprehensive studies usually required for such builds, as well as the social implications of citizens and even local politicians having no say in or clue about massive new builds in their area.
But, Ford does raise a point about the pace at which the Toronto area is growing, and the accelerated timelines needed to meet demand for new housing.
Also, about the money and jobs that things like the Amazon facility could have brought to the local economy, especially when there are so many other places where such companies can take their business instead.
In the case of that development, it's just extremely unfortunate that the property in question was on environmentally sensitive wetlands in the protected Ontario Greenbelt — and also worrying that an MZO would have paid no mind to that fact.
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