On September 24th, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, released his 2012 Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report, which among other recommendations, seeks reforms to the Development Charges Act, 1997.

The Commissioner argues for the lifting of current restrictions which limit the use of Development Charges (DCs) to fund transit. This supports a long-held municipal position – growth should pay for growth. Transit is an important component of transportation systems too.

Among the Commissioner’s findings:

“Public transit is treated inequitably, despite the clear benefits it provides in addressing traffic congestion, thereby reducing air pollution and [Greenhouse Gas] emissions.”

“Some urban planners and municipal finance experts have suggested that DCs are structured in a manner that undermines the growth management goals contained within provincial and municipal planning tools.”

“It may be timely to re-examine how DCs – a fiscal tool – can work in concert with, rather than against, the planning tools in place.”

“Statutory limitations were specifically identified as a key barrier for municipalities wishing to enhance their public transit system.”

On August 20th, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Linda Jeffrey announced that a consultation on the Development Charges Act would take place in the coming months.  While very few details regarding this consultation are currently available, its scope must include transit and other service based matters.  An August 20th news release from Ontario Home Builders Association (OHBA) applauded the Minister’s announcement. Like them, we await further release of the goal and scope of the review.  

It is safe to say, that municipalities could not support a roll back of Development Charge funding for services. As the Environmental Commissioner indicated, the current discount and service level calculation for transit needs attention. The Development Charges Act was amended for the 2006 Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension and lifted the ten year historical service level average and the 10% discount just for that project. It is time to extend this to all other municipal DCs across Ontario as the Environmental Commissioner has noted.
Municipal priority areas for DCA changes have long been tabled with the Province, so AMO’s members are very interested to understand what the review is about in greater detail.  The current Development Charges Act needs improvement and the government’s review must include an examination of key municipal issues.

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