December 9, 2016

The Ontario Legislature rose today and will resume on February 21, 2017.  A number of bills of interest to municipal governments were debated in this session, and are outlined below.

Bill 7, Promoting Affordable Housing Act – Carried Third Reading
Bill 7 aims to ensure that Ontarians have better access to affordable and adequate housing by amending the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, the Housing Services Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, and repealing the Elderly Persons’ Housing Aid Act.  The changes have a number of impacts for municipal governments, including:
  • the ability for greater flexibility to administer social housing,
  • the ability to choose to implement an inclusionary zoning bylaw to require new developments to contain a certain amount of affordable housing,
  • the requirement of the removal of fees for the development of secondary suites, and
  • the requirement of municipal governments without property standards bylaws to assume responsibility for inspecting and enforcing standards.
Overall, many of these changes are positive and would allow for the development of additional affordable housing.  There are some areas of concern for municipal governments, particularly, the requirement of all municipal governments to enforce residential maintenance standards, which will have significant impact on small and rural municipal governments. AMO’s submission includes the full list of concerns.

Bill 39, Aggregate Resources and Mining Modernization Act – Referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy
Bill 39 has been introduced based on feedback on the discussion document “Blueprint for Change: A proposal to modernize and strengthen the Aggregate Resources Act policy framework”.  Since 2012, the Province has reviewed the Aggregates Resources Act, including a Standing Committee report tabled in 2013 and a response from the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2014.
The AMO Aggregates Task Force has participated and provided comments throughout this process.  As a permissive piece of legislation, the details that will impact municipal governments will largely be found in the future regulations, not the Bill itself.

Bill 41, Patients First Act – Carried Third Reading
Bill 41 implements the Patients First Strategy to transform home, community and primary care, and to strengthen public health.  It amends a number of Acts including the Health Protection and Promotion Act.  The government’s stated intent is to enact legislation to support access to high quality, integrated care for patients in Ontario, no matter where they live.

AMO was pleased to see that the Bill does not transfer funding and accountability oversight of Public Health Units to Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).  It will create more formalized linkages between public health and LHINs for population health planning.  This is a positive development; however, resourcing issues will need to be addressed to support this enhanced role. Also, the Bill does not address all areas of the health system in need of change from the municipal perspective including long-term care, land ambulance, hospital capital funding, and physician recruitment. AMO provided a written submission in November 2016 to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

Bill 59, Putting Consumers First Act – Referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy
Bill 59 would, if passed, strengthen a number of consumer protections by introducing new rules around home inspections, door-to-door sales, and payday loan establishments.  Bill 59 enacts the new Home Inspection Act, 2016 and amends the Collection and Debt Settlement Services Act, the Consumer Protection Act, 2002, and the Payday Loans Act, 2008.

The Bill would give municipal governments the authority to control where payday loan establishments are sited and the number of operations that are permitted, to protect low-income residents.  Door-to-door sales of certain household energy products would be banned, and would be enforced by the Province. AMO has made a submission to the Standing Committee.

Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act – in Second Reading Debate
Bill 68, if passed, would amend the Municipal Act, the City of Toronto Act, and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, as well as several other Acts.  AMO is preparing a detailed review of the proposed legislative amendments for the AMO Board’s consideration in January 2017 as input into the Second Reading and Standing Committee process that will restart in February.

Bill 70, Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act (Budget Measures), 2016 – Carried Third Reading
This Fall Economic Statement companion bill amended a number of Acts that have municipal impacts. The Acts amended included:
  • Assessment Act changes to managed forest and pipeline rates and landfill assessment
  • Fire Protection and Prevention Act amendments related to minor process improvements to interest arbitration.  AMO’s request to include an amendment to require arbitrators to consider municipal capacity to pay was not successful.
  • Municipal Act amendments to make changes to create more latitude around dealing with vacancy rebates and removing barriers to ending “capping” of commercial classes which were welcome.  However, it also included unwelcome amendments to freeze taxes paid by multi-residential units to 2016 amounts where the tax rate is over 2.0.
No proposed AMO amendments to Bill 70 were adopted through the legislative process.

Bill 151, Waste-Free Ontario Act – proclaimed on November 30, 2016
Bill 151 officially moves Ontario toward a full producer responsibility model for waste management in the Province, and signals the transition of existing diversion programs under the Waste Diversion Act to the new framework.

The new Act, once fully implemented, will make Producers fully responsible for the end-of-life management of their designated products and packaging. If transition proceeds as intended under the Act, the future shift is expected to bring savings to municipal governments-the Blue Box program in particular. The AMO Waste Task Force is working with the province and other stakeholders to ensure that this high-level enabling legislation benefits municipal governments who will remain responsible for the majority of the waste management system even after the transition is complete. For further information, see AMO’s policy update.

Bills expected in the Ontario Legislative Spring 2017 session include the following:

Conservation Authorities Act
It is anticipated that the next session of the legislature will include some changes to the Conservation Authorities Act. The majority of changes will come forward as guidance or regulation. Areas of legislative change will confirm the authority of municipal governments in appointing Conservation Authority Boards, affirming the general role of Conservation Authorities and confirming the regulatory role of Conservation Authorities.  

Ontario Municipal Board Act
Amendments to the Ontario Municipal Board Act and Planning Act are expected. The key changes are expected to limit what is appealable, impact Board operations and expand on dispute resolution procedures. These changes may also impact committees of adjustment, and local appeal bodies.