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COVID-19 Update – July 8, 2020

Today the provincial government introduced a sweeping new bill to kickstart the province’s economic recovery.

The omnibus bill COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, proposes to change 20 pieces of current legislation that govern the province’s schools, municipalities, and justice system. If passed, the proposed legislation would:

      • Amend the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act, to equip municipalities with the tools they need to continue to provide public services in alternative ways, including allowing municipalities and their local boards to continue to choose to hold meetings virtually at any time and provide proxy voting. Allow for a new community benefits charge to help municipalities pay for the infrastructure and services needed for growing communities.
      • Make changes to the Environmental Assessment Act to allow increased focus on projects that have the highest impact on the environment, reduce timelines by half from six to three years for the largest projects, and match the level of assessment requirements with the level of environmental impact so critical infrastructure projects can get off the ground without undue delay. Additionally, require large landfill applicants to ensure there is local support from host municipalities and certain neighbouring adjacent municipalities within 3.5km as part of the approvals process.
      • Amend the Building Code Act, 1992 to transfer regulation-making authority from the Lieutenant Governor in Council to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and clarify the scope of these authorities.
      • Update the Planning Act to reduce red tape with the intent to speed up transit construction, the development of affordable housing and construction projects (that are not in the Greenbelt.) When making a Minister’s Zoning Order, the proposed changes would give the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing additional authority to apply inclusionary zoning (so that new developments must include affordable housing) and address site plan matters, such as the exterior design of buildings, landscaping and pedestrian and vehicle access.
      • Make other changes in the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act to give municipalities flexibility to fund community services for new developments through modified development charges and a new community benefits charge. The modified development charges would allow municipalities to recover 100 per cent of the cost to build critical community services like long-term care, child care, public health facilities, playgrounds, libraries and affordable housing.
      • Establish the Office of the Provincial Land and Development Facilitator on a permanent basis, and give the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the authority to appoint the Facilitator. The Facilitator provides advice and recommendations to the Minister on growth and land-use planning matters.
      • Merge the Reducing Regulatory Costs for Business Act, 2017 with the Burden Reduction Reporting Act so that all burden reduction requirements would now be in a single law – the Modernizing Ontario for People and Businesses Act. These proposed changes would broaden the reach of burden reduction requirements for legislation, regulation, policies and forms to include additional stakeholder groups like for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.
      • Amend the Transit-Oriented Communities Act and the Ministry of Infrastructure Act to advance the Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) Program, which would help connect people to places by building communities that are centred around transit stations along the four priority subway projects.
      • Make changes to the Justices of the Peace Act to provide greater transparency and encourage more diversity throughout the recruitment and appointment process. Proposed changes would require the committee to publish diversity statistics at every step of the process in their annual reports (the disclosure of this information would be voluntary), and change the composition of the committee to increase efficiency while ensuring the participation and representation of local representatives and non-lawyers.

The new bill also includes many of the measures announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce this week to end school suspensions for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3.

Other ancillary measures related to the pandemic would include changes to the Provincial Offences Act and amendments to the legislation regarding English- and French-language educational broadcasting to promote distance learning initiatives. 

At the same time the government announced an additional measure not included in the Legislation – the establishment of a new agency, Invest Ontario. This agency will promote the province as a key investment destination. While there are no real details, the government says it will it will “initially focus on three important sectors for COVID-19 recovery where Ontario has a globally competitive advantage: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and technology.”

However, the bill does not come without opposition, as critics believe many of the changes have little to do with pandemic recovery, including changes to the environmental assessment laws, justice of the peace appointments, payday loan terms, drainage and farm regulation legislation, and education measures.

For more information: Ontario Starting Down the Path to Growth, Renewal and Economic Recovery Backgrounder