Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

Bill 222 set to change the way transit construction takes place in Ontario

Published on October 23, 2020

The Ontario government recently introduced Bill 222, a bill which purportedly aims to speed up transit construction by taking away the rights of businesses, residents and municipalities.

While Bill 222 in theory might speed up transit construction, the bill does nothing to address the two main reasons why transit projects aren’t being built quickly enough in our region. Transit gets delayed because approved transit projects get cancelled, or they don’t get funded, and the Ford government is guilty of doing both of these things.

Bill 222 in more detail:

  • Lets the government decide what transit projects get to be built under these new rules. The government already decided to give itself enhanced powers over the four priority projects, the Ontario Line, Eglinton West, Scarborough Subway and the Yonge Line Extension. Bill 222 allows the government to apply these new powers to other projects, such as GO expansion and the Hurontario LRT.
  • Gives the government the right to take over municipal assets, like a road or a subway line, to build transit. To give you an example of what this means, during the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown, the construction company wanted to close off Bathurst and Eglinton intersection to speed up construction but community backlash led to the municipality approving a partial closure.
  • Allows a transit project to jump to the front of the queue and move utilities when it suits them instead of coordinating carefully with utility companies and municipalities. In practice, this means a road might be dug for a transit project and then dug again a year later to replace sewage lines because the province doesn’t want to wait for the careful coordination meetings that currently take place.
  • Allows the government to classify any private or public land they want as "transit-oriented community" (TOC) land, even if it is not near a station.
  • For land near a priority project or land classified as TOC land, a landowner no longer gets their hearing of necessity - or their day in court - to contest the expropriation.
  • Allows the government to impose new zoning requirements on any TOC land, strengthening the power Ontario already has to exempt land from municipal zoning laws. What this means is the Ontario government could require a developer to build affordable housing or build at a certain height.

 

This is what we think:

  • Increasing density near transit stations is a good move, but it is important the development helps build an affordable livable and dynamic city. New development near transit should include truly affordable housing, two and three-bedroom apartments – and not just microunits that maximize developer profits – and facilities the neighbhourhood truly needs, like a community or seniors centre.
  • This bill doesn’t do a lot to speed up transit construction because it doesn’t address the two main reasons why transit projects get delayed. Doug Ford is guilty of committing the two biggest and most common reasons for transit delays - failing to fund projects and cancelling approved transit plans.
  • A developer-friendly approach might lead to transit that doesn’t benefit our region the most. If a government make decisions on station location and route alignment based on how much a developer can profit or contribute to station construction, then there will be a tendency to build transit to developer land slated for subdivisions or condos and away from dense neighbourhoods where it’s harder to build big, there’s more community concerns, and it’s more costly to build a station.
  • We can see the impact of a developer-first approach with GO station construction. Metrolinx approved Woodbine Entertainment Group’s request to fund the construction of a GO station at their casino and racetrack complex in Ford’s riding, even though Metrolinx’s own report last year found that the projected job opportunities and population growth in the area around the Woodbine station fall below the required minimum for a new stop. Meanwhile, stations that Metrolinx has identified as being crucial to increasing ridership, such as the St Clair Weston GO station, languish.

 

There is a better approach to transit construction.

 

We must build transit right in the GTHA, and that means:

  • planning, funding and building transit projects that most benefit the region the most,
  • engaging in timely construction that respects people, municipalities, and businesses needs,
  • ensuring transit and nearby development includes community benefits and affordable housing and
  • ensuring the project is publicly delivered, maintained and operated.

These are the amendments we introduced to Bill 171, a similar bill, when it went through committee.

 

Timeline

Just one hour ago (on Tuesday, November 10th), the Ford government released its plan for how the public can submit written comment and speak to the bill in committee. As you can see, the government gave witnesses just 48 hours to apply to speak to conservatives at committee.  You must apply to speak before Thursday November 12 at 5pm.

The committee intends to hold public hearings in Toronto (via videoconference) on Wednesday, November 18 and Thursday, November 19, 2020 from 9.00am to 1.00am and 1.00pm – 6.00pm on both days.

Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill 222 are required to register by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

Those who do not wish to make an oral presentation but wish to comment on the Bill may send a written submission by 7:00 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, November 19, 2020.

To register or send a written submission, please visit the following link: ola.org/en/apply-committees. When you send in a submission, please also cc-me at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca.

 

What do you think?

You can also contact Premier Ford and Minister Mulroney directly. Minister Mulroney: 995 905-895-1555 caroline.mulroneyco@pc.ola.org Premier Ford 416-745-2859 doug.fordco@pc.ola.org Please cc-me at jbell-co@ndp.on.ca so we know what is important to you. You are welcome to send me private commentary or public commentary that I can raise in the legislature.

 

Find out more:

We are holding a digital roundtable on the latest issues impacting transit construction in Ontario, and how we can work together to build transit right on Wednesday November 18 at 6pm.  

For more information: https://www.jessicabellmpp.ca/buildtransitright.