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Ontario rescinds controversial development component of Bill 66

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Ontario will not be moving forward with a controversial component of a Bill designed to cut red tape around planning after widespread criticism that it would come at the expense of environmental protection and open the province’s Greenbelt to development.

Source water protection advocates argued that the “open for business planning bylaws” under newly-proposed Bill 66 would have allowed municipalities to seek exemptions from critical sections of the Clean Water Act to fast track developments for companies seeking to create 50 or more jobs.

In an effort to stimulate the economy, schedule 10 of Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, would have bypassed a current legal requirement that municipal land use decisions must conform to significant threat policies in source protection plans approved under the Clean Water Act.

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark made the announcement on social media.

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“Our Government for the People has listened to the concerns raised by MPPs, municipalities and stakeholders with regards to Schedule 10 of Bill 66,” Clark wrote on Twitter. “And when the legislature returns in February, we will not proceed with Schedule 10 of the Bill.”

In a late January announcement at the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association conference in Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed Clark, noting that the offending portion of the proposed Act would get the axe.

“We heard you loud and clear on Bill 66,” Ford told Ontario’s municipal officials gathered at the conference. “I always say we’re here to listen, and this is proof of listening,” he said, adding that development would never come at the expense of environmental protection.

Despite widespread concern over the proposal, not all local governments had been up in arms. For instance, Niagara Regional Council passed a resolution in support of the bill, while the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), which represents most local governments in the province, noted that it would need more time to explore the implications of how schedule 10 would affect its membership.

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