Here's what the Ontario government did during the first few weeks of the fall session
It’s been a busy first two weeks at Ontario’s Legislature.
The Progressive Conservative government was hounded about the Greenbelt after a contentious summer that led Premier Doug Ford to reverse his decision to develop 15 sites within the protected land. New housing and health legislation was tabled and opposition parties have moved forward to fight what they call Greenbelt 2.0.
Here are a few things to know about what’s happened at Queen’s Park so far:
Now that the government’s decision to develop parts of the Greenbelt has been reversed, opposition parties have moved on to other changes the province has made in the name of housing, particularly alterations to urban boundaries.
The NDP have asked the province’s auditor general to review the expansions, arguing that some of the same developers that stood to benefit from Greenbelt land removal would benefit from the changes to municipal boundaries.
The party released an internal memo to the media last week that appears to show there was a lack of Indigenous consultation and third-party involvement in the decision-making process.
Housing Minister Paul Calandra has said the government will not be reversing its decision. He says the changes to urban boundaries are completely separate from the decisions made about the Greenbelt.
GREENBELT LEGISLATION COMING IN TWO WEEKS
When the government reversed the Greenbelt decision, it said that it would be introducing legislation that would return the land but also codify the boundaries of the Greenbelt, ensuring that any future changes would have to be done by legislation and not just regulation.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Calandra indicated the legislation would come the “first day they are back” after the Thanksgiving holidays. This would be the week of Oct. 16th.
The government has also said it will review all Greenbelt land, as well as hundreds of applications for removal, as part of an already legislated review set to happen every 10 years.
NEW HOUSING LEGISLATION
The Progressive Conservatives carried through on a promise to bring forward legislation that would change the definition of affordable housing.
The proposal, according to new regulations posted last week, would alter the definition to consider the housing costs that are affordable for households in the 60th percentile of gross annual income within the municipality.
It would do so by identifying purchase prices that would result in “annual accommodation costs equal to 30 per cent of the income of the household.”
The “Affordable Homes and Good Jobs Act” also changes the boundary of St. Thomas, Ontario–likely a result of the new Volkswagen battery plant being built there.
SPENDING IS DOWN
Ontario spent $2.6 billion less in the first quarter of the fiscal year than planned.
The Ontario Financial Accountability Office (FAO) released a report on Wednesday saying the province spent about $40.2 billion in the first three months of the 2023-24 fiscal year, between April 1 and June 30. The Progressive Conservatives had originally allotted $42.8 billion in spending for this period
The majority of underspending occurred in healthcare, however the report noted this could be due to a “delay in posting” for drug program payments in June 2023.
The government tabled legislation that would, if passed, establish a new organization called Ontario Health atHome. This organization would coordinate all home care services across the province through Ontario Health Teams.
The government says Ontario Health atHome “will be a one-stop shop that provides people with easy-to-understand home care plans that let them know the care they are going to receive and when before going home from hospital.”
Few details about how this organization would function have been provided.
OSSTF AGREES TO NO STRIKE
Members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation have agreed to binding arbitration, which would prevent a strike from occurring.
As part of the negotiations, if no collective agreement could be reached by Oct. 27, a third party would be brought in to make the final decisions on unresolved issues.
The province also reached a tentative agreement with elementary teachers, although an agreement has not yet been reached for about 80,000 teachers and occasional teacher members of the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
LIBERAL LEADERSHIP GETS FIERY
The race for a new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party is heating up, with MPP Adil Shamji dropping out to support Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
Crombie has raised nearly one million dollars in her bid for leadership. She has had to defend some of those donations after tens of thousands of dollars appeared to have come from one developer based in the Toronto area.
Crombie has also said she will rturn from her leave of absence as Mississauga’s mayor to take part in the city’s budget process later this fall.
MPPS NOT IN THE LEGISLATURE THIS WEEK
Members of Provincial Parliament will return to the legislature on Oct. 16.
OTHER BILLS AND REGULATIONS OF NOTE PROPOSED THIS WEEK:
- Transportation for the Future Act: This legislation changes the City of Toronto Act to allow the TTC to enter into an agreement with a municipality to allow them to operate, maintain or operate part of the transit system. It also allows municipalities to impose transit station charges on development to pay for costs related to the construction of new GO stations.
- Consultation on resident support personnel in long-term care: The ministry is seeking feedback on whether resident support personnel should be allowed to assist with personal supports in the future and, if so, what those supports should be.
- Regulation to protect Black Ash and its habitat within certain municipalities under the Endangered Species Act once a temporary suspension lifts on Jan. 25, 2024. The proposal includes conditional exemptions.
-With reporting from CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer Katherine DeClerq