Kingston’s newly elected City Council has officially weighed into the debate on the provincial government’s controversial Bill 23, or the More Homes Built Faster Act. On the night of Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, councillors unanimously passed a motion signalling the City’s opposition to the Bill, including its impact on the municipality’s ability to fund growth through development charges, as well as the Bill’s changes to the role of conservation authorities in the province.
As Kingstonist reported last week, a staff report distributed ahead of Tuesday’s meeting indicated the Bill could have serious implications for the City of Kingston’s budget. The report noted that changes to the Development Charges Act, which currently allows municipalities to fund capital infrastructure projects through development charges, would result in a “significant financial impact” on cities such as Kingston.
In opposition to the Bill, Council formally requested that the provincial government provide funding to municipalities to allow them to recuperate the loss in revenue resulting from changes to the Development Charges Act. Kingston City Council has also requested that the province provide additional funding for municipalities to offer affordable housing and rent-geared-to-income units.
Council’s motion also takes into account the potentially negative environmental impacts associated with the Bill’s limiting of Conservation Authorities’ power within the province. Bill 23 significantly limits the role Conservation Authorities play in providing environmental assessment on development projects. The motion also addressed the Bill’s reduction of parkland made available to municipalities as well as the opening of formerly-protected land in the Greenbelt for development.
Williamsville District Councillor Vincent Cinanni, the mover of the motion, explained why he brought forward a motion in opposition to a Bill that has already been passed by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. “There wasn’t an opportunity for this Council to express [its] opinion on [Bill 23], since it had already passed. So I wanted to make sure that we could formally [state] our position that we oppose [Bill 23], and that we can point out today that this was our first opportunity as a Council [to weigh in].”
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh District Councillor Ryan Boehme addressed the potential impact the Bill could have on local taxpayers, as he spoke in favour of the motion. “This is a perfect example of something that affects our city, it affects our taxpayers, it affects how we do development, and how we do development well. So, I’m going to fully support this, and I really hope that there can be some reviews of that entire Bill.”
“Often, a lot of these things seem rushed and there’s a lack of consultation,” Boehme continued. “This is probably a good example of where there’s intent, but the end effect is not necessarily going to be what the intent was at the start. It will actually cause other issues which would essentially become a greater burden on our tax base.”
Don Amos, the Councillor for Portsmouth District, noted, “I think this is an excellent way for our new Council to kick off. We want to help our city grow in the right way, unfortunately, this is not the right way. Bill 23 [is] really handcuffing our staff… and it was not well thought out. I think our voice is going to be [one of] many voices going to Queen’s Park.”
Sydenham District Councillor Conny Glenn warned of the potential long-term ramifications Bill 23 could have on the province. “Pushing something like this through is going to create crises downstream, and that’s where I think we need to emphasize our points,” Glenn noted. “This is potentially going to create [a] financial crisis, this is going to potentially create [an] environmental crisis, infrastructure crisis… If this goes through the way it is, the pressures that it’s going to place on municipalities are untold. We still have details that are going to come down, but slowing this process down so that another crisis doesn’t develop out of this, I think, is critically important.”
Through the motion, Council also asked the provincial government to undertake a consultation process to allow municipalities time to review the potential impact of the Bill’s regulatory changes. The City has requested a minimum of 90 days to “review and report back to the province with comments and suggestions regarding the regulations.”
A copy of the motion will be sent to all relevant officials within the provincial Cabinet, including Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, and Sylvia Jones, the Deputy Premier. The motion will also be forwarded to opposition leaders and MPPs from across the region.