Ford government fast-tracks 6 new GTA development deals using controversial MZOs
Ministerial Zoning Orders allow government to authorize development, regardless of local rules
The Ford government pushed through another six development deals Monday night using a powerful tool called a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO).
The move comes after an already unprecedented number of MZOs used by the Ontario government since April.
The orders, which would fast-track land developments in the Greater Toronto Area, allow the government to immediately authorize development, regardless of local rules for land-use planning decisions.
The six development areas include Markham, Caledon, Vaughan, Clarington and New Tecumseth, and span various types of developments such as long-term care homes, housing and restaurants.
The news comes in the wake of a controversial move by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark who issued an MZO in October to fast-track a distribution centre and production facility in the Lower Duffins Creek wetland in Pickering.
MZOs issued 'under the cover of COVID': opposition
During Tuesday's question period at Queen's Park, NDP Finance Critic Catherine Fife accused Premier Doug Ford of "authorizing the destruction of wetlands under the cover of COVID." She added that at least 19 of the previous MZOs benefit PC party donors and insiders.
"Why is this government using MZOs to bulldoze wetlands and green spaces to let its buddies make more money?" Fife asked.
In response, Ford accused the former Liberal government of hiding its use of MZOs, and added his government is "proud" to issue the orders.
"I want more MZOs to stir the economy, to get jobs out there," Ford said.
"I guess everyone in this room has heard the escalating cost in housing — it's no longer young people who can't afford housing, it's everyone. We want more houses out there, more condominiums, more townhouses, to make sure that people can afford it. We will never stop issuing MZOs for the people of Ontario, the people that need housing."
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schriener called the move "irresponsible and reckless."
"There's got to be some sort of public process now around how MZOs are issued," Schriener said.
"We have to put pressure on this government to follow our own provincial planning laws and rules, to say that 'Hey, you know what? Protecting the people and places that we love is not red tape.' They protect our homes, they protect our businesses. They protect people's lives," he said.
Ford insisted an MZO is passed only after the province receives a letter by the city council or mayor of each region asking his government to allow the development.
With files from Mike Crawley