Bill 25 'a mid-peninsula planner's dream'

By Irene Gentle 05/30/03 Flamborough Post


Everybody wants to get from point A to point B faster.

But critics fear that the province's proposed Bill 25 isn't the way to do that.

Jason Thorne, executive director of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, said that while there are good things in the proposed bill - including provisions for high-occupancy lanes, a "smart" transit card allowing travel with a variety of public transit systems seamlessly and bus bypass shoulders - the bottom line needs to be put in park.

"We've dissected the bill quite a bit," said Thorne. "It's a very dangerous bill. The process for the mid-peninsula highway that everyone agrees was flawed - they're basically codifying that."

Critics say the policy runs over local planning jurisdiction and property rights by allowing the Minister of Transportation to select transportation corridors across the province.

"It is giving the minister huge power to draw these swaths across the province," said Thorne. "It puts a freeze on the land."

According to a City of Burlington background report, the bill would force all municipal planning documents, including official plans and zoning bylaws, to conform to the MTO transportation corridors. Under the bill, conflicts will not go before the Ontario Municipal Board for resolution, it said.

Property owners who feel their homes were damaged by or decreased in value through these corridors will also lose their right to launch legal action for the loss.

And the MTO corridors will be exempt from the Environmental Assessment Act, meaning alternatives will not need to be examined, possibly leading to the fast-tracking of highways, it said.

But Bob Nichols, a spokesperson for the MTO, denied all that.

"I've heard some of these criticisms," he said. "In terms of the EA, the EA Act will continue to apply to all projects. They'd still be subject to the EA Act and all that will apply to it."

He said the OMB process will also still be in place.

The goal, said Nichols, is to protect future transportation corridors, whether for transit or traffic, "for our future and the future of the next generations."

As for compensation to property owners, "Fair market value would be provided for landowners," said Nichols.

And though the MTO would trump city planning, "we intend to work very closely with municipalities," said Nichols, as well as hold extensive public consultation. "These plans will be developed in the open. They'll be transparent."

Without an election in the offing, Thorne fears the act may go through soon.

"I'm hoping people react now instead of waiting for the Ministry to draw the lines on the map," he said.

Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot MPP Ted McMeekin has also reacted strongly to Bill 25, introducing a petition against it yesterday (Thursday) at Queen's Park.

"This is without a doubt the most ill-conceived and community destroying piece of legislation I've seen from this government," he said. "It's an affront to any kind of process. This is a mid-peninsula corridor planner's dream."

He attacked what he sees as the proposed bill's intent to strip power from municipalities, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in favour of the MTO and called the legislation "a blatant attack on property rights."

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