Saturday, September 8, 2007

Responding to Questions from the Manor Park Chronicle

Manor Park Chronicle

September, 2007 Edition

Questions for Ottawa-Vanier, October 10, 2007 Provincial Election

Q1: The NCC and the governments of Ontario and Quebec are jointly funding an Environmental Assessment of proposed locations for one or more new interprovincial crossings. There has been considerable public comment on this issue from politicians at all three levels and from the general public.

Do you favour any of the options under study? Do you believe that Kettle Island would be a viable location for a new crossing?

Word Limit: 275

I currently do not favour any of the options under study. There is a fundamental flaw in the Terms of Reference of the Environmental Assessment. They are based on the assumption that we should continue to encourage and expect growth in demand for automobile and trucking transportation infrastructure. As we are all well aware, Canada, like every other nation, needs to develop and implement action plans that respond to the twin threats of climate change and dwindling carbon based energy supplies. Such action plans therefore, need to point us in the direction of reducing, not increasing our dependence on the personal automobile and reliance on truck transport. Any future transportation infrastructure investments need to recognize this reality.

The need to remove truck transport from downtown Ottawa provides us with the opportunity to make wise long-term investments in our infrastructure. Our first goal should be to reduce demand for automobile infrastructure by ensuring that a seamless inter-provincial mass transit system is developed. Second, recognizing that rail is a far more efficient use of energy, we must begin to plan now for greater reliance on it as opposed to trucks for the transportation of goods. Third, any new infrastructure should be tolled to appropriate cost to users.

I am not in favour of the Kettle Island crossing. According to studies already completed by the NCC and the former Region it has been shown to be the most costly, not only financially, but also environmentally and socially. We need a solution that removes truck traffic from our communities. As your MPP I would work for a transportation infrastructure that brings us to together, instead of splitting us apart.

Q2: Zoning decisions made at the municipal level may be challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Since the OMB is a quasi-judicial body, a successful case usually depends on legal counsel and expert witnesses.

What are your views on the role and structure of the OMB?

Word Limit: 200

Ontario is unique within Canada in having this type of oversight of municipal decision-making. Like our antiquated municipal tax system, it has its origins in late 19th Century patriarchal Ontario. It was developed at a time when the only way to legally deal with many municipal matters was through private bills in the Provincial Legislature. Obviously, times have changed and our municipalities have matured. Unfortunately, the OMB has not; as it continues to intervene in the same manner it did over 100 years ago.

Being quasi-judicial it is by definition undemocratic and arbitrary. Far too often a local community will, through democratic process, choose a particular development path, only to be threatened with appeal to the OMB. Local communities are often at a distinct disadvantage as they seldom can match the resources of a deep-pocketed developer.

As your MPP I would propose a thorough review of the mandate and purpose of the OMB. We must start by looking at best practices in other jurisdictions in Canada. How has the rest of the country been served without such an oversight body? Maybe they know something we don’t.

Q3: Municipalities across Ontario are struggling to meet their commitments within their current taxation capabilities. The basis for calculating property assessment for taxation purposes has also been controversial.

What services should be funded by property taxes?

What is the best method to finance municipalities?

Should there be changes to the structure and responsibilities of MPAC (the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation)?

Word Limit: 350

The municipal tax system in Ontario, like the OMB, is a quaint relic of the 19th Century that has not kept up with the times. The Green Party of Ontario believes that part of the solution lies in moving toward a system that assesses land value, but not the value of buildings and improvements made to such buildings, to determine municipal tax rates. This would vastly simplify the responsibilities of MPAC, as the relative value of building improvements would not be considered in their calculations.

Our plan would encourage development more along the lines of a municipality’s official plan. Land value is proportional not only to its quantity, but also to the scale and type of development permitted. Our proposal would create a disincentive to land speculation, as the property would be taxed according to its full potential for use, as reflected in its assessment and class.

This removes the disincentive of higher taxes on home improvement. A property owner is more likely to invest in best building practices, and erect a carbon neutral facility with the threat of higher taxes removed. This enhances not only the value of the building, but the community at large with cleaner air.

Another part of the solution lies in apportioning taxes according to the cost of specific services provided. Dense communities are generally less costly to serve than sprawling communities. We need a method to recognize this fact when tax bills are calculated.

Changes also are needed to the Provincial Development Charges Act. It is much too restrictive in its definition of what costs municipalities can recoup from Greenfield development. This needs to be changed to ensure that the full cost of urban sprawl is assessed to those who create it.

The cost of services that involve income redistribution and equity-related goals should not be borne by the municipal taxpayer. Therefore the provincial government should take back responsibility for 100% of the funding of all provincially mandated social service programs. The Liberals have had four years to fix the problem created by the Harris Conservatives, yet they have failed to act.

Q4: The provision of a secure electricity supply, while minimizing environmental impacts, is an important issue in Ontario. Ontario has a growing population, yet an aging electricity generation and transmission infrastructure.

What do you propose should be done on both the electricity supply and demand sides?

Word Limit: 175

As Ontario and the world confronts dwindling non-renewable energy reserves we must refocus our strategy on developing local renewable resources.

Unfortunately the province seems determined to make a critical investment error as it considers betting the farm on a $45-billion investment in nuclear energy. It takes at least 12 years to bring a nuclear plant on stream. Historically they have been drastically over-budget and never as reliable as predicted.

Instead, we must invest now in local communities. We need to remove electric element space and water heating from hundreds of thousands of Ontario homes. We must provide real-time feedback to consumers on consumption. We need to aggressively push the installation of solar hot water and geo-thermal earth energy systems.

We need changes to our building and electrical codes and the Planning Act that will mandate the highest energy efficiency of all future construction and development. It is much cheaper, more secure, and more environmentally friendly to conserve a megawatt than produce one. Our future energy security depends on a strong localized energy infrastructure.

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