Minister McMeekin Keynote at Building Niagara Together Event
Friday, May 13, 2016
Ted McMeekin, minister of municipal affairs and housing, was in Niagara on May 11 as the keynote speaker at the annual Building Niagara Together event.
The event, hosted by the Niagara Chamber Partnership (Fort Erie, Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Colborne-Wainfleet, Welland-Pelham, West Lincoln), along with sponsors Horizon Utilities and the Niagara Industrial Association, brings together Niagara’s elected leaders to create connections and conversations that explore the issues that are important to taxpayers across the region.
McMeekin touched on recently announced proposed changes to Greenbelt legislation, and applauded Niagara for adding lands to the Greenbelt.
“We want to grow complete communities that attract jobs and investment and create vibrant, livable urban centres. This includes proposing transit-friendly density targets to improve commute times and reduce traffic congestion.”
The ministry announced that it will also be suggesting existing and planned transit and transportation corridors be mapped and protected for future use. Proposing stronger rules for municipalities to protect prime employment lands will also be proposed.
During the minister’s consultations on the land use planning system, concerns were voiced regarding what should and shouldn’t be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.
In Niagara, Grimsby, Wainfleet, Niagara Falls, Pelham, Thorold and Welland have supported a motion that calls on the provincial government to limit the jurisdiction of the OMB to questions of law or process, and that the OMB be required to uphold the decisions of municipal councils unless they are contrary to the processes and rules set out in legislation. In response to the public consultation, and to the motion that was supported by 80 municipalities, the minister’s office is reviewing the scope and effectiveness of the OMB.
The ministry has also been working on Bill 181, the Municipal Elections Modernization Act. If passed, the act would help ensure the rules governing how municipal leaders are elected are clear, and reflect the evolving needs of communities. Ranked ballots is an option being considered, which allows a voter to rank candidates in order of preference.
There is some push for this in Niagara. Oakville has become the first municipality in Ontario to officially pass a unanimous resolution to adopt ranks ballots for the 2018 election. A shorter campaign period, by 120 days is also being proposed. This would be good news as a tighter campaign season would allow councils to be more effective for a longer period of time before heading into election mode.
The minister spoke passionately about a long-term affordable housing strategy.
“We know that only with a shared sense of purpose, with all three levels of government, working together, can we ensure that people in communities across this province have access to the housing they need and deserve. I look forward to attending the federal-provincial-territorial minister’s meeting this June where we will be working on the development of a national housing strategy.”
In Niagara, where we have experienced a shortage of affordable housing for some time, a national strategy is long overdue. While we have many advocates across the region working on this issue, getting all three levels of government on the same page can only provide a better understanding of this crisis, and hopefully some meaningful strategies.
— Dolores Fabiano is executive director of Niagara Falls, Port Colborne-Wainfleet and Welland-Pelham chambers of commerce.