Ontario government proposes new powers to expropriate land, reduce environmental approvals

The Ontario PC government has introduced measures that would expand the province’s power to expropriate property and reduce requirements for environmental approvals, in a move that it says will speed up the construction of badly needed new transit projects.

Speaking in the legislature Tuesday, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that the Building Transit Faster Act and associated regulatory changes would “would help deliver a transit system for the 21st century faster, for the benefit of the people of the Greater Toronto Area.”

“To deliver transit on time and on budget, we have a responsibility to think differently,” she said.

“We can’t keep doing the same things, the same way, and then be surprised when projects are chronically over budget and delayed for years.”

Opposition MPPs said they would have to wait for more details on the government’s proposals before they could give them a full appraisal, but raised concerns about what they’d seen so far.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing to quickly rolling out transit in this province is the fact that the current government actually ripped up existing plans and undermined years of transit planning,” said Green party Leader Mike Schreiner (Guelph).

If passed, the act would eliminate the right of landowners to have what’s known as a hearing of necessity if their land is being expropriated for a new transit project. The hearings, which are non-binding, are supposed to determine whether a proposed expropriation is fair and necessary to execute a government project.

A separate regulatory change not included in the legislation but that the government said would be introduced by the Ministry of the Environment would allow Metrolinx to move ahead with early works for a transit project before its environmental assessment process is complete. The measure applies specifically to the Ontario Line, the $11-billion centrepiece of Premier Doug Ford’s $28.5-billion transit expansion plan.

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