Greenspace Alliance comments on the draft new PPS

The Greenspace Alliance responded to the invitation to provide comment on a draft Provincial Policy Statement circulated by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It would replace the current PPS issued in 2005. The PPS is authorized under the Planning Act and has key policy prescriptions which a municipality’s Official Plan and the Ontario Municipal Board must adhere to.

The current PPS is found here:

The September 2012 draft PPS is here: [page no longer online]

A version with “tracked” changes is here (585 KB).

The Alliance made a total of 86 comments. In addition, it attached a Witness Statement that sets out Provincial policy with regard to linkages.

Here are some highlights.

We expressed support for 25 specific changes including:

  • new references to the need to maintain biodiversity and to “providing opportunities to support local food”
  • the recognition of “on-farm diversified uses”
  • a new policy requiring municipalities to keep their zoning by-laws up to date

We encouraged the Ministry to strengthen 39 policies including:

  • while we support the key principle that all policies of the PPS have to be read together, we suggest a policy directive stating that:
    “In situations where there is a conflict with respect to a matter relating to the natural environment or human health, the policy that provides more protection to either the natural environment or human health, or both, prevails”.
  • section lists a number of bases for land use patterns related to densities but we suggest that the first-listed principle should be: “protection of natural heritage systems in accord with Section 2.1.”
  • the draft PPS introduces a new concept, “Green Infrastructure”: Green infrastructure: means natural and human-made elements that provide ecological and hydrological benefits. Green infrastructure can include components such as natural heritage features and systems, parklands, stormwater management systems, urban forests, permeable surfaces, and green roofs. Our comment:
    “Encouraging green infrastructure to “augment” infrastructure could be interpreted as encouraging the use of parks and natural heritage features and systems to store storm water. To avoid this interpretation we suggest to replace “augment” with “complement” and, in the definition, to delete ‘natural heritage features and systems’ and insert ‘additional’ before “parks”. We also agree with the City of Ottawa’s suggestion to insert “street trees”, before “urban forests”.
  • section 2.1.2 reads: The diversity and connectivity of natural features in an area, and the long-term ecological function and biodiversity of natural heritage systems, should be maintained, restored or, where possible, improved,recognizing linkages between and among natural heritage features and areas, surface water features and ground water features. We suggest that “should” should be replaced by “shall”.
  • a new section 2.1.3 reads: Natural heritage systems shall be identified in Ecoregions 6E & 7E1, recognizing that considerations in planning for natural heritage systems in settlement areas, rural areas, and prime agricultural areas may vary. Our comment:
    “While we welcome the addition of new s. 2.1.3, we are concerned by its ambiguity and weakness. It could be improved by stating that the obligation to identify natural heritage systems within its borders or linked to its territory is an obligation of municipalities. The expression “may vary” should be circumscribed by referencing minimum standards such as those expressed in OMNR’s Natural Heritage Reference Manual (2010) and other relevant resource material”.
  • we suggest to strengthen the wording of section 2.2.2 so that it reads (changes underlined):
    “2.2.2 Development and site alteration shall not be permitted in or near sensitive surface water features and sensitive ground water features unless it can be demonstrated that these features and their related hydrologic functions will be protected, improved or restored.”
  • we suggest that seniors residences should be included among institutional uses that are not permitted in hazardous lands and hazardous sites.
  • the draft PPS maintains current wording which says: The Province, in consultation with municipalities, other public bodies and stakeholders shall identify performance indicators for measuring the effectiveness of some or all of the policies. Our comment:
    “We look forward to seeing this long standing commitment acted upon, noting that few of the indicators adopted by the Ministry in 2010 and intended to monitor the “performance” of PPS 2005 fulfil this obligation. Most of them amount to simply counting whether official plans include certain attributes. Since plans are expected to implement the PPS, what is really needed is a set of indicators to monitor the effectiveness of the plans’ policies. We suggest that the Province take the initiative to provide guidance to municipalities so that a coherent and comparable set of indicators may finally be adopted”.
  • We suggest to include communal (also known as district or area) heating and cooling systems in the definition of “Infrastructure”.
  • We comment that the definition of “Natural heritage system” is quite convoluted and is inconsistent with the view of linkages in the Natural Heritage Reference Manual (2010) and other provincial policies.
  • We regret that the Province is not taking this opportunity to once and for all outlaw Country Lot Estates as many municipalities have already done. It could be accomplished by defining the term “limited residential development” referenced in s. as meaning, e.g., a maximum of five housing units.
  • we express strong opposition to the continuing privileged position awarded to the mineral aggregates sector. We note that in this regard the PPS is based on false premises:
    • we know of no analysis that demonstrates the existence of a scarcity of aggregates in the Province;
    • given that licenses appear to be issued without an expiry date, and given that the apparent lifespan of quarries is 25 years or more, the presumption of rehabilitation is tenuous in many circumstances. In a practical sense of the word mineral aggregate extraction is not an “interim use” of the land;
    • when aggregates are extracted down to or below the water table, the hydrology of the area is so much affected that rehabilitation becomes a fiction;
    • no other jurisdiction in the world adopts an “as close to market as possible” principle. We suggest a number of amendments that would remedy these deficiencies.

Erwin Dreessen

26 November 2012