I must have been the only one who never heard it.

I’m talking about the Get it Done song that was a feature of Doug Ford election rallies back in 2022.

“It’s poppy. It’s got a good vibe to it. It sounds very positive,” Chris Beck told CBC reporter Lucas Powers on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto. “It’s very catchy.”

Here’s a bit:

“Nobody said it was an easy road / And we won’t stop, we don’t ever fold.”

So, I shouldn’t be surprised that the Get it Done song is now followed up with the Get it Done Act.

Get it Done is an Omnibus Bill. An omnibus bill is a single document that covers a number of diverse or unrelated topics. Such bills are intended to pass in a single vote by a legislature, avoiding scrutiny. The Ford government likes to use such bills. We have written about the problem with omnibus bills before (see SCAN-Climate-Crime-19-2022-12Update.pdf (seniorsforclimateactionnow.org).

Bill 162 was introduced on February 20, 2024.

It amends the

  • Environmental Assessment Act
  • Highway Traffic Act
  • Official Plan Adjustment Act 2023
  • Photo Card Act 2008
  • Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act

It enacts the Protection Against Carbon Taxes Act.

The government says it is creating the conditions to rebuild Ontario’s economy and is helping to get shovels in the ground sooner on new roads, highways and public transit. This will reduce gridlock; help ensure housing for a growing population and move the province’s economy forward.  We’ve heard all this before.

As is often the case the devil is in the details in such legislation so one needs to look at how it will change various regulations. Let’s look at what critics and experts have to say.

On Streamlining Environmental Regulations

According to the municipal and land use planning group of Aird and Berlis, Ontario is changing the current environmental assessment process (EA) for municipal infrastructure projects. To do this Ford government is proposing to revoke certain regulations to create a streamlined EA regulation that focuses on certain higher-risk water, shoreline and sewage projects.

Only projects listed in the regulation would have Environmental Assessment Act requirements. It is proposed that some projects deemed to be low risk, which are currently subject to the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment, would no longer be subject to it.

This would include:

  • all projects currently subject to Schedule B of the MCEA,
  • all municipal roads or new parking lots,
  • all private sector infrastructure projects for residents of a municipality, regardless of size, including a new sewage treatment plant of any size.

On Expropriations

The Narwhal is a Canadian investigative online magazine that focuses on environmental issues. It writes that the Ontario’s government is vulnerable to court challenges if it wants to expropriate land.

To block such challenges that could come up related to Greenbelt and Highway 413, the Get It Done Act would amend the Environmental Assessment Act to explicitly allow both provincial and municipal governments to expropriate land before environmental approvals.

Environmental Defence (ED), a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization, believes the bill is designed to prevent landowners who aren’t in on the Highway 413 scheme from legally challenging the seizure of their land.

“This appears to be designed to help the Ontario government move quickly to destroy habitats, waterways and Indigenous sites that fall within federal jurisdiction.”

The federal government needs to introduce an updated federal Impact Assessment Act soon before the province takes advantage of the gap in protection.

On a Referendum

Much of the Bill deals with a potential vote on any future carbon pricing plan.

The Narwhal says the bill empowers the province’s chief electoral officer to hold a vote on any future carbon pricing plan, which would only be put in place if more than 50 per cent of Ontarians vote in favour of it. 

“It’s performative politics at its worst, distracting from the Ford government’s failure in addressing the housing crisis and the fact that they’ve made access to health care worse,” says Mike Schreiner, leader of the Ontario Green Party.

Municipal Official Plans

Many municipal official plans are changed by the legislation. For better or worse? It is hard to say how the changes will impact farmland or green space.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has been asking for more collaboration by the province with local governments. Right now, AMO “is pleased that the government is making these changes in consultation with municipalities.” 

On the other hand, Environmental Defence (ED) claims that so-called “special building zones appear calculated to let the provincial government take over local decision-making power in order to accelerate hand-picked projects.”  ED argues that this government favours spawl subdivisions rather than building more labour and cost-efficient housing in existing neighbourhoods.

On Tolls

The legislation proposes to block the possibility of new tolls on new and existing provincial highways. In 2022, the Ford government dropped tolls on Highways 412 and 418 which, according to CBC, meant foregoing about $38.2 million in annual revenue.

There is a good argument to be made that tolls on the relatively empty Highway 407 could be reduced for trucks making Highway 413 unnecessary.  There is no good argument to be made for building the Highway 413.

What Now?

Upon receiving royal assent, the changes proposed by Bill 162 will be deemed to have come info force on December 6, 2023.

The province is currently seeking feedback on the proposed amendments for various dates in March. Comments may be submitted through the Environmental Registry of Ontario.

In spite of these short timelines I believe opposition will begin to coalesce to the impacts Bill 162 will have as it did last year around the Greenbelt.

Let’s start by rewriting the Get it Done Song.

How about a new tune?  We could call it Do it Right, Doug!

Nobody ever said we need more roads/ Let’s fight that idea and stop it cold.

 

Sources

CBC – What’s in a song? For Doug Ford’s campaign, a whole lot | CBC News

Aird and Berlis – Ontario Introduces Bill 162: The Get It Done Act, 2024 (airdberlis.com)

The NarwhalOntario’s Get It Done Act: faster road building, fewer environmental guardrails | The Narwhal

Environmental Defence – Statement: The Ontario Government’s So-Called “Get It Done” Bill Would Revive the Sprawl and Land Speculation Scandal – Environmental Defence

AMO – Get It Done Act, Keeping Energy Costs Down Act, CMHC Housing Data, Seniors Active Living Centres Regulations | AMO

 

Port Rowan’s Bob Wood is a SCAN! member who worked many years in social justice and municipal politics.

SCAN! welcomes comment and feedback. Please send your response to martin.bush@outlook.com. The SCAN! blog is managed by the Education Committee, and the Committee is looking for new members. If you are interested in working with a talented and dynamic group of seniors with a focus on information sharing and knowledge management, please contact Martin Bush at the email address shown above.