TORONTO — The Ontario government will change its environmental assessment process and procure land for transit projects more quickly, the infrastructure minister said Tuesday.
“The current environmental assessment process system has proven cumbersome and the land assembly system susceptible to delays,” Minister Laurie Scott told the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships conference, P319, at a downtown Toronto hotel.
“We are also aware of weaknesses in the system that allow individuals to prolong the process long past the point that their concerns have received a fair hearing.”
The changes will only apply to transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area, Scott said.
LRT delays led to lawsuit
Ontario needs to learn from delays with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which led the company building the project to sue the province’s transit agency, Metrolinx, for compensation, she said.
The changes won’t sacrifice environmental protections, Scott told the business audience.
“To be clear, we are not talking about relaxing any environmental protections, we are simply improving the speed and efficiency of the process.”
None of the actual requirements for environmental assessment will change, Scott told HuffPost Canada in an interview.
... it shouldn’t take years and years.Laurie Scott
“We say [there should be] fair hearings for both parties, but it shouldn’t take years and years,” Scott said.
If communities have been consulted during other parts of the process, environmental assessments don’t need to include open consultations, Scott’s staff told HuffPost.
More details will be available when Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney announces the full suite of changes in the coming months.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also addressed the conference Tuesday, opening his speech by saying his MPPs call Scott the “Minister of Happy Days” because she gets to go around handing out contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I’m excited to say our economy is absolutely booming here in Ontario,” Ford said.
“My friends it’s very simple, when you lower taxes, when you cut red tape, when you cut regulations, that stimulates the economy.”
He said Ontario will find its “best and brightest” ideas for infrastructure projects through its new portal for unsolicited proposals. The portal lets private companies submit their own ideas for transit lines, highways, hospitals, housing and energy generation.