Ontario using frequent Minister's Zoning Orders to fast-track development: auditor

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TORONTO — Ontario's auditor general says the government is employing a previously little-used land-planning tool to fast-track development and circumvent normal planning processes.

An audit by Bonnie Lysyk's office says the government issued 44 Minister's Zoning Orders between March 2019 and March 2021, when in the past, about one was issued per year.

It found that 17 of the 44 orders were issued to the same seven development groups or companies.

Lysyk says MZOs were originally intended to be issued in special circumstances, but the government is using them as a tool to overcome potential barriers and delays to development.

She also says there are no established criteria by which the minister assesses requests for the orders, so it's hard to know what factors he considered when making decisions.

The auditor noted that the government also recently expanded its power to override local authority, with increased powers for MZOs as part of COVID-19 economic recovery legislation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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