The Ford government has snuck a huge change into Bill 23 that undermines the ability of communities to challenge government decisions that impact them.
Along with sweeping changes to planning, environmental protection, and democracy, Doug Ford’s Bill 23 makes it too expensive to appeal his government’s decisions. The Ontario Land Tribunal, where planning decisions can be appealed, can now order a losing party to pay the winner’s legal costs- no guidelines need to be used and no justification is required. Previously, the OLT had the power to award costs against the losing party if they behave in a “vexatious, frivolous or unreasonable manner” but they rarely did so. This change will have a chilling effect on communities appealing decisions that affect them, effectively undermining this democratic process.
The change made by Bill 23 has not been incorporated into the OLT rules yet, but we have already felt its impact. Two municipalities, Wilmot and Woolwich, have chosen to withdraw from the appeal process and rescinded their opposition to proposed gravel pits – out of fear that they will be forced to pay the winning side’s cost should they lose the appeal. As this becomes the norm, more municipalities will shy away from rejecting bad development proposals, community groups will avoid appealing decisions while corporations drive for profits goes unchallenged.
Send an email to Minister Paul Calandra today and ask that this rule not become part of the appeal process. We must protect community voices, not corporate interests.