Doug Ford’s PC administration makes policy on the hoof.
Bills are rushed through the legislature and enacted even before the end of the consultation period. The blanks are filled in later through Regulations – on which no-one is consulted.
This is Ford Nation's approach to policy making and both York Region and Newmarket, as they present their draft budgets, are left to guess what’s coming next.
Our MPP, the Ford appointee, Dawn "Corn Roast" Gallagher Murphy, just parrots the Party line, offering no insights or explanations on how the legislation she votes for will impact her constituents.
As a gesture to Ford's friends, the More Homes Built Faster Act 2022 (Bill 23) exempts developers from millions of dollars of development charges (DCs). These are fees paid by the developer to the municipality to offset the costs of servicing new developments such as roads, water hook-ups and so on. That burden will now fall on the taxpayer.
It was always a fiction that growth fully paid for growth but with the gap getting wider it is there for all to see.
Wide ranging exemptions from DCs will cover “affordable” residential units and “attainable” residential units and some other categories of housing. But the Province still hasn’t defined what it means by “affordable” or how the homes are to remain affordable over 25 years, the stated intention.
Regional Treasurer, the excellent Laura Mirabella, says the Region’s DC collections could be 15 to 20% lower in 2023 because of the way the phasing provisions work:
“We collect 80% in year 1; 85% in year 2; 90% in year 3; 95% in year 4 and only 100% of the charge in year 5 and beyond.”
The Province originally said the phasing would only apply to DC by-laws passed after June 1 2022 – which would have excluded York Region. But then Ford had second thoughts and backdated the new rules to January 2022.
$500M lost revenue
62% of York Region’s capital plan is related to growth but only 45% of the overall plan will be funded from development charges. The Treasurer forecast DC collections would be reduced by about 10% on average - nearly $500 million – which represents about 5% of the Region’s capital spending. But it could soar to 16% depending on which way Ford jumps. (see graphic right)
If there is no extra funding from the Province to cover the shortfall, a 10% reduction in DCs over the next 10 years would require an additional one time tax levy increase of 2.3% and an additional 5% increase on water and wastewater rates.
Newmarket Mayor, John Taylor, makes the point that the projected one-off tax levy of 2.3% on the $497M does not take into account the DC exemptions for attainable and affordable housing.
“I don't want the public or the provincial government thinking the impact is 2.3% because it is clearly higher. We just don't know how much higher.”
Laura Mirabella agrees:
“That's correct… Really simple math. A $500 million gap is 2.3% on tax and 5% on water rate. Triple that amount and you might triple those percentages.”
“We've got to assume the numbers are far closer to the triple version than the version that doesn't account for some of those huge categories.”
Wastewater servicing: back to the drawing board
At the York Region meeting on Thursday (2 February 2023) Public Works Commissioner, the impressive Erin Mahoney, tells members the capital investment for wastewater servicing in Aurora, East Gwillimbury and Newmarket was based on the former North York Sewage Solutions project which was scrapped by the Province in the run up to last year’s Provincial election.
“This 2023 plan… defers wastewater servicing for Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Newmarket by two years due to the implications of Bill 23 requiring us to pivot and implement a new southern solution to service these communities by expanding and enlarging the York Durham Sewage System. And once we define the new capital requirements for this infrastructure solution we will quickly re-calibrate our capital plan.”
So critically important wastewater servicing in our area has been put back two years.
At yet, at the same time, Ford wants to see a major new development on the former Greenbelt lands next door to us in King. And this too will have to be serviced.
And then there's the additional 11,000 homes which Ford expects to see here in Newmarket by 2031.
How is this going to happen?
The details, as always with Ford, come later.
Update on 9 February 2023: Note presented to York regional Council from York Regional Treasurer, dated 3 February 2023, on the financial impact of Bill 23
From Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act 2022:
In the case of a development charge by-law passed on or after the day subsection 5 (6) of Schedule 3 to the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 comes into force, the rules must provide that,
i. any development charge imposed during the first year that the by-law is in force is no more than 80 per cent of the maximum development charge that could otherwise be charged in accordance with this section,
ii. any development charge imposed during the second year that the by-law is in force is no more than 85 per cent of the maximum development charge that could otherwise be charged in accordance with this section,
iii. any development charge imposed during the third year that the by-law is in force is no more than 90 per cent of the maximum development charge that could otherwise be charged in accordance with this section, and
iv. any development charge imposed during the fourth year that the by-law is in force is no more than 95 per cent of the maximum development charge that could otherwise be charged in accordance with this section.