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The Zany Zoning Ziggurat: Ontario's Minister's Zoning Orders Under the Microscope
Ladies and gentlemen hold onto your zoning permits because we're about to dive headfirst into the wild world of Ontario's Minister's Zoning Orders (MZOs). It's a thrilling ride where the stroke of a pen can turn farmland into a bustling metropolis, and where transparency in government is a rare and endangered species.
In the grand tradition of "fast-tracking," Premier Doug Ford's government decided to issue MZOs faster than a squirrel on an espresso binge. They're like Willy Wonka's golden tickets for developers, except there are way more than just five and they lead to lands that were supposed to be protected, not paved over.
Just to give you some perspective, the Ford government has handed out over 110 of these MZOs since 2019. That's more than your average kid's candy on Halloween. Previous Liberal governments, in their leisurely 15-year tenure, only managed to distribute a measly 18. It's as if Ford's government found a magical pen that spits out MZOs faster than a bingo caller on caffeine.
And speaking of magical, there's a real-life Harry Potter vibe here. These MZOs can change the zoning of a property with a mere flick of the minister's wand—uh, pen. It's like they're rewriting the zoning laws in an enchanted book, where public consultation is just a pesky goblin they've bypassed.
Now, let's get to the real fun part. The NDP did some digging and found that just four guests at a Ford family wedding benefited from as many MZOs as the entire Liberal government issued over 15 years. It's like they had a wedding registry, but instead of blenders and toasters, they were asking for zoning orders. "Congratulations on your nuptials! Here's an MZO to get you started on your housing empire."
But fear not, for the government defended its use of MZOs, insisting they were just trying to cut through the red tape. Of course, by "red tape," they meant environmental regulations, planning rules, and, well, the rules in general. And we thought scissors were used to cut through red tape, not a minister's pen.
Now, the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, is conducting a review of these MZOs. But don't get your hopes up; he's not likely to toss them out like stale Halloween candy. He basically said, "By and large, the vast majority of them, frankly, I'm not concerned." It's as if he's sifting through a bucket of candy and tossing out the raisins, but keeping all the MZOs.
Meanwhile, opposition parties are raising their eyebrows higher than a skyscraper built on an MZO-issued plot of land. They're worried about who's benefiting from these fast-track zoning approvals. It's like the developers got the secret map to the candy factory, while the rest of us are still waiting for a golden ticket.
The auditor general has already deemed the MZO process "not transparent." It's like a magic show where the magician reveals all his tricks, but no one can figure out how the rabbit disappeared. Well, the rabbit is Greenbelt land, and it didn't exactly disappear—it just got a makeover.
Now, as for the future, we're waiting to see if Minister Calandra will make like Harry Potter and reverse some of these MZOs. But if past trends are any indication, we might as well expect a magical dragon to swoop down and distribute even more MZOs. It's Ontario, after all—expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to zoning.
So there you have it, Ontario's MZOs, where the rules are made up, transparency doesn't matter, and developers are the real wizards. Who knew zoning could be this hilarious?