On September 13th, OGRA representatives visited Queen’s Park for the annual OGRA Advocacy Day. This was a non-partisan initiative where OGRA discussed key issues affecting Ontario’s municipalities with members from all parties.
OGRA brought forward the following three issues:
Reforming the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) Process – The current MCEA process is in need of serious reform. Without a more comprehensive transparent decision making process, projects risk being delayed by a process that is too costly and takes too long. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has agreed to take action on the Application for Review that was filed by the Ontario Municipal Engineers Association and the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario. The federal government will begin to roll-out its Phase 2 infrastructure funding program in 2018. If Ontario’s approval processes are too cumbersome, we risk missing out on receiving these funds for a wide range of strategic and necessary projects. Specifically, OGRA would like to see the following changes:
Creating a Dedicated Fund to Enhance Municipal Asset Management Planning – Municipalities have embraced Asset Management Planning and are now starting to realize the benefits. The proposed Municipal Asset Management Planning Regulation will further enhance municipal asset management planning by establishing clear objectives and milestones. Many of Ontario’s municipalities – particularly small, rural, remote and northern communities – are concerned that they do not have the resources needed to comply with this legislation. With a relatively small investment from the province, municipalities will be able to ensure that their Asset Management Planning will satisfy local and provincial objectives. OGRA’s proposed solution is innovative: by looking at infrastructure assets as the basis of entitlement, rather than more traditional criteria, it is possible to ensure such a program would target needs efficiently. Such a program will effectively function as the insurance policy on the province’s large capital investment.
Joint and Several Liability Reform – Joint and several liability unfairly puts the burden of paying the majority of liability losses on Ontario municipalities. In 2016, the Attorney General expressed his willingness to look at alternatives to joint and several liability. That was warmly welcomed by Ontario municipalities. However, no progress has been made on this file. There is legal precedent for amending joint and several liability and OGRA would like the province to kickstart discussions on how to do this.
Ontario One Call Act Review
The Public Safety Branch in the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) has contacted OGRA seeking input on key implementation issues relating to the Ontario One Call Act. These include:
• timely utility locate delivery;
• improved efficiency for excavators; and
• reducing damage to buried infrastructure.
Through this exercise MGCS wants a better understanding of the benefits as well as the challenges confronting municipalities now that ON1Call, Ontario’s one-call-to-dig call centre provider, is fully operational. It has been more than two years since the regulation was passed to enable the administration of the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012.
OGRA will be meeting with officials from MGSC on September 28, 2016.
OGRA is interested in hearing about your experience with ON1Call. If you have input that you would like OGRA to share with MGSC, email Scott Butler by September 27 or call him at 289-291-6472 ext. 24.
In its first budget, the new federal government unveiled an ambitious infrastructure plan to revitalize the public assets in Canada. This once-in-a-generation investment called for more than $125 billion to be invested over the next 10 years. At the same time, the Government of Ontario has plans to invest $160 billion into infrastructure over the next twelve years.
The federal government has openly stated that engaging institutional investors is one of the key objectives for raising capital for these projects. To that end, the idea of “asset recycling” is being examined to determine if each order of government might have mature assets that could be leased or sold to investors. Ontario has already begun doing this.
At its September meetings, the OGRA Board of Director agreed to endorse the concept of asset recycling in principle. OGRA will be sharing further analysis about asset recycling in the near future.
Construction Lien Act Review
The Government of Ontario will be releasing the final report of the Construction Lien Act Review by construction law experts Bruce Reynolds and Sharon Vogel on Monday September 26, 2016. The report will be made available on the Attorney General’s ministry website, www.ontario.ca/mag.
If you are interested in learning more about this review, OGRA encourages you to join the webcast that will be held on Wednesday, September 28. Mr. Reynolds and Ms. Vogel will provide an executive overview of the report, including their findings and recommendations, as well as their review process, during the webcast. The webcast will take place between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm EDT. During the webcast, you will have the opportunity to submit questions online. You may also submit your questions ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for the webcast before September 28 please click on the following link http://www1.webcastcanada.ca/events/registration/09163mag.php.