Ontario Construction News staff writer
In its 2020 pre-budget submission to the provincial government, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario outlines three approaches it would like to see included in the coming document.
“A primary (alliance) focus since our inception has been the importance of investing in public infrastructure, from transit and waterworks to roads and bridges, and doing so smartly and efficiently for taxpayers and daily users of infrastructure,” writes Andy Manahan, executive director, and Nadia Todorova, senior director, government relations.
“On topics such as reforming the municipal environmental assessment process and managing excess construction soils, we are pleased with the government’s efforts to streamline these processes and aim to create a more competitive business environment. However, we believe that more can be done to further remove unnecessary, costly and time-consuming barriers to necessary construction projects.”
The alliance would like to see the Province incorporate the following measures into the budget:
1) Place high priority on streamlining municipal class environmental assessment process.
“The Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) process has contributed to lengthy and often unnecessary processing delays for infrastructure projects in the province. This presents a barrier to the government’s focus on creating a more competitive business environment and connecting people to places across Ontario. Through our ten-year research on this issue, we have found that there is an increase of study costs and skyrocketing timelines associated with the MCEA process,” says the submission.
- Exempt low-risk projects from the Environmental Assessment Act and allow local municipal officials to handle these projects.
- Delegate the Minister’s authority to respond to Part II Order requests to the Director of the Environmental Assessment Branch in order to streamline and speed up response requests.
- Mandate reduced timeframes for responding to Part II Order requests by transforming the proposed service standards into regulatory deadline and make any related policy and procedure changes as may be necessary.
- Reduce the scope and complexity of Environmental Study Reports, given the recent dramatic increase in the size and complexity of EA studies, reports and requirement for a multitude of costly background reports. This is imperative especially since many of these requirements are duplicating reviews conducted under planning legislation.
- Enhance access and transparency for the MCEA process by developing a centralized internet-based system that would allow government, industry and the public to benchmark implementation of the Class EA requirements.
2) Continue transportation and transit infrastructure investment.
“Research has consistently demonstrated that the impact of infrastructure spending on job creation is significant. For every $1 billion in infrastructure spending, 16,700 new jobs are generated each year,” says the submission. “Increased investment in infrastructure also spreads throughout the economy via a series of multiplier effects. For every $1 billion in infrastructure spending, GDP is boosted by $1.14 billion. Investment in public infrastructure results in lower business costs and higher labour productivity.”
- Adopting evidence-based, business-case approaches to transportation infrastructure project selection, design, financing, construction and maintenance to ensure maximum service standards and optimal savings for taxpayers.
- Implementing market sounding initiatives for transportation infrastructure projects that are currently in the pipeline of projects to ensure industry and market capacity.
3) Ensure appropriate implementation of the updated excess soil regulations.
“The (alliance) is pleased by the government’s focus and work on moving ahead with clarifying rules on the management and transport of excess soil. The announcement by Minister Yurek during the Excess Soil Symposium in December 2019 regarding regulatory changes to the reuse and management of excess soils generated from construction sites is necessary and welcomed by industry,” reads the submission.
- Implement the updated Excess Soil regulations according to the announced timeframes to ensure effective and certain regulatory landscape. We are pleased that the Ministry’s Excess Soil Engagement Group will be meeting later this month to discuss implementation steps. The RCCAO views a governance structure such as the system in place in the United Kingdom as a strong model to emulate in the effective implementation of the regulations in Ontario.
- Conduct pilot testing of new processes to encourage beneficial soil reuse. This would include focusing on simplified truck tracking requirements with the intention of pilot testing state-of-the-art solutions. Further, it is necessary to implement pilots looking at effective digital options to soil management. This would also assist with building a data base and making improvements based on an agreed set of metrics.