We've heard a few words here today: "intensification," "density." We've heard a little bit of talk about the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe. What we understand in southern Ontario, Speaker, is that your job here with this greater Golden Horseshoe plan is to restrain growth.
I'm going to take a few minutes to talk about this bill and what it means in northern Ontario, because we have a northern growth plan which is an absolute disaster, I may say, one that doesn't even mention our Ontario Northland. But the whole purpose of a growth plan in the north is to ignite growth. So, while we have a plan in the south that's restraining, we have a plan in the north that we want to see that ignites growth.
I want to read something that the member from Newmarket-Aurora said in the press conference. He asked, "Why is this legislation necessary?" My favourite line was his next one, when he said, "Well, from time to time, we don't quite get it right here." And by "here," of course, he's talking about Queen's Park.
Then he added: "Legislation can have unintended consequences, and when those unintended consequences become evident, we have a responsibility to amend that legislation to ensure the public interest is protected."
Speaker, I wanted to talk to you about this bill, and a similar bill, or a related bill, that was passed, and exactly what the member from Newmarket-Aurora is referring to about not quite getting it right at Queen's Park and unintended consequences when it comes to planning and development in my area, northern Ontario.
I can tell you, as a sitting mayor of the city of North Bay for two terms, about the surprise-the shock-when a planning bill that had passed crossed my desk. At the time, it was called Bill 26.
Ironically, it was named the Strong Communities Act. This bill, designed by men and women in southern Ontario, spilled over into northern Ontario and was anything but a strong communities act. That's why I support what the member from Newmarket-Aurora is saying. We need to have the local municipality be the body that speaks for the north.
Let me tell you what that Strong Communities Act referred to. In southern Ontario, you cannot build on any provincially significant wetland, and I concur with that. I think that's an important environmental and ecological advance.
Now, in northern Ontario, we only have wetland and rock outcroppings. Really, that is what we build on, so our industrial parks are very expensive. They're either built on rock, which means we have a lot of blasting, or they're built on wetlands, which means we have a lot of filling-in to do, and that's what we do.
In the north, you are allowed to fill in a wetland if you create a new wetland of equal size. That's a rule that we've had in northern Ontario for decades. I can tell you that, as mayor of North Bay, when I sold a piece of property to Home Depot in a wetland area, they filled it in. We built the most spectacular five-acre wetland adjacent to a 100-acre wetland, and we built boardwalks and signage. It's a gorgeous place for families to go. We wouldn't have had the money to do that.
This new Bill 26 came in and said you can no longer fill in a wetland in northern Ontario and build a new park. You must conform to the rules of southern Ontario.
So here we are. We had just finished an industrial park: tens upon tens of millions of dollars, streets paved, hydro lines put in, utility poles put in, telephone put in, high-speed Internet put in, fire hydrants-a beautiful plan that was designed locally, approved locally, met our official plan locally; all of that is zoned locally and ready to go. And this rule that somebody down here in Queen's Park made up-on the Liberal government, I might add-imposed this thinking, this southern Ontario thinking, up at home.
We had to shut down the industrial park. You can drive through it today; you can just drive through it. It is the most expensive wetland you could possibly have-with high-speed Internet-and now they're building a brand new industrial park up on the airport escarpment in North Bay, on another several hundred acres of land that need to be-tens upon tens of millions of dollars.
So I fully support this local approval, this local respect. I believe our party has respect for local government. We know that who knows best about what to do in your own municipality is the local government that we duly elect there. I thank the member for bringing this important bill forward.
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