RCCAO outlines red tape reduction recommendations in three key infrastructure areas
By Nadia Todorova
It may be hard to believe, but the Fall Session of the Ontario Legislature is less than six weeks away! A new legislative session brings with it a host of opportunities for the government to introduce new bills and regulations. One such bill that is expected is a fall red tape reduction bill.
RCCAO recently submitted its comments on this potential bill to the government.
Our regulatory processes must be streamlined, and it is important that government policies do not hinder the progress of critical infrastructure work through unnecessary or duplicative regulations.
Progress has been made but there is still room for improvement in three key areas, namely utility locates, municipal class environmental assessments, and digitizing the development approvals process.
First, timely delivery of utility locates is paramount for contractors working on infrastructure and construction projects. Before digging, contractors must know exactly where underground infrastructure is located. Striking underground infrastructure such as fibre optic cables, natural gas and distribution pipes can endanger the safety of workers and the public as well as delay critical infrastructure work.
Ontario has a legislated deadline of five business days for a response to utility locate requests through the Ontario One Call system. However, it is estimated that 85 per cent of locate requests are late.
Much more must be done to ensure that infrastructure work across Ontario is not unnecessarily held up while awaiting utility locates markings. RCCAO members have reported lengthy delays for locates, which are extremely costly and bring construction on projects to a halt.
One solution to these challenges is the restructuring of the board of directors of One Call. The board makes decisions about enforcement, but it consists largely of utility owners – the very groups that are the subject of oversight. More non-utility representatives such as excavators, municipalities, and provincial government reps are needed on the board of directors to have a more representative and balanced governance approach.
Another element that would improve the utility locates process is for contractors to be able to safely share locates for the same job and extend the validity period of locates to at least 60 days.
Additionally, it is necessary to restructure how locates are delivered, modify the reporting and record keeping for locate responses, and eliminate the need for relocates on non-linear excavation construction sites below a certain depth.
Second, a streamlined environmental assessment (EA) process that eliminates duplication, provides clear expectations regarding consultations, and defines timelines for critical infrastructure work while maintaining environmental protections is necessary for the successful and timely execution of critical infrastructure projects.
Over the last several years, the government has been working to improve and modernize the EA process. It is imperative that as part of the work, government approves amendments to the various class EAs, including MCEAs, as quickly as possible and, in particular, develops and finalizes regulations that will set out the projects that will be subject to the Streamlined Environmental Assessment provisions and the process these projects must follow.
Thirdly, the development approvals process and patchwork of existing e-permitting systems across municipalities need to be streamlined and digitized to help address the current housing crisis in Ontario. Housing demand is presently exceeding supply and the situation is only going to get more dire given the projected short- and long-term population growth of the province.
One Ontario, a coalition of industry organizations, including the RCCAO, is seeking to establish data exchange guidelines to streamline the development approvals process in Ontario.
Reducing delays to the approvals process by six months, along with a 10-per-cent increase in investment, could lead to an additional 100,700 additional housing units by 2040 in the GTA, with the City of Toronto seeing 21,100 additional units by 2025.
RCCAO applauds the provincial government for taking action to reduce regulatory red tape. The infrastructure and construction sector will play a critical role in Ontario’s economic recovery, and we appreciate the government’s commitment to reducing red tape and unnecessary burden faced by businesses.
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