LYALL’S FILES: ‘We’re going to listen’ – Minister Steve Clark gives new hope for residential construction at AGM
Richard Lyall / RESCON
It was an honour and a privilege for RESCON to host the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs at our February AGM.
Minister Steve Clark provided in-depth commentary on several key government initiatives in the area of housing, took questions, and led a very congenial conversation with the crowd assembled for RESCON’s annual general meeting in Vaughan.
And while our members are not easily swayed by the words of a politician, the Minister expressed that the success of the residential construction industry was critical to the health of Ontario’s economy, and that Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet were in lockstep to ensure that streamlining the approvals and development process is coming down the pike. That’s central to increasing badly needed housing supply and unlocking jobs and investment.
It was a welcome conversation between the private sector and the provincial government on the business issues affecting the residential construction sector.
Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs Steve Clark discusses systemic reforms to increase badly needed housing supply, jobs and investment in Ontario at the 2019 RESCON annual general meeting as RESCON president Richard Lyall listens. Change was in the air with positive leadership.
Here are some of the highlights of Minister Clark’s speech:
ECONOMY AND JOBS
“I recognize the importance that RESCON and its members have to our economy …
“It’s not just open for business, it’s also open for jobs. And I recognize better than anyone the amount of jobs that this industry provides in our local communities. It’s very important that if we are open for jobs, that we take a very serious look at how we can help your industry and how we can move forward.
“Many of the things we talk about at many of my speeches – and you know this better than I – is the amount of obstacles that are placed in front of you in trying to do the job in your communities.
STREAMLINING AND RED TAPE
“What we’re trying to do as a government is trying to remove some of those obstacles, in my case, try to streamline some of the processes and the permitting that you face. Minister Todd Smith, our minister of economic development, job creation and trade, has talked about reducing red tape.
“You’ve heard me say it too.
“The fact that over our four-year term, we want to reduce some of those obstacles, some of that red tape, by 25%. And I think it’s really critical for us that we really put our minds – and that is not just one ministry or just a couple of ministries – it’s every single ministry trying to look at it from that lens even though we want to keep health and safety front and centre. We also want to be very mindful about how we affect how you do your job.
“If I have challenged my municipal partners to streamline the development approval process, if I challenged my ministry brothers and sisters, if I challenge the people who are involved in the permitting process, I also want to challenge my federal colleagues. If we are in this together, if we both are committed like some of our municipal partners are to actually get this done right, then they need to be able to do what they can to help that process and improve it.
HARMONIZING BUILDING CODE
“Also, we were just talking about the building code and the fact that about harmonizing our code to the national code is something that is very important to our government.
“So we have a number of balls up in the air that we are working on right now. We have to leave our house in better fiscal order … We have to do things differently …
“The previous government consulted on the changes but as of Jan. 1, 2019, the changes weren’t finalized, they didn’t come into effect. The code was the same on Jan. 1st, 2019, as it was on Dec. 31st. We’re working again to update the building code to reflect some of the technological consultations and some of the changes, some of the expert research, some of the input that was done as part of the national construction code that was released in 2015. I’ve been pretty consistent when I’ve spoken (previously) to say that we need to catch up. We need to have that harmonization. We need to do it for jobs, we need to do it for inter-provincial trade, we need to do it to make it easier for Ontario manufacturers and developers and business to be operating in our province, and for people to have that consistency to be able to keep costs down. Reducing red tape, having efficient regulations, putting health and safety in the window is something that our government puts as our priority.
Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs Steve Clark, right, chats with RESCON chair Bruno Giancola of Tridel, left, about the future of housing, jobs and investment.
“We did those roundtables that ultimately made me decide that on Jan. 15, I was going to table proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Basically we were told from people on the ground that there were implementation challenges. So we wanted to make sure that we listened to people and that we have a plan in place because it’s such an important part of our land-use planning system …
“We need to make sure fast that the Growth Plan provides that opportunity because I know better than anyone that the growth opportunity is there. If I’m going to build housing supply, increase housing supply, I’ve got to be able to deal with some of the limitation challenges from the previous government.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
“We want to be able to create jobs, have that economic impact, we also want to be able to protect the environment and health and safety to Ontarians. It’s very important that we get that balance right. We want to ensure that groups from all sides have the opportunities here …
BUILDING HOUSING NEAR TRANSIT
“We heard solutions on how to build more housing, and building more housing near transit stations, allowing the right type of mix for communities is something that I’ve heard almost from the first day that I became minister. It also used that feedback to help deal with some of the things that RESCON put in their submission both for that and the housing supply action plan was we have to be able to have changes in speed, we have to be able to drive costs down, we have to be able to provide the right mix so that communities that want to build innovative housing stock can have that opportunity, that we don’t stand in the way as a province.
“And we also have to deal with the very delicate issue of rent and the fact that landlords on one side are telling us it’s very difficult to be in that business, and on the other side, tenants telling us they need more protection.
From left, Dr. Arash Shahi of the University of Toronto, Daniels Corp.'s Sam Tassone (back facing camera) and Lyall chat with Minister Clark.
2,000+ SUBMISSIONS FOR HOUSING SUPPLY ACTION PLAN
“The feedback that we received for the Housing Supply Action Plan was amazing. I couldn’t believe that we had over 2,000 submissions. Eighty per cent were from the public. Tremendous response and great ideas through all five themes. There wasn’t one theme that dominated the discussion. Each one of those five themes – speed, cost, mix, rent and innovation – received very, very innovative suggestions, very common-sense suggestions. And that’s what I’m finding. One of the things that we’re hearing over and over again, no matter what consultation, is common sense. We want to talk to people that are on the ground, that are having problems with either the way the previous government laid down policy or just try to relieve some of those barriers to actually getting shovels in the ground.
“Richard and I talked earlier. At the housing supply action roundtable, I would sit with one of my colleagues and say we’re going to be judged in four years on how many shovels in the ground we had. We need to have a very keen eye to make sure that we say now can be implementable over the next several years.
“We need to build it right, we need to build more housing, the right type of housing, in the right place. And what better way to do it than to work with stakeholders like RESCON.
“I just can’t say enough about how we need to all work together.
“The federal government, the provincial government, the municipal government – people don’t care who’s responsibility it is, whose program this is or whose regulation that is … They want the right type of house in the right place, they want all three to do of us to do it as fast as possible, without any finger pointing, and we have to be able to break it down. Some people don’t like the speed at which we move.
“I will guarantee you this: we will build housing in the province of Ontario with Steve Clark as minister of municipal affairs and Doug Ford as premier. We’re committed to that, we’re going to make it work and work with every stakeholder to make sure it gets done.
“And when you’ve got a good idea, Richard, we’re going to listen.”
Glad to hear it, Minister. There is a lot we’d like to discuss, but it sounds like you have a good idea of what that is. RESCON looks forward to strengthening our relationship with the government as we build a stronger Ontario together.
Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @RESCONprez.
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