On February 20, 2013, Bill 2 (Restoring Powers to Municipalities Act, 2013) was introduced by the Opposition House Leader, Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey) and given First Reading. Bill 2 proposes to reverse the exemptions granted to renewable energy undertakings from the normal application of the Planning Act, including provincial policy statements, provincial plans, official plans, demolition control by-laws, zoning by-laws and developments permit regulations and by-laws.
There could be significant impacts from the proposed amendments should Bill 2 become law. Municipalities opposing renewable energy undertakings would have the authority to refuse the planning approvals of such undertakings through various planning instruments. Additionally, Bill 2 does not presently contain any transitioning provisions to account for undertakings currently going through the approvals process. Leasing arrangements would also be affected as Bill 2 would repeal the current Planning Act exemptions for leases greater than 21 years applicable to renewable energy undertakings. The increased uncertainty with respect to the approvals required for development and operation could also impact the availability of financing for renewable energy projects.
A similar private members’ bill, Bill 29 (An Act to amend the Planning Act with respect to renewable energy undertakings) was introduced in April 2010 but was not carried past First Reading due to a prorogation of the provincial legislature. Although private members’ bills do not often receive Third Reading and Royal Assent, we will be keeping a close eye on the development of Bill 2 going forward.