The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) promotes positive policy change to ensure a safe and healthy built environment that performs at the highest levels by every measure. This provincial election campaign is a great opportunity to ask party leaders and district candidates questions about issues of interest to OAA members. A lot of these issues affect the province’s economy and the basic needs of Ontarians.
Discussions with candidates can happen almost anywhere and at any time during a provincial election campaign. Whether you meet with a party representative or candidate at a local candidates’ debate, community event or at your front door, keep them on their toes by asking questions about issues that matter to you. The OAA promotes policy improvements in the public interest on many subjects. Its Policy Advocacy Coordination Team (PACT) has highlighted three of these priority areas to raise for possible discussion:
- Site Plan Approval
- Deep Energy Retrofits
- Design Excellence
Site Plan Approval
In October 2013, the OAA released an independent report that demonstrated the cost to the end users (homeowners and businesses) and the economy caused by Ontario’s inefficient Site Plan Approval system. For a 100-unit condominium, the report found the combined impact on new home buyers could be $2,375 per unit per month. Assuming a sixmonth site plan approval process for a 50,000 square foot office building, site plan approval related delays, fees and costs could add 6% to 7% to the building’s total cost. A recent update on the OAA report showed the cumulative effect of site plan delays cost the Ontario economy at least $100 million per month, or $1.2 billion per year. These growing costs affect housing affordability and discourage the construction of more affordable housing. OAA’s original independent report included numerous recommendations. OAA has repeatedly shared these recommendations with various provincial ministers and officials. One key recommendation would be that the provincial government issue a Provincial Guideline to clarify the purpose and intent of the site plan approval processes and set out best practices to streamline and improve the process for most developments and exempt certain public interest developments from the process.
Deep Energy Retrofits
The OAA has pushed for the province to establish a Deep Energy Retrofit (DER) program to significantly reduce the energy use of existing buildings. A DER program should set a target of an 80% reduction in the total energy use of the existing building stock by 2050, excluding renewable energy. Tools that could be used in such a program may include tax credits, low/zero cost loans, subsidies or grants—any/all of which could taper as the market adapts to low/no emissions buildings.
The Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act (IJPA) was passed in 2015. OAA highlights two provisions in this legislation that are critical for fostering design excellence:
- The requirement that design excellence be incorporated into infrastructure planning; and
- The requirement that architects are to be involved on all major infrastructure projects, including projects that otherwise would not have required an architect.
Unfortunately, three years later, the OAA is still waiting for introduction of the regulations to enact and implement these provisions.
The next Ontario general election will take place on Thursday, June 7. All Canadian citizens who are Ontario residents, and 18 years of age or older, are entitled to vote in this election. Each electoral district elects a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. You can find your electoral district by entering your postal code at the Elections Ontario website. Elections Ontario will also list the candidates running in your local district. The number of electoral districts in Ontario will increase from 107 to 124 for the June 7 general election—some shifting boundaries and name changes may mean your electoral district has changed since the last provincial election even if you have not moved.
You can find the OAA’s full Election Issues Paper — which includes more detailed descriptions of the issues above, as well as potential questions for political candidates — linked here.