Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is pledging to help municipalities lure businesses and developers by making it easier for companies to find land to build on.
In a speech to the Ontario Municipal Association in Ottawa Monday, Ms. Wynne announced the Investment-Ready Program, which will flag sites in cities and towns across the province that are available to be built on. Under the program, the province will maintain a list of these sites, along with information that would be useful to developers – such as the condition of the land and what municipal services are connected to it.
The program’s goal, Ms. Wynne said, is to make it simple for companies to browse development sites.
“This will mean businesses can quickly make more informed decisions, and help expansion projects get under way sooner,” she said. “For municipalities, it provides another tool to promote your communities, to attract new investment and foster growth. And it does that upfront work that’s so critical.”
Ms. Wynne’s plan also dovetails with the province’s policy of limiting suburban sprawl and encouraging redevelopment of disused land in existing urban areas.
“We’re going to cut red tape to attract investment across the province and create new jobs in your communities,” she said.
Ms. Wynne also pledged to work on the province’s binding arbitration system, which causes major budgetary headaches for municipalities by frequently awarding unions with raises above the level of inflation. The issue has become especially fraught in recent years, as cash-strapped cities try to balance their books.
The Premier would not say what specific changes her government will make to the system, but said she wanted civic leaders to give their input to Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi, who is working on the file.
“I hope you will approach this process as openly as possible,” she said. “It will take collaboration between you and your labour partners to solve this issue.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who spoke at AMO later in the day, took a tougher tack on arbitration reform, calling for the government to crack down on “unaffordable” labour contracts and “gold-plated worker pensions.”
He also advocated a small-government approach to attract companies.
“In order to put Ontario on the right track, we need to reduce the cost of doing business with lower taxes, affordable energy and less red tape,” he said.