Ontario Policy on Sustainability and Environment : What Kingston Can and Can’t Do Since 2014

When the Environmental Study Report for the Wellington Street Extension was done in 2006, the legal framework for planning was different than it is today. In 2014, Ontario passed a Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act which is binding on City Council. We can make exceptions and carve-outs to our own Official Plan, but we don’t have as a municipality the power to exempt ourselves from provincial policies. Any decision made to take the road planning process any further must comply with PPS2014.

In its Vision section, PPS2014 says:

Efficient development patterns optimize the use of land, resources and public investment in infrastructure and public service facilities. These land use patterns promote a mix of housing, including affordable housing, employment, recreation, parks and open spaces, and transportation choices that increase the use of active transportation and transit before other modes of travel. They also support the financial well-being of the Province and municipalities over the long term, and minimize the undesirable effects of development, including impacts on air, water and other resources. Strong, liveable and healthy communities promote and enhance human health and social well-being, are economically and environmentally sound, and are resilient to climate change.
Throughout, PPS2014 emphasizes increasing population density and redeveloping former industrial lands. It also emphasizes the necessity of supporting these initiatives with open space and active transportation:
Healthy, active communities should be promoted by:
a) planning public streets, spaces and facilities to be safe, meet the needs of pedestrians, foster social interaction and facilitate active transportation and community connectivity;
b) planning and providing for a full range and equitable distribution of publicly-accessible built and natural settings for recreation, including facilities, parklands, public spaces, open space areas, trails and linkages, and, where practical, water-based resources;
c) providing opportunities for public access to shorelines; and
d) recognizing provincial parks, conservation reserves, and other protected areas, and minimizing negative impacts on these areas.
On transportation, PPS2014 asserts that “transportation systems should be provided which are safe, energy efficient, facilitate the movement of people and goods, and are appropriate to address projected needs.” The city’s engineering department may contend that the WSE is necessary “to address projected needs.” But it will have to consider other elements of PPS2014 as well. For example, there is this:
A land use pattern, density and mix of uses should be promoted that minimize the length and number of vehicle trips and support current and future use of transit and active transportation.
Or this:
Planning authorities should promote green infrastructure.

And the city will be bound by the following statement (note the “shall” which is stronger than the “should” in the previous statements):

Infrastructure,… and public service facilities shall be provided in a coordinated, efficient and cost-effective manner that considers impacts from climate change while accommodating projected needs.
That is to say, the city is obligated to look broadly for solutions with minimum environmental impacts. It is not enough to say that we need an effective transportation network: it has to be an environmentally responsible one.
–Laura Murray
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