Premier Doug Ford’s cuts to bureaucracy save Ontario developers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in costs

TORONTO – In Ontario, building contractors and developers are among the biggest beneficiaries of the bureaucracy-cutting measures introduced by Premier Doug Ford’s government: thanks to him, they have saved hundreds of millions of dollars a year in costs. This is what emerges from a CBC investigation which, however, in fact confirms what Ford himself had promised to do: reduce bureaucracy as much as possible to facilitate the construction of new cases. 

However, according to the CBC, since taking office in 2018, Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in Ontario have introduced 12 bills focused on reducing red tape (but overall there are 215 “red-tape” reduction measures). According to the provincial government, these laws and measures reduce the costs of complying with provincial regulations by $1.2 billion per year and save people 1.5 million hours of administrative work.

But until now the government had not made public any details about how it arrived at those figures or where the savings went. The CBC asked, and here are the highlights of the details provided by government officials.

Nearly 200 of the 215 red tape reduction measures result in savings of less than $10 million each, while 150 of these result in annual savings of less than $1 million each. So let’s look at the most significant one.

First, developers save more than $410 million each year thanks to amendments to municipal planning legislation and caps on taxes that school boards can impose on new housing. Companies save $209 million each year on costs related to complying with dozens of environmental protection regulations. Employers save $194 million each year through changes to employment standards and workplace health and safety legislation. More than $250 million is saved by banning municipalities from mandating minimum parking spaces in new housing projects around transit hubs – a measure contained in the government’s recent Bill 185. “Eliminating minimum parking requirements in protected areas of major transit stations and other areas around transportation reduces costs for property owners and developers” said Justine Teplycky, communications director for the Ministry of Housing, Paul Calandra. “Eliminating parking minimums near transit stations can save an average of $50,000 for every new home built” she added.

The government also says developers are saving $160 million a year thanks to legislation that limits education development fees, which are taxes that some Ontario schoolboards can impose on new housing developments (schoolboards can then use those taxes to purchase land for future schools).

And it doesn’t stop there: major industrial emitters of greenhouse gases will save $107 million this year (and $1.1 billion cumulatively by 2030) because the costs of complying with the provincial industrial emissions program are lower than the costs of federal equivalent; the annual savings of mining companies amounting to 104 million dollars derive – explains the government – “mainly from savings on electricity costs linked to changes in ventilation requirements”; employers are saving $91 million a year thanks to legislative amendments under the Making Ontario Open for Business Act of 2018, which rolled back many of the employment law reforms introduced under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government, including requiring employers to provide staff with a minimum of two paid sick days per year.

Other measures and their reported annual savings include repealing a provincial upholstered-goods regulation that duplicated federal regulations ($18 million) and then allowing condominium and corporate boards to hold virtual or hybrid annual meetings and elections ( 15 million dollars).

And there are also savings of another nature, for example, time: most of the 1.5 million hours saved in terms of time come from the new provincial system for the automatic renewal of license plates (according to government data, this year automatic renewals will save Ontarians 1.4 million hours).

“All of these initiatives are delivering real results for both businesses and people, while maintaining Ontario’s commitment to protecting the environment and supporting education infrastructure” said Mike Harris Jr., Minister for Red-Tape Reduction in Ontario, speaking to CBC. And he added that “red-tape reduction efforts have simplified regulations, spurred economic growth and led to more homes being built to meet growing demand”.

In fact, it’s not at all clear whether the government’s cost-cutting measures for developers have actually spurred new home construction, given the current slow pace of home construction in Ontario. The only certain thing is that, in the meantime, developers (many of whom are known campaign financiers of Doug Ford) are saving millions of dollars…

In the pic above, Premier Doug Ford during a gala evening in Vaughan (photo from Twitter X – @fordnation)