Windsor Mayor Requests Ministerial Intervention
Less than two weeks after the election, at its June 13 meeting, Windsor City Council unanimously adopted a recommendation to ask the province to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to “expedite” the rezoning of some parcels of the land the City has assembled for Stellantis-LG Energy Solution’s NextStar Energy Inc. battery plant from residential and commercial to manufacturing use. Apparently the “normal rezoning procedure” would not allow the City to meet the “aggressive schedule” for site work and construction laid out by the companies, putting it at “significant risk of losing the planned investment if zoning to permit EV battery manufacturing is not in place by August 2022.” Unlike municipal zoning bylaws, MZOs are not subject to an appeal process. If approved, this one would be the second one ever issued in Windsor.
Three First Nations in the area told the City Council they had not been consulted as required, having received no information about any impact to species at risk and archeological assessment reports. They asked that the MZO application be delayed until adequate consultation and accommodation of their First Nations confederacy was undertaken.
Caldwell First Nation Chief Mary Duckworth and Chief Jason Henry of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation wrote that, “As signatories to treaties with Canada, we expect that benefits derived from works undertaken in our treaty lands will be shared with us and harms to our rights will be compensated for.” In a statement to the media Chief Duckworth said, “The Supreme Court of Canada case law upholds the requirement to provide us detailed information, meaningful consultation, and proportionate accommodation with our First Nation regarding projects contemplated in our traditional territories. This has to happen before a Project is approved or else the decision is vulnerable to being judicially reviewed. Engaging in this process is the only way we are able to determine the possible impacts that projects may have on our rights.”
In her annual report for 2021, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that 44 MZOs had been issued by the Ford government between March 2019 and March 2021, when in the past, about one only, and sometimes none at all were issued per year. Lysyk said the orders were originally intended to be issued in special circumstances, but that the government was using them instead as a tool to overcome potential barriers and delays to development, with no set criteria the minister uses to decide when to use one.
(with files from Windsor Star, CBC, CTV)