MHCA seeks clarity on provincial tender rules, protection of aggregates

Will province ensure municipalities follow land-use legislation?
MHCA
May 11, 2018
By MHCA
May 11, 2018 - Proposed amendments to the Planning Act make good progress on the goal to protect access to Manitoba’s rich but finite aggregate resources, as long as the Municipal Relations department ensures municipalities respect provincial authority over development.

That was among the points made by MHCA president Chris Lorenc, who spoke to Bill 19 — The Planning Amendment Act — at a legislative committee hearing Wednesday.

Bill 19, making its way through the legislative process, would introduce a right of appeal for any aggregate producer whose application for a pit or quarry is rejected by a

municipal council, where that application is for a conditional-use approval. It also allows for review of that conditional-use application by a provincial technical review committee, triggering a report that would be used by a municipal council to help guide its decision.

Lorenc told the legislative committee that TRC review and reports are a good way to assess applications on their technical merits, including environmental and land-use regulations, and should lead to evidence-based decision making by rural municipal councillors. Some of Manitoba’s richest troves of aggregates are found in the Capital Region, in close proximity to much of the infrastructure projects undertaken — many with public funds — in the province.

The RMs, however, often meet stiff opposition to applications for pits and quarries because of the rise of residential developments in the area. Lorenc said the Planning Act amendments will be fruitless if Manitoba does not require municipal development plans to respect and follow provincial statutes written to protect zones that contain aggregate deposits. Encroachment of residential development on those zones can effectively sterilize aggregate resources.

“We are grateful for assurances given that the minister and department will be vigilant in examining proposed municipal development plans, to ensure protection of aggregate resources from effective sterilization,” Lorenc said.

Alongside the public hearing on Bill 19, another committee heard from the public on Bill 14, which “modernizes” legislation that speaks to the province’s authority over highways.

Lorenc said new language on the province’s duty to tender construction projects is worrisome because it appears to give the government greater flexibility to set aside the requirement for open, competitive tenders. At present, legislation requires tenders but in the event of a pressing emergency, or where the work can be done more “expeditiously and economically.”

The new language would allow sole sourcing when the minister believes the work to be “too urgent” or that an untendered contract would be more “efficient.” Further, a cabinet committee could decide on its own to sole source a contract, regardless of circumstance.

“I was not convinced, at the committee, that this new language meets the spirit and intent of the current, restricted ability to use sole sourcing,” Lorenc said. “We will have to continue this discussion at the provincial level. We know that open, competitive tenders always return the best price to the taxpayer.”

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