Nanticoke: From PSEZ to MZO

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

For more than a year, there’s been a great deal of discussion locally concerning a proposed development in the Nanticoke area on 4,200 acres of land.

It was in February 2022 that Haldimand County heard from Empire Communities Inc. regarding the development described as a new complete community. Haldimand County’s staff’s initial analysis suggested the concept had merit, but much was yet to be considered. The idea hinged, and continues to hinge, on the Ontario Government approving a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO). The Planning Act authorizes the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to issue an MZO for regulating land use, buildings, and structures anywhere in the province.

Typically, MZOs are reserved for vital or urgent projects like schools, hospitals, or long-term care homes. The Ontario Government has recently been called out for using the previously little-used land planning tool to fast-track development and circumvent local and normal planning processes.

While most people I speak to agree we must progress and develop, the majority agree with my sentiment that development must be moderate and responsible. I argue that development in this province is not responsible at this time, and I remain concerned that there is no oversight on what type of housing is being built. In my election bid, and since becoming the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk, I remain steadfast, for several reasons, that I do not believe a development of 15,000 homes is wise for the area.

There are those with whom I’ve spoken that support the development concept at Nanticoke, and I’ve respectfully asked that we agree to disagree. It’s okay to disagree!

In the past, I’ve detailed my reservations, so I won’t do that in this column as I want to talk about the heavy industry at Nanticoke – Stelco, Imperial Oil and Air Products – which employs a few thousand locals who contribute to our local economy. That does not include the indirect jobs the industrial park supports. There has also been interest by Ontario Power Generation for future hydrogen production.

Both Stelco (Haldimand’s largest employer) and Imperial Oil have said that doing business at Nanticoke with a 15,000-home development would be difficult and could imperil the future. I do not want to see thousands of locals out of work.

In 2019, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing identified 29 Provincially Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ) – three of these included Stelco Lake Erie Works, Hamilton Works, and the Ontario Food Terminal. These areas receive enhanced protection under the provincial government’s “A Place to Grow,” which is a Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The creation of these zones, according to the government, was for the purpose of long-term planning for job creation and economic development.  Identifying these PSEZs included a comment period on the Environmental Registry. The proposal to protect employment areas critical to the region’s economy received 650 submissions, with the majority of stakeholders supporting protecting lands exclusively for employment.

Fast forward to the present, and I need clarification why the same government that identified the Nanticoke area as a PSEZ would entertain authorizing an MZO. An MZO would be in direct contravention to the purpose of the consultation and planning done in 2019 and would ultimately undo the excellent work that has been done. What has changed over the past few years?

Haldimand County Council, now that its own public consultation has wrapped up, will vote on whether the County will pursue the authorization of an MZO from the province.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk