I am pleased to see Hon. Rob Lantz, Minister of Housing, Land and Communities, express personal support for restructuring P.E.I.’s municipal boundaries. The Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities shares the Minister’s view that land use planning and municipal restructuring are intertwined.
These two issues have been studied for decades. The time to act has never been more crucial.
PEI has a rapidly growing population and a housing crisis. However, we cannot continue to build in a haphazard way. Unplanned and sprawling development costs more to service, does more harm to the environment, consumes more land, and fails to achieve the density required to tackle the housing crisis. Our Island is changing in irreversible ways. For example, from 2016 to 2021, the Island lost an average of 39 acres of farmland a day.
Land use planning is vital. Now, only 35 per cent of P.E.I. is covered by municipalities and only 20 per cent by local land use plans.
The Province is developing a provincial land use planning framework. That work is essential to strengthening provincial land use policy. However, local land use planning remains key to the plan’s execution.
Local planning can help direct more development to urban and rural service centres and promote higher-density development — providing housing, transit, and walkability to more people while using less land and resources. At the same time, local planning helps ensure developments reflect the needs of local communities.
Restructuring municipal boundaries to cover the province would create a means to extend local planning across P.E.I. Larger and more populous municipalities would have the necessary resources to deliver this service effectively.
Creating larger municipalities would also provide critical resources to fund other municipal services, which are more in demand than ever due to population growth and complex social issues. To name a few examples, municipalities may provide water and sewer and other infrastructure for daily life; run warming centres; operate local rinks, pools, or community hubs; and offer recreation, cultural, and arts programs. They also help protect public safety, attract economic development, and build healthy communities.
We hope the Minister’s comments generate much-needed discussion on provincewide municipal restructuring. Protecting our land and promoting efficient development are two of the most important benefits.
President, Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities