Mr. Ian Arthur: Speaker, through you to the Acting Premier: In July, the government issued a minister’s zoning order to enable a glass factory on lands annexed to the city of Stratford. It seems this MZO was the culmination of nearly two years of backroom discussions between this government and Xinyi, the Chinese firm seeking to build the factory.
Over two years ago, the Premier told this House that he met with Xinyi representatives to discuss the location for this factory. In a recent article in the Stratford Beacon Herald, a consultant working for Xinyi described extensive discussions with the provincial government concerning the MZO.
Why has there never been a single entry for Xinyi in the lobbyist registry, Speaker?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The parliamentary assistant, the member for Milton.
Mr. Parm Gill: I want to thank the member opposite for that question. Every single minister’s zoning order we’ve issued on non-provincially owned lands has been at the request of a local municipality. The MZO was requested by the mayor of Stratford with support from the county of Perth and the township of Perth South, who represent the needs of their constituents.
Over the years, these municipalities have demonstrated that this project will bring much-needed economic opportunity to their community, with a $400-million investment and creating 350 local jobs.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to drive forward economic growth in our communities even more. This project is located next to an existing industrial area that already has heavy manufacturing.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question? The member for Niagara Centre.
Mr. Jeff Burch: Back to the Premier, Speaker: That doesn’t sound right. There’s no evidence of any request for this MZO from Stratford council. In fact, the Xinyi consultant said that it was the province that offered an MZO to Xinyi even before the Stratford site was selected. This government initiated the MZO on Xinyi’s behalf and then wrote it so that only a glass factory could be built on these lands. This effectively forced the city to agree to the Xinyi development on Xinyi’s terms, including a cost-sharing agreement that will force Stratford taxpayers to pay $6 million for Xinyi’s infrastructure.
Speaker, why is this Premier sticking the people of Stratford with a $6-million bill for his backroom deal with Xinyi?
Mr. Parm Gill: Mr. Speaker, a letter from the mayor of Stratford dated November 20, 2018, and a follow-up letter from March 11, 2020, clearly shows that the municipality specifically requested an MZO for the glass production plant, and we adhered to that request.
As I pointed out earlier in my response, this would create 350 local jobs. We work with our municipal partners. I also mentioned the fact that we would not issue an MZO on a property that is not provincially owned unless it was requested by the local municipality. That’s exactly what happened in this case, Mr. Speaker. We are obviously working with our municipal partners to help economic growth, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.