Province announces its plans for OMB reform

16 May 2017

The Province announced today that it will introduce legislation soon which will, among other things, see:

+ the Ontario Municipal Board replaced by a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT);

+ for the majority of land use planning appeals, the Tribunal no longer hold “de novo” hearings, i.e., no longer able to substitute its own decision of what is “good planning” for that of Council.  Instead the test will be whether Council’s decision conforms with City and Provincial policies.  If it does not, the matter will be sent back to the City for a revised decision within 3 months;

+ appeals of major Official Plan updates and of intensification plans around transit stations no longer appealable; neighbourhood plans not appealable for two years after adoption;

+ strong case management with enhanced powers to narrow the issues, encourage settlement or compel mediation;

+ limiting evidence mostly to written materials, doing away with direct and cross-examination;

+ “active adjudication” empowered (as opposed to mostly taking notes as most Members now do), provision for alternative hearing formats and multi-member panels;

+ creation of a Local Planning Appeal Support Centre that will provide free planning and legal advice to community appellants, even to the point of representing community appellants at case conferences and hearings;

+ local appeal bodies (such as Ottawa’s Committees of Adjustment) have their optional scope enlarged by being able to hear appeals of site plan decisions.  At the media conference at City Hall this afternoon, Mayor Watson said the City would look into exercising that option.

The news release:

The backgrounder:

A 1-page schematic:


The devil will be in the details of the legislation and the proof will then be in how it will work out in practice, but what we heard today responds to some key demands put by community members including the Greenspace Alliance.  Min. Naqvi confirmed to me that conformity to municipal and provincial policies will include both substance and process issues.  When asked whether there would be anything in the legislation to open up the use of Consolidated Hearings (joint panels of OMB and the Environmental Review Tribunal), he said not at this time but, in future, panel members will be chosen from the pool of all tribunals combined.  With the increased use of multi-member panels this will give the opportunity to include an environmentally competent member when called for.

Also good news: According to today’s release, the government received more than 1,100 written submissions in response to its October 2016 Discussion Paper, and held 12 town hall meetings that were attended by more than 700 people.  Not a bad response for what to most people is a rather esoteric subject.

Min. Naqvi expects the legislation to be passed in November and to come into effect in the Spring of 2018.


UPDATE – 31 May 2017

Bill 139 has been released; it combines both OMB reform and the revisions to the Conservation Authorities Act.   EBR Notice # 013-0590.   Bill 139. Deadline for comments is August 14, 2017.

A memo dated 15 July 2017 from Erwin Dreessen summarizing planning matters in Bill 139.


A first response from Councillor Leiper:

Ontario builders lobby against reform:

… but a sharp counter from a reader in Waterloo exposes their hypocrisy.

Other media coverage:–ontario-municipal-board-with-less-powerful-tribunal [Canadian Press story]

Jennifer McIntosh in the Metroland community papers (May 25, 2017)

Erwin Dreessen [rev. 17 May; 22 May; 27 May; 31 May; 9 July; 14 July; 15 July]