OMB Reform – the time has come

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti opens the Municipal Summit on OMB Reform

Municipalities across Ontario are asking the province to reform the Ontario Municipal Board, and severely limit its power over local planning decisions. More than 80 municipal councils have passed resolutions seeking OMB reform, including Toronto, Markham, Guelph, Newmarket, York Region, and Oakville.

The resolution began in Aurora and asks the province to “limit the jurisdiction of the OMB to questions of law or process” and to “require the OMB to uphold any planning decisions of Municipal Councils unless they are contrary to the processes and rules set out in legislation.” A similar resolution passed by Oakville council (which I think is stronger) asks the province to: exclude the board from hearing appeals of applications for amendments to provincially approved official plans; require the OMB to show deference to the decisions of local councils subject only to the test of reasonableness; and require the board, as an appellate body, to implement the concept of precedent in its decisions.

The province has said it will look into OMB reform this year.

In May, I joined over 100 municipal representatives (the only one from Burlington) at a Municipal Summit on OMB Reform. The consensus from the Summit was to request that the province forbid any appeals to the OMB of local Official Plans that have already been approved by the Province (first part of the Oakville Resolution on OMB reform). This would dramatically reduce the number of appeals, save time and money, and free up time for the OMB to deal with other matters within its jurisdiction in a timely fashion.

Another recommendation arising from the Summit was to remove appeals to the OMB for Committee of Adjustment decisions on minor variances, and instead direct local councils to create an appeal body or let the local city council be the final appeal body (which would be more time and cost effective).

These and other recommendations from the Summit will be forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the province. A representative from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario attended the summit, and AMO will discuss OMB reform at its annual conference in August.

A Summit Summary of notes from the panel discussions and breakout sessions is being prepared, and will be posted on along with a recording of the session, once available.

Read Inside Halton article on OMB Reform: Burlington could join municipalities calling for OMB reform
My Take: I wholeheartedly support reform, and wouldn’t miss the OMB if it were abolished. The OMB has become, in effect, the local planning departments for municipalities, creating duplication of services, overriding decisions of locally elected councils by an unelected tribunal, and costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars to defend Official Plans that have already been approved by the province and conform to growth requirements. These costs, borne both by municipalities and the development industry, are built into taxes and into the cost of housing. OMB-driven municipal planning is expensive, wasteful, time-consuming and unaccountable, and must change.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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