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OMB reform is here with passage of Bill 139

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Attending the Municipal Summit on OMB reform in May.

On December 12, the Legislative Assembly passed the Building Better Communities and conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 which, among other matters, will replace the Ontario Municipal Board with a new tribunal, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, and helps ensure that proceedings before the tribunal are faster, fairer and more affordable.

More specifically, the legislation includes reforms that will:

• Reduce the number of appeals by limiting what could be brought before the new tribunal.
• Reduce the length and cost of hearings and create a more level playing field for all participants by introducing timelines and requiring the new tribunal to look for ways, like mediation, to settle major land use planning appeals that could avoid the hearing process altogether.
• Eliminate lengthy and often confrontational examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses by parties and their lawyers at the oral hearings of major land use planning appeals.
• Establish the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a new provincial agency, which will provide Ontarians with information about the land use planning appeal process, legal and planning advice, and, in certain cases, may provide legal representation in proceedings before the tribunal.
• Give more weight to key decisions made by municipal officials who have been elected to serve in the interests of the communities they represent.

These and the other reforms in the new legislation stem from last year’s comprehensive review of how the Ontario Municipal Board operates and its role in the province’s land-use planning system.


In early December Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Yasir Naqvi, Minister of the Attorney General issued a statement regarding the transition from the Ontario Municipal Board to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The statement included the following information regarding the proposed transition regulations:

• appeals that are already before the Ontario Municipal Board as of the date of Royal Assent of Bill 139 would be subject to the existing rules and would be heard by the Ontario Municipal Board;
• appeals made after the new rules come into force would be subject to the new rules and heard by the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal;
• appeals of matters between the date of Royal Assent and the date that the new rules are proclaimed into force:
o would be heard by the Ontario Municipal Board if the planning matter began (e.g. the complete application was received) before the date of Royal Assent; and
o would be heard by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal if the planning matter began after the date of Royal Assent.

The Bill has receive Royal Assent but has not yet received proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.

Proposed Regulatory Changes

Some of the changes made through Bill 139 will require corresponding amendments to existing regulations and the creation of new regulations.

Planning Act

Under the Planning Act, the proposed regulatory changes would:
• Require explanations of how planning proposals conform with local planning documents (which would build on other requirements);
• Clarify requirements for municipal notices;
• Make other technical changes; and
• Establish transition rules for planning matters in process at the time of proclamation under the Planning Act.

For more information, including providing comments on these matters please go to the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry:
EBR Registry Posting 013-1790: Proposed amendments to matters included in existing regulations under the Planning Act relating to the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 (Bill 139).
EBR Registry Posting 013-1788: Proposed new regulation under the Planning Act to prescribe transitional provisions for the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 (Bill 139).

Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act

Under the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017, the proposed regulatory changes would:
• Establish transition rules for appeals to the Tribunal under the Planning Act;
• Establish timelines for appeals to the Tribunal under the Planning Act;
• Establish time limits for submissions at oral hearings for major land use planning appeals before the Tribunal; and
• Scope the practices and procedures of the Tribunal in respect of major land use planning appeals.

For more information, including providing comments on these matters please go to Regulatory Registry:
Ontario Regulatory Registry Posting 17-MAG011

My Take:

OMB reform is long overdue, to put planning decisions back into the hands of communities and elected officials. I advocated for reform by joining municipal colleagues across the province in supporting change, and also brought a motion to council to support OMB reform. Unfortunately council chose not to advocate for reform and voted 6-1 against.

Based on the statement from the minister, it appears that any appeal launched between Royal Assent and proclamation by the Lt. Gov, would be under the old rules, if a complete application was received prior to the date of Royal Assent. Appeals launched after proclamation would be under the new rules. Existing appeals will continue to be heard under the old rules.

7 thoughts on “OMB reform is here with passage of Bill 139”

  1. There’s something really wrong about the fact that all other 6 members of council voted against supporting OMB reform. Practically everyone else in the province was asking for this (except the developers presumably) and it’s shameful that Burlington did not sign on in support with all the other municipalities that did. Something to remember at election time.

    1. John, I am sure there are good things and bad things with Bill 139. I have read many articles outlining the changes and various opinions on the pros and cons. My point isn’t about the specifics of the bill. My point is that the City of Burlington did not join the over 40 municipalities plus the huge number of people all across Ontario calling for OMB reform in the first place. Bill 139 is the result of that request. It is shameful that Burlington didn’t see the need for reform, and get involved with making suggestions on what sort of things were needed. It seems incredible that only Marianne saw this need. It was pretty obvious to a lot of people that reform was needed, and this received wide press all over Ontario for a long time. Yet Burlington voted against supporting the need for a review for change. Why? Every possible answer I can think of to that question speaks very poorly of the rest of council.

    2. Lynn Crosby You should read bill 139, it has a very negative impact on you, me and every resident of Ontario. It’s important to understand both the good and bad changes, that should help you understand councils decision no to support the bad ones advocated by a small number of municipalities. FYI Ontario has about 444 municipalities, there were very good reasons over 400, including Burlington, didn’t support these particular changes.

  2. Sharon Hutchinson

    At what location will the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal be situated? Will the new Tribunal officiates be chosen from the past OMB staff, or will they all be a new fresh breed?

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Marianne Meed Ward

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. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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