Corp Comm Connects


Newmarket OMB reform town hall meeting has residents calling for transparency
Oct. 21, 2016
By Teresa Latchford

York Region residents want the Ontario Municipal Board to be more accessible, transparent and fair.

The OMB, an independent tribunal that makes decisions at arm's length from the government, handles a number of issues, but the majority of its hearings are related to planning act matters. With municipalities and residents calling for reform, claiming the current process is broken, the province has collected feedback on proposed changes from various parties and is now reaching out to the public.

The Ontario Municipal Affairs Ministry held the first of 12 town hall meetings scheduled in various locations across the province at Newmarket’s Trinity United Church on Oct. 18 to collect public input on proposed changes on the board’s scope and process.

“The province isn’t going to eliminate the OMB because it still plays an important role but there are improvements that can be made,” Lou Rinaldi, parliamentary assistant to the municipal affairs minister, told town hall participants. “It is very important that we hear from the public, especially on public planning since people are part of these communities that are being affected.”

Residents who attended the meeting were split into nine groups to discuss five areas of focus set out by the ministry set out in a detailed public consultation document: jurisdiction and powers of the OMB, citizen participation and local perspective, clear and predictable decision making, modern procedures and faster decisions and alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings.

Each group discussed one topic, came up with solution recommendations and presented the highlights to the rest of the group.

The first table to speak suggested official plan amendments not be allowed to be appealed at the OMB since the documents are created with so much public consultation, and proposed appeals for secondary plans not be allowed for two years.

“We also believe it should be onerous on the developer to prove the town’s decision is unreasonable, not for the OMB to hear the entire case,” the table spokesperson said.

When it came to discussing citizen participation, multiple groups suggested greater advertisement of the liaison office and other resources available to residents, access to public planners and legal experts that are funded through a tax levy, increased application fees or means along those lines with strict criteria of who can tap into the funds.

“(The OMB’s) current process stifles citizen groups and erodes the role of elected officials in planning our communities,” said Environmental Defence’s Erin Shapero. “Far too many citizen groups have been penalized with substantial cost awards for participating in what should be an open public process.”

Many favoured a multi-member panel for complex issues to eliminate any personal bias, create more accountability and give adjudicators the opportunity to consult with each other throughout a hearing. As for a decision made, transcripts or recordings of the hearings should be made readily available on the OMB’s website along with executive summaries in plain language of the final decision.

To speed the entire process along, issues such as minor variances that only take one day to resolve should be dealt with by a local tribunal.

“We think adjudicators should also be required to attend the site because seeing the community and space looks much different in person than it does on a piece of paper with a floor plan on it,” one resident said, a comment that was followed by cheers of support from the crowd.

There were mixed feelings when it came to using mediation as an alternative to OMB hearings. One resident felt it would help eliminate feelings of intimidation experienced in a formal hearing and would cut down on associated costs for all parties involved. However, others felt it wouldn’t work because not all parties would agree to participate.

The written notes at each table were collected at the end of the session to be compiled and included in a presentation of public consultation comments regarding the review to the MMA.

“The decisions the OMB makes directly impact Ontario families and their communities,” said Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. “That’s why it’s so important that people, businesses and organizations take this opportunity to have their say about the future of the OMB and share their ideas on how it can work better for them.”

For more information about the review, visit


Have your say:

Aware that not every resident who wants to provide input can make it to the meetings, the government is also collecting written comments online at, via emails sent to or by mail addressed to Ontario Municipal Board Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Provincial Planning Branch, 777 Bay St., 13th floor, Toronto, ON M5G 2E5.