Consultation on role of Ontario Municipal Board in Ontario's land use planning system

ERO number
Notice type
Posted by
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Notice stage
Decision posted
Comment period
October 5, 2016 - December 19, 2016 (75 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
October 5, 2016
to December 19, 2016

Decision summary

We introduced Bill 139 - the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, on May 30, 2017. The changes identified in the bill respond to the province-wide consultation the government undertook as part of the Ontario Municipal Board Review.

Decision details

Decision on policy

On May 30, 2017, the government introduced Bill 139 – the proposed Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017.

If passed, this Act would introduce new legislation to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, and make amendments to existing legislation, including the Planning Act, to give communities a stronger voice in land use planning.

Comment(s) received on the proposal: 365

Public Consultation on the proposal for this decision was provided for 75 Days, from October 05, 2016 to December 19, 2016.

As a result of public consultation on the proposal, the Ministry received a total of 365 comments: 327 comments were received in writing and 38 were received online.

Additionally, a copy of all comments are available for public viewing by contacting the Contact person listed in this notice.

Comments received

Through the registry


By email


By mail

View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

Effect(s) of consultation on this decision

The government’s review of the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was a joint initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of the Attorney General.

In total, over 1,100 written submissions were received as part of the OMB Review in response to possible changes outlined in the government’s Public Consultation Document. Of these, 365 submissions specifically cited the EBR Registry Number for this posting. In addition, twelve regional town hall meetings were held in communities across Ontario. Over 700 participants took part in the town hall meetings.

Submissions were made by members of the public, Indigenous communities and organizations, municipalities and a range of interested stakeholders, including community groups, development and professional sectors, and environment and resource sectors. All comments received were shared with both the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of the Attorney General and were carefully considered and analyzed in the context of possible reforms.

The proposed changes outlined in Bill 139 – the proposed Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 are responsive to the input received through the consultation process, including the comments received through the EBR Registry posting. This includes proposed changes to the Planning Act which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, as well as proposed changes that would replace the OMB with the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, make processes at the Tribunal more efficient, and establish the new Local Planning Appeal Support Centre which are being led by the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Many of the possible changes and ideas outlined in the Public Consultation Document have been further refined based on comments received and are included as proposed changes in the Bill.

Based on the comments received, some of the possible changes/ideas are no longer being considered as part the proposed reforms identified in Bill 139.

Summary of comments

There were mixed views on the possible changes outlined in the Public Consultation Document. Most submissions expressed support for changes that would make Board processes more efficient, level the playing field for citizens, and provide enhanced opportunities for alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. Possible changes that would restrict or limit appeals and move away from de novo hearings were the issues that received the greatest amount of feedback.

The following is a high-level summary of common themes from the feedback received as part of the OMB Review, including the comments in response to the EBR Registry posting.

Sheltering major planning decisions from appeal

Many submissions expressed support for changes to the Planning Act that would remove the ability to appeal provincial decisions on municipal official plans and major official plan updates. However, some felt that appeal rights should be retained in certain circumstances. For example, some municipalities felt they should retain the right to appeal modifications the province may make when approving an official plan or major official plan update. We also heard from other groups that there should continue to be an ability to appeal certain matters where their specific interests are impacted (e.g., wetland protection, environmental policies, parkland redevelopment) and/or when they disagree with a decision made by a local council.

With respect to limiting appeals to support transit, a prevailing sentiment expressed in many submissions is that a one size fits all approach will not work. Commonly-cited examples were that not all areas are appropriate for intensification, not all transit stations are the same and not all transit-supportive development is desirable. Various implementation questions were also raised, including requests for more clarity on which provincial interests would qualify to be sheltered from appeal and what is meant by transit-supportive.

While the specific proposed changes for Ministers Zoning Orders did not generate substantial feedback, some submissions expressed concerns on the grounds that the ability to appeal government decisions is important, while others felt the proposed changes were appropriate.

Strong local decision-making

Overall, many submissions expressed broad-based support for possible land use planning changes that would support local decision-making, such as the proposed changes to:

  • provide more stability for new secondary plans
  • remove the ability to appeal a municipal interim control by-law, and
  • expand the authority of local appeal bodies to include site plan appeals.

In addition, there was broad-based support for limiting the Board’s authority to matters that were part of the council decision and for requiring the OMB to send significant new information that arises in a hearing back to the municipal council for re-evaluation of the original decision. However, some groups expressed concerns that sending information back to municipalities could result in additional costs and delays in the process.

Changing the standard of review for the OMB

The standard of how the OMB hears/reviews appeals was a key issue for many groups. A full range of views were expressed on either maintaining the current de novo hearing standard as set out in the Planning Act, or eliminating it altogether – with no overall consensus among groups on the best approach.

Many submissions supported the proposal to move away from de novo hearings. These submissions expressed a broad range of concerns with the current approach, viewing it as undermining decisions made by locally-elected councils.

There was substantial feedback with regard to the ideas identified in the Public Consultation Document to base hearings on a standard of reasonableness or consistency/conformity. Many groups viewed these alternative standards as potentially providing greater deference to municipal decisions; however, there were mixed views on which standard should be implemented:

  • Some submissions expressed support for the “consistency/conformity” standard, commenting that this standard would provide more support for provincial and local policies.
  • Others expressed support for the reasonableness standard and felt it would be a positive change that would focus on the validity of a council or approval authority decision.
  • Others felt that a blended approach should be taken using both proposed standards of review.

But many groups also expressed concerns, particularly with the proposed standard of reasonableness. These groups felt that reasonableness is not easily defined and may not work well in the context of the planning system where there is room for interpretation.

Other comments expressed support for maintaining the OMB’s current approach to hearings. These submissions felt that the current approach provides for an appropriate level of review. Others commented that a change in this area could make participation in the process more difficult, and some felt that changes to how matters are dealt with could potentially make it more difficult to bring development to market.

Some commented that OMB hearings are already not true de novo hearings because the Board is required to have regard to the municipal decision. As such, they do not see changes in this area as being necessary – particularly if other changes were made to make the overall process at the Board more efficient and effective.

Leveling the playing field for citizens

The government heard widespread support for making improvements to the OMB’s website, improving the searchability of OMB decisions, and expanding the role of the Citizen Liaison Office. Several submissions called for improving access to information and resources to better support citizen participation.

While providing additional resources to citizens was often supported, there were mixed views expressed on providing funding to enable citizens to retain planning experts and lawyers. Some submissions also expressed concerns that this type of financial support may encourage NIMBY disputes. Many groups indicated that there should be criteria to determine if funding should be provided (e.g., application process to the Province).

Faster, fairer and more affordable planning appeals

The government heard widespread support for changes to make the procedures at the OMB less formal and less adversarial, and for changes to improve the timeliness of procedures at the OMB, such as establishing clearer rules for scoping and defining issues lists.

While there was support for placing time limits on hearings, a number of submissions expressed concern about the potential impact on citizen engagement.

There were mixed views on whether more matters should be adjudicated through a written hearing process. Some submissions viewed this as beneficial for some matters, such as minor variances, while others expressed the view that written hearings could make it more challenging for parties to participate.

Resolving disputes

Many submissions felt that more could be done to resolve disputes before proceeding to a full OMB hearing. There was strong support from many groups and individuals for changes being considered to promote mediation, but mixed views on whether mediation should be made mandatory. Many submissions noted that successful mediation depends on the willingness of the parties to negotiate. Some submissions identified that applications should proceed through a mandatory pre-screening to determine if an application would benefit from mediation.

Many submissions identified that the quality of mediation is important and additional trained mediators are needed at the Board. Some suggested that the OMB could consider hiring external firms to conduct mediation and that a well-defined issues list could scope issues that would benefit from mediation, which could then help speed up the hearing process for the remaining issues.

Application of new planning rules

Mixed views were expressed on the two possible changes that were being considered regarding the application of new planning rules.

Some submissions supported making decisions based on the most up-to-date planning documents. Those submissions that supported this change often felt that this approach would better protect the public interest and be more reflective of community values and interests.

However, other submissions expressed concerns with the possible changes. These submissions viewed the current approach as necessary to provide fairness in the planning system and felt that a change that would apply policies to matters in process would create uncertainty and negatively affect investments.

Other information

For more information and background on Bill 139 – the proposed Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, please visit this link.

For a copy of Bill 139 and to monitor the status of the Bill through the legislative process, please visit the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website.

The proposed Planning Act changes outlined in Schedule 3 of Bill 139 are posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry. Please see EBR Registry Posting Number 013-0590 for information on the proposed Planning Act changes.

Bill 139 also proposes amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is leading. For information regarding those proposed changes, please visit EBR Registry Posting Number 013-0561.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Provincial Planning Policy Branch

777 Bay Street
13th floor
Toronto, ON
M5G 2E5

Office phone number

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Original proposal

ERO number
Notice type
Posted by
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Proposal posted

Comment period

October 5, 2016 - December 19, 2016 (75 days)

Proposal details

Description of policy

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an independent tribunal that makes decisions at arm's length from government, and hears matters under a large number of public statutes. The Board is governed by the Ontario Municipal Board Act, and reports administratively through Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario (ELTO) to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The OMB is an important part of the province’s land use planning system. While the Board has diverse powers and responsibilities, its primary function is as an appeal body on land use issues, and the majority of matters before the Board relate to appeals under the Planning Act, including appeals of official plans, zoning by-laws and plans of subdivision. The Board is the main adjudicator of disputes between land owners, neighbours and municipalities. The land use planning system permits applications to change most land use plans and provides for applications and other planning matters to be appealed to the OMB. The government believes it is important that Ontario continue to have an independent appeal tribunal that can resolve some land use disputes - recognizing that not having an OMB would result in more appeals to the courts.

Since 2004, the government has implemented a series of land use planning reforms to make Ontario’s planning system more inclusive and transparent. These reforms have also affected the OMB, limiting the number of matters that can be appealed to the Board, giving municipalities a stronger voice and more independence in local land use decisions, and giving residents more say in land use decisions in their communities. These changes occurred through the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004, the Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 and, most recently, the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015.

Through this review, the government is seeking ways to build on past improvements to ensure the OMB can contribute within the land use planning system to its best effect. Accordingly, the government is undertaking consultations and seeking input on potential reforms. We want to hear from you about possible changes being considered to the scope and effectiveness of the OMB that could improve the Board’s role within the broader planning system.

The possible changes would:

  • enable more meaningful, affordable citizen participation;
  • give more weight to local and provincial decisions;
  • support clearer, more predictable decision-making; and
  • promote alternative ways of settling disputes.

Recent government consultations on related issues, as well as a posting on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs website which invites public input on topics regarding the OMB, have helped to inform the priorities for discussion in this review. The OMB review has been organized according to the following five themes, with input requested on possible changes the government is considering and questions identified for each theme:

  1. OMB’s jurisdiction and powers:
    • Protecting public interests for the future by limiting some appeals;
    • Bringing transit to more people by limiting certain appeals;
    • Giving communities a stronger voice by limiting certain appeals, expanding the authority of local appeal bodies, clarifying a limitation on the OMB’s authority, and identifying obligations for the OMB;
    • Considering options that move away from de novo hearings; and
    • Obtaining views on when new rules should apply to planning matters in progress.
  2. Citizen participation and local perspective:
    • Increasing public education opportunities on OMB practices and procedures, and proposing a new user-friendly website; and
    • Considering options to encourage citizen participation and to generally improve the OMB experience to ensure local perspective is heard, such as expanding and/or reconfiguring the Citizen Liaison Office, and exploring funding tools to help citizens retain their own planning experts and/or lawyers.
  3. Clear and predictable decision-making:
    • Increasing the number of OMB adjudicators and increasing training for adjudicators to ensure they possess the necessary skills; and
    • Considering options for multi-member panels.
  4. Modern procedures and faster decisions:
    • Promoting a less formal and less adversarial culture at OMB hearings by considering changes to allow the OMB to adopt less complex and more accessible tribunal procedures, and allow active adjudication; and
    • Considering ways to modernize procedures and promote faster decisions, including: setting appropriate timelines for decisions, increasing flexibility for how evidence can be heard, conducting more hearings in writing in appropriate cases, establishing clear rules for issues lists to ensure that hearings are focused and conducted in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible, and introducing maximum days allowed for hearings.
  5. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and fewer hearings:
    • Encouraging more land use disputes to be resolved using ADR, including: more actively promoting mediation, requiring all appeals to be considered by a mediator before scheduling a hearing, allowing government mediators to be available at all times during an application process, including before an application arrives at municipal council, in order to help reduce the number of appeals that go to the OMB, strengthening case management at the OMB to better scope issues in dispute and identify areas that can be resolved at pre-hearings and to further support OMB members during hearings, and creating timelines and targets for scheduling cases, including mediation.

A public consultation document has been prepared to support the OMB review and provide background information on Ontario's land use planning and appeal system. The consultation document sets out possible changes being considered to improve the OMB's role within the system, as organized under the five key themes noted above, and raises questions for consideration.

Any comments that are outside the scope of this consultation initiative will be either shared with the ministries or agencies responsible or considered as part of other possible future initiatives.

Purpose of policy

The purpose of this Policy Proposal Notice is to inform the public of the government’s consultation on the Ontario Municipal Board review. The consultation is intended to provide the public with an opportunity to express their views on whether the land use appeal system is responsive to the changing needs of our communities.

As part of the first phase of this consultation, initiated on June 23, 2016, the MMA webpage invited the public to provide feedback on topics regarding the OMB review.

All comments received will be used to help inform the government of what changes may be needed. Additionally, all relevant comments that have been received through other government initiatives such as the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy Update, the Coordinated Provincial Plan Review, and the Land Use Planning and Appeal System Review will be considered as part of this review.

Other information

As noted, a public consultation document has been posted on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ website to focus discussions and collect feedback. The public consultation document provides information on the role of the OMB in Ontario’s land use planning system and sets out possible solutions to improve the Board’s role in the land use planning system and raises questions for consideration.

The following information is available:

  1. Review of the Ontario Municipal Board Public Consultation Document
  2. Planning Act
  3. Ontario Municipal Board Act
  4. Ontario Municipal Board Citizens’ Guide

Public consultation

This proposal was posted for a 75 day public review and comment period starting October 05, 2016. Comments were to be received by December 19, 2016.

All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.

Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.

Other public consultation opportunities

In addition to this EBR posting, the Ministry has an Ontario Municipal Board Review consultation web page on its site. This web page provides information about the review and provides the public an opportunity to comment.

Regional consultation sessions are planned across Ontario – details are outlined on the consultation web site.

The government welcomes your input on this initiative. Comments can be provided electronically, or by mail, fax or letter. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs can be reached during regular business hours from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday, at 1-855-776-8011.

Comments can be submitted electronically to: and via the Ontario Municipal Board Review consultation web page.

To submit written comments, please forward your response to:

Ontario Municipal Board Review
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
Provincial Planning Policy Branch
777 Bay Street, 13th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
Fax: (416) 585-6870

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Provincial Planning Policy Branch

777 Bay Street
13th floor
Toronto, ON
M5G 2E5

Office phone number


Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from October 5, 2016
to December 19, 2016

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