Blog post by Jacqueline Wilson, CELA Counsel
CELA opposes the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal’s (LPAT) increase in filing fees as a significant barrier to access to justice. As of July 1, 2020, appeals to LPAT of Official Plan amendments and Zoning By-law amendments are now set at an astounding $1,100.
Before July 1, 2020, the filing fee for an appeal was $300. That filing fee was already more expensive than the fee to start a civil case in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, which is $229. You can make a request to have those fees waived at the Superior Court of Justice if your household income is below a certain threshold.
The LPAT has noted that the filing fee may be reduced to a still quite expensive $400 if a private citizen or citizens group requests a reduction at the time of filing. The process will cause uncertainty for individuals or citizens groups considering an appeal. Since the fee reduction process is only open to private individuals and citizens groups, it is unclear why the LPAT will not always accept an application to reduce the fees or what factors it will consider in making this decision.
It is already difficult for individuals and citizens groups to participate in the expensive LPAT appeal process. The hearing process includes preliminary case management conferences and hearing days. Most individuals and citizens groups will need to retain lawyers. Experts are almost always required. We have also heard from citizens groups that the pandemic is making fundraising more difficult.
The imposition of such a significant filing fee, even if it is ultimately reduced to $400, will dissuade individuals and citizens groups from launching legitimate appeals. LPAT should immediately reverse the increases to filing fees at the tribunal. LPAT should also institute a fee waiver process for low-income individuals or citizens groups with limited funds to ensure access to justice.