Media Release: Government’s Plans to Reform Decision-Making Framework for Community Planning Coming Under Increasing Attack

Media Release

Joint release from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, the Building Industry and Land Development Association, CELA, the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Environment North and Advocates for Effective OMB Reform

TORONTO, ONTARIO – A growing number of groups are voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s rush to dismantle the Ontario Municipal Board and pass Bill 139 – legislation that would radically alter the way community planning decisions are made in the province.

Bill 139 has already passed second reading and is rapidly moving through the committee stage, a process that has many environmental groups, municipal lawyers, as well as the development industry alarmed that the government is moving too quickly on legislation that could severely impact land-use planning in Ontario.

“Despite our divergent views and positions on various development issues, we have come together to voice our concerns that the current reforms will undermine evidence-based land-use planning and decision making in this province,” says Joe Vaccaro, CEO of Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA). “Bill 139 greatly reduces everyone’s appeal rights, developer, ratepayer, environmental group and neighbour.”

The OHBA, along with a host of other organizations, including the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Environment North, Advocates for Effective OMB Reform (over 20 of the leading municipal lawyers in Ontario) and the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), all fear the changes will have a negative impact on transparency, accountability and fairness in the way Ontario communities are planned and built.

“The current system in Ontario offers Ontarians important rights and protections. The changes included in Bill 139 would make it exceedingly difficult for our client community – or any other group – to play a meaningful role in the land-use decision-making process. We’d all effectively be shut out and decision-makers wouldn’t be held accountable,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director & Counsel of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “This Bill should be withdrawn and further consultation with affected stakeholders is needed.”

“What we are telling the government is that this legislation is deeply flawed, and that if passed without considerable amendments, the fallout could be significant,” says Bryan Tuckey, president and CEO of BILD. “With 100,000 people arriving in the region every year, we need to be able to build within existing neighbourhoods, and have a meaningful appeal process when local councils oppose these proposals.” Adam Brown, a leading municipal lawyer and member of Advocates for Effective OMB Reform, spoke on behalf of the municipal lawyers’ group to express concerns about procedural fairness and the government’s handling of the legislative process.

“We are concerned that if passed, Bill 139 will effectively eliminate important procedural rights enjoyed by Ontarians under the existing framework and limit the ability for all groups to engage in the process,” said Brown. “Right now, the government seems determined to rush through the legislative process, preventing stakeholders from meaningfully engaging in the process. This is a real problem because we’re talking about decisions that will impact our communities for decades to come. We all agree on the need to reform Ontario’s land-use planning system, but the Bill as drafted will exacerbate issues in the system, rather than fix them.”

The concerned groups have joined together to voice their concerns to Premier Kathleen Wynne in a letter, available here.

The bill is scheduled for clause-by clause review on October 23rd before moving to third reading. What was originally scheduled to be four days of committee hearings was compressed into two, leaving more than 50 groups or individuals who asked to speak to committee about the bill unable to do so.

Contact Information
Jeff Silverstein
Sussex Strategy Group 416-879-4353