Alliance of over 120 groups ask province to support citizen participation in reform of Ontario Municipal Board

Building sustainable communities works best with engaged residents

Toronto, ON – Reforms to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) announced by the province yesterday limit appeals and provide more support for democratic decision making by municipal councils. This comes as good news for the environmental and community groups that are members of Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. However, the Alliance are cautiously optimistic that reforms will empower democratic municipal decision making, but feel the pending legislation must do more to support citizen participation and ensure that planning decisions address complex environmental matters.

"The OMB was the last line of defense for appealing bad municipal decisions. I’m concerned the OMB may be changed to becoming a rubber stamp for municipal decisions that are not in the interest of curbing sprawl,” said Sony Rai of Sustainable Vaughan. “While we welcome reform of the OMB that supports more democratic decision making, our members are concerned that the issue of cost awards has not been dealt with. Citizens remain vulnerable to deep pocketed developers at OMB hearings through gigantic cost award claims, specifically meant to deter anyone from challenging developer plans at the OMB."

“Going to the OMB was a terrible experience. Not only were we intimidated, but the developers slapped us with a huge cost award for advocating for our rights,” said farmers Gill Evans and David Toyne, who were hit with a punitive OMB cost award for wanting a buffer to separate a new subdivision from their cattle farm. “To ensure fair hearings, the province must financially support citizen participation at the OMB and do away with outrageous cost awards.”

“Beyond Ontario’s Greenbelt, many southern Ontario municipalities used precious farmland like a giant ATM machine, constantly withdrawing more and more natural capital," said environmental lawyer and frequent counsel to community groups, David Donnelly. “Climate change requires that we think differently about planning, like putting greater emphasis on protection of water and agricultural land, which is why the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance recommended environmental planning matters be referred to the Environmental Review Tribunal."

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance made a number of recommendations to reform the OMB. They can be found here.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a defender of Ontario’s innovative Greenbelt. The Alliance brings together more than 120 environmental and public health organizations, community groups, ratepayer groups and local environmental organizations to ensure the continued protection and expansion of the Greenbelt. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance believes that a strong economy and a beautiful well-protected Greenbelt go hand in hand.

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For more information or to arrange interviews contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, skohls@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext 232, 416-885-7847 (cell)