Friday, August 30, 2013

Why we need the Ontario Municipal Board

Lately there has been talk about reforming or even getting rid of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The contention is that municipalities know best how to plan for their communities.  So, who needs the OMB?

That’s a crock.
When it gets down to decision making in municipalities local politicians have the final say.  They aren’t planners.  In fact, in a lot of cases the extent of their planning experience is the scheduling of a day to declare when they are running for re—election.

Take as Exhibit A the recent OMB hearing brought about when the City of Hamilton blocked an attempt by a non-profit agency to consolidate its programs under one roof.
I’ve written about this before.  Last September’s piece talked a bit about the ideas of distance separation by-laws. (   That is the tool that Hamilton used at first to block Lynwood Charlton’s Centre’s (LCC) move.

Then the City changed their “planning” argument   claiming that the LCC program represented an “institutional” use.  I wrote about it again
At the end of the day OMB member Makuch basically ruled the City had no good planning case.   The Board was satisfied that the proposed development was “consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 and conforms to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe as well as the City’s Official plan.”  (You can find the August 23rd decision at

 Lynwood Charlton Centre suggested Council’s refusal of the application “was based on the negative reaction from the community.”   The Board, however, heard “no evidence to support any of the concerns expressed to City Council.”
With the traditional planning issues being resolved, there was no need to carry on to human rights matters.  The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) had standing at the hearing.  If given the chance, they would have said that Hamilton’s refusal of the application is considered discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

That position had been forwarded to Hamilton Council some time ago.  Most Councillors apparently believe that the fact that they were popularly elected gives them license to override human rights concerns.
Sure, the OMB needs to be reformed.  But cases like this one demonstrate why we need a body like Ontario Municipal Board as a safeguard to local idiocy.  

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