Waterloo’s OMB case discussed in the Legislature

Legislative Assembly of Ontario, May 2 2013

Ms. Catherine Fife: The OMB recently overruled the region of Waterloo’s official plan and supported a sprawl development on 1,000 hectares of rural land. This ruling hurts local agricultural businesses and jobs, increases municipal infrastructure costs and undermines transit-oriented development.

This is far from the first time an OMB decision has gone against progressive planning principles and good local economies. When will the minister finally admit that the unelected, outdated OMB is not serving the needs of Ontarians and take action to reform this unelected body?

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I guess I’ll speak to the first part of the question. There were kind of two parts to that question. Certainly when the Ontario Municipal Board issued its decision with regard to the region of Waterloo’s official plan and regarding the development of the area regarding their growth plan, they had contacted my ministry and asked for our assistance, and the city of Waterloo obviously sought appeal of this decision through the Divisional Court. We were contacted. We went back and discussed the decision, and certainly we shared our intent, we’ve made it public, that we will act as a party to Waterloo’s decision, because certainly we think that that’s important to do. Because the issue is before the courts, obviously it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further.

But I can comment to the importance of a growth plan. Certainly I think everybody in this Legislature understands that it’s important to have a vision that guides all of the province and the Golden Horseshoe over the next 25 years, and we’re working with municipalities to make that happen.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Catherine Fife: Minister, I have heard repeatedly from constituents who feel the OMB does not speak for them and that community members and municipal leaders should have more input into planning decisions. The OMB decision in Waterloo reveals systemic problems with the planning process, ambiguities about density targets and the Places to Grow Act, lack of consideration of local and environmental impacts, and a lack of municipal authority over official plans. When will the government fix the planning process so that it serves families and communities rather than the interests of those who hold power at the OMB?

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I understand that many of my colleagues have an interest in improving the OMB, and certainly my colleagues from across the aisle have made suggestions on how we can improve it. Both parties have made suggestions, and we welcome their input on how to improve the process.

We listened to our municipal partners back in 2006 when we added the requirement that the OMB take into consideration the information that is provided by municipal councils in making their decisions. In addition, we also made sure that municipalities have the ability to create their own local appeals body with regard to certain planning matters, showing our government’s respect for elected officials and their decision-making.

Our government is always open and receptive to hearing new and constructive ideas on how to improve this system. Certainly, it’s a conversation that I’ve been having with the AMO board at our MOU table, because we respect and want to consult with municipalities across Ontario on how to make the system more constructive.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Thursday May 2 2013