Planning Board voices concern that proposed bill would prohibit appeals on provincial decisions

GORE BAY—The Manitoulin Planning Board has some serious concerns with the proposed Ontario Bill 139 currently in front of the Ontario legislature, in that it would not allow the board to appeal any decision made by the province.

“One of the things that bothered Jake (Diebolt, MPB GIS technician) and I when we were looking at the proposed bill is that we are still working on an Official Plan with the province; we submitted our original draft Official Plan and they made modifications and then they sent it back and we made modifications. Under this bill with the Official Plan or any planning matters if it is passed, it would take away our right to appeal the decision.”

“If Bill 139 is put in place then we have no right to appeal the minister’s decision (on any planning matter),” stated Mr. Noland.

“Any decision made at the ministry level appeal would not be subject to appeal,” Mr. Diebolt confirmed. 

“Who do we appeal to?”asked Richard Stephens.

Currently, if a MPB appeal is made to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and if it is turned down, it can go to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), and if it goes further it would go to the Ontario Court of Appeals.

“We can’t lose our right to appeal decisions made by the ministry,” said Mr. Noland.

Mr. Diebolt noted the letter that the MPB was considering forwarding to the Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro, should also be sent to Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha and Peter Tabuns, chair of the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

Theresa Carlisle, secretary-treasurer of the MPB, read the letter written by Mr. Diebolt, and signed by Mr. Noland on behalf of the MPB to its board members. The letter dated October 24, 2017 and forwarded to Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs read, “I am writing to you on behalf of the Manitoulin Planning  Board in regards to Bill 139 currently before the legislature.”

“The Manitoulin Planning Board is very concerned with some elements of the proposed legislation in its current form. Section 36.5, as proposed, would not allow any appeals in respect of a decision by the minister. This diminishes the accountability of the provincial government in planning matters and removes the final recourse available to citizens, stakeholders and planning authorities when major issues are at stake. The right of final appeal cannot be removed without damaging our democratic process.”

The MPB letter continues, “the amendments to sections 1 and 3 of the Planning Act are also areas of concern for the board. The designation of new provincial plans and policy statement without consultation or even notification will introduce significant uncertainty into the planning process, forcing planning authorities, proponents and citizens to navigate a constantly changing policy environment. It also removes important input from the people who will be working with new policies and living with the consequences. We hope you will give consideration to these issues.”

The MPB unanimously supported the letter and forwarding it to the three parties noted.

The position taken by the MPB is the same position other groups such as the Ontario Home Builders Association, Building Industry and Land Development Association, and Canadian Environmental Law Association, Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Environment North and Advocates for Effective OMB Reform indicated in a press release October 20.

The press release reads “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 (OHBVA).

“Bill 139 greatly reduces everyone’s appeal rights, developer, ratepayer, environmental group and neighbour.”

“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 be effectively be shut out and decision-makers wouldn’t be held accountable,” says Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and counsel of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “This Bill should be withdrawn and further consultation with affected stakeholders is needed.”

At the MPB meeting, Mr. Carlilsle noted there has been no date or decision made by the MMAH on the MPB’s last proposal on the Official Plan.