Canada: Ontario Government Proposes Major Changes To The Province's Land Use Planning System


On May 30, 2017, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation that would, if enacted, effect major changes to how land use planning decisions are made in the province. Among other changes, Bill 139, known as the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 (the "Bill"), would limit certain rights of appeal under the Planning Act and impose new standards for the review of municipal councils' decisions on appeal. Though the ultimate form of the legislation may evolve somewhat before final enactment and the transition rules are still unknown, stakeholders should begin considering the implications of the new legislation.

The following sections summarize the key changes proposed.

Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to Replace the Ontario Municipal Board

The Bill would replace the Ontario Municipal Board (the "OMB") with a new tribunal called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (the "LPAT"), which will hear appeals of most matters currently under the jurisdiction of the OMB. The LPAT is directed to streamline hearings through mandatory case management conferences in which opportunities for settlement must be discussed and to enforce mandatory hearing timelines that will be set out in the regulations. The LPAT would also have the power to play a more active role in the adjudication process, by examining witnesses and compelling the production of evidence.

More Limited Rights of Appeal Under the Planning Act

No Appeals of Official Plans Approved by the Minister

The proposed amendments to the Planning Act would remove the right to appeal official plans or official plan amendments where the Minister is the approval authority. This means that appeals would not be permitted in respect of official plans or official plan amendments of upper-tier and single-tier municipalities that are adopted to ensure conformity with provincial policies and plans, including Growth Plan conformity exercises.

New Limits on Appeals of Council Decisions

The proposed amendments would prevent the review of official plans and zoning by-laws as long as they meet a minimum standard of consistency or conformity with applicable policy. If that minimum standard is met, the LPAT would have no power to change a council decision, even if an alternative is available that represents good planning and also achieves conformity or consistency with applicable policy. More specifically, the Bill would limit the grounds on which official plans and zoning by-laws can be appealed to the LPAT as follows:

  • An official plan or official plan amendment could only be appealed on the basis that the plan or amendment is inconsistent with a Provincial Policy Statement, fails to conform with or conflicts with a Provincial Plan (such as the Growth Plan or the Greenbelt Plan), or, in the case of an official plan of a lower-tier municipality, fails to conform to the upper-tier municipality's official plan.
  • Likewise, a zoning by-law or zoning by-law amendment could only be appealed on the basis that it is inconsistent with a Provincial Policy Statement, fails to conform with or conflicts with a Provincial Plan, or fails to conform to the municipality's official plan.

New Limits on Appeals Regarding Official Plan and Zoning Amendment Applications

Other amendments to the Planning Act would similarly limit the basis on which a landowner can appeal a council's refusal of an application to amend an official plan or zoning by-law, or a failure by council to make a decision on an application.

  • Where a council refuses an application to amend an official plan or zoning by-law, or fails to make a decision on an application within the required timeframe, an applicant can file an appeal of the application to the LPAT only on the basis that:

    1. the existing part of the official plan or zoning by-law to be amended is inconsistent with a Provincial Policy Statement, fails to conform with or conflicts with a Provincial Plan, or fails to conform with applicable official plans; and
    2. the proposed amendment is consistent with all Provincial Policy Statements, conforms or does not conflict with all Provincial Plans, and conforms with all applicable official plans.
  • From a practical perspective, the significant change to the current system is that it is no longer sufficient to show that the proposed amendment represents good planning and is consistent with or conforms to all provincial policy and any applicable official plan. Rather, the applicant must also establish that the existing planning instrument is inconsistent or does not conform with a provincial policy or official plan.

Longer Timelines for Municipal Processing

The Bill extends the timelines for a municipal council to make a decision on an application before an appeal can be filed by 30 days, to 210 days for an official plan amendment and 150 days for a zoning by-law amendment. Related official plan and zoning by-law amendment applications that are concurrently filed would be subject to appeal after 210 days.

Key Procedural Changes

A Two-Round Appeal Process

The proposed amendments require the LPAT to give municipal councils a second chance to correct a decision on an official plan or zoning matter before altering a decision. Specifically, if on an appeal of a decision regarding an official plan or zoning matter the LPAT is satisfied that the tests based on inconsistency or non-conformity with provincial policies or official plans, as described above, have been met, it is not entitled to change the decision. Rather, it must send the matter back to council and give it the opportunity to make a new decision. That second decision may be appealed to the LPAT, but again only on the basis of the inconsistency or non-conformity tests described above. If the LPAT determines that the second decision is still inconsistent or does not conform with provincial policy or an official plan, only then can it intervene and modify the decision.

Likewise, where an applicant files an appeal arising from council's failure to make a decision on an application to amend an official plan or zoning by-law, the LPAT cannot make a decision on the application unless it first determines that the tests based on inconsistency or non-conformity of the planning instrument proposed to be amended, as described above, have been met, and gives the council a second chance to make a decision on the application.

Evidence May Only be Introduced at the Second Hearing

The proposed amendments prohibit oral evidence at first instance hearings before the LPAT on official plan and zoning matters. Specifically, at the first hearing, the parties may make submissions, but they cannot adduce any evidence or call witnesses. This rule also applies to appeals from an approval authority's failure to make a decision on an official plan or plan of subdivision. While more detail may be contained in the regulations and the LPAT's rules that are not yet available, it appears that the hearing must be based entirely on documents that were submitted to council before the appeal was filed. In contrast, on a second hearing before the LPAT, after the municipality has been given an opportunity to make a new decision, the parties may introduce evidence, including through calling witnesses.

Greater Emphasis on the Information Before Council

If enacted, the Bill will likely have practical implications on how official plan and zoning matters are dealt with at the municipal level. The prohibition against providing new evidence to the LPAT will mean that stakeholders will have to ensure that every report, analysis and document that could be relevant to an appeal, including a detailed expert critique of the work undertaken by the municipality, is submitted to the municipality before council makes its decision. Moreover, given the significant restrictions on appeals of council decisions, stakeholders and applicants may intensify their efforts to influence council.

New Policies Regarding Protected Major Transit Station Areas

New provisions would allow municipalities to delineate "protected major transit station areas" in their official plans in areas around existing or planned higher order transit stations and stops. If a municipality chooses to identify such areas, it must also adopt official plan policies that establish:

  • minimum densities measured in persons and jobs per hectare;
  • minimum densities for buildings and structures; and
  • authorized uses.

Official plan amendments adopting these policies would be subject to the approval of the Province or, in the case of lower-tier municipalities, the approval of the upper-tier municipality. However, there is no right to appeal official plans or official plan amendments respecting the protected major transit station area provisions noted above, and applications to amend an official plan respecting the above provisions would not be permitted. Likewise, policies that establish maximum densities or minimum or maximum heights for such areas would also generally not be appealable.

Other Key Planning Act Changes

Other key changes in the Bill include the following:

  • A two-year moratorium would apply to applications to amend a new secondary plan. The Planning Act currently contains similar two-year moratoriums on applications to amend a new official plan or comprehensive zoning by-law.
  • Appeals of interim control by-laws would be prohibited, though a by-law extending an interim control by-law beyond the first year would still be appealable.
  • Where the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing receives a request to amend to or revoke a Minister's zoning order, the Minister would no longer be obliged to refer the request to the LPAT and implement the LPAT's decision (as it was obliged to do in respect of the OMB). Rather, the Minister would have the discretion to refer the request to the LPAT for a non-binding recommendation.
  • Site plan appeals would be added to the list of matters that may be determined by a local appeal body. The City of Toronto is currently the only municipality that has established a local appeal body.
  • All official plans will be required to contain policies addressing climate change.

Local Planning Appeal Support Centre

The Local Planning Appeal Support Centre would be created to provide the public with information on land use planning, guidance and advice on proceedings before the LPAT, and representation before the LPAT in certain circumstances. The eligibility criteria for these services are not yet available, but it appears that representation services will be focused on individuals or ratepayer groups that would otherwise lack the financial means to actively participate.


The Bill does not contain transition provisions to determine which matters and proceedings would continue under the current regime, and which matters will be subject to the provisions of the new legislation, but instead gives the Minister the power to adopt regulations for that purpose. The Province has not released draft regulations. The timing for the release of the regulations, and whether they might be circulated in draft before enactment, is unknown.

Next Steps

The Bill is scheduled for second reading in the Fall of 2017, giving MPPs the opportunity to receive feedback on the proposed amendments over the summer months. After second reading, committee hearings will be held where stakeholders will have the opportunity to make submissions. Amendments may be made through the committee process, before third reading and ultimate enactment.

We will continue to provide updates as the Bill makes its way through the legislative process.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.