Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Board

With OMB Reform upon us, the London Fog aims its patented comprehensive analysis directly at the recent decision (pdf) ordering the City of London to alter its electoral ward structure and boundaries. It's a good read for all those who have ever questioned the almighty Board and its subsequent impact on municipal independence within the Province of Ontario.

While long associated with planning matters, it should be noted that the Province didn't take land-use planning away from local municipalities until the mid 1930s and 1950s. While planning applications make up the majority of appeals, the Board is currently the final arbiter of more than 100 varying statutes dealing with municipal issues. When founded in 1906, one of the OMB's primary roles was indeed municipal electoral wards and boundaries - a role it has retained (pdf) for nearly 100 years - most memorably noted in the excellent 1969 Toronto 'finger wards' decision. Designed to depoliticize decision-making and uphold provincial interests, has the Board outgrown its purview?


Blogger MapMaster said...

Thank you for the link, and I appreciate the bit of history. I did not know that municipal wards and boundaries were one of the original responsibilities of the OMB. I was admittedly flippant when I described the OMB's purpose as land dispute resolution, although I did note that it did have legal jurisdiction over the petition under the OMA. I am not surprised, however — in 1906, legislators must have acutely aware of the potential for Tammany Hall-style corruption in municipal and ward politics. London's two councillor per ward system and board of control elected at large throughout the city were undoubtedly intended to be a check against the rise of ward bosses. This measure may no longer be as necessary as it once was, given the lack of jurisdictional authority in wards, but it seems a shame that the lesson has been forgotten nevertheless.

In answer to your question, the OMB has often served to restrict the worst excesses of politically-motivated municipal interventions, but its arms-length status has been hopelessly compromised by taking sides with special interests — for example, as is often cited, developers. Even though I agree with the outcome of many of its decisions, I do not countenance justifying the ends by undemocratic means. Currently, the OMB allows municipalities to take populist stances without having to accept responsibility for their actions.

Incidentally, I am not really so much opposed to the ward redistricting the OMB ordered, although I feel it to be unnecessary, but only the means by which the order was achieved. It is entirely possible that the representational outcome of such redistricting would produce a council that is quite different than the petitioners imagine. Interestingly, one councillor informed me that the petitioners were funded by the Urban League of London who is in turn funded at least partly by the city — in effect, the city is paying special interest groups to lobby against itself! I was unable, however, to corroborate this claim either in budget documents or on the Urban League website, so I declined to publish the innuendo on my blog — so I'll take advantage of your comment section to do so! I hope you don't mind.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Dick said...

By no means did I intend to be the history snob. As someone who is intimately connected to the board on a regular basis, I was refreshed with an OMB article on something other than planning. Too often people forget the vast array of powers the tribunal possesses and the logic behind its findings.

In terms of special interest subsidization however, Toronto continues to take the cake.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Dick said...


10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Here's to the Board. Long May She Reign." - B. Krushelnicki Board Member (Ret.)

That about sums it up....

9:45 AM  
Blogger MapMaster said...

No perception of history snobbery was taken. Prior to Imagine London's petition, I had always assumed the OMB's role was strictly land use and planning arbitration.

I'll be interested to see how the OMB reform in the legislation introduced yesterday will pan out. In the short term, I think it may well exacerbate the delays in planning decisions.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some may feel squeamish about eating it, but rabbit has a fan base that grows as cooks discover how easy they are to raise — and how good the meat tastes.

2:59 AM  

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