The Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) is a specialized administrative tribunal with an expertise in land use planning. The OMB is part of a “cluster” of tribunals known as the Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario (“ELTO”). The other tribunals in ELTO are the Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”), the Assessment Review Board (“ARB”), the Board of Negotiation and the Conservation Review Board (“CRB”). Operating as a cluster allows the ELTO tribunals to share administrative resources and staff in an effort to deliver government services efficiently.
The OMB has recently announced the hiring of four new full-time members: Justin Duncan, Sarah Jacobs, Karen Kraft Sloan and Marcia Valiante.1 These hires demonstrate the increasing trend of cross-appointments for OMB members.
Three of the four new appointees were simultaneously appointed to the ERT.2 The fourth, Marcia Valiante, was already a member of the ERT and continues in that role following her appointment to the OMB.3
Appointing members to multiple tribunals in ELTO has been stated as one of the benefits of clustering the five tribunals.4 Cross-appointments result in the sharing of individual members’ personal skills, knowledge and expertise. The four new appointments have resulted in a doubling of cross-appointed OMB members. There are currently eight OMB members and two OMB Vice-Chairs who sit on multiple ELTO tribunals. According to ELTO’s website, the member cross-appointments are broken down as follows: six cross-appointments to the ERT, one cross-appointment to the ARB and two to the CRB (one member is cross-appointed to two tribunals). One Vice-Chair is cross-appointed to the ARB and the other is cross-appointed to both the ARB and ERT.5
An examination of the new appointees’ biographies is a good illustration of hiring members with transferrable skills, knowledge and expertise.6 The four new appointees all have significant experience in environmental matters including private practice and public sector work. Their work experience includes a Professor of Natural Resources Law and a Vice-Chair of the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development.
Critics of cross-appointments are concerned that this trend may result in diluted expertise on land use planning issues. The argument being that an individual dedicated solely to issues raised at the OMB will be in a better position to adjudicate those issues.
Critics also point out that, while there are four additional members, with cross-appointments, these members are not sitting exclusively for the OMB; therefore, it cannot be expected that they will carry the same caseload as a member who sits exclusively on the OMB.
It will be interesting to see what impact (if any) cross-appointments have on the operations of the OMB, as there is no evidence that this trend will slow down.
* Roberto Aburto is an Associate at Gowlings in Ottawa, practicing in the area of Municipal Law and Land Use Planning, as well as in the field of Commercial Litigation.
** Connor McGarry is a Student-at-Law at Gowlings in Ottawa.
4 Ontario, Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario, Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario: Annual Report 2012-2013, (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario) at 4 [Annual Report].
6 OMB Agency List, supra note 1.