We Submitted Recommendations for Changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH)

By Don Kerr, Board and WAG member

The Ontario government has issued discussion papers for the review of several planning documents. One of these is a review of the Growth Plan Act. On August 8, 2016, we submitted our recommendations for changes to the Act. The GGH includes the county of Simcoe but Grey County is excluded; even so, there is some pressure for all Ontario jurisdictions to adopt the Growth Plan approach.

We strongly recommended a change in section 6.3 of the proposed Growth Plan to be more consistent with the provincial policy of reducing unnecessary OMB appeals. The OMB should not hear an appeal for more residential development when a municipality already has enough zoned and approved applications to meet its needs for 10 years. We recommended a revision to Section 6.3.2 of the Act to enable this change. It would provide a municipality with more flexibility and power to avoid unnecessary development applications, and associated costly appeals, while continuing to allow them to process an application if appropriate.

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) in s. says, re transportation, electricity and infrastructure facilities, consideration will be given to the significant resources in Section 2: Wise Use and Management of Resources. This wording is too weak and it allows Ministry of Transport to build roads through wetlands if in their opinion other alternates are unacceptable.

We have proposed new wording. The BMWTF is supportive of the overall thrust of Ontario’s Growth Plan for GGH legislation including its demand for intensification as opposed to urban sprawl, its aim of protecting and managing valuable greenlands, natural systems and agricultural lands, and its recognition of the need for infrastructure design that supports these goals. On the other hand, we regret the tendency to accept population growth predictions without first asking the question “What amount of growth can be tolerated without damaging the natural heritage and biological diversity of the region?” We believe the paramount assumption should be sustainability of ecological features. That would mean lower population growth in the GGH and perhaps redirection of growth elsewhere. We suggest that one should consider how to maintain a thriving economy without excessive growth.

In his 2013/2014 report, the Environment Commissioner of Ontario made many relevant assertions which we generally support. On page 154, the report states: “…at what point has there been enough growth for a particular city or region. Limits to growth are based on an array of factors… This fundamental failure to acknowledge the ‘limits to growth’ call into question the Growth Plan’s vision to build sustainable communities.”