The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

The Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan regions in North America. Over the next 30 years, the population of the region is expected to increase by more than 4 million people. If not planned appropriately and strategically, this growth will have negative economic, environmental, health and social consequences for residents and businesses.

In 2006, through the Places to Grow Act, 2005, the Province of Ontario established the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the first regional growth management strategy of its kind in Ontario. It was considered a landmark in Ontario planning at the time and won several awards.[1]

The introductory section to the Growth Plan makes it clear that the purpose of growth management is to prevent what it calls "urban sprawl," which contributes to traffic congestion, hinders the introduction of transit, adds to infrastructure costs, and degrades the natural environment.[2] The Plan's growth management strategies to prevent "urban sprawl" include "directing a significant portion of new growth to the built-up areas of the community through intensification," and "building compact, transit-supportive communities in designated greenfield areas."[3]

In 2016, the Province is scheduled to conduct a 10-year review of the Growth Plan and its outcomes to date. As of 2013, much of the information necessary to conduct a review of the Growth Plan is available, although it has never previously been collected, consolidated, or published. The Neptis Foundation, which appreciates the wisdom and value of coordinated growth management in the Greater Toronto Region, has therefore compiled the available information in several key areas relating to the implementation of the Growth Plan to date and analyzed it in this report.

To provide some context to the findings, this report compares the amount of land designated for development before and after the introduction of the Growth Plan with a forecast of land consumption developed in 2002 that assumed a continuation of the development practices and patterns that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s.[4] Since those past planning practices are widely considered to have contributed to "sprawl" and the inefficient use of land and infrastructure - the very situation that the Growth Plan was intended to alter - it is important to determine whether the measures now being implemented by municipalities under the Growth Plan represent a significant departure from past trends. Despite differences in the methods used to collect the data, the 2002 study represents the only estimate of land consumption in the region that offers a point of comparison to current trends.

[1] Among other awards, the Growth Plan won the Award for Planning Excellence from the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Daniel Burnham Award from the American Planners Association.
[2] Growth Plan, Section 1.1.
[3] Growth Plan, Section 2.2.2. Emphasis in the original.
[4] Toronto-Related Region Futures Study: Implications of Business-As-Usual Development, 2002, and Toronto-Related Region Futures Study: Sketch Modelling of Four Alternative Development Concepts, 2003; both prepared for the Neptis Foundation by the IBI Group in association with Metropole Consultants and Dillon Consulting Limited.