In early 2002, the Province established five Smart Growth Panels, each representing a Smart Growth "Zone". The region extending from Niagara to Northumberland, and north to Haliburton and Georgian Bay was dubbed the "Central Ontario Zone". It currently has a population of 7.5 million and 3.7 million workers. The Zone is expected to grow by some 3 million people over the next 30 years, and 2 million jobs. It was partly in response to this intense growth pressure that the Province established a Smart Growth Panel for the Central Ontario Zone.

The mandate of the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel is to provide advice to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A number of key approaches related to the physical evolution of the region were identified:

Unlocking gridlock and promoting livable communities requires cross-sectoral and inter-municipal approaches such as: increasing the density of development; directing investment toward brownfield sites; protecting significant natural areas; providing a wider range of housing options; and better integration of different modes of transportation, including road, rail and transit.1

Three sub-panels were subsequently established to provide recommendations on a smart growth strategy, gridlock, and waste management. These three sub-Panels report to the full Panel, which in turn will forward its advice to the Minister on the issues identified.

The Smart Growth Secretariat - the provincial body charged with coordinating and administering the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel (as well as other Panels in the other Zones) - has asked the Neptis Foundation if it would contribute research to assist the "strategy" sub-Panel in developing its recommendations, and the Foundation agreed.

The advice being developed by the sub-Panel will suggest smart growth approaches for managing and directing anticipated population and employment growth in the Zone over a 15 to 30 year time frame. It will focus on the physical aspects of growth, primarily related to the evolving structure of the region and the regional transportation network.

As input to the development of the strategy, Neptis commissioned a limited number of research papers to be prepared on issues that relate directly to the creation of a smart growth strategy for Central Ontario. This issue paper addresses the relationship between development and the development process, on one hand, and the attainment of smart growth at the regional scale on the other.

1. Central Zone Smart Growth Panel Priority Issues,