Although inconspicuously described as “Amendment Number I to the Ontario Growth Plan”, its impact if approved would be catastrophic. Amendment No. 1, would neuter the thrust of provincially directed land use planning, since it began to have an impact in a document entitled “Design for Development” (1966). It was also described as the Toronto Centred Region Plan.
Much like Donald Trump in the United States, Ontario Premier Doug Ford challenges well established, and well reasoned planning doctrines. Governments of all political stripes, Liberal, Progressive Conservative and the New Democratic Party, have all accepted since 1966 the framework of Design for Development. What is astonishing is that the background factual studies, if not the recommendations of Amendment No. 1, show that this framework is finally having its predicted beneficial impact.
The need for Design for Development was vividly shown by the type of “planning” that took place in Ontario before it had begun. Rather than comprehensive land use planning, the Department of Highways did studies that had land use implications. One of the worst examples of this was in my home community of St. Catharines.
On the brink of land use planning reform in 1965, the province funded a transportation plan for St. Catharines. It called for the wiping out of much of the peach, apricot and cherry growing land in Canada, saying although regrettable, this was not the proper concern of a transportation study.
The alarm bells went off at Queen’s Park over the pending loss of a number of unique and precious areas. These include the Niagara Fruit Belt, the Niagara Escarpment and the shores of Lake Simcoe. The intellectual driving force for these reforms was the distinguished land use planner, Leonard Gertler.
My friend Danny Beaton (Mohawk Turtle Clan), vividly showed me the reasons for Design for Development. This was during the “Walk For Water” led by native earth defenders around the shores of Lake Simcoe. We were able to see the consequence of an isolated development on the north shore — consequences of which Gertler’s reforms came too late to prevent.
After walking happily through the spectacular countryside for a few hours, our walk suddenly erupted in sorrow. We had come upon a still black stream with no signs of life. A few minutes later as the walk resumed, we saw something strange — which explained why the brook was dead. There were tall steel sprinklers. But as signs revealed, it was not water they were tossing around — it was sewage. The sewage field was built to spray waste from a retirement community on the shores of Lake Simcoe that was built before the policies of Design For Development came into effect.
Beaton expressed horror upon seeing the black water devastation. He recalls how “This whole idea of destroying natural environment, ravaging Mother Earth must stop. Our elders or spiritual leaders were saying this thirty years ago in our sacred councils and spiritual gatherings. We have enough highways, we have enough overpasses, we have enough supermarkets, we have enough golf courses. What we need is clear air and fresh water. Fresh air stops when you kill all wetlands. Fresh air stops when you cut down all the trees and forests.
Now, we are in one of the most historical times in the history of the earth, the absolute destruction and pillage of her body, starting with total urban sprawl from Barrie to Georgian Bay. This area needs to be designated as Green Belt protected before animals and species are homeless too.
In fact, the watershed and the aquifers should be designated as sacred life giving pure water for our children’s children; and this natural life that we benefited from has to be protected for our grandchildren’s children. Leaving our grandchildren with COVID-19 is bad enough; leaving our children a death sentence of a virus is bad enough. The mismanagement of Mother Earth has to stop soon. What we are creating is a dump for those kids, and our lakes and oceans a cesspool for them to drink from.
Everything that is going on has to change quickly, or slowly, but our thinking cannot stay negative, it needs to be positive and creative fast. We as human beings can be better than we have been. We need reforestation companies and reforestation industries now doing the work for our children’s future. The Chestnut tree planting in Northern Ontario would be a good way to start; and building up of our wetlands in Southern Ontario is the least we can do.”
Background studies for Amendment No.1 show that property growth is increasingly being concentrated where it should be in the properly serviced and planned communities of the City of Toronto and the Region of Peel. This positive trend is accelerating beyond the projections of the current Growth Plan, with other regions experiencing lower-than-predicted population growth. Here as Gertler predicted, growth is being located near significant opportunities for employment, well served by existing transit systems, and is being accommodated primarily through intensification. It is also subject to some of the strongest environmental controls, such as extensive setbacks from streams and tree by-laws. This makes the Credit River, although in a heavily urbanized watershed, a refuge for cold water trout and salmon.
Amendment No.1 proposes a number of devious tricks to allow outer ring municipalities to obtain more land zoned for development. One of the key instruments is by expanding the time framework by ten years from 2031 to 2041. This will make it easier for municipalities and developers to argue for larger urban boundary expansions in hearings before the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT).
Another gimmick is a failure to use the more realistic population increases made by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), as opposed to those of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), used in the Growth Plan. In the region of Durham, for instance, the MOF calls for additional urban land for residential growth of 2,000, whereas the MMAH quotes the residential growth as 4,000.
Another strange aspect of Amendment I are the new but not improved policies on Species at Risk. It proposes removing the Species at Risk-related restrictions on the location of new aggregate/mining operations in the Growth Plan area.
It is important that the Adoption of Amendment I be defeated. Write to request the use of the Ministry of Finance population projections, maintain protections of endangered species, and keep the planning population projection at 2031.
Send your emails to Sandra Bickford, the Ontario Growth Secretariat Director at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the Environmental Registry at 20-MMAH006. More details can be found by googling Amendment 1 Growth Plan.