Growth Plan for Northern Ontario
In March 2011, the Ministry of Infrastructure (MOI) and the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry (MNDMF) finalized the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011. The Growth Plan is a strategic plan that guides decision making and investment planning over the next 25 years. The plan is centred on six main themes: economy, people, communities, infrastructure, environment and Aboriginal peoples. According to the government, approximately 3,800 Ontarians participated in the development of the Growth Plan.
of Parry Sound, which represents roughly 90 per cent of the total area of the province and is home to more than three-quarters of a million people. It covers 144 municipalities, 106 First Nations communities and more than 150 unincorporated communities. More than half of all residents in the plan area live in the five cities of Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins; these municipalities are identified in the Growth Plan as strategic core areas for planning.
The Ontario government previously had developed a similar plan in southern Ontario: the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006. Both of these plans were developed under the Places to Grow Act, 2005. A significant difference between these two plans is that the northern Growth Plan does not set population targets. It also lets municipalities determine intensification targets for growth and exactly where growth should occur.
The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario sets out six principles: creating a highly productive region; developing a skilled workforce; partnering with Aboriginal peoples; creating an infrastructure network; being a leader in environmental management; and establishing innovative partnerships. The plan focuses on 11 “existing and emerging priority economic sectors,” ranging from advanced manufacturing to tourism. The Ontario government will work with industry and northerners to develop regular five-year economic action plans to promote each of these economic sectors. Regional economic plans will also be developed involving municipalities, industry, community organizations and First Nations.
A multi-modal transportation system will be co-ordinated by the government to support the Growth Plan. The plan’s intent is to integrate transportation infrastructure for air, rail, road and water in northern Ontario. This component of the plan also recognizes the need for better transportation linkages to rural and remote communities, including the commitment to realign winter road access to communities.
A Northern Policy Institute will be established to facilitate the Growth Plan. The proposed mandate of the institute is to provide independent research and develop policy options to support the plan, as well as to measure and report on its implementation.
The Growth Plan overlaps with areas identified for joint community based land use planning by First Nations and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in the Far North. In the case of a possible conflict between these two planning processes, the Far North Land Use Strategy and the mandatory contents of a community based land use plan prevail over the Growth Plan. However, the Growth Plan prevails over any potential conflict with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 issued under the Planning Act. The Growth Plan does not specify how any conflicts in direction would be resolved with respect to MNR’s role and responsibilities in the planning of Crown lands, which cover the vast majority of the Growth Plan area.
The ECO believes that the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario should provide reassurance to northern communities that their concerns are being recognized by the Ontario government. The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario offers a platform to tailor solutions for these communities, recognizing that a one-size-fitsall approach (even within northern Ontario) may not always be the best approach for long-term economic sustainability. Some critics of the plan cast it as a motherhood document lacking detail. However, it is best understood as a framework to plan for the long term, enabling the development of shorter-term plans for communities, regions and economic sectors, and to address specific issues such as co-ordinated infrastructure planning. The relative success of the Growth Plan will rely on how northern communities embrace it and use it to their advantage.
For ministry comments, please see Appendix C.
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|This is an article from the 2010/11 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2011. "Growth Plan for Northern Ontario." Engaging Solutions, ECO Annual Report, 2010/11. Toronto: The Queen's Printer for Ontario. 22-23.