Roundtable on Land Use Planning
On April 14th, 2011, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and the Carolinian Canada Coalition hosted a roundtable on land use planning in Ontario. The purpose of the roundtable was to reflect on Ontario’s current land use planning approaches, discuss their environmental and socio-economic effects, and to identify desirable approaches for the future. Sixteen individuals attended the roundtable from thirteen agencies. Coming from different professions and disciplines, participants included planners, biologists, lawyers, ecologists and geographers. The roundtable consisted of short presentations by Commissioner Gord Miller, and Gordon Nelson and Michelle Kanter (both with Carolinian Canada Coalition) then followed by an open discussion amongst participants. The proceedings do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the ECO, nor the positions of any of the participants’ agencies.
Gordon Nelson introduced his book, Beyond the Global City: Understanding and Planning for the Diversity of Ontario. The book focuses on place-based planning and posits that the current land use planning model does not give sufficient weight to the larger regions within the province. The book separates the province into major regions, provides a description of each region, and identifies specific regional issues. It argues that these regions are not sufficiently recognized in current land use planning decisions. The book recommends the use of geo-regions in land use planning, the establishment of regional groups, regional advisors to the Premier, and biannual or annual reports on each region.
Main Discussion Points
- There is currently a disconnect between local issues and provincial land use planning policy. This disconnect occurs when local jurisdictions implement provincial plans which insufficiently reflect regional considerations including unique environmental, social and economic qualities.
- A solution to this disconnect is to integrate the different scales of planning (local, regional, and provincial), as well as adopting a more trans-disciplinary approach. For example, the regional framework could tie local and regional perspectives into provincial policy and provide an enhanced opportunity to engage trans-disciplinary discussion, analysis and integration,
- A natural heritage systems strategy for Ontario is needed for long-term sustainability. The strategy could encompass both terrestrial and aquatic resources.
- Geo-regional planning could bring different disciplines to the table (e.g., planning, biology, etc.) to build a more comprehensive understanding of challenges as geo-regions are defined in environmental, social and economic terms.
- It is essential to engage the public and a range of disciplines to increase awareness, ownership, and participation in land use planning decisions.
- There would be value in holding a future conference to discuss land use and regional planning in Ontario.