Ontario Receives Report with Plans to Protect and Grow the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Monday, December 21, 2015

Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015 - 2041The anticipated report from the Coordinated Land-Use Planning Review Advisory Panel has been released, Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015 – 2041.

The 177-page report to the provincial government makes 87 land-use recommendations, focused on how to build more complete communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area – Canada’s fastest-growing urban region, the home of the Greenbelt, and the province’s economic engine (the Greater Golden Horseshoe accounts for 70% of Ontario’s GDP).

“While we are pleased with the emphasis placed on agriculture in this review, it will be imperative that the implementation of the plan keeps protection of the agricultural lands and systems connected to those lands top of mind,” said Jamie Reaume, Chair of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance. “There are still many issues raised by the Alliance that have been mentioned but not addressed within this report.”

During the last 50 years, we have lost 2.6 million acres of farmland in the Golden Horseshoe to development. The GHFFA highlighted 8 principles to the panel, including “Primacy of agricultural lands and agricultural activity needs stronger protection”.

‘The Greater Golden Horseshoe is forecasted to grow by over 4 million people over the next 25 years. The recommendations look at how to build communities in this fast-growing region with changing land use and housing needs, better access to services, and better public spaces. The report zeroes in on:

‌• Investing in transit and infrastructure
‌• Supporting agriculture investments and viability
‌• Growing the Greenbelt
‌• Protecting the environment and natural heritage
‌• Creating jobs
‌• Responding to climate change.

The advisory panel, led by former mayor of Toronto David Crombie, was asked to provide advice as part of the province’s co-ordinated review of land use plans in southern Ontario. The panel’s report was informed by feedback from 17 town hall meetings, written submissions, research and by meetings with stakeholder groups and municipal officials. The Golden Horseshoe Food & Farming Alliance presented to the panel in May
Our agri-food asset mapping project is also mentioned in the report (p. 95), acknowledging that the agricultural sector is experiencing a loss of supportive infrastructure and farm services (e.g., processing facilities), as the number of farm operations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe declines.

As a brief summary to the agriculture focus, page 12-13 of the report states:

“During the consultations for this review, many associations and individuals in the farming sector emphasized that farmland is a finite resource and the planning regime in the GGH needs strengthening to stem the ongoing loss of agricultural land to other land uses. We also heard concerns about threats to the viability of agriculture from speculative land investments, land use conflicts in near-urban areas, complex regulations and deficiencies in rural infrastructure. Recognizing the fundamental importance of agriculture in the GGH, our recommendations focus on:

• Promoting the identification, mapping and protection of an agricultural system throughout the region

• Implementing stronger criteria to limit the loss and fragmentation of prime agricultural lands, particularly in the outer-ring municipalities beyond the Greenbelt

• Supporting productive agriculture

• Recognizing the importance of locally sourced food and urban agriculture

• Integrating the needs of agriculture throughout the plans, for example when considering settlement area expansion, the rural economy, management of natural resources, infrastructure development, climate change and plan implementation

• Applying an agriculture lens to other provincial policies and programs (such as climate change, transportation and infrastructure, financial tools, community improvement plans and education) to address the unique needs of agriculture in the GGH”

Be sure to view the report in full here.

“We hold a firm belief that our recommendations provide a strong foundation for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and beyond. While some of them may take longer to implement, it is essential the Province acts quickly in order to ensure the brightest future for everyone who lives and works in the region,” said Crombie.

Ontario will review the advisory panel’s recommendations and seek public input on any proposed amendments to the plans in early 2016.