Where is the Growth Plan distributing the growth?

The total amount of growth – in population, in employment, and in urbanized land – is only part of the story. It is also important to consider where growth is planned to occur between now and 2031.

The analysis shows a marked difference between the treatment of municipalities in Inner Ring and those in the Outer Ring. Nearly half of the land designated for urbanization is the Outer Ring, even though the Outer Ring is expected to attract only one-third as many new residents and one-quarter as many jobs as the Inner Ring (see Table 4.5 and Figure 4.2). Essentially, the Outer Ring will be permitted to recreate the kind of low-density, car-oriented development that has created so many challenges in the Inner Ring.

Table 4.5: Forecast growth and land planned to be urbanized 2001-2031


Inner Ring

Outer Ring

Population and Employment Growth 2001-20311



Land Planned to be Urbanized

(Total Designated Greenfield Areas)2

56,200 ha

50,900 ha

1 Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006, Office Consolidation, January 2012.
2 Calculated by the Neptis Foundation as determined through the review of municipal official plans, official plan amendments, and other planning documents; see Appendix A for methodology, Appendix B for sources, and Appendix C for the land area inventory by municipality.
Figure 4.2: Forecast growth and land planned to be urbanized, 2001-2031

This finding is directly related to the exemptions allowed in the Growth Plan for many Outer Ring municipalities. Of the 73 lower- and single-tier municipalities in the Outer Ring, 44 or 60% have been permitted to set intensification targets below the 40% minimum, and 47 or 64% have greenfield density targets below 50 people and jobs per hectare.

The “Vision for the Greater Golden Horseshoe” in 2031 included a range of transportation choices, the protection of agricultural lands, and compact settlement and development patterns.[1] Yet ongoing low-density development in the Outer Ring does not allow for alternatives to automobile travel, does not protect agriculture,[2] and does not represent compact development.


[1] Growth Plan, Section 1.2.1.
[2]  Agriculture is not just threatened when farmland is paved over; it is threatened when suburban development encroaches on agricultural areas, creating traffic and land use conflicts, preventing the expansion of agricultural operations, and putting lands off-limits to agriculture because of minimum separation distances. W. Caldwell and C. Dodds-Weir, 2003. An Assessment of the Impact of Rural Non-Farm Development on the Viability of Ontario's Agricultural Industry, Phase II Report, Rural Non-Farm Development: Its Impact on the Viability and Sustainability of Agricultural and Rural Communities, School of Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph.