Research questions and method

The Neptis Foundation began this research to answer the question:

1. In adopting the forecasts and targets of the Growth Plan into their official plans, are municipalities making meaningful changes in the way they plan for growth in order to prevent the continuation of low-density, car-oriented development patterns in the region?

Neptis researchers collected data from a range of different sources, including municipal planning documents such as official plans and official plan amendments from the 110 municipalities[1] that are subject to the Growth Plan, as well as from census information, formal ministerial correspondence, and provincial reports and policy documents. In some cases, however, the required data, such as the mapping of settlement areas and designated greenfield areas, were not available from municipalities or the province or were not available in a format that allowed for regionwide analysis. In these cases, Neptis conducted additional research to collect the missing information. The method of data collection is described in each of the relevant sections of this report and in Appendix A. The data sources are listed in Appendix B and the land area inventory for each municipality can be found in Appendix C.

Much of the data used to track the adoption of the Growth Plan by municipalities came from upper-, single-, and lower-tier municipal planning documents that are constantly in a state of change. Nevertheless, every effort was taken to ensure that the most current and accurate data were used at the time this report was published.

Answering the first research question meant studying the different methods used by municipalities to adopt the Growth Plan and identifying the municipalities that have requested and been granted permission by the Province to deviate from certain requirements and targets of the Growth Plan.

In particular, Neptis researchers studied how municipalities were adopting two key components of the Plan: the intensification rate (that is, the requirement to direct “a significant portion of new growth to the built-up areas of the community”) and the designated greenfield area density target (that is, the provision that supports “building compact, transit-supportive communities in designated greenfield areas”).

Since lowering the intensification or greenfield density targets in certain areas has the potential to compromise the goals of the Growth Plan, Neptis researchers developed cumulative estimates of the amount of land proposed to accommodate growth under the provisions of the Growth Plan up to the year 2031 and the potential overall densities in the region when the forecast population and employment occupies the developed lands. In doing so, the researchers intended to answer the question:

2. What is the total amount of land designated to accommodate growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe up to the year 2031 under the provisions of the Growth Plan, and how does that amount compare with projections for the region made before the introduction of the Growth Plan?

In other words, has the Growth Plan succeeded in changing the status-quo development patterns in the region, as it was intended to do?

Finally, the analysis looked at the distribution of growth in the region, to answer a third question:

3. How are the population and employment forecasts and the associated land area required to accommodate growth distributed between the Inner Ring (the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) and the Outer Ring (the area outside the Greenbelt) and what are the implications of this distribution?

[1] Where possible, planning information from the 21 upper- and single-tier was used to prepare this analysis. However, if sufficient detail was not available from an upper-tier municipality, lower-tier planning information was used.