The two amendments to the Growth Plan, which deal with growth in Simcoe County (an upper-tier municipality in the Outer Ring that is planned for considerable growth), and extend the population and employment forecasts to 2041, also affect growth management efforts in the region.
Amendment no. 1 was introduced in 2012 and includes lower-tier forecasts for population and employment, identifies a series of primary settlements, and designates new employment lands in Simcoe County, an area north of the Greenbelt that is, in the Ministry’s own words, “facing strong development pressure.” By treating Simcoe County as a special case, the Province may have set a precedent for other municipalities wanting special policies be added to the Growth Plan. This approach could undermine the effectiveness of regional planning in the GGH.
Amendment no. 2 to the Growth Plan was introduced in 2013. It is unclear whether the revised forecasts contained in Schedule 3 will be reviewed again in 2016. Also, some of the updated forecasts diverge considerably from past trends. The reasons for these divergent projections are apparently related to higher fertility rates, rising life expectancy, changing immigration patterns, and slower household growth, according to the background study prepared for the Amendment. A further technical report attributes certain changes in the forecasts to “environmental constraints” in certain areas.
The Minister has set a date of June 17, 2018, for municipal official plans to be brought into conformity with Amendment no. 2. Until municipalities have updated their official plans to conform to the new forecasts, the original forecasts will continue to be used.
Appendix D contains some additional information about the 2041 forecasts. Although a full analysis of the new forecasts is beyond the scope of this report, the divergences introduce an element of uncertainty into the use of population and employment forecasts as a solid basis for land use planning.