The overwhelming expression, and source, of social change in the Central Ontario Zone is the very rapid pace of population growth. This high growth rate is both a blessing and a curse. It underlies almost all of the planning issues and strategies currently under debate, and it magnifies all four of the social changes identified above. If this were a slow-growth or no-growth region, we would almost certainly not be debating the same issues. High rates of population growth provide welcome social benefits, increased employment, a rising tax base, and opportunities for civic improvement. They also tend to overwhelm almost everything: housing markets, roads, infrastructure, schools and social services, systems of governance, the natural environment, and efforts by public institutions and government to manage change.
To place the rate of growth in the Central Ontario Zone into perspective, consider the following examples. Adding a population of 100,000 annually is the equivalent to building an entirely new Peterborough every year; a London every five years; an Ottawa-Carleton every ten years. This is a staggering task of accommodating and servicing new growth.