No public body has set out a detailed and enforceable plan for how Simcoe County -- or any other jurisdiction -- is to grow in the context of the Toronto-related region. While the Province is too large, local authorities are too small. Richard White of the Neptis Foundation notes that "Politically, the region [is] as fragmented as the original metropolitan area [was] before Metro's creation."125
Although the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel described a region of nodes knit together by a coherent system of transportation corridors, the process by which this high-level sketch can be implemented over a long timeframe is undefined. This is especially true, given the election of a provincial government that has yet to articulate a vision of the desirable future form of the Toronto region.
The current three-level, multi-jurisdiction structure is ill-equipped to manage growth at the scale of the Toronto-related region. The Province is the only body that oversees the entire region, yet planning authority has been delegated to local authorities. The Province has the power to make choices at a regional scale, but its role in the system is reactive rather than proactive. Although ministries can, for example, deny approvals to specific projects as they come forward, the Province engages in policy development at a regional scale only in exceptional circumstances. It remains to be seen whether the large-scale developments in Simcoe County will spark a broader regional policy process on the part of the Province.
While provincial lending made possible the Collingwood-Alliston water pipeline, leading to a substantial increase in Alliston's industrial and residential growth capacity, the investment was clearly not part of a broader growth management strategy for South Simcoe and Barrie within the context of growth in the Toronto-related region.
Further research is required to determine whether growth in Simcoe County is rapid enough for local governments to finance infrastructure the way Metro Toronto did in the 1950s and 1960s, and whether doing so would alter the pattern of development or increase political control over the process.
A fundamental first step, however, is for servicing plans to be approved at the County level. This would require the Province to transfer authority over water and wastewater services from lower-tier municipalities to the County level.
In order for the decision-making process to be meaningful, the issue of unequal representation on the County council must also be addressed. Representation on council in proportion to population is necessary if the County is to develop a political voice of its own in setting county-wide priorities. Everyone agrees that Barrie's explosive growth has effects far beyond its borders. Whether through informal collaboration or institutional change, Barrie and the County must come together to develop an integrated and rational growth strategy for South Simcoe as a whole.