Environmentalists hoped the Liberals would rein in developers devouring greenspace outside Toronto.
But instead of pushing the powerful development industry to construct livable communities, the Libs have given them a wink and a nudge to let them know it’s business as usual on the 905 frontier.
A few weeks back, Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller delivered a scarring assessment: the Growth Plan For The Greater Golden Horseshoe, the primary piece of legislation that will determine where and how the GTA will accommodate an anticipated 4 million more people by 2031 is, in Miller’s estimation, far too weak to encourage the compact communities necessary to allow walking, cycling and transit to be viable modes of transportation.
The plan requires only 40 per cent of new homes to be constructed within existing urban boundaries. By comparison, the target in Vancouver is 70 per cent, and internationally at least 60 per cent of new homes in the United Kingdom and Sydney, Australia, must be built inside present city limits.
The intensification targets are especially weak considering that there’s more than enough land within areas already designated for development to accommodate expected growth past 2031, according to the ministry’s own research.
Density targets for the remaining greenfield developments allow a minimum of only 40 people per hectare. Most experts agree that communities must have at least 60 people per hectare to support even a bus route, and considerably more for rail.
Why is the government so reluctant to implement intensification measures that have been proven to work? Anne Dunderdale, media relations coordinator at the Ministry for Public Infrastructure Renewal, isn’t saying.
“It’s not something we can speak to now. These things take time.”
Time is certainly what the government has given the development industry. The modest targets it has legislated don’t take effect until 2021, by which point another million cars will have been added to the GTA’s roads.
That means more highways like the proposed 407 are a foregone conclusion.
“A tremendous amount of planning and land acquisition have been involved,” says Miller. “To abandon them now would abandon 30 years of planning."
Josh Garfinkel is a campaigner for environment group Earthroots.email@example.com