By Evan Weinberg, Toronto Financial District BIA
On April 7th, 2015, ULI Toronto hosted its inaugural regional gala event “Meet the Chiefs”, which brought together chief planners and senior planning staff from across the region. The event had representation from the Cities of Brampton, Burlington, Hamilton, Markham, Mississauga, Pickering, Toronto, and Vaughan as well as the Towns of Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Richmond Hill, and Township of Uxbridge. The Region of Peel, Municipality of Clarington, Regional Municipalities of Durham, York and Niagara, and Metrolinx were also represented at the event.
The night began with opening remarks from Vijay Kanwar, Chairman of the Board at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). In his remarks, Kanwar highlighted the crucial role that transportation infrastructure plays in connecting the region beyond our borders. This is particularly important as the GTAA begins an extensive regional airport master planning process in light of Pearson International Airport’s projected growth from 39 million annual passengers to 75 million annual passengers in the next 15 to 20 years.
This was followed by comments from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ted McMeekin who echoed earlier remarks on the need for proper planning to manage growth. The Province’s commitment to smart growth will be reinforced as it moves ahead with its coordinated review of the Greenbelt and Growth Plans.
ULI Toronto’s Executive Director Richard Joy invited the panelists to discuss what they perceive to be the biggest opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed as part of the coordinated review. While there were unique opportunities and challenges highlighted by all of the panelists, three key themes emerged from the evening’s discussions:
Almost all panelists discussed the challenges of implementing plans without stronger tools to secure and fund new infrastructure, which includes transit, water, sewer, housing and social services. Without this, there’s a risk of intensifying without the services and transit to keep the region running.
While the Growth Plan has done an excellent job on residential growth, many panelists felt that it has not been as successful with employment, citing that cities were having a difficult time meeting employment number targets. As opposed to the province designating where employment should go, panelists agreed that there needed to be better rationalization of lands where there is market interest to grow the economy and population.
3. Better coordination
Many panelists felt that there needs to be improved coordination between all of the various plans. In particular, future plans need to better align the Growth Plan with economic development and infrastructure planning and investment.
The evening ended with closing remarks from the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, who spoke of the role policy plays in creating a strong region and the need for stronger tools to drive growth.