Provincial Policy Progress
Over the last seven years, the GIO coalition and its members have been successfully promoting green infrastructure across Ontario. A great deal of policy progress has been made in that time period — but there is still much to do!
VOLUNTARY CARBON OFFSET PROGRAM (draft): MOECC is developing a voluntary carbon offsets program (separate from the cap and trade program) with the aim to provide a quality, branded class of offsets that the Ontario government, the private sector and others can use to reduce both their carbon and ecological footprints. The November 2017 discussion paper emphasized potential offsetting projects that could provide co-benefits, including green infrastructure projects that would align with other sustainable development goals.
MUNICIPAL ASSET MANAGEMENT: The MOI has created a new regulation that requires municipalities to develop and adopt an asset management plan. The regulation includes green infrastructure in its definition of Municipal Infrastructure Assets.
MODERNIZING ONTARIO’S MUNICIPAL LEGISLATION ACT: The MMA updated Ontario’s Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act to give municipalities more responsibility and power to grow and protect green infrastructure. Updates included: requiring that municipalities have policy pertaining to protection and enhancement of their tree canopy and natural vegetation; allowing municipalities to pass green roof by-laws; and empowering municipalities to act in the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality, including respecting climate change.
WETLAND CONSERVATION STRATEGY: The OMNRF released its Wetland Conservation Strategy, which outlines a framework to guide wetland conservation across the province into the year 2030. The strategy identifies the important role of wetlands as green infrastructure in Ontario, and identifies the need for protection, restoration and creation of wetlands in Ontario.
CONSERVATION AUTHORITY ACT: The OMNRF has modernized the Conservation Authority Act and now recognizes watershed management as a key tool in helping Ontario to adapt to the impacts of issues such as rapid growth and climate change.
GROWTH PLAN FOR THE GREATER GOLDEN HORSESHOE: The MMA released the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which includes support for green infrastructure, specifically in the context of stormwater management, climate change mitigation/adaptation, natural heritage protection and local agriculture.
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE – LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT GUIDANCE: MOECC is in the process of updating its stormwater guidelines to include low-impact development. An interpretation bulletin from February 2015 clarifies that the ministry’s existing policies and guidance emphasize an approach to stormwater management that mimics a site’s natural hydrology as the landscape is developed. The general approach: “Control precipitation as close as possible to where it falls.”
COORDINATED LAND USE PLANS REVIEW – ADVISORY PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS: The Provincial review of the Growth Plan and associated land use plans (such as the Greenbelt Plan) engaged an advisory panel that made key recommendations, many of which included green infrastructure.
GREAT LAKES PROTECTION ACT: The Act means that Ontario will have to report regularly on its efforts to protect the Great Lakes.
ONTARIO’S CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY INCLUDES “BUILD GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE” ACTION: One of four action items under the mitigation goal of “A Prosperous Low-carbon Economy with World-Leading Innovation, Science and Technology.”
UPDATED PROVINCIAL POLICY STATEMENT INCLUDES GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: 18 of 103 Official Plans in Ontario include green infrastructure, all updated since 2014.
GREAT LAKES STRATEGY: Includes numerous references to the need for green infrastructure/low impact development in order to protect great lakes water quality.