4.1 Preamble

How communities are planned and designed has far-reaching impacts. Well-planned and thoughtfully designed communities will attract investment and support economic development, attract and retain skilled workers, strengthen cultural identity and heritage, and maintain a clean and healthy environment. The policies in this section of this Plan support community planning in Northern Ontario that balances the equally important priorities of human, economic and environmental health.

Northern Ontario includes 144 municipalities, 106 First Nations, Métis communities, and more than 150 unincorporated communities. These communities are diverse, ranging from remote settlements of just a few hundred people, to large cities. Each of these communities will need to find its role and place in the evolving Northern Ontario economy. All of them will play an important role in implementing this Plan and achieving a healthy, prosperous future for the North.

This begins at the local level with establishing a clear vision for each community's future, and mapping out the path to achieve this vision. Official plans, community economic plans and participation in community planning efforts are effective tools and approaches to ensure citizens' and businesses' views are reflected in their communities' future economy and long-term sustainability. Support for the realization of these visions is provided through a range of existing planning and fiscal tools under the Planning Act, as well as other legislation.

Of particular importance are the communities, both large and small, that function as the economic and service hubs of the North. These communities act as regional service centres for surrounding communities. They are critical gateways between the North and other economic regions in Ontario and beyond. They are also points of convergence for major infrastructure, including transportation, energy, information and communications technology, and community infrastructure. The prosperity of all northerners, and all northern communities, depends on the strength of these hubs. They will become the catalysts for the economic development of Northern Ontario.

More than half of northerners live in the cities of Greater Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Thunder Bay. These cities are economic hubs that benefit all of Northern Ontario, and in some cases have a large bilingual population. They possess the critical mass of skilled people, as well as regional assets such as colleges and universities, innovation centres, media centres, commerce and cultural facilities that can anchor many of the North's existing and emerging priority economic sectors. They are optimal locations for infrastructure investments that help to expand on this potential, and that serve citizens across the North. These cities also have great potential to leverage investments and growth to develop vibrant, mixed-use core areas with a range of employment and housing opportunities, higher density development, and public transit.

Building a vibrant, resilient northern economy requires strong, individual communities. It also requires collaboration among these communities to develop a regional approach to economic development. Collaborative regional economic planning recognizes the interconnectedness and distinct contributions of urban, rural and Aboriginal communities. It complements economic development strategies for Northern Ontario as a whole by tailoring pan-northern directions to local circumstances and opportunities.

4.2 Long-range planning for all communities

4.2.1 All municipalities should, either individually, or collaboratively with neighbouring municipalities and Aboriginal communities, prepare long-term community strategies. These strategies should support the goals and objectives of this Plan, identify local opportunities to implement the policies of this Plan, and be designed to achieve the following:

  1. economic, social and environmental sustainability
  2. accommodation of the diverse needs of all residents, now and in the future
  3. optimized use of existing infrastructure
  4. a high quality of place
  5. a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive community identity that builds on unique local features
  6. local implementation of regional economic plans, where such plans have been completed.

4.2.2 Municipalities and planning boards are encouraged to:

  1. align their official plan policies with their long-term community strategies developed in accordance with Policy 4.2.1
  2. employ the use of available tools to support and facilitate land-use planning that implements their long-term community strategies.

4.2.3 The Province will encourage collaboration with Aboriginal communities in land-use planning in accordance with the Policies in 7.5.

4.3 Economic and service hubs

4.3.1 The Minister of Infrastructure will work with the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry and other ministries to identify economic and service hubs in consultation with municipalities and other parties, as appropriate.

4.3.2 Economic and service hubs should be designed to:

  1. accommodate a significant portion of future population and employment growth in Northern Ontario
  2. function as service centres that deliver important region-wide public services to the broader surrounding regions
  3. function as economic hubs linking Northern Ontario with other significant economic regions in Ontario and beyond.

4.3.3 Economic and service hubs shall maintain updated official plans and develop other supporting documents which include strategies for:

  1. developing a diverse mix of land uses, an appropriate range of housing types, and high quality public spaces; and providing easy access to stores, services and recreational opportunities
  2. maintaining up to a 20-year supply of lands, or as otherwise provided by a provincial policy statement, for a variety of employment uses in appropriate locations to support economic development objectives
  3. improving access to public services by local residents and by residents of surrounding communities
  4. encouraging a significant portion of future residential and employment development to locate in existing downtown areas, intensification corridors, brownfield sites, and strategic core areas
  5. providing for a range of transportation options
  6. enhancing community identity, vibrancy and cultural amenities.

4.3.4 Economic and service hubs shall be focal areas for investment in regional transportation, energy, information and communications technology, and community infrastructure.

4.4 Strategic core areas

4.4.1 The following municipalities contain strategic core areas:

  • Greater Sudbury
  • North Bay
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Thunder Bay
  • Timmins.

4.4.2 Municipalities that contain strategic core areas are encouraged to plan for these areas to function as vibrant, walkable, mixed-use districts that can:

  1. attract employment uses and clusters, including office and retail
  2. accommodate higher densities
  3. provide a broad range of amenities accessible to residents and visitors including vibrant streetscapes, shopping, entertainment, transportation connections, lodging, and educational, health, social and cultural services.

4.4.3 Municipalities that contain strategic core areas should develop in their official plans and other supporting documents a revitalization strategy that includes:

  1. delineation of the strategic core areas
  2. targeted approaches to support the revitalization and intensification of the strategic core areas, including:
    1. identification and prioritization of opportunities for the redevelopment of brownfield sites within the strategic core areas
    2. a minimum target for the intensification of the strategic core areas.

4.4.4 Strategic core areas with a revitalization strategy in place and incorporated into an official plan should be the preferred location for major capital investments in:

  1. postsecondary education and training
  2. regional hospitals and/or specialized health care
  3. major redevelopment projects
  4. research and innovation centres
  5. major cultural institutions and entertainment facilities
  6. integrated public transportation systems.

4.5 Regional economic planning

4.5.1 The Province will identify regional economic planning areas as an inclusive, collaborative mechanism for long-term economic development, labour market, and infrastructure planning that crosses municipal boundaries.

4.5.2 The Province will help strengthen the capacity of Northern Ontario communities to plan for economic development by supporting the development of strategic regional economic plans for each regional economic planning areaRegional economic plans will, at minimum:

  1. involve collaboration among municipalities, Aboriginal communities, Francophone communities and their institutions, business and industry, education and research sectors, and community organizations
  2. identify regional linkages and synergies with provincial economic action plans developed in accordance with Policies 2.2.4 and 2.2.5
  3. identify strategic economic strengths, challenges and opportunities of the regional economic planning area, with a focus on aligning regional economic development priorities with existing and emerging priority economic sectors
  4. identify land, infrastructure and labour market opportunities and needs to support the regional economic planning area's economic development priorities
  5. provide context and direction to local economic development efforts.

4.5.3 The Province will work with communities to prepare resources and tools to assist communities to participate in regional economic planning.