1.1 Preamble

The global economy is one of continual transformation. New markets, new technologies and new opportunities are constantly emerging. In this rapidly-changing world, regions and communities are positioning themselves for success by making better use of their existing and potential competitive advantages.
In North America, economic success is increasingly based on several key components:

  • an economy that is diversified and that exemplifies a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship
  • people who are healthy, educated, creative and skilled
  • communities that are vibrant and attractive
  • infrastructure that is modern and efficient
  • an environment that is clean and healthy

Action must be taken in all of these areas, with all orders of government and sectors of society acting together. Success in the global economy demands a broad-based strategy to address these key components in a comprehensive and co-ordinated way. That is what the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011 (this Plan), sets out to do.

This Plan is in part an economic development plan, an infrastructure investment plan, a labour market plan and a land-use plan. It is a plan that recognizes the interconnected contribution of people, communities, infrastructure and the environment to a successful and sustainable economy. It is a plan that recognizes and builds upon the unique characteristics of Northern Ontario, including a bilingual workforce in many communities. It also recognizes that a successful future for Northern Ontario can only be achieved if it is built upon a new relationship and a new spirit of partnership with Aboriginal peoples.

This Plan has been developed in partnership with northerners. It is a plan that is bold and visionary, while at the same time realistic and sustainable. It focuses on ways to leverage economic, social and natural capital more strategically, and on approaches to attract a wider range of opportunities to the North. It is a plan to stimulate growth by creating a diversified northern economy, stronger communities, a healthy environment and a skilled, adaptive and innovative workforce.

Today, Northern Ontario is a key part of one of the world's leading economies. It has large areas of wealth and prosperity. Its economy is diversifying and becoming less reliant on traditional resource industries. Its people are skilled and knowledgeable. Its businesses and entrepreneurs are innovative and ready for new challenges. The process of creating a new, globally competitive region is already well underway. This is a plan to carry that effort forward over the next 25 years.

This Plan marks a new era of closer collaboration. The Province will play a leading role in realizing this Plan's vision, but the Province will not be acting alone. The residents, local governments, Aboriginal peoples, businesses and institutions of the North will be leaders in this transformation as well.

1.2 Purpose

This Plan has been prepared under the Places to Grow Act, 2005. The Act sets out the following purposes:

  1. to enable decisions about growth to be made in ways that sustain a robust economy, build strong communities and promote a healthy environment and a culture of conservation
  2. to promote a rational and balanced approach to decisions about growth that builds on community priorities, strengths and opportunities and makes efficient use of infrastructure
  3. to enable planning for growth in a manner that reflects a broad geographical perspective and is integrated across natural and municipal boundaries
  4. to ensure that a long-term vision and long-term goals guide decision-making about growth and provide for the co-ordination of growth policies among all levels of government

This Plan is a strategic framework that will guide decision-making and investment planning in Northern Ontario over the next 25 years. It contains policies to guide decision-making about growth that promote economic prosperity, sound environmental stewardship, and strong, sustainable communities that offer northerners a high quality of life. It also recognizes that a holistic approach is needed to plan for growth in Northern Ontario. A skilled and healthy population, modern and efficient infrastructure, and well-planned communities are critical to achieving long-term global competitiveness.

This Plan reflects a shared vision between northerners and the Government of Ontario that engages and empowers residents, businesses, institutions and communities to work together to build a stronger Northern Ontario. It takes a broad geographic perspective to support co-ordinated decision-making that respects the diverse needs of rural, urban, remote and Aboriginal communities. This Plan recognizes that to achieve these long-term goals, strategic co-ordination, partnerships and collaboration are essential. This Plan is intended to complement other provincial and regional initiatives that also contribute to the long-term sustainability and prosperity of Northern Ontario.

This Plan is structured around six theme areas: economy, people, communities, infrastructure, environment and Aboriginal peoples. Within each theme, this Plan identifies a series of policies to achieve its vision.

1.3 Vision

It is the year 2036 and there's a new Northern Ontario.
Northern Ontario has a skilled, educated, healthy and prosperous population that is supported by world-class resources, leading edge technology and modern infrastructure. Companies scan the world for opportunities to create jobs, attract investment and serve global markets.

Communities are connected to each other and the world, offering dynamic and welcoming environments that are attractive to newcomers. Municipalities, Aboriginal communities, governments and industry work together to achieve shared economic, environmental and community goals.

1.4 Guiding principles

Delivering this Plan's vision will involve the combined efforts of governments and diverse partners across Northern Ontario, focused on six key principles:

  1. creating a highly productive region, with a diverse, globally competitive economy that offers a range of career opportunities for all residents
  2. developing a highly educated and skilled workforce to support an evolving knowledge-based economy and excellence in the trades
  3. partnering with Aboriginal peoples to increase educational and employment opportunities
  4. delivering a complete network of transportation, energy, communications, social and learning infrastructure to support strong, vibrant communities
  5. demonstrating leadership in sustainable growth and environmental management
  6. establishing innovative partnerships to maximize resources and ensure this Plan achieves its ambitious vision and is fiscally sustainable

1.5 General authority

This Plan is developed pursuant to the Places to Grow Act, 2005. It applies to the Northern Ontario Growth Plan Area defined by Ontario Regulation 416/05, as amended and as set out in Schedule 1 of this Plan. While this Plan includes policies for enhanced collaboration on various matters with Aboriginal communities and their representative organizations, this Plan has no force or effect on First Nation reserve lands.

This Plan is approved through an Order-in-Council made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council under the Places to Grow Act, 2005.

1.6 How to read this plan

This Plan consists of policies, definitions and a schedule. It also includes preambles and appendices to help describe the intent of the policies. The preamble sections and appendices are not policies in this Plan. Terms in italics are defined in the Definitions section of this Plan. The lands within the Northern Ontario Growth Plan Area are also governed by the Public Lands Act, the Far North Act, 2010, and the Planning Act.

The Public Lands Act applies to public lands, which include Crown lands administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Crown Land Use Policy Atlas may provide specific land-use policies regarding land use and/or resource development on these lands.

Land-use planning in the Far North is governed by the Far North Act, 2010. Nothing in this Plan is intended to affect decision-making under the Far North Act, 2010. The Far North Act, 2010, provides that where there is a conflict between a Far North land use strategy and a growth plan, the strategy prevails. Further, it provides that if there is a conflict on matters related to land use between a growth plan and the mandatory requirements of a community-based land-use plan, those matters included in the community-based land-use plan prevail.

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2005, issued pursuant to the Planning Act, provides overall policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use and development in Ontario. As provided for in the Places to Grow Act, 2005, this Plan prevails where there is a conflict between this Plan and a provincial policy statement issued under section 3 of the Planning Act. The only exception is where the conflict is between policies relating to the natural environment or human health. In that case, the direction that provides more protection to the natural environment or human health prevails. Detailed conflict provisions are set out in the Places to Grow Act, 2005.

Within this context, this Plan should be read in conjunction with policy documents regarding public lands including the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas and any applicable Far North land use strategy, community-based land-use plan or provincial policy statement.

1.7 A collaborative approach to implementation

This Plan provides policy direction for decisions, investments and actions of the Province. It also identifies policy directions that encourage collaboration among other orders of government, as well as non-governmental partners.

All ministries of the Ontario government will have a role to play in implementing the policy and investment priorities outlined in this Plan. Implementation will also require collaboration within and between provincial, municipal and federal governments, Aboriginal communities and organizations, Francophone organizations, industry, businesses, labour organizations, community organizations, and education and research institutions. To successfully implement this Plan, these partners will need to work together over the long term.

The vision of this Plan is comprehensive and far-reaching, and will take time to achieve. Short-, medium- and long-term actions are required to implement the policies of this Plan. Some actions are underway and can be delivered within shorter time frames, while other matters will require further study and planning, and further dialogue with northerners.