Exploring the impacts of the GPNO and the Far North Act on Official Plans and a Community-Based Land Use Plan
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Population shifts in Northern Ontario are eliciting provincial attention in the form of policy documents aimed at mitigating the consequences of population decline. There is a steady decrease in the population throughout Northern Ontario, a region often perceived as quite different to its southern counterpart due to social, geographical, geological, and economic differences. The population peaked in 1991 at 822,450 residents, but has steadily declined to 797,000 residents in 2016 and is predicted to see another 2.1% decrease to 782,000 by 2041 (Ministry of Finance, 2019). Two primary documents were released to mitigate the consequences of these shifting populations and to promote growth across municipal and reserve jurisdictions: the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario (GPNO) and the Far North Act (FNA) for First Nation’s communities, respectively. However, little research has shown how these planning documents impact Official Plans and Community-Based Land Use Plans. This report explores how the planning legislation impacts local land-use planning in Official Plans and Community Based Land Use of Hearst, Kapuskasing, Timmins and Constance Lake which are geographically close, but with varying population sizes. It is show that the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, although paved with good intentions, does not provide realistic growth measures for the municipalities of Hearst, Kapuskasing, and Timmins. The municipalities involved limited their inclusion of the 13 growth initiatives meant to diversify their economy, and rather maintained their focus on their economic heritage of resource extraction. As for the Far North Act, the plan directly impacts Constance Lake’s Community-Based Land Use Plan for growth initiatives and land-use plans, but forces us to consider why First Nation communities do not have the same freedom with their land-use plans compared to municipalities. In the end, four recommendations are presented in the hopes of inspiring change at the local and provincial level.