Pembina Institute's Smart Growth Primer

Port Credit, Mississauga

If you’ve been following the conversations around the review of the Growth and Greenbelt Plans you’ve almost certainly heard about the importance of "smart growth", "intensification", and "compact communities".

But what do these terms really mean? And what would smart growth mean in practice?

Close to Home, a recent Pembina Institute publication answers those questions and more in one short and accessible primer. 


Find the full report and backgrounder on Pembina's website 

Here in south-central Ontario, we have all of the ingredients for a sustainable future. But inefficient sprawling development patterns have the potential to threaten the natural and economic systems that allow us to prosper. The growth patterns of the past several decades have been characterized by car-dependent, sprawling subdivisions. We can see the the problems created or exacerbated by sprawl every day in the news--economy crippling traffic congestion, mental and physical health issues, and increasing carbon emissions.

Using examples from across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), Close to Home, illuminates the benefits of compact, walkable, transit-friendly neighbourhoods. Many people can relate to the desire for an affordable and liveable place to call home. The Pembina Institute emphasizes what we already know: intensification provides more choices in housing, increases transportation options, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and reduces infrastructure costs. This kind of smart growth ultimately means greater affordability and a higher quality of life. 

This info-graphic from the publication brings it all together in one easy-to understand visual:

Check out page 2 of Close to Home for a larger image. 

But what does Ontario’s Greenbelt have to do with intensification and smart growth? A lot! The major land-use plans for the GGH, the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan work together to offer an alternative to these patterns. The plans help us to make sure we grow and intensify where we should while protecting the farmland and natural heritage that is so economically and environmentally important to Ontarians.

Both land-use plans are currently under review by the Province. This is the first review of the plans since they were created over a decade ago - it's a critical opportunity to ensure we’re on the right track.

In December, the Advisory Panel for the review process presented their report, Planning for Health, Growth, and Prosperity. The panel's recommendations mark an important milestone in an ongoing and vitally important conversation about the future of our Greenbelt and our region.  

We are now eagerly awaiting the Province’s response to the report and proposed amendments to both land use plans. 

The province's response—and the conversation and amendments to follow—will significantly influence the quality of life of the over nine million who will call the GGH home by 2041.

That's why Close to Home, a great overview of the Growth Plan and of smart growth principles more generally, is such a timely resource. Make sure to check it out!

Want to stay up-to-date on the provincial review of our landuse plans? Check out and sign up to be a Greenbelt Friend.


Allie Lockhart
--Research & Policy Assistant 



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