The Case Against Urban Sprawl – Part 2

Recurring themes in the Orillia survey and from Canadians who vote with their feet as well as in the larger national surveys clearly delineate the differences between the results of the pursuit of growth and the preference of most people. Further, growth does not support any goals associated with lower taxes, fiscal balance, quality of service, environmental sustainability, food security, or the inevitable transition to renewable energy.

Further growth makes the achievement of a sustainable Orillia virtually impossible in the long run barring an earth-shaking scientific breakthrough or a massive reversal in a wide range of resource, environmental, and climate scientific findings. Biophysical economics rather than gross tax revenue is the metric best suited to environmental policymaking.

Orillia is a beautiful town with many strong attributes that a larger population will only diminish. Sustainability and the quality of life will come from reducing problems and increasing the quality of facilities, jobs, and services that a healthy population will enjoy at a fiscally sustainable level.

The Orillia strategic plan “Realizing Our Potential” means making the best of what you have through optimization. It does not mean making the biggest possible. The council must avoid burying its good intentions with the resource demand, housing inflation and overloading of the environment and civic infrastructure that is inevitable with a larger and ever-growing population.

Municipalities are the front line of government in Canada. They work most directly with Canadians on a day-to-day basis and are positioned to see first-hand the impacts of events and policies on citizens. A great many municipalities are committing to the path of sustainability and undertaking the effort to assemble the necessary policy framework.

However, municipal plans are, to a large extent, modulated by policies of the provincial and federal governments. Therefore local governments must be prepared to call out those policies which have a negative impact on their residents.

If a municipal government was committed to countering the threat of Covid-19, yet the federal and provincial governments allowed a large number of Covid-19 infected people into the Canada, allowing them to travel anywhere, surely it would be incumbent on municipalities to point out the disastrous impact of this policy

Similarly, if any federal or provincial policies act directly against public welfare or interfere with the ability of municipal governments to improve the welfare of their residents, it is the fiduciary duty of the local governments to speak out. There may indeed be a policy vacuum, or worse, a wilful disconnect of downstream impacts within governments.

The council needs to ask upper level governments how they expect municipalities to deliver on their commitments to their constituents for a better life if continual growth is forced upon them.

The choice of whether to continue the total commitment to the short-term pursuit of growth or to change and embark on the long-term journey to sustainability is something on which all levels of government must be clear.


This was a summary of  Response by Canadians for a Sustainable Society   to Realizing Our Potential: City of Orillia – Municipal Strategic Plan

Download the full version here

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