Not So Smart Growth

Not So Smart Growth

Ontario environmental organizations have been almost uniformly cynical in their comments on the Ontario government’s so-called smart growth initiative. Smart growth is usually seen as a catch-phrase that means good land-use planning to curb urban sprawl and protect farmland and natural areas. But the Ontario government apparently wants to tack a “smart growth” label on just about anything that promotes economic development. For example, the government is using the smart growth moniker to promote a maze of highways planned for south-central Ontario, including new 400-series highways (freeways) and extensions to existing ones. While the government claims that more highways will solve traffic gridlock, environmental groups maintain that highways fuel sprawl and merely postpone and alter the location(s) of gridlock. The Province should completely restore the public transit funding it yanked in the late 1990s. Cynicism is also fostered by the fact that in the government’s recent smart growth leaflet, the words “urban sprawl” were never used. Yet sprawl is the main feature of the poorly planned urban growth we see in many parts of Ontario, and smart growth initiatives in other jurisdictions identify sprawl as the overriding problem. How can the problem be solved if the government refuses to identify what it is?! Watch for smart growth updates both on the website of the FON at and on the government’s site at


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.