Planning for Economic Success: Clarifying employment policies in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Technical Backgrounder


The health of cities and urban regions is fundamental to Ontario’s prosperity. Through the Places to Grow initiative and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 (Growth Plan), Ontario is helping to ensure that families across the Toronto-centred region continue to have access to good jobs, strong communities and a healthy environment.

The employment policies in the Growth Plan have been put in place to help plan for future economic success. These policies ensure that there is a sufficient amount of land available for all types of employment, for the present and in the future.

The Growth Plan is one part of a suite of plans put in place by the government of Ontario to ensure a healthy, prosperous future. Together with the Greenbelt Plan, 2005 and Metrolinx’s The Big Move, the Growth Plan helps create compact, transit-oriented communities and protects valuable green space and farmlands. Supported by Building Together, the province’s infrastructure investment plan, this coordinated approach helps to reduce infrastructure costs and make better use of public funds.


The Growth Plan contains a number of policies that require municipalities to plan for a range of employment uses to ensure there is enough land to accommodate all kinds of jobs, including office, retail, commercial, industrial and institutional.  Municipalities are required to plan for all different types of employment using the population and employment forecasts in the Growth Plan.  This helps to ensure that sufficient land is designated to accommodate jobs now and in the future.

The Growth Plan also contains specific policies about employment areas which are designated by a municipality in an official plan and intended to accommodate clusters or groups of employment uses.

The Growth Plan also strengthens municipal powers to protect employment areas by establishing a series of tests that must be met before lands in employment areas can be converted to other uses, such as residential.

This bulletin will help clarify the policies, schedules and definitions of the Growth Plan that speak to the importance of planning for employment across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

This document has been prepared for education purposes only and deals in a summarized fashion with the policies in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006. This document should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter. Note that italicized terms are defined in the Growth Plan. For a full set of definitions and policies, refer to the Growth Plan.

The Growth Plan should be read in its entirety and all relevant policies should be applied to each situation when making land use and growth management decisions. All matters approved under the Planning Act or Condominium Act, 1998 must conform to an applicable growth plan.


Employment Forecasts

Schedule 3 and Schedule 7 of the Growth Plan contain population and employment forecasts that are to be used for planning and managing growth. Policies and 6.2.1 establish how these forecasts are to be applied. The employment forecasts include all jobs, including those in retail, manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, services, office, agriculture, home-based employment, and jobs with no fixed place of employment.

The forecasts in Schedule 3 and Schedule 7 are required to be reviewed every 5 years in accordance with policy As a result of the most recent forecast review, the Ministry of Infrastructure released Proposed Amendment 2 to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 in November 2012 for public consultation.

Planning for a Range of Employment Uses

The Growth Plan requires that an adequate supply of lands be maintained to provide locations for a variety of employment uses (policy in accordance with the employment forecasts in Schedule 3. This would include planning for enough land to accommodate office, retail, commercial, and industrial jobs, among others.

Further, the Growth Plan requires municipalities to promote economic development and competitiveness by providing for a mix of employment uses to meet long term needs. This includes planning for, and protecting, employment areas, and ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is provided to support all employment needs (policy

Policies for Certain Types of Employment Uses


Retail, in all its forms, is a fundamentally important economic activity. The employment forecasts in Schedule 3 and Schedule 7 include retail jobs and it is critical that municipalities plan for these jobs to reflect retail’s different built forms. Retail activities contribute to vibrant, mixed-use, complete communities, which are key objectives of the Growth Plan.

Major Office and Major Institutions

The Growth Plan contains policies guiding decisions about the location of major office and major institutional development. Those uses that are significant trip generators should be located in urban growth centres, major transit station areas, or areas with existing or planned frequent transit service (policy Locating major office and institutional employment uses in walkable, transit-supportive locations can help to reduce car kilometres travelled, reduce traffic congestion and reduce infrastructure demands.

Manufacturing and Goods Movement

Municipalities are encouraged to designate and preserve lands within settlement areas in the vicinity of existing major highway interchanges, ports, rail yards and airports as areas for manufacturing, warehousing, and associated uses (policy Policy requires municipalities to plan for land uses in settlement areas adjacent to, or in the vicinity of, transportation facilities such as rail yards and highway interchanges, that are compatible with and supportive of the primary goods movement function of these facilities.

Policies on Urban Design and Built Form

Policy requires municipalities to plan for transit-supportive, compact built form and minimize surface parking when planning for lands for employment.

Policies on Employment Areas and Conversion of Uses in Employment Areas

Employment areas are defined as: “Areas designated in an official plan for clusters of business and economic activities including, but not limited to, manufacturing, warehousing, offices, and associated retail and ancillary facilities.” Not all jobs in a municipality take place in employment areas.

This definition does not preclude a municipality from including major retail as a permitted use in an employment area, but a municipality may also determine that major retail is not an appropriate use in an employment area.

Policy of the Growth Plan establishes a set of tests that must be met before municipalities may permit conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses. Such a conversion may be permitted only through a municipal comprehensive review where it has been demonstrated that:

  1. there is a need for the conversion
  2. the municipality will meet the employment forecasts allocated to the municipality pursuant to the Growth Plan
  3. the conversion will not adversely affect the overall viability of the employment area, and achievement of the intensification target, density targets, and other policies of the Growth Plan
  4. there is existing or planned infrastructure to accommodate the proposed conversion
  5. the lands are not required over the long term for the employment purposes for which they are designated
  6. cross-jurisdictional issues have been considered.


Policy further states that major retail uses are considered non-employment uses for the purposes of this policy – i.e. when considering the conversion of lands within employment areas to non-employment uses.

Where municipalities, through their official plan, have permitted major retail uses in an employment area, the approval of major retail uses on these lands would not constitute a conversion. If the municipal official plan does not permit major retail uses within an employment area, an application to permit new major retail uses in the employment area would constitute a conversion.

Municipalities must examine how the proposed conversion from an employment use to a non-employment use within a designated employment area would meet the tests outlined above. This may require analyses of economic and employment trends, infrastructure needs, and other relevant factors. The research and policy review should clearly demonstrate how all the conditions are met in order for the municipality to amend its official plan to convert the land within an employment area to a non-employment use.

The policy tests described above do not apply to employment areas that are downtown areas or regeneration areas (policy In these areas, the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 regarding employment land conversion would apply.

Simcoe Sub-area Employment Areas

The Growth Plan was amended in 2012 (Amendment 1) to provide further policy direction on managing growth in the County of Simcoe and the cities of Barrie and Orillia.

Policy 6.4 of the Growth Plan identifies four unique employment areas within the Simcoe Sub-area: the Bradford West Gwillimbury Strategic Settlement Employment Area, the Innisfil Heights Strategic Settlement Employment Area, the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport Economic Employment District, and the Rama Road Economic Employment District.

These areas are not settlement areas as defined in the Growth Plan. For the policies applicable to these four areas, refer to Section 6 of the Growth Plan. Information on the boundaries, permitted uses and other details specific to these areas may be found at

For More Information

For more information about the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006 and the Places to Grow Act, 2005, please visit the Places to Grow website at, or contact the Ontario Growth Secretariat at:

777 Bay Street, 4th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
Phone: 416-325-1210
Toll-free phone: 1-866-479-9781
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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