Net Gain

Net gain is the central concept being promoted in this report. There are many ways to achieve net gain targets and improve environmental sustainability. This report has identified and advocated a number of specific solutions to air, water and soil quality concerns, but it also emphasizes the need for building flexibility into smart growth management and related development processes. There are many valid social and economic goals that must also be achieved by smart growth.

The goal is to achieve environmental sustainability, not to direct or control all of the choices and decisions that governments, developers and private citizens make in pursuit of their various responsibilities and interests. Environmental sustainability can be compatible with a broad range of other goals and interests; however, as a largely un-priced "externality" in planning and decision-making, environmental sustainability must be explicitly added to the goals of a smart growth strategy for the Central Ontario Zone. If not, environmental deterioration will continue to occur.

The following recommendations are made to the Central Ontario ZoneSmart Growth Strategy Sub-Panel:

  • "Net gain" should be adopted as an overarching principle to guide future growth management. Net gain should generally be measured in total, rather than per capita, improvements in air, water and soil quality indicators.
  • The net gain principle should be interpreted to ensure an overall environmental quality improvement within each lower-tier municipal planning area. A target of 25% net gain relative to pre-established baselines is recommended.
  • Indicators should be developed to track the net environmental impact of new developments. To this end, an initial list of 10 potential environmental indicators is proposed in this report.
  • A fair and transparent process should be developed to ensure that the environmental budget for each upper and lower-tier municipal plan is appropriate and that environmental improvements are implemented and effective in the long term.

A number of specific solutions are recommended for the Central Ontario Zone Smart Growth Strategy Sub-Panel to consider in its report. Solutions that are reasonably under the control of regional and municipal governments are noted below.