Provincial Policy Statement Five-Year Review
The Provincial Policy Statement came into effect in 1996 and is currently undergoing a five-year review, as required under the Planning Act. This review provides an ideal opportunity to embody the principles of Smart Growth within an updated PPS, including those related to natural heritage protection. There is a push under way to give the environment a stronger focus and to refine and elaborate on natural heritage policies, without becoming overly prescriptive.
The two areas in which the PPS could provide clearer direction are in the identification and protection of Significant Woodlands and Significant Wildlife Habitat, both of which are municipal responsibilities. As noted, these features are rarely identified or addressed by policy in Official Plans. Where they have been considered, a definition of what constitutes "Significant" has not been applied consistently across Central Ontario.
Recommendation #1: The Province should treat woodlands and wildlife habitat in a similar fashion to wetlands, and develop and implement a standard protocol for identifying and classifying the most significant of these features across Ontario. This will provide municipalities with a set of consistent and scientifically defensible criteria that can be applied to identify where these features occur within a given jurisdiction.
Recommendation #2: From the perspective of greenlands protection, there should be no distinction made in the PPS between Provincially Significant Wetlands that occur on the Canadian Shield and those that lie to the south and east of the Shield. The Province should revise the PPS so that significant wetlands in on and off the Shield are treated in the same manner and accorded the same level of protection, regardless of geographic location. One possible approach might be to establish a higher point-score threshold (for example, 700 points out of 1,000, as opposed to the current 600) for Provincially Significant Wetlands on the Canadian Shield.
Recommendation #3: The Province should actively promote further wetland evaluations and definitive mapping of these features in areas of Central Ontario (especially outside the GTA) where these studies have not been consistently carried out for a decade or more. This will provide a greater degree of certainty with respect to the locations of these features and help fill an existing policy gap.