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October 01, 2019

The Challenge and Opportunity of Uneven Growth

The Challenge and Opportunity of Uneven Growth
Photo by Vincent Albos from Pexels
As has been the case for some time now, Toronto is growing. We welcome 40,000 new residents every year on average, including a notable 77,000 last year, and the GTA is expected to grow to nearly 10 million people by 2041. Though growth is a certainty, the conversation around how that growth takes shape and impacts people on the ground, is intensifying.
2019102.jpgThis portion of downtown Toronto has grown rapidly over the past 25 years.
Toronto, now a true global city, is experiencing unprecedented growth that is taking shape in different ways. Some areas are growing faster than our ability to provide the necessary infrastructure while other areas remain unchanged, challenged by aging infrastructure or a history of underinvestment. In other words, our growth is marked by a clear unevenness. In both versions of Toronto, we need to soften the impacts of growth, embrace the city we are becoming, and consider our ability to enhance equity and access to opportunity for residents.

I look forward to joining OPPI members to mark the 25th anniversary of the Registered Professional Planner (RPP) designation in Ontario; the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer the designation. The past quarter-century has brought upon significant, often unpredictable change. It is fitting, given the pace of change, that we come together to explore the issue of uneven growth in Toronto, a city growing, albeit unevenly, at one of the fastest rates in North America. But, Toronto of course is not the only city experiencing change or confronting the unevenness of growth. Understanding how growth is taking shape in different regions and together identifying trends will be a defining factor in our shared success both now and in the future.

Across the province, planners are at the forefront of issues affecting people in their every-day lives. We now know how even growth looks and feels and that the pace of growth can exacerbate the impacts of unevenness. We are uniquely suited, and frankly, uniquely responsible for recognizing inequity and engaging with community on solutions, but also well-positioned to confront challenges related to growth with action.

Planning and implementing a form of city that responds more directly to the lenses of affordability, mobility, and resilience – you might call them our collective values – is already part of Toronto's "story" and the story of so many other places, even as people's experiences with growth vary greatly. Consistently connecting these values to our actions will help us soften the edges of growth right now while keeping us accountable to our future citizens.

As we look forward to the next 25 years, ensuring that our neighbourhoods are equipped for inevitable change will be critical, especially as inevitable tests of resiliency emerge in the coming decades. Our ability to recover, adapt, and make room for everyone will be largely determined by our ability to address uneven growth.

Gregg Lintern, RPP is a keynote speaker at OPPI's 2019 Conference, Beyond 25: Facing change and guiding Ontario into the next quarter century.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Gregg Lintern, RPP

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