Ontario Makes a Statement: An Overview of the Proposed Provincial Planning Statement, 2023

On April 6, 2023, Ontario announced new components of its Housing Supply Action Plan, which seeks to encourage the construction of 1.5 million homes by 2031.  

Two key elements of the announcement are the introduction of Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, 2023, which received first reading in the Ontario legislature on April 6, 2023, and the release of a draft Provincial Planning Statement, 2023 (the “Statement”).

If the Statement is adopted by the province, it will replace A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (“Growth Plan”) and the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 (“PPS, 2020”).

Below we provide a comprehensive summary of the proposed Statement and the changes we view as the most consequential to future land-use planning decisions across Ontario.

Click here for our summary of the changes proposed by Bill 97.

Proposed Provincial Planning Statement

The integration of these planning documents, to create a single, province-wide, housing-focused land use planning document, is intended to speed up government approval processes.

Some of the Statement’s policies and definitions are entirely new. A number of the Statement’s policies and definitions have been carried over from the PPS, 2020, and in many cases have been modified to further the province’s goal of increasing residential development. The Statement also incorporates a number of Growth Plan policies and definitions, some of which have also been modified to align with this goal. 

The Statement is considered a policy statement for the purpose of subsections 3(5) and 3(6) of the Planning Act; therefore, the requirement for consistency with its policies would apply.

29 Large and Fast-Growing Municipalities

The Statement introduces new policies that apply only to 29 municipalities in Ontario which are considered the largest and fastest-growing municipalities with the greatest need for housing.1 The Statement defines large and fast-growing municipalities by reference to the 29 municipalities listed in a schedule to the Statement.


The Statement contains an updated vision with an emphasis on “the building of more homes for all Ontarians.”

Planning for People and Homes

Draft policy 2.1.1 provides that, at the time of each official plan update, sufficient land shall be made available to accommodate an appropriate range and mix of land uses to meet projected needs for a time horizon of at least 25 years, informed by provincial guidance. The draft policy would also provide that planning for infrastructure, public service facilities, strategic growth areas and employment areas may extend beyond this time horizon.

Draft policy 2.1.1 further provides that where the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has made a zoning order, the resulting development potential is to be considered in addition to projected needs over the planning horizon established in the official plan. At the time of the municipality’s next official plan update, this additional growth would be required to be incorporated into the official plan and related infrastructure plans.

Draft policy 2.1.3 removes the requirement that the allocation of population and units by the upper-tier municipality shall be based on and reflect provincial plans where they exist.

Draft policy 2.1.4 removes the concept of “healthy, liveable and safe communities” and instead provides that [p]lanning authorities should support the development of complete communities. Certain considerations for planning authorities, such as “avoiding development and land use patterns which may cause environmental or public health and safety concerns” and “promoting development patterns that conserve biodiversity,” among others, are not proposed to be included in the Statement.


Proposed Policy 2.2.1(a) removes the former requirement that planning authorities establish and implement minimum targets for the provision of housing which is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, (proposed to be removed as a defined term) and which aligns with applicable housing and homelessness plans. Instead, planning authorities would be required to co-ordinate land use planning and planning for housing with Service Managers to address the full range of housing options, including “housing affordability needs.”

Proposed policy 2.2.1(b)2 would require planning authorities to permit and facilitate the conversion of existing commercial and institutional buildings for residential use, development and introduction of new housing options within previously developed areas and redevelopment which results in a net increase in residential units in accordance with policy 2.3.3.

Settlement Areas and Settlement Area Boundary Expansions

The Statement proposes to make significant changes to policies related to settlement areas. Notably, the Statement would remove the previous requirement that planning authorities establish and implement minimum targets for intensification and redevelopment within built-up areas. 

Currently, a planning authority may identify a settlement area or allow the expansion of a settlement area boundary only at the time of a comprehensive review and only when certain conditions have been demonstrated. The Statement would permit the planning authority to identify a new settlement area or allow a settlement area boundary expansion at any time. The Statement would also remove the current conditions required to be satisfied before settlement area additions or boundary expansions are permitted. Instead, the Statement provides only that planning authorities “should consider” the following:

  • that there is sufficient capacity in existing or planned infrastructure and public service facilities;
  • the applicable lands do not compromise specialty crop areas;
  • the new or expanded settlement area complies with the minimum distance separation formulae;
  • impacts on agricultural lands and operations which are adjacent or close to the settlement area are avoided, or where avoidance is not possible, minimized and mitigated to the extent feasible as determined through an agricultural impact assessment or equivalent analysis, based on provincial guidance; and
  • the new or expanded settlement area provides for the phased progression of urban development.

The Statement would encourage (but would not require) planning authorities to establish density targets for new settlement area expansion lands as appropriate, based on local conditions. It would encourage (but not require) large and fast-growing municipalities to plan for a minimum density target of 50 residents and jobs per gross hectare. This is the current density target set out in the Growth Plan.

Strategic Growth Areas

Draft policy would require large and fast-growing municipalities to identify and focus growth and employment in strategic growth areas by identifying an appropriate minimum density target for each strategic growth area.

Draft policy would prohibit the reduction in the size or change in the location of an urban growth area identified in an in effect official plan (“in effect as of” date to be determined), except through a new official plan or an official plan amendment adopted under section 26 of the Planning Act.

Major Transit Station Areas

Draft section 2.4.2 would import and, in some cases, modify the current Growth Plan policies for major transit station areas.

Notably, the Statement would import the existing minimum density targets from the Growth Plan.

Draft policy would require large and fast-growing municipalities to delineate the boundaries of major transit station areas on higher order transit corridors through a new official plan or official plan amendment adopted under section 26 of the Planning Act. The policy provides that the delineation shall define an area within a 500- to 800-metre radius of a transit station that maximizes the number of potential transit users that are within walking distance of the station.

It is notable that the Statement’s proposed major transit station area policies are mandatory for large and fast-growing municipalities and discretionary for all other planning authorities.


Draft policy encourages intensification of employment uses that are compatible with compact mixed-use development, broadly listing “office, retail, industrial, manufacturing and warehousing” as examples of such employment uses.

Draft policy 2.8.2 encourages industrial, manufacturing and small-scale warehousing uses that could be located adjacent to sensitive land uses without adverse effects in strategic growth areas and other mixed-use areas where frequent transit service is available, outside of employment areas.

Draft policy 2.9.3 would appear to direct that residential, employment, public service facilities and other institutional uses shall be permitted “on lands for employment outside of employment areas” to support the achievement of complete communities.

Draft policy 2.9.4 would prohibit official plans and zoning by-laws from containing provisions that are more restrictive than policy, except for purposes of public safety.

Another noteworthy change is the Statement’s proposal to remove the existing PPS, 2020 policy requiring separation or mitigation from sensitive land uses within employment areas planned for industrial and manufacturing uses “to maintain the long-term operational and economic viability of the planned uses and function of these areas.”

Another significant change is draft policy which would modify the existing employment conversion policies by permitting planning authorities to remove lands from employment areas at any time (rather than through a comprehensive review), only where it can be demonstrated that:

a) there is an identified need for the removal and the land is not required for employment area uses over the long term;

b) the proposed uses would not negatively impact the overall viability of the employment area by:

1. avoiding, or where avoidance is not possible, minimizing and mitigating potential impacts to existing or planned employment area uses in accordance with policy 3.5; and

2. maintaining access to major goods movement facilities and corridors;

c) existing or planned infrastructure and public service facilities are available to accommodate the proposed uses.

The definition of employment area is proposed to be revised to be consistent with the definition of “area of employment” proposed to be included in the Planning Act through Bill 97. The definition explicitly includes manufacturing, research and development in connection with manufacturing, warehousing, and goods movement associated with retail and office and ancillary facilities. The definition would explicitly exclude (the Statement uses the term “exclude,” rather than prohibit) institutional and commercial uses from employment areas.

The Provincially Significant Employment Zones (“PSEZs”) identified in the Growth Plan are not proposed to be carried over. The government is seeking feedback on the need to identify select PSEZs or portions of PSEZs for the sole purpose of protecting lands exclusively through an alternative approach (e.g., Minister’s Zoning Orders).

Long-Term Economic Prosperity

The Statement would delete the existing PPS, 2020 section dealing with long-term economic prosperity.

Land Use Compatibility

Proposed changes to the land use compatibility policies as set out in draft section 3.5.2 would make it easier to establish sensitive land uses in the vicinity of existing or planned industrial, manufacturing “or other major facilities” that are vulnerable to encroachment. Draft section 3.5.2 would eliminate current PPS, 2020 requirements to demonstrate: an identified need for the proposed use; that alternative locations have been evaluated and there are no reasonable alternative locations; and that adverse effects to the proposed sensitive land use are minimized and mitigated. Instead, where it is not possible for major facilities and sensitive land uses to avoid potential adverse effects from odour, noise and other contaminants, proposed adjacent sensitive land uses would only be required to demonstrate that potential impacts to industrial, manufacturing or other major facilities are minimized and mitigated in accordance with provincial guidelines, standards and procedures.

Natural Heritage

As of April 6, 2023, natural heritage policies and related definitions remain under consideration by the government. Once proposed policies and definitions are ready for review and input, they will be made available through a separate posting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. ERO# 019-6813 will be updated with a link to the relevant posting once it is available.


The Statement proposes to make significant changes to policies related to the development of lands in prime agricultural areas.

The new policy framework speaks to encouraging a geographically continuous agricultural land base through an agricultural system approach, but will no longer require municipalities to use the provincially mapped Agricultural System. Municipalities will still be required to designate and protect prime agricultural areas for long-term use. However, it will be easier to establish more housing within prime agricultural lands; currently the PPS, 2020 discourages residential lot creation in prime agricultural areas and it has been very difficult for some time to create new lots outside of a residence surplus created by farm consolidation.

Draft policy would permit a principal dwelling associated with an agricultural operation to be located in prime agricultural areas as an agricultural use. Draft policy would permit, subordinate to the principal dwelling, up to two additional residential units in prime agricultural areas, provided certain conditions are met, including compliance with the minimum distance separation formulae and the appropriate provision of sewage and water services (among other requirements). At the same time, the additional residential units established through this policy can be severed in accordance with policy, meaning up to three lots may be created, potentially conflicting with the concept that they are subordinate to the principal dwelling.

Draft policy would permit residential lot creation in such areas in accordance with provincial guidance for “new residential lots created from a lot or parcel of land that existed on January 1, 2023,” subject to conditions set out in the draft policy. Up to three residential lots may be permitted on any property located in a existing prime agricultural area, provided that certain conditions can be met, including a requirement that any new lot be located outside of a specialty crop area; has existing access on a public road, with appropriate frontage for ingress and egress and is adjacent to existing non-agricultural land uses; or consists primarily of lower-priority agricultural lands (among other requirements).

Draft policy would require an agricultural impact assessment where it is not possible to avoid impacts from any new or expanding non-agricultural uses on surrounding agricultural lands and operations.

Natural Hazards

Draft policy 5.2.1 remains unchanged from current policy and would require planning authorities to identify hazardous lands and hazardous sites, and manage development in these areas in accordance with provincial guidance.

Human-Made Hazards

The Statement proposes to remove the current PPS, 2020 policy requiring planning authorities to support, where feasible, on-site and local reuse of excess soil through planning and development approvals while protecting human health and the environment.


The oft-referred-to policy of the PPS, 2020 which provides that “the official plan is the most important vehicle for implementing [the] Provincial Policy Statement” is proposed to be removed but would remain part of the Statement’s non-policy preamble.

Draft policy 6.1.6 would explicitly require planning authorities to keep their zoning by-laws and official plans up-to-date with the Statement by establishing permitted uses, minimum densities, heights and other development standards to accommodate growth and development. 

Draft policy 6.1.7 would provide that where a planning authority must decide on a planning matter before its official plan has been updated to be consistent with this Policy Statement, or before other applicable planning instruments have been updated accordingly, it must still make a decision that is consistent with the Statement.

Defined Terms

The Statement would introduce a number of additional defined terms. Some of these terms have been imported from the Growth Plan (in some cases with modifications), while others are entirely new. The additional defined terms are: additional needs housing (formerly special needs housing); agricultural impact assessment; compact built form; frequent transit; higher order transit; large and fast-growing municipalities; low-impact development; major transit station area; major trip generators; strategic growth areas; transit service integration; urban growth areas; watershed planning; and water resource system.

As noted above, the Statement’s natural heritage policies and definitions remain under review. Non-natural heritage policies currently contained in the PPS, 2020 which are proposed to be removed from the Statement include: comprehensive review; cultural heritage landscapes; designated growth areas; high quality; low- and moderate-income households; provincial and federal requirements; provincial plan; recreation; and residential intensification.

The Statement would also modify a number of existing definitions. While most modifications are for the purpose of clarification and housekeeping, other changes could have more significant impacts and should be reviewed closely.


According to the “Proposed Approach to Implementation of the proposed Provincial Planning Statement,” a document released by the government concurrently with the Statement, the Statement would apply to all decisions in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter on or after the date the Statement comes into effect. The only exception would be if a transition regulation were made under a new authority proposed in Bill 97.

The government expects that official plans would be updated as necessary to implement the Statement at the time of their ordinary review cycle.


Written feedback may be submitted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario in response to posting ERO# 019-6813. The deadline for written comments is June 6, 2023.

It is anticipated that the Statement will come into force in the fall of 2023.

The Municipal and Land Use Planning Group at Aird & Berlis will continue to navigate these and other proposed changes to Ontario’s rapidly shifting land use planning framework. Please reach out to a member of the group if you have any questions about how these changes may impact you.

[1] These 29 municipalities are listed in a schedule to the Policy Statement: Town of Ajax; City of Barrie; City of Brampton; City of Brantford; City of Burlington; Town of Caledon; City of Cambridge; Municipality of Clarington; City of Guelph; City of Hamilton; City of Kingston; City of Kitchener; City of London; City of Markham; Town of Milton; City of Mississauga; Town of Newmarket; City of Niagara Falls; Town of Oakville; City of Oshawa; City of Ottawa; City of Pickering; City of Richmond Hill; City of St. Catharines; City of Toronto; City of Vaughan; City of Waterloo; Town of Whitby; and City of Windsor.