Ontario Releases a Revised Draft Provincial Planning Statement

On April 10, 2024, Ontario released an updated draft of the proposed Provincial Planning Statement (the “Statement”). This release comes one year after the original draft of the Statement (the “2023 Draft”) was issued for public comment.

The draft Statement proposes mostly minor changes from the 2023 Draft, which was initially published for comment in April 2023 and further updated in June 2023 to provide amendments to certain definitions related to natural heritage. The review below updates our original summary of the 2023 Draft to address additional modifications proposed in the draft Statement.

Proposed Provincial Planning Statement

If the draft 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”).

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 draft Statement’s policies and definitions are entirely new and were not contained in the PPS, 2020. A number of the draft 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 housing development. The draft Statement also incorporates a number of Growth Plan policies and definitions, some of which have also been modified to align with this goal.

The draft Statement is considered a policy statement for the purpose of section 3 of the Planning Act. The Statement would apply to all decisions in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter made on or after the effective date. The effective date has yet to be determined.

If approved, all municipal decisions, as well as comments, submissions or advice affecting planning matters, would be required to be consistent with the Statement pursuant to subsections 3(5) and 3(6) of the Planning Act.

29 Large and Fast-Growing Municipalities

The draft Statement contains certain policies that only apply to large and fast-growing municipalities, which are those with the greatest need for housing.1 The draft Statement defines large and fast-growing municipalities by reference to the 29 municipalities listed in a schedule to the draft Statement.


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

Planning for People and Homes

A new proposed policy 2.1.1 provides that planning authorities shall base population and employment growth forecasts on Ministry of Finance 25-year growth projections, which may be modified as appropriate. Notwithstanding this policy, a new proposed policy 2.1.2 provides that municipalities may continue to forecast growth using population and employment forecasts previously issued by the Province for the purposes of land use planning.

Draft policy 2.1.3 provides that, at the time of creating a new official plan and 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 20 years but not more than 30 years, informed by provincial guidance. This is a change from the 2023 Draft, which set a time horizon of 25 years and did not set an upper limit. 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.

As a carry over from the 2023 Draft, draft policy 2.1.3 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 2.1.6 removes the concept of “healthy, liveable and safe communities” contained in the PPS, 2020 and instead provides that “[p]lanning authorities should support the development of complete communities.” Certain considerations for planning authorities that were contained in the PPS, 2020, 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 draft Statement.


Proposed Policy 2.2.1(a) would re-introduce the requirement from the PPS, 2020 that planning authorities establish and implement minimum targets for the provision of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households. The draft Statement re-introduces low and moderate income households as a defined term (with slight modifications from the PPS, 2020 definition), which the 2023 Draft proposed to remove. This policy would require Service Managers to address the full range of housing options including affordable housing.

Proposed policy 2.2.1(b)2 would continue to require planning authorities to permit and facilitate the development and redevelopment of underutilized commercial and institutional sites for residential development. The draft policy has been further revised to specifically identify underutilized shopping malls and plazas as potential commercial sites for redevelopment. Additional references to the development of underutilized shopping malls and plazas have been incorporated into other parts of the draft Statement. The draft policy continues to promote the introduction of new housing options within previously developed areas and redevelopment which results in a net increase in residential units.

Settlement Areas and Settlement Area Boundary Expansions

The 2023 Draft proposed significant changes to the policies related to settlement areas. The draft Statement incorporates those revised policies while also proposing modifications and additional policies. For example, draft policy, which encourages (but does not require) planning authorities to establish minimum targets for intensification and redevelopment, is carried over from the 2023 Draft, but has been modified to refer to intensification and redevelopment in “built up areas” rather than settlement areas, as specified in the 2023 Draft. Similarly, draft policy has also been modified from the 2023 Draft to provide that planning authorities are encouraged (but not required) to establish density targets for designated growth areas (rather than settlement areas). For large and fast-growing municipalities, this draft policy would encourage (but not require) a density target of 50 residents and jobs per gross hectare in designated growth areas (rather than settlement areas).

A new draft policy would direct planning authorities to establish and implement phasing policies, where appropriate, to ensure that development within designated growth areas is orderly and aligns with the timely provision of infrastructure and public service facilities.

The draft Statement proposes to permit a planning authority to identify a new settlement area or allow a settlement area boundary expansion at any time (i.e. outside of the Municipal Comprehensive Review process). The draft Statement would also remove the current conditions required to be satisfied before settlement area additions or boundary expansions are permitted. Instead, the draft Statement provides that planning authorities “shall consider” the following:

  1. the need to designate and plan for additional land to accommodate an appropriate range and mix of land uses;
  2. if there is sufficient capacity in existing or planned infrastructure and public service facilities;
  3. whether the applicable lands comprise specialty crop areas;
  4. the evaluation of alternative locations which avoid prime agricultural areas and, where avoidance is not possible, consider reasonable alternatives on lower priority agricultural lands in prime agricultural areas;
  5. whether the new or expanded settlement area complies with the minimum distance separation formulae;
  6. whether impacts on the agricultural system 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
  7. the new or expanded settlement area provides for the phased progression of urban development.

Whereas the 2023 Draft provided that the planning authority “should consider” the above, the draft Statement now proposes that the planning authority “shall consider” these matters.

In light of Bill 185’s proposed amendments to the Planning Act to restore appeal rights for settlement area boundary alterations or expansions outside of the Greenbelt Plan area, we understand that “planning authority” as referenced in the above draft policies would include the Ontario Land Tribunal, on appeal.

The draft Statement proposes a new standalone policy, which provides that planning authorities may identify a new settlement area only where it has been demonstrated that infrastructure and public service facilities to support development are planned or available.

Strategic Growth Areas

A new draft policy encourages planning authorities to identify and focus growth and development in strategic growth areas.

The draft Statement does not carry over the proposed policy of the 2023 Draft which would have required 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.

Similarly, the draft Statement does not carry over the policy of the 2023 Draft which would have prohibited the reduction in the size or change in the location of an urban growth centre identified in an in-effect official plan, except through a new official plan or an official plan amendment adopted under section 26 of the Planning Act.

The draft Statement proposes general policies for strategic growth areas that focus on achieving complete communities, a range and mix of housing options, intensification and mixed-use development. Proposed policies provide that within strategic growth areas, planning authorities should prioritize planning and investment for infrastructure and public service facilities, identify the appropriate scale and type of development and the transition of built form to adjacent areas, permit development and intensification to achieve complete communities and compact built form, consider a student housing strategy and support redevelopment of commercially-designated retail lands (e.g. underutilized shopping malls and plazas) to support mixed-use residential development.

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 draft Statement would import the existing minimum density targets for major transit station areas from the Growth Plan.

Draft policy has been modified from the 2023 Draft to apply to all municipalities with major transit station areas (not only large and fast-growing municipalities). This policy would require planning authorities 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 draft 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.

Similarly, draft policy has also been modified to apply mandatory minimum density targets within major transit station areas on higher order transit corridors to all municipalities with major transit station areas (not only large and fast-growing municipalities). The minimum density targets are carried over from the Growth Plan as follows:

  1. 200 residents and jobs combined per hectare for those that are served by subways;
  2. 160 residents and jobs combined per hectare for those that are served by light rail transit or bus rapid transit; or
  3. 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare for those that are served by commuter or regional rail.

A new draft policy would encourage planning authorities to promote development and intensification within major transit station areas by supporting the development of surface parking lots within the major transit station, including commuter parking lots, to be transit supportive and promote complete communities.

The major transit station areas policies are proposed to be further enhanced through the addition of policy language that encourages multi-modal access to stations and connections to nearby major trip generators and supports infrastructure that accommodates a range of mobility needs and supports active transportation including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, secure bicycle parking and commuter pick up/drop off areas.

The draft Statement proposes a new policy which requires planning authorities to plan for intensification on lands that are adjacent to existing and planned frequent transit corridors. Frequent transit is a new term that was proposed in the 2023 Draft that will mean a public transit service that runs at least every 15 minutes in both directions throughout the day and into the evening every day of the week.

Rural Areas

Neither the draft Statement nor the 2023 Draft propose significant changes to the PPS, 2020 policies related to rural areas; however, it is notable that unlike the 2023 Draft, the draft Statement does not identify multi-lot residential development as a permitted use on rural lands.


Draft policy encourages intensification of employment uses that are compatible with compact mixed-use development. The draft policy removes the previously proposed references to “office, retail, industrial, manufacturing and warehousing” as examples of such employment uses. The policy has been further modified to require planning authorities to promote economic development and competitiveness by addressing land use compatibility adjacent to employment areas by providing an appropriate transition to sensitive land uses.

For lands outside of employment areas, draft policy encourages the development of industrial, manufacturing and small-scale warehousing uses that can be operated adjacent to sensitive land uses without causing adverse effects. This adjacency is encouraged within strategic growth areas and within other mixed-use areas where frequent transit service is available.

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

Another noteworthy change carried over from the 2023 Draft is the draft 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. Instead, draft policy requires planning authorities to “maintain land use compatibility between sensitive land uses and employment areas” in accordance with the draft Statement’s land use compatibility policies “to maintain the long-term operational and economic viability of the planned uses and function of these areas.”

Another significant change proposed to be carried over from the 2023 Draft is contained in 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 municipal comprehensive review), only where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. there is an identified need for the removal and the land is not required for employment area uses over the long term;
  2. 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;
    2. maintaining access to major goods movement facilities and corridors;


  3. existing or planned infrastructure and public service facilities are available to accommodate the proposed uses; and
  4. the municipality has sufficient employment lands to accommodate projected employment growth to the horizon of the approved official plan.

The definition of employment area is proposed to be revised and now references the amended definition of “area of employment” in the Planning Act that was adopted through Bill 97 but is not yet in force. The draft Statement would define employment areas as, “those areas designated in an official plan for clusters of business and economic activities including manufacturing, research and development in connection with manufacturing, warehousing, goods movement, associated retail and office, and ancillary facilities. An employment area also includes areas of land described by subsection 1(1.1) of the Planning Act. Uses that are excluded from employment areas are institutional and commercial, including retail and office not associated with the primary employment use listed above.”

The Provincially Significant Employment Zones identified in the Growth Plan are not proposed to be carried forward.

Land Use Compatibility

The draft Statement retains the proposed changes to land use compatibility policies contained in the 2023 Draft. The draft policies set out in section 3.5 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 policy 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.

Sewage, Water and Stormwater

The draft Statement proposes to include policy 3.6.1 d) to require the consideration of opportunities to allocate and reallocate if necessary, the unused system capacity of municipal water services and municipal sewage services to meet current and projected needs for an increased housing supply.

The draft Statement also proposes to modify policy 3.6.5 to provide that partial services may be permitted within rural settlement areas, where new development will be serviced by individual on site water services in combination with municipal sewage services or private communal sewage services.

Natural Heritage

Aside from amending certain definitions, the 2023 Draft did not propose any changes to the natural heritage policies of the PPS, 2020. The draft Statement similarly does not propose any changes.


A new proposed policy 4.2.3 would require large and fast-growing municipalities to undertake watershed planning, whereas pursuant to the 2023 Draft, “municipalities” would have merely been encouraged to do so. A new draft policy 4.2.4 provides that where planning is conducted by an upper-tier municipality that includes one or more lower-tier large and fast-growing municipalities, the upper-tier shall undertake watershed planning in partnership with lower-tier municipalities, including the lower-tier large and fast-growing municipalities.


Since publishing this article on April 12, 2024, we have had further opportunity to review, discuss and understand the proposed policies. We have made modifications to the agriculture section of this article to reflect our revised understanding of the draft Statement, especially in relation to the lot creation and adjustment policies.

The 2023 Draft proposed to make significant changes to policies related to the development of lands in prime agricultural areas. Some of these changes are proposed to be carried forward in the draft Statement while others are not.

The proposed policy framework which is carried over into the draft Statement 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, as set out below, it will be easier to establish more housing within prime agricultural lands.

Draft policy would permit a principal dwelling associated with an agricultural operation to be located in prime agricultural areas as an agricultural use, except where prohibited by policy 4.3.3 (lot creation and adjustments).

Draft policy provides that where a residential dwelling is permitted on a lot in a prime agricultural area, up to two additional residential units shall be permitted in accordance with provincial guidance, provided that specified criteria are met. These criteria include compliance with the minimum distance separation formulae, compatibility with surrounding agricultural operations, the appropriate provision of sewage and water services, the ability to address public health and safety concerns, the requirement for additional units to be of a limited scale and located within, attached or in close proximity to the principal dwelling or farm building cluster and minimizing land taken out of agricultural production. The Province’s stated intent of this policy is to permit more housing on farms for farmers, farm families and farm workers, without creating new lots.

The Province has noted that during its consultations on the 2023 Draft, it heard concerns from agricultural stakeholders regarding the proposed policies that would allow severances in prime agricultural areas. Certain changes have been proposed as a result and are discussed below.

The draft Statement generally maintains the PPS 2020 policies regarding lot creation in prime agricultural areas.  Specifically, draft policy discourages lot creation and would only permit lot creation for agricultural uses, agriculture-related uses, infrastructure (where the facility or corridor cannot be accommodated through the use of easements or rights of way) and for up to one residence surplus to an agricultural operation, provided certain criteria are met, including limiting the new lot to a minimum size needed to accommodate the use, the availability of appropriate sewage and water services and the requirement that new dwellings and additional residential units be prohibited on any remnant parcel of farmland created by the severance. 

The lot creation and adjustment policies proposed in the 2023 Draft appeared to permit the creation of up to three residential lots from an existing lot. The draft Statement, however, has largely reverted back to the lot creation and lot adjustment provisions of the PPS 2020 which permit the creation of one additional lot from an existing lot but, as noted above, only for lots containing a residence surplus to an agricultural operation. This definition has been updated from the PPS 2020 to replace the word “farming” with “agriculture.” The term is defined as “one existing habitable detached dwelling that is rendered surplus as a result of farm consolidation (the acquisition of additional farm parcels to be operated as one farm operation).”

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

A new proposed policy 4.3.6 would encourage planning authorities to support local food, facilitate near-urban and urban agriculture and foster a robust agri-food network.

Natural Hazards

Draft policy 5.2.1 has been carried over from the PPS, 2020, but would require planning authorities to collaborate with conservation authorities, where they exist, to identify hazardous lands and hazardous sites, and manage development in these areas in accordance with provincial guidance.

Human-Made Hazards

The draft 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 draft Statement also proposes to amend policy 5.3.2 to provide that sites with contaminants in land or water shall be assessed and remediated as necessary prior to any activity on the site associated with the proposed use, such that there will be no adverse effect.

Implementation and Interpretation

Draft policy 6.1.6 would explicitly require planning authorities to keep their zoning by-laws and official plans up-to-date with the draft 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 the draft Statement, or before other applicable planning instruments have been updated accordingly, it must still make a decision that is consistent with the draft Statement.

Policy 6.1.12 of the draft Statement proposes to carry over a policy from the Growth Plan which provides that density targets represent minimum standards and planning authorities are encouraged to go beyond these minimum targets, where appropriate. Draft policy 6.1.13 would require minimum density targets to be revisited at the time of each official plan update.

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 still proposed to be removed, but would remain part of the draft Statement’s non-policy preamble.


The draft Statement proposes to include two new policies, policy 6.2.5 and 6.2.6, which direct planning authorities to collaborate with publicly assisted post secondary institutions to facilitate early and integrated planning for student housing and to develop a strategy that includes consideration of off-campus housing targeted to students.

Defined Terms

The draft Statement would introduce a number of additional defined terms. Some of these terms have been imported from the 2023 Draft, the PPS, 2020 and the Growth Plan (with modifications in some cases), while others are entirely new.

New defined terms which are not currently included in the PPS, 2020 are: additional needs housing (formerly special needs housing); agricultural impact assessmentcompact built formfrequent transit; higher order transitlarge and fast-growing municipalitieslow-impact developmentmajor transit station areamajor trip generatorsstrategic growth areastransit service integrationurban growth areaswatershed planning; and water resource system.

The draft Statement also proposes the inclusion of definitions for the terms affordable, designated growth areas, energy storage system, low and moderate income households and urban agriculture which were not included in the 2023 Draft.

The draft 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.

Greenbelt Plan

The province proposes an administrative amendment to the Greenbelt Plan to ensure that its policies remain in effect once the PPS, 2020 and Growth Plan are revoked.


The Province is proposing to release the final policies to the public “for a short period of time” before they take effect. The Province proposes that official plans would be revised as necessary to implement the Statement at the time of their ordinary review cycle (i.e. every five years or every ten years after a new official plan).

If the draft Statement is adopted, the Province would revoke the PPS, 2020 and the Growth Plan and amend transition regulations under the Places to Grow Act, 2005. The Province has suggested that some transition to the Statement could be provided for “pertinent matters” through a transition regulation created under the Planning Act. Pertinent matters could be identified through a future consultation.

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


The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is seeking feedback on the draft Statement. Written comments may be submitted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario in response to posting ERO #019-6813). The deadline for written comments is May 10, 2024.