Ministry of Municipal
Growth Strategies Office
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Table of Contents
This paper provides background on the mandate of the Growth Strategies
Office (GSO), summarizes its main activities during its five years of
existence, and outlines its proposed priorities for the coming years. It is
intended to give some context to those clients who may wish to provide input
into future GSO priorities.
In 1995 the provincial government responded to the challenges of rapid,
uncoordinated growth in BC's major urban areas by adopting the Growth
Strategies Act (GSA) which now forms Part 25 of the Local Government
Act. To oversee implementation of this legislation it also created the
GSO, as a branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The GSO has nine staff,
including an executive director, three regional co-ordinators, a land use
planning advisor, a director of special projects, a research officer and two
The GSO's mandate is to promote effective growth management in British
Columbia and to work with others to tackle problems associated with rapid
growth - including air pollution, traffic congestion, loss of green spaces and
agricultural land and lack of affordable housing. Priority has been given to
the three high growth regions in British Columbia - the Lower Mainland,
Southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley.
To help regional districts to develop growth strategies the Ministry also
created the Regional Growth Strategy Planning Grant Program. Since
1995, the Ministry has awarded grants totalling $2.5 million to 11 regional
districts that have undertaken 35 growth strategies-related projects.
The majority of GSO staff time has been focussed directly on regional
growth management - helping regional districts get started on growth
strategies, co-ordinating provincial involvement and helping to develop
implementation agreements. However, a significant and increasing amount of
staff time has been spent in other growth management-related areas, such
- options and best practices for paying for growth-related infrastructure;
- local government involvement in provincial planning processes;
- federal/provincial coastal initiatives; and,
- salmon habitat protection initiatives.
Much of GSO's work could be characterized as "behind the scenes",
promoting, co-ordinating and facilitating, as most of the actual "tangibles"
are delivered through provincial government agencies or are adopted by
regional and local governments. Examples of more visible products for which
GSO staff have had primary responsibility include the legislation creating the
Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink) and the
Development Cost Charges Best Practices Guide.
The GSO operates under a work plan that outlines the branch's objectives
for the short, medium, and long-term. These objectives are:
1. To promote growth management at a regional scale and to co-ordinate the
provincial government presence in development of regional growth
2. To help implement growth strategies;
3. To ensure that the province's land use planning and regulation system
supports the growth management goals contained in the growth strategies
4. Ensure that local government interests are represented in provincial
land and coastal programs, policies and processes.
The following is a partial list of GSO accomplishments to date for each of
Objective 1: Promote growth management at a
regional scale and to co-ordinate the provincial government presence in
development of regional growth strategies.
- GSO has played an active role in helping regional districts initiate and
develop growth strategies, and ensuring a co-ordinated provincial presence
in these processes. Growth strategies have been adopted for the Greater
Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN),
Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD), and the Regional District of
Central Okanagan (RDCO). Currently 60 % of the province's
population lives in an area covered by a growth strategy.
- GSO staff are currently helping two additional regional districts, the
Capital Regional District (CRD) and Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD)
to develop and finalize their growth management plans. When these are in
place, 74% of the B.C.'s population will live in an area covered by a growth
- Where growth strategies have been adopted, GSO staff have helped
municipalities in these regional districts to update their community plans
to be consistent with the regional growth strategy. To date, all 25
municipalities have met their deadlines to update their community plans by
adding a "regional context statement". In all cases the negotiations on
community plan updates have resulted in agreement between the municipal
council and their respective regional board, with none having to be resolved
by arbitration. Ministry and GSO staff assisted with some of these
Objective 2: Help implement growth
- One of the key features of the growth strategies legislation is
implementation agreements - "contracts" between the regional district and
municipalities and provincial agencies - that can be used to achieve the
specific goals of a growth strategy. The GSO has played an important role in
helping the parties to develop, and come to agreement on, implementation
agreements. To date, six implementation agreements have been adopted in GVRD
and the RDN. Two further agreements in the RDN, one on aggregate and the
other related to the Agricultural Land Commission, are close to being
- GSO staff also played a prominent role in developing and implementing an
agreement between the GVRD and the provincial government on a new framework
for transportation finance and governance, which led to the creation of the
regional transportation authority, TransLink.
- GSO staff have been involved in a number of studies intended to help
local governments and provincial agencies implement the adopted growth
strategies. Two of particular note are the Lower Mainland Employment Study
and the Okanagan Valley Transportation Plan.
Objective 3: Ensure that our land use planning
and regulation system supports the growth management goals contained in the
growth strategies legislation.
- GSO, in partnership with other branches of the Ministry, has spent
significant energy on the drafting of legislation and development of "best
practices guides" to create a regulatory environment which provides local
governments with both the legislative powers and educational tools to
achieve and implement their strategies.
- In addition to the legislation creating Translink, GSO staff also led
the development of legislation creating the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional
Park and were actively involved in the development and implementation of
Fish Protection Act. The GSO also contributed to the revamping of
the Planning and Land Use Management provisions in the new Local
- GSO staff have provided organizational and policy support to the
Development Finance Review Committee, a multi-stakeholder committee that
examines issues related to how development is serviced and financed. Two of
the more significant directives from this committee resulted in the
production of best practices guides. The Development Cost Charge Best
Practices Guide (published in 1997 and recently updated) addresses the
need to standardize general practices around DCCs and to create a more
certain and consistent environment around who pays for growth-related
infrastructure. A companion guide, the Development Finance Choices
Guide (published recently), illustrates ways for local governments to
finance development with tools other than DCCs.
Objective 4: Ensure that local government
interests are represented in provincial land and coastal programs, policies
- The GSO was assigned responsibility to resolve UBCM concerns about how
local governments were involved in strategic Crown land planning processes.
Working with regional and headquarters staff of provincial agencies and
UBCM, the GSO developed a new provincial policy for involving local
governments in Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs). This new policy
has been successfully implemented.
- In response to confusion that can arise about the relationship between
an LRMP for Crown land and local government Official Community Plans and
Regional Growth Strategies, the GSO, in co-operation with the provincial
Land Use Co-ordination Office, developed a brochure to describe this
relationship. The product, the "Links" brochure, was well received.
- The GSO was an active member of an inter-agency committee that developed
BC's Coastal Zone Position Paper. This document reports on what the province
has been doing to sustain coastal resources and sets out a broad vision of,
and goals for, coastal programs in a way that both recognizes and
incorporates local authority in the coastal zone.
The priorities listed below are where GSO intends to focus most of its
time, effort and resources over the coming months and years. This information
is drawn primarily from the 2000/2001 branch operational plan. Priorities are
adjusted periodically, to reflect government and Ministry priorities and
|1. Promote growth management at a regional scale and co-ordinate the
provincial government presence in development of regional growth
- Assist the FVRD and CRD in the final phases of developing and
adopting their growth strategies.
- Assist RD's that do not yet have an RGS but which have growth
related issues to undertake "regional issue assessments".
- Co-ordinate and implement a ministry strategy that addresses
provincial growth management issues in fast growth regions that do not
yet have an RGS, i.e. Cowichan Valley RD and Squamish-Lillooet RD.
- Assist GVRD and RDN to undertake the required five year review of
their growth strategies.
2. Help implement growth strategies
- Assist in negotiation of implementation agreements.
- Assist municipalities in developing regional context statements.
- Assist RD's to develop monitoring programs.
- Promote provincial/local cooperation on growth management issues.
- Develop indicators to measure progress being made towards the 14
goals of the growth strategies legislation.
- Help to develop a Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park
management plan that will implement the Perry Commission recommendations
regarding the long-term security of the Greater Victoria Water Supply.
- Work with other governments, educational institutions and other
organizations to promote urban sustainability, through publications,
events, pilot projects, etc.
3. Ensure that the province's land use planning and regulation
system supports the growth management goals contained in the growth
- Continue to provide leadership and support to the Development
Finance Review Committee.
- Provide leadership in the development of provincial policy
guidelines (including: OCP content, OCP consultation and fringe area
- Co-ordinate Ministry participation in government response to Auditor
General's Report on Drinking Water.
- Co-ordinate Ministry perspectives on retooling government's approach
to the management of aggregate resources.
- Assist MELP to finalize/implement the Fish Protection Act -
Section 12 Riparian Policy Directive.
- Continue to work with other ministries to achieve legislative and
program changes that are supportive of growth strategies goals.
4. Ensure that local government interests are represented in
provincial land and coastal programs, policies and processes
- Advocate for the integration of local government interests, in the
implementation of the BC Coastal Zone position Paper, and in Federal
- Through participation in the provincial "Inter-Agency Management
Committee", ensure appropriate local government involvement in LRMP's
and linking with growth strategies.
Support for achieving other ministry objectives.
- Part of ministry team implementing the new RD service review and
- Help facilitate agreements between RD's and municipalities on RD
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