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Regional Growth Strategies


A regional growth strategy (RGS) is a local government strategic plan to promote human settlement that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy and that makes efficient use of public facilities, land and other resources. An RGS gives long range planning direction for regional district and municipal official community plans (OCPs) and provides a basis for decisions regarding implementation of provincial programs in the area. There are currently ten regional districts within the three higher growth areas of the province with completed regional growth strategies. More information on RGSs is provided below and you can also download:
Regional Growth Strategies: An Explanatory Guide (1.8 MB)

An RGS is initiated, prepared and enacted by a regional district, with the full involvement of its member municipalities, provincial agencies and others. The legislation enables any regional district to voluntarily initiate a regional growth strategy by resolution of its board. No provincial government approval is required for the initiation or enactment of an RGS.

The Local Government Act outlines the following minimum content requirements for any strategy, although the rest of an RGS is largely left up to the local governments:

  • a 20 year minimum time frame;
  • regional vision statements;
  • population and employment projections;
  • regional actions for key areas such as regional interests housing, transportation, regional district services, parks and natural areas and economic development; and,
  • targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the regional district, and policies and actions proposed for the regional district with respect to to achieving those targets.

There are fourteen matters that the RGS should consider such as:

  • avoiding urban sprawl and ensuring that development takes place where adequate facilities exist or can be provided in a timely, economic and efficient manner;
  • settlement patterns that minimize the use of automobiles and encourage walking, bicycling and the efficient use of public transit;
  • the efficient movement of goods and people while making effective use of transportation and utility corridors;
  • protecting environmentally sensitive areas;
  • maintaining the integrity of a secure and productive resource base, including the agricultural and forest land reserves;
  • economic development that supports the unique character of communities;
  • reducing and preventing air, land and water pollution;
  • adequate, affordable and appropriate housing;
  • adequate inventories of suitable land and resources for future settlement;
  • protecting the quality and quantity of ground water and surface water;
  • settlement patterns that minimize the risks associated with natural hazards;
  • preserving, creating and linking urban and rural open space including parks and recreation areas;
  • planning for energy supply and promoting efficient use, conservation and alternative forms of energy; and,
  • good stewardship of land, sites and structures with cultural heritage value.


Beyond that, a regional district may custom design a strategy that fits local circumstances by adding other matters which cross local government boundaries and cannot be addressed by one jurisdiction.

The process for preparing a growth strategy is also largely left up to each region. Some regional districts undertake extensive research and assess a number of options, while others move through the process more quickly. The legislation does require that the regional district consult with individuals, organizations and authorities who they consider will be affected by the strategy, and adopt a consultation plan in this regard. The RGS is enacted by a bylaw of the regional board. Although not required, a public hearing provides the formal opportunity for input that is customary for land use planning and zoning bylaws.

The Local Government Act (amended 2008), requires that as part of developing a consultation plan, the board considers the need for a separate public hearing before the adoption of a regional growth strategy. By the time a growth strategy comes to the regional district board for approval there would have been many opportunities for the public and other stakeholders to provide input. This amendment provides flexibility and maintains the integrity of the consultation process while facilitating the more efficient development of an RGS.

The most effective plans are those where there is "buy-in" to the process, ongoing involvement and commitment from all affected agencies. The legislation provides two mechanisms to achieve consensus and positive working relationships.

Once a regional district has initiated an RGS, an Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is established. This committee provides a forum for senior local government staff, senior provincial staff and representatives of other authorities, to advise the regional board on the development of the RGS and to help coordinate actions, policies and programs as they relate to the strategy.

In addition, prior to adoption of the RGS bylaw, the regional board must refer the RGS for the acceptance any municipality within the areas covered by the strategy and adjoining regional districts. Dispute resolution procedures (206 KB) are available to assist the parties reach agreement on solutions to unresolved issues.


Once an RGS has been adopted, all subsequent regional district bylaws and all works and services undertaken by the regional district must be consistent with the strategy. The Local Government Act recognizes that a regional district cannot implement an RGS on its own and requires the cooperation and assistance of municipalities, the provincial government and other organizations. It gives local governments the authority to enter into "implementation agreements" with other local governments, levels of government and agencies to implement the actions and policies of the RGS.

The Local Government Act (amended 2008), allows regional districts to expedite minor amendments to an RGS. The new provision still ensures that amendments that substantially change the vision and direction of the strategy are subject to acceptance by all affected local governments. In this way, the vision of an RGS is sustained. Meanwhile, day-to-day technicalities can be dealt with in ways that will be more efficient and leave more time for discussion and decisions on substantive policies.

The legislation also requires that all municipal official community plans be updated within two years to include a "regional context statement". The Regional Context Statement sets out the relationship between the RGS and the official community plan and how they will be made compatible over time. The context statement is subject to acceptance by the regional district, to ensure the municipality and the region agree that the two documents are compatible. Once again, dispute resolution processes are available to resolve disagreements if they arise.

Following adoption of an RGS, the legislation requires the regional district to establish a monitoring program, to prepare an annual report for the public and, at least once every five years, to consider whether the strategy should be reviewed.

Development and implementation of an RGS takes patience and commitment from all parties involved. The strategic regional level issues that are addressed are challenging and may be complex. Tangible benefits and cost savings may take time, but with perseverance, improved working relationships and resolution of shared issues, benefits can be achieved.


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