Reviewing your MDP goals and policies every five or so years, and undertaking a complete MDP update every ten years is generally considered to be best practice. Recently, leading municipalities are updating their MDPs to align with their community sustainability plans to ensure that long-term social, economic and environmental goals are embedded directly into MDP policies.
Unfortunately, the landscape for developing Integrated Community Sustainability Plans (ICSPs) has changed across Canada. ICSPs are no longer eligible for FCM Green Municipal Funds (GMF), making it difficult for communities, especially smaller ones, to undertake the development of an ICSP. However, ICSPs remain a requirement for all municipalities across Canada to access GMF funds for infrastructure.
Although most, if not all, MDPs now include some social, environmental and economic policies, the absence of an ICSP for a community usually means that these types of policies are not integrated holistically throughout the MDP, and that community partners do not have the opportunity of engaging in the implementation process.
A recent approach undertaken in some communities in Canada has been to create ‘Sustainable OCPs’ (SOCPs), which better incorporate and integrate social and economic needs into an Official Community Plan/MDP that have traditionally focused more on land use and development-related issues. In AB, an SMDP would more likely include policies on green economy opportunities, and green building policies, and would likely include a vision and goals for a changing economy and demographic shift, and therefore policies would be developed to address those longer-term needs. Additionally, an SMDP would integrate sustainability into all policy chapters and sections rather than having separate sections on sustainability.
However, going one step beyond an SMDP is an IMDP – an integrated MDP. An IMDP embeds the process and outcomes of an ICSP into an MDP update. An ICSP process involves getting community partners on board in creating the shared long-term vision, implementing actions, and incorporating the community vision and goals into their own strategic or business planning processes. An IMDP would aim to involve community partners in the OCP update process so that they are not just providing input into municipal policies, but are also committing to take action in their own organization to support the community goals. It would also involve a monitoring and evaluation system to measure progress towards the community vision.
As MDPs continue to be the legally accepted community planning process, it is the MDP update process that can provide an opportunity for the community to create a shared long-term and comprehensive vision, to develop policies and actions to get there, and to engage citizens as well as partners in achieving that vision together.
For small communities, the ability to update an MDP with a longer-term outlook, and one that methodically incorporates sustainability and resiliency will greatly support their ability to address changing community issues, and help to prepare them for the long-term. Furthermore, as part of an IMDP process, the municipality would use the identified long-term goals to guide annual strategic planning, so that all municipal planning and operations would align with the sustainability-based vision for the community.
If you’re interested in discussing the development of an IMDP, please contact Cheeying at cho[at]whistlercentre.ca or call 604.388.8421