Partner Profile: OPPI
The Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to designating, regulating, and promoting the planning profession in Ontario. With 4000 members, OPPI plays a crucial role in informing the way governments find solutions to the province’s most pressing infrastructure problems, such as the housing shortage in Ontario. The OLIP Interns had a chance to speak with Paul Lowes, OPPI’s current Council President, about the value of long-term planning and big picture thinking in policymaking.
As a profession, planning is more than just organizing the development of big cities; it is about the strategic consideration of the built environment. Infrastructure takes a long time to build, and once it is built, it is expected to last for decades. Etobicoke, as recalled by Mr. Lowes, was once a sparsely populated area outside the city centre. It was only after the 1980s, when political priorities, public interest, and economic opportunity came together to push for further development in the area. Almost 50 years later, can we see the priorities of city planners at the time manifesting as a lack of mid-level buildings throughout the city. Mr. Lowes’ recounting of the development of Etobicoke served as an interesting case study for us in considering the longevity of policy projects, and how important it is to anticipate future needs in the development phase.
Planners can occupy a range of subspecialties, including municipal planning, heritage planning, transportation planning and land use planning. The common theme throughout much of the profession, however, is a need for ‘big picture thinking’. Since planning is essentially the strategic curation of physical spaces, whereupon aspects of the social, economic and policy environments interact, it requires a dynamic and scalable understanding of how certain interventions may succeed or fail within the context of large-scale trends and policy environments. Mr. Lowes explained that large issues like housing affordability and homelessness in Ontario are not only caused by a simple ‘lack of houses’ but are also related to things like skilled trades education and environmental policy.
This meeting served as a lesson to us to consider multi-level, multidisciplinary expertise when creating policy solutions. Thank you to Mr. Lowes, and to the OPPI for their support of our programme and for meeting with us to share these lessons!