Today, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of a landmark private bill that recognized OPPI and professional planners in Ontario. December 9th, 1994 marked the day that the Ontario Professional Planners Act was passed into law after receiving royal assent, giving registered planners the official RPP designation. This was the product of five years of lobbying, which began in November, 1989 when the late George Rich and Mark Dorfman disrupted the OPPI's annual general meeting and put forward a motion “That Council establish a working group to bring forward an application to the Ontario Legislature for a private bill recognizing OPPI and professional planners.” 

Aerial view of Downtown Toronto, image by Forum contributor Ottawan

To commemorate the day that “the planning profession came of age”—according to Mark Dorfman, RPP, and Tony Usher, RPP and former OPPI President—OPPI is celebrating in a variety of ways; the recent OPPI Conference, recurring features in Y Magazine, a social media campaign;, and the creation of 25-year time capsules created with the assistance of the seven OPPI Districts spanning the province—starting with Toronto—over the next seven years.

In the decades prior to the Ontario Professional Planners Act being passed, Ontario planners who thought seriously about professional recognition knew it was not a realistic objective until there was a single Ontario organization. The OPPI’s eventual foundation in 1985-86 paved the way for the serious discussions and lobbying that brought forth the Ontario Professional Planners Act. Since the legislation was enacted 25 years ago, all other provinces have followed suit and worked towards—and in many cases achieved—effective legislative protection of the RPP designation or a similar designation for professional planners.

In one of their recurring features on OPPI this year, Y Magazine spoke with Tony Usher, RPP, of Anthony Usher Planning Consultant and OPPI President from 1992 to 1994, to discuss factors that were impacting the industry in the years preceding the bill. Usher touched on issues like a lack of overall planning policy direction from the Province, a lack of growth management and urban sprawl controls, and what were then emerging environmental issues that have since reached a crisis level as climate change bears its teeth.

A quarter century after the bill was enacted, planners are now able to tackle these issues head on, though new planning issues are starting to build up. A quote from Tony Usher in the Y Magazine feature states that "We have so bureaucratized and complicated how we do things, that we are often responding effectively to phenomena that appeared 10 or 20 years ago and are now far behind us. We must figure out how to respond and adapt faster, or we will drown in change."

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