The Canadian Institute of Planners defines planning as “the scientific, aesthetic, and orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services with a view to securing the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities.”

Responsible planning has always been vital to the sustainability of safe, healthy and secure urban environments. As Canada’s population grows, the planning profession must deal with pressures and impacts of urbanization: for instance, the conversion of land from natural habitats to urban built areas, the maintenance and use of natural resources and habitats, environmental protection and the development and renewal of major infrastructure.

Advancing the public interest is viewed as a primary responsibility for the planning profession in the planning of urban environments. For any project, there is often more than one public interest, and there is a need in the planning process to take these multiple interests into account and balance them to meet the most critical identified needs – while being transparent in both the processes being undertaken, and the outcomes being generated.

The planning process is fully outlined in the professionalism and ethics manual as provided by Canadian Institute of Planners for members taking both the Ethics Examination and Professionalism Examination on the path to accreditation.

‘Good’ Planning means following the CIP Code of Professional Conduct, which includes determining the public interest through the iterative planning process of encouraging stakeholder engagements by providing information on a plan, collecting feedback, understanding underlying concerns, modifying the plan, and finalizing the plan. Though multiple public interests may exist that conflict with each other, these will need to be reconciled to determine priority by applying a critical, integrative thinking approach to issues.

Having gathered public input, considered legislative, regulatory and policy constraints and initiatives, engaged in discussion with the public and specific stakeholder groups, and having considered the needs of unrepresented stakeholders, a planner must reach a recommendation, expressed as an independent professional planning opinion, of a definition of the public interest for a particular project.

The planner’s definition of the public interest in a specific case is expressed as an independent professional planning opinion.

Such an opinion is:

  • Informed by legislative, regulatory and policy considerations and constraints;
  • Framed by existing community and secondary plans and by-laws (although it may recommend amendment of those plans);
  • Prepared free of any interests or biases the planner may have;
  • Developed without the influence of external biases;
  • Transparent in development;
  • Diligently prepared;
  • Respectful of the values held by the client or employer, unless such values conflict with other aspects of the Code; and
  • Defensible, both internally (to colleagues/team members, the employer and the client) and externally (to the public and other stakeholders).


Ensuring respect for the values of the client and/or employer may involve discussion, explanation and, in some instances, negotiation of the opinion. While an individual planner prepares his/her opinion to the best of his/her ability, no one is omniscient, and the perspectives of others do need to be considered.