Canada is an urban country. Though the national mythology speaks of canoes and ancient forests, the daily reality for most Canadians is defined by SUVs and traffic jams.
Last week, 18 of Canada’s city leaders got together in Toronto to demand a new national agenda that reflects this reality. The specific asks were familiar: more money and more power for the governments that closely serve the daily needs of Canadians.
But if cities were to be given such clout, what should they do with it? Some of the answers are clear: fix infrastructure, build transit, provide housing and soft services to the growing population being left behind by economic growth. But that isn’t where the challenges end.
Cities in Canada are undergoing profound change that requires new thinking in terms of architecture, urban design, planning and governance. For the moment, about two-thirds of us live in auto-oriented suburbs, according to research from Queen’s University. But younger and older Canadians are showing a desire to go car-free and embrace life in neighbourhoods that are densely built and conducive to walking, cycling and transit.
How do we update our buildings, blocks and neighbourhoods to serve this next generation?
At the same time, how do we ensure that less-affluent zones – often the very suburbs that represented the future 30 or 40 years ago – can find a prosperous next chapter? ….