Successful Canadian Cities

Canada’s future economic prosperity is at risk, and existing infrastructure, social, environmental, governance and fiscal challenges are blocking our major cities from realizing their potential as drivers of national productivity, prosperity and success concludes a report from the Conference Board of Canada.

The report is the fourth volume in the group’s Mission Possible: Sustainable Prosperity for Canada series of reports looking at Canada’s future. Known as The Canada Project, it looks at national policy and investment strategies aimed at strengthening the cornerstones of competitive cities and at creating the municipal governance and fiscal strength and autonomy needed to make our major cities more liveable, competitive and sustainable.

“The success of our major cities is a national priority; it requires national commitment and action – now,” says the report.

Cities and city-regions are the sites of extensive environmental activity. As the world’s population becomes more urbanized and as cities grow, the environmental footprint left by cities expands and intensifies, calling into question the long-term sustainability of urban patterns of production and consumption.

Social and economic decisions - such as how urban industrial activity is designed and carried out, what becomes of its waste products, how the goods produced are linked into regional and global supply chains, and how city residents live and travel – have significant impacts on the environment that sustains us.

Major cities bear the costs of a growing urban population and expanding economy, but lack the fiscal capacity to meet their needs or to maximize their potential, says the report. Booming populations and sprawling development create congestion, environmental and health challenges unique to cities.

Further, the challenges of managing growth are exacerbated by the deteriorating state of Canada’s urban infrastructure, says the Conference Board. Estimates of the national infrastructure gap ranged, in 2003, from $50 billion to $125 billion, with municipalities owning the largest stake in this gap.

Canada’s present systems of municipal governance fail to provide cities with the organizational structures and decision-making capacity necessary for strategic planning and regional coordination. The decisions that cities and provinces make about development patterns, transportation, utilities standards, building codes and industrial planning will have profound environmental impacts, says the report.

The report examines conditions and policies that create competitive, sustainable cities, and provides examples of successful cities in the United Kingdom. A series of recommendations and conclusions are provided based on the analysis.

Read the full report here (free sign-in required).

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