Canadian urbanists inject their issues into the national election


Philip Langdon

New Urban Network

With the Canadian federal election scheduled for May 2, the Council for Canadian Urbanism presents a 10-point program to officials and candidates across the country.

An open letter to to the leadership of Canada’s federal political parties was sent Thursday to all of Canada’s provincial premiers and big-city mayors. It was issued by the Council for Canadian Urbanism (CanU), an urbanist group that was founded in 2009 by what is in many respects the Canadian equivalent of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

“Over 80 percent of Canadians live and work in urban settings, and expect the major political parties to address the pressing needs of Canadian cities in their platforms,” said CanU’s Board of Directors, which consists of planners, urban designers, architects, and academics from across Canada.

Issues that affect cities include “economic resiliency, climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy security and self-sufficiency, traffic congestion with few alternatives to driving, changing national demographics, and the growing costs of health care and preventable health issues,” the Board said.

CanU issued a “call to action” on 10 points, presented verbatim here:

1) A progressive and influential National Urban Policy, that recognizes the critical role of the success of cities in Canada’s future.

2) A National Housing Policy that addresses the acute and growing need for affordable housing.

3) A National Transportation Policy that particularly addresses the need to expand active, cost-effective and sustainable forms of transportation, such as transit, rail, walking, and biking.

4) Effective Federal programs that will make us a world leader in combating climate change. There is a need to align the above three national policies in achieving this goal.

5) A national dialogue involving the Federal Government, Provinces and Cities on the development of new sustainable, long-term funding and legislative tools for urban resiliency mand success.

6) Future Federal funding and stimulus programs focused on spending that supports urban resiliency and “smart growth” (i.e. complete and compact communities, expanded transit and rail, renewing aging urban infrastructure, enhancing cultural and civic amenities, etc), rather than on “shovel-ready projects”. A corresponding de-prioritization of, or halt to, stimulus funding that promotes auto-dependency and urban sprawl.

7) Tax reforms that support full-cost accounting of housing choices (which would reveal the well-researched and well-understood economic advantages of compact, walkable communities and sustainable transportation modes that require less infrastructure and lower public expense).

8 ) Federal tax incentives to promote the construction of purpose-built rental housing.

9) Reinstatement of the long-form census to enable reliable planning to better understand, and meet, future needs.

10) Electoral district reform that addresses democratic and fair representation of the population in urban areas, and recognizes the increasing urbanization of Canada.

Canadian elections are much speedier than those in the US. According to Wikipedia, “The writs of election were issued by Governor General David Johnston on March 26, on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper advised the Governor General to dissolve parliament after the House of Commons found the Cabinet to be in contempt of parliament.” The 2008 federal election resulted in Canada’s second consecutive Conservative minority government.

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