News & Opinion

Major Canadian Parties Avoid Urban Issues

Canadian urbanists are disappointed by the lack of response from major Canadian parties in the run-up to the May 2 national election.

On March 31, the Council for Canadian Urbanism (CanU) presented a 10-point program on urban issues, arguing that because “over 80 percent of Canadians live and work in urban settings,” the country’s political parties should “address the pressing needs of Canadian cities in their platforms.”

Among the proposals from CanU were the following:

• A National Housing Policy addressing the “acute and growing need for affordable housing.”

• A National Transportation Policy that mainly addresses “the need to expand active, cost-effective and sustainable forms of transportation, such as transit, rail, walking, and biking.”

• Effective Federal programs that will make Canada a world leader in combating climate change.

• 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.”

Vancouver, British Columbia, Planning Director Brent Toderian, in a commentary posted on Planetizen, says that only the Green Party has responded significantly to CanU’s proposals since then. “It’s an election where if you’re interested in urban issues, you’re likely quite frustrated,” Toderian says.

The Green Party has announced that it would “provide longer-term infrastructure funding would help municipalities address the $123 billion infrastructure deficit and build a greener economy,” according to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. However, the Greens hold no seats in government and “are not expected to significantly influence government policy after the election even if they manage to win some,” Toderian says.

He says the four parties that currently hold seats in Parliament have nothing comparable to the Green Party in their platforms. “Like the last few elections, the political narrative this time seems to be emphasizing rural (or at most suburban) votes, wards, and issues,” Toderian writes. “Voices like the Canadian Federation of Municipalities (FCM), the National Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Project Montréal, big-city mayors, and mainstream media have made compelling cases for a national urban agenda to address the critical issues facing cities and urban communities. But, unfortunately, the parties’ platforms have not meaningfully responded.”

He urges all Canadian urbanists to support CanU’s call to action, contact the parties or local candidates, and “get involved in the election discussions on behalf of urban issues.”

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