Montreal – Canada’s major public policy challenges converge most profoundly in city-regions. To address this reality, a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy calls for better cooperation among federal, provincial and municipal governments to align national goals with local priorities.
Approximately 70% of Canadians live in cities with more than 100,000 residents. Canadian cities are recognized internationally for their good quality of life, but this has been achieved despite the lack of an explicit national urban strategy, in part because municipalities are under provincial jurisdiction, says author Neil Bradford of Huron University College.
Yet since the 2015 election, the federal government has launched several programs that play out in Canada’s biggest cities. The largest, the 12-year Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, has a budget of $180 billion.
The author argues that the Canadian approach is consistent with the concept of implicit urban policy. Under this approach, higher levels of government implement policies that are not specifically targeted for cities but have major impacts on them. “Indeed, the Trudeau government has a significant, if implicit, national urban agenda,” observes Bradford.
According to Bradford, governments have shown a good deal of creativity in tackling some of Canada’s most pressing national challenges through a range of initiatives and funding channels.
The author proposes several ways of strengthening urban policy-making in Canada, including: expand the mandate of the federal government’s regional development agencies to include city-regions; establish a Canadian Cities Innovation Fund to encourage local innovation; and create a national urban policy observatory to monitor and disseminate cutting-edge research.
A National Urban Policy for Canada? The Implicit Federal Agenda by Neil Bradford can be downloaded from the Institute’s website.
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