Here in Canada, where more than 81 per cent of us now live in urban centres, the challenge is how to create successful communities that are safe, healthy and sustainable. Jobs are of course central, but so too is making cities affordable for the majority. In Greater Vancouver, the average house price now exceeds $801,000, a rise of 83 per cent in the past decade.
Canada's newest "national park" is a vibrant patchwork of green space meandering through dynamic downtown neighbourhoods in one of Canada's densest metropolises, along the former path of a creek buried more than 100 years. It's a welcoming space for birds and bees that's nurturing a new generation of city-builders. And it may spread to your city.
Amid the dire warnings about global warming's impacts, what's often overlooked is that actions to reduce or prevent them will lead to livable communities, improved air quality, protection of natural spaces and greater economic efficiency, to name just a few benefits. So it's not surprising that tangible positive action on climate change is happening in Canada's cities. Local progress can spur even greater momentum as cities collaborate with each other and other levels of government.
Despite being a vast land of mountains, forests and ice, Canada is an urban nation. Over 80 per cent of us live in large centres like Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, as well as rapidly growing communities like Regina, Surrey and Markham. This increasing concentration of people in cities is consistent with rapid urbanization over the whole planet.
The question of how cities regulate night-time behaviour is a very old one, but it has emerged as the focus of innovative thinking in the last two decades. The conflict between a growing market of young people demanding late-night entertainment and gentrified homeowners complaining about noise is being handled in various ways across the country.
Don't hold your breath hoping mayors and councillors will come home from this month's Union of B.C. Municipalities conference with a stack of cost-saving ideas and strategies. In 2011, cities in B.C. combined to bring in $7.87 billion in revenue. Regional districts added another $1.6 billion. Throw in TransLink and its $1.3 billion and you have a combined annual budget of $10.77 billion to run everything from Abbotsford to Zeballos. To put that into perspective, if local government were a provincial government ministry, it would be bigger than anything except health, and more than double the size of education.
Toronto's business leaders like to think that they are helping to build a great global city, but casino building is city-ruining of the highest order. A downtown casino will tear holes in Toronto's urban fabric, create more costs than benefits, and send the message that Toronto is on the wrong track.
The New American City being held this week in Kansas City, Mo. will draw business and local government leaders from more than 50 U.S. and Canadian cities. They'll be arguing the crumbling infrastructures whose refurbishment we may view at net drains on our wallets in fact hold value and the potential for economic boom if they are properly rebuilt and maintained.
Have you ever thought about the grass that grows in sidewalk cracks? To survive these conditions is a testament to the plants' resilience. Within this complex urban ecosystem, species are constantly adapting. Yet, while some of our feathered friends and crevice-loving plants have been adapting, the speed and scale of urbanization in Canada has pushed many native species to the brink of extinction.