Slower Economic Growth for Canada’s Small & Mid-Sized Cities

The Conference Board of Canada has released its Summer 2008 Metropolitan Outlook, a ranking of the economies of small and mid-sized census metropolitan areas (CMAs). The report finds that all small and mid-sized CMAs except Thunder Bay and Saguenay will experience slower growth this year. The cause for the economic slowdown is blamed on the high Canadian dollar, a sluggish US economy, layoffs and production cuts in the automotive sector, weaker service sector activity, and manufacturing and construction sector losses. Read the news release or download the report.

Langley Draft Water Management Plan

Due to rapid growth in Langley that is causing tremendous strain on aquifers, Langley has developed a draft water management plan that is currently going through a public consultation process.

The draft plan is the first comprehensive groundwater planning document in BC and aims at reducing water demand by 30% over the next decade. BC is the only province that does not regulate groundwater to prevent overuse and the data indicate that water level declines in Langley are indeed due to overuse, not lower precipitation levels. Read an article about the Langley initiative here.

Inspiration from Rocky Anderson

In 1999 Rocky Anderson was elected mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, the capital city of America’s most conservative state. Within 8 years he had instituted some of the western world’s most progressive policies on environmental sustainability, social inclusion and youth justice. In the process, he earned a World Leadership Award, exceeded Salt Lake City’s Kyoto targets by 150% (7 years ahead of Kyoto target dates), and co-chaired the Sundance Mayors Summit on Climate Protection with Robert Redford, to spread the word on how cities can lead the way to a better planet. Rocky is currently launching a new NGO called High Road for Human Rights.

Rocky in BC and Ontario

In 2008, the Columbia Institute was lucky enough to have Rocky speak at its annual governance forums in BC and in Ontario. The speech was described by audience members as “visionary and inspiring”, “impressive” and “fabulous”.

Click here for the video of Rocky Anderson’s keynote address, given at the Columbia Institute’s 2008 governance forum in BC (scroll down).

If you prefer an audio-only version, click here for Rocky’s keynote at the BC governance forum (5MB) and here for the speech from the Ontario forum (12MB).

Rocky Resources

Rocky’s wikipedia page

Read a goosebump-inducing article detailing a speech Rocky gave to protest President Bush’s presence in Salt Lake City.


Toronto Cycling Union

The Toronto Cyclists’ Union, which started in May 2008 has hundreds of card carrying members.  Modeled on AAA, the Union offers insurance, roadside assistance, cycling advocacy, and plans to even offer a dating service for $24 a year.  Read more here.

London, Ontario to Ban Bottled Water in City Offices

City council in London, Ontario has voted in principle to stop selling bottled water in city offices, cafeterias, and parks, in an effort to try to reduce waste. A December 2007 report revealed that many plastic bottles are not being recycled and are contributing to landfill waste. The city will promote alternatives to bottled water such as water fountains and provide access to water pitchers and refillable bottles. Read the full story here.

Architects’ Perspective on P3s

Last December, Moshe Safdie, the world-renowned architect made headlines when he resigned from the McGill University Health Centre hospital project. Safdie cited the government’s decision to move ahead with the project as a P3 as a main factor in his decision stating that in his experience P3s restrict innovation. This story gave us a glimpse into some of the problems that architects are facing in P3 projects. Now Brian Watkinson has written an interesting piece for Canadian Architect that expands on this story.

For locally elected officials concerned about P3s, this article reiterates what the critics of P3s have been saying all along. As Watkinson points out, transferring risk to the private sector is often unrealistic, and can threaten the integrity of the project, especially when the consortium takes on risks it can’t really manage. Additionally, the quality of the design suffers when P3s are used since architects are allowed little to no interaction with end users. Instead, user requirements are replaced with requirements of the P3 consortia for managing and maintaining the facilities. This article demonstrates a basic truth about P3s: they privilege profit over the needs of citizens and their right to quality public facilities.

Reinventing Suburbia

The new Ontario provincial strategy to curb the growth of suburban sprawl is discussed in this article from the Toronto Star. The strategy includes protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt from future development, intensification targets for existing built-up areas, and a requirement that 40% of all new growth in the GTA must occur within the existing urban boundary.

The article discusses how Vaughn will adapt to the new TTC subway expansion and Markham’s plans to protect 250 hectars of land and its own attempts at reducing urban sprawl since the 1990s. North Pickering, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, and North York are also mentioned, as well as the opposition and ongoing protests to the strategy.

Green Collar Jobs

This New York Times article reports on how the number of green jobs (those that relate in some way to fighting environmental challenges) is expected to increase in the U.S., as state governments mandate that more energy come from renewables. The article discusses the characteristics of green jobs as well as the upsides and possible downsides of a more green economy. One obvious benefit of green collar jobs is that they are not easily outsourced; buildings cannot be weatherized and solar panels can’t be installed overseas. Another benefit is that they often require special skills, so the jobs are likely to provide a living wage. Conservative groups warn that the creation of green jobs will result in a net job loss as jobs are taken away from less enviro-friendly industries.